Buying a Bike in Bozeman

Considerations for the ultimate match.

The snow has melted and the warm weather has arrived. For many of us, that means one thing: biking season is here! Biking has become a way of life in southwest Montana. Some bike to commute, but most people bike to enjoy the fresh air and exercise. However, with so many trails and routes to choose from, there is also a great variety of riding options to fit specific riding styles. This can make bike-buying a little intimidating, so here are a few questions to ask yourself before shopping for a bike:


  • What kind of riding do I do?
  • What kind of experience do I have, and what is my overall approach to riding?
  • What kind of bike have I ridden in the past? Was it for fitness or just for fun (or maybe both)?
  • Is the bike for casual riding or serious riding? Am I riding on the roads or on the trails?

The more you know about what style of bike you want, the easier it will be to select the bike that best fits your needs.

Bike shoppers often forget that they’re not only shopping for the perfect bike but for a bike shop that will service them and their bikes in the future. Make sure the salespeople understand all your needs rather than merely selling you a bike they think you should have. If you have any doubts, most quality bike shops have a demo bike they will allow you to test-ride that is similar to the bike you are interested in buying. A quality shop will allow and encourage you to test a bike for a day or two if you need more time to experience the differences between models. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself when working with a bike shop:

  • Does the shop staff encourage me to ask questions?
  • Do they know how to fit me to a bike properly?
  • Have they discussed their service policies with me? (Like a new car, a new bike needs periodic tuning.)

It’s important to remember that your relationship with the shop is more important than the price of a bike. Ideally, the service and knowledge determine what bike is best suited to your needs. Professional bicycle retailers can fit you properly to a correctly assembled bike, and they will give you ongoing advice and service so you can safely and comfortable enjoy your new ride.

Most bike stores in this region offer a full range of bicycles. Here are some different styles you may find:

Mountain Bikes
These rugged bikes are intended for off-road riding, but most perform well on pavement. Most mountain bikes have front suspension that increases shock absorption. Mountain bikes feature fat, knobby tires that stabilize the rider and provide increased traction. They also come with flat handlebars for easy control and low gears for easier hill climbing. These are the area’s bicycles of choice because of our seasonal changes and road conditions. Quality mountain bikes start around $300 and seem to have no upper limit. However, there are top choices for less than $1,000.

Road Bikes
These are for riding only on pavement and are built for speed. They have narrower tires, dropped handlebars, and are for the rider that wants a good workout. A good-quality road bike starts around $600.

This is the newest fun ride on the block. You’ve seen them in the Sweet Pea Parade and all around town. They’re made for, well, cruisin’. They have fat tires, high handlebars, and wild paint jobs. They are great for the casual afternoon or evening ride and start at around $400.

This style is growing with the increased cost of fuel and the efficient commute to work they provide. These easy and comfortable bikes are a cross between mountain bike and road bikes. They’re really for the rider who wants everything. They generally are equipped with narrower tires than mountain bikes, flat handlebars, and a higher gear ratio. You won’t get the speed that a road bike will deliver on pavement, but they will give you and smoother, more comfortable ride.

The single most important part of determining the right bike for you is sizing. Women have their own choices, too, because there are bike frames specifically designed for their anatomy. Work with a professional bike salesperson to determine your size. The length of your inseam determines the correct frame size, and the distance from the seat to the handlebars is also critical for a comfortable ride. The proper fit is really based on your riding style. Remember, what is right for one person’s riding style may not be right for another.

Ask the professionals about any equipment that you don’t fully understand. And don’t forget to bring your bike helmet when you are test-riding a bike, or ask to borrow one. If you don’t own one, make sure that is part of your purchase!

For a comprehensive directory of local bike retailers in the area click here.

Larry Merkel helps match bikes and bikers at The Round House Sports Center, which he started 35 years ago. Stop by the shop at 1422 W. Main or call 587-1258. Click here for more details.