You’ve decided to get into cycling or triathlon and you want to buy your first bike.
Now what. Where do you start?
Much like yesterday’s post about getting into the right running shoe, buying a bike is all about the fit. Of course, starting out, everyone wants to buy the least expensive bike and go from there but most people tend to go with too cheap and pay a bigger price in injuries or not liking the experience because the bought the wrong bike.
Actually, I should back up a bit. You should really decide first on what style of bike you want.
If you are looking for something to stroll down Main Street and put a little basket on the front, then you probably don’t need this post.
However, outside of being triathlon specific, you really need to determine if you are going to get a mountain bike so you can hit the trails or do you want a road bike so you can go out for long smooth rides.
The way you get into each of them is all the same.
- Find a local bike shop. Bike shops are always well equipped with great staff that know their stuff because they are experienced cyclists and are very used to first time buyers coming in for that first time experience. (Wal-Mart and Target are not a real bike shops.) Find a friend who likes to ride, ask them to take you to their favorite bike shop and walk with you through part of the process. This is always a major help and it never hurts to have a friend by your side that knows a little more than you.
- Zero in on a bike that fits your budget. Once you get to the store, start talking about what you are looking to do and why you want a bike. All shops will work with you on your budget. I’ve seen knew bikes as low as $500 and as expensive as $12,000. Keep in mind you will need cycling shoes, pedals, helmet, bike computer and cycling clothes. It adds up quick but once you make that initial investment, you are good for a bit.
- Focus on the size and fit of the bike. You see bikes are made in different sizes. So when you see someone riding a nice bike. It doesn’t come in that one size. It comes in all sizes. Once you have found the right size bike then the staff will fit the bike to your body. Which means, they will adjust the seat to the right height, angle and make sure your feet sit properly on your pedals. They will also take a look at your handle bar placement.
I’d like to caution you on two other ways to get into a bike.
Borrowing From A Friend. Several of my friends have said over and over. I’m not sure I can afford a bike but my friend has one I can use. I will just borrow theirs.
That’s fine. In fact, my first road bike is out on permanent loan to a good friend of mine.
Here’s the catch though. I felt comfortable letting my friend use my road bike because of one huge and deal-breaking factor. He and I are the same height.
If your friend is a foot shorter than you, believe me, you might as well try to borrow their jeans to wear. It’s just not going to be the same as if you were actually wearing your size. In fact, you’re going to hate it.
So, if you need to borrow a bike. Make sure you are the same height. Chances are your friend went out and did the work to get the right size and fit. You will benefit from the majority of that effort. If anything should happen to the bike while you have it, it’s your responsibility to get it repaired and to keep it in great condition.
Even though, my friend is the same height, he still needed to take it to the bike shop to make sure the seat placement and handlebars were in the right position for him. He has longer legs than me and I have a longer torso than him, so the positioning needed adjustment. Either way, he still needed help at the bike shop.
Buying A Bike From Craigslist or eBay. I only recommend this if you are an experienced cyclist who knows the size of bike they need and know what they are looking for from a picture and description.
There’s no doubt going this route will save you money, but if this is your first purchase and you want to do it right, it won’t save you time. You will still need to go to a bike shop to have them size you and once you have bought your bike you will still need to go to a bike shop to insure the most proper fit and have them put your pedals on your bike if you don’t have the right tools to do that already.
If you have an experienced cycling friend who is willing to do all of this for you, then great, it saves you even more money.
But my vote will always be to spend a little extra on the front end to get you started in the right direction.
Sounds like a lot right? It is… but it’s worth it.
It’s the difference in loving the cycling experience or not. It’s the difference in riding 15 uncomfortable miles or 50 miles in comfort.
Now, for all those looking to do your first triathlon, it’s better for you to get a road bike first to make sure you get comfortable with the sport as a whole. Once you catch the bug and want to go faster and improve then move into a triathlon bike.
The differences between a triathlon (time trial) bike and a road bike are this…
- Triathlon bikes are more compact and aerodynamic. Since aero-bars are the main focus of the front of the bike, you are constantly in a downward position that requires a whole other set of muscles and makes you very streamline and fast.
- Another difference is because your body position is down in the bars; the distance between the seat and the bars is shorter on a triathlon bike than on a normal road bike. When aero bars are placed on a regular road bike, the bike fit has to be adjusted a lot because your back is being stretched further than it should be stretched.
- Also, the angle your body sits (hip/leg angle) on the triathlon bike is better for your transition of muscles into running.
So go out and find the right bike for you and enjoy the ride.
Any questions? Any useful tips on your first bike experience?