By Selene Yeager, rodalewellness.com (TNS)
So you’ve learned what bike is best for you. Now the question is how to go about buying it. Don’t worry, it’s nowhere near as stressful as the experience you have at car dealerships. But there are still a few tips to know.
Know the basics
A bike shop can help you narrow down your selection to the perfect bike if you can answer basic bike-buying questions. You should be prepared to answer the following questions and commit the answers to memory before you go.
- What will you (or do you) use your bike for?
- When, where, and how often will you ride?
- How much can you spend?
This exercise should help you — and the shop staff — focus on your needs, whether you’re buying your first bike, or new pedals or bar tape for your existing ride.
If you’re buying a bicycle, you should test-ride a few. (If the shop doesn’t allow this, go to one that does.) Touch and feel accessories so you know exactly what you’re getting.
It’s easy to feel put off by shop employees who rattle off jargon. Even helpful, friendly staff can unwittingly talk over your head, making you feel dumb when that’s not their intention. “Don’t be afraid to ask them to slow down and speak in language you understand,” said bicycle retail consultant Ray Keener. “Remember that you are in control of the situation.”
Your local bike shop is not the place to haggle. With so many online outlets competing with their business, brick-and-mortar retailers must keep their prices competitive. Profit margins on bike sales are razor thin. It’s not uncommon for a shop to net more money on the extras _ helmet, pedals, computer, and so on _ than on the bike sale itself. For this reason, dealers are often more willing to throw in a free seat bag or bottle cage than to give you a deal on the bike. Service is an area where you can seek out value: It’s common for shops to provide a year of free basic adjustments on your new bike, so it’s worth asking for this if your shop offers less.
Another way to potentially save some cash is by joining your local advocacy group. Many shops discount their prices for members. If you really don’t like the deal offered by a shop, then quietly go elsewhere. You may find a better price in a nearby town, but remember, it’s not always worth driving an hour to save a few bucks. In the end, having a good local bike shop will save you time and money on service and any warranty issues. Shops tend to go the extra mile for you if they know you bought the bike there.
Finally, eBay is good for many purchases, but bikes aren’t one of them. Yes, it’s possible to buy a bike online but it’s not recommend. And many reputable sellers offer new and used bikes online, if that’s the way you really want to go. But steer clear of ads that are vague or downright shady, like one on eBay that read, “not recommended for the Pittsburgh area,” presumably because that’s where the bike had been stolen.
When you venture online, you’re on your own. If you know your preferred frame angles, top tube length, and stem and handlebar sizes, you might find a barely used dream ride and save hundreds. It’s happened. But if those measurement terms mean nothing to you, visit a bike shop for help. Otherwise, you’ll get a bargain online but spend twice the savings trying to make the bike fit, and it may never feel right.
Just because you shouldn’t haggle with your shop doesn’t mean you can’t get a good bargain on a new bike. Like shoes, cars, and clothing, bikes are seasonal. New models arrive on the bike shop sales floor each year, typically in the fall, as the riding season winds down.
This is the best time to look for deals, because shops don’t want soon-to-be-year-old inventory lingering through the slower winter months. While hot models in popular sizes will sell out over the summer, you may get lucky and find last year’s model at a discount, but do your homework before buying: Models often get dramatic redesigns only every few years, so if the new model just has different paint and minor parts tweaks, you’ll save on last year’s bike.
But if the new model has big frame changes or parts upgrades, then it can be worth paying for the new model. Beware of bikes that are more than a few seasons old. Advances in frame materials and component technology happen quickly, so a seemingly great deal may be only an average one.
(Excerpted from The Bicycling Big Book of Cycling for Women.)
(This story originally appeared on Rodale Wellness, formerly known as fitbie.com) (c)2015 Fitbie.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Photo: A man rides his bicycle through the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana, August 28, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman