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Becky Jo’s Carfree Life: Where to buy a bike and get it ready for fun season

Posted by on May 12th, 2020 at 9:08 am

Evansville, Indiana Target’s bike wall

Bike sales are through the roof — in Portland and across the country. Isn’t that great? Only downside is basic bikes can be hard to come by. And then there’s the need for repairs and maintenance.

An old mom-group friend posted this photo of the bike wall in an Evansville, Indiana Target. That’s pretty amazing. There was recently even a BikePortland Forums post asking about where to buy right now. I also just started following Portland Bicycle Emporium on Instagram. The owner of that shop is pulling 12-plus hour days and can’t keep low-priced, starter bikes in stock (his posts crack me up, so worth a follow).

It’s sort of weird but I’m suddenly a veteran now in comparison to all the new cyclists. JK. I still have no idea what I’m doing, so I’m going to ask you:

Where have you seen a good stock of bikes? Where do you suggest new cyclists go? I know BikePortland has a great running list of who’s open, but do you have more pointers for the families and people out there looking for bikes?

With vehicle traffic levels already inching back up, I’d hate to lose a window of opportunity to get more humans on bikes.

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bike spring cleaning; Photo by Becky Jo

On the flip side, more people are pulling their bikes out of the garage. And some of these bikes need some love. Kenton Cycle, my preferred local bike shop, has tune-ups available but is booked about two weeks out. That’s really not too bad, but I don’t need a tune-up and would prefer to leave those slots open for people who really need them.

What’s your spring cleaning and road-ready checklist? For the new people, what are some hot tips we shouldn’t forget to check? If few more people could do basic things like pump-up tires and apply some chain lube, they could get rolling faster and start having more fun.

And what about fun spring accessories?

I’m so happy to be shedding all my wool layers and (mostly) hanging up my wet-weather gear, I’m ready to get my bike more spring/summer outfitted. I’m thinking front baskets for me and my girls, maybe with some of these fun reflective flowers. Do I need to worry about baskets putting pressure on my break or gear cables? I have drop bars; should I invest in a front rack instead? I know, I know, by the time I’m done, the stuff on my bike will weigh more than my bike.

Pedalpalooza 2020 pennant.

I ordered my Pedalpalooza pennant, but there’s also a print-your-own Team Bike Fun option if you want to summer-fy your bike. I’m thinking I need to stencil out an embroidery patch on a denim jacket or maybe one of my saddlebags. What do you think?

As always, thank you so much for hanging out with me here.

— Becky Jo, @BeckyJoPDX
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Carrie
Subscriber

You are clearly a crafter. It never even crossed my mind that decorating my bike with crafty things was part of spring bike prep :). Anyway, one tip for those of us who ride with people who are still growing (aka kids) — you will definitely need to raise the saddle after the winter! And lube the chain. The other thing we often saw at the Spring Sunday Parkways were brakes that needed new pads and/or were just out of whack. So if something sounds like it’s rubbing — that should be looked at by someone who knows what they are doing — either a mechanic or a neighbor who knows how to adjust things.

9watts
Subscriber

Craigslist. Always a great source for inexpensive bikes.
Folks here will say that *everything on CL is fenced, stolen, etc.* but that has not been my experience. I’ve been buying and selling on Craigslist since about 2003 and have in almost all cases had good experiences.

Buying local and used keeps the money local.
https://bikeportland.org/2015/07/07/guest-article-biking-cheap-145985

Jason
Guest
Jason

First and foremost, don’t buy your bike from a department store. The assembly of department store bikes ranges across a wide spectrum from “criminally dangerous” to “competent(?)”. Always buy a bike from a bike shop, unless you really want a used one off CL. That’s fine too, but buyer beware.

As I grew up in Eugene, I saw bike shops come and go. Only a few that I knew as a teen are still around. Bike shops might seem like high end boutiques to newcomers, but you get what you paid for. You can find a bike for less than $800 these days. I know someone who picked up a Jamis at Seven Corners for about that much, with Shimano Claris groupo. She’s done multiple centuries and daily commuted over the 5-7 years she has owned it.

When you buy a bike, shop around. You want to try as many bikes as possible. New bike glamour has a way of seducing would be buyers. New bikes (almost) always feel really good too, so you can’t trust your first reaction. Sometimes there’s that rare bike that feels wrong. For the most part though, you want to sample the field to get a feel for what’s out there. But you’re not just sampling bicycles.

You are also trying on shops. If you don’t like the shop or the employees, don’t buy your bike there. Major brands can be found in many different outlets, if you like the bike but not the shop, try to find another dealer for that brand. Any dealer for a given brand should be able to get the bike you tried.

I feel it is really important to support local bike shops. Find the one you like and please, please, please avoid buying anything bike related on the internet. Unless you can’t find it locally. Bike shops live by a narrow margin, and the bulk of the profits come from accessories, not bikes. At least from what I understand.

