Author Topic: What questions should I ask at the Bike Shop? : Conclusion at the End  (Read 2354 times)

Mikila

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Please help!  Tuesday I am headed to the bike shop to (maybe finally) buy a bike.  The main purpose of the bike is to run errands within a 4 mile radius of home.  I have some thought in the back of my mind that I would like a bike that could be converted to electric if I get a job further (4-10 miles) away.  Also, it is pretty hot and humid here most of the year but the terrain is pretty flat.

What questions should I ask at the bike shop?  I kind of feel like I did as a dumb 20-year-old strolling into the car dealership for the first time and some salesman said, "There's a sucker!" and sold me what I didn't need.  What sort of bike would you experienced bikers recommend?  What kinds of materials do I need to be looking for so far as construction?  Tires?  Shape of the frame?

My previous bike experience was as a teenager riding old Schwinn bikes (with the curved handles) around town and to work.  My dad bought these at yard sales and made them rideable.  Those were so fast- yippee- and consequently a lot of fun to ride.  That is sort of the experience I am hoping to get with a new bike I may buy. 

Note: I am 5'7" and in relatively good shape (I'm a runner).  I'm a girl but have always ridden men's bikes but oh that was almost 20 yrs ago.  I have no aspirations to ride this bike anywhere except around town loaded down with groceries on the racks/baskets.

So community, what questions should I ask and what should I be looking for?  Are there certain brands to avoid?  I don't want to get taken for a ride ; ) 



« Last Edit: January 23, 2018, 03:33:55 PM by Mikila »

GuitarStv

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Re: What questions should I ask at the Bike Shop?
« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2018, 09:38:35 AM »
10 miles is not a hard ride if you're in good shape.

Based on what you've written, I'd suggest that you look for a touring bike (like a road bike with bigger tires, mounts for rack/fenders) or a hybrid bike without suspension (like a light weight mountain bike with smaller/smoother tires, mounts for rack/fenders).  Both of these will be quick, comfortable, and let you load groceries.

32 mm tires without too much tread on them are good all-purpose tires for around town.

Men's vs women's bikes are designed for the average man or the average woman.  You may actually find that a men's bike is more comfortable depending on your proportions, so don't rule them out if there happens to be one on sale in the back.

Any of the major bike brand names are good - Giant, Specialized, Trek, Scott, Cannondale, Fuji, etc.  As you pay more money you tend to get lighter stuff.  Less expensive bikes will have aluminum frames, which is better for most people as you don't have to worry about scraping it and it's a little more forgiving if you over-tighten something.

ca-rn

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Re: What questions should I ask at the Bike Shop?
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2018, 09:56:04 AM »
any bicycle can be ridden for 4 miles or less on a flat terrain.

don't buy a new bicycle unless you know what you want and can spend some real money, otherwise it'll most likely be a piece of crap- hard to fix, crappy components, etc

go mmm style and buy USED.  you'll probably go thru a couple of kinds of bicycles as you get back into it and discover how much fun it is to ride.  plus they'll have different uses- like shoes and coats, one does not do all equally well.

but by all means, buy USED!!!  garage sales, thrift stores, craigslist, bike COOPs- they're the best and you can learn to crank.

check out bikeforums, its a great site all bike related.

good luck!  i ride my bike for shopping/errands and commuting to work- much better than driving!

Knapptyme

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Re: What questions should I ask at the Bike Shop?
« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2018, 10:03:36 AM »
A bike shop can be very helpful, but I would suggest checking out the local used market on Craigslist or Facebook Swap first. Check out prices and what's available in your area. Accessories can almost always be added.

To answer your post, these are some things that I would ask:

Can fenders be added to this bike easily? (Given the hot and humid and flat terrain, it sounds a bit like Florida. Fenders are very helpful when puddles or water is on the ground, but it's not actively raining.)

Where should I put (and/or what type of) the kickstand? (Given your idea for running errands with weight on the back, the average kickstand doesn't hold up very well.)

Does this bike support the addition of front panniers? (This would make you sound a little more into bikes, and it's a valid question to carry extra loads. It essentially is a front wheel rack.)

Do you think there's room on the handlebars for a bell, mirror, light, bike computer, etc.? (Some shifter/brake combos on narrow or slightly curved handlebars don't leave ample room for desired accessories. This may be a non-factor if you don't want any of those things or there's room elsewhere on the bike.)

If you're at a good, honest shop (and probably not talking to the owner), you can ask what they look for to get a bike like the one you want. Other simple things to look for would also be up to what you want. Grip shift or trigger shift? Type of brakes? Rim size to fit a variety of tire styles (you would probably want some hybrid style--not knobby like a mountain bike or super thin and slick like a road bike)? Front shocks? Seat post shocks? Saddle style?

Lastly, I ride around in a similar fashion to what I think you would want, and I've had a few different bikes. I prefer a rigid frame and fork, but shocks on the seat post for comfort, fenders, 700c tires (something less than 40 mm wide with treads capable of wet weather riding), a rack with waterproof panniers on the back, a bottle cage, and trigger shifters.

GuitarStv

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Re: What questions should I ask at the Bike Shop?
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2018, 10:24:11 AM »
treads capable of wet weather riding

Treads do not improve handling in wet weather on pavement on a bicycle.

They help (a lot) in snow, mud, and sand though.

Ocelot

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Re: What questions should I ask at the Bike Shop?
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2018, 01:22:12 PM »
I'd be more concerned about what questions the shop asks you. A good shop will ask a bunch of good questions so they can find the right bike for your needs. A not-great shop will figure out how much money you have and sell you the closest bike in a color you like. The first shop is absolutely worth your time and money - the second one is not.

Mikila

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Re: What questions should I ask at the Bike Shop?
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2018, 01:39:31 PM »
10 miles is not a hard ride if you're in good shape.

Based on what you've written, I'd suggest that you look for a touring bike (like a road bike with bigger tires, mounts for rack/fenders) or a hybrid bike without suspension (like a light weight mountain bike with smaller/smoother tires, mounts for rack/fenders).  Both of these will be quick, comfortable, and let you load groceries.

32 mm tires without too much tread on them are good all-purpose tires for around town.

Men's vs women's bikes are designed for the average man or the average woman.  You may actually find that a men's bike is more comfortable depending on your proportions, so don't rule them out if there happens to be one on sale in the back.

Any of the major bike brand names are good - Giant, Specialized, Trek, Scott, Cannondale, Fuji, etc.  As you pay more money you tend to get lighter stuff.  Less expensive bikes will have aluminum frames, which is better for most people as you don't have to worry about scraping it and it's a little more forgiving if you over-tighten something.
Good information.  Thank you!

Mikila

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Re: What questions should I ask at the Bike Shop?
« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2018, 01:44:07 PM »


check out bikeforums, its a great site all bike related.

good luck!  i ride my bike for shopping/errands and commuting to work- much better than driving!

I did, and found it- Thanks.  Previously I had tried googling "good bikes for commuting" and turned up just a lot of generalized information.  I'll spend some time reading there.

I've been watching craigslist and facebook buy & sell groups for months, and so far it's all mountain bikes.  It seems like around here the few people who ride bikes ride them on trails as a hobby only.  Unless something changes, I've struck out on the used market.

Mikila

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Re: What questions should I ask at the Bike Shop?
« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2018, 01:54:58 PM »
A bike shop can be very helpful, but I would suggest checking out the local used market on Craigslist or Facebook Swap first. Check out prices and what's available in your area. Accessories can almost always be added.

To answer your post, these are some things that I would ask:

Can fenders be added to this bike easily? (Given the hot and humid and flat terrain, it sounds a bit like Florida. Fenders are very helpful when puddles or water is on the ground, but it's not actively raining.)

