By Justin Steiner
Dreaming about a new bike now that spring is here? You aren’t alone. Buying a bicycle is extremely exciting, but can also be a little nerve-racking. With so many bicycles of varying designs and price points, how do you decide which bike best fits your needs?
Bicycle Times is here to help you feel more confident about making a purchase. Think of this as a road map to the process of buying a bike.
With each issue of Bicycle Times, we review three or four interesting bikes to keep our experienced readers abreast of the performance and aptitude of the latest technology and trends. This article, however, is geared toward riders who are newer to our lovely sport, or re-entering the scene after a hiatus.
If you know someone who’s hoping to buy a bike in the near future, pass this article along to help him or her make a more informed decision.
Buying a new bicycle is just like any other project—you first need to define your needs and the desired outcome. Start by realistically assessing your goals and ambitions for the next few seasons of riding, since this new bike will hopefully be with you for quite a while.
You first need to define your needs and the desired outcome. Start by realistically assessing your goals and ambitions for the next few seasons of riding. Here is a list of questions to keep in mind, and writing down the answers may help solidify your thoughts (again, be realistic):
- How often, and for what duration, am I riding now, and what do I have in mind for the future?
- What will be the main function of this bike? Transportation and utility, fitness and recreation, looking good, racing?
- What do I prioritize in this new bike? Style, cargo capacity, all-weather capability, light weight, durability, or the ability to fold for storage or travel?
- Where do I enjoy riding the most, and what do I enjoy about these locales?
- Do I care about where the bike is made?
Setting a budget
With needs defined, it’s time to talk budget. In the bicycle world, as with most anything, you get what you pay for. Spending more will buy better performance—less weight, higher precision components, and increased durability—but not everyone really needs top-shelf stuff. Keep in mind that a new bike will set you back at least $300 regardless of its intended use. If you’d like to buy a bike made in the good ol’ U.S. of A., it will add to the cost as well, possibly by as much as an extra zero on the price tag.
So, what’s your budget? How much cash do you have to play with? Whatever number you come up with, subtract $200–$400 (even budget shoppers should set aside at least $150) to arrive at your target price point. Why? Because you now have a cushion to purchase clothing, comfort, and safety items that will enhance your riding experience. It can be argued that these clothing and comfort items are every bit as important as the bicycle itself. (More on this later.)
Where to shop
OK, now you have a better idea of what your needs are, and you know how much money you’re comfortable spending. Time to start shopping. Make a list of all the bike shops in your area, and note the brands each store stocks, the store hours, and locations. Then devise a plan to visit all of them. Bonus points if you can shop on a weekday, as salespeople will likely have a great deal more time to spend with you.
Sure, it’d be nice if the dealer you end up choosing is close to your home, but don’t place too much value on proximity. Finding a shop where you can form a trusting relationship, and maybe even a friendship, with the staff is far more important. As you are shopping, pay attention to the vibe and feel of each store you visit. How do the employees treat you? Did someone offer you assistance, or did you have to seek help? When you’ve connected with a salesperson, relay your answers to the assessment questions.
Armed with that information and your budget constraints, the salesperson will be able to recommend the bike, or bikes, that best fit your needs and budget. Be open-minded about the style of bike the salesperson might be suggesting—don’t let your preconceived notions get in the way of good advice. Do ask the salesperson to explain why he/she has recommended particular bikes. Be sure to take notes on manufacturer names, models, and pricing. Take time to inquire about the fitting process at each store, as this will be a large part of the deciding factor for where you should make your purchase.
First, how do they determine which size is best for you? And second, how do they fine-tune the fit of the chosen size? Hopefully they will include the store’s policy, and rates, for swapping stems, saddles, and other parts as needed to personalize your fi t. The answers to these questions will begin to shine light on the great stores—the people who truly care about your fit and comfort.
I cannot emphasize enough how important fit is to cycling. Comfort on your bicycle will keep you riding, while pain and discomfort will likely stop you dead in your tracks. As you shop down through your list of stores, the experiences you have will vary drastically. Some of the encounters will make you want to go back and others most certainly will not. Scratch the shops off the list where you had less than satisfactory experiences and make note of the shops where you felt comfortable and received sound advice.
