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How to Navigate Bicycle Shopping

So you've decided to get into triathlons? One of the most daunting thing is finding the perfect bicycle for you. Which bike is the best? Which one will be better suited for me? I worked in a bike shop for three years, and I will provide some answers to the most commonly asked questions.

1. Why should I buy a bike here when the department stores are so much cheaper?

First, you are supporting a local business, which is owned by someone who contributes to the community. Second, the mechanics in bike shops are professionally trained how to build bikes safely. Many times in department stores, the employees are paid by how many bikes they put together. Most of these bikes out of department stores need a tune-up before they even leave the store.

Second, you will want to know your mechanic. When you ride a bike, cables stretch and adjust to your riding. You will need adjustments from time to time. Plus, you will have a place you can get the bicycle serviced and adjusted.

Third, a sales associate at a bike shop will be able to find the right size bike and adjust the seat to make your ride as comfortable as possible.

Fourth, if something goes wrong with the bike, the bike shops have a relationship with their vendors and will be able to contact them and help you with any issues that may arise. The department stores will tell you to contact the maker of the bike.

2. I've looked at Specialized, Giant, Cannondale, Felt, Cervelo and Trek. They're all nice, but which brand is best?

This all depends on you. This is where making sure you have time to test ride the bikes while you shop is important. You want to go with what feels the best to you when you are riding. My road bike is a Trek Madone and my triathlon bike is a Cervelo P5.

3. Why is carbon so much more expensive?

Most road bikes are made of aluminum or carbon. Aluminum is more economical and entry level. The bike is going to be heavier and you will feel more bumps in the road. Carbon is lighter, and will also provide a much smoother ride. This makes for a better experience when riding and racing. I have owned an aluminum and a carbon bike. The carbon bike just flies. Test ride both at your local bike shop, to feel the difference.

4. Will I get fit for the bike?

No. In the bike world, fitting and sizing are two different things. Sizing is making sure the seat height is right, handlebars are adjusted and bike is comfortable for you to ride. A bike fit takes two to three hours and makes adjustments based on your flexibility, leg length and a variety of other things. When you have a bike fit, you may need to buy new handlebars, cranks, and a saddle because the ones that came with the bike are not the best fit for you.

5. What are the basics I need with a road bike?

A helmet is essential due to safety. Just because you are going to ride the local trail and are a good rider doesn't mean everyone else is. A helmet should be worn every time you ride.

Lights. Whether you are riding at dark or not, many bike lights have now come with daytime running lights. It is like running lights on a car. Most bicycle accidents occur during the day. Lights are also required by law when riding at night. The more visible you are at all times of day, the better.

Pump. Even if you don't ride, your tires lose air. To ensure the perfect ride you want to make sure your tires are at the right air pressure. I keep my pump in my car, and air my tires before every bike ride to make sure they are at the pressure I like.

Flat kit. Get one and learn to change a flat tire. Most bicycle shops offer flat tire clinics or will be happy to teach you how to. In one of my favorite books, Life's Too Short to Go F****** Slow, by Susan Lacke, her friend Carlos, who is teaching her to ride a bike, says "Noone likes to rescue a dumbass." Be smart and know how to change your bike tires.

These were the questions I was asked the most. Please feel free to comment if you have one and I will do my best to answer them.

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