A few reasons you might be looking for “The One”…
- Your friends are disappearing to seek new singletrack and you’ve been left behind plateauing with your boring old partner.
- You’re just entering the market for the first time and are astonished by the sheer number of options, bells, and whistles. “Ahem… that button does what?!”
- You’re getting back into it after a long time away and it turns out the rules have changed!
No, Ninja isn’t in the match-making business… but we are here to offer up some tips on finding your next bike!
1. Dig Deep
Ask yourself the big questions. “What do I want out of this relationship?“ “What should it do?” “Where do I want to take it?” “How much am I wiling to spend?” While you may have fantasies of lunch laps at A-Line in Whistler (we do, too!), if you live in an area without chairlift-accessed riding it’s more practical to go for something you can pedal uphill.
“If anyone tells you that you “MUST” get a hardtail or you “MUST” get a full suspension or you “MUST” get brand X – don’t listen to them. Anyone who is helping you find a bike should be asking you questions about your goals, budget, terrain preference, etc. before offering you advice,” says Ninja Instructor Hannah.
With so many good bikes out there it can seem overwhelming, but the good news is that (unlike dating) you get to pick from a large pool of great candidates! Once you narrow down what you’re looking for in a bike, trust your instincts to find the perfect match and go spend your time riding.
2. Play the Field
Ride a bike! Ride ALL the bikes! Many shops have “demo” bikes (AKA fancy rental bikes they send out with the hope you’ll eventually buy one) so you can compare bikes on your local trails and narrow down your options. Typically, the cost of your demos count toward purchase price of your new bike, too. Cha-ching!
Bikes come in all shapes and prices, so don’t worry if that demo bike is not the model you want or the price you have in mind. Set up a date to take it out for a spin so you can get a feel for the important things like the size, geometry, and how it handles and then you’ll have a better idea of what you are looking for in the long-term.
If you want to inject some serious spice to your search, head to a festival like Mountain Bike Oregon, Sedona Mountain Bike Festival, or Outerbike so you can speed-date a bunch of bikes on incredible trails with a shuttle ride to the top!
3. Deal Breakers
DON’T commit to one that’s the right price, but the wrong size. You’ll be uncomfortable, then you’ll ride it less and less until eventually you’ll just take up rollerblading.
DO reconsider your wish list if you’re having a hard time finding “The One” because you’re getting hung up on aesthetics. Manufacturers don’t often make models in multiple colors and unless you want to be orchestrating a giant part swap to get the components you want on a certain frame color, you need to re-prioritize. Okay, okay – those are Auburn colors and you’re a Bull Dog… fine. Then just spend less cash on Saturday game beers and wings this winter so you can ante up for the new carbon model that drops in the spring.
4. Seek Professional Help… and Keep Seeking It
Find your bike shop and build a relationship with them. If you walk into a shop and don’t get a good vibe then take your business elsewhere. How should you prepare for this trip? “Just come in knowing your budget and what you want to do on your new bike. You don’t need to come to our store prepared with more than that,” says Kevin at River City Bicycles in Portland.
Keep in mind that this won’t… well, it shouldn’t… be your last trip to the professionals. If you choose to spend your hard-earned cash here, you should be back for regular service on brakes, suspension, spare parts, and the occasional squeak, clunk, or click. River City offers a free 30-day tune-up and discounts on parts and accessories with any bike purchase, so ask your shop what perks come with your new bike and be sure to take advantage of them.