The first ride
Now it’s time to go back for a test ride. These folks will set you up with a fitted bike for a spin. Be sure to take notes about your impressions of the bike(s) you are able to ride—it’s hard to keep track of all the subtleties of different bikes if you don’t. Also inquire about the store’s service policies. All reputable dealers will include a post-break-in tune-up with the purchase of the bike.
Additionally, some shops offer extended service and/or insurance plans that could save you money in the long run, but make sure you clearly understand the terms. Many stores will even off er a discount on gear purchased with the bike. Thank the salesperson and explain that you’re doing some comparative shopping and will be making a decision soon.
From here on the decision should be fairly easy. Most likely, one of the bikes you ride will feel markedly better than the others.
Congratulations! You just found your new bike.
What about Brand A vs. Brand B?
Why haven’t I even mentioned the importance of parts and specifications? I intentionally left out these details because, in my opinion, they are the least important aspect of buying a new bike. Since you’re looking at bikes made for a particular riding style and within a small price window, all of the models will offer similar parts packages.
Sure, one bike will have widget X instead of widget Y, where the other has widget W instead of widget Y, but who cares? Of course, there are certain spec characteristics worth considering such as internal vs. external gearing, belt or chain drive, and handlebar type.
The salesperson you’re working with should be able to shed light on the advantages and disadvantages of each style of bike and why it might be well suited or not to your specific needs. But the specifics of each component are not worth worrying about. The cycling marketplace is highly competitive and the overall package at any price point will be comparable. Staring cross-eyed at spec sheets will take your focus away from the overall fit and feel of the bicycle and which store has earned your money, both of which are far more important.
What about the extra $200–$400 you’ve stashed away? Now it’s time to invest in your comfort and safety. Pony up for a new helmet if you’ve had that old one for five years or longer—helmet materials break down over time, rendering older helmets less effective.
If you don’t have some form of protective eyewear, buy some stylin’ shades. Pick up some nice gloves to protect your hands for longer rides. If you will be riding in cold and/or wet weather, prepare yourself accordingly. Depending on your needs, a few nice pairs of cycling shorts may be in order, too. The guys and gals at the shop will be able to help you select clothing to fit your needs. (From my experience, you can’t go wrong with wool.)
You will also need a way to carry water, spare tubes, tire levers, a pump, multi tool, and patch kit. If you don’t know how to change a flat tire, ask a knowledgeable friend to show you how, offer to pay the shop to teach you, or find a local how-to class—community bike shops are a fabulous resource for knowledge. There are few things that kill the buzz of a nice ride quicker than having to call someone to pick you up, or worse yet, a 10-mile walk home, and a flat tire certainly won’t get you off the hook for being late to work.
So there you have it—bike buying made simple. Of course there are situations I simply can’t cover within the scope of this article. What I hope you take away is the general process and approach to purchasing a new bicycle. Trust yourself and your judgment; if things don’t make sense, ask questions—be analytical. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself; this might not be the last bicycle you ever buy, but rather the first step on the never-ending ladder toward cycling enlightenment.
This issue originally appeared in Bicycle Times #16. Subscribe to our email newsletter to get great content like this delivered straight to your inbox weekly!
We caught a glimpse of the new Advocate Sand County adventure machine at Interbike and finally have some details on this new bike to share with you.
The Sand County slots in alongside Advocate’s 700c Lorax, which we reviewed in our previous print issue and really loved for road and gravel grinding, but felt that it wasn’t quite set up for loaded touring. Now, that opening in Advocate’s lineup has been filled.
The frame features a proprietary triple-butted, heat treated tubeset, and full rust-proof coating inside and out. Highlights include attachments for every possible thing you could imagine, geometry suited for hauling a pannier-based load, and six sizes designed around 700c wheels and drop bars.
The excellent build kit features Shimano Tiagra (which the Lorax also sports and which we have found to be really darn good), a triple crankset and 11-32 cassette, Avid BB7 disc brakes, a WTB Rocket Comp saddle, Formula hubs, Alex Adventurer rims and 700×40 Terrene Honali tires.
The bike will sell complete for $1,600.
We caught a glimpse of the new Advocate Seldom Seen adventure machine at Interbike and finally have some details on this new bike to share with you.
