SChic rims, shiny paintwork, over 20 gears and a lavish range of equipment: At first glance, many cheap bikes from garden or surplus markets and online shops look high-quality. Not infrequently, however, they turn out to be failures. Or the quick purchase becomes a bad investment because the bike simply doesn’t fit due to a lack of advice.

“Especially in hardware stores and supermarkets, you rarely meet specialist staff, so there is no good advice when buying a bike,” says Sebastian Böhm from the specialist magazine “Aktiv Fahrrad”. But that is very important. “Especially if the customer has only little idea about bicycles.”

In addition, one has to reckon with the fact that the bicycles from the hardware store or from some online shops are not roadworthy. Then the final assembly is missing. This includes, among other things, the correct seat and handlebar position or the adjustment of the brakes and gear shift.

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What do I need the bike for?

“The level of quality for bikes from specialist dealers is really very high overall, so you can practically no longer buy nonsense,” says David Koßmann from the bicycle press service (pd-f).

However, a comprehensive consultation should always precede the purchase. “A good dealer first asks what is important to the customer and also in which price segment the new bike should be,” says Böhm.

A good city bike, for example, is available from around 700 euros. But it is also possible to spend several thousand euros on this type of bike.

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It is also helpful to consider in advance how the new bike will be used. “Anyone who uses their bike a lot to go shopping, for example, may need a different luggage rack,” says Koßmann.

“If the focus is on longer routes, a sportier handlebar can make sense.” This information would help the seller to narrow down the selection.

Lots of gears – good bike?

The number of gears in a derailleur, for example, is not a quality criterion either – quite the opposite. “If you are looking for a bike for the city, a specialist dealer will advise you against a gear system with many gears. Eight gears are completely sufficient here,” says Böhm. A hub gear is also always preferable on a city bike because it is maintenance-free.

“Anyone who has not cycled much before does not know the differences between the different types of bikes, so test riding should be the be-all and end-all when buying a bike,” advises Koßmann. Well-stocked bike shops always have a few test bikes on offer.

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Just like when buying a car, cyclists should take the opportunity to test a new bike in various everyday situations. “This is the only way to assess different tyres, brakes and gear shifts,” says Koßmann.

If there are several specialist shops to choose from, customers should find out in advance what the respective shop may specialize in. “A specialist shop for racing bikes is certainly not the first choice if you want to buy an everyday bike,” says René Filippek from the General German Bicycle Club (ADFC).

Buy online – wait offline?

It is also important to take the time to give advice. Many specialist shops would even offer appointments for an initial consultation in advance. Buying online can be problematic.

“Certainly there are now very good size finders on the Internet and consultation appointments can also be booked online, but none of that replaces real contact with the bike,” says Böhm.

The question of subsequent service also remains open. “A bike should be serviced at least once a year. Anyone who buys their bike online or at a hardware store lacks this dealer contact.”

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City bike, mountain bike, cargo bike?

If you still don’t want to do without online purchases, you should check whether the internet business has cooperation partners in stationary retail.

“There are direct mailers who work together with established dealers for the service. Otherwise, it can also happen that the specialist shop refuses to accept the bike bought online,” says Filippek.

Who Can Bargain Online?

Another disadvantage of buying online is the lack of a test drive. “The bike is only bought based on size and appearance. If it doesn’t fit, sending it back is often very cumbersome,” says Koßmann. He can therefore only recommend buying a bike on the Internet to professionals who might be able to find a bargain there when looking for a very special bike.

Speaking of bargains: There is no particularly good time of year to buy. “For almost a year and a half we have had the situation that on the one hand demand is very high, but there are still interrupted supply chains due to the pandemic,” says Koßmann.

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The waiting times are sometimes long. According to Böhm, lower prices can only be expected for last year’s models: “If you find the right bike, you should buy it.”

The dealers would sometimes accommodate their customers with service packages or accessories. It’s always worth asking: A bicycle helmet or bicycle lock, for example, corresponds to a discount of a few percentage points.

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