We can all talk about countless ways COVID has made 2020 a trying and frustrating year, but one positive takeaway from this all is that I’ve had a dozen or so friends get into road cycling for the first time. The combination of gyms and parks being closed probably has something to do with it, and while it’s taken a pandemic to get people into the sport I enjoy, I’ll take it. To save me from writing the same message over and over, I’ve made a generic guide that can be found below. Feel free to share with your friends who are also looking for bike buying advice.
Really cool to hear that you want to get into road cycling. I won’t lie, it’s not the easiest thing to get into. There’s lots of equipment involved that will stop working, it’s expensive, sharing the road with cars can be frustrating, and your body will hate you after your first couple rides. To help you navigate this process, I’ve asked some of my teammates to share the biggest mistakes they made, and what they’d do differently if they were in your position.
Visit Your Local Bike Shops - People often look for a “great deal on a used bike” - but unless you know exactly what you’re looking for, it won’t work. Don’t enter the cycling world through Kijiji or Craigslist. Before you buy anything, visit a handful of local shops and find one with friendly staff and bikes that suit you. Helpful and honest employees will make the initial (and inevitable follow-up) bike shop visits something to look forward to. And if you can, bring a friend who knows a thing or two about bikes to help you through the process. There was a time when I was looking to upgrade bikes and visited 6 shops before choosing which one I wanted to work with. The relationship with a bike shop can really help you get the most out of your new bike, and they need our support too! (Adam)
Don’t Buy Cheap Bib Shorts- On that topic. Buy bib shorts. They’re essential to comfortably riding a bike. Don’t think you can get by with just athletic shorts, because you’ll chafe in all sorts of terrible places. I bought my first bibs off AliExpress for $15, and they didn’t fit properly, didn’t last, and were marginally better than not wearing bib shorts at all. Do yourself a favour, and spend some money on some nicer bibs that fit properly. It’s likely the most important piece of equipment you can buy. (Jeremy)
105-11 Rule- While you can buy a bike for as little as a few hundred dollars, you shouldn’t. Bikes, up to a certain point, get substantially better as you spend a little more on them. My first bike was an 8 speed with a Shimano Sora groupset, and I spent more time fixing and finding parts for it than it was worth. My advice: Stretch the budget and get a Shimano 105-level*, 11-speed bike. 11-speed parts can be found at any shop, any time. Lower level Shimano bikes are often 8, 9, or 10 speed, and local shops rarely carry those parts. Additionally, in the event you don’t ride this bike as much as you thought, selling an 11-speed bike is much, much easier. (Jeremy)
Keep Your Bike Well-Tuned- A working bike is often more important than a fancy bike. Spend the effort making sure you stay on top of cleaning and repairs. If you buy your bike from a local shop, they will sometimes offer discounted servicing for a while, so take advantage of that. Also, chains need replacing after a while. Don’t do what I did and use a chain so long it ruins everything else in your drivetrain. (Ayrton)
Clip In- Yes, those clip-in shoes seem daunting, but once you get past the inevitable low-speed topple, it’ll allow you to go further and faster than before. I refused to buy cycling shoes, preferring toe straps for the first few months of road cycling. When I finally made the switch, I felt like an idiot for having gone without for so long. (Jeremy)
Where Should I Ride? - "Waterfront Trail" is probably a great place to ride a bike, but those places can get crowded and sometimes dangerously busy on those beautiful summer days. Asking the staff at a bike shop where they like to ride is an easy way to find new routes nearby. I worked in a shop for a while, and really loved helping others explore their own city by bike, and then hearing how their ride went the next time they stopped by. (Adam)
Learn to Clean Your Bike- Youtube is your friend here. There are tons of good videos online that show you how to lube a chain, clean one, how to fix a flat, etc (This is a good one!). I raced right up to the national level on midline parts, and 32 spoke Mavic wheels. They had external nipples so I could true them myself without taking off tires, and they lasted for years. (Rolston)
Eat, Lots- It may seem weird, but as you get comfortable riding more, bring some food and water with you. As a beginner, I never brought food with me, and I bonked so bad one time that I had to stop and lie in a ditch on the Niagara Parkway. Tip: bring more food than you think you need, always. The goal is to get home and still have leftover snacks in your pocket. (Jeremy)
Get a Bike Fit- Most local shops offer this service, many times free of charge with a new bike. Taking the time to ensure that your position on the bike is tailored to your body will be time very well spent. A proper fit improves comfort, will help avoid injuries, and make you faster. Our pal Ian Manning at Detour Cyclery is an expert bike-fitter who is always happy to help. (Mike)
Buy a Bike You Like: After getting a proper fit, and keeping the above criteria in mind, buy a bike you want to ride. If this works as it should, you’ll be spending a lot of time riding, and you’ll want to feel good about doing it. I could have saved money earlier on by avoiding a bike/bikes that I perhaps spent a little less on or were ‘convenient’ to buy, but that I didn’t actually love. (Myles)
Strava.com- You’ve likely heard about it as a place to upload your activities, but one of the most useful parts of Strava as a beginner cyclist is following some local riders to see where they ride, and being inspired to reach new levels. I remember following a local who did 50km a day and thought he was insane! (Jeremy)
A collection of some of our first bikes: