How To Choose a Bicycle and Bike Shop

Other than photography, the other (expensive) hobby I enjoy is cycling! So, if you’re new or semi-new to this hobby and are looking to invest in a bike, here are some tips for you.

  • Get to know and chat with the shop’s mechanics.
    • They will know what is good and what is crap.
    • No marketing stuff to have to filter through.

Specs and technology aside, (and in my opinion) what is a good bike and how do you choose one? I’ll just focus on road bikes for this, since I am more familiar with them.

  • Ease of build.
    • One that allows a mechanic to build up smoothly.
    • Doesn’t require the mech having to do extra work like filing or performing extra work on it because it wasn’t finished as well as it should have been before being sent out of the factory.
    • If the finishing of a bike is good, it shows that they take pride in their work.
  • Does it use special or hard-to-find parts?
    • Frames that use standard non-proprietary parts and
    • Rear brakes that aren’t mounted under the frame, unless they can fit standard brakes too.
    • Proprietary parts can be hard to tune and find replacements for.
    • In some cases, they can also be expensive.
    • Or not available from third party manufacturers.
    • As a bike owner, chances are you want as little down time as possible so that you can ride.
  • Things to look for in a frame:
    • If possible, choose a frame that uses a threaded bottom bracket (BB)
    • Threaded BBs will always spin more smoothly than press-fit ones, mainly due to frame tolerances or design. I guess this is mainly because a frame has to “squeeze” a press-fit BB to hold it in place.
    • Having to grip a press-fit BB like that probably also means that the bearing is under additional load.
    • If your favourite bike frame is using a press-fit BB, you can look into getting a metal-shelled BB like those by Wheels Manufacturing.
    • It may be very hard to find current bikes that use a threaded BB, though. Many of them now use press-fit ones.
  • Special brake positions.
    • Brakes mounted underneath usually mean that they need special or different brake types like say, “V-brakes”.
    • By virtue of design, those brakes may also cause brake pad rub under power since they almost annoyingly pull to one side.
    • A frame will flex – whether little or much – under power, and with such brakes mounted so close to the BB – which is receiving all your pedaling force – it greatly increases the chance of brake pads rubbing against the wheel. Probably since the wheel is mounted and clamped much further away from the BB area, and will not share the same flexing movement.
    • Such brakes are usually found on some aero bikes.
    • You’ll have to decide if you want to trade some aero benefits for ease of maintenance and part replacement.
Don't get caught with a headache over your bike's previously undiscovered quirks.

Don’t get caught with a headache over your bike’s previously undiscovered quirks.

  • Pedals
    • I’ve seen quite a few bikes coming in with “sounds from the BB area” that were actually caused by their non-Shimano pedals. I’m not saying Shimano are the best, since everyone has different views on what’s the best, but so far, they have been one of the most durable.
    • If you want a fit-and-forget pair of road pedals, stick with Shimano.

Now, how do you choose a shop?

  • Ask your friends.
    • This first one is easy, ask your friends or cycling group for recommendations.
    • You may even search online for reviews.
    • Generally, if it is a shop which no one is familiar with, I’ll Google search for not only good reviews, but bad ones as well.
    • Yes, you read that right. Why? Because if, for example, a shop only has good reviews on its Facebook page by profiles which look like bogus ones (they are recently created and only have one or two friends and/or very little Timeline and Profile pictures), chances are, those ratings are bogus as well.
  • Spare parts availability.
    • When buying a bike, you also have to prepare for bike parts to fail.
    • Like say, your rear derailleur hanger for when your bike falls to the side or you have a crash.
    • Does the shop have ready stock of hangers for your bike so that you don’t have to wait so long to ride again?
    • This is especially important when your bike is using proprietary parts.
    • Most parts like derailleur hangers are specific to the brand.
  • Basic Bike fit.
    • Does the shop take the time to measure your height and inseam, then recommend the proper bike size for you?
    • Do they fit you on the bike properly after that?
    • After all, if you’re spending so much hard earned cash on a new bike, shouldn’t you feel happy and comfortable riding it?
No time to do sizing for you? Then you shouldn't have time for that shop too.

No time to do proper sizing for you? Then you might not have time for that shop too.

  • Warranty
    • Warranty wise, almost all branded bikes come with at least 2 years or a manufacturer limited lifetime one.
    • That sounds nice, but how willing and good is the shop/local distributor and manufacturer at acknowledging issues that come up?
    • Do they make it easy for you, the customer?
    • Are they willing to even try processing a warranty issue for you?
    • Does the manufacturer recognise that it was a design or manufacturing flaw on their part?
    • If they don’t, then even the promise of a lifetime warranty is not going to do much for you when something happens. This isn’t readily apparent, even if you Google search for things like these.
    • Your best source of info is to ask around with your friends and cycling group.
    • They may have come across someone who had issues with their bike and had to claim warranty.

That’s all for now. Happy shopping and happy riding!

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