So You Want a New Bike?

author : Ontherun
comments : 0

Tis the season to shop. These are a few of my plans when I go out looking for a new ride.

I’m a father of two, devoted husband and Clydesdale, competing in the 35-40 bracket this year. I have two sprints under my belt from 2004 and two olys with a sprint kicker for this season.

The winter months are can be long especially if you live in cold a cold climate. Workouts have probably been dropped back and the off-season conditioning has begun. The last thing on most people’s mind is upgrading their equipment. This can be a great time, especially if you are looking for a large ticket item like a new bike. I will soon be looking for a new bike, my first in over 15 years, and wish to give you some shopping tips I will be using.

Off-season shopping
The winter is a great time to look for a bike, since most shops are very slow and getting appropriate attention will be a lot easier. After the New Year begins and until the snow melts, most shops are just getting their displays ready for spring. If you get lucky you can get one of last year’s bikes on a great clearance deal, or be the first on the block with this year’s model. Be careful when looking at closeouts. Some stores will put you on a bike that dose not fit right to get it out of their inventory, so make sure the bike fits right. This is also the time of year magazines put out their shopping guides. They can be used as homework to lay the groundwork to your shopping trip.

To me, the most important part of shopping for a bike is finding your bike shop of choice. I prefer the Local Bike Shop or LBS for my shopping needs. The computer can be a great place to shop if you know EXACTLY what you are looking for. For most there is simply too large a selection to make without a test ride. So for me the first step is going to lots of LBSs to get to know them and the staff. Talk to them, pick their brains. Every store has its own specialization and sales ideas. For instance, I have shops who carry 90% road bikes and others who carry 90% mountain bikes in their inventories. I am fortunate enough to have some well balanced shops and a tri shop near by. The most important thing to look for in a shop is knowledge in the type of bike you are looking for. Even in the road bikes there are lots of variations, from the ultra competitive tri bike to a long distance cruiser. A good bike shop will take all the types of riding you wish to do and try and fit you on the best bike they can.

Online Buying?
There is nothing wrong with buying online, but you really need to do your homework. Frame size, wheel size, component packages, and age of the bike are just some of the things you need to worry about when you go online. Also what is the return policy if the bike dose not fit right, or is damaged in shipping? This is an expensive item, so just know what you are getting if you are shopping at home. Also, you should still know your LBS if you do not know how to set up your own bike, so factor a bike set up and fit into your budget if you are shopping on line.

Once you start to shop for a bike it is very important to be clear on how much you wish to spend on your new bike. Add-ons like aero bars, water bottles, and computers add up. Let the associate know what you want on your bike when you are ready to roll out the door so that those add-ons can be priced into the bike you are looking for.

Making the right choice
Once you have chosen your shop, you can start working on what bike to choose. Which shop you choose may be determined by which bike lines they carry and that is ok. When choosing your bike it is very important to be fit properly. A proper fit by a certified bike fitter will definitely help get you on the right bike. I have gotten bikes with frames that were too small and too big and adjustments were made to make them fit better. For the average age grouper, I would try to find a bike that fits very well with only minor adjustments. To me it is not wise to start off with a new bike by flipping a seat post around forward or going for a shorter stem for examples. Bike manufacturers spend a lot of time and money making bikes that will ride well out of the box. Making lots of modifications by changing parts can change the handling characteristics of the bike and that could be very undesirable. If a new bike dose not fit right it is not right and a good fitter will lead you towards the right bikes.

Ride before you buy
Once you have found a bike or two that feel right, it is time for the most important part. RIDE, RIDE AND RIDE SOME MORE! I can not emphasize this enough. I have gotten on lots of great bikes over the years. They all handle very differently. Some are extremely fast, but less forgiving of a handling error. Others ride like a Cadillac, but they give up speed and acceleration in the process. Also, riding does not mean sitting on a trainer for 20 minutes; to me, it means getting outside and putting 2 or 3 miles on the bike. If your LBS will not let the bike out of the parking lot then it is time to try another bike shop. Twenty feet is not enough space to feel the responsiveness and quirky tendencies of a bike. This is probably the most expensive acquisition of equipment you will be making and it needs to fit you, your needs and personality correctly. Hopefully you will be riding this bike for years to come and you want to love it five years from now the same as the day you bought it, so make sure it feels right.

My final reason for shopping in the off-season is cash. This is the time of year many of us start to see a little unexpected cash. Christmas presents and tax refunds can be used to bolster the piggy bank for a trip to the bike store. Do not be afraid to ask about putting a bike on layaway. Some stores will hold a bike till spring with a small deposit. This is helpful to wait out the snow and ice so a proper ride can be taken outside before making a final decision. So beat the crowd, and get to know your bike shopping options. Enjoy.


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date: January 1, 2006


Father of two, devoted husband, Clydesdale, hope to become just an age grouper someday. Former nationally ranked triathlete (sounds better than it really is, but I like the sound of it). Competing in the 50-54 bracket this year. Have done a 1/2 Ironman tri, a marathon and a bunch of sprint and oly distance races. Member of BT since 12-1-03


Father of two, devoted husband, Clydesdale, hope to become just an age grouper someday. Former nationally ranked triathlete (sounds better than it really is, but I like the sound of it). Competing in the 50-54 bracket this year. Have done a 1/2 Ironman tri, a marathon and a bunch of sprint and oly distance races. Member of BT since 12-1-03

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