Money Saving Mondays: Buying a Bicycle

(NECN: Peter Howe, Boston) - David Watson runs the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition and - as you would expect - commutes 15 miles a day to and from work on his bike. And he loves seeing how many more peole are getting interested in enjoying Greater Boston's growing network of bike routes and bike culture.

But even he can acknowledge: "It can be very intimidating walking into a bike shop, because there are tons of bikes and accessories.''

For people looking at getting into biking, or returning to it as adults after a long break from their bike-riding childhood days, Watson said the most important first question to ask to make sure you get the best deal and best value on a bike is to make sure you're getting the right kind of bicycle.

"Are you going to be an urban commuter? Are you going to do long rides on the weekends out in the country? Do you want to ride on bike paths? Do you want to ride mountain bikes on dirt trails? That's the first decision you have to make,'' Watson said.

Galen Mook of Landry's Bicycles Natick store agrees that when it comes to spending money well on a new bicycle, first be clear on why you want to ride.

"A lot of people will buy a cheaper bike, but it will be the wrong type of bike, and what I mean is, they'll be wanting to do errands or do the three-mile commute along the Charles River, and they're going to buy a big old mountain bike, which is super heavy, and they're not going to enjoy themselves,'' Mook said. "Even though it's a cheaper bike, they're not going to use it. It's just going to sit in the garage, and it's essentially kind of a waste of money.''

For most people, especially those beginning or getting back to biking mook recommends a hybrid -- a combination of touring, mountain, and road bike. "They're a little bit cheaper, and they're made for more of the entry-level commuter or the folks who want to do that 10-mile ride on the Cape. Hybrid bikes are totally perfect for that,'' Mook said.

At the front of the store at Landry's are three hybrid bikes that cost about $380, $500, and $800. "What you are going to get with the different price points is better components, and by that I mean, the brakes themselves, the wheels themselves, the type of shifter,'' Mook said. "As you get up to the higher price point, there's more technology. It's better constructed, and it will last longer," and typically, require less maintenance - like better-constructed wheels that won't need to be "trued" so often as you ride through potholes and over bumps. More money often buys you less weight - a titanium or carbon fiber or alumninum frame instead of steel.

What are the best-value add-ons? "A $35 floor pump will save you from getting flat tires, so one investment in a floor pump will save you from having to come back to the bike shop and get a flat fixed,'' Mook said.

Watson said he'd put a top priority, for urban bikers and those who park their bikes outside, a high-quality lock. And for those who do ride after sunset, "One thing that I think many people don't spend enough money on is their lights,'' Watson said. "The real reason to have them is to make yourself more visible to people on the road.''

But mostly, though, don't feel like you have to spend a lot or buy everything or even a lot of things to start.

"Start with a bike and a helmet,'' Mook said, "and then grow into it from there.''

With video editor Lauren Kleciak and videographer John E. Stuart

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