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Buying a Bike from Proteus
The most important characteristic of your new bike is that you love riding it! And the most important thing about loving your bike is how well it suits your riding needs and how comfortably it fits your body.
Ideally, we recommend you plan at least 1-2 hours to shop for a bike. First, we’d like to discuss the kind of riding you want to do. You may want a very versatile bike or you may be looking to fill a specific need (“I want to train for a longer charity ride,” or “I want to commute from Bethesda to DC”).
Then we’ll set up several different types of bikes that would fit your needs and let you test them out to your heart’s content. We’d prefer that you test bikes with different frame and wheel styles – for example, a steel frame vs. an aluminum frame, or wider tires vs. narrower tires – to feel the differences in ride and handling.
What to Bring
In general, you’ll need comfortable clothes and shoes for testing bikes. For most people, you’ll want to wear clothes that mimic how you’ll be riding, which means comfy clothes and tennis shoes. Of course, if you plan on riding to work in a suit or in a dress and heels, that’s fine too – we have bikes for that!
If you have bike shoes and clipless pedals, please bring them! If it’s cold, bring your riding gloves and jacket. (Tip: jeans are nice and cozy in a heated car, but they’re very cold for testing bikes in winter. Better to wear sweats, a track suit, or bike gear when it’s cold or damp.) Everyone is required to wear a helmet for test rides. Though we have loaner helmets, we encourage you to bring your own.
Bike testing and fitting take time, so there is often at least some waiting. We have barstools and a couch area for lounging. When the weather’s nice, there are chairs out back on the “patio.” When it’s cold, you’re welcome to relax by the wood stove while we set up bikes for you to test ride.
Questions the Shop Staff Will Ask
What type of riding would you like to do?
Commuting a short distance and quick trips to the store in the city? Commute every day in all weather? Thinking about longer-distance commuting or touring? Do you want to ride off road most of the time? Interested in road racing or “century” (100 mile or kilometer) weekend rides? Are you looking for a particular type of versatility in your bike, such as “fast enough for commuting 20 miles a day, but also capable of handling rough roads or dirt tracks.” (Hint, that last requirement will prompt us to show you cyclocross bikes!)
Do you ride a bike now?
A lot of the time riders will be able to best explain what they’re looking for in relation to the riding they do now. For example, it’s very common for DC commuters who have been riding Capital Bikeshare (CaBi) bikes to want to get a bike of their own. They may want a durable, but not too expensive city bike, such as a Jamis Commuter or Coda, or a Kona Dew.
Other customers will say “I have an old hybrid bike, but it doesn’t work very well. I’d like to get a fast bike with better gears so that I can take longer rides on weekends, and maybe train for some long-distance charity rides, but I want it to be comfortable.” This might be ideal candidates for a Bianchi lightweight steel road bike, or a Jamis aluminum road bike with carbon seat stays and fork (the aluminum is light, and the carbon helps reduce vibration on long rides).
Do you have any special issues or injuries that would limit your bike selection?
It’s really important to let our staff know if you have special issues that could affect what type of bike would be best for you. For example, I spoke with a woman who didn’t really know what type of bike she needed for commuting, but she had one very important consideration: She lived in a third floor walk-up apartment, and would have to be able to carry her bike up two flights of stairs. (She didn’t have a safe place to lock up on the ground floor.) That’s a really important thing! There would be no point looking at heavy mountain bikes in that example. She probably needed a pretty lightweight bike! For her gear, a backpack might be a better choice than a rack for panniers (saddlebags), since bikes with loaded panniers are awkward to carry.
Some riders may be taking up biking because of running or sports injuries. Others are looking to improve their fitness or lose weight. Some new riders may not have much experience and want lots of teaching and coaching as they get started. Many want to save money on commuting costs or may be on a very limited budget. Discussing these sorts of things with us can often help us recommend the best bike for you and help you get started enjoying it!
After you’ve spent a few minutes discussing the riding you’d like to do, we’ll show you some bikes that might fit the bill. We don’t necessarily start with expensive bikes. In fact, our goal is to get more people riding, so it makes sense, especially with newer riders, to start with the basics.
We’ll start with a quick standover test to see if the bike looks like the right size and if the saddle height and your leg extension look reasonable. These eyeball fit inspections are no substitute for getting the bike on the trainer, but they’ll suffice for testing. Then we take the bike back to the shop area and set it up. We’ll double check the brakes and gears and get it ready for your test ride.
We’ll give you a quick briefing on how to use the gears, grab you a helmet, and off you’ll go! The neighborhood streets behind the shop are excellent for testing bikes. There are flat sections and hills. If you want to go fast, you can try that on Rhode Island Avenue (bike lane).
Fitting Your Bike
If you decide you want a bike, the next step is to put it on the trainer and ensure it’s the right size. Sometime the eyeball fit inspection isn’t exactly right. It’s not uncommon to have to go up or down a size once we take a more careful look at your pedal stroke and hand and seat position on the trainer.
A bike that’s too big can be awkward or uncomfortable to handle. A bike that’s too small may not allow enough leg extension, especially for tall riders. Since bike shops tend to stock a lot of medium-sized bikes, it’s not uncommon to see smaller riders on bikes that are too big, and taller riders on bikes that are too small.
In some cases, we might not have your perfect size in stock. In that case, we can usually do a fit test on a comparable bike by the same manufacturer or with the same frame geometry. It’s always best to get a bike that’s the right size, even if it means taking the time to special order.
Every bike gets individually fit to the rider on a trainer, regardless of the price or style. We’ll look at your leg position, and the comfort points (your hands and seat). You can swap out saddles based on what fits your bottom best. If you have riding shoes, we’ll set up the cleat position for you.
If you are buying anything that needs to be installed (like rack or fenders), we’ll install those for free when we’re doing the safety/sales check on your new bike. Important accessories include things like a helmet, saddle or stem bag, tire levers, extra tube, frame pump (for fixing the inevitable flat), lock, and cycling clothing. Commuters often ask for a rack, fenders, and bags (panniers) that fit on the rack. If you’re planning to travel with your bike, you may want to consider a rack to carry your bike on your car. For more information, the National Bicycle Dealers Association has a nice article on bicycle accessories.
After the sale, every bike gets a complementary warranty tune-up within the first 3 months. This is because it can take a few rides to “break in” the bike. Cables may stretch and need adjustment; brakes need to be double checked. Please let the mechanic know if you have any questions about your bike when you bring it in for warranty tune.