Recently (like the past three years) I’ve been shopping for a new bike, and I’ve been all over the map on this one. I’ve had my attention pulled every direction. There are so many options, and so many rabbit holes, industry noise distractions, and marketing hype siren songs. All this advice may seem super simple—just common sense—but I find it difficult to keep in mind, and frequently need a reminder of what’s actually important.
To that end, here are some basic priorities while shopping for a new bike (listed in rough order of importance and as a general process):
Consider how (and where) you want to use the bike. There are purpose built bikes for all kinds of riding. Looking to race? Tour? Cruise the beach? Climb mountains? Shred the gnar? Shred the patriarchy? There are bikes specifically designed for each (or more than one) of those cases. The hard part sometimes is just pinning down exactly what you want to do with the bike. Your intended use is probably the most important factor when deciding what kind(s) of bikes to even start looking at. This seems so obvious, but somehow it can also be very easy to forget.
Make a reasonable budget and (try to) stick to it. Bicycles can be kind of an investment. They are often very expensive. It can be difficult not to overspend. Again, this seems obvious, but cost will likely be an important factor (maybe the second most important) in the purchasing process.
Read this guide. Over and over and over. No. Look for (more) useful information about the kinds of bikes you’re interested in, bikes that will work for your intended use(s). If there is a specific bike you think you might like, read product reviews. If there’s a brand you fancy, delve into their culture and values; see if they line up with your own.
Ride the bikes you’re interested in. And even bikes you’re not really considering. Test ride as many bikes as you have the time, access and inclination to. If a friend has a bike you like, ask if you can take it for a longer spin. See if you can rent a bike you’re interested in buying for a more in depth test. It never hurts to add to your breadth of experience and perspective when making your decision.
Approach sales situations with an open mind. But remember your priorities, and that you know them better than the salesperson does. Their job is to listen to what you want/need, answer your questions, and guide you to the appropriate option(s). Does the bike satisfy your needs and wants? Is it within your budget? Does it feel good to ride? If you can answer positively to those three questions, you might have a winner.
When looking to purchase a new or new-to-you bike, it’s easy to get distracted. There are lots of little details and differences between models and manufacturers. If you have gear junky tendencies like me, then the marketing can be pretty hard to ignore (and you may find yourself on a deep dive into optimal spoke diameter, or combo bike-grease-cycling-mustache-wax for decreased aerodynamic drag while sporting the finest facial fashion [saves watts!], or some other nonsense and minutiae). But it’s important to balance your own goals, needs and desires on the scales with whatever bicycle you are being sold.
Speaking of being sold: like what you see? The bike in the photos is actually for sale as of the writing of this article. If you’re interested, look for it on eastern Washington area craigslists and facebook marketplace. Forget all the advice. Just buy this one.