Ninjas have lots of experience with this dating game and we’ve found our best relationships aren’t with our bikes, but with our bike shops… Here are some of our favorites:
Zumwalt’s Bicycle Center – San Diego, California
“Full service shop with a extremely knowledgeable staff. They pride themselves on customer satisfaction. This local bike shop is second to none and in my opinion the only one that exists in the San Diego area! This is a picture is of me presenting to Todd (owner of Zumwalt’s) the team’s first place trophy (Co Ed Cat 2/3) for the Kenda Cup series 2017.” – Todd Young
“Top-notch service — they always go above and beyond. One of the best shops in the US!” – Richard LaChina
“Loving two bikes shops is like having 2 boyfriends. I have my Ninja shop Zumwalt’s, but they are 45 minutes away. I have my nearby bike shop North Of the Border which is 5 minutes away and I love them, too! They both take excellent care of me.” – Patty “Ninja Patty” Elliott
Website: www.zcbikes.com | Facebook: Zumwalt’s Bicycle | Instagram: @zumwaltsbikes
Over the Edge Sports in Sedona, AZ
“OTE has a massive demo fleet from top brands like Santa Cruz, Trek, Evil, Giant and Intense. And the Service department is very knowledgeable.” – Phil and Joanna Yates
Website www.otesports.com | Instagram @ote.sedona | Facebook Over the Edge Sedona
Alpine Ride Shop, Alpine, CA
“Community based full service shop with high quality products located near some of the best riding in SoCal. Come for the social experience…Cafe99 gormet coffee cart and whole bean roaster is located at Alpine Ride Shop making it the best pre and post ride shop in San Diego!” – Gail Shafer
Website www.alpinerideshop.com | Instagram @alpinerideshop
Trek of Westlake Village in Westlake Village, CA
“Trek of Westlake Village is a beautiful shop with a wide range of bikes and gear for every discipline of riding. The staff from sales to service are very knowledgeable, friendly, and willing to help.” – Jeremy Call
Trek Bicycle Store Greenville – Greenville, SC
“In one of the East’s best cycling cities good shops are hard to find. I think these guys have the best service in the area. They can fix anything and typically have it done in 24 hours. The only thing they haven’t been able to do is a Fox overhaul and Fox East is only a day away so I get quick turn around from that! They were also very knowledgeable with route beta on the road or in the woods and have a huge demo fleet which is hard to find outside of Brevard.” – Matt Cianca
Website www.trekbikessouthcarolina.com | Instagram @trekstoresouthcarolina | Facebook Trek Store South Carolina
Criterium Bicycles – Colorado Springs, CO
“Always great service, friendly and professional. They don’t give people a hard time if they didn’t buy a bike from them. They have been in town since 1973 and a top Specialized Dealer for years.” – Ben Lewis
Website https://www.criterium.com | Instagram @criterium_bicycles | Facebook Criterium Bicycles
River City Bicycles – Portland, OR
Huge thanks to River City Bicycles for letting us swoop in for photos of their impressive setup!
Website www.rivercitybicycles.com | Instagram @rcbpdx | Facebook River City Bicycles | Twitter @rcbpdx
Sunshine Cycles in Athens, GA is amazing. Jimmy, the owner, always goes above and beyond. I drive by 10 other shops, and travel over an hour to have my bike worked on by him.
We know the Sunshine Crew, too! Say hi to Howie, Raa, and Elizabeth for me 🙂 I lived in Athens for three years and loved it. If you’re ever looking for a group ladies’ ride, check out the 706P Chicks Club.
Enjoy riding in that sweet Southern Autumn!
Thanks for this great post. While Outerbike is like a festival (yes we have food, beer & guided rides) we still keep the bike demo experience as the #1 priority of the weekend. some balk at the $240 price to get in, but if you try to rent/demo a high end bike in Moab these days it’s at least $90/ day. Plus shuttles to Mag 7, plus food, etc. If you’re serious about testing bikes it’s hard to beat the experience of all those brands and getting to try them back to back to back. For 2019 here’s our dates:
Sun Valley June 21-23, 2019
CB August 16-18, 2019
Moab October 4-6, 2019
Bentonville October 25-27, 2019
Thanks for the Outerbike deets, Mark! I’ve attended your October Moab event and had an incredible experience. You and your team put together a seamlessly executed weekend full of rad bikes, stoked folks, and delicious food. We’re already looking forward to your Sun Valley stop next year!
“If you walk into a shop and don’t get a good vibe then take your business elsewhere.” I agree with that bit of advice. And I’ve walked out of several bike shops that opened the sales process with this attitude: “Just come in knowing your budget and what you want to do on your new bike. You don’t need to come to our store prepared with more than that,”
I don’t keep up with all the latest MTB trends, so when I go to buy a new bike, I bring in my bike and ask, “How are the new bikes better than my current bike?” Of course we talk about what trails I like, but also what trails I don’t like and why. This is where I decide if the salesperson is a ‘go’ or ‘no-go’. Any discussion of budget at this point turns the discussion into a ‘no-go’.
Assuming ‘go’, the first decision should be which frame that would best suit me. Then we start talking about what my dollars are buying. I won’t divulge a budget. I ask. “In your opinion, which component level is the best value?” Then I ask about the performance difference of that model vs. one level down and then vs. one level up. If I judge one of the bikes is a better value than the original recommendation, I repeat the question with the next next level until I find the right balance of $ vs. benefits, for me. If the salesman can’t inform me in a knowledgeable yet patient manner, I’m out the door. If he can, I need to be able to demo the bike on a trail of my choice.