Side Bar Note

Smoothie or Chunkie

Buying a bike is like buying a car, a couch or a cellphone. You want to do your research as you have to sit, use and live with your choice for a while.

Set your budget but spend a little more and stay away from the 'Looks Like A Bike' cheap units at department stores. Riding and lugging around a 50+ pound, ill-constructed monster is a bad choice. In addition these bikes are equipped with low-quality parts.

It is your choice: If you like your Smoothies chunky, buy a cheap blender with a dull blade.

other information

Bike buying guide

The Greater Nanaimo Cycling Coalition is offering the following advice on buying a bicycle. Buying a bike requires some research, and there are some questions you must ask yourself. Take your time; this should not be an impulse buy.
Bike shopping should be an exciting experience; you're making a purchase that could potentially be life-changing. However, it's not something to be taken lightly as buying your first bike in a speedy process and selecting the wrong one for you can limit your enjoyment of cycling, making you less inclined to ride.

Getting started

First, give some thought to what kind of riding you want to do, your level of experience, and your overall approach to cycling:

  • Why do you want to ride? For fitness? Just for fun? Casually, or seriously?
  • Where do you want to ride? Street, bike trail or off-road?
  • How frequently do you plan to ride?

The more you know what you want, the easier it will be to work with your local bike stores to select a bicycle which will best suit your needs. Form follows function, and that's especially true of bikes. Different bikes are intended for different types of riding and some are very specific to their purpose. However, most bikes are pretty versatile – you can ride to work, to the shops and round the hills on the same bike.

So having asked the questions as to what, why, and where you have narrowed your choice to one of the basic bike types.
If you're an avid cyclist, you may prefer a conventional road bike. Looking for a leisurely ride on flat, paved roads? A comfort bike may be more your speed. If rugged trails are in your sights, than a mountain bike might be best. Next...

Find a good bike shop

The most important step is to find several good professional servicing bicycle shops in your area. Many of the best belong to the National Bicycle Dealers Association. Pick at least 3 different stores and shop around. Don't just make one stop; this purchase is an investment that will have to last you for a number of years. Pick stores where you are comfortable, where you are treated with respect, and where they listen to you.

Tell the professionals there what your desires are, and let them advise you on appropriate bicycles for your needs. Make sure that the bicycle sales person has understood and assessed your needs properly. If they cannot offer you the right bike, ask them to direct you to a store that has the type of bike that best suits your needs. You want to purchase the right bike, not a bike that might work or that happens to be on sale. Beware of retailers such as WalMart, Canadian Tire, SportCheck and others who do not have on-site service departments, or who do not offer the kind of services you require.


Professional bicycle retailers can fit you properly to a bike, assemble it professionally, and give you the kind of advice and continuing service you need to ride safely and comfortably. Bikes from big-box stores might not be properly assembled or well matched to your body. If you don't like the pedals or seat on a particular model, some bike shops will swap components at little or no cost. Get the right size and type of bike for you. You'll pay more, but we think you're more likely to be satisfied and served well.

Take a test ride

Before you buy any bike, ride it far enough to make sure that the brakes and shifters are easy to use, the fit is comfortable, the gears can go low enough for climbing hills, and the frame and suspension adequately smooth the bumps. Pick at least 3 different bicycles at a store so you have a feel of the difference between models and types. Take your time, your body will appreciate it in the long run. NEVER buy a bike that is not in the store and that cannot be test driven. If the bike has to come from somewhere else, do not pay or promise to buy it!!!

Avoid cheap bikes, except for very casual use

Inexpensive bikes - those selling for less than about $300, often in big-box stores-- may seem like good deals, but we advise spending $400 or more, if your budget allows. Why? Because you'll get a lot more bike for your buck.
Mass-market bikes have real cheap construction than higher-priced bikes and will weigh significantly more. They come in only one size, so you're not likely to get a great fit. And mass merchants can't match bike shops for quality of assembly, expert advice, and service.
Adults should consider inexpensive bikes from a department store only for the most casual use, and stick with a front-suspension model, which is likely to be better than an inexpensive full-suspension bike. You might want a mass-market bike for kids who will outgrow a bike quickly or handle it roughly.

Spending more gets you:
  • Lighter weight
  • More precise gear shifting, braking and handling
  • A more lively, responsive frame
  • Comfort features such as suspension

Consider these extras

A good bike helmet is a must as is a good lock. Gloves will absorb vibrations and help to protect your hands in a spill. Polycarbonate glasses can shield your eyes from bugs and errant pebbles. A water bottle is handy to have on long, hot-weather rides. Special cycling shoes can ease your pedaling, especially if you ride longer distances. And of course think of a pump, repair kit and if commuting other items such as pannier bags, rain gear, etc. See our commuter tip page.

Next: Types of Bikes -->