Buying your first road bike can be super confusing. I’m going to share with you my bike shopping adventures to share what I learned over a few weekends of shopping! Since running and obstacle course races are starting to take their toll on my body I decided to adopt a new way to get in great endurance training without killing my knees. I decided I was going to buy a bike. Luckily the fall is also sales season!
One of my friends (who’s really into bikes) recommended a few stores for me to start with in Toronto so I headed out a few weekends ago to peruse some stores and to start learning what I needed to know for road bike shopping. Please note I did no online research ahead of time and went for in-person knowledge learning instead!
I started at The 11 Inc. at Shops of Don Mills. They have a really cool Smart Fit Fitting System so I was told I was going to be able to get fitted to the best bike brand that would be suited to my frame! I thought this was pretty cool and smart. After going to other stores where they just eyed up my size and said I’d be a small of extra small I value the service that The 11 Inc. offers.
The fitting included 4 measurements. We started with inner leg length.
Then sternum to floor
Then knee to floor (picture below) and then arm length (not pictured).
These 4 measurements provide the following output…
I really liked Cyclemotive on Bathurst because an employee took the time to explain everything to me from brands to materials: aluminum vs. carbon fibre to components (gears, chains, etc). After being measured differently at this store I had another set of measurements to keep in mind. He gave me the top tube, seat angle and reach measurements. I really wanted to purchase something from them as I was thankful for the time spent with me explaining everything. Sadly, they didn’t have anything in a colour I liked or the price point I wanted. The employee promised to email me some deals closer to the bike sale weekend but never did and never answered an email I sent him asking for an update.
I visited several other shops. I googled Best Bike Shops Toronto and found a great list on BlogTo so I used that as a shopping list of stores. I visited some and had really good interactions and others left me wanting to get out as soon as possible. Here are a few points about each store and my thumb rating system.
La Bicicletta – a clean layout and good price points but they didn’t want to fit me that day so I just looked around and left. As a brand new customer, they didn’t seem to care about giving me knowledge. 1 thumb up.
The Bike Zone – I hated this place. I felt talked down to. It took 30 mins for someone to come speak to me. I kept asking to see bikes in my price range and was shown everything. I kept asking to be sized properly but the sales guy tried to sell me on training packages before I even had my bike. 2 thumbs down.
Sweet Pete’s – I talked to a really knowledgeable staff member for a while but he told me all their discounted stock wasn’t in the shop as it would be at the Bike Sale (weekend of Oct 17 – 18) when I would be out of town. Nothing in my price range so I left. 1 thumb up.
Gears – They don’t discount merchandise but have very knowledgeable staff who took the time to explain everything about the bike brands in their store. 1 thumb up.
D’Ornella’s – I ended up getting my bike from this shop because I found an amazing carbon fibre bike with 105 components at a great price point. 1 thumb up. Yes, the store I bought the bike at only gets 1 thumb up.
When I went in to pick up the bike during the week I spoke to someone on the phone that I really wanted to ensure the bike frame was properly-suited to me. They explained I’d be getting a bike fitting so I showed up in gear but ended up not having a great experience. I felt very patronized the entire time. Although the bike fitter took the time to teach me things I had no clue about it wasn’t a friendly vibe. I kept making jokes as I was so uncomfortable and although he laughed he kept making me feel like I was making his life inconvenient by being there. I also had to really negotiate for things that had been promised to me on the weekend during checkout. They had told me on the weekend that they would include pedals, water bottle cages and no tax with the sale. In the end, I held my own and walked out with a great deal so I can’t be upset but darn it you made me really work my negotiator side!
The moral of the story I went bike shopping without any knowledge about the kinds of bikes, components, brands, etc.
Lesson 1: Do some basic internet knowledge learning before going in-store.
Lesson 2: Road biking is a bit of a snobby sport so learn terms ahead of time. Those in the bike world throw around terms and I’m ok raising my hand to say “Speak English to me” but if you’d like to ensure like any other shopping experience you aren’t being taken advantage of arm yourself with initial information.
Lesson 3: Learn how to negotiate on price, components & add ons.
Happy Bike Shopping! I’m excited to get all the proper gear & equipment I need for long rides next year! Recommendations welcome!