Where should I put (and/or what type of) the kickstand? (Given your idea for running errands with weight on the back, the average kickstand doesn't hold up very well.)

Does this bike support the addition of front panniers? (This would make you sound a little more into bikes, and it's a valid question to carry extra loads. It essentially is a front wheel rack.)

Do you think there's room on the handlebars for a bell, mirror, light, bike computer, etc.? (Some shifter/brake combos on narrow or slightly curved handlebars don't leave ample room for desired accessories. This may be a non-factor if you don't want any of those things or there's room elsewhere on the bike.)

If you're at a good, honest shop (and probably not talking to the owner), you can ask what they look for to get a bike like the one you want. Other simple things to look for would also be up to what you want. Grip shift or trigger shift? Type of brakes? Rim size to fit a variety of tire styles (you would probably want some hybrid style--not knobby like a mountain bike or super thin and slick like a road bike)? Front shocks? Seat post shocks? Saddle style?

Lastly, I ride around in a similar fashion to what I think you would want, and I've had a few different bikes. I prefer a rigid frame and fork, but shocks on the seat post for comfort, fenders, 700c tires (something less than 40 mm wide with treads capable of wet weather riding), a rack with waterproof panniers on the back, a bottle cage, and trigger shifters.

I didn't even think of needing an aftermarket kickstand.  Fenders- yes, it rains a lot here so that would be necessary.  In my naivete I had thought racks could be added to any bike....I will ask about that.

In November I went into this same bike shop out of curiosity.  The salesman asked me where I wanted to ride a bike.  Once I told him I wanted one to ride around town to the grocery store and work, he showed me a bike with straight handlebars and nice thin tires, and I proceeded to ride it around the store.  It felt so exciting to be on a bike, and so I got serious about buying a bike-finally!  But I like going fast.  Is a "hybrid" slow like a mountain bike?  And is a hybrid a road bike?  What makes a bike a "road bike?" 

GuitarStv

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Re: What questions should I ask at the Bike Shop?
« Reply #9 on: January 21, 2018, 02:06:31 PM »
A hybrid is in-between a mountain bike and a road bike.  It'll have flat bars and put you in a more upright position so they're a bit slower than a road bike, they're easier to control and usually easier to fit wider tires for greater comfort.

A road bike is a light, fast bike.  Modern road bikes don't have much room to put wide tires so tend to have a little harsher ride, and often lack attachment points for fenders/rack.  There are many workarounds for fenders, fewer for racks.  If you're determined though, you can make just about anything work:


I'm not really a fan of kickstands.  They're a lot of added weight (usually more than a pound that you will carry around with you all the time) and it's pretty rare that you can't find something to lean the bike against.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2018, 02:09:21 PM by GuitarStv »

Mikila

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Re: What questions should I ask at the Bike Shop?
« Reply #10 on: January 21, 2018, 02:35:23 PM »
That looks awesome!

I'm really not sure on the difference between comforts on a road bike vs hybrid, and I guess that goes hand in hand with the saddle.  As a skinnier person riding on the road, will I even notice the difference?  I don't want to become a victim of tiny detail exaggeration syndrome.  ; ) 


Imma

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Re: What questions should I ask at the Bike Shop?
« Reply #11 on: January 22, 2018, 01:42:23 AM »
I wouldn't select a bike by the saddle. Saddles are available in all price categories and all shapes, and they can be easily replaced. If you find a bike you can always replace the saddle later on if it's not comfortable.

I have just bought a new bike, so I've been through the struggle. I am a very experienced cyclist and use the bike as my only transportation, so I know what I prefer. I think in your situation you need to try out a few (maybe borrow from friends for a while?) to find out what you prefer. And if possible, buy used, like everyone has already suggested. I wanted to buy used as well, but I couldn't find what I was looking for, so in the end I bought new (this one: https://fietsenconcurrent.nl/media/wysiwyg/Batavus_Hommage.jpg  a classic light weight steel city bike). Personally I'm not a fan of hybrid bikes, Different bikes cater for different situations. Hybrid bikes look cool but I don't think they're very suitable for city use.

