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Complete Guide To Buying a New Bicycle

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If you’re in the market for a new bike, the available choices can be quite bewildering. This is especially true if you’re new to biking or have not bought a bike in a long time. The new widely available bike categories are proliferating so fast, we’re running out of ideas for what to call them: Hybrid? City? Urban? Asphalt? Cross? Gravel? Adventure? Whatever you call them, most contemporary bikes offer off-the-shelf utility and a versatile range at a reasonable price.

But the question "what is the best bike?" is still best answered by "it's the one that's best for you." Therefore, this guide is less about giving you advice on which type of bike to buy, and more about arming you with information so that you can make the best choice for you.

What this guide is NOT

This guide is not going to help you if you’re looking for a highly specialized bike to use for any kind of racing, competition or endurance event. Rather it is a no-nonsense compilation of our many years’ experience of helping customers find the right bike for their needs. We hope it will help you too find a lifestyle bike that you may want to use around Chicago for transportation, recreation, adventures or riding with your family.

Should you buy a new bike?

Bicycles are quite durable, so if you already own a bike, you may be trying to decide if you should really be getting a new one, or if it makes sense to keep the old one going a little longer. We have these conversations with customers all the time, and we’ve compiled the salient points into this summary:

Fix the Old or Buy the New?

Lifestyle and use considerations

Try to anticipate where and how often you will be using your bike. Think about how the bike will be used. Some questions that may help you along:

  • Will it be a dedicated urban bike, or will it double your vacation or adventure companion? If it’s a bike that has to serve multiple uses, you probably want something more versatile than a single-speed.

  • Will you ride strictly on pavement, or on unpaved trails as well? Choose a bike with tires that are suitable for a variety of surfaces.

  • Will you wear a skirt or carry children? You may consider a step-through frame that won’t force you do swing your leg over the bike to get on and off.

  • Do you plan to ride in inclement weather, or need to wear professional clothes? Consider a bike with internal gears, a chainguard, and fenders.

  • Will you have to store your bike in a small space or carry it up the stairs? Will you be combining biking with public transit? A folding bike can work very well in these situations.

Types of Bikes

Below we highlight various types of popular bikes with some insight into their best intended use. But don’t get too bogged down with bike categories. These days there is a lot of crossover between different types of bikes, and —with few exceptions— most bikes adapt very well to a variety of uses. Don't be too concerned about the brand either. Within a given price range, most manufacturers of mainstream lifestyle bikes offer comparable value, as far as the quality of the frame and components (This may not apply to specialty manufacturers of higher level, and custom bikes, but that’s not what this guide is about.)

Comfort & Fit

We’ve put together a common sense Guide to Bicycle Fit to help you understand what to look for when test-riding new bikes, and request modifications on a bike you may want to purchase.

How much will it cost?

In an era when most of our purchases are either completely disposable, or expected to become obsolete after a season of use, a quality bicycle is remarkable for its longevity. We’ve talked a lot about the relationship between bicycle price and bicycle value, and we hope these articles will give you some perspective on bike pricing, and how much you should reasonably expect to spend on a bicycle you may enjoy for decades to come.

Deciding to buy

We believe that a successful bicycle purchase is not the end, but the beginning of a relationship.

Shop Talk Workshops

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Shop Talk is an informal monthly series hosted by Cosmic Bikes at our NW Side Chicago location, during which we’ll go into a selected topic at some depth in a relaxed, social atmosphere. It’s a great way to hang out with other people who share your interests, or want to learn about certain aspects of biking, in a laid-back setting, where the aim is to share information and not sell you stuff.

Below is a preliminary schedule of Shop Talk topics for the year, although many details are yet to be ironed out. Shop Talk will usually take place on the first or second Friday of the month, except May, when we’re pulling out all the stops. May is our aniversary month (we’ll be 3 this year!!), and we will do a Shop Talk EVERY WEEK.

Shop Talks will be held on Fridays from 6pm to 8:30pm. Light noshes and beverages will be on hand, but please feel free to BYOB.

So, here’s what we have planned:

  • March 8: WOMEN’S CYCLING WORKSHOP., in which a panel of women cyclists will lead a discussion on a variety of issues such as bike fit, safety, motivation, training and more. Details and FREE registration here.

