How Could the Bike Buying Experience Be Better?

The bike industry is weird. My experience purchasing a bike has been mediocre, on one occasion for myself and the other for my spouse (she was sold a men’s hybrid w/a men’s saddle). Both of us left the shop with bikes, but never felt like we were put in the respective bikes for the right reasons. The impetus to close the sale felt more important than ensuring we had made the right decision. I’ve been pondering how the bike-buying experience could be elevated and what expectations us consumers should have when it comes time to make that next (or first) purchase.

Should buying a bike be more than just being sold the right size based on your height and a quick 5-minute test ride in the parking lot? I think so. I’m curious what you think with some thought-starters bellow.

  1. What is the risk associated with committing to the purchase of a bike?
  2. Would you pay non-refundable fee of $100-150 for a trial/rental period prior to purchasing a bike?
  3. What optimizations could be made to make the purchasing experience better?
  4. Would you purchase a bike from a direct-to-consumer brand like Canyon, Boardman, Ribble? If not, what’s preventing you?


Probably won’t be the most popular answer here but I can only go with my own experience.

I bought a brand new bike from a shop once in my life. All other times (I lost count… 9 or 10 bikes to date?) have been buy parts and build.

The time I bought from the shop has been the worst experience of my life. I buy parts, build it up, save THOUSANDS of dollars. I fit my own bikes too.

Every skill is teachable / learn-able.
I will answer your questions with my personal experience.

  1. They’ll put a $50 cassette on a $8000 bike where it should come with top of the line $250 cassette. They’ll send you home with a di2 charger on an etap bike (should’ve checked the bag but I underestimated incompetence)
  2. I didn’t have to because I researched but if you wanna get a feel for the bike and it’s a highend bike, I absolutely do recommend that you do test it. Better yet, meet people on group rides. I swapped bikes many times to try out a bike I was interested in.
  3. Do your own research and don’t rely on everything the salesperson is telling you. KNOW what parts the bike should come with so that you can identify crap like #1 on this list.
  4. Canyon would be pretty much the only brand new bike I’d get at this point if I was to buy a new bike and not a part list - build up. Will be mostly built at the factory and an awesome deal / much cheaper than other brands.

The bike industry has always been a crappy industry - low margins especially at the retail level. Specialized, for example, makes a million different bikes for every possible intended purpose but you couldn’t sample even half of them at even the largest Specialized dealership.

Couple the margin problems with low wage, under-trained employees and this is what you get. Most shops want to close the sale on something that they have in stock as there is an urgency to rotate the stock so they can meet the buying quotas imposed on them by Specialized, Trek, etc. so that they can maintain their dealership status and discount levels.

I feel for shop owners. It’s a tough grind.

It’s probably hard with inexperienced cyclists. They don’t know exactly what they want so they end up relying on the inexperienced staff and the availability of what is in stock. There are also lots of judgement calls in bike purchases. If a rider is between a 56 and a 58 and the shop only has a 58 in stock then the rider is going to be pushed towards a 58 rather than the optimal sizes.

I think the other issue is that people are cheap. They always want a discount. Or, they don’t put a high enough value on custom service to want to pay for it. I bet a lot of $1000 bike buyers don’t realize they need $150 in shoes, $200 in clothing, $100 in accessories, and a few other things to make cycling a good experience. And after all that, how many of those customers will spend $300 on a custom fitting?

1 Like
  • That will vary with each shop. But hopefully they will allow a return or exchange within a short period if you decide the bike is not right for you.
  • Some shops have demo bikes (may be free or charged) or regular rental bikes to offer. If you are getting the bike with the aim of evaluating it for a potential purchase, some shops will apply that fee towards the bike purchase, if you get one.
  • A proper sales / buying experience should include LOTS of questions from the salesperson, to the buyer. Goals to learn as much as possible about the buyer, their prior history (if any), their goals for the new bike & or personal goals, and any other research they may have already done.
  • Suggestions for potential bikes should follow from the answers to the questions above. Narrow down to a couple of bikes with discussion about the pros/cons of each offering.
  • Then onto test rides with follow up questions on the experience. See if they address the goals of the rider or bring up new questions. Refocus as needed.
  • I am a low pressure salesperson and will not push hard. That is their money and I want them to love the purchase as well as the experience.
  • That said, there will be a wide range of experiences that are dependent on each shop and individual.
1 Like

Shops around here let you test ride. I did multiple test rides on 5 different bikes at two shops. Went to fitter after buying bike, and only minor adjustments were required. Great shops and great experience.


