Home » Fitness » Rookie cycler: Bike shopping

Rookie cycler: Bike shopping

If you scroll down my blog, you’ll find a bucket-list post roughly outlining my most ambitious goals (most of which are in the fitness category). Well one of them happens to be completing a triathlon. As a swimmer who has sucessfully run a few 5Ks, I feel ready to take on a tri. The only problem? I haven’t owned a bike since I was a kid. So after registering for a local women’s triathlon that consists of a 350-yard swim, 12-mile bike, and 2-mile run, my search for a bike began. 

Who knew that buying a bike would be so complicated?! I began at a specialty bike shop with the expectation that I could find something decent for $150. As if! The cheapest bike available was well over $400. I had no intention of spending that much, but I tried out a few bikes nonetheless. One was a hybrid, which offers the speed of a road bike, but it’s a little more comfortable and rugged like a mountain bike. The other was a road bike, which is built for speed; this bike has you leaning forward more, and it feels really weird if you’re not used to it. Apparently new cyclers usually go with a hybrid and upgrade to a road bike if they want a more competitive edge in races. 

My next stop was Academy, where the bikes were well within my price range. The bikes here seemed great, and I was pretty set on saving money by going with one of these. My pick at Academy was the Women’s Schwinn Network 3.0, a hybrid in a cute baby blue shade for $250. Schwinn makes good bikes, and one advantage to this particular one is that the front wheel detaches, making it easier to fit in the back of the SUV. After doing more research, I found a few cons to buying this bike: 1) It weighs 40 pounds, 2) When you buy a bike from a “big box store” like Academy, there are no bike gurus making sure the bike is properly fitted to you, 3) If you have problems later on, there’s no one there who will fix it.

Although specialty bike shops sell more expensive products, if you do purchase a bike from them they’ll offer a year of free labor to fix any loose screws or whatever you may need fixed. If you buy a bike at a “big box store”, you save money initially…but if your bike needs service you may end up paying $100 over the next year for one of the gurus at the specialty shop to tweak it.

Later in the week, I stopped in at another specialty shop that happened to be a Cannondale dealer. The store owner couldn’t have been nicer or more informative. He took out a magazine and showed me a Cannondale hybrid called the Women’s Quick 6 for $460. I loved this bike, but unfortunately it wasn’t in stock at his shop or at the manufacturer (something about them selling all their old models before Christmastime?). I spent hours searching online for the bike, but again–if I had it shipped, I would end up spending hundreds getting someone to assemble it for me and tweak it later.

So I went on Craigslist. There were a few decent bikes that would have fit my needs for a triathlon. But they were just as expensive as the ones at Academy, and why would I buy something used–with no warranty or return policy–when I could have something new? Seriously, People of Craigslist…get realistic.

By the middle of the week I was back at the initial bike shop where I started. The sales associate/bike junkie who helped me was very knowledgeable, and I felt good about buying a bike from this place–even if it was going to cost $$$ (ouch!). I found that the best bike as far as speed, comfort, cost, and attractiveness goes was the Trek 7.1 hybrid in lime green. Apparently I have freakishly long arms and legs (??), so I ended up getting my Trek in a 20′ men’s version.

Can I just say that I LOVE this bike? The guys at the bike shop hooked me up, and I know I made the right choice. At a weight of 24 lbs, with a detachable front wheel, this bike is very portable. I threw it in the back of my SUV this morning and went for a 12-mile ride at the university with a group of about 50 ladies. Since my cycling muscles are out of shape and I’m still getting used to my bike, the ride kicked my butt. But as far as the Trek goes, it served me well.

I’m looking forward to more cycling adventures and getting involved with this new hobby of mine! 🙂 Keep tuned to find out whether I survive the triathlon next weekend!

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