9 Things To Know Before Buying a Bicycle! Beginners Buying Guide

9 Things To Know Before Buying a Bicycle

Buying a new bicycle can be an exciting experience, but also a daunting one if you don’t know where to start.

With so many types, sizes, and options to consider, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

But don’t worry, I’m here to walk you through the key things you need to know before buying a bike so you can find the perfect ride.

As a cyclist myself, I’ve made all the common mistakes and learned a lot over the years.

In this article, I’ll share everything I wish I knew before buying my first bike to help make your purchasing experience smooth and successful.

We’ll cover determining your needs, finding the right bike type and size, components, budgeting, where to shop, test rides, and maintenance.

Follow along and you’ll be well-equipped with the knowledge you need to buy a bicycle tailored exactly for you.

Let’s dive in!

What Things to Know Before Buying a Bicycle?

Buying a bicycle is more complicated than it may seem.

There are a number of factors to consider that will decide the right bike for you.

Here are the key things to know before buying a bicycle:

Determine Your Riding Style and Needs

The first and most important consideration is how you plan to use your new bike.

Are you looking to ride for fitness, commute to work, participate in races, go on adventures, ride with kids, or a combination of purposes?

Define how you will use the bike most often as this will inform many other decisions.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • Will I ride on pavement only or venture onto trails and rougher terrain?
  • How far and how fast do I want to ride?
  • Will I need to carry loads or kids?
  • Will I ride in all weather conditions?

Having a clear picture of your riding style and needs is essential to narrow down the many bike options and select one well-suited for you.

Don’t underestimate this step!

Set Your Budget

Bicycles come in all price ranges from a couple of hundred dollars to several thousand.

Set a comfortable budget for yourself before you start shopping.

Having a spending cap will help filter options and avoid being swayed to spend more than you can afford.

Remember to factor in additional costs beyond the bike itself like a helmet, lock, accessories or any repairs needed.

Extra expenses can quickly add up.

Setting a realistic budget at the start will give you a clear picture of the features and quality you can get for your dollar.

What is The First Thing You Should Do When You Are Buying a Bike?

The very first thing to do when buying a bicycle is to honestly evaluate how and where you plan to ride it.

As touched on earlier, clearly defining the usage and purpose for your bike provides the foundation to make smart decisions down the road.

It’s easy to be tempted by the coolest or trendiest model you see, but hold off premature judgements.

The bike you choose based on looks alone may end up completely inappropriate and frustrating for how you truly intend to ride.

I made this mistake and it cost me time and money.

Instead, be realistic. Will a lightweight road bike actually serve you well if you’ll ride on bumpy dirt trails

Or would a sturdy mountain bike be overkill if you plan to stick to smooth paths?

Run through scenarios in your mind and be truthful about your needs.

Some key questions to ask yourself are:

  • Will I ride for recreation, exercise, commuting, or a mix of purposes?
  • What surfaces will I ride on? Pavement, trails, hills, dirt roads?
  • How frequently and far will I ride? Daily around town or long weekend adventures?
  • Will I carry loads, kids, or gear?
  • Will I ride in variable weather and seasons?

Taking the time upfront to get crystal clear on your real-world usage sets you up to select a bicycle perfectly matched to your lifestyle.

This step alone will make the bike-buying process way smoother.

What Questions to Ask When Buying a Bike?

Once you’ve determined your usage and needs, the next key step is asking the right questions as you research specific bicycle options and visit shops.

Being equipped with the right questions will help guide you to the ideal bike choice.

Here are some of the top questions to ask:

What Bike Type Matches My Needs?

Describe how and where you intend to ride to shop staff and have them recommend suitable bike categories and models.

Common types are mountain, road, hybrid, cruiser, city, and cargo bikes.

Each is designed with specific purposes in mind.

A salesperson can point you towards appropriate types to consider.

What Size Frame Do I Need?

Bike fit and comfort depend heavily on having the right size frame.

At shops, have staff measure your height, inseam and arm length to determine your ideal frame size.

Be careful of one-size-fits-all claims.

Test ride multiple sizes to compare.

The frame should allow a comfortable but not overly stretched position.

How Do The Components Compare?

The groupset, wheels, suspension and other components largely determine the performance and durability of your bike.

Compare specs of models that interest you.

Higher quality parts typically equate to better shifting performance, braking and reliability over time.

What Features and Accessories Do I Need?

Consider useful add-ons like fenders, racks, lights or water bottle cages based on your usage plans.

Will you commute with a backpack or need racks to haul gear?

Discuss must-have accessories with knowledgeable staff.

This ensures you get the features that support how you intend to ride.

Is This Bike Comfortable and Easy to Handle?

Test ride multiple models to assess comfort, fit and handling.

Bikes need to feel intuitive, stable and agile.

You shouldn’t feel stretched or cramped.

Changing hand positions and adapting to bumps should feel natural.

Don’t settle on a bike that doesn’t feel great to ride.

What is The Overall Quality and Reputation of The Bike and Brand?