The Seldom Seen, named for a character in Edward Abbey’s “Monkey Wrench Gang,” is purpose-built for bikepacking and off-road touring. It can take either 29er or 27plus wheels, and is built around the Boost chainline.
The stock build is excellent. The Seldom Seen comes with a Shimano SLX groupset (including SLX brakes), 11-42 cassette, Ergon grips and saddle (nice touch!), Stans NoTubes rims and 27.5×3.0 Terrene Chunk tires.
The Seldom Seen comes complete with rack and fender mounts, lots of bottle cage mounts and its own frame bag. It is the first Advocate Cycles bike to use the company’s proprietary quadruple-butted, heat treated, eccentric integrated gusset tubeset for an extremely strong frame. The green paint is perfect for blending on on backcountry adventures, and we can appreciate the understated graphics.
Five sizes will accomodate heights 4’11” to 6’1″. The complete bike (including frame bag) sells for $2,000.
Moots unveiled a new, drop-bar 29er adventure bike. Named after Moots’ resident banana-eating Chocolate Labrador, the Baxter frame is built in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, from Moots’ proprietary titanium tubing. It will accept a rigid fork or 100 mm of suspension.
- 44 mm head tube
- 73 mm English threaded bottom bracket
- 30.9 mm seatpost for greater dropper post compatibility
- 142 x 12 thru-axle rear end spacing
- Disc 160 rotor post mount brake
- 29×2.25 max tire clearance (2.0-inch tires suggested)
- 3 water bottle locations
- Replaceable derailleur hanger
- 38/28 maximum chain rings
- Open frame for maximum size frame pack
The Baxter is available in five stock sizes: XS, S, M, L, and XL, or you can go the custom route. Orders may be placed now for October 1, 2016 delivery. MSRP for complete bike as pictured: $8,700. The one complete build kit features an Enve rigid mountain fork, Chris King headset, Shimano XT Di2 groupset, 38/28 crankset, Shimano XT brakes, Salsa Woodchipper drop bars, Fizik Gobi saddle and Mavic Crossmax wheels.
Pivot Cycles is billing its new Vault as a do-all cyclocross racer, gravel grinder and road bike. Pivot lowered the bottom bracket, shortened the chainstays and increased tire clearance and still created a frame shape comfortable for shouldering the thing if you’re the type to hop over barriers.
The frameset comes with flat-mount disc brakes (140-160 mm rotors), thru axles, internal cable routing, electronic shifting capabilities, a BB386EVO bottom bracket (with oversized 30 mm diameter spindle) and two bottle cage mounts.
The Vault comes in sizes XS through L for riders between 5’3” and 6’3”. One build kit is offered at $4,000 and includes Shimano Ultegra 2×11, Shimano CX 505 hydraulic disc brakes, Stans Grail wheels and Maxxis Mud Wrestler 700×33 tires.
Bike Friday recently announced the launch of the pakiT, a folding bike that weighs between 15 and 22 pounds and fits in a backpack for easy transport and travel. The pakiT debuted on Kickstarter and surpassed its fundraising goal within seven hours.
When folded, the pakiT measures 38 x 24 x 10 inches, giving users the ability to store the bike in a closet, under a desk, in a car trunk, in the overhead bin on a train or in a storage locker. It also allows the rider to take their bike inside instead of leaving it vulnerable to theft or the outside elements. Bike Friday claims it only takes three minutes to break the bike down into a standard suitcase for airline travel.
The pakiT comes in three frame sizes and uses standard bike components, with gearing options from 1-11 speeds, including a Gates belt drive option to eliminate the potential for chain grease stains on clothing and skin. Retail pricing is estimated to be between $1,500 (singlespeed belt drive) and $2,300 (11-speed belt drive).
The Salsa Mukluk is all-new for 2017. We admittedly almost overlooked this beast. One does not really think about five-inch fatties when it’s 80 degrees and sunny on the site of a mountain bike park. Well, maybe you do.
