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How to Buy a Bike

6 Tips For Buying the Best Bike For You

We are pumped to share one of our favorite stories from Self here on FitSugar!

Earlier this week, SELF told us about three sports that are even better in the fall. And if you read it, you may have been thinking: How could we leave out biking?

It's not that we left it out, exactly; in all honesty, I've been doing little but biking for the last few weeks in preparation for my upcoming Toyota SheRox Triathlon in San Diego on October 21. (I'll be there competing on behalf of SELF, along with several editors from other magazines and fitness websites!) It's just that biking is so awesome, it deserves its own post—especially because now's a great time to get started.

Last week, I caught up with Jackie Baker, marketing manager at Liv/giant — a cycling brand that's dedicated solely to the female rider, but is also part of Giant, the world's largest bike company. (Full disclosure: It's also the brand I'll be riding in my tri!) Baker took a break from pedaling the Tour de Pink to give me her best advice for choosing a bike and making the best purchase, no matter what your goals are.

  1. Fall is a great time. Cycling season may be winding down soon, but that makes right now the perfect time to buy a bike, says Baker. "The 2013 [bikes] started arriving at retailers in August, and many will still have 2012 [bikes] on the floor that they'd like to sell so they can make room for the new bikes." This could mean a limited selection, but great deals on what's left. "Also, there's nothing better than being the first of your friends to get the brand-new model, and now's a great time for that, too!"
  2. Ask yourself the two W's. "Before you think about price range, color, size or anything like that, you want to think about where you're going to be riding this bike and who you'll be riding it with," says Baker. "Someone who rides on trails and dirt roads needs a different bike than someone who rides to work every day in a dress, and she needs a different bike than someone who wants to compete in races." Take a cue from your riding partners, as well. If your friends all have road bikes, it might make sense for you to ride one, too. (See SELF's buyer's guide for bike suggestions to fit every personality.)
  3. Find the right fit. Bikes are not one-size-fits-all, and it helps to know a few of your basic measurements — like your height and inseam — when shopping for one. (Salespeople can always measure you in the store, but this is especially important if you're buying online or secondhand.) Look first at women's models, says Baker: "I would never say that every woman has to ride a woman's bike, because we're all built differently. But typically, women are smaller, with longer inseams and shorter torsos. We build our bikes to reflect those proportions." The technicians in-store can change your seat height and handlebar position, but ideally, you want to find something that doesn't need a lot of adjustment. "You know you've found the right bike when you only need a few tiny tweaks to make it right."

Read on for more tips on buying the right bike for you!

  1. Budget for accessories. "Whatever your budget is for your bike, figure in about $50 of that for a helmet." Even if you have a helmet already, there's a good chance you may need another one: The foam inside can dry up and wear out after about three years. Other gear you should buy the same day or soon after: A pair of bike shorts with padding to keep you comfortable on long rides, a bell and a flat-fix kit that contains a spare tube and the tools you need to change a tire (or to provide to the Good Samaritan who helps when you don't know what you're doing!).
  2. Know how to shift. This may seem obvious, especially if you've ridden a bike before with multiple gears. But different bikes contain different shifting mechanisms, and if you haven't ridden with a specific style in the past, it's good to take a refresher course before you leave the store and get out on the open road.
  3. Get a maintenance schedule. Ask your bike retailer about when your bike will need servicing, and what, if anything, comes with your purchase. Most stores will provide a heavily discounted or free first tune-up, or discounted service for the first year or so. Take advantage of it by setting a reminder in your calendar for a future visit: It may take a few days, weeks or months of riding for some of your new bike's kinks to surface, and once you're familiar with it, you'll be better able to explain what needs to be adjusted.

Learn more about Liv/giant's 2013 line of women's bikes at

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