Another of my friends is asking me questions about buying a bike. I love that they do this, but since it’s become a trend, I figure I should throw my thoughts together here as a reference.
Buying a bike is actually pretty simple:
- You want a used road bike.
- You want gears; more is better.
- Lighter is better.
- Size is important.
- Exotic isn’t for you (yet).
That’s pretty much all there is to it, at least on the macro level. Let’s dive into each of these a tad, shall we?
First, you want a used road bike. The reason for this is pretty logical: As a commuter, you’ll be riding mostly on…roads! You could get a cruiser (but that defies rule #2), or a mountain bike (defies rule #3) or a recumbent (see rule #5). But ultimately, road bikes are the best for what you want to do: travel quickly and safely to and from work and around town with minimal fuss. New ones cost a fortune, so get one used.
I wish I didn’t have to mention rule number two, but for all the hipsters out there, you’re wrong about fixies. If you live in San Francisco, a city with specific maps for the hills, you should use the things that were invented to get you up hills: Gears! Even if you live in a flat-ish city, you should get gears because they give you flexibility. Sure, your bike is a commuter today, but tomorrow your friend might want to go on a bike ride with you. Or maybe you move to a new city. Who knows? Get gears. Don’t be trendy.
Rule number three is that lighter is better. If you look at new road bikes, you’ll quickly learn that you can spend an incredible amount on bikes. And naturally, the lighter they are, the more expensive they are. So how light is right? Well, this one is tough and somewhat subjective, so I say, find one that’s as light as you can buy for your dollar. Off the cuff, I’d wager that around $400 is the point of diminishing returns for most people.
Size is important. If it doesn’t fit, it’s useless. Go to a bike shop and get sized before you do much shopping. It’ll help you winnow the stuff you’re looking at anyway. This may as well be the first step of your search.
Rule five explains itself. When you know more about bikes, branch out if you care. You probably won’t, so save yourself the effort of looking at exotic stuff. It’s exotic for a reason.
Bonus questions for the avid reader
What brand should I buy?
Doesn’t much matter, surprisingly. There are better and worse brands, but if you’re buying a used road bike, and follow rule number 3, your goals will be accomplished.
What material should my bike be?
Probably steel. Aluminum is good too, but probably out of your price range. Steel’s a very reputable material though. If you can find Reynold’s steel, all the better.
How do I know the bike I’m buying isn’t stolen?
Good question! This one’s hard. You can look for the serial number or try to only deal with people that seem legit. There is a national bike registry (which you should use!), but otherwise there’s not a whole lot you can do…yet.
Comments? Thoughts? Email me. You’re probably my friend already if you’re reading this…
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