David Hampsten
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David Hampsten

Spring is when I measure my chain and middle chainring for wear, replacing each if necessary. But if I decide I’m leaving the chain on, I thoroughly clean my chain with a chain cleaning tool filled with a bath of a combination of 95% cooking oil and 5% vinegar, then wipe it off afterwards with a rag and re-oil it. I also clean my rear cassette cogs with chain floss (thick-looking shoe strings). I switch out my winter tires for summer ones (higher pressure and smoother tread.) I also clean the frame a bit, to get rid of caked-on dirt. I also check my disc pads and springs for wear and replace them as needed.

maxD
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maxD

I have had many positive experiences with River City bikes and would not hesitate recommend them. I have purchased 2 bikes from their outlet store which has great deals on new bikes. I have also purchased a used bike from Sellwood Cycles- I have been riding it for years on long rides and multi-day rides and I am thrilled with the bike. I have also purchased a couple of bikes from craigslist- I love buying used, but be prepared to spend a bit to replace tires, brake pads, shifter cables, chain, etc. I also recommend North Portland Bike works for bikes and repairs, they are reasonably priced, very helpful and reliable. I also love Golden Pliers on N Skidmore, especially if you are looking for an adventure/touring bike or a more customized ride- they will hook you up. The level of service is amazing. Finally, Joe Bike is a great place for fun, yearround commuters- they are a wealth of knowledge regarding generator lights and offer some unique and capable bikes.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

You are fortunate to be living in a city with a variety of artisinal bike “remixers”, that take stock bikes and swap out the components so that the original is unrecognizable. You can watch them at work at various locations around the city, often under the open sky, and many are willing to sell you their products on the spot at a surprisingly affordable price (they prefer cash, but are sometimes are willing to trade for various sorts of “product” if you have any). I love how the entrepreneurial spirit combines with a strong recycling/reuse ethic to allow the creation of bicycles with surprising combinations of components.

Given the high rate of bike theft around the city, I am proud to be able to support these hardworking craftsmen. I need to replace my bike often, and our native remixers often provide the cheapest and fastest way to do that.

BikeRound
Guest
BikeRound

I completely agree that the best place to buy a bike is on craigslist. I bought my current daily rider–a Specialized Tricross–for $500 on craigslist, and it has served me well. I am not a big fan of new cars or new bikes.

todd.boulanger
Guest
todd.boulanger

My family told me that when they went to the first day that Bike Clark County shop was open (last week) and that it was slammed with a lot of COVID19 cyclists looking to get their old bike up to ridable. And it can be pretty tough for new cyclists up in Clark County to get bikes or bike care since instead of 50+ IBD bike shops to choose from there and 5 or fewer options north of the river. And I guess desperate Portlanders could try to call Clark shops to see if there is any available stock: Camas Bike & Sport (new), Vancouver Cyclery (new), Wheel Deals (used), etc. Good luck!

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

Craigslist is a great place to get bikes from cheap to expensive. OfferUp is also OK. Of the last 4 bikes I bought 3 were from craigslist and 1 from offerup.

If you’re a beginner rider then you have an ocean of cheap bikes to choose from. Then once you know what you like and what fits you can start spending more, as much as you can afford. It’s often easy to search for the bike’s specs online and see if the size is right for you before you go try it on.

Be careful of shiny things! You may want to buy a bike because it’s beautiful, and you’re convinced that the little extra bit you have to reach will not be a big deal. But don’t buy a bike that doesn’t fit you, no matter how good the deal or how sparkly it is.

Get your tune-ups done at your local independent shop. Nothing against the chain stores like Bike Gallery but I feel the small neighborhood bike shops need it more. Sometimes I go to Bike Gallery just to get something in my hands so I can be sure that I want my local shop to special order it for me.

Michael
Guest
Michael

Every ride, you should do your ABCs, and a frame check for any signs of cracks or damage

Air – check your tires are properly inflated and in good condition
Brakes – do they stop firmly before the handles hit the grips, and check the cables at both ends for wear
Chain – is it clean and smooth running or does it catch and skip, and do your shifters work properly

That’s the bare minimum you should do every ride

Drew
Guest
Drew

River City Bikes (My “Home” shop) used to do in-person simple bike maintenance classes. I attended when I was new to riding and learned how to clean and lube my chain as well as simple adjustments. Maybe this would be a great time for them to do an online remote zoom classes??? *HINT HINT* RCB if you’re listening!

Scott Batchelar
Guest
Scott Batchelar

Also don’t forget some of the smaller Bike Shops.
Tomcat Bikes – Tom Martin is an absolute wizard at taking junkers, fixing them up and all for around $400-$900
Citybikes always has a few inexpensive but good bikes
Bicycle Emporium is also pretty good
Don’t forget the Community Cycling Center – lots of great bargains and well built remixes
Any of the smaller shops around town are doing pretty good inexpensive bikes right now – Tom Martin pretty much told me he’s the busiest he’s ever been.

The smaller shops right now are doing some pretty cool things for fairly cheap – also check out Portland Bike Market on Facebook, many of these shops post their remixes there.

Good luck and hope you all find something good!