So, you’re thinking about buying a bike. You might have already started searching through different types of bikes. Maybe you’re even drawing comparisons and looking to find the perfect bike that checks all the boxes. In addition to all this, there’s also the question of where to buy a bike? —Online or at your local bike shop?
In this post we’ll teach you how to buy a bike online and help you learn the basics of what to look for so you can be happy with your purchase.
Buying online is easier than ever and most bike brands have completely adopted this idea while some work with physical shops to provide deliveries and post purchase services. Buying online is a great option for people looking for options only available through direct to consumer brands.
If your local retailer doesn’t have the options you’re looking for, or if you’re trying to make the most out of your budget, then buying a bike online seems like the better option. However, it can sometimes be daunting to buy bikes online without even test riding or trying its fit.
That being said, there are always red flags to look out for, things to keep in mind, and key factors to check that can make your two wheel ride offer you an exciting commute every day.
Important Things to Consider
Before nose diving into your first online bike shopping experience, it is always better to weigh certain options and make the best decision. I have added three important things below that you need to consider before paying for your new bike.
Size and Fit
Analyzing the fit of your bike can narrow down your options quite a bit. It is a good place to start and helps save time from looking into the wrong options. You might be impressed by the build and shape of the light race bikes, but the long and stretched frame is not for everyone!
Choosing the correct bike fit is dependent on many factors like height, inseam and arm length. The correct frame size is extremely important and many online retailers have a size guide attached next to every single bike.
The ergonomics of the bike make all the difference between a hard ride that aches your back and strains your forearms to a comfortable and smooth glide. Most size adjustments can be made after you find the right model. For instance, seat height, pedal stroke and handlebar reach can be customized for the correct size and better fit.
Once you receive your bike, it is not as simple as hopping on and pedaling forward. Shipped bikes almost always require some assembly. If you order from an online bike shop, make sure you read about just how much assembly is required for that particular bike.
Online retailers work in two ways: exclusive direct shipping, or using a local bike shop or partnering with service providers.
If you’ve never owned a bike, assembling one without any experience out of the box can be a disaster. Leave the tuning and turning of wrenches to the service providers.
A professional assembly can prevent damage to components and save you any kind of malfunction while riding. Some online shops sell bikes that require minimal assembly, like mounting the tire or adjusting the seat. The level of assembly also depends on the type of bike, a bmx has a fairly simple DIY assembly compared to mountain bikes, with its gears and dual shocks.
Although you can get a quicker delivery of your selected options and modules, you might have to wait for the assembly before heading out for your first ride.
Price and Budget
With the added convenience of saving time, saving some cash on your bike is another thing to consider when buying online. You can quickly compare different bikes at different price points and match them with your budget.
You can get better stock and added options at a better price because of discounted products. Buying online can save you money because the shops ship directly to your address without offering any paid commissions to local retailers.
Many stores including Canyon, only sell their bikes through their online store providing better performance and quality bikes at a lower price eliminating many markups that traditional bike shops charge.
However, this does not mean you will be getting rid of shipping costs. If you live in a remote or mountainous place, getting delivery of your mountain bike can make you pay extra. Not to mention, the added costs of tools and kits that you might need for assembling the bike.
Finding Out What Suits You
Buying from an online retailer can be confusing, given the wide range of bikes and options available. Many online bike shops offer bike brand or price filters that can help you decide on your bike, but picking the best thing for yourself boils down to the purpose of the bike models you like.
Most bikes sold online that contribute to the highest online sales are mountain bikes. They might be exciting and popular models, but if you want a bike to commute, race or explore gravel paths, choosing between the different types can be daunting.
Choosing a bike also depends on taste and practicality of use in certain weather conditions and paths. It is always a good idea to look into the different types of bikes and the terrain they are for.
Types of Bikes
Because of the interest in the sport, there has been an explosion in the types and variations of bikes being produced by manufacturers.
BMX bikes stands for Bicycle MotoCross. I remember, as a kid, when I had my first stunt bike—a BMX. They aren’t very popular with adults except for people wanting something to race in and glide over jumps and gaps. They have 20” wheels, straight handlebars and a very lightweight frame to facilitate the many stunts and freestyles.
When you hear about MTB, you instantly think about rough terrain and bicycles landing huge jumps. Mountain bikes are built for rugged terrain and the extra rear wheel suspension allows the tire to better conform to the ground. The tires are thick to grip different surfaces like rocks and dirt, and the different gears allow distribution of momentum to climb different slopes.
Mountain bikes are impressive to look at and you’ll notice them at various bike shows. They can be a good choice for weekend getaways. However, the extra components not only add weight but additional costs. They can be tiring on paved roads and are not ideal for daily commute
Gravel bikes are a mix of road bikes and MTBs. Not to be confused with hybrid bikes, they look like an average road bike with knobby tires, similar to the two wheels of mountain bikes.
They are sometimes called adventure bikes, with frames made from steel and carbon or the more expensive titanium. They can be a great option for a touring bike which can be modified with racks, disc brakes and thicker tires to take on rough terrain and potholes.
Road bikes are made for riding on tarmac and surfaced paths. They achieve great speeds with their lightweight frames and thin tires using minimal pedal energy. You can identify road bikes easily from its aerodynamic frame structure and dropped handlebars.
They are great for long rides that require endurance or if you need something to cover ground quickly. The only downside of road bikes is that they are prone to damage because of the thin rims and the aerodynamic riding position can be straining.
