The Crucial First Step in Choosing Your First Road or Gravel Bike

A prospective client, connected through someone who reads my Instagram posts (I prefer not to label people as “followers”), reached out for my bike shopping advisory services as they want to get into road cycling.

I highlighted that before focusing on specific brands and models — unless they have considerable knowledge about bicycles — the most crucial step is choosing the right shop or boutique.

This decision significantly influences a beginner’s cycling experience and lifestyle.

For those new to the world of cycling, unfamiliar with the differences between aero, gravel, climbing, cyclocross, endurance, or gravel bikes in the “drop-bar” segment, or unsure about the type of cycling they wish to explore, it is vital to either have a knowledgeable friend, consult with an advisor like me, or, more importantly, find a reputable bike shop.

Given the geographical distance between us, I advised this potential client to concentrate their efforts on identifying the best local bike shop rather than booking a consultation with me, as this would be a more efficient use of their resources.

The choice of a bike shop is critical, especially for those unfamiliar with bicycles and their maintenance. It can greatly affect whether your cycling life is fulfilling or filled with frustration. However, in their situation, residing in a city with an abundance of bike shops became an issue which led the aspiring cyclist to decision-making paralysis, who then requested my assistance in finding a suitable shop within their city.

Coincidentally, during my cycling tour across the USA in 2022, I had a notable experience with a bike shop in their city that had expertly handled a tubeless tire issue for me. Recalling a mechanic from that shop who had begun following my Instagram feed after my visit, I reached out, discussed my client’s requirements, and arranged for an introduction. They are set to meet next week.

CycleFit is my go-to bike boutique in London, UK. They built my first road bike, my beloved OPEN U.P.P.E.R. in 2019.

When I look for a bike shop, finding one that resonates with my personality and cycling philosophy is my primary focus. In Montréal, for example, a shop located a short distance from my flat catered mainly to road racers.

Their focus on “speed above everything else,” which does not align with my outlook on cycling, made my visit a bit frustrating as they were trying to make me faster while I just wanted to be comfortable, and they simply could not understand that I don’t ride to race or for fitness.

In contrast, another shop in the opposite direction, which upheld a ‘fun above all’ philosophy, was more in harmony with my approach. This shop carried brands and models that I prefer, such as Brooks saddles, ideal for comfortable adventures off the beaten path.

This simple illustration showcases the importance of selecting a bike shop that not only meets your practical needs but also reflects your personal cycling ethos. If you are considering taking up road, gravel, or any type of cycling, finding the right bike shop should be your number one priority.