The all-new Mukluk is available in both carbon (pictured) and aluminum. The stiffness of the carbon version was adjusted, but in the direction often not taken. Because the Salsa Beargrease is the company’s speed-focused fatty, the new Mukluk frame was actually tuned to be more comfortable and more compliant for longer days in the saddle. The chainstays shrunk to 430 mm, making them the shortest on the market on a fat bike. So you end up with something rather playful, but look at all that room inside the frame! Plenty of space for a frame bag.
Both frames have the Alternator Dropouts 2.0, allowing room for up to 4.7-inch tires (paired with 70 mm rims) on the carbon version with a chainstay length of 432 mm. You can still use Salsa’s Alternator 190 Rack with this setup. The aluminum version gets Alternator Dropouts 1.0 for 440 mm chainstays. By moving the wheel back for bigger tires, the chainstay lengthens to 450 mm.
Set this bike up with a 1x or 2x drivetrain—it will indeed take a front derailleur. The top tube got a bit longer to play well with 60/70 mm stems alongside the 69-degree headtube angle, 73-degree seat tube angle, 63 mm bottom bracket height and 100 mm threaded bottom bracket. The rear dropout grew to 197 x 12 mm.
The routing for derailleurs and rear brake housing are internal through the toptube, and external down the inside of the seatstays. Customizable rubber grommets for the cable ports allow different drivetrain and brake setups. Stealth routing for dropper posts is also provided. Finally, the bike will also accept a 100 or 120 mm fork.
The Salsa Mukluk will be offered in five builds. Expect to see it in your local shop in October/November.
- Mukluk Carbon XO1 – $4,500
- Mukluk Carbon X1 – $3,500
- Mukluk Carbon GX1 – $2,700
- Mukluk ALU NX1 SUS – $2,500
- Mukluk ALU NX1 – $1,800
The go-fast-oriented Beargrease remains unchanged for 2017, but did get some rad new paint jobs across the four different models (three carbon and one aluminum). Beargrease photos courtesy of Salsa Cycles.
Salsa’s all-road/touring line received minor tweaks and updates for 2017. The most recent big news in this cycling realm was the previous launch of the Marrakesh flat/drop bar steel road touring bike, which became available this year. So while Salsa had no new drop-bar bikes to show the Bicycle Times audience at this year’s Saddle Drive, three staple models of the line have notable updates (and color changes).
The Cutthroat is Salsa’s top-of-the-line, drop-bar mountain touring bike that has been under the butt of many a Tour Divide racer and the like. When the bike was launched, it utilized an existing carbon fork in Salsa’s lineup and looked a bit funky. For 2017, it gets its own fork that mates better to the beefy headtube, plus internal dynamo front hub wiring.
Otherwise, the only notable changes are the colors. The bike will now be offered in silver/blue and dark red. Cutthroat with SRAM Force and hydraulic brakes retails for $4,000. The SRAM Rival 22 model with hydraulic brakes goes for $3,000. The new colors with the new fork should hit bike shops in October/November.
The other significant update to a Salsa bike is the ability of the Fargo touring bike to now run 27plus, 29er or 29plus tires.
The bike got Salsa’s new Cobra Kai tubing which is made stronger to meet newer, more stringent testing standards. A slightly tweaked headtube angle accommodates a 51 mm offset fork and will still happily accept a suspension fork.
The rear end gets Salsa’s splitting Alternator Dropout so you can run this bike with a belt drive. New 2017 colors are matte warm gray (which has a unique, color-changing shine to it) and the currently super-trendy Forest Service green. Look for the updated Fargo models in bike shops by November. You can get a 27plus SRAM Rival build for $2,300 or a 29er SRAM GX build for $1,700.
Only two things will change for the 2017 Warbird: its color options and your ability to now run fenders on the bike via hidden eyelets. New colors include purple, white, teal, raw carbon (black) and red orange.
The new colors should arrive in bike shops August/September (depending on build kit). Model pricing is as follows:
- Warbird Carbon Ultegra – $4,000
- Warbird Carbon Rival 22 Hydro – $3,000
- Warbird Aluminum 105 – $2,300
The steel Space Horse has long been All-City’s most popular and versatile model, ridden by commuters, tourers and gravel grinders alike. It features the geometry of a road-meets-touring bike, room for wider tires, a bottom bracket that’s lower than a standard road bike and stability when loaded down. Now it features disc brakes, a new parts spec and a wider size range.
