Every year for the last 8 years I've coached a triathlon Training program and every year for the last 8 years I get the same question - "I decided to buy a new bike - now what?" So today I'll be answering that question.
The place to start is deciding what you want to do with your bike. There are different bikes for different purposes. If you're doing your first triathlon and want a road bike because of the tri I strongly urge you to hold off buying a new bike until AFTER you've done the tri to see if you'll be doing any more. You can do a triathlon with any bike and there are ways of making a bike faster - even a mountain bike.
You need to ask yourself some questions: Will you be riding on the bike trail with your kids? Cruising around town? Trail riding? Triathlons? Distance riding? There are bikes for each of these categories as well as hybrids which is why it's important to know how you will be using your bike before you go out to buy one.
The next step is to go to a bike store to get fit for a bike. It's important to get a bike that is the right size for you and yes it's okay not to buy your bike there. In fact I suggest that you don't buy the first bike you try because there are a LOT of great bikes out there, if you really love it put it on hold. The benefit of going to a store that specializes in bikes is the people who work there know how to fit peopel with bikes AND they are usually pretty excited to help get someone new riding a bike. It's their passion - some might say their calling. The other great thing about getting fit at a bike store is you get to try different bikes. Yes they do let you ride them outside so make sure to bring your helmet with you. By riding different types of bikes as well as different brands it helps you to get a feel of which one you like best.
After you've decided which type will work best for you make sure it's comfortable. This is the MOST important aspect of buying a bike in my opinion. It doesn't matter how expensive, fancy. or perfect it is, if it's not comfortable you won't ride it which is a waste of money. Remember to ride different brands of the type of bike you like because they will have a different feel.
After getting properly fit for size and deciding on a which type of bike will work best people will usually suffer from sticker shock. A high quality bike is not cheap. Keep in mind however that you are buying your bike for an adult who's done growing, who'll take good care of it, who'll use it and have it for years. I bought my road bike 7 years ago and had a SUPER hard time with the price tag. I bought what was considered an 'good' entry level road bike which cost around $1200.00 dollars. I fell in love with it, it was comfortable, it fit great and was perfect for my needs but even so.... $1200.00?!?!?!?!? It took me two tries to go buy it. Yes I loved it and yes I really, really wanted it but....$1200.00? I'm happy to say that every single time I ride my bike I think "I LOVE my bike!" and I've ridden my bike a LOT. You've heard of dollar cost averaging? I'm down to penny's per mile or it could be free at this point - my odometer quit working a while ago so I'm really not sure.
Does this mean YOU have to spend $1200 on a bike? No - but getting a high quality bike that fits well will be more expensive, probably around $800.00. The reason the bikes are more expensive is the quality of the components which means that the shifters, the brakes, the frame are all made of higher quality materials that will last longer than the low end bikes. This is important because they'll last you a long, long time before they wear out if the ever do. When buying your new bike make sure to get a bike that has at least carbon forks this will reduce road vibration tremendously.
There are a LOT of bikes to choose from in every category so take your time in making your decision. You don't even have to buy your bike from a bike store. You can buy a used bike because you know what you're looking for. Also go ahead and ask if they have last years models the prices are less because they're trying to clear them out to make room for this years models. You can save money buying a used bike but there are some perks buying a new one. Many bike stores offer you life time tune ups on your bike which is a fantastic value. You should have your bike tuned up every year and that usually run $50 bucks or more. Let's do the math on my bike - 7 years of tune ups would have cost me $350.00. That's a substantial savings. The other thing to consider is what condition is the used bike in? I'm not saying to buy new all I'm saying is that it is important to think about these questions and decide what's most important to you.
These are the basics in buying a new bike. If you have any additional questions feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I would be more than happy to answer your questions.
Here's to years of happy riding!
Jennifer Malocha CEO of Fun at Wuhoo Fitness (R)