Friday, May 30

How to Buy a Bike (3/3)

This is part 3 in a three part series. See also How to Buy a Bike (1) and How to Buy a Bike (2).

So you've scouted out some bikes and you know what you want to buy. It might even just be a just-whatever bicycle to get you around, just to start riding. I really can't tell you how horrible the bikes are at W*mart and sporting goods stores. Just don't do it. It's not worth it. You might get a new, sub-$150 bicycle, but trust me, it's a total piece of crap and it will fall apart before next summer. I'm not being a bike snob here, they really suck. I'd be doing you a disservice if I let you buy a bike like that.

Seacoast New Hampshire Bike Shops
For the immediate Portsmouth, NH area, there are a few shops that you can buy bikes from. I've only really had a lot of experience with Bicycle Bob's, Gus' Bike (which is in North Hampton, about eight miles from Portsmouth) and Papa Wheelie's. There's also Exeter Cycle, and Berger's Bike Shop in York, Maine. There's one in Durham on UNH campus, and I think I heard just opened a couple months ago in Dover, New Hampshire too. Also don't forget about bikes on craigslist. They can be a viable option, too. My friend Cassy got a new bike on craiglist and was very pleased with the results. A lot of bicycle manufacturers have a "find a dealer near you" button on their site, so you can find bike shops like that, if you've already found a bicycle you love on the internet.

Bicycle Bob's is alright. Their salespeople don't seem to be real passionate about biking, but they definitely have a lot of bikes in stock. Their have mostly hybrid bicycles, from what I can tell, but they also have a few decent road bikes, and a lot of kid's bikes. The thing that makes Bicycle Bob's unique, though, is that they have every bike part imaginable. If you need some random weird little part, they will have it. And if they don't, Bob will be embarrassed that it's not in stock, and will order it. This is definitely the best place to go for any parts or tools or accessories you need--especially for old bikes. Bicycle Bob's is also the only shop in the Portsmouth area that does bicycle rentals. They carry a lot of brands of bikes, including previously-owned, but their two primaries are Fuji and Jamis.

Gus' International Bike Shop is great, but the problem is that everyone knows it--it is a total freaking mob scene at 2pm on a day-before-Memorial-day, and I had to wait like forever. However, if you go there on an off hour or during the week, the friendly, knowledgeable staff will be happy to chat you up all day about bikes, and answer all your questions without making you feel stupid. The thing I liked the most about the first time I went there was that the mechanic I was talking to convinced me not to buy a bunch of stuff I only vaguely needed. That he obviously wasn't just trying to make a sale, and was genuinely interested in making my cycling experience more enjoyable, is what has kept me coming back. Their primary manufacturers include Trek and Lemond.

Papa Wheelies is about a quarter mile from my house, but I don't go there any more. They never have any parts in stock--I just go to Bob's if I need parts. I've been continuously unimpressed with their mechanical work, too. The one or two times I've left my bike there to get work done, the results were not that good. You could tell there was no love put in to it. I get the impression that they view my bike--my Tachikoma, and likely by association myself, as a bit of a piece of crap, so maybe that's why. And I feel like they are really always just trying to push making a sale. I just don't enjoy going there. They sell Cannondale and Specialized.

I've only been to Exeter Cycles Bike Shop once (two days ago, actually). They've got a nice store, nice bikes. I don't have much cause to go there because I literally have to pass three other shops to get there from my house, but they seemed nice. Then there's Berger's Bike Shop in York. They don't have a website, but it's right on Route 1. I've never been but I hear from a credible source that one of their mechanics is an absolutely amazing wheel-builder. The Durham/UNH bike shop is a little hole in the wall. I pumped up a flat tire there once but I didn't really look around. And this new place in Dover, I don't know anything about it. I'll have to check it out.

Let's not forget about craigslist. There are a few gems on there every once in a while--check out the $50 Schwinn ten-speed in New Castle for example. You'll want to make sure you can check out the bike of course before you agree to anything. The main problem with craigslist is that the seller often doesn't know a whole lot about bikes, and can't help with fitting the bike and such. Craigslist is full of cheap kids' bikes, too. Kids' bikes will be/have been outgrown in a year or two, so getting them on the cheap can be a good idea.

The last thing is accessories. Helmets are optional but a good idea. Copenhagen Cycle Chic coincidentally did a guide to chic bicycle accessories just yesterday. I'm going to defer to the Danes when it comes to matters of style--they seem to know what they are talking about.

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