Since I started riding my bicycles, some of my friends have asked for help in buying a bike. This is some of what I learned since I started riding. This is not meant as a tell all, end all article. I hope it gives you some guidance.
The Bicycle Shop
The first thing you should do is find you local bicycle shop(s). Where you purchase your bike is as or more important than the what bike you buy. Its not unusual to spend more time buying a bicycle than a car!
You could buy a bike from one of the mass retailers. The original cost of the bike will be less. The problem is customer service. Just stop in at one of these stores and ask some questions about bikes. The first time I went to look at bikes, I could not even find a sale person. At best, you MIGHT find a sales associate that knows something about bicycles.
Prepare yourself for "sticker shock". A bike from a local bike shop is going to cost more than a bike from a "big box" store. The benefit is a bike that fits for you and one you will likely ride more. The components on the bike will last longer. The bicycle from the bike shop will be less expensive on the long run.
When you buy a bike from a local bike shop, you know that your bicycle was assembled right. All adjustments were made correctly. Any problems can be corrected there.
Hopefully you have a good local bike shop or have a couple to chose from. This can take some time. Do not short change yourself - take the time. If the sales person (often a owner of the shop) does not seem to care, or does not seem to want to take the time, find a different bike shop. You need to feel comfortable with the folks at the shop.
Remember, the local bike shop wants to keep you coming back for service. accessories, clothing, and the like. Most bikes come with a year of warranty and free adjustments. Many bike manufactures include a lifetime frame warranty.
Selecting a Bicycle
Tell the person at the shop that you are considering buying a bicycle. Before they start showing you bike, they should ask what where you plan to ride and and what you experience level. This will aid in the selection of the type of bike.
You notice that I have not talked about the brand of bicycle? If you are buying a bike from a bike shop, the brand of bike is less important. Bike shop will carry reputable bicycle brands. The bike shop will be able to guide you to the best bike to fit your needs.
Some of my friends made the mistake deciding to buy mountain bikes thinking of the versatility. But, they only rode pavement. Eventually, they stopped riding because the bike was not meeting their needs.
Back to selecting a bike. My first modern bicycle (I had not ridden since the early 60s) was a "comfort" bike. A "hybrid" is another popular bike design. Both are great for the novice rider. Both are suited for riding pavement and crushed stone.
The bike shop sales person will fit you to a bike. Next you want to take the bike out for a test ride. The test ride is much more important than a test drive in a car. The fit of the bike to your body is crucial for your riding comfort. Don't settle for "close enough".
For the new rider, I would steer clear of mountain bikes, trail bikes, road bikes , or fat bikes. They are great for their purpose, which is NOT recreational riding on pavement.
Discuss with the bike shop how much you are planning to ride and where. Much of the price differences in bikes in the quality of the components. Heavier riders, those riding more miles, the terrain (flat or hilly), may mean different (better quality) components. On the other end, for the occasional rider, top of the line components are overkill.
The better they fit you to the bike, the happier you will be as a customer. Taking the time to select the right bike, you will end up riding more.
You are not finished shelling out your hard-earned money. There are some “must have” accessories that you might as well picking up while you are buying the bicycle. Some bike shops will even give you a deal on your accessories when you buy a new bike!
I was thinking of writing paragraphs about each of these accessories, but that is beyond the scope of this posting. How much and what brand you purchase is up to you. I just recommend that you have them. If you do not know what these are, the bike shop will show then to you and explain hot to use them.
Rack or basket
Nice to Have:
Lights – head and tail for night riding
Where to Ride
The local bike shop is your best source of information. When I travel, I surf the web for bike trails (paved, crushed stone, and dirt). That can give me some basic information. But, when I arrive at my destination, I look for the local bicycle shop.
The local shop will have the up-to-date information on the trails in the area. Let them know what king of riding you were looking for - they can suggest the best places to ride.
For the adventurous, find a bike trailhead and head out. You won't be bored.
For the novice riding, I discourage riding on the streets/roads unless needed. Riding in traffic can be intimidating. Even with all the riding I have done, I prefer riding bike paths and multi-use trails.
Of course, the best situation is if you can ride from where your residence. You may need to put the bike on a car rack (or in the car) to get to where you want to ride. Many urban areas have bike racks on their buses. It can be a great way to get to the trailhead.
Don't dismiss places you can get to by light rail. For example, New Mexico RailRunner (South of Albuquerque to Santa Fe) passenger cars have bike racks in them. There is no additional charge for the bicycle.
Trails Don't Just Happen
Now that there's a bike shop you patronize, you bought a bicycle, and found some places to ride, there's one more thing you should do. Bicycle and trails advocacy groups are key to making sure we have places to ride. Whether you ride the road, city trails, Rails-to-Trails, or singletrack (dirt) trails, give back to the cycling community.
After all, it takes a community to build the trails. Consider becoming a member of a cycling and/or trails club. Those trails don't just happen. It takes money and manpower to build and maintain these trails. It take political power to get funding for trails. Become a trails advocate.
Now, Get Out and Ride!