The Space Horse Disc will be offered in seven sizes: 43, 46, 49, 52, 55, 58 and 61 cm. The 49-61 cm fit a 700c x 42 tire while the 43 and 46 cm bikes will take a 650b x 45. The 43 cm bike has a 495 mm top tube length to fit riders in the five-foot range and the 46 cm has a top tube length of 515 mm, which is a half centimeter shorter than the cantilever Space Horse version.
Other updates include a new vertical dropout with a replaceable derailleur hanger and a 2×11 Shimano 105 parts spec. You still get an E.D. coated frame (protects against rust), internal cable routing, a lugged crown fork and hidden fender mounts. The Space Horse Disc will be priced at $1800 and will hit dealers in mid-August.
Photos from All-City don’t accurately reflect the stock build that will be offered. See the Space Horse Disc page for complete information.
Advocate Cycles is attending the Montana Bicycle Celebration this week previewing two, brand-new and custom-painted models that will be auctioned at a later date to support the Adventure Cycling Association.
The Sand County is a pavement-based touring bike, ready to take a full load of racks and panniers. The triple crankset assuages one of our minor complaints about the Advocate Lorax: its 2×10 road gearing is too steep for most loaded touring. Decent wheels and fork mounts also make this an appealing ride.
The Seldom Seen is a bikepacking and off-road touring specific model that departs from the Hayduke by having an integrated frame bag, load-bearing specific geometries, full rack and fender mounts and proprietary tubing that Advocate designed specifically for this model.
The two, touring-specific bikes will slot into the lineup alongside the all-road Lorax (which we will have a review of in our next print issue) and the Hayduke, a 27plus hardtail. Naturally, people have been using both of those bikes for on- and off-road touring, so it makes sense to see Advocate step up and offer bikes specifically for that purpose.
Tern Bicycles, in honor of its fifth birthday, teased an upcoming project to be released at Eurobike at the end of August: a Bosch-powered electric folding bicycle.
“Riders around the world are increasingly turning to bicycles as their full-service solution to transportation. And that means cargo bikes, dependable daily riders, and electric bikes that can easily tackle 25 km commutes are needed,” said Josh Hon, Tern Bicycles’ founder. “With our expertise in urban cycling, we’re excited to bring fresh design and inspiration to the market.”
Stay tuned for more next month!
Brooklyn Bicycle Co. just announced two, new hybrid bikes made from Chromoly steel: the Roebling and Lorimer. The company makes bicycles prepared for any city adventure, inspired by the streets of Brooklyn.
Each bicycle features 24 speeds provided by a mix of Shimano components, plus Tektro linear-pull brakes and Brooklyn Bicycle Co.’s own Ergo Touring saddle and puncture-resistant 700×32 mm tires. Each bike is ready for front and rear racks and fenders and features quick-release hubs. The Roebling, named for the man who designed the Brooklyn Bridge, weighs 26.75 pounds and is available in black in the following sizes: 15”, 17”, 19”, 21” and 23”.
The Lorimer is the version of the Roebling designed for women. The only difference is the white color, available sizing and a slightly lighter reported weight of 25.5 pounds. Available sizes are 14″, 16″ and 18″.
Each bike retails for $499 and can be purchased direct from Brooklyn Bicycle Co.’s website. When you order, your bike is shipped to a local shop where the cost of professional assembly is covered by your purchase price.
The Jones Plus Spaceframe in size 23″
Jones Bikes is now taking orders for its new Steel Plus 148 TA and the Steel Spaceframe Plus 148 TA. These updated models refine what is already an extremely versatile and fun bike by switching to through-axles front and rear and adding an extra bottle boss underneath the downtube to allow you to mount triple-boss cages for more storage capacity. The 148 x 12 mm axle spacing in the rear makes it possible to use all boost 11-speed drivetrains, and the 150 x 15 mm front hub spacing gives you the option of using one of the new Jones generator hubs designed for fat bikes.
The new 150 x 15 mm Jones 150-F hub is also available. It features wide, evenly-spaced flanges that make for a super stiff, super strong wheel. It has a continuous axle with press-on endcaps, which makes a super solid hub-fork connection. As in other Jones hubs, the flanges are canted to match the angle of the spokes, and have cutouts, along with relieved areas inside the hub to save weight wherever possible without sacrificing strength.