The first thing a good shop needs to do is find out your frame size. There are standard tables for height / frame size, but the length of your legs is actually more important than your body height. You might need a smaller or bigger frame than a standard table might suggest. This is also helpful to know if you're looking for a secondhand bike. Frame size is the one thing you can't change on a bike.

How much weight do you want to be able to carry? Cheaper bikes can carry about 15kgs. In the medium price range bikes can often handle 15-40kg, I went for a bike that can handle an extra person riding on the back. That's because my s/o and I do that often. It comes with a price tag, so if you're only going to carry around the grocery shopping there's no need for an extra durable (and expensive) frame. Some bikes have a rack on the front. For me this is uncomfortable, other people swear by it. it's something you need to try out before buying.

I disagree with the no-kickstand idea. A regular kickstand weighs very little and if you're just going to use it for small errands, the extra weight doesn't matter. You're not in the Tour the France, you just want to be able to park your bike conveniently. My lock is at least three times as heavy as my kickstand. I really hate people who don't put their bike on the kickstand in a bike parking rack. That bike is guaranteed to fall over when you try to park your bike next to it, or when there's a gust of wind. If that person wants to risk damaging their own bike, that's their choice, but I'm not going to be happy if it falls on top of my bike and damages mine. Bikes falling over on top of each other are the nr. 1 cause of damage to bikes.

Do you want battery operated lights? I think a battery is definitely the best  / safest option for the back lights because it stays on even when you're not riding your bike. For the front light, a hub dynamo is a good option as well. The problem with battery operated lights is that people forget to turn them off and batteries die when you least expect it. A good solution is to put a replacement battery in your saddle bag. I know these are tiny details, but people riding without proper lights is a bit of a pet peeve of me.

How many gears do you want/need? I think you need to try out a few bikes to find out. I live in a flat landscape as well, but I prefer to ride in a higher gear. That's just personal preference, I have very strong, well trained legs. I think for the average person in a flat landscape 3 gears is probably all you need.

For safe riding and low maintenance I prefer a chain guard. A non-exposed chain will hardly ever drop off. A chain exposed to humidity will rust. I have always had completely closed off chain guards on my city bikes and I can't remember the chain ever dropping off. It's a regular problem with my road bike. As for brakes: I prefer rollerbrakes. Hydraulic brakes work perfectly, when they work, but they are easily damaged. These days many bikes are sold without skirt guards, but they are important for safety, especially if you're going to carry around stuff.

GuitarStv

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Re: What questions should I ask at the Bike Shop?
« Reply #12 on: January 22, 2018, 07:55:17 AM »
How much weight do you want to be able to carry? Cheaper bikes can carry about 15kgs. In the medium price range bikes can often handle 15-40kg, I went for a bike that can handle an extra person riding on the back. That's because my s/o and I do that often. It comes with a price tag, so if you're only going to carry around the grocery shopping there's no need for an extra durable (and expensive) frame. Some bikes have a rack on the front. For me this is uncomfortable, other people swear by it. it's something you need to try out before buying.

Not really sure weight is really a concern with less expensive bikes.

I used a very cheap second hand no-name department store bike for a couple years of commuting / getting groceries when starting out.  On grocery runs I'd regularly carry 60+ lbs on the frame plus my own weight (around 200 lbs).  Despite being very cheap, there were no problems at all with the frame.  Bike frames are generally built very tough.


Frankies Girl

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Re: What questions should I ask at the Bike Shop?
« Reply #13 on: January 22, 2018, 08:57:18 AM »
I'm going to go against the grain here. Strictly my opinion but running to a bike shop right off the bat is like giving a 15 year old with a learner's permit a brand new Lexus, instead of the 8 year old Toyota. Take your time, find something cheap and fun to play around on, and then decide in a year or two if you need to go shopping for the Lexus.

