Buying a bicycle can be a particularly daunting task because of the wide variety available, the number of variables, and the cost. Bicycles can be expensive and you want to make sure you spend the time to find the right one. Expect it to be a multi-day process to find just the right bike for you.
Do Your Research
Visit multiple stores, hit the internet, and ask lots of questions. Most bike stores are dealers for a particular supplier and only have models of that particular brand in stock. Phoenix has some overlapping retailers, but there are quite a few bike manufacturers out there so don’t expect to see the same bicycles when you visit a different shop. Also, don’t expect the bike shop owner to give you a straight answer if you ask them why the brands they carry are better than another brand. After visiting a shop, ask for one of their catalogs with the models you looked at circled so you can read up on them on the internet afterwards.
Tri-stores versus Cycling Shops
Cycling shops have a great tradition of sensing when someone is being a “noob” and shining them on. Don’t take this as being rude or bad customer service (though, technically, it is). There’s just a great tradition in cycling of self reliance, people learning stuff on their own, and making them really prove they want it. Not all cycling stores are this way, but if you sense this, then be assertive and keep asking your questions and making your requests. If you have a price range in mind, then stick to it. If you know there are certain bikes you don’t like, then stick to it. If you want to take a test ride, then insist on it.
Tri stores tend not to have this feel and have a more traditional customer service. The tri shops in the Valley that sell bicycles are Tribe Multisport and Triple Sports. Although there are a lot of bike shops in Phoenix, we do recommend that you go to a store that specializes in cycling or triathlon and isn’t just a general sporting goods store with some bikes.
National Brands versus Store Brands
Some chains carry their own brand of bicycle that isn’t from a national manufacturer. While these brands tend to be cheaper, you’re trading some of your peace of mind for the cheaper price. You can’t really research the non-national brands easily nor find out what type of quality, longevity, and performance they have because of the small sample size. Also, if there is a problem with your bike, most national brands carry a warranty. Some of the more common national brands of road and tri bikes available in the Valley are (in no particular order) Specialized, Felt, Quintana Roo, Litespeed, Scott, Trek, Kestrel, Cannondale, Fuji, Giant and Cervelo. A popular local brand is Valdora.
Try it Before you Buy it
Make sure you take any bike you may buy for a test ride first. Although it may not be completely set up to fit you correctly, you can get a good feel for handling, stiffness, and comfort by zipping around the parking lot a few times. Wear comfy clothes appropriate for riding when you shop and if you don’t want to use the community bike helmet, take your own along. The bike shop should be able to slap a pair of plastic pedals on it for you and hand you a bike helmet. You may end up riding 3 or 4 models at a shop and still not leave with a bike that day, but you’re about to drop a large wad of cash on this purchase, so take your time and get it right. Most likely, when you find YOUR bike, you’ll know the second you get on it. One advantage of some of the larger chains, like Performance Bicycle, is if they don’t have your bike size in stock, they will send to a sister store for the correct model and you can come back in a few days and test ride it.
Kill Two Birds with One Stone
There are quite a few shops that are close to each other in Phoenix. Depending on how many you try to hit and do test rides at in one day, it can be a bit exhausting. Double up on a single trip by hitting two stores in close proximity. The following list is not an exhaustive list of bike shops in Phoenix. However, it does list stores in close proximity that carry some of the national brands we listed above. In addition, DNA Cycles is worth a visit since they also carry a solid line of road bikes.
Not sure if you want a tri bike or a road bike? Read: