Shopping for a bike during the pandemic can take longer than normal. If getting a bike is on your to do list, I’d recommend getting a jump start and begin the process now. Its crazy but some high end manufacturers and popular bikes/builds have anticipated deliveries of March 2022.
At the start of the pandemic and in the many months afterwards, everyone was looking for a bike and there was a serious shortage. According to bicycle.com, the shortage could run through Spring of 2022. There were scarce deliveries happening and even now manufacturers are limiting the number of bikes that a shop can order due to component shortages. To increase your chances of getting the bike you want, the Chicago Bike Blog suggests setting a reasonable budget, getting on your local bike shops waiting list, communicate with the shop in their preferred format, and even putting money down.
Bikes, Lots of Options
I bought my bike 6 years ago with only one thought in mind: to buy a mountain bike. These days there is a wide range of bikes out there. There are different kinds of mountain bikes (29ers, 27.5, downhill, freestyle, fatbikes), touring bikes, road bikes, flat bar road bikes, hybrid bikes (trekking, city, commuter, comfort), gravel bikes and e-bikes. There are sub-sets within those categories. Figuring out the type of bike you want first will save a lot of time later.
Where to start?
The best place to start doing your research is definitely your local bike shop. Walmart and Target bikes are mass produced with less quality parts and life spans so your local bike shop will be your best resource. The added benefit of experience from the owner and staff will be especially important when you’re bike shopping during a pandemic. Be sure to have a budget in mind because there is a large range for prices on bikes. For a new bike you’ll be spending at least $500 – $700 for entry level and for the more serious hobbyist, $2500-$4000.
If you’re on a smaller budget or want to try biking as a hobby, I’d recommend checking out Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, or Offer Up. Bikers are always upgrading for a new ride and may find a quality used bike at a fraction of the cost. Be sure that you go and take a test ride and if you understand how to evaluate the health of the gears, even better. Last summer, I was able to pick up an older Trek road bike that was barely ridden for $400; it was the right size and will last a couple seasons.
Where will you ride?
The first thing you’ll want to start thinking as you get your jump start on buying a bike is where you will be riding. Will you be riding on a paved path like on the Cal-Sag Trail or do you want to get on more gravel and dirt paths like at Waterfall Glen or the Sugar River Trail? Of course, you may want to do both so a hybrid bike may be your best choice.
What are the best brands?
Most bike shops will carry a few brands that they are comfortable with recommending. The two bike shops that I know best are Avant Cycle in Lake Geneva and Richards Bikes in Palos Heights. Avant is partial to TREK. Trek is a reputable and well known Wisconsin made manufacturer with great road and mountain bikes. They are reliable and have some really great designs. I test rode Trek’s Domane ALR 4 to really get the feel of this road bike; it’s been added to my “wish list”.
Another popular and reliable bike manufacturer is Surly. They make great no nonsense bikes that last and represent good value for the money. I learned about Surly at a meeting for the group, Out Our Front Door. They organize local Chicago weekend bike tours and almost everyone in this group owned a Surly. They pack 50 to 100 mile biking tours every weekend riding their Surly’s and they still raved about them.
Bike Buying Guides
Bike buying guides on Bike Radar, and REI will give you a great start on the many options that are out there and will help you when you go into your local bike shop. Another option if you know the brand you want, understand your fit, and can either repair items on your own or have someone that can, buying a bike online may be for you and In The Know Cycling is a great website for resources.
Like anything else, shopping for a bike during this pandemic is a process and will take longer than you anticipate. Manufacturing, shipping, and the demand for bikes will all add to the time that it takes to finally receive your bike of choice.
It will take longer; so start now.