Arguably one of the most exciting days in any cyclists life has to be “new bike days,” and one of my co-workers, Sarah, has been lucky enough to experience a few of these days over the last few years as her riding needs have changed. Given her depth of experience I thought I would toss a few questions her way and see if she could impart some of her bike purchasing wisdom unto our readers ;-)

Guest post by Sarah Ramsden
Find her online: Twitter & Flickr

Why do you ride?

I ride because I always have. Saturday afternoon bike rides with my family became a ritual when I was about six. We would go exploring and find hidden pathways through fields, identifying flowers, insects, and trees as we went. Within a couple of years I was riding my bike to school, then as teenager my bike was my freedom to be out and about without restrictions. I rode my bike to and from university, and even to work when I lived in Los Angeles. I ride to get places, except now that I spin too I just want to do it much faster!

Did you find any of the shopping experiences challenging?

I have bought the wrong bike before, and this time I was determined to find the right one. I equate buying a bike much like buying a DSLR camera. Every store and sales person has their own brand preferences. It gets confusing, so I threw brand out of my consideration set and went for fit, and the purpose the bike was to fulfill.

Were the shops accommodating to your needs?

One shop gave me a $3000 road bike to try “for fun”, but it was nothing but intimidating. Another pushed me towards a fixed gear bike, which was a laughable recommendation. Finally I found Sweet Pete’s near my home in Toronto. I’m not a bike buff, but they explained everything in plain English without being patronizing. They even told me what to pay attention to when test riding a bike so I could evaluate my choices properly. I never felt rushed, and the guy had all the time in the world to answer all my questions despite it being busy.

What were you looking for in a bike?

My opening line was, “I have an Opus Classico which I love, but I run out of gears in 5 minutes, and want to go faster… But I don’t want drop handle bars”. My love of spinning was also driving me to clip in, something I had never done on a real bike before.

What bikes did you look at?

Trek 7.3, Trek 7.5, Giant Dash 2, Giant Dash 1, and comparable Specialized models. Plus all the ones people *tried* to get me to look at…

Why did you decide on the one you chose?

All the bikes I tried were ok, but it wasn’t love. The Giant Dash 1 just blew me away though, and when I first tested it out it gave me that same exhilaration I got when riding down a big hill as a kid! Sold! The frame was light (a BIG deal not just for riding, but the practicality of having to carry it up 2 flights of narrow stairs to get home), the gear ratios were exactly what I was after, and it fitted me perfectly. It’s pretty much a road bike but with flat handle bars – a riding position I prefer when riding through downtown Toronto. This bike was everything I didn’t know I was looking for.

What advice can you give to other people shopping for bikes? Any special tips for women?

Insist on a women’s specific bike, and be firm in your mind on what you will be using the bike for, don’t be swayed. If a sales person is making you feel like an idiot, walk away – remember that you don’t need to be a bike mechanic to enjoy riding a bike!

What advice would you give to a woman looking to start riding?

You can be as serious or relaxed about biking as you like. From cruising to road racing, grab a friend and just give it a try. You might just fall in love.