How to Buy a Bike
A beginner's guide to buying a bike
Dave Harkless (bottom right), owner of Littleton Bike & Fitness, and some biking friends
The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, the bees are buzzing, the bike bells around you are ringing, and summer’s energetic atmosphere leaves you feeling inspired to try something new. Bike aficionados are busy taking advantage of the abundant biking opportunities in the Granite State. While you might not be participating in 5- or 10-mile trips like your neighbor every week, that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on biking fun this summer. You don’t need to be a seasoned professional to enjoy the beautiful backroads and preserved rail trails; all you need is a bike and a little help from your local bike shop. We spoke with Dave Harkless, owner of Littleton Bike & Fitness, and asked him for tips on where to begin if you are looking to buy your first bike. His first suggestion – consider what type of biking works for you.
Deciding What Bike Is Best for You
Instead of getting overwhelmed by the multitude of options the minute you walk through the door, Harkless recommends stepping back and starting by thinking about what type of biking you will be doing. Do you want to ride around town? With friends? On trails? Will you be biking to work?
“Most people come in with their eyes wide and are noticeably confused,” he says. “Our job is to get you to relax and get your guard down so that you can have a good shopping experience.”
The most common bikes are commuter/cruiser, mountain, road and hybrid. Mountain bikes are rugged and are meant for off-road use, while road bikes are meant for pavement use and are built for speed. Hybrids are a cross between mountain and road bikes, and are also known as family- and comfort-style bikes. Cruisers are for, you know, cruising.
“Another popular type of bike that we have is an electric assist, also known as an e-bike,” he says. “You still pedal, but you get a bit of a helping hand for a motor-assisted ride. It takes the intimidation out of bike riding. It is for the people that want to go for a bike ride, but don’t want to kill themselves doing it.”
Figure Out How Much You Want to Spend
Bikes can be expensive, but it’s important to remember that you get what you pay for. As a beginner biker, you can expect to spend a couple of hundred dollars on a quality bike. Mountain bikes at Littleton Bike & Fitness start at $500, and while Harkless sells more of them because they are cheaper, rail trail and family bikes are a close second. These bikes are extremely popular in the summer months when people are getting out and exploring more. “Some beginners might be turned off by local bike store prices, and will instead head to a department store like Walmart,” he says. “While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, don’t be surprised if you only get a year out of it or it starts falling apart after using it for a season.” When you shop local, you will be taken care of and get expert knowledge all throughout and well after the buying process.
Getting the Right Fit
Getting the right fit for your bike is crucial — you don’t want to end up with a bike that is hard to control and leaves you feeling uncomfortable after one ride. Harkless is an expert at fitting bikes to people. He explains that, for recreational biking, you’re aiming for a 30-degree bend in your legs at the bottom of the pedal. There should also be a slight bend in your elbows, but not so much that you have to crane your neck to see. You also shouldn’t be able to sit on the seat with your feet flat on the ground, which applies to most bikes. Your seat angle shouldn’t be tilted down because, while it might be comfortable to sit on, it will cause you to put stress on your hands, arms and neck. It is also a good idea to test ride a few bikes before you make your final decision, but don’t ride too many or you will get confused on the fit. Test the bike out on different surfaces, check its comfortability, and see how it handles turns and corners. Once you find “the one,” grab a friend, join a local cycling club or find a biking event near you and hit the road (or trail).