Research reviews and feedback for any bike you seriously consider.

Reputable brands design and construct bikes to last across frequent use and abuse.

Check discussions online from actual owners to learn how models withstand real-world riding conditions over time.

What is The Return Policy and Warranty?

Find out what protections you have if anything goes wrong.

Most shops offer 30-day guarantees.

Frame warranties range from lifetime to only a year. Understand the coverage and limits before purchasing.

Having peace of mind provides confidence in your investment.

Asking the right questions equips you to select a bike well-suited for your specific needs and riding habits.

Don’t hesitate to speak up!

The more information you can provide shops, the better recommendations and guidance they can offer.

What to Look Out for When Buying a Bike?

Beyond asking questions, it’s also key to closely examine each potential bike yourself to spot any issues or weaknesses.

Here are some important things to look out for when inspecting bikes:

Frame Materials and Construction Quality

Closely examine the frame welding for any irregularities that indicate weak points.

Check that the tubes are properly aligned and spaced.

Give the frame a shake or tap to check for rattles that could mean connectors are coming loose.

Wear and Tear on Components

Inspect chainrings, cogs, chains, and derailleurs for excessive worn teeth, rust, or damage.

Spin the wheels checking they don’t rub or wobble.

Look for cracks or dents on rims.

Check cables and housing for fraying.

If wear items need replacement soon, negotiate the final price.

Fit and Comfort on Test Rides

Does your position feel stretched or cramped even after saddle adjustments? Do your arms, back, or neck feel uncomfortable?

Don’t ignore small fit issues or assume you’ll get used to them.

The bike should feel right, right away.

Keep looking if any bike causes numbness or pain during testing.

Handling, Braking, and Shifting Performance

Shift through all gears to feel how smoothly and precisely the derailleurs function.

Test braking power on steep hills. Make turns at speed checking responsiveness. Suspension should engage smoothly without bottoming out harshly.

The bike should handle precisely without quirks.

Reactivity and Stiffness

Pedal hard out of the saddle on hills to check if the frame and wheels flex excessively.

Some flex is expected, but heavy bicycle frames can feel sluggish and robs power transfer when pedaling hard.

Test ride uphill to assess the bike’s stiffness and efficiency.

Integrity of Quick Releases, Stem, and Clamps

Verify all quick releases, seat post clamps, and stem bolts are properly secured and tighten correctly.

Check the handlebars and seat post won’t rotate or slide even when applying pressure.

Loose connections indicate the bike wasn’t assembled properly and needs adjustment.

Carefully inspecting the bike for flaws, fit issues, loose parts, or underperformance before completing a purchase helps avoid disappointments down the road.

Take time doing thorough test rides to uncover any problems.

What to Consider When Buying a Bike?

Beyond getting the right bike type and fit, there are a few other key factors to keep in mind as you shop around:

Shop at Local Bike Stores, Not Big Box Stores

Local bike shops have staff with expertise to assess your needs and recommend appropriate options.

Mass merchant employees often know little about bikes and you get no guidance.

Specialty shops also properly assemble and tune bikes, unlike big box bikes that frequently have issues right out of the box.

Prioritize Function Over Fashion

It’s tempting to get distracted by stylish colors, must-have brands and trends.

But what really matters is how well a bike actually performs for your specific needs.

Don’t lose sight of key factors like comfort, handling, transmission quality and proper fit in the pursuit of looks alone.

Substance over style makes for the best investment.

Consider Buying Used to Save

Scouring classifieds and consignment shops can land you awesome deals on quality used bikes.

Many are virtually brand new with barely any miles.

Just be sure to verify condition and maintenance records. Having a shop evaluate it can identify issues.

For the budget conscious, used is the way to go.

Don’t Skimp on Helmet, Lock, Lights, and Essentials

Factor in these items as part of your total budget.

It’s tempting to stretch on the bike itself and neglect key accessories.

But a high quality U-lock, helmet, and bike lights actually enhance your riding experience and prevent costly accidents.

Invest in the essentials.

Final Thought

Buying a new bicycle is an exciting experience full of possibilities.

There are so many types and options to consider in pursuit of your perfect bike match.

While the research and choices involved can feel overwhelming, just take it step-by-step.

Identify how and where you plan to ride, your must-have features, and your budget.

Ask loads of questions, do thorough test rides, and inspect bikes closely.

By equipping yourself with the knowledge and insights above before shopping, you’re sure to roll away smiling on a bike that perfectly fits your life.

Now you have all the tools to find the ideal bicycle tailored just for you.

Here’s to many miles of happy riding ahead!

Let me know if you have any other bike-buying tips or questions.

Avatar photo
Joey B. Ramsey
Passionate cyclist, father, and blogger.
I've been riding bikes since childhood and enjoy sharing my knowledge with fellow cycling enthusiasts.
My diverse bike collection allows me to write reviews and advice based on personal experience with various bikes and accessories.
join me email cta
Join me
Join me for more cycling related content and deals.

Related Articles