Looking for bike brand recommendations and a place to buy in the Washington DC area
April 8, 2009 11:25 AM   Subscribe

In the Washington, DC area, looking for bikes. Where should we go to buy, what bikes should we buy, and what questions should we ask?

My fiancee and I live in Arlington, VA and regularly walk the Mount Vernon trail and the C&O Canal. The Mount Vernon trail is paved/sidewalk, and the C&O Canal is gravelly and grassy. We both want to start biking the trails, and I think what we want are hybrid bikes. I should note that exercise is secondary to the ability to travel far and explore the trails and the city.

We walked into a place recently and they worked very hard to sell us on their most expensive bikes and accessories. We were pretty much overwhelmed and didn't have the bike vocabulary or knowledge to make a proper decision or ask the right questions.

I appreciate any help you can provide!
posted by smurdah to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

These folks are great. There may be cheaper places in the burbs. But I had a guy specifically ask how I used my bike and recommend cheaper parts based on my needs. I really feel they don't upsell for no reason.
posted by hokie409 at 12:08 PM on April 8, 2009

Hybrid bikes are great for what you want to do, in my opinion. They are rugged enough to go on semi-paved trails and through grass a bit, but efficient enough to get decent speeds on the road. They are also usually built with a decent amount of comfort in mind. Since they are neither as rugged as mountain bikes nor as efficient as road bikes I think they get little love from 'serious' bikers, but for what you want to do it should be good.

As for where to buy, I'll go ahead and recommend Performance Bikes, which has several locations throughout the area. I generally would prefer making a purchase like this at a locally owned shop, but at least in the DC area, the LBS's I've been to have been quite a bit more expensive. Also, Performance salespeople don't work on commission, so they're less likely to upsell you (to be fair, I don't find all of them to be particularly knowledgeable or helpful). They also offer free minor adjustments at any of their locations as long as you own the bike.
posted by bluejayk at 12:08 PM on April 8, 2009

Let's try that link again.
posted by hokie409 at 12:08 PM on April 8, 2009

I know people (including beginners) that have had amazing exeriences and would swear by Conte Bikes, specifically the one in Bethesda. They also have a store in Arlington that I've heard good things about, but don't know as much about.
posted by inigo2 at 12:43 PM on April 8, 2009

DO NOT go to Dick's Sporting Goods. I bought two bikes there and both broke almost immediately (actually, the second one broke the day I brought it home). Luckily, they were nice about it and gave my money back without much of a fight.

I got my third bike at Performance Bikes and haven't had a problem with it. Being a poor grad student, I was looking for something cheaper (still ended up costing $275) and they didn't try that hard to up-sell when I told them my price range.
posted by Nolechick11 at 1:06 PM on April 8, 2009

Capitol Hill Bikes. Denise (one of the owners) spent tons and tons of time helping me get the right bike and did not try to up-sell. They are the greatest!
posted by jgirl at 1:07 PM on April 8, 2009

City Bikes in Adams Morgan wasn't bad for me.
posted by sandking at 2:00 PM on April 8, 2009

Not to nitpick -- but its important. Purchasing a bike isn't so much what to look for, as much as getting the right fit. The actual look/features/cost of the bike should be second to your absolute comfort. If you buy a $1000 bike that hurts to ride; you wont ride it. If you buy a $250 bike that fits like a glove but doesn't have the best brakes, gears, etc you will be much happier.

In general the more you spend the nicer the feature comforts are (smoothness of everything), however that doesnt always translate into more reliable etc.

Find a couple that you think work for you. Try to take a couple out for a short mile ride or so, just long enough to see if your knees feel at all sore, or your back hurts, or your butt hurts. Pay attention to how you FEEL much more than what it looks like.

In the end of the day you will enjoy a bike that fits well, supports you, and puts you in a position you like much more than the price, the brand, or anything else will benefit you.

Also; try to work into the deal the ability to bring it back once to be fit to you (ie, move the handlebars, fix something, etc).

Cheers; and happy riding. (Ps-learn to change a flat tire)
posted by SirStan at 3:26 PM on April 8, 2009

I bought a hybrid bike from the Big Wheel Bikes in Arlington just last week. It's the first bike I've had since I was a kid, so I didn't really know what I was looking for. They were excellent, answered all my dumb questions and had me try out several bikes to get a good fit. They didn't try to to sell me accessories. The Custis Trail runs right behind the store which is nice for test rides. Tomorrow I'm riding to Mount Vernon and back, woohoo!
posted by little e at 7:33 PM on April 8, 2009

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