Looking for a new bike? Finding the right shop makes a big difference

WASHINGTON — Buying a bicycle can be the beginning of a long-term relationship with a bike shop: Down the road, you may be visiting them on a regular basis for adjustments and repairs.

The best shops give advice on choosing the bike that’s the right fit, help promptly without condescension, and have a variety of bikes and accessories, Washington Consumers’ Checkbook reports.

Bike prices are set by manufacturers, so it’s rare to find price differences of even $25 among various shops. But you will find large fluctuations in the cost for repairs.

Undercover Checkbook shoppers were quoted big price differences for the same work:

  • $145 to $385 for a complete overhaul/tuneup on a 2012 Trek Ion cyclocross bike.
  • $50 to $145 for a basic/general tuneup on a 2009 Bianchi Veloce Mix Compact road bike.
  • $98 to $213 to replace the derailleurs on a 2011 Scott CR1 Elite road bike.
  • $131 to $245 to rebuild the cassette/chain on a 2013 Motobecane Le Champion Ti Inferno road bike.

When purchasing a new bike, Checkbook says, getting the right fit is so important that you shouldn’t buy one online. A bike shop’s salespeople will help customers with:

  • Bike frame size to match a rider’s body.
  • Height of the seat for best standing and leg extension to pedal positions.
  • Position and width of handlebars.
  • Adjustments to the handlebar stem for reach so a rider isn’t too stretched or too upright.

Checkbook recommends test-riding a number of bikes while communicating your likes and dislikes to sales staff, who can then recommend better-suited options.

Most bikes need adjustments after a period of initial use. Almost all retailers offer free adjustments for at least a while — time-frames can range from the life of the bicycle, to a year, six months, or less.

Shops with a good reputation for repairs are likely to do adjustments carefully, Checkbook says.

The Checkbook Ratings Tables report how area outlets were rated by Checkbook and Consumer Reports subscribers on advice on choice and use of products, promptness of service, staff attitudes/atmosphere, ease of looking at/testing products, reliability and overall quality.

Washington Consumers’ Checkbook is providing WTOP.com readers with a look at its full bike-shop ratings for a limited time.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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