Buying a Bike, Part 3: Finding the Right Shop

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We started our bike-buying guide at the end. What we call "part 3" is actually the first step to a successful new bicycle purchase: finding the right shop. This is especially true if you are new to biking. That's because if you really intend to use your bike, the bike purchase itself is not the end of the line. Rather, it is a beginning of a relationship, and it's definitely one you should feel good about.

Maybe that's too touchy-feely for some people. But, believe me, if you're going to take biking seriously, you have to get a little touchy-feely with your friendly bike shop, or at least a friendly bike shop employee.

It can be difficult to put yourself in the hands of an expert, especially if you suspect he or she works on commission. Our staff at Cosmic Bikes do not work on commission. There are two main reasons for this.

One is that, rather than creating a conflict of interest between the salesperson and the customer, we want the salesperson to look out for the customer's best interests. This goes beyond being objective or offering good advice. What it really comes down to is a person with some expertise and an open mind guiding you toward making your own subjective decision. And that does require you to open up a bit, and trust someone.

The other reason we don't work on commission is that the salesperson is only one stage in the chain of events that brings the quality product to the customer. The entire staff, from the product buyer, the assembler, the mechanic who checks the bike and takes care of the follow-up service, the manager who has trained the salesperson to uncover the customer's needs, everyone along the line contributes to the process of putting the right bike in the hands of the right rider.

So how do you find the right shop for your needs?

Go into your local shop, and ask a few questions. Do they work on commission? Do they ride bikes in the way that you do or would like to? See how you feel in the store. Do you feel like they are happy to see you? Are they willing to answer your questions? Do they treat you nicely and speak in a way that you understand?

If you've walked into the right bike shop, the conversation should change after you've covered some preliminaries. Now, they should be asking you questions. Whether you've walked in with no idea or a very specific idea of what you are looking for, the staff should try to learn more about your needs to help you explore the possibilities.

What was the last bike you rode?
How long have you had it?
What about it did you or did you not enjoy?
How much did you ride in the past?
What may have kept you from riding as much as you thought you would?
How do you plan you use the new bike you will buy?
Are there any specific features that you need in a bike?

After the initial conversation, you should have the opportunity to take a bike for a test ride. It may be only one bike, if it's one you're immediately drawn to. But most customers will need to try a number of different bikes to find the best fit and feel. Once you've identified the bike you like, the shop should be willing to make some additional modifications to optimize your riding experience. Typical modifications include a more comfortable saddle, swapping or trimming down a handlebar that's too low or too wide, changing the handgrips, tires, etc. There modifications may carry additional fees, but the shop should be willing to make the bike more comfortable for you.

Most shops in Chicago offer some follow-up service with the purchase of the bike, but do ask some questions about that, make sure you know what's included, and make certain you'll feel good about coming back. At Cosmic Bikes we offer a one-year service package with any bike we sell, which can be extended for up to three years. Although these services are offered for free (or, in the case of extended service, at a significantly reduced price) we genuinely hope you will take advantage of them, because it gives us the opportunity to make sure you are really happy with your purchase, feel that you made a good investment, and that the bike you bought has changed your life for the better.