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Thread: local bike shops -- how to choose

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    Default local bike shops -- how to choose

    I am new to the bike trails here in Arlington, and would like to upgrade from my old and cheap Schwinn bike, but I am not sure where to start. Google search reveals several shops in the area:

    Performance Bicycle
    Freshbikes Cycling
    Big Wheel Bikes
    Revolution Cycles

    I am looking for a basic lightweight hybrid or road bike for under $500.

    I have been to Performance Bicycle at Bailey's Crossroads and was somewhat overwhelmed by the choices there. The prices seemed very reasonable. I haven't been to other stores, but I feel that I may not be able do "apples to apples" comparison with all these bicycle options.

    Can someone recommend a local store for their service and prices? I will likely need ongoing help with the bike maintenance, as I am new to this, so I would like to get the bike from an established shop that would help with alignment, tuning, etc.

    Oh, and would you recommend getting a bike online and then getting it to a shop for professional assembly, or should I just get it directly from the local shop?

  2. #2
    KLizotte's Avatar
    KLizotte is offline I really need to log off the internet and go for a ride.
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    Freshbikes won't have anything you are looking for since it aims at the high end market. Spokes is a local chain that has a good selection of hybrids as does REI.

    Under $500 is gonna be tough. Your best bet is to check the websites of the major manufacturers to see what they offer in your price range, look to see where their dealers are, then call the shops to see if they have what you interested in on the floor to try. Buying online is not a good idea unless you have a lot of experience with buying bikes.

    You may also wish to check Phoenix Bikes near Shirlington to see if they have a used bike that may fit your needs.

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    Other options close by (there are so many to chose from):

    REI at Bailey's Crossroads
    Bikenetic on W Broad St in Falls Church (just off the W&OD at West St)
    Papillon Cycles on Columbia Pike at Walter Reed
    Spokes Etc on Quaker Lane in Alexandria (just north of Rte 7)
    Wheel Nuts on Montgomery in Alexandria between Fairfax and Royal
    Bike Pro Shop on Duke St in Alexandria and on M St in Georgetown at the Key Bridge
    Hudson Trail Offitters in Pentagon Row
    Phoenix Bikes on Four Mile Run (used bikes)
    Velocity Coop on Mt Vernon in Del Ray (used bikes)
    Bike Club on Washington St (Lee Highway) in Falls Church

    And there are more a little further away that I'm not really familiar with.

    I have visited all of these shops (and the ones you mentioned above) at some point over the past six years and bought bikes from Papillon and Spokes and have been happy with both. I have had mechanical work from both of those, Bikenetics, Big Wheel (Lyon Village), and Fresh Bikes (when it was Contes), and again have been happy with the service I got from each. Bikenetics is the one closest to my house and I have been taking my bikes there for work since they opened this year.

    There is also a mechanic service in Falls Church called the Nova Bicycle Doctor that I haven't tried.

    On whether to order a bike online and then have a shop assemble it, I probably wouldn't recommend that the first time around, especially if you need guidance on bike fit. I think we're just about to hit the start of summer sales of the 2012 models as the 2013 ones start coming out. I know Performance has been running a series of sales for the past several weeks and have some good values in your price range. But part of the fun is trying different things and getting some good test rides in before you buy. I'm sure you'll find one that speaks to you.

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    Thank you for the suggestions! Yep, I know $500 is not much for a nice bike, but it will be a major upgrade for me. It's like going from Inspiron to XPS; eventually, I may get Alienware.

    I am very hesitant to get used bike, so I will try to stick to an entry-level new one. The Diamondback Insight Fitness Bike (Performance Exclusive) looks very attractive at $350 (on sale), but I plan to check some of the other stores above for alternatives. Other bikes I have considered are: 2011 GT Traffic 2.0 Commuter Bike for $450 and even the 2011 Fuji Absolute 2.0 (Performance Exclusive) for $600. I just can't tell if the extra $ is justified and you get better experience. I will try to visit several of these stores and look for advice. The bike trails here in Arlington are so nice, and I really would like to get a decent bike to explore them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by xmlwave View Post
    I just can't tell if the extra $ is justified and you get better experience.
    In that price range, most of the differences will be in the components. Higher priced components are (usually) lighter, better performing and more durable. Once you get to a certain level further cost increases just make things lighter, but in the sub-500 price range you aren't there yet.

