Your friends are disappearing to seek new singletrack and you’ve been left behind plateauing with your boring old partner.
You’re just entering the market for the first time and are astonished by the sheer number of options, bells, and whistles. “Ahem… That button does what?!”
You’re getting back into it after a long time away and it turns out the rules have changed!
You’re a serial monogamist constantly seeking the next best thing and never satisfied with the one you have.
No, Ninja isn’t in the match-making business… but we are here to offer up some tips on finding your next bike!
Ask yourself the big questions. “What do I want out of this relationship?“ “What should it do?” “Where do I want to take it?” “How much am I wiling to spend?” While you may have fantasies of lunch laps at A-Line in Whistler (we do, too!), if you live in an area without chairlift-accessed riding it’s more practical to go for something you can pedal uphill.
“If anyone tells you that you “MUST” get a hardtail or you “MUST” get a full suspension or you “MUST” get brand X – don’t listen to them. Anyone who is helping you find a bike should be asking you questions about your goals, budget, terrain preference, etc. before offering you advice,” says Ninja Instructor Hannah.
With so many good bikes out there it can seem overwhelming, but the good news is that (unlike dating) you get to pick from a large pool of great candidates! Once you narrow down what you are looking for in a bike trust your instincts to find the perfect match and go spend your time riding.
Play the Field
Ride a bike! Ride ALL the bikes! Many shops have “demo” bikes (AKA fancy rental bikes they send out with the hope you’ll eventually buy one) so you can compare bikes on your local trails and narrow down your options. Typically, the cost of your demos count toward purchase price of your new bike, too. Cha-ching!
Bikes come in all shapes and prices, so don’t worry if that demo bike is not the model you want or the price you have in mind. Set up a date to take it out for a spin so you can get a feel for the important things like the size, geometry, and how it handles and then you’ll have a better idea of what you are looking for in the long-term.
Don’t commit to one that’s the right price, but the wrong size. You’ll be uncomfortable, then you’ll ride it less and less until eventually you’ll just take up rollerblading. No one wants that.
Do reconsider your wish list if you’re having a hard time finding “The One” because you’re getting hung up on aesthetics. Manufacturers don’t often make models in multiple colors and unless you want to be orchestrating a giant part swap to get the components you want on a certain frame color, you need to re-prioritize. Okay, okay – those are Auburn colors and you’re a Bull Dog… fine. Then just spend less cash on Saturday game beers and wings this winter so you can ante up for the new carbon model that drops in the spring.
Seek Professional Help… and Keep Seeking It
Find your bike shop and build a relationship with them. If you walk into a shop and don’t get a good vibe then take your business elsewhere. How should you prepare for this trip? “Just come in knowing your budget and what you want to do on your new bike. You don’t need to come to our store prepared with more than that,” says Kevin at River City Bicycles in Portland.
Keep in mind that this won’t… well, it shouldn’t… be your last trip to the professionals. If you choose to spend your hard-earned cash here, you should be back for regular service on brakes, suspension, spare parts, and the occasional squeak, clunk, or click. River City offers a free 30-day tune-up and discounts on parts and accessories with any bike purchase, so ask your shop what perks come with your new bike purchase and be sure to take advantage of them.
Ninjas have lots of experience with this dating game and we’ve found our best relationships aren’t with our bikes, but with our bike shops… Here are some of our favorites:
Zumwalt’s Bicycle Center – San Diego, California
“Full service shop with a extremely knowledgeable staff. They pride themselves on customer satisfaction. This local bike shop is second to none and in my opinion the only one that exists in the San Diego area! This is a picture is of me presenting to Todd (owner of Zumwalt’s) the team’s first place trophy (Co Ed Cat 2/3) for the Kenda Cup series 2017.” – Todd Young
“Top-notch service — they always go above and beyond. One of the best shops in the US!” – Richard LaChina
“Loving two bikes shops is like having 2 boyfriends. I have my Ninja shop Zumwalt’s, but they are 45 minutes away. I have my nearby bike shop North Of the Border which is 5 minutes away and I love them, too! They both take excellent care of me.” – Patty “Ninja Patty” Elliott
“Community based full service shop with high quality products located near some of the best riding in SoCal. Come for the social experience…Cafe99 gormet coffee cart and whole bean roaster is located at Alpine Ride Shop making it the best pre and post ride shop in San Diego!” – Gail Shafer
“Trek of Westlake Village is a beautiful shop with a wide range of bikes and gear for every discipline of riding. The staff from sales to service are very knowledgeable, friendly, and willing to help.” – Jeremy Call
“In one of the East’s best cycling cities good shops are hard to find. I think these guys have the best service in the area. They can fix anything and typically have it done in 24 hours. The only thing they haven’t been able to do is a Fox overhaul and Fox East is only a day away so I get quick turn around from that! They were also very knowledgeable with route beta on the road or in the woods and have a huge demo fleet which is hard to find outside of Brevard.” – Matt Cianca
“Always great service, friendly and professional. They don’t give people a hard time if they didn’t buy a bike from them. They have been in town since 1973 and a top Specialized Dealer for years.” – Ben Lewis
Woohoo! As good as it gets is appropriate! Richard is not only a great rider, he is a great teacher!...
