A good idea when popping down the shop to buy a bike is to be as prepared as possible. Purchasing the "right" bike is the final action in a dialogue with a bike store professional.
Hopefully, by preparing some questions such as these, you will be more able to succeed in buying the best bike for your needs.
Before we start though, here are a few warm-up questions to ask yourself:
- "What do I want or expect from my new bike? In short, why do I want a bike?"
- "Being realistic, how often or how seriously do I intend to ride?"
- "How much do I want to spend?"
- "Where do I want to ride?" (Off-road, on-road, both)
It's pretty simple really, but the key is to be totally honest with yourself about your expectations and your purpose. This helps immensely when going to your local bike shop to have a chat.
TIP: All too often when I used to sell bikes we would have customers who were so hung up on specifications, stats and 'capabilities' that it felt as though they had lost sight of the real reason for getting a bike: joy and passion! The numbers are important, but to be truly happy with your purchase the decision has to come from the heart. If that bike makes your heart flutter and go WOW it's a good sign, otherwise it can just be an exercise in "ticking boxes"...where's the love?
Now, armed with purpose, it's time to hit the bike store. Any bike shop worth its salt will begin by asking you some questions with the intention of finding out what type of bike you are looking for. Remember, this dialogue is about getting you onto the best bike possible, so here are 10 questions you can ask to keep the bike shop dude on his/her toes!
1. Which bike will best suit my needs?
This question can be asked once you have shared your vision for being a cyclist (see the warm-up above). Hopefully the shop can show you a few options that fit with your needs.
2. What is this bike for? What is its purpose?
This is basically asking what the purpose of this particular bike is. This is a good question as it allows you to check the bike against your own expectations and purpose.
3. What type of rider would use this bike?
Another good question. If you are upgrading you should have a fair idea what type of rider you are. If this is a first purchase, it can help identify where you are likely to sit within the different cycling micro communities.
4. Are there any more/less expensive options?
It's always good to have a choice. The bike shop staff may have figured you out for a budget that doesn't quite sit well. It is also handy to see what you could have for a bit more money or what you might miss out on for a little less.
5. What is the level of quality of the components? Are the drivetrain, suspension or wheels going to last considering my intended use?
It is a mistake to accept the encouragement of purchasing a bike at a great discount if the bike's components, while a great buy, don't actually 'cut the mustard' when considering your riding (or intentional riding) practices. This is where it is important to be honest about how often and the type of riding you envision, and sharing that with the salesperson. It is no good buying an entry level road bike if you want to consistently knock out 300+km (186 miles) per week...it just won't last.
6. Can you explain why you would recommend this particular bike?
To make sure you are both on the same page this is a great question to ask the salesperson. It makes certain they have listened to your description of your wants and needs. It feels good when someone really 'gets' you and this is one way to reach that goal. Win-win.
7. What is the warranty on the frame and/or components?
Now the boring stuff! Warranties are fairly standard these days, but I recommend checking this out, particularly if you are purchasing an expensive carbon frame in road or MTB. Some super lightweight carbon bikes are designed for racing and not for 1,000's of kilometres of training on rough roads. Make sure you are covered. Some brands offer a heavily discounted replacement frame in the event of a crash (or driving into an underground carpark with your bike on the roof!). It's a handy one to check out.
8. Add ons: Do you offer free fitting and servicing on a new bike purchase?
Good bike shops regard looking after their customers as number one priority. Ask about their professional services, particularly fitting, and whether it is part of the bike buying experience. The answer is usually always "yes".
9. Do you offer discounts on accessories like helmet, pedals and shoes?
You are potentially spending a lot of money with the store so hit them up for extras! Ask for some throw-ins like bidon cages, a saddlebag with tubes and levers or just a discount on a helmet and other accessories. The worst outcome is that they say "no".
10. What else?
Hopefully by this stage you have a shiny bike to wheel out of the store. If you are new to cycling, now is a good time to ask about shop rides. Many shops run road and MTB social rides, and this is the best way to get into cycling, learn new skills and meet new friends.
My hope is that for anyone new to cycling this has assisted in approaching an LBS. Also for the current cyclist wanting to upgrade, it is helpful to be conscious of our decision and purpose in being a bike rider, and it helps us get the most out of this beautiful sport.
If you have any other ideas, experiences or feedback please share with BikeRoar in the comments below or via our Facebook page. Your experiences may be helpful to other would-be cyclists out there.