Tuesday Tips: Buying a Bike
Everyone seems to be talking bikes these days, whether it's to be more green or to cut back on gas. We've even started treating bikes like cars with new self-service bike rental programs like SmartBike DC and bank loans for bikes. Makes me want to run out and get my own set of wheels. So I talked to a local bike salesman on what to look for whether you're buying new or used:
Tip #1: If you're looking to ride a bike to and from work, consider a fitness hybrid or a cyclocross bike. The fitness hybrid is in between a road bike and a beach cruiser, according to Chris Peguese, who sells bikes at Spokes Etc., a bike store in Alexandra, Arlington, Ashburn and Vienna. It's recommended for commuting because "it puts you in a little more upright position so you're able to keep your eyes on what's going on around you instead of tucked down," he adds. This bike also offers a wider tire for stability for hopping curbs. "In terms of urban ride, it generally makes cracks and bumps more comfortable," says Peguese. The cyclocross is for people who want speed and efficiency but also like to beat up their bikes. These bikes also tend to have racks attached to them for carrying things like a briefcase or a laptop.
Tip #2: If you're buying a bike to ride with a group of friends, pick the same type of bike they have. If you have the wrong bike, you might not be able to keep up with them.
Tip #3: The best time to buy a bike is at the end of the year when many retailers have sales to get rid of old inventory. Peguese says bike manufacturers have already told them that prices of 2009 bikes will be going up 15 to 25 percent because of gas prices and higher demand for bikes.
Tip #4: If you're going the used route, Peguese recommends Craig's List, as well as Phoenix Bikes, a non-profit organization in Arlington that trains kids how to fix bikes. They sell used bikes that have been fixed up.
Tip #5: If you're considering a used bike, take it for a few spins around the block to make sure it doesn't feel too big or too small. You could also go into a bike shop to get advice on what size bike would be good for your frame. If the bike frame is steel, check for corrosion like rust. "You want to stay away from a bike that has visible rust because if it's on the outside, there's a good chance there's quite a bit on the inside," Peguese says. If the bike has an aluminum frame, check for dents. You'll also want to stay away from those. With a carbon frame, you'll want to run your fingernail along the frame to check for scratches, which could mean that the bike has a hairline fracture -- also a no-no in buying a used bike.
Tip #6: Some bikes can be about as expensive as a small car. So Peguese says one way to cut back on the expense of a new bike is by going with a single speed, which requires less maintenance and will give you a better workout. A fixed-gear bike also requires less cash but you have to stop the bike with your feet rather than using a hand brake. This bike offers even more of a workout, says Peguese. "If you have a 10-mile commute, you're pedaling the whole way," he says.
Tip #7: If you're buying a bike for a child, make sure they can sit on the seat and comfortably reach the ground with their feet. The smallest bikes have 12-inch wheels and training wheels and can accommodate bikers as young as 3 years old. Once they turn five, you'll want to bump them up to 16-inch wheels. And then once they're around 7, they'll move into 20-inch wheels. These bigger bikes don't accommodate training wheels so you'll want to make sure they've learned how to ride a two-wheeler before moving them up to a bigger bike.
Do you own a bike? What are your tips for buying one? Where are the best local spots for buying a bike? Post a comment below.
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