February 23, 2021 4 min read

Buying A Bike? Here's What You Need To Know And How To Do It With Confidence

The first time I bought my own real racing bike, I didn't have a clue what I was buying. I relied absolutely 100% on my boyfriend, now husband, to help me. Turns out, my trust was well placed but I know not everyone will be that lucky.  Before I go in further, I'll fast forward to where I am now:  my husband and I own a bike and triathlon store and I've learned enough to even help him with bike sales now!  Yes, he's still the expert but I know what I need and I can get you started too.  My husband, Cam, is the real expert so I think I've learned from th best. I've watched him work with customers over the last 14 years and he is a straight shooter when it comes to helping customers get the right bike.  To him, fit is everything: if it doesn't fit you, he won't go there with you.  By fit, I mean it has to fit you in all the ways that matter:

  • It has to fit you physically.
  • It has to fit your needs.  Road vs tri bike and your training and racing goals need to be part of the bike buying discussion.
  • It has to fit your budget.
  • Some people have other requirements of their bike (colour, brand are the big ones)
  • Saddle. If the saddle doesn't work for you, you'll never get the fit dialed in. That's a whole other topic, though.  Food for thought for another day.

What Does A Bike Cost?

There are three primary cost factors in determining the price of your bike:

  1. The frame
  2. The drive train
  3. The wheels and other parts (handlebars, saddle).
Of those three things, the frame is the one thing you can't change after the fact so that is the one thing you want to get right from the outset.  Not only does the frame need to be the correct size for your body, fitness and flexibility level but it also has to fit your needs.  Any of the parts and components can be changed after the fact.  In fact, drive train components like the chain and the cassette take some wear and tear over time and should be replaced when they wear out.  Wheelsets, handlebars and saddles can be changed and upgraded but the frame is the one think you can't change after the fact. Take the time to consider your needs and options.

The Frame

The "Road bike vs triathlon bike" decision a lot of first time triathlete go through it a great example of the importance of getting the right frame for your needs.  Not all bikes work well as a multi-purpose bike for both road and triathlon so, hopefully, you find a bike shop that has someone like we have here at Element.  We know both worlds really well. 
Getting the right style of bike, is the critical first step in buying a bike:  the frame is the one thing you can't change after the fact. Drive train and all the other parts can and often will be changed over time as drive trains, saddles and other parts wear out over time. The frame is the one thing that will be consistent.  Make sure you get this one right.
Unfortunately, if you are relatively new to cycling and that buying process, you are a little at the mercy of the expertise at your local shops. And if you are new to it, you might be in a similar position I find myself in when I talk to my car mechanic: he/she could be totally making it all up and I wouldn't have a clue.  A great bike fitter and sales person should be willing and able to take the time to first educate you about bikes, your options and valuation.  Good/great bike shop staff will hopefully provide you enough information that you feel comfortable making an informed decision on your own.  If you are unsure, it might be useful to find a friend who has some cycling or triathlon background to help you through the process.  My three best tips for feeling confident enough to buy a bike:

  1. Ask your cycling friends for recommendation on a good shop to visit
  2. Ask a friend to help
  3. Do some research.
  4. Find a bike shop that will focus on you and your needs like we do here at Element.

But I have some cautions too:

  1. Don't rely so much on recommendations from your friends on social media about specific bikes. While they might love their current bike, what works for them might not work for you. Plus, they might not know about options besides the one they know.
  2. Don't rely so much on  webs or magazine reviews, especially if the Brand X bike they say is awesome is also an advertiser. 
  3. If the bike shop is seems overly motivated to sell you a bike off the floor but you have a gut feeling it's not quite right, trust your gut.  Consider whether they are trying to make a sale or whether that is the best fit for you.

Drive Train & Other Parts - Buy A Bike 

We don't want to overwhelm anyone or leave the rest of the details to the end of a post.  The rest of the bike is just as important to understand but that is a topic for another article.  

Elise Gaudet
Elise Gaudet

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