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I plan to buy a new bicycle. Is it better to buy it at a specialized bike store or at a general sports shop?

In case it matters, I live in Vienna, Austria. I know very little about bicycles in general. The bicycle is intended to be used in the city to get me to and from work, and so does not need to be fancy or sophisticated at all. Better can mean cheaper, better quality, more reliable, more likely to find what I need, and/or other aspects that may be relevant.

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If you have a bicycle now (or can borrow one), take it to the shops and ask them to do a quick once-over. See how thorough they are, and how much they try to understand your needs. –  Daniel R Hicks Mar 7 at 23:26
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3 Answers 3

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I'm not sure about Austria, but here in the UK many general sports shops are no more than outlets for Nike and Adidas clothing. If you are someone who knows very little about bikes, I'd suggest that this would be riskier than going to a specialised bike shop.

The only thing that would possibly make the general sports shop more attractive would be price. But you live in a capital city, so surely there are enough outlets to keep prices competitive?

So I would say that if prices are similar between general shops and bike shops, then its a no-brainer to pick the bike shop because they'll (likely) have a higher level of expertise, in terms of listening to your requirements and proposing a suitable bike. People also place value in building a relationship with their lbs - this may or may not be important to you, but certainly it can't harm.

If you are tempted to go to a general store, for price or any other reason, maybe you should at least apply some due diligence. What should you do if there's an aftersale problem? What do they offer when its time for a service? for example. Some "general sports shops" (such as Decathlon, do you have them?) will also have in-store bike mechanics, which would at the very least give you some confidence that they are able to maintain what they sell.

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Very much agree with this. I wouldn't hesitate to buy a bike from MEC, even though they aren't technically a bike shop. I've actually received much better advice here than at some of my local dedicated bike stores. –  Kibbee Mar 7 at 20:38
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It's about staff knowledge as much as anything. Buying a bike from someone who also sells shoes and tennis bats is likely to mean they don't know very much about any of them, you're taking your chances with the employee's interest. –  Mσᶎ Mar 7 at 22:09
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@Ӎσᶎ you're right but I think when by, your own admission, you don't know very much about bikes, the difficulty is being able to spot the knowledge from the bs. And it can be difficult unless you have some idea. But I agree the risk is probably less at a bike shop than a general sports shop (even though I have had a bike shop try an feel me a line of bs a while ago). –  PeteH Mar 8 at 18:58
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I concur with PeteH's answer, with the caveat that local bike cultures, and certainly individual bike shops, can sometimes skew heavily in the direction of a specific kind of riding or a specific kind of rider... who may not be you.

So it's completely fine to walk out of a local bike shop that treats you like something you'd scrape off the bottom of your shoe, and also completely fine to go to a larger store if that's where they'll actually listen to you and honestly try to help.

One way to find the right place to shop is to ask a rider you know who does the same sort of riding you want to do where s/he buys gear locally. I don't know any cyclist who would refuse to answer!

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+1 yes you're absolutely right. We generalise in what we say but there are exceptions to the rule –  PeteH Mar 8 at 18:48
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A specialized bike shop is a good idea, but so are bike co-ops and related things. A dealer who specializes in used bikes is a good bet as well - it will be cheaper probably and they will probably have a selection of good commuters.

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