When shopping for my first road bike, I found myself lost in a sea of lingo, gadgets, and equipment. I was unprepared for all of the questions the nearly all-male staff at the bike shop had for me.
- “Are you looking for aluminum or carbon?”
- “What size do you think you need?”
- “Do you want to be clipped in or not?”
I wasn’t entirely sure what the salespeople meant or what answers would best fit my needs and budget.
Thinking back to that moment, I wonder how many women also feel lost when first entering a bike shop and end up ditching the idea of purchasing a bike, like I almost did.
I stuck it out through the awkwardness, though, and I’m glad I did. Here’s what I learned during the process and how it can help you conquer your first bike purchase:
Type and Usage
Before you get to the bike shop, think about how often you’ll be using your bike and what you’ll be using it for. Do you want to ride the roads or tear up the trails? Are you looking to use your bike as a commuting option, take leisurely rides with friends, join a cycling group, take up triathlons, or maybe all of these? The options for riding are endless, so knowing how you plan to use your bike will help a salesperson lead you towards the best choices for you.
Before purchasing your bike, reach out to the local cycling community (cycling clubs or riding groups) and ask for opinions on bike shops in the area. Not only will they tell you where to go and where to avoid, but they’ll probably invite you on rides once you have a bike.
Joining a riding group can also provide opportunities to learn more about cycling and bike maintenance. When I was looking for my first bike, I found a local group that did weekly after-work rides for beginner cyclists. I decided to go along and learned more about different types of bikes and what spare parts I should always carry with me on a ride. They let me know what type of maintenance should be done on my bike and things to watch out for. The group also clued me in to other cycling clubs in the area that were good options to join, as well as routes I should check out on future rides.
When I started looking at the prices of bikes, I thought I had to be reading something wrong. There’s no way one piece of gear could cost so much!
Bikes come in a huge range of prices. It’s not uncommon to find a bike for $500 and another for $5,000 in the same shop.
Heads up: You may need to factor in the price of pedals. Perhaps counter-intuitively, the more high-end a bike is, the less likely it is to come with pedals. Be sure to ask if the bike you’re checking out comes with them or if the ones they’re sporting on the shop floor are just on for demos.
Remember, you’ll also need a helmet, pump, water bottles and cages or a Camelbak, as well as extra parts and tools for fixing flat tires—and don’t leave the shop without padded bike shorts if you don’t already own a pair. You may also want to think about bike shoes, a jersey, a different saddle (seat), and a saddle bag as well.
Last but not least, research women’s-specific bikes before heading to a bike shop. Bikes that are designed with a woman’s body in mind can be more comfortable for female riders. Try a few before making your decision.
Your first bike purchase can be exciting and intimidating at the same time but don’t let your nerves get the best of you. Keep these tips in mind throughout the bike shopping process and you’ll feel more confident both in the store and when you roll away on your new wheels.
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