Bike Purchase Guide: What to Look For When Buying a Bike

Buying a bike can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be.

We’ve put together a bike purchase guide that will help walk you through buying a new or used bike. It won’t tell you exactly what decision to make but it’ll at least guide you through the important things to consider.

1. Type of bike

First things first; what type of riding are you planning to do with this bike? Do you want to ride off-road, on paved surfaces, gravel, or just cruise around town? The answer to that question will direct you where to start. If you’re planning on riding on rugged terrain with lots of roots and rocks, you might like a full-suspension mountain bike whereas if you’re planning on riding mellow carriage paths, a hard-tail mountain bike (a mountain bike with only front-suspension) might be just fine. Keep in mind that while you may want to do different types of riding, think about what you plan to do most often and what you really need the bike to be able to do. Also, is the bike aluminum or carbon (or is that even a consideration factor for you)? Carbon frames will typically be more expensive but you might not need a carbon frame unless you’re really keen on reducing the weight of the bike.

2. Frame size

Frame size is based on your height. Mountain bikes are sized small - x-large and gravel/road bikes are sized in inches. All bike brands have sizing charts available on their websites, so if you’re 5’6”, you can look up the recommended size for you. We’d definitely advise going with the recommendation of the sizing guide or the recommendation of the bike shop team (if buying from a shop). An ill fitting bike can really hinder your learning as well as comfort on the bike.

Kaden Apparel - Kona Mountain Bike with a Kaden Water Bottle

3. Tire size

26”, 27.5”, 29”, extra wide, etc.? The tire size of the bike will affect how it rides. A smaller wheel will usually mean a more nimble ride whereas a larger wheel will make the bike more stable at higher speeds. 27.5” (also called 650b) and 29” are the common sizes for mountain bikes these days. If you aren’t sure what size will work best for you, we’d recommend demoing a few bikes and see what feels right for you.

4. Condition

How old is the bike, how good of shape is it in? These are the questions you’ll want to ask. If the bike is more than a couple of years old, it’ll likely have older components and might need to be updated sooner rather than later. If you don’t mind updating parts, this might not be a big deal, but if you want something that is lower maintenance, you might want to get something that is on the newer side.

5. Components

We touched on this a little bit in the condition section, but if you want certain components on the bike, make sure they come on it or you can put them on afterwards. The components on the bike to look at are: brakes, shifters, drivetrain, and seat post. If you are considering buying a used bike, the drivetrain (chain, cassette, and chainrings) might need to be replaced depending on how used it is. Most everything can be upgraded on a bike, but if you don’t want to make any upgrades yourself, you might want to buy the bike with everything already on there. A good bike shop can help you as well but it’ll be an extra cost to consider.

6. Price

First off, is the bike within your budget? If not, don’t get too attached to it or keep saving up for that dream bike. Some shops will offer financing options, but either way make sure the bike is something you can afford before diving in. If it’s a used bike, does it seem like a good deal when you take into consideration the type of bike, age, components, condition, etc. It’s a good idea to look for similar bikes for sale and see what they are selling for. This can often be different than a general resale price, as it depends on condition, demand, and what others are willing to pay for it. Enhanced components and upgrades will also increase the price so take that into consideration too.

While this isn’t an exhaustive list, it’s a good general list to use when evaluating a bike for sale. There may be other things that you add to the list as well. If you have any deal-breakers or things you can go either way on, it’s good to note those too. The size might be a deal-breaker whereas you’d be happy with either a 27.5” or 29” tire. Your bike-savvy friends and staff at a bike shop can help you with your evaluation as well. We hope this helps you more confidently purchase a new or pre-loved bike.

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