The price of the bike, minus what you can get for it on the second-hand market, which depends on many things, including how long it takes before you decide it’s not the right bike.

Many shops offer test rides on test bikes. Some offer free exchange/credit programs within a certain amount of time.

Better training, to allow sales people to narrow down your needs, narrow down the right size, the right equipment swap, and include a basic fitting in the transaction.

I’m a used-bike buyer, which is a lot more demanding (you need to figure out the right frame size of 30 different models over 10 different years, for example), so yes, absolutely.

1 Like

I say that to myself as well. I “SAVE” money, so I “DESERVE” the upgrade to Di2. I mean I fit it all myself right?? Oh, and that nice bar tape, yeah I save money… uh huh!

Oh disc brakes? I can learn how to do all the hydro work easy, might as well buy that P5x frame on deep discount and build it up! You wouldnt believe how much money I saved doing my own wrenching!!!

And I would love to say I am kidding, but seriously I think I spend way more doing all the work myself because I can go ham and buy whatever I want knowing I can slap it on and ride away. I am sure if I was at the mercy of the bike shop, laziness and the shop fee would actually prevent me from spending so much. But eh, I would be sitting on some entry level bike instead of my supped-up turbo charged carbon love machine. I saved money right… right???

TBH coke would have been cheaper


This thread is not about justifying the most expensive bikes. But my justification is:

I’m the type of person who has 7 same tshirts, 1 of each utencil, 1 bowl, 1 plate etc etc. I go hiking for fun and cook at home. I get top end of bike gear, have one bike at a time (if I have 2, second one is usually up for sale or parted out to be sold in parts) .

So all that considered, whether or not I buy a brand new bike off of a shop or build it up myself, it’ll be the top of the line one. My latest bike would’ve cost me around 4k more if I didn’t build it myself.

4k that sits happily in my savings account.

I can’t comment on people’s spending problems :slight_smile: mileage may vary.

Hey dawg I am totally with you and I do all my own wrenching and I save a shit ton on builds. And I see the mech work as both a skill and a hobby, where I am not dependent on others and I can do whatever I want minus a few things myself. I am very picky and particular, and TBH I would just drive a mechanic crazy.

But seriously, I would not be into this sport or the gear nearly as much as I am now if I didn’t do my own wrenching. I have spent a shit ton on this stuff in total and again, honest to god, I would not be lugging around a 20k MSRP bike had I not been doing my own wrenching; I would likely be on some entry level TT/tri bike and leave it at that.

Anyways I feel like an addict whenever this conversation comes up. I love wrenching and I love my bike and I love the time I spend looking and obsessing over this stuff and I think its money well spent, but I cant deny that doing all the work myself has not saved me money in the slightest…

I always want to build up my own bike but hear everywhere (and struggle to prove it wrong) that its always cheaper to buy a bike from a dealer than to build it your own. Do you have any tips or tricks? are you buying all slightly used stuff? or only certain things used?

EDIT: This is a little off topic. Sorry.

1 Like

From my point of view as fairly experienced with a clear idea of what I want from a bike, I’d like the ability to swap out saddles, crank length, bar width and shape, and tyres, its a pricey exercise to replace those things on a brand new bike!

Yup. Out of that list Canyon would be most likely.

I bought my propel sight unseen and having never sat on one. If you know what you want and understand what bike basically fits you… it’s not that hard.

