In one afternoon with Michael McGettigan, owner of Trophy Bikes, the twelve-year-old bike mecca, we learned more about bicycles than others will learn from a lifetime of riding. Our focus: How to pick out the right communter bike for your needs. Many questions arise when one first sets out to buy the perfect bike, but McGettigan explains you only need ask yourself five things to begin: How Fast? How far? Will you be carrying anything? Will you be riding by yourself or with others? Are you a fair- weather or all-weather rider? With this, we were hooked and lapping up every bit of information he threw at us, so pay attention because there's likely a lot you didn't already know about buying bikes.
1. Be prepared to shell out some major cash.
A good bike is an investment, one that you've probably thought about for quite a while. For most people, it is their sole transportation, and therefore, it's to be taken as seriously as one might make a car purchase. The average bicycle McGettigan showed us from the shop cost $500, and is built to last. Anything under that, something you might buy in a Walmart or Target, for example, is something those in the bike biz liek to refer to as BSO's or 'Bike-Shaped Objects." McGettigan explains it's not worth it to get these bikes, because they are toys that will break.
2. Never be satisfied with a bike right off the shelf.
A bike bought right off the line at the shop is rarely ever a perfect fit for a customer. McGettigan tells us to never stop adjusting the bike until it's absolutely perfect. Maybe you'd like a wider seat, lower handlebars for speed, a quick-release wheel, a back fender: Custumazation is key.
3. Consider everything in your lifestyle, even your friends.
You need to know where you'll be riding the bike. If it's mostly around town, you probably need a straight commuter or luxury commuter; on the out-skirts, a mountain-hybrid handles hills and jumps beautifully. For extra-long rides: a lightweight racer hybrid will suit you; and for the multi-trans communter, a folding bike might work best (though McGettigan warns only one brand of folding bike actually holds up, Brompton). Want less parts to deal with and a great workout? A fixed-gear may be right for you. But, forget about adding those wheels with the plastic innards, McGettigan tells us they are just for fashionistas and really do nothing on the city streets.
4. Plan out your route, with some help.
if you're planning on riding to work, do a dry run the night before or during the weekend to find the most bike-friendly paths. If you'd like to reach a destination by bike and make a day of it, google can be a great tool for mapping bike pathways. Another great resource to use before planning a bike trip is the Philadelphia Bicycle Colalition. Tell them where you're starting from and where you'd like to go and they will figure out the best way for you to get there. McGettigan's favorite bike route is the Schuylkill river trail, "it's 52 miles all the way around, like the I-95 for bikes."
5. Get a lock and a lid.
Now that you've made the investmant and planned your routes, protect yourself and your bike with a "lock and a lid." Helmets don't have to be totally dorky looking, Bern makes some commuter helmets that look as cool as a hat and Bell makes some great vented varieties for the long-distance commuter. McGettigan also advises to buy two locks, a U-lock and a cable lock, to cover both the wheels.
6. Ten-Minute cool downs and baby wipes are your best friend.
Once you're officially a bike commuter, you'll undoubetedly face the problem of arriving to your destination a sweaty mess. McGettigan has a solution for that too: "Ten minutes away from your destination, begin to take it down a notch – pedaling slower, breathing slower, trailing behind cars," he says. Also, "baby wipes help."