How to Purchase a Bicycle
Purchasing a bicycle shouldn't be a confusing experience. We're here to help you find one that's right for you.
As more and more people consider a bicycle as a form of transportation, we get lots of questions from students and employees alike about how to go about purchasing one. The questions may vary from pricing to bike type, so we feel that it’s necessary to (try to) answer all of your questions in the form of a post.
The first thing to know about purchasing a bicycle is to never purchase one from a big box/department store. This includes stores like Target, Toys ‘R’ Us, Kmart, Walmart, Costco, and similar stores. The reason is that the bicycles you’ll find there are usually made with low quality parts, and are rarely assembled by a person knowledgeable in bike assembly. Even if you’re on a tight budget, buying from these stores is NOT the way to go – in a relatively short amount of time, you will spend the same amount of money you spent on the bicycle in repairs. You also won’t be able to take advantage of manufacturer warranties that cover repair costs (excluding labor) for a whole year. Shortly, we’ll discuss how to buy bicycles even if you don’t have much money to work with, no matter what type of bike you’re looking for. In the meantime, avoid the following brands when searching for a good bicycle: Mongoose (only consider models on their website, but with a grain of salt), Roadmaster, Next, Schwinn (only the vintage ones are good), Kulana, Huffy, Pacific Evolution, and any General Motors brand.
A bike shop is the best place to go when buying a bicycle, and the lowest price you’ll find for a brand-new bicycle that is of good quality is about $400 - but this is if you’re looking for a commuter/hybrid bike, which is usually a bicycle with a mountain bike-style frame, but with skinny tires (usually 32 mm). These bicycles can accommodate the installation of fenders (to protect you from water/mud splash) and front/rear racks (to transport some cargo). As a student who rides to school or an employee who rides to work, this is the type of bicycle you should be looking for.
A bike commuter’s alternative is a road bike – these bicycles have lighter frames/components, and even skinnier tires (usually range between 23-32 mm, but can go as low as 18 mm). Road bikes are good for commuting, and more aerodynamic, but also good to satisfy that occasional need for speed. Road bikes are considerably more expensive than hybrid bikes – the most basic of them (brand new) start between $600-800, and the most advanced can get in to the $10 000 range, but bikes that expensive are purely for racing, not commuting.
Mountain bikes are not suggested for commuting purposes. They usually come with fatter tires, which mean more resistance on pavement. The extra width is intended for off-road purposes, but because of their popularity in big box/department stores, these are the most popular bikes on campus. A brand-new, good quality mountain bike can start between $400-600, depending on what you’re looking for in the bike.
If you’re on a tight budget, and the above prices scare you, have no fear, because there is hope. There’s the wonderful world of used bicycles that awaits you. However, don’t be turned off by the word “used”…it does not automatically mean terribly worn. Used bikes can be as recent as this year’s model, or can go far back enough to be called “vintage”, but you shouldn’t buy it if it wasn’t well taken care of, or if it looks like it’s taken a beating.
Buying used can be beneficial because you can get a significant discount off the list price of the bicycle brand new, and often you’ll get the bicycles with upgrades from the original stock components. For example, you may find a bike from last year’s models that sells for $1500 brand new for $800, or in other cases, $350. It all depends on the situation. Be aware, however, that when buying used, you’ll need to have patience. You will not always find the best deal when you want it – you’ll have to do some digging, and you’ll have to wait. eBay is a good place to look for used bicycles, and BikesDirect is good if you want to find low-priced but good quality bicycles. These sites will make your research significantly easier.
We hope that this information answers any questions you may have, but if there are still some concerns in your mind, don’t be afraid to sound off in the comments.
by: Brandt Absolu