Okay, so now you know what you’ll need (at least the basics), but where do you get it all?
For the bike, I would strongly suggest you try to borrow one from a friend at first. You
probably know someone who’s an avid cyclist – maybe he’s the guy that roped you
into trying this in the first place. The good thing about those guys is that
they ALWAYS have more than one bike. If they’re roughly the same size as you
are, you’re set. Otherwise, you’ll have to keep looking…
The other options for the bike purchase are:
- Your local bike shop (“LBS” as they like to say in the industry)
- Craig’s List and
If you don’t know what size bike you need, you definitely want to check out your LBS first. National chains such as Performance and Nashbar don’t really qualify as an “LBS”, but they can be very helpful as well. Plus, national buying power often means great sales prices. Like with other industries, the independently-owned shop is a dying breed. Small LBS seem to stay in business because it’s basically tough to buy a bike through mail order, and the extra service they usually provide is especially important in cycling.
All of that said, if you know basically what you’re looking for, I recommend
the secondary (i.e. used) market. Bikes don’t hold their value very well, and
lots of people frequently buy and sell bikes, so there is generally a good supply to choose from. I used to ride with a couple who spent less than $1000 on two bikes that they purchased on Craig’s List that would have cost them well over $3000 if they bought them new. The only problem with Craig’s List, however, is that you’re generally limited to the selection in your city or metro area. Most people just don’t want to pack and ship a bike to you. (Although most LBS will do it for around $100-150) …So, the other option, and my preferred method for buying anything of significant cost these days, is eBay. There is generally an excellent selection and, if you follow the recommended eBay buying guidelines (not covered here), you’re pretty safe.
One other suggestion is to find a local bike shop that rents bikes. If you’re lucky, sometimes you can find a model similar to what you’re thinking of buying. Some shops will alow short demonstration/trail periods as well. (Don’t abuse this, though – i.e. get a free demo and then go buy one on-line!)
For the shoes, helmet, gloves and other accessories, I would also recommend the same 3 locations: LBS (independent or national), Craig’s List or eBay. The prices you pay will reflect the order of this list, but when you’re starting out, sometimes it’s well worth it to pay a few extra bucks to get some free advice as well as be able to try things on. Therefore, again, I’d recommend the LBS as the first place to go until you’re really familiar with what you want and need.