If you are new to cycling and unsure about whether you want to buy a road bike, a mountain bike or a hybrid, one of the best things you can do is rent a bike and spend some time riding it. A good entry level bike can be expensive and you don’t want to spend the money only to discover you bought the wrong kind of bike after you’ve ridden it once or twice. Almost all good bike shops have a collection of used bikes for sale and many of these shops will rent them out for a day or a weekend.
Renting a bike has a number of advantages. Many places that sell bikes will alow you to take them for a ten minute test ride around the parking lot. It’s a good idea to do this because sometimes you can ride a bike for a few hundred meters and know immediately that something about it is just right or just wrong. However, the parking lot test ride can be misleading as well. Any number of things can go unnoticed or feel fine after ten minutes that can develop into major problems after an hour or more of riding. Likewise, things like your position on the bike can feel uncomfortable and awkward during the first ten minutes but can feel exactly right after you’ve had more time to relax and grow comfortable on the bike. Time on the bike is especially important for the new bike rider who may not know what to look for or what aspects of the ride to be sensitive to during an initial ten minute ride.
If you are going to ride your bike regularly, the two most important things you’ll have going for you are your bike and your bike shop. For many reasons, establishing a good relationship with a good shop is the most important thing you can do after buying the right bike, and renting a bike is an excellent way to evaluate a bike shop for a new rider who may be unfamiliar with the world of cycling. When you go to the shop, explain to them that you’re seriously thinking about buying a new bike, you’re unsure about what kind of bike you want, and you’d like to rent a bike to try it out. You can get useful information about how good the shop is by paying attention to what happens next. If they measure you for frame size, get you a bike, and send you on your way, then they’re probably not the shop where you want to buy your bike. Picking out the proper frame size is just the beginning of getting the bike ready for you to ride. They should also take the time to fit you to the bike by adjusting things like the seat height and angle, and the handlebar height, angle and distance among other things. Riding a poorly fit bike can result in discomfort, pain, injury and a bad cycling experience. They understand this in a good bike shop and they also understand that a customer who enjoys themselves riding a properly fit rental bike is more likely to purchase a bike of their own.
Renting a bike can also have the virtue of spreading out the initial cost of getting into cycling over several days or weeks. It’s very common for new cyclists to have put all of their thought and maybe all of their money into the bike they buy. They make the decision, get the bike, are happy, excited and possibly broke, and then comes the question, “Okay, now what gear do you need? Helmet? Shorts? Jersey? Shoes? Water bottles? Frame pump? . . . ” This is almost always a bummer. Although it doesn’t end up costing any less in the long run, the buzz kill can be muted if you’ve already bought things like your helmet in order to ride the rental bike. it’s a small thing but it helps.
Taking a rented bike on an extended ride is just about the best thing a new rider can do to help them decide what type of bike they want to buy. It not only can help you find the right kind of bike, it can help you find the right bike shop which is almost as important. If you are at all unsure about whether a road bike, a hybrid, or a mountain bike is right for you, renting before you buy is highly recommended.