Bike shop experiences for the first time can be overwhelming for most people. Especially because bikes are rarely advertised. As a result, people don't buy bikes as often as other consumer goods. Hence, it's not a topic most people are thinking about on a daily basis. For instance, purchases like running shoes, while still overwhelming to buy, are more of an immediate necessity. In other words, the average consumer has more knowledge when it comes to these kinds of purchases.
The next time you walk into a bike shop, my first piece of advice would be to look for a friendly staff member. There's a stigma that bike shops don't enjoy dealing with customers, unless they're buying an expensive bike. Here are my two cents: If someone tries to sell you into their most expensive bike in the shop, you know you're in the wrong place. Now, what you should do is to find a shop that has a wide variety of prices. If you walk in and see that all their bikes are over $1,000, I would say turn around and head out the door. I say this because that's most likely not the right bike shop to accommodate your specific needs.
A good bike shop should have a variety of offerings. From bikes available from as little as $300, up to $10,000. This wide gap will allow you to browse a full range of different bike products. This way you can ask the bike staff to take you through the pros and cons of each bike, as well as explain to you the pricing between different bike styles and features. Consequently, the bike staff will be able to explain a suitable selection for you. Ultimately, you can make a decision around what you feel is best for you as the rider. But if the bike shop you choose to conduct business with doesn't have a wide selection, I can guarantee that you won't understand the full scope and variety of products that exist.
Once you determine that the shop has an adequate selection, your second mission should be to look for different categories of bikes. If you walk into a bike shop and all you see are road bikes, if you're not looking for a road bike, then you're in the wrong place. Perhaps you know specifically that you're a road cyclist and your goal is to race in triathlons. Then that is a completely different story. Most bike buyers don't know what they're looking for. Hence, when they walk in into a shop they are surveying the market to see what's available.
If you find yourself in the same boat. Ask yourself, "Do all the bikes look the same or are there bikes that look a little bit different from each other?" And if they all look different, that means you're in a great place to at least start your search. This will also provide the opportunity for you to test ride different bikes. You want to do business with a store where test riding is supported. It's important that the staff is willing to give you the time to take test rides. This is common for riders that haven't been on a bike in 20 years or have switched to a new category of riding. This way you can make sure that you're comfortable with the style of bike you're considering.
That segues into my next point, staff. In the bike world when we talk about the staff we also talk about "fitting". When shopping you want to find staff, or see indicators in the shop that emphasize fitting. At the very least you want to hear the staff concerned about your fit to the bike. Fitting in the bicycle world is a big thing. It's like fitting into your shoes. And the fitting is very specific to your body and the type of riding that you'll be doing.
The way I would fit somebody to a comfort bike is different to how I would fit that same person to a road bike. Moreover, you want to ensure that the bike shop values the fit of the bike. If all they're concerned about is getting you to buy a $1,000 bike, regardless of if it seems to be a fit for your body or your needs, then I encourage you to walk away. Bringing that back to sixthreezero, that's why we emphasize body-fit so much. Because to us, what's most important here is making sure that the bike fits the rider and their needs. And if it doesn't, we don't want that person to buy it.
Another factor to look for in a bike shop is a repair section. You want to make sure that if you're going to buy a bike from this shop, that they have a full staff of mechanics. It's also important to identify the average turn around time for their bike repairs. This way they can support whatever future maintenance needs you may require. If they don't, let's say instead you buy a bike at Walmart and you feel they have the selection and the needs that suit you. Except that they don't have a repair shop. So it's important to identify where you can take your bike for a reliable repair.
If you're a daily rider and you pop a tire. And you want to have it fixed and they say, "It will take a week because we only have one repair guy and he works two days a week,". Then that might not be the shop you want to buy from. Unless you know of another shop that can turn it around in 10 hours, or 12 hours, or whatever the needs are for you as a rider. A lot of times, repairs can be a big holdup when people have problems with their bikes. That's something to consider, especially if you've had to deal with maintenance in the past.
The next point to consider is the warranty. Make sure any bike shop you walk into provides a 2-3 -month minimum guarantee. This should include coverage where if anytime goes wrong in that time frame. They'll fix it regardless of the cause. With sixthreezero we don't offer a physical bike shop space. Instead, we conduct our business online and offer a 365 Day Test ride policy. We're telling our riders, "Hey, if something doesn't go right and you don't love this bike, send it back to us."
Lastly, you want to see a bike shop that has a good selection of parts and accessories. This provides a place that you can come back to when you need to upgrade or change your bike. Not all bikes are perfect when you buy it out the door. Many riders change seats, handlebars and upgrade certain components of the bike. The better selection of components they have, the easier it'll be to receive changes. If there's no parts and accessories in that shop, you'll have to find another shop for future repairs.
And again, if that's not important to you, then don't worry about it. However, I would say, people, tend to own bikes a long time. Aligning yourself with a bike shop that can cater to your needs throughout your ownership is a good idea. Especially if you are a type of person that likes to prolong the lifetime of your possessions. If you'd rather buy new, then focus on a shop that features more competitive pricing on new bikes. But be aware this may mean sacrificing for less selection on parts and components.
So, I would say, another piece to this answer is to make sure that the bike shop aligns with your needs. This means looking for things in the shop that mimic what you want to do with your bike. Again, if you walk in with the intentions of finding a bike to cruise on a bike trail. And you walk in and there are mountain bike posters everywhere, I'm sure they won't be able to fulfill your needs.