I’ve been into the local giant dealer with my brother when he picked up a TCR. It was all “fine” and the staff members are long serving so not inexperienced… but perhaps their views are biased towards other interests. Around a year later he went back to the shop and I asked him to check if there was a trinity in stock before I went up to see one… he was told there was only the Liv equivilant but it was the same frame (it’s close… but mm matter).

This used to be in the past I think. I don’t know when but I started realizing companies like Cervelo (mind you, I fucking love Cervelo) started charging crazy price for their top end stuff. Worse is when they have cheaper parts on the bike. Fizik Antares with a non carbon rail on a $9000+ taxes bike? Yeah right.

I realized if you wait just one year, most Cervelo dealers (mainly I was looking at RACycles, Excelsports other big online retailers etc) drop their prices like crazy. 2018 model black / fluoro Cervelo R5 for example would be 1000+ less than 2019 identical but black on black R5. Even when they have most of the sizes available in stock. Same for BMC and Specialized. They cut their own prices down so much to move old inventory.

If you’re not sure what to look for, I’d buy the frame new old stock as mentioned above and to be on the safe side.

Parts like Wheels, Handlebars etc could be found used in pristine shape on ebay or craigslist. I have returned wheels successfully that I found to be not in tip top shape that they were advertised. Ebay protects the buyer in 99.999% of cases. Don’t be a shitty person and do buyer’s regret returns but if something’s not matching the description, even if the seller says “no returns” you can absolutely return stuff. I have done successfully in 3-4 occasions over the years.

Groupsets are wayyyy safer to buy used. They either function or not. For the most part if you don’t care about a couple tiny scuffs here and there but nothing’s bent, broken or not functioning, they can be bought for much cheaper than retail. I bought my 9150 di2 mini group (Levers, Derailleurs, Cables, Junction boxes) off of ebayfor my last bike for $1000. There was a tiny scratch on RD. That’s it. Everything else was tip top shape. To this day, groupset works with 0 problems.

Stuff like Canyon (direct sales) is absolutely worth buying new IMO and from factory as they are genuinely good deals. They buy shimano fizik etc parts in bulk and reflect their discounts on the final price.

I’m same. Back in 2008 I bought my first motorcycle. First oil change came around and dealer quoted me more than what it would cost to buy stands, new oil, new oil filter and all the tools I need.

That was pretty much when I decided to take matters on my own hands.

What started as a cost saving effort became, meditation / obsession / addiction. I’m sure it’s not for everyone but some of us LOVE wrenching as much as riding.

I genuinely dream one day when I get old and have more time on my hands I can offer local riders free bike tune ups and builds. They can order stuff and I’ll put it together for them. Did it for a few friends already.

1 Like

It is and it isn’t. For example, if you want to get Di2 or Etap, buying part by part vs a complete build is typically more expensive, as the dealers can get a better deal on the package. Back when we could order from the UK it was almost break even, but I priced out this build I was going to do recently and even at more than 70% MSRP on the frame and 40% off the wheels and ebay parts, it was cheaper to get a complete build at discount (50% off total) vs the build, plus I would have to get more tools and extras that add up. So yes, its basically always cheaper to get a complete build unless you either find deals, have existing parts or you want something specific.

You can buy everything used and save a bunch. But even then, it is sometimes cheaper going new from a dealer depending on sales.

My advice? Be ready to spend a ton of money and then just keep tabs on deals. Although at the end of the day I can basically guarantee you will spend more because your always looking at high end bikes and parts lol.

Not really, speak to the dealer/shop and typically they can either cut you a deal or swap for free. Example, compact vs semi compact vs full size or crank length, typically dealers can swap for you. Same with all the small parts. Alternatively you can hunt ebay or whatever and get it like 50% off

Im telling you man, coke woulda been cheaper

Probably :slight_smile:

When I have a kid I am going to get them into cycling so they cant afford drugs or girls/boys

1 Like

Here in New Zealand its such a small market, you basically are stuck with how the bike is specced, you might get a discount on some accessories but generally you don’t get to change stuff :frowning: