Buying a new bike is a serious business: the machine you eventually opt for will carry you over hill and dale for many miles, and ideally for many years to come. So you want to make sure it’s the right one.
There’s a wide range of factors you’ll need to consider before you select a make and model: you need to be sure the bike fits the requirements of expected use, that it’ll still be able to deliver what you need in at least a year to come without drastic upgrades (unless they’re planned), and that it’s at least vaguely in range of the figure you want to spend.
We’ve got a range of specific buying guides to help you out when you’re choosing the bike for you - here are a few to get you started:
- Road Bikes Buying Guide
- A Guide to Buying a Full Suspension Mountain Bike
- A Guide to Buying a Hardtail Mountain Bike
- Types of Commuting Bikes
- Beginners: Buying Your First Bike
Once you’ve selected the bike, the next hurdle is choosing a retailer to buy it from. Unless you’re buying from a direct only brand (Planet X, Canyon…) then you’ll probably be looking to buy from a dealer. From there, you can decide which lovely bike shop is going to benefit from your wodge of cash.
Here are some suggested questions to help you make your choice…
Do you offer a test ride service?
A bike might look fantastic on the screen of a computer, and it might still look fantastic when you’ve seen it standing on the shop floor in a store. It might have all the components you’re after, right down to the correct width tyres.
However, bikes from different brands ride differently. Geometry, frame material, carbon lay-up or the distribution of aluminium all make a difference to how sprightly, sturdy, fun or reliable a bike feels and you really need to try before you buy.
You might also be between sizes, so ideally you’ll be able to try both options. Make sure your bike shop offers this – you should expect to pay a deposit, but you’ll get this back if it’s not the right ride for you. Obviously, it’s not fair to ask the shop to order in and build a fleet of different bikes for you to try, but they should make you feel comfortable asking for a couple, and there shouldn’t be any undue pressure to purchase if the bike isn’t right.
Do you offer a guarantee?
Not all bike shops offer this one, we do understand why, and we wouldn’t make it a deal breaker. However, some major retailers such as Evans Cycles, and a few smaller shops do let you bring a bike back (in the form of a swap) after you’ve ridden it if it’s not right for you.
Clearly there are boundaries – you can’t return it because you got new bike excitement, cornered too hard and crashed it. This is a handy back-up if you’re not sure on the fit.
Do you offer a fitting service? With who?
Proper bike fit is essential to a comfortable ride. You can have the most amazing, feather light bike in the world, but if your arms are maxing out trying to reach the bars and your legs are scrunched up like a frog you’re not going to be riding it very far or very fast.
A local bike shop will usually offer to set you up on your bike as part of the service. The level of fit will depend upon where you’re buying – some specialist LBS’s will give you a full on fit with an expert – complete with lasers, camera analysis and so on. Even more mainstream shops should be able to have a trained bike fitter look at you riding the bike on a turbo trainer before setting the saddle height and fore/aft to get it right for you. If they can’t do this, then you best hope you’re making a big enough saving to pay for a £100 bike fit elsewhere!
Women quite often need narrower handlebars, a women’s saddle, and sometimes a shorter stem when they’re choosing a unisex bike. Some brands offer ‘fit kits’ so this is all swapped for you at no extra cost. However, in other cases you might need to pay for these – bear this in mind as it could influence your choice of bike.
Do you offer any servicing?
Firstly – proximity matters here. If you’re buying a bike from a shop 200 miles away, you probably won’t want to return to have it serviced. You’re more likely to get good deals if you do get your bike serviced at the shop where you bought it, as you’ll be known as a loyal customer – so though it's not always possible it does make sense to keep it local if you can.
If you are staying close by enough to get the bike back to the shop for regular servicing, ask if there are any formal deals. Lots of shops offer a free six week service, because a bike coming fresh out the box often needs a bit of TLC at this point – cables need adjusting, spokes need tensioning. If you’re technically minded, you can do this all at home… if not, ask if you can get a free service if you buy!
Can you give me a deal?
We’re not suggesting you ask your open-mouthed LBS owner for a 50 per cent discount. This is a small industry and we all have to survive! However, local bike shops often offer discounts (think 10 per cent) for cycling club members, or might throw in a helmet or some shoes to sweeten the deal if you ask nicely.
Larger chains still sometimes give discounts for local clubs, but it’s harder to get accessories thrown in unless there’s a formal offer going on (these often happen mid summer and around Christmas!), so it’s probably not worth asking the sixteen year old Saturday worker for a free pair of shoes!
Of course - you don't have to buy your new bike first hand. If you're after a second hand deal, check out these top tips to make sure you get the most from your money.