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Spring at Notre Dame 2015Shall I become a biker gal instead of a runner?  Not sure if I mentioned this to all of you before leaving Virginia, Genki Husband made me donate my bike since it was from my childhood.  It was bright pink and purple, who wouldn’t want it right?  Well, it was a bit too small and it did have some drawbacks so I can see why he wanted me to get a new one but….  oh the memories I made with it.  Seeing my last bike was over 20 years old and from KMart, I had no idea just how far behind I was when it came to bikes.  Hopefully my experience will assist you:

Biking in South Bend, Indiana Indiana roads are completely flat compared to the mountains and hills that we became accustomed to while living in Virginia. It was rather hard biking in Virginia where we lived because our private gated lake community was completely surrounded by busy high-speed highways. Inside the community there were many steep hills which were hard to pedal up and down on my ‘matured’ bike. So it was a thrill to move someplace flat to enjoy this old hobby.

tips to buying a bike. So apparently those days when one could just go into a bike store and ask for the pink bike are all gone. We drove all around Northern Indiana and Southern Michigan looking at different bikes to find the perfect one. We found bikes in the national chains no longer contained adult bikes that would hold up for 5 years or more. The bikes in our area go for around $200-300 at these chain stores. The quality is very low compared to my Kmart Bike from 20 years ago. Actually I went on a search to find a Hello Kitty bike but we only found this one. Genki Husband said, “no”.

Buying a bike Do not worry, I did manage to purchase a bike I really love. It may not be something I had imagined before my research but now I have rode on it quite a few times now, I am thrilled with my purchase. Genki Husband and I both bought Trek Bikes from an official Trek bike store.

So let me make a list of the things I learned buying a bike in 2015:

1.  Buy a bike from an official bike store and not a department or national chain store.  There is a large difference between the quality when you really start looking at the chains, materials, gears and so on.  If you can manage a few extra hundred dollars, you will be investing in a bike that will last many more years.

2.  There are many different types of bike brands out there but if you are trying to be a serious biker, there are a few types that are better than others in the market.  This is not saying a name-brand will be better but the quality of materials are a bit higher with a few companies as these are used more professionally or by enthusiasts.  These brands are: Trek, Cannondale, Specialized, and Giant.  (These are the ones we found in our area to be the best – I’m sure there are more.)

3. Bikes are no longer just professional or for occasional riders.  There are many different types of bike styles.  For instance, there are bikes just for mountain biking, just for street riding, hybrids that can be used on gentle trails while also on streets and then there are also winter bikes and professional speed bikes.  We purchase hybrid bikes since we do occasionally ride on trails while we also like to ride on paved roads.  Know what type of riding you will generally be doing before going since this will be one of the first questions asked.

4.  Colors for me are very important but unfortunately it is not for bike manufacturers.  There was no one pink bike in the bunch!  Gasp!  It appears 2 different colors come out every year for a bike and that is about it.  Strangely enough, men’s bikes (apparently there is supposed to be a difference) have more colors.  Women’s bikes this week are made in white and purple…

5.  There are different sizes for wheels and bikes.  Manufacturers measure things differently so you must still double check when you are in the store but check out Bike Size Charts before going to the store.  The right frame is essential since it will give your ultimate comfort.  The wrong size will give you discomfort and/or future leg pains.  My main tip here is to pick a bicycle that you can not only lift but one that you feel comfortable with handling.  Bikes are generally made for adults that are taller than 5′ 3″ so if you are shorter, I highly suggest going with a Trek bike because they do have a small bike for women.

6.  Seat Position is another size requirement to look out for and to assure fits your body.  Bikes are not a ‘one-size fits all’ type of purchase so it is important to get one that fits your body.  The seat should be able to reach to your hip bones.  I prefer mine a bit lower because I like to be able to touch the ground with my toes at least when I stop.  The seat does need to be high enough for your legs to stretch out though, this is something to look for when searching.  If your legs are too cramped, you knees have a higher potential of being hurt in the future.

7.  Handlebars are also another size requirement.  This is something many people get wrong apparently as we have been told.  The handlebars are generally supposed to be comfortable and your arms should be stretched out but your elbows should not be fully extended.  Additionally if you are searching for a casual exercise bike, you should not be hunched over like a speed racer.  Handlebars on the bikes above can be adjusted and/or replaced with a new bar to fit your body.  Chain store bikes can not usually be altered as much.