You haven't really ridden a bike in years, not sure of what will feel comfortable or even if this is a long term thing for you.

Sure a Giant bike is a fantastic brand of bike, but do you need a $600-$800 bike if a $150 Schwinn will work for basic errands and still feel pretty fun to ride around? 

I would suggest getting a basic 3 speed or even a cruiser bike from a big box store for under $200 as a starter bike to see if you even enjoy biking in high heat and running errands with it. You can get fenders, baskets, whatever at most sporting goods stores that sell bikes. If you end up loving riding but find the bike is holding you back and want something fancy, fine - upgrade in a year, either going to a bike shop or watching craigslist or similar. But you may find that the cheap bike is just fine for you. And you'll also have time to figure out what you like and don't like and be more able to decide what to look for in an upgrade if necessary.


I say this as someone that did this same thing. Wanted to bike around for fun/errands, went to the bike shop first and was strongly encouraged to buy a "starter" bike for $400 not counting all the accessories (and it was on CLEARANCE), realized I likely could just see if I even still liked biking with a cheapy big box store bike, found one for $99 (real clearance) and LOVE THIS BIKE TO DEATH. Still ride it weekly and see no reason to replace it years later. SO GLAD I didn't get the more expensive bike store bike first. Added a basket and have fenders and works just fine for all my needs.




Mikila

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Re: What questions should I ask at the Bike Shop?
« Reply #14 on: January 22, 2018, 05:42:12 PM »
Lots of food for thought here.
Re: frame size.  My inseam is 32"

Re: Leg strength.  I am pretty strong.  Currently I run 12+ miles each week all outside, 3.5 miles are my shortest runs and longer runs are about 6.1 miles.  Down to freezing temps is my current temperature limit, though I run 4 miles at a time outside in 95 degrees easier than in 32 degrees.  My resting pulse hovers around 50.  Anyway, I'm VERY confident I won't wimp out because too many muscles are required, but if it's too cold I may because I have very little body fat and I'm freezing bundled up in 70 degrees when I'm not moving.

Re: Walmart bike/ budget.  Maybe?  I'm just not sure.  My budget is about $400, which is my 1 yr payback period.  It would have to have the ultra skinny tires that cruise faster.

Re: weight.  Is this total weight or basket/rack weight?  I think I would be well within whatever specifications are listed.  I imagine that, if shopping, I would carry a sack weighing maybe 20-30 lbs.  That would be roughly one day/ week.  The rest of the time (4 days/week) I would be riding it to work and to school, and carrying little weight other than myself and a single textbook & notebook.

Re: lights.  I would have to buy two.  There are a couple on Amazon sub-$20. My city has an ordinance that all bicycles must have a blinking red light on back and I would need to bike to work in the semi-dark so a front lamp would be helpful.

I will check Academy tomorrow, too.  They have some in the $200 price range with the curved handlebars, but I don't know if they are any good.  At this point I am strongly leaning toward a road bike.  In my experience, products that tout themselves as "the best of both worlds" are mediocre at both of their parent's strengths.  Here is some of what Academy has to offer, most are not in store and I definitely want to try it first. https://www.academy.com/shop/browse/outdoors/bike-shop/bicycles/road-bikes

I know one person who bikes, my pastor, and he rides his to work.  Can't borrow it, unfortunately.

GuitarStv

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Re: What questions should I ask at the Bike Shop?
« Reply #15 on: January 23, 2018, 08:06:07 AM »
I agree that it's best to try to borrow a cheap/used bike and try it out for a while so that you know exactly what you want before spending lots of money on a new one.  That's dependent on being able to find someone with the kind of bike you want though.

I'm kinda against buying a department store bike though.  They tend to use very bottom of the barrel components that go out of adjustment more easily, are more difficult to set up, and don't last as long.  It's usually possible to buy a used bike and get a great deal, but this can be a time consuming process and is confusing if you don't know much about bike mechanics/maintenance.  (Small sizes tend to be harder to find as well in my experience looking for a road bike for my wife.)