However, this won't stop them from trying to sell you something. Which, in this scenario wouldn't be the best for you. If you want running shoes, generally, don't go to a tennis shoe store. So, very similar thing. And so, it depends on where you are. The bike shop that is right for you depends on where you are in your search. And lastly, I'll say, if you're at the beginning of your search, start at a shop that can offer you:
If you're deeper into your search and you know you want a mountain bike. Then look for the shops that scream things specific to those needs.
For those of you that don't know, our company. sixthreezero is actually named after the area code I grew up in, in Naperville, Illinois. The area code there was 630. Home to the neighborhood bike shop I went to as a child growing up, Bicycles Etc. I can't remember many memories of bike shops when I was young. But I do remember my bike shop experience before leaving for college. At that time I wanted something to get around from class to class. I walked into the shop and remembered how they helped me out and answered all my questions. I left the shop that day ecstatic, as I had purchased my first hybrid bike. Back then, I had no idea what a hybrid bike was. But it had these semi-thin tires that would go over curbs well, yet still allowed me to ride fast.
All my bikes previous to that were kid bikes. I had gone through this phase in high school, of not riding bikes as much as I did when I was younger. When I was younger the craze was riding BMXs. Back in the '90s, BMX's were the cool bikes for kids because of the ability to perform "cool" tricks. Like spinning your handlebars and riding on the bike's pegs. After bike riding was "not cool" in high school, and coming back to a bike senior year of high school. My needs changed to that of an adult's. I needed a bike to do something for me, which was transportation, and get me places faster than walking. I remember that experience because it was the first time I bought for needs rather than coolness.
Three hours is the amount of time I spent in the shop that day. I went from test riding in the parking lot, to walking away with that bike. And it was like my first real adult mode of transportation in college because I didn't have a car. A lot of college kids don't. As a result, your bike becomes your prized possession on campus. Hence why I kept that bike all 4 years and logged a lot of miles on it. And the lock that I bought that day, I kept all 4 years as well. It was like a folding-steel metal lock. And that was the greatest $450 I had ever spent. To this day, I'll be grateful for Bicycles Etc. They got me to all my classes on my new wheels, and I graduated. So yeah, thanks for that.
There are a couple of hints and tricks to get the best deal on a bike at a bike shop. I would say, number one, do your research. Today, with the internet, there's lots of information to confirm if the price you are paying for a bike is fair. I would say, number one, what you can do is check the manufacturers' websites. Make sure that you know what the MSRP's are for a particular bike. It's not unheard of that bike shops would try to sell a product for more than the MSRP. Especially if it's a very desirable product.
Secondly, you will want to know what other sites and websites are offering the bike for. There are some advantages to certain bike shops overs others. That may be a reason why they're selling for a little bit more than another bike shop. Also, you don't always want to shop based on price. You want to make sure the shop you're buying from is supplying you with the value that is best for you. So if one shop is 30 bucks more but they give you a lifetime warranty, that may be best for you. It's important that you at least know the prices that are out there. With a lot of bike companies, you can see the prices posted online on different websites. So do your research.
I think the second and best way to get a deal is to take advantage of closeouts. Most bike companies, going into the end of the year, like car companies, close out their model years. Now, some bikes don't change as frequently as others. Road bikes and mountain bikes tend to have yearly models with upgrades or new color schemes. A lot of times, in the more recreational segments, bike models may not change yearly.
However, the company still may release a bike as a new year, even though it didn't change much from the previous year. What ends up happening in August, September and October are closeout deals. This is true for a lot of retail industries around Christmas. As it creeps closer to Christmas Day, and, after Christmas, everything drops to 90% off. Bikes are no different. Summer is the primary bike-riding season. The majority of shoppers are looking to buy a bike in April, May, and June. This is because want to ride in June, July, August, when the weather is nice.
This all changes when September hits. Even in California, where we're in a climate that is conducive to bike riding year-round. People go back to school, and there's less time for recreational activities. So coming out of summer into August, bikes move on to closeout price.
So if you're willing to wait and you don't have an absolute need for a bike, try to buy your bike in September, October, November. That will be your best opportunity to get a great deal. Go check websites and see what they're closing out. Check with the manufacturers, and then come into the bike shop and you'll see a whole bunch of things. And then ask them questions. "Hey, do you have any bikes moving to close out?" or, "are there any year-end models that are going out?" Same questions you'd ask at a car dealership if you're looking to get a good lease or buy a car, "Hey, when are the 19's coming in? Are you gonna have any inventory that you need to sell before then?"
Generally, that can save quite a bit off the retail price. Anywhere from 0% to 40% depending on what model year the product was. Sometimes they may have closeouts that have been sitting there for 2-3 years. My suggestion, especially on the more expensive bikes. Is if you know that the bike shop has a model-year bike from, say, 2017. I would make them an offer. Offer them something lower than what the tag even says. This is because, at this point, they're motivated to get that bike off their floor.
So those would be my best suggestions on how to get the best deal on a bike. However, don't let your need for a deal come before your actual needs. If you're too focused on getting the right deal, you may end up with a bike that you won't use. It will either be uncomfortable or it doesn't take you where you want to go.
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