Bike prices soared during the pandemic. Demand outpaced supply and supply-chain issues caused delays in getting bikes to new cyclists looking for a pandemic-friendly form of exercise and transportation.
Things still haven’t returned to normal, but there is a glimmer of hope for people seeking used bikes this year. Some of those wannabe bikers have given up on the sport and are offloading their purchases, said Greg Neis, owner of Farmstead Bike Shop in Minneapolis.
If you’re new to cycling, buying a bike may seem overwhelming. Fortunately, many local bike shops offer a number of tips.
Find a free bike!
Depending on your age and living situation, you may be able to score a free bike. Full Cycle, a bike shop in Minneapolis, will set you up with a ride, lock, and lights if you’re younger than 25 and don’t have stable housing.
Full Cycle appointments can also be used to repair bikes: Call 612-824-7581 to book a time.
If you’re looking for a bike for a child, contact the child’s school or faith organization to see if they work with Free Bikes for Kids.
Score a used bike
As you’re starting your search, you might want to look for used bikes. Not only does buying used help the planet, bike shop owners say, it’s also much easier on your wallet.
To find a good fit for you, check out local bike shops (Full Cycle, The Hub Bike Co-op, Express Bike Shop) that refurbish bikes and sell them as certified rebuilt bikes.
Prices for bikes, even used ones, have jumped during the pandemic. But sometimes the price of used bikes at local shops are lower than in online classifieds.
Tell the salesperson what you’re using the bike for. A road bike may deliver a speedy ride on smooth pavement. But a refurbished mountain bike may get fewer flat tires and handle the notoriously pitted and pock-marked Twin Cities streets.
Looking for used bikes on Craigslist can be a good option if you know what you’re looking for or can find an experienced cyclist to guide you through the process, said Greg Neis, owner of Farmstead Bike Shop. Differences that might seem minor–whether a bike is made from aluminum or carbon; or the brand of the components–can make a big difference in price. But these factors may not make a big difference in your riding experience, depending on your needs.
Rent a bike
Are you older than 17 and qualify for state or federal assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or Medicaid or FAFSA?
eIf the answer is yes, $5 will get you an annual membership to the bike-sharing program Nice Ride. Nice Ride bikes are available at about 400 docking stations across the Twin Cities; short rides are free with the $5 annual membership. Bikes can be returned to any station.
You can find more information on Nice Ride’s low-income member program here.
Learn about fixing bikes
A couple of Twin Cities bike shops offer apprenticeships or other hands-on learning experiences to young people. Express Bike Shop in St. Paul also offers apprenticeships, and Minneapolis Community and Technical College boasts a program to earn a Bicycle Assembly and Repair Technician certificate that prepares students for jobs at bike shops. (It’s one of two in the country.)
The need for trained bike mechanics is projected to increase because the demand for bikes is still outpacing the supply, and because interest in cycling of all types skyrocketed during the pandemic, according to Singletracks, a mountain bike publication.
3515 Chicago Ave., Minneapolis
Express Bike Shop
https://www.exbike.com (for apprenticeship info, https://www.exbike.com/jobs)
1158 Selby Ave, St Paul
Erik’s Bike Shop
https://www.eriksbikeshop.com/eriks-junior-apprentice-program (various locations)
The Hub Bike Co-op: https://www.thehubbikecoop.org
3016 Minnehaha Ave.,
and 401 SE Oak St., Minneapolis
Community college certificate program: https://minneapolis.edu/academics/school-trade-technologies/bicycle-assembly-and-repair-technician