It sounds like you know generally the type of bike that you want . . . a drop bar bike.  If you're buying used, I'd suggest that you try out any cyclocross, touring, and road bikes you can find in your price range and see which one fits/feels good.  They're all reasonably similar bikes and should work for what it sounds like you're looking for.

Once you get a bike you will need:
- a bike pump (especially important if you're getting a road bike . . . skinnier tires are run higher pressure and leak air more quickly.)
- a spare tube, tire levers, and the knowledge of how to change a tire (also important with road bikes - they will flat more often)
- a multitool with allen keys to make adjustments to your bike

Those bikes listed at Academy seem expensive for what they are.  What country are you in?

Imma

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Re: What questions should I ask at the Bike Shop?
« Reply #16 on: January 23, 2018, 08:20:30 AM »
How much weight do you want to be able to carry? Cheaper bikes can carry about 15kgs. In the medium price range bikes can often handle 15-40kg, I went for a bike that can handle an extra person riding on the back. That's because my s/o and I do that often. It comes with a price tag, so if you're only going to carry around the grocery shopping there's no need for an extra durable (and expensive) frame. Some bikes have a rack on the front. For me this is uncomfortable, other people swear by it. it's something you need to try out before buying.

Not really sure weight is really a concern with less expensive bikes.

I used a very cheap second hand no-name department store bike for a couple years of commuting / getting groceries when starting out.  On grocery runs I'd regularly carry 60+ lbs on the frame plus my own weight (around 200 lbs).  Despite being very cheap, there were no problems at all with the frame.  Bike frames are generally built very tough.


That's an impressive amount of cargo :o

You were lucky. I'm sure not all cheap department store bikes are of the same quality, but I've definitely seen bikes frames that wouldn't be able to carry that kind of weight. I worked as a postwoman in highschool. I have seen many frames break from 40kg of mail.

My fiance actually owns a cheap, bad quality bike like that (he's cheap, he only rides bikes he got for free until they fall apart) and I'm fairly certain the frame would break if I sat on the back. If we have to carry heavy things around we use my bike. If you're planning to carry around any kind of weight (like groceries) I would shy away from any bike that has a weight limit engraved on the bike or the cargo rack. If a factory feels it's necessary to give its cargo rack a "max 15 kg" warning then they know it's bad quality.

Mikila

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Re: What questions should I ask at the Bike Shop?
« Reply #17 on: January 23, 2018, 03:32:59 PM »
Mission Accomplished.  Thank you. 

I visited Academy and Target and rode around on their bikes.  Again, I checked the used listings.  I did look online, and research there.  Today DH and I went into the bike shop and saw what they had, talked to the salesman who rides his to work.  After I rode the Women's, it was found to be too small, so I tried the men's Giant.  It felt great and light.  I am actually really glad that I went to Academy and Target last night because I had a point of comparison. 

Then I left the shop with DH and we walked around the block talking about it.  I asked myself, "Am I sure?" and ran through a checklist in my mind.  It is within budget.  It looks and feels like a good quality bike that will last a while.  I have no doubts I will ride it regularly and that it will prove to be financially prudent via reduced driving.  I like supporting a local shop. 

So we went back and I told them that if they would put on a rack, I would take the bike.  They did and I did.  I am very happy with this purchase and I thank everyone for their advice. 

One of their salesmen did try to sell me some accessories and promised me with a wink that I would be back as I caught more of the biking bug.  I shrugged and saying "No, thank you" was not a problem.

robartsd

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Re: What questions should I ask at the Bike Shop?
« Reply #18 on: January 23, 2018, 04:49:43 PM »
One of their salesmen did try to sell me some accessories and promised me with a wink that I would be back as I caught more of the biking bug.  I shrugged and saying "No, thank you" was not a problem.
Accessories and service are the money makers at a bike shop.