So you’re sick of spending the weekends glued to the TV. You’re feeling slightly guilty about spending half your day “liking” status updates. You’ve also noticed your neck is starting to disappear, while another layer of love handles is pushing its way up your sides.
You know you need to get some exercise, and biking seems a likely choice. It doesn’t look as physically taxing as running, and it can burn as many calories. The only problem is… you don’t have a bike yet. You need to buy your first mountain bike.
After I posted the article about switching to a 29er bike, the blog has been getting a lot of search hits about “buying a bike.” So I thought about cobbling together a few tips on just how to do this.
Buying your first bike can be intimidating especially when you’re a newbie who doesn’t know what to look for in a bike. Most people simply have a budget and expect to get a decent enough bike with this. But what exactly is a decent enough bike? It depends on what you need, or what you think you need. Here are some tips on how to buy your first bike.
1. Think about your goals and your budget
It is possible to get a mountain bike for around Php 4,000. These are the no frills generic bikes sold in malls and stores where parents get toy bikes for their toddlers. They are generally heavy, have less durable components, and are butt ugly.
But they’re also good enough for a few rounds around the village, for doing a few errands to the next barangay, and for getting from point A to point B as long as there are no hard climbs and technical terrain involved. If that’s all you’re looking for, then they are decent enough bikes.If you plan to go farther, weight becomes an issue, which means you need to look beyond the generic bikes, and spend a bit more.
2. Check out your local bike shop (LBS)
But first, check out your local bike shop, or LBS in the biker lingo. Use Google to find out if there’s a nearby shop you can go to—one that you can bike to in less than an hour. There’s nothing quite like visiting a real bike shop (as opposed to online sellers and websites) and seeing bikes, bike parts and accessories up close and personal. The difference is like online dating and then finally meeting eyeball to eyeball with your date. Who knows? The bike of your dreams may just be waiting for you in your friendly neighborhood LBS.
A lot of bikers go to the bike shops of Quiapo and Cartimar, Pasay where bikes and bike parts are generally cheaper, but I recommend going to an LBS for your first bike. This allows you to also get to meet other bikers in your area and become part of a biking community. They may even invite you to a ride eventually. And if anything goes wrong with your bike, at least you don’t have to travel too far to get it fixed by the LBS’s bike mechanics.
I live in UP Village, and I get nearly all of my stuff from Glorious Ride Bikeshop in nearby Sikatuna. As a long time customer, I get excellent service and great discounts from them. And yes, don’t be afraid to ask for discounts.
(Of course, if you want a really big discount, you can also opt for a second hand bike, but that is probably best left for another article.)
If your budget is around Php 10,000 to 12,000, it is possible to buy something decent enough in your LBS. If your budget permits it, buy a fully-built bike. A lot of brand name built bikes like Cannondale, Specialized and Giant are now available for 15,000 and up. Some really good entry level 29er bikes are also now sold for Php 22,000. Buying a fully built bike saves you the trouble of having to figure out parts. But…
3. Don’t be afraid if you’re clueless about bike parts and components.
It’s always better to buy a fully built bike if you have the budget for it. It can really save you a whole lot of head scratching and guesswork. Some people however prefer to DIY and mix and match components to suit their budget. Having a bike assembled isn’t that much of a chore. Just check the infographic below for a crash course on bike parts.
Bike store owners and mechanics will also help you choose which components will fit into your budget. This is another reason why I recommend going to an LBS, it builds a relationship based on trust between you and the bike store people.
Also try to bring along a friend who knows bikes so he/she can give a second opinion about the bike you’re having assembled. He/she may just caution you on getting parts that are cheap but unreliable, or point you to a real bargain.
4. Check your frame size.
Before you get your bike assembled, you first need to make sure that bike frame will fit you. Here’s a simple cheat sheet.
Some bike shops have a more elaborate way of determining bike fit–if they offer it for free, avail of it. You can also visit this website for more details about frame sizes.
Sometimes bike shops will stock only small, medium or large frame sizes. Small is generally 15-16, medium is 17-18, and large is anything beyond. Be honest about your height. If you’re 5’1, don’t say it’s 5’5 or 5’8. You may end up with an uncomfortable bike that’s too big for you.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Try to hang around while your bike is being assembled. Ask the mechanic about which part goes where. It would really be handy to bring along a friend who knows about bikes while your bike is getting put together. This is how you learn more about bikes and biking.
6. Test your bike immediately after it’s assembled.
Even the best bike mechanics may sometimes miss a loose screw or two, so it’s best to ride the bike a bit, test the shifters, test the fork, for anything that might be amiss. Ask the mechanic about anything that bothers you about the bike. Take it for a short ride. Some parts will work smoothly immediately, while some parts may still need to be broken in. The next day, try to take it for a longer ride.
7. Enjoy your first bike.
Soon enough you’ll be stricken with a malevolent and potentially costly disease which bikers call (in whispered tones with tears running down their cheeks) …upgraditis. So do try to enjoy your first bike as much as you can. Soon enough, you’ll be lusting after the bikes of others, wishing you had better components, cutting down on your trips to Starbucks to save up, pawning your precious belongings so you can buy those carbon fiber bar ends, those titanium seat pins… which leads us back to…
8. Think about your goals and your budget…
UPDATE: This post has been getting a lot of search hits from people seeking more info about buying bikes and bike parts in Quiapo. There are at least two bike shops there which have built a pretty solid reputation. King’s Bicycle store offers a very good selection of parts. Cycle Art is also another store frequented by bikers. You need to have ninja bargaining skills though if you want to score some discounts as the sales people there are experts at spotting newbies :) If you’re unfamiliar with Quiapo (and how is that even possible?) this map ought to help you.
PS. Some bike shops, like Glorious Ride, allow you to buy a fully built bike and trade in its entry level components (like fork, wheels and drive train) for higher end parts for some extra cash. If you have extra cash, this is a sweet deal.
Meanwhile, if you already have a bike and have begun to feel the symptoms of upgraditis, check out my bike upgrade tips so you don’t end up robbing a bank to fund your bike addiction. Your wallet may just thank you for it :)
BTW: You’re going to need a helmet if you want to ride the trails. Trails like La Mesa and Timberland won’t allow you to ride without a lid on your head.