E bikes have been attracting a lot of buzz recently, with independent sellers like polygon bikes entering the market and offering a wide range of models. E bikes use a motor to assist pedaling.
This can be very helpful if you aren’t the most fit person or live somewhere uphill. They are easy to pedal, comfortable and offer luggage capacity.
They are limited to speeds of 15 mph due to laws in different states otherwise they would fall into the motorbike category, requiring insurance and license. Their only downside is their hefty cost and heavy battery pack.
Online Retailers vs Bike Shops
You’ve made that decision to own a bike, but now you’re asking yourself “Should I buy a bike online or at a bike shop?”.
Buying a bike online has been an increasing upward trend lately, because of pricing! Online retailers can offer better pricing on every model because they can simply cut out the middleman and deliver it right to your door.
You can make a confident purchase as more and more companies provide in-depth descriptions, high quality images and videos of their products. They offer many options, from selling a used bike to limited editions.
On the other hand, you would be looking to buy a bike from third party sellers, if you want to get that feel for the product, give your bike a test ride and have a face to face conversation about the bikes they sell.
The experience of a bricks and mortar shop cannot be beaten and having a relationship with them means you can sometimes bring your older bike for servicing at discounted rates. However, their bicycle warehouse has limited inventory and they might not offer a broad range of options that interest you!
Pros and Cons of Online Bike Shops
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Pros of Online Bike Shops
If you have made the decision to buy online, here are some advantages that are unbeatable by your local shop.
Online retailers can offer you guaranteed lower pricing because they do not have to include commissions in their pricing. By selling a bike directly to the customer, they can also offer more options and recommend different combinations, like gear selections and frame material that can better suit your purpose.
You can also earn store credit which you can use to get further discounts.
Almost all websites you will use to find bicycles have detailed specs, size guides and build charts. Most websites even offer an online chat and some offer audio call assistance so you can make the right choice confidently.
A bricks and mortar shop usually has a wide selection of a popular category like road bikes and are otherwise short stocked. Buying a bike online gives you more potential to look at a wider range of bicycles and brands that would otherwise be unavailable.
You can get your bike delivered without having the need to visit any bike shop. This can save you lots of time and travel costs.
Cons of Online Bike Shops
While there are many pros to buying online there are also cons. Here are some of the top issues when buying online.
The biggest disadvantage of buying online are the returns and warranty claims. If you happen to get a damaged bike, returning the bike can be costly and warranty claims, another headache.
Although it is cheaper to get a bike online, if you happen to import a bike, it can get expensive with custom duties and taxes across the border.
Waiting for replacement parts can be a nightmare, if you use your bike daily and shipping can sometimes take time. Some online exclusive bikes do not have parts and mods available at local stores.
Pros and Cons of Local Bike Shops
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Pros of Physical Bike Shops
Here are some of the top reasons to buy from physical shops.
You can easily get a test run for your bike for a couple of hours and then decide if it’s the right bike. Bike servicing and tuning is professionally handled and many times complementary.
In a physical shop you can get a feel for different bikes and products. It is much more reliable to compare in a brick shop without any guess work.
You can socialize with people at the store and a good bike shop usually has a bike club. You can easily find yourself on group rides and journeys if you buy from a physical shop.
Cons of Physical Shops
There are of course, some downsides to buying bikes from physical shops.
Shops that offer a wide variety are often in the city center and traveling there for servicing, buying and tuning can be an inconvenience. If you live in a remote place or mountainous region, traveling to a bike store can be expensive.
Local bike shops do not have stock availability on the go and if you’re looking for something outdoors you will have to travel to an outdoors specialty retailer to buy a kit or even a bike. The downside is these shops have a limited selection and finding other brands can be difficult.
Transporting the Bike
Depending on the type of vehicle you drive or how far away you live from the bike shop, it may be a challenge to get the newly purchased bike into your car or truck. Some bikes feature a quick release hub on the wheels so you can quickly remove the wheels without messing with the brakes.
Otherwise, you may need to also purchase a bike rack if the bike you’re purchasing comes pre-assembled.
What to Expect When Buying Online
If you decide to go forward with an online purchase, here’s what you should expect.
Firstly, you’ll have to find the right store. I recommend Dick’s Sporting Goods or Competitive Cyclist, both offer a wide range and competitive pricing. If you know exactly the type and model, buying online is a safe bet.
You can also find several of the same models and brands on Amazon in their bike shop. Most of their products also qualify for Free Prime Shipping and have flexible return policies; many being 30 days.
Many sites on the web will also teach you how to buy a bike online if you do a little research.
Next, you would want to get a customized or standard build, whichever works best. Here you would typically select your frame, gears, and wheels. You can opt for a store build that offers aftermarket upgrades to a manufacturer’s build.
This can be the deciding factor when buying online. I would suggest you have your fit taken or measured. This will help you when choosing seat height, saddle to bar length, and frame sizes. Competitive Cyclist has a detailed fit guide, an edge over Dick’s Sporting Goods.
After you fill in your address and make the payment, you can wait for the shipping and have your bike delivered at your doorstep. Be prepared with some tools to get started with the assembly.
It boils down to your experience, if you have owned bikes and are an enthusiast, knowing exactly what you want, you’re better off ordering it online and saving some cash.
With more comprehensive build options and exclusive brands, you can get a much better deal.
However, if you are new to this and are making your first two wheeled purchase, I would say avoid all the complex graphs, charts and sizing. Go to the local shop, take a test run, and buy the bike which gives you the best feel.