A Girl’s Guide to Bike Shops
We have been in many bicycle shops over the years and the vast majority, have great helpful staff that are happy to help female customers. There are alas, a few bad apples: guys who only want to talk to my husband, one bike store manager who was downright rude, and the plain old unhelpful who only speak bike-shop-ese. Don’t put up with that! Walk out of the stores where you aren’t treated well and look for another. We promise you, there are some absolute bike shop gems out there: well-run stores with incredibly helpful crews.
When buying your first bicycle, you want the touch, feel and ride experience, so I don’t recommend buying a bike online. I also don’t recommend going to a big-box store for a bike where the employees know little about bikes and the bikes are poor quality. I recommend going to your local bike shop (LBS). It will be worth spending a little more for a bike that you will love and will last you for many years.
Make sure your LBS treats you with respect, it shouldn’t feel like a “boys only” club. If it does, try another shop down the street. Most bicycle stores are going to be helpful and courteous and are a real source for helping you find the right bike for you. A great bike sales clerk will be happy to answer your questions about the bicycle and discuss the pros and cons of various models. The focus of that bike store should be finding the right bike for you! (The first question out of the clerk’s mouth should NOT be: “How much are you planning on spending?”) Down the road, you can enjoy a great relationship with your bike store and they can be the go-to place for your bike’s upkeep and repair and the place you can get recommendations for gear and accessories.
A few tips for buying your first bike:
- Do your homework online. Once you know what type of bike you want, you can do a lot of research on the Internet. You can research brands and various models. Make notes and write down ahead of time what you want.
- Come dressed and ready to take a test ride. (Tight jeans & flip flops don’t cut it!) If you have padded road bike shorts, wear them, and if you don’t have any yet, come dressed in yoga pants or shorts and tennis shoes.
- Just like clothes, sizes of bikes will vary from brand to brand. The bike shop should size you up and help you find a bike that fits you before you take a test ride, making adjustments to move the saddle and so forth.
- Take a test ride: ride around the block at least. Most bike shops offer bikes that you can try for a longer test rides. Put the bike through its paces: shift, brake hard and test the acceleration. Try a hill if possible to make sure the bike has the necessary gearing you’ll need.
- Try a bike out of your price range to see what the differences are when you spend a lot of money. You should feel the differences and understand what you’re paying for. You’ll feel better about your purchase and that you are getting what you want, not just what the sales guy is pushing.
- The bike should fit. It isn’t that great of a deal if it is uncomfortable to ride or worse, result in injury later. Also, a “women’s specific” bike might be perfect for a lot of women. But your body type might be the exception. That said, adjustments can be made with the stem, the seat rails, the handlebar, etc. to ensure the perfect fit.
- Appearances do matter. If you like the color and appearance of the bike, you’ll ride it more! (And you’ll look great on it!)
- Be sure and consider the whole bicycling experience by getting the proper gear: including helmet, clothing, and shoes, if required. Get a pump and spare tube for emergencies.
I’d love to hear your comments, ideas or success stories (or alternatively, horror stories) from recent first time bike buyers as well as bike store personnel.
Thanks to Guthrie Bicycle and their manager Josh, you are one of the gems!