    Definitely test ride, too. Lots of bikes fit differently; a good shop will spend some time making sure a bike fits properly (beyond just having you stand over it and declaring it good).

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    dasgeh's Avatar
    dasgeh is offline Queen of Family Biking & All Things Kidical
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    Welcome to biking in Arlington. It's awesome.

    I've bought from Performance and from Cyclelife, and had friends/family buy from many of the others listed. Performance is a discount shop, is not going to have the great LBS culture and service. But they're service is decent and I believe their bikes come with maintenance for longer than a year, which is nice, especially if you're located near enough to go back there when you have problems. They're prices are probably the lowest of the area.

    Revolution is a larger chain, and I find their service and "culture" to reflect that.

    The others you've listed are great local bike shops, and have excellent service and "culture".

    So a basic question is how much do you care about "culture"? And whether you care whether you're going to wait a few days when you need service.

    Of course, as we've said in so many threads in this forum, bike fit is a of paramount importance. Personally, I don't care about an LBS's culture, and as long as the service is acceptable, I'm fine. So I'd go for the bike that fits you best. You'll have it for a long time, and resale values around here are high enough that an extra $50-$100 is not going to matter over the life of the bike.

    Also, I'd think really hard before buying a hybrid. Why are your comprising between on-road and off-? I used to be a hybrid rider, but I don't go off road. I realized that I'm just sacrificing some of the best qualities of bikes made for roads, and not getting anything on the other side. If you want speed, look at road bikes. If you want durability, look at cross or touring bikes. If you want up-right geometry, look at touring bikes or "dutch bikes".

    In the mean time, you can take a CaBi out to enjoy the trails -- I think you can still snag a free day membership just to try it out, and I find it's totally worth the annual price to get around town without worrying about locking up my own bike. You can easily grab one in Ballston and ride the Custis to Rosslyn, for example.

    Good luck!

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    Quote Originally Posted by KLizotte View Post
    Freshbikes won't have anything you are looking for since it aims at the high end market. Spokes is a local chain that has a good selection of hybrids as does REI.

    Under $500 is gonna be tough. Your best bet is to check the websites of the major manufacturers to see what they offer in your price range, look to see where their dealers are, then call the shops to see if they have what you interested in on the floor to try. Buying online is not a good idea unless you have a lot of experience with buying bikes.

    You may also wish to check Phoenix Bikes near Shirlington to see if they have a used bike that may fit your needs.
    *Freshbikes does carry a few of the low end Cannondale commuter/hybrid bikes. Their selection can be limited because they are more focused on higher end stuff.

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    One thing I like to remind people is to consider a bike shop's location when choosing a bike. You'll most likely be going back there for accessories, repairs, tune-ups etc. It's convenient to have a shop nearby that you can walk or take transit to if you need to drop your bike off. You don't want to have to drive 45 minutes through traffic just to drop off your bike for a simple adjustment.

    The shop I go to is between my house and work so I frequently stop in and have built up an excellent rapport with the sales and service staff!

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    Quote Originally Posted by dasgeh View Post
    Performance is a discount shop, is not going to have the great LBS culture and service. But they're service is decent and I believe their bikes come with maintenance for longer than a year, which is nice, especially if you're located near enough to go back there when you have problems. They're prices are probably the lowest of the area.
    I've bought from most of the shops in my area, and honestly I have no issues with Performance, though I know a lot of diehard LBS folks look down on them. I've bought a few bikes and lots of small parts over the years from them and always felt I was treated well. And they are the best place in town for clothes shopping (best prices, good selection).

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    Consider Phoenix Bikes in Four Mile Run and Velocity Bikes in Alexandria Del Ray. Both sell used bikes. Both are community organizations. If you have $500 in your pocket, you might be able to buy a better bike that is used.

    I generally shop at REI. I have heard this refrain from several people - the REI folk are excellent about talking to you. If you go in with a question, you will get a 20 minute answer. They have a good inventory.

    I own a Cannondale Badboy that is a hybrid. I love it. First I love it because it is huge. Second, I love it because it is a city bike that can take a beating. Road bikes are for speed - and if you are confident of your surface - cool. I want a flat handlebar with powerful brakes and everything right on my hands. I want slightly larger tires than road bike tires (but not mountain bike tires). Sometimes these are called urban bikes. Less of a "hybrid" (you can put road or mountain bike tires on it) and more of a bike built for demanding city driving.

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