Get a Bike

Bikes Galore @ B's!With the popularity of biking on the upswing, bike shops keep their inventory of bicycles well-stocked. This is good news… to those who know what they want in a bicycle. However, if you are new to cycling, the choices can be overwhelming. To help you choose the right bike for your needs, the bloggers at bikeCUNY have put together this guide.

Bikes range from the very affordable ($25 used) to the very luxurious ($25,000 new). Determine what you are willing to spend on a bicycle–and remember that there are a lot of “extras” you will need for your bike that do not factor into the cost of the bike proper. For example, you’ll need a helmet, lock, bell, and lights. (In New York City, a bell, reflectors, and lights are required by law!) If you’re commuting, you’ll also want to get a rack, panniers, and fenders, as well as inclement weather attire and a multitool and tire-patch kit. Your $150 bike can quickly turn into a $300 purchase. However, this is still less than what you would pay for a car (plus gas, insurance, maintenance, and parking) or for public transportation.

There are many styles of bike frames. The ones most suitable for commuting purposes are cruiser, hybrid, touring, and mountain. These kinds of bikes can usually be accessorized so you can mount baskets or rear racks that allow you to carry your things with you. Folding bicycles are another great option, especially for multi-modal commuting. Once folded, they are about the size of a large backpack and can be carried into buildings and on buses. (FYI: Regular bikes are not allowed on MTA buses. Folded bikes, however, are permissible.)

Since the goal is to commute to work/class, your bike needs to be able to carry some cargo. In addition to transporting you, you’ll also be hauling your lunch, change of clothes, laptop, and whatever else you need on a daily basis. This means your bike needs to be able to handle the weight as well as the accessories. The easiest way to do this is to affix a basket to your handlebars or install a rear rack to your frame. (Most bike racks are installed via mounting eyelets, which your bike must come equipped with.) You can then use bungee cords (or a bungee net) to strap your bag or buy special bags called “panniers” for a greater carrying capacity.

Bike fit
If you’re going to ride your bike, you must ensure that it fits you properly. If you experience any discomfort while on your bike, you will not ride your bike and your purchase will be for naught. If, however, you ride despite the pain, you can risk injuring yourself. So we’ll say it again: proper bike fit is crucial! For a complete overview of bicycle geometry and fit, please see Sheldon Brown’s page on bicycle sizing. If you still have questions, the best place to get answers is your local bike shop.

Buying a bike
There are many places to buy bikes. If this is your first time buying a bicycle (or the first time in a while), we recommend going to your local bike shop. The professionals in the shop will be able to answer all your questions as well as properly fit you for a bike. For a list of bike shops in NYC, please see the list of bike shops maintained by the bikeCUNY group.

Buying a used bike
In a city as big as New York, you’re bound to find someone who wants to sell his/her bike. The way most people sell their bikes is by listing them online on sites like craigslist. This is a great way to get a good deal on a used bike but you have to be a bit more careful.

  • Since proper bike fit is crucial, we recommend first stopping by your local bike shop and checking out some new models to get a feel for what you like.
  • Beware of stolen bikes. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. And always trust your instincts: if something doesn’t feel right, leave.
  • When going to meet someone to look at a bike, bring a buddy. You’ll be meeting a stranger in a strange place so it never hurts to have backup.
  • After you’ve purchased your new (to you!) bike, take it to your local bike shop for a tune-up and a general once-over. The pros at the shop will help you make necessary adjustments (especially for proper fit). You can also get advice on any accessories you may need (e.g., basket/rack, bag/panniers, lights, bell) as well as free copies of NYC cycling maps.

More advice
For the 12 most frequently asked questions about buying a bicycle, please see The Burning Questions: 12 common bike-shopping dilemmas explained, demystified and simplified from Bicycling magazine.