8.  Wheels look much different than my days of childhood.  There were two different types of bikes that I knew of from years ago which were thin ten-speed bikes (which happened to pop daily it seemed) and mountain bike wheels.  Now there are hybrid wheels that can do both of these activities and also some new ones that are geared towards comfort and/or weather.  In Indiana there are these giant tires that appear to have come straight from a tractor trailer – not the thin wheels I am used to from years ago.  These are for snow.  The ones today are thin but much more tough so be aware that the wheels may look weak but are stronger than the ones years back.

9.  Bikes do not come with kickstands anymore.  This is probably one of the most odd things about buying a bike today for me.  Who would make a bike that had no ability to stand on it’s own when you stop.  Apparently this is something new, so companies came make a little extra money.  If you are a casual rider you will probably need to have this put on as an accessory.  Still today I find it odd that a person would purchase a bike that is around $500-1000 and then just toss it on the ground when not riding it.  Go ahead and pay the $10 and get one installed, it will help keep your bike nice and when you are riding around town and want to stop, you can stand it up and not toss it aside.

Kryptonite Evolution Mini Kryptonite Evolution Mini bike lock and cable. Warning though: Do not strap the cable to your bike with the Velcro, it will fall off your bike the first time using it. I learned this the hard way, I lost my cable the first ride out with it and not two minutes later I went looking for it on the route and it was already gone.

10.  Buy security protection if you intend on stopping at the store or other miscellaneous places.  There is a large market for bikes on the black market and although many bikes have serial numbers, who really looks at these numbers besides sales associates at a bike shop?  We found Kryptonite to have the best protection for our area which is a university city where bike theft is a bit higher. Plus the company has a signup plan that you can pay a yearly fee and they standby their product if your bike is stolen.  I believe the company will replace your bike if stolen.

These are just 10 different things I noticed when purchasing a new bike this year.  It’s a much different world out there than when I was young and could have picked any color and size of bike that I wanted locally from the store.  It is no longer an easy task and one can not just hop on board and take off biking.  So I urge all of you to do your research online and see what you want before going out to the battleground.  I sound a little exaggerated but I have to tell you we had some great salesmen and we had some bad ones (ironically we never met a women selling bikes- weird!).  There was even one representative we came across that told us we had to purchase a certain bike – apparently no other bike would work for us out of the entire store.  Then the man argued with me on how the size of the seat was perfect for my height even though it was well above my hips.  So it pays off to do a little research and go with a plan.  Bikes are no longer just bikes, there are different types for different types of riding.

Bikes in a Prius One nice part of our bikes is we can fit them both in our Prius! If you have a smaller car like us, you want to make sure the tires can come off easily for storage in your car. Otherwise a bike rack will be necessary. We are seeking out a rack but this works for now.

The bike I finally found was a Trek Bike.  It is a Dark Grey and Black 7.1.  There are fancier models of this same bike which are the 7.2 and 7.3 but for me the color really was a deciding factor since I did not want a white or purple bike.  Genki Husband purchased a 7.3 because the ride was smoother for him.  When you are searching for a bike, it is important to look for quality build but also go with your instincts because when you don’t like the looks of your bike, you aren’t going to ride it.  Additionally, if you do not feel comfortable with the height of the seat you will not ride it.  Find something that speaks to you and go with it.  You know your body best and if you feel good you will want to become a biker.  And remember, if the color is not 100% the one you want, go ahead and buy something simple and emblazon it with Hello Kitty, I mean, the colors you want with accessories.

Why Trek?  Just in case you are wondering…  We found that Trek does make bikes for shorter people such as myself.  I am less than 5′ and many companies do not make bikes for under 5′ 3″ – strange!  Secondly we found this to be the only bike out there for women that is not purple or white this year.  Men have an easier time with more selection but women are not given this option for some reason.  Thirdly, Trek does come with a lifetime warranty on the frame.  Some of the other bikes only came with a 6 month warranty so they do not stand by their product as much as Trek.  Finally Trek had high quality materials and the reviews online were usually very positive.   (Note: I have no associate with Trek, I just loved their bikes.)

If you are a bike rider, what was your experience?  Have you found anything else strange or unique?  Have I missed anything?