Guest post by Duncan Hurd, managing editor of Momentum Mag
I remember how intimidated I felt while shopping for my first new bike.
The bicycle shops I visited were stuffed wall to wall with aggressive looking mountain bikes and featherweight road bikes. Everyone working and shopping within used words I’d never heard before. I knew I wanted something to get me around town and maybe carry a few groceries on, but none of what I saw looked like a bike I’d trust leaving locked up outside of my apartment. None had racks or fenders and all had price tags well beyond my budget.
For the most part, bike shops will defy your typical retail shopping experience. Shop owners and employees are passionate about cycling though many lack customer service training. Shops themselves appear to lack organization. Browsing the rows of bikes crammed together and hodgepodge display racks can be a challenge.
However, the cycling retail experience is undergoing a major facelift. Manufacturers like Electra are providing retailers with attractive and thought-out merchandising displays. There are also a growing number of shops that provide products and services with bicycling for transportation as their main focus, creating pleasant spaces for customers to browse and experience bikes and gear.
Whether you need a new bike, accessories or a tune-up, here are a few tips to help you feel comfortable in any bike shop:
1. Look for Specialty Shops
Not all bike shops are the same. Some, like Hudson Urban Bicycles in New York City and Clever Cycles in Portland, OR, focus only on practical, European-inspired bikes for daily transportation. Pedal Chic in Greenville, SC focuses on products designed for women. In Seattle, WA, Hub and Bespoke carries clothing and accessories with urban cycling style. You’ll also find a growing number of DIY shops that give customers a helping hand for fixing their own bikes while also selling a selection of new and used parts.
2. Know What You Want
It’s easy to get distracted in a bike shop. The selection can feel overwhelming at times and some sales people will push you towards their own interests as opposed to helping you with yours. Visit a shop that caters to the type of biking you want to do and have a list of the activities you plan to do by bike with you.
3. Always Try Before You Buy
Test rides are essential when deciding what bike to buy. You can’t expect to learn to feel comfortable on a bicycle. If something feels uncomfortable right away, talk with the shop employee who can make adjustments or suggest a different model. When shopping for accessories, bring your bike with you to ensure that the parts you’re looking at are compatible.
4. Research Your Ride
People love to talk about their bikes. They blog about them, write reviews for magazines and can chat to no end about why they like (or dislike) their own bike. If you’re looking for a commuter bike, ask other commuters where they made their purchase. While each individual has their own tastes, asking questions can help you identify what you may use a bicycle for and what specific styles you should consider. Take time to shop around. If you feel uncomfortable or are unsatisfied with options available at one shop, it’s better to travel a little further than to make sacrifices in getting what you want.
I invite you to drop by your local bike shop to try out a new bike or two and pick up a set of lights and a bell if you don’t have them already.
Duncan Hurd is managing editor of Momentum Mag, an independent media company that promotes, encourages and inspires “Smart Living by Bike.” He lives in Toronto, Canada and believes that every ride is a group ride, even if those around him don’t know it yet. Subscribe to Momentum Mag’s free newsletter.