Just a few of the many MTB choices...

Yesterday while visiting a local bike shop, the owner asked me, “So, what will your next bike be?”

Immediately my mind was wondering through the clouds in bicycle heaven.  We had been discussing mountain bikes and that’s all I could think about.  The options are endless and I had begun counting my favorites.

Abruptly interrupting my beautiful dream, he said “Oh, that kind” with a bit of sarcasm.  The honest truth is that I didn’t know and he knew it.  There are advantages to just about every single one of them.

With years of experience riding and selling bicycles, I am constantly asked “what bike should I buy?”  There is no simple answer. Even writing this article is a little intimidating because I want to share so much of what I’ve learned.  I do know, however, that the best way to make the right decision is to educate yourself a little bit.  So, instead of making suggestions on what bike to buy, we are starting with a few suggestions on where to start.  Since this is just the beginning, more specific articles are sure to follow.

Ask yourself the following questions:

When was the last time you owned/road a bike?

What type of riding do you want to do?

General categories include: Mountain Biking, Road Biking, Urban or Commuting, Bicycle Touring

How often and how far do you intend to ride the bike?

Where do you want to ride?

Are you planning to ride with others?  If so, what type of bike do they ride and where?

Do you have a specific event in mind that you are purchasing the bike for?

The answers to these questions should be what you share with the person who is helping you choose a bike.  A good salesperson should ask you several questions before pointing you to a particular bike.

♥  Ask an experienced friend for some advice. Every cyclist that I’ve ever met is happy to share their opinions on bikes and gear.  It is good to know what type of bike your friends ride if you plan to ride with them.  Be sure to find out the type of bike and not just the brand.  Most companies make several different models.  (This does not mean that you should get exactly the same bike. We are all very different and so are our cycling needs.)

♥  Find a good bike shop. While the internet can be a great place to do research, the bike shop is the best place to find your cycling community.  Most bike shop employees eat, sleep and breath bikes and want nothing more than to see you riding one, enjoying it and coming back for more.  They will be familiar with the riding in your area and any particulars that you should be aware of.  This is a big topic for discussion on its own but here are a few quick tips for finding a great shop.

Ask an experienced friend where they shop.

Look for a salesperson and shop that is willing to answer your questions and asks you even more.

Try to visit the shop on a slower day, Mondays and Tuesdays are often the best.  Don’t be afraid to ask when the best time to shop is or to make an appointment.  Busy shops are often good shops.

Ask about the follow up service.  Most shops offer new bike adjustments and at least one tune-up for free.

Check on their bike fitting services.  Bike shops should offer a basic fit with each new bike purchase and a more comprehensive fit for an additional fee.  This is a good sign because it means that they have the education to charge for the service.

Ask about basic skills classes including flat repair, cleaning and lubing your bike, and learning all the basic parts.

The final key is selection.  Look for a shop that carries some women’s specific gear (bike shorts and tops, shoes, etc.) and bikes in all sizes.  If you are extra small (5’4″ or under), extra tall (6’2″ or over), or have special physical needs, there will likely be less options on the floor.  The bike shop should be willing to order a particular bike in your size with little more than a refundable deposit.

Demo or rent several bikes. Often times rental fees can be applied to a new bike purchase.  Whenever you rent or demo a bike, the salesperson should take a few minutes to get the bike set up for you.  Basic set up includes seat height adjustment, stem swap (if needed) and shock set up if you are riding a bike with adjustable shocks/forks.  Sometimes there are specific demo events, ask your local bike shop if there is one scheduled in your area.

Get a good bike fitting. This is just as important as the bike you buy.  Be sure to set aside some extra money for this service.  Fees can range anywhere from $150-$250 over the price of the bike.  Also, remember that a “women’s specific bike” may not be the best fitting option.  Most women’s specific bikes are shorter in length to accommodate for shorter torsos but not all women have these proportions.

Don’t be afraid to spend some money. It is difficult to spend too much money on a bike.  Don’t let anyone ever tell you “this is more bike than you need”.  You will be surprised at how quickly your goals and ability will change once you start riding.  It costs more to upgrade a bike than it does to buy it the way you want it in the first place.  It is also important to remember that as women, our strength to weight ratio is a lot less.  That means that pushing around a 30lb. bike will be harder for you than your male riding partners of the same size and fitness.  The weight factor is often directly related to the cost of the bike.  Lighter parts cost more because they are made of more expensive materials such as titanium and carbon.  They also require more engineering to use less material without compromising strength or performance.   The positive is that they also perform better and usually last longer.

Get the gear too! Make sure you get the right gear to go along with your bike.  There is nothing worse than getting ready for you first ride and realizing your tires are low and you don’t have a pump!  You can expect to spend about 15-25% of your bike budget on gear when getting started.  Your sales person should be able to help you with a good fitting helmet, riding clothes, pedals and shoes (many bikes do not come with these) water bottles and holders or hydration pack, flat repair kit, tire pump, and a bike rack.

My first bike!

My First Bike!

While this can all seem a little overwhelming, those first few pedal strokes will make it all worthwhile.  Getting a good bike the first time will almost guarantee a better riding experience and the beginning of a love that will last forever.  Nothing can replace the feeling of rolling down the road, using your own power to create speed, cutting through the air grinning from ear to ear.  ♥