The Big Purchase: Selecting your First Bike

Triathlon is an expensive sport, and your bike is potentially the most expensive thing you’ll buy when you become a triathlete. This purchase can cause some major anxiety! Don’t believe me? Read my recap of when I made my first bike purchase here. If it’s time for you to make your first bike purchase, don’t follow in my footsteps. Instead, here’s some points to consider before you open your wallet to find your first love.

Find Your Shop

Unlike in our swim episode, acquiring a bike is not the time to go to Target or Walmart. When it comes to bikes, finding a small shop dedicated to cycling and triathlon is the place to go. These shops are most likely going to have passionate bike peeps who know their stuff and are excited to get someone new into their sport. They’ll help pick the right bike for you. Small shops also offer maintenance, often times for free for the life of your bike if you buy it from them. And many offer group rides where you can pick up tips from people who love their bikes more than their kids. If you’re thinking about buying your first bike online, don’t. Just don’t do it. You’re still going to have to take it to a shop to have it properly assembled and tuned. You might as well support a local business and develop a relationship with the shop that will pay off down the line.

Try Before You Buy

Always test ride a bike before you buy. I wish that I had taken more than one out for a ride, but after the whole parking lot debacle, my anxiety got the best of me. Many bike shops offer a rental program where you can try out a bike before you buy it. Talk to your local shop to see if they have a program, and consider renting a bike for a group ride. The bike should feel like an extension of you. Does it feel light or heavy? Do you like the grip of the handlebars? Do the gears shift smoothly? Does it look pretty? If you’re going to fork over a paycheck (or two) on a new bike, then you had better pick one you’re going to like for a long time.

Have a Budget

Have a firm-ish number when you walk into your shop. Bikes run the gamut between $300 commuters to $20,000 Tri Bikes (seriously.) Giving your bike sales peep a number helps narrow down your choices and gives you a place to start. It also helps you feel like you’re not getting suckered, and a good bike shop guy won’t pressure you into buying something you can’t afford. Don’t forget tax- in the state of California, tax adds nearly 9% more to the total. If you’re a negotiator or deal hunter, you may be able to negotiate for a older model bike, or wait for an end of season sale, but you likely won’t get a mark down on a current model. Many shops will, however, discount accessories if you purchase a bike from their shop.

Don’t Forget the Accessories

Other accessories you may want to buy include a water bottle cage and water bottle (a good shop will throw one in for free), a tire pump (floor pump is best), an extra tire tube, a saddle bag (I love my handy under the seat bag), tire levers (for changing a tube) and a CO2 cartridge and inflator in case you get a flat. You’ll also need to think about how to transport your bike to and from races and rides. If you have a truck, you’re set. I bought a great car rack for my sedan on Amazon for about $20. It hangs off the back of my trunk and folds up easily when I’m done using it. You can also take the wheels off your bike and put it in the back of your car, but be sure to have your bike shop show you how to do this properly. Clothing is up to you- if you’re going for very long rides, you may want to invest in a jersey and pair of bike shorts which have a thick pad to make riding more comfortable. I prefer to just ride in my tank top and tri shorts. But that’s a post for another day…

Have a question about finding your first ride? Send me an email at and ask! If I don’t know the answer, I will find out. I’m happy to look like an idiot so that you don’t have to.

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