Stroll the floor
Check out the models you’ve researched. Eyeball those easy-to-spot components, and note if they don’t match the specs you saw online. Similar-level components from a different manufacturer shouldn’t be a concern. If you see lower-level components than those stated on the web, with no corresponding drop in price, ask why.
Choose your champion
If a salesman hasn’t approached you, seek one out. Talk about what you’re looking for, and the models you’ve researched. The reaction should be along the lines of, “I can show those to you, and I have a couple of others you should look at.”
If you feel like you’re being pushed to look at a bike that doesn’t suit you, arace bike when you don't race, or a cruiser when you plan to ride a serious commute, hold your ground or head to another shop.
But if the salesperson listens to your goals and recommends a slightly different bike style than you were considering – say, one with a more upright position versus a more stretched-out ride – just ask why. There may be a good reason for the switch.
Look up and down
Check out the bikes a step above and a step below the bike you like most. Ask your salesman about the pros and cons of the frame material, components, rider position and intended use of each bike. If the bike you’re considering still seems to be the best fit at the best price, you may have a winner.
Take a ride
A quick test spin around the block won’t be enough to completely judge the bike’s performance, but you’ll be able to find any glaring fit problems. Be sure the saddle is set so that you have a slight bend to your knee at the bottom of the pedal stroke.
Ask yourself these key questions: Does my upper body feel cramped, or too stretched out, when I’m on flat road? Does the bike feel unstable or twitchy when I turn? Is the reach to the brake levers comfortable? Is it awkward to go from sitting to standing on a hill?
Get a deal
Maybe. A good rule to follow when it comes to price negotiations: be reasonable. A bike shop is a tough business – people work there because they love bikes, not because they want to get rich.
If you’re buying a relatively inexpensive bike (less than R6 000, where profit margins are razor-thin) or an in-demand, new-model-year bike, you might be able to finagle a longer free-service contract, but don’t expect a price cut.
However, if you’re buying a more expensive bike, more than one bike, a model left over from last year, or a package including a helmet, tools, shoes, pedals, shorts and more, there’s no harm in asking for a small discount. The worst you’ll hear is no, but you may hear ‘yes’.
For more articles on cycling, mountain biking and bicycling equipment visit Bicycling Magazine.
This is an edited version of a story that originally appeared in Bicycling Magazine.