When I decided four years ago to start biking to work, I was immediately overwhelmed by the wealth of options.
The last time I’d ridden a bike, handlebar streamers and Huffys were still in vogue and bike shopping usually meant browsing yard sales in my dad’s pick-up truck.
So, I took the easy way out. I logged onto Craigslist and snapped up the cheapest bike in my price range that I could find. I promptly regretted that decision for the next year and a half.
Four years and three bikes later, I’ve finally nailed the science of bike shopping. Since the most common question I’m asked by friends is how to shop for the right bike, I thought I’d put together a guide.
The Spandex Elite: Depending on how serious of a rider you are, you'll want either a Road Bike or a Racing Bike. Both styles are ultra-lightweight and their razor-thin tires make them fly. Road bikes are great for commuters who want a daily rush but don't necessarily plan to compete in real races. Racing bikes are light, aerodynamic, hella-expensive, and designed for more competitive-style racing.
The Urban Commuter: You're looking for something that fits under the'Hybrid' umbrella, like commonly found 'City bike' or 'Commuter' styles. Hybrids are built with comfort and stability in mind, with heavier frames than road bikes and thicker tires to handle hazards of the road like debris and uneven pavement. The frames can come in all shapes and sizes, from the more feminine step-through style to the unisex and more traditional diamond frame.
The Weekender: You're all about the Cruiser. This style is built chiefly with comfort in mind, with thick tires, a nice cushy saddle (though you can always swap it out for something sleeker) and widespread handle bars. You'll love cruising to the store or showing off your ride on the boardwalk, but cruisers are typically too slow and clunky for city commuting.
Like car dealers, bike sellers are often willing to negotiate, especially during low-traffic seasons.
September/October are good times to bargain, as shops will be getting rid of old inventory. If the bike you want has any nicks in the paint or minor defects, you can use that as a bargaining chip as well.
Don't expect them to come down that much -- 10% to 15% off is the best most shops will do with newer models. If you can pay cash and help them avoid credit card processing fees, that might sweeten the deal for them, too.