Choosing A Bike And A Local Bike Shop

Having decided that I wanted to start cycling again I had two big decisions to make. The first is what bike I was going to get. The second was where I was going to get it from. Oddly, in some ways the latter is more important, particularly because it can help with the former.

I immediately knew that I didn’t want to buy a bike on-line. After the problems I had with the Super Galaxy I needed to be able to sit on a potential bike and make sure that it fit me and that I was comfortable on it. Not necessarily comfortable in terms of it having a wonderful saddle but comfortable in terms of me feeling in control, not stretched or cramped. Obviously there is the option to find a bike in a bricks-and-mortar store and then order it on-line but I’d prefer to be able to build up a relationship with a local shop.

The advantage of knowing the staff in a local bike shop and them knowing you is that you can pop in and ask them for advice. You feel comfortable buying from them and you can build up a great relationship with them. I have several bike shops close to where I live. Some have a good reputation, some not so much. Some have a wide range of bikes and some specialise in mountain or road bikes.

This weekend I drew up a shortlist of four stores that are potential candidates for me to buy from and one in particular appeals because they stock the sort of bike I think I want and I’ve been a customer before. Granted I’ve only bought bits and pieces there but the staff have always been friendly and helpful and that is really important for me. I’m generally mechanically clueless but I don’t like people taking advantage of that or patronising me. I’m keen to learn and having things explained clearly and patiently goes a very long way in winning me over. I’m not going to name the store today just in case I go there and decide for some reason that they are not right for me. However, be assured that I will name the eventual store I buy from.

Choosing a bike is tricky because there are numerous types to choose from and a massive range of prices you can pay. There’s a plethora of reviews and articles to look up on-line and all sorts of opinions to canvas. Fortunately I have a pretty good idea of what I want and what will suit me.

I live in a hilly area and at least initially I will need a bike with a large enough gear range that I will be able to crawl up and then sail down hills. The Super Galaxy taught me that having a really low gear is very handy for hills when you are very unfit. This immediately rules out commuter/town and fixed gear bikes. I’m not a dare-devil and have no immediate plans to do off-road cycling so, whilst their gear ranges are great, mountain bikes are out too. I don’t want a fast road bike or anything else with drop bars because my stomach doesn’t make this a comfortable position to ride in and I’m not after speed just yet. So this really leaves me with touring bikes and hybrids.

At this point I’ll bring in budget and aspirations. When you buy a bike you need to accept that a £150 bike from Halfords might do but it’s probably going to be heavy, have poor quality components and generally not be a lot of fun to ride longer distances. More expensive bikes are almost always better but then spending thousands of pounds for rides of comparatively short distances is equally ridiculous. I’m hoping to spend around £500. That’s less than a gym membership for two years and is enough to buy me a good quality bike.

I’m also working on the basis that I’m going to have two stages of cycling. There will be an initial stage where I’m losing weight and getting fit. I need to enjoy cycling and I need a decent bike but I”m not going to spend a huge amount because of stage two. Stage two will be my reward. If I stick with the cycling, lose weight and get fit I’m going to treat myself to a great bike. I love travel books and over the last few years have read a number of cycle touring books in an effort to motivate myself. I want to go travelling with my bike and to explore on it. It may be something as domestic as one day doing LEJOG or it may be that in my 40s or 50s I take off on a round world tour but I want to travel and I have a dream about doing it by bike.

I’ve got a short list of bikes I’m considering but I now need to go shopping to see them in person and to sit on them and see how they suit me. I’ll be sure to let you know the outcome.