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Buying a Quality Bike at a Cheap Price

by Catherine McBride

In the market for a quality bike that fits into your tight budget? Use these guidelines to find the best bike for your needs at the best price.

A bicycle is an inexpensive way to get around that can help you stretch your transportation budget. It can be challenging, however, to find a quality bicycle at a low price.

Buying a used bicycle  is often the best value. Used bikes can be found at yard sales, estate auctions, in secondhand stores, in some bicycle shops, and in classified ads. It takes a bit of time and research to find the right one, but the payoff is a good bicycle that can last for many years.

How to determine your bike riding needs

First of all, it’s helpful to consider what type of bicycle you need.

Allyson Herdelin from Grit Cycles says, “We ask our customers who are looking for a bicycle about what kind of riding they want to do.” It’s helpful to think about where you need to go and what you need to do.

Are you wanting to bike to work or to the store? Do you need to carry things? Do you want to pull a bike trailer with children (or a dog)? Will you be bicycling in hilly areas? Do you want to bicycle in the rain or at night? Answering these questions will help determine what you are looking for. If you want to carry cargo or climb hills, you want a bicycle with low gears and a way to attach saddlebags or a trailer. If you want to bicycle to work in nice clothing, fenders for your wheels and a chain guard can help keep you and your clothing clean.

How to test the fit of a bike

Bill Carey, Director of Falls City Community Bike Works shares that it’s also very important to consider the fit of a bicycle when he said, “It’s not going to be fun to get a bike that is too big or small for you.”

A simple way to test the fit of a bicycle is to step over the frame and place your feet flat on the ground on either side of the bike. The top (horizontal) tube of the bicycle, which runs between the handlebars and the seat, should be three to four inches below your body. You should be able to easily reach the handlebars but not be hunched over. If the bicycle is rideable, you should be able to have the seat set at a height that allows you to use the full length of your legs without having to point your toes or rock your hips.

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Don’t discount a bike with broken parts

Bicycles are made of interchangeable parts, allowing you to replace broken parts and also customize it to fit your needs.

If a bicycle has a rusty or broken chain or flat tires, those can usually be fixed easily and cheaply. Allyson said that flat tires are the most common thing that gets fixed at Grit Cycles.

In addition, parts of the bike can be altered to suit your taste or better fit your body. For example, the handlebars and seat can usually be raised or lowered. Likewise, tires, wheels, gears, and breaks can be changed. If you find a bicycle you’re interested in purchasing but are wondering what the cost of repairs will be, you can ask the buyer if you can bring it to a bike shop to get it checked out and get an estimate for repairs.

The best time of year to bike shop

You can also save time and money on a bicycle purchase by looking in the late fall or winter.

Bicycle shops may be discounting last year’s models in preparation for new ones to arrive, and individuals may sell bicycles at a cheap price, so they don’t have to store them for the winter. Bike shops are much less busy during those times, and service will be quicker and possibly cheaper. Bike shop staff is more likely in the slow seasons to have time to answer all of your questions.

Consider a community bicycle shop

Another great place to go, if your community has one, is a community bicycle shop. These are organizations that sell used bicycles and provide tools and expertise for fixing them.

Bill Carey, director of Falls City Community Bike Works in Louisville, Kentucky says that their shop stays very busy in the springtime with folks looking for help fixing up their bicycles or looking for used bicycles. They also host fix-it clinics. Falls City has a lost-cost yearly membership fee, which allows for guided use of their bicycle shop. This fee can be paid by volunteering at the shop. This is a great, cheap way to learn a new skill.

If you are technically inclined, but don’t have a community bike shop nearby, there are a lot of resources online to help you learn. YouTube has many videos that show how to fix flat tires and adjust seats, as well as more complicated repairs. These resources can help you keep your bicycle in great condition.

Reviewed June 2019

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