Jones also has a new carbon rim to go with the hubs. The C-Rim width is 49 mm inner/56 mm outer to make the tire more stable at low pressures. The 3.5 mm thick sidewalls are super-strong, and their blunt, rounded profile makes them less likely to cut through the tire’s sidewall under bottom-out. It’s available in both centered, and off-centered drilling so that you can build a dishless wheel in the front and rear.
Check out all of the Jones Bikes products.
Fuji released its newest road bike this week, the Gran Fondo. The bike’s primary selling point is that is was designed to significantly reduce road vibrations for those who love long rides.
The Gran Fondo is made with Fuji’s VRTech (Vibration Reduction Technology), a Polyurethane-treated natural fiber strategically placed within the frame’s high-modulus carbon layup that dissipates high-frequency vibrations. The carbon layups are tailored to the bike’s size, as a rider on a 46 cm frame does not need the same stiffness that a rider on a 61 cm frame does.
The Gran Fondo was designed with “endurance geometry.” A taller head tube puts the rider in a more upright position, easing lower back fatigue. The bike also features longer chainstays and a longer wheelbase for increased compliance and stability.
The Gran Fondo features flat-mount disc brakes, PF30 bottom bracket, integrated chain watcher, room for 700 x 30c tires and 12 mm front and rear thru axles. A convertible axle system means you can swap out a few bits and still use your old, favorite quick-release wheels.
The non-Di2 top-of-the-line Gran Fondo 1.1 retails for $4,110 and weighs 16.4 pounds. The bike features an 11-speed Shimano Dura Ace groupset, Shimano hydraulic brakes with 160 mm rotors, Oval Concepts stem/bars/seatpost/saddle/wheels and Vittoria Open Corsa 700 x 28c tires. The Shimano Ultegra Di2 Gran Fondo is a mere $50 more, retailing at $4,160.
There are five total models in the lineup, with the least expensive—the Gran Fondo 2.5—set to retail for $1,940. The 2.5, still with a carbon frame and VRTech fibers, will feature 11-speed Shimano 105 components and weighs 19.7 pounds.
Each bike will be available in seven sizes from 46 cm to 61 cm. The bike will be available in April. Two flat-bar models will be added to the lineup at a later date.
Images provided by Fuji
Foundry Cycles expands its line of performance titanium bikes with the Flyover cyclocross model. In addition to internal cable routing and a slightly higher bottom bracket, the Flyover also features a lightened 44mm headtube and rear flat mount brake. Both of these features aid in keeping the overall weight of the Flyover down.
The Flyover is available both as a frameset—which utilizes Foundry’s custom double and triple butted 3Al/2.5V titanium tubing and includes a Whisky No.9 fork, DT RWS front and rear axles, Cane Creek headset, and a seat collar—and as a complete bike.
The complete version features a SRAM Force 1 drivetrain with HRD hydraulic brakes, DT Swiss R23 wheels, Zipp Service Course SL cockpit, and Clement MXP 33c tires. The frameset and complete bike will retail for $2,595 and $4,695 respectively and will be available in June.
Foundry also updated its Overland, the bike that won the 2015 Gravel World Championships. The bike keeps its custom double butted 3Al/2.5V titanium frame, thru-axles, removable fender mounts, 41c tire clearance and mixed-surface geometry.
The Overland complete build now features a SRAM Rival 22 drivetrain with HRD hydraulic brakes, DT Swiss R24 wheels, Zipp Service Course cockpit, and Clement MSO 40c tires and carries a new reduced price tag of $4,295 (previously $4,695). The Overland is also available as a frameset —which includes a Whisky No.9 fork, DT RWS front and rear axles, Cane Creek headset and a seat collar — for $2,495.
In addition to a spec change and lower price, the Overland also comes in a new Olive Green frame color; with a painted to match Whisky No.9 fork. For longer days in the saddle, Foundry added a third water bottle cage mount to the underside of the Overland’s downtube. Framesets and complete bikes will be available in May.
More information: foundrycycles.com