Lately I have had a few people ask me about bicycles and what they should purchase. I naturally find this insane because I’m no expert and while I ride a lot for ironman training, I’m not really a “roadie.” However, I do know a few things that can help lead a person down the path to a bike that fits their needs.
So, here’s my list of how to choose a bicycle if you are in the market.
Step 1. Ask yourself what the end goal of this bicycle purchase is. Are you wanting to do a triathlon? Do you just want to cruise the hood and stop at pubs? Is this bike going to be for commuting? Do you want to get dirty and ride through woods? Do you just want a bicycle for general fitness and because you got a running injury? (Ok, so that last one was me in 2009.) If you are looking to enter the fantastic world of triathlon, you’ll probably want a road bike or a tri-bike. Yes, there’s a difference and that’s a whole other post (email me if you have questions on that). For pub cruising, a cruiser, natch. There are commuter bikes specifically for getting around and schlepping stuff. If you are into that whole dirty woods riding thing, the mountain bike is the way to go. And if you just want to get your fitness on, hybrids are great.
Step 2. Figure out your budget. This should come as no surprise but bicycles can get damn pricey. My advice is to go lower end on your first purchase unless you are 100% sure you are going to ride a lot. I borrowed my stepmom’s beach cruiser when I first rode while injured in 2009. Then I borrowed a road bike to train for my first triathlon. I enjoyed it and knew I was hooked so I  made the step of buying a new road bike in 2010. I saved up for that bike and while it wasn’t top of the line it still cost me $1200 all in! Buying used is another option and great for both getting started and upgrading.
Step 3. Research. You can research bikes without even leaving your home. If you have a general idea of what you’re looking for the Internet is a wealth of knowledge. Bike reviews and general pricing are right at your fingertips. Plus, online shopping is great for looking at colors and models. 
Step 4. Shop around. After you’ve decided on what type of bike you want and what your budget is, shop around! Test different brands out and see how they feel. Many bike shops will offer only specific brands so if you don’t see a brand you are interested in testing, try another store.
Step 5. Ask a knowledgeable friend for help! This is pretty important. When you are close to deciding, ask a knowledgeable cyclist friend for help. Take them with you to look at what you are thinking about purchasing, especially if the bike is used. A second set of eyes and general bike maintenance experience is worth it’s weight in gold. Buy this friend a beer.
Step 6. Negotiate and look for specials. A lot of bike shops and independent sellers will negotiate with you. Ask them to throw in a fitting or ask if they are running any specials. You want to make sure the bike is right for you, but you also don’t want to blow the bank, right?

Step 7. Make your purchase and be careful with all the add-ons. Bicycles have a ton of additional parts that you’ll want to purchase. For example, water bottle cages, a bike computer, pedals, shoes, flat kit, pump, etc. You don’t have to buy all of that stuff at once, just get the necessities and then go back if you’re dying for that fancy loud bell and streamers.

Step 8. Celebrate with a ride! Don’t forget your helmet.