It’s snowing here. I’ve been dreaming of sunny days and dry streets — all the better to bike on, my dears. And I’ve been meaning to write an article about my bike shopping experience. I haven’t written it yet because I’m just a poor kid who hasn’t biked much since the age of 13. I don’t know much of anything about derailleurs, struts, frames, forks, spokes or titanium alloys of any kind, and so I felt I couldn’t advise you properly. But in response to this article (courtesy of Rowdy Kittens), about women’s bike shopping experiences, I decided it didn’t matter that I don’t know technical terms and biking language. So here we go:
I walked into a bike shop with the intent of buying a bike. I vaguely knew what I wanted: something lightweight, something simple, something where I didn’t feel like I was going to pitch headfirst over the bars. I did a little research into what types of bikes were available, and came up with a price range and the word “hybrid.” That was all I had to go on.
At my local bike shop, I was greeted by one of the owners. I explained to him what I wanted, thinking I was doing pretty well. I told him I hadn’t been on a bike in a while, that I was just going to ride around town, that the last bike I had was a road bike, and I didn’t like it. I wanted wider tires, fewer speeds, and I didn’t want to feel like I was sitting too high or too forward. No, I didn’t care that I wouldn’t go too fast.
“Let me show you this hybrid here,” he said, and lifted down a bike that looked like a road bike. It was skinny, the seat was high, it was lightweight. “Hands down, this is the most popular bike we sell. You could ride across the country on this bike. One of my regular customers rode it to Florida this summer.”
He let me try it out in the parking lot. At once, I knew it wasn’t right; it felt exactly like a road bike. It was rigid and, to my way of thinking, unyielding. It was wobbly (or maybe that was me). I didn’t like my posture on it, I didn’t like that I could barely lift my leg over the top bar. It had twenty-three speeds. Essentially, it was a road bike, but with mountain bike handlebars. It was also out of my price range.
We looked at another bike, this one also a hybrid, but leaning way over into the “comfort bike” category. The owner was skeptical, but I tried it out — and loved it. There were shocks under the seat and over the front wheel. It was slow and wide, a little sluggish, and I felt like kid again, seated upright, barely leaning over at all. I wished I had a bell.
The owner laughed. “I never would have pegged you for that bike,” he said, glancing back at the first one I tried out. The fast one. I figured he was judging me by my looks, and possibly by the way I carried myself with confidence into the store. I guess he hadn’t listened to what I had to say after that — like the fact that he tried to sell me a bike that was just about everything I didn’t want.
I tried out a third bike. This one was slightly faster than the last, less expensive, more lightweight. It had shocks under the seat, but none over the front wheel. It had seven speeds, something that I stressed I was looking for three times. I loved it. I knew I wanted it.
To be safe, I tried out another bike, and then went to two more bike shops. Nothing compared to the beautiful simplicity of that bike, that simple, lovely, not fast bike. I went back and bought it, and since then, I’ve loved it.
The moral of the story? Anyone can buy a bike. Heck, I bought a bike. I used to be the most sedentary person known to man, and now I have a bike and a bike shop where they know me by name. So! Do your research; now’s an excellent time to get started. That way, when warm weather comes, you’ll be prepared. You’ll be confident. Confidence is key.