Budget for more than just the bikeDecide how much money you want to invest in your cycling goals before you start shopping. Then, regardless of your budget, allocate about two-thirds of it to the bike. You'll want the rest for accessories—because no matter your price range, you still need basics like a helmet, a pump, a water bottle, and bottle cages.
Prioritize fitEven a top-shelf bike will be miserable to ride if it doesn't fit. Any good salesperson should help you find the right size, then make at least four adjustments: seat height, saddle position, handlebar height and reach. Better: Find a shop staffed with a certified fitter who will take precise measurements, set you up on multiple bikes, and swap parts if necessary to dial your position. This kind of service usually costs extra, so factor that into your budget. And beware: Sometimes retailers offer deep discounts on odd-sized bikes left over from past seasons; resist the temptation unless the bike is truly your size.
Test lots of models
Bike shopping is a lot like buying a house or car—you should rarely purchase the first model you see. If you're still riding the same clunker that's been in your garage since high school, almost any new bike is going to feel amazing, but that's only because the technology has come a long way. On the other hand, an unfamiliar bike at the shop might feel wrong just because it's different.
Narrow your search
Try to focus your options to three models based on your budget and intended use. Then make sure you take an adequate test ride of at least 15 to 20 minutes—longer if you can. "Before you take that spin, though, ask for fit adjustments and a quick tutorial on how the bike operates," says Gutierrez. You might dismiss an otherwise worthy model if you're stretching to reach the handlebar or fumbling with a type of shifter you've never used.
Dress the partFor test rides or bike fittings, put on the same apparel and shoes you plan to use on actual rides. A bicycle can fit one way when you're in jeans and another when you're wearing cycling shorts.
Seek personal service
There's nothing wrong with shopping for bargains online (or bike-swapping—check out these 10 best tips that'll help you snag a great deal). But consider all the advantages of going to a brick-and-mortar store. Besides fit sessions and test rides, a shop will ensure quality assembly and might offer free adjustments for a period of time, as well as other discounts on accessories included with the purchase of a complete bike. A shop is also a venue for getting to know other cyclists through organized group rides and events, says Charles von Isenburg, owner of Mock Orange Bikes in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. "We invite our customers into the cycling community," he says. "It's our greatest service for the new rider."
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