  • April 5: CRAFT BUILDS: SETTING UP A BIKE FROM THE FRAME UP, in which we’ll explore the intricacies of a personalized bike build.

  • May SHOP TALK BONANZA

    • May 3: BICYCLE FIT & SELECTION

    • May 10: GETTING STARTED WITH URBAN BIKE COMMUTING

    • May 17: TOOLS—SETTING UP YOUR HOME REPAIR STAND OR TOOL BAG

    • May 24: LIVE LARGE PACK SMALL—ALL ABOUT BROMPTONS AND COMPACT ADVENTURES

    • May 31: BIKE TOURING ESSENTIALS

  • June 7: LOCAL BIKING ADVENTURES

  • July 5: OUTDOOR COOKING & EQUIPMENT (outdoor cookout included!!)

  • August 9: LAZY SUMMER MOVIE & BEER

  • September 13: BIKE SECURITY

  • October 10: TRANSITIONING TO AN INDOOR TRAINER

  • November 8: WINTER BIKING

  • December 13: SPECIAL GUEST TBA

We’re looking forward to these evening, and hope you will come out and join us. And if you have ideas about topics, or questions you’d like to see answered, please let us know.

Bike Shop Day

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Have you heard of Bike Shop Day?

We didn’t think so. Hardly a Hallmark holiday, Bike Shop Day was inaugurated in 2017 by a forward thinking independent bicycle store owner in Brooklyn. Joe Nocella and the staff of 718 Cyclery came up with the idea of setting aside a day to celebrate the unique culture of a local bicycle store and its connection to the local community. He’s invited other independent bikes shops around the country (and around the world) to join, and we thought this was an amazing idea, so we jumped on.

The theme for this year’s celebration is inclusiveness, and all participating shops and vendors were asked to submit a brief proposal for welcoming people who are underrepresented in the cycling industry. This was right up our alley here at Cosmic Bikes, because for us inclusion is not just an event. It's an underlying philosophy of the way we run our business. What we do day in and day out is aim to invite, not intimidate the beginner, listen, not preach to the curious, and salute, not marginalize the commuter. We meet each visitor to our shop where they are, without pre-judgment, and, to the best of our ability, we offer products and services that address a diversity of needs, whether it's a young person on a budget getting into a cycling lifestyle, or a person facing limitations (age? illness? location? budget? growing family? other challenges?) who wishes to preserve their cycling lifestyle.

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We’re looking forward to throwing our doors open to the community on first Saturday in December, and we’re busy planning a fun-filled day for everyone. Here’s a preview of the day’s festivities:

UPDATED SCHEDULE:

  • DOORS OPEN AT 9am
    FREE swag bags and Limited Edition Bike Shop Day t-shirts to first 25 guests

  • 9-11 Breakfast & Coffee.
    We’re not messing around, real hot food & great coffee from Sputnik Coffee Roasters.

  • SPECIAL PRICING ON MERCHANDISE & SERVICE

    • Bike Sale

    • 20% OFF any Service booked during Bike Shop Day

  • RAFFLE Tickets $5 for a chance to win

  • Donations Box

    We will have a donation box to benefit the Irving Park Community Food Pantry Christmas Angel Drive. If you can, please bring

    • New, unwrapped toys (specifically requested are items for kids aged 10-12, especially boys)

    • Winter hats, gloves scarves and socks

    • Canned goods

      More details are here.

  • Kids Crafts (Coloring, Make your own bike chain Xmas Ornament and more!0

  • Demo Rides: try out a Cargo Bike, a Brompton, or an eBike!

  • 12-3 Free mini-clinics: Flat fix, Safety check, Bike fit, Winter drivetrain care

  • 4:30 LIVE MUSIC with acoustic trio Uptown Boys

  • 5:30pm RAFFLE PRIZE DRAWING
    Winner need not be present, but it’s a lot more fun if you are!!

  • 6pm FAMILY-FRIENDLY MOVIE NIGHT: The Bicycle Thief
    Popcorn & BYOB

We hope you set aside time to join us in this biking community celebration!