Tips and Considerations for Buying Your First Bike

by Karyn Silenzi, ICG/Life Fitness Master Trainer North America, canfitpro PRO TRAINER

Do you remember your first time on a bike as a child? The awkward first attempts with your mom or dad running behind you, with one hand on your seat and the other balancing you. Their words of encouragement in your ear as the ran beside you and suddenly, you were on your own, balancing. Riding all by yourself. Your confidence probably grew fairly quickly after a few skinned knees and similar mishaps. The freedom – flying down the road on your bike, the wind in your hair, doing jumps off curbs, and racing down hills. When did that go away and why? What happened to the love and freedom of riding a bike? 

I am an indoor cycling instructor and Master Trainer for ICG/Life Fitness and I help people fall in love again with cycling – indoors and out. I cannot tell you the number of times a grown adult has approached me and said they would love to come to my cycling class but are afraid. I am pleased to say that I have a lot of recreational riders, serious cyclists, and bike racers/triathletes that attend my classes. Indoor cycling classes are great because no one can ever fall off, get lost, or be left behind. And because of that, many of my riders have rediscovered the love of riding and with that, look to ride outdoors. 

But if they thought an indoor cycling class was scary, what about the plethora of choices that buying a new bike entails. For those entering into the outdoor cycling world and looking to purchase their first “real” bike, there are some key factors to consider.

Terrain – Mountain, trail, gravel, or road?

Think about the areas that you’re most likely going to biking in and how often you’ll be able to ride. The type of riding you plan on doing will be a key factor in your new purchase. Bikes come in a variety of fits, frames, and comfort depending on their primary purpose. Once you have an idea of where and how long your rides will take place, you’ll be able to make a more informed decision.

Budget – Thrifty or all out?

You can spend more on a bike than on an engagement ring, so knowing your budget ahead of time will be important and avoid awkward exchanges post-purchase with your romantic partner. Remember though, as it’s your first bike you might want to look at the high-quality basic bikes which start around $400 USD. Buying new? Check out sales in shops or on-line starting after the main cycling season has ended (fall or winter) as typically you’ll avoid any seasonal mark-ups and catch an extra discount for buying the previous year’s model.

Second-hand steals

If there is one thing all cyclists know, it’s that you can never have too many bikes. Serious cyclists tend to collect and take excellent care of their bikes. Eventually, however, they run out of room and will grudgingly sell, either through a public domain such as pinkbike.com or through a local bike shop. Buying second hand can save you a lot of money without sacrificing quality. Second-hand sales typically spike right before spring riding begins.

Test ride

Prior to paying out any of your hard-earned cash, dress appropriately, and take your potential purchase for a test ride. If you plan on using clipless pedals, leave them at home for your test ride as they take a bit of getting used to; if you fall over and damage the bike, remember – you break it, you buy it. Depending on where you are looking to purchase from, the bike may be set up on an indoor trainer or you’ll take it for a little ride around the block. Either way, make sure you get a quick rundown on the shifters and breaking mechanism, to avoid a dropped chain or an unexpected mishap.

Take a course

Once you have purchased your bike the best thing you can do is sign up to take a bike maintenance course at a local bike shop. These are typically run a couple of times a year and are absolutely priceless in getting to know both your bike and other riders in your community. Some shops also offer club rides or skills and drills clinics. Your local bike shop is the heart of your cycling community – get to know them well.

The old adage “it’s just like riding a bike” is true, but it does take time to adjust to your new purchase. Other factors that will enhance your experience on the bike is quality riding gear, proper bike fit, and rides with experienced ride leaders. Check out your local bike shop for anything and everything to make your rides top notch. 

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