Bike store visits, especially for the first time, have certain characteristics. What you look for depends on your status in the buying process. And of course, what your needs are.
First, what I am about to say applies to those that are early in the bike buying process. And those that haven't bought a bike for a long time. The first thing I would recommend is looking at a bike store with a good selection. And when I say good selection, I mean two things. One, a good selection of prices. You want to see low prices so you can get an idea of quality. I would say as low as $200 and as high as $5,000. This will at least give you a basis for the range of bikes that exist. You should ask yourself:
Second, when I say selection in a bike store, I'm referring to the types of bikes. You want to see as many different types of bikes as possible, such as cruisers, hybrid, roads, and mountain bikes. This will allow you to test ride all sorts of different categories. And get a feel for the category that is right for you.
Third, analyze the bike stores credibility by inspecting the mechanics' area. You will want to see a clean and well-kept mechanics' area. See if you can identify at least two stands. This will showcase that they have at least two mechanics on staff.
If you ever need repairs on your bikes, you want to know that your bike's operated on in a good, clean, quality mechanical area. If it was dirty or not well-kept, you could assume that they don't take their repairs seriously. And I'm guessing you don't want to ride a bike or have a bike fixed from a company that doesn't care about the repairs. In addition, this could drag out the waiting time, right?
If they have two mechanic stands, you can assume that when your bike comes in for repair, it won't sit there for a week or two. If you're like me, you want to get your bike fixed and back on the road as soon as possible.
Say you're farther into your search and know the type of bike you want. When you walk into the store, look for signs that signify that they are an authority in that section. So, say you walk in and you want a mountain bike. You see cruiser bikes pictured all over the wall, I would say you're not in the right store. There are a lot of bike shops out there that deal in specific niches. There are some that deal in general assortment of bikes, and it's all kinds of suited to whatever you want. If you want a general use bike, I would say find the store that has a general use selection. If you want a mountain bike, go to the mountain bike store.
When you walk in, look for cleanliness and general organization. You want a bike store that cares about how their bikes look and how the appearance of the store looks. And there's actually one thing to think about judge the cleanliness of the bikes. Maybe you see bikes that have dust on them. Or look like they've been sitting on the floor for a long time. That's a bad sign. You want to see a shop that keeps their bikes well-kept. They should be wiping them down.
If they've been sitting there for a year, they should be re-greasing the parts. And at least checking the general maintenance of the bikes. You can tell if you get up close and wipe your finger on the frame. If any dust comes off, you can assume that that bike's been sitting there for a long time. However, it could be an opportunity to make a deal on that bike, because the store might want to get rid of it.
People often wonder the difference between buying a bike at a bike store versus a mass market store. This includes Dick's Sporting Goods, Walmart, or Target, so to speak. The number one difference between a bike store and one of those stores is service. For example, say you walk into a Walmart. It's very hard to get the kind of attention you'd get when you walk into a bike store. At a bike store, they're there only to serve the needs of helping someone find a bike.
At Walmart, there might be a general associate walking down an aisle. And they might be able to tell you something. You might have very specific questions around the fitting. You might wonder, "is this bike right for me?" A bike shop will be a better choice. And so service is the biggest differentiator. On top of the service are training and expertise. Bike shops offer expertise. In a mass-market store, people aren't trained to the level of expertise that they would be in a bike store.
That's different from Dick's Sporting Goods. They do have a dedicated bike maintenance area with trained personnel. However, in a bike store, you'll have multiple levels of expertise, such as:
In the day and the age of the internet, many don't even need to rely on experts because Google can be your expert. With Google, you can find any information you want online. Thus, becoming your own expert. You can feel like you can arm yourself with enough information online. You don't need to rely on the in-store personnel for expert advice. Hence, that's a big reason why people have started buying products online. Because you can find everything that you need to know online. For example, we can all become experts in chiropractic on YouTube right? And so, the same is true of bikes. You can watch 100 hours of YouTube and know more than the associate in the bike store. And you will for sure know more than the associate in Walmart.
The other factor you will find a big difference between bike stores and mass market is price range. Generally, in the mass market, prices will not exceed $500 or $600, and they'll be as low as $99. The end result of price is quality. When you go into a bike store, you're not gonna see prices below $200. The average bike sold in a bike store is about $700. The average bike sold in a mass market is somewhere in the neighborhood of $200. And those prices skew even less when you talk about kids' bikes. The average kid's bike price in the mass market is somewhere in the $50 to $60 range.
Bike stores focus on higher end, higher quality products. The mass market focuses on lower price, lower quality, or medium quality. And to some degree, the value. This is also true of online shopping. Although online are subject to a wide range of prices.
One of the most important factors is the selection. When you go into a bike store, you'll notice a much larger selection of bikes. Therefore, you'll see varying prices, varying speeds, varying bike types. When you go into the big box store, there's less space. As a result, there's less dedication to that specific category. This way you'll see far less selection in either the variety and specificity of categories. You may not see mountain bikes in one Walmart store, but you might see it in every single bike store. So, it depends on what your needs are and what kind of time you wanna invest. I would say neither is better or worse than the other. It depends on the consumer and what kind of experience you're looking for.
How you can make sure you're getting the best deals possible when buying at a bike store? The answer is to do your research. That's something ingrained in our culture nowadays. Especially with buying items online. And of course, Google, giving you the ability to find information at our fingertips. I recommend you spend at least 1-3 hours studying the market. Before you walk into the store you should ask yourself:
That way when you walk into a bike store no one can take advantage of you. Say a bike store tries to sell you a bike for $800 that you researched online and you saw was $500. You'll know right then to walk out and find somewhere else to buy that bike.
The other tip to get a good deal on a bike at a bike store is the time your buying. It's no different from buying Christmas items the day after Christmas. Or buying a swimming pool after the summer is over. It's the same with bikes. The season for bikes is in the summer. Most people start looking to buy a bike in April, May, with the goal of riding in June, and July, and August. Bike companies close out their bikes August, September, and October. And they're coming out with the new bikes end of the year, beginning of the following year.
If you walk into a bike shop in September or October, you'll find the best close-out deals on bikes from that model year. Most don't care about when they buy the bike and they want the best relative deal. I'd go to a bike store anytime during September, October, and November to see what kind of offers they have.