Woohoo! As good as it gets is appropriate! Richard is not only a great rider, he is a great teacher! I would encourage everyone to stay away from the mind trap that buying a more expensive mountain bike is what you need to ride better. Spend the money on lessons instead, and I know you will be happier (and safer) in the long run. I can't say enough positive things about the Bike Skills clinics. ~ Chris G.
Within one hour we we clearing a 5 foot jump easily and with confidence!
Wow, a friend and I just did a one day private lesson with Richard and I can’t believe how much...
Wow, a friend and I just did a one day private lesson with Richard and I can’t believe how much we learned. I’ve been riding for over 10 years but with all self taught skills. We wanted to learn fundamentals the right way and Richard took us through all of that (along with critical bike setup) and the intermediate stuff that they teach in one day plus he spent an extra hour at the end to teach us jumping which I had always been nervous about. Within one hour we we clearing a 5 foot jump easily and with confidence, we even learned to move the bike in the air on a crossed take off and landing. I think my favorite part though was riding fast on the very gnarly technical descent. We will be booking up more private lessons during the summer at Big Bear. Thanks Richard you are a very good teacher! ~John U.
I took a Fundamental Skill clinic last weekend and learned so much! I've been riding for a few years and...
I took a Fundamental Skill clinic last weekend and learned so much! I've been riding for a few years and felt stuck and was not improving at all. Aaron was a great instructor! Very patient and broke down everything step by step and we repeated the skills until we felt comfortable. I look forward to mastering the skills I learned and taking another clinic in the spring. ~Jody Hachenberger-Amend
Special thanks to Santa Fe Fat Tire Society for bringing you in!
My wife and I had the privilege of attending the skills 2 day camp in Santa Fe New Mexico August...
My wife and I had the privilege of attending the skills 2 day camp in Santa Fe New Mexico August 20th and 21st. Richard and Aaron and Catherine where fantastic trainers and teachers they brought new light into basic skills of riding each person in the group was able to excel in what we were doing before we moved on to some other awesome skill or task individual attention was felt by all in the group and visible Improvement was seen in all Riders when we have you back next year you should plan on doubling or tripling the number of riders thanks for a super fun weekend and special thanks to Santa Fe Fat Tire Society for bringing you in and of course thanks to Richard and Aaron and Kathryn. ~Bruce Hamby
This past fall I finally broke down and upgrade my mountain bike. I was riding a hard tail bike mostly...
This past fall I finally broke down and upgrade my mountain bike. I was riding a hard tail bike mostly for the workout. After racing in an Xterra, I realized that a new bike was in my future. ( I could tell a huge story about the process of purchasing a new MB and the massive amount of miss information you can obtain from bike shops. Especially when you know nothing about bikes. ) Not long after I purchased the new MB, I had my first over the handle bars wreck. I still cannot remember the actual crash. I can see the rut that I am about to hit on the downhill, and then I remember waking up on the trail barely able to breath. The crash gave me some time to catch up on email. One of those emails was a beginners MB clinic hosted by Richard and the Ride Like a Ninja crew. I swallowed my pride and signed up. To date I have done everything I was taught. I made every adjustment to my bike that was recommended. I then had the bike fitted. The skills taught that day are priceless to me. For the first time I understand what position my body needs to be in for each type of terrain. I am not perfect by any means, but in my mind I am shouting the word NINJA to remind myself. I practice the techniques ever time I ride. ~ Hal N.
We are a group of passionate, dirt-loving, community oriented, world class instructors committed to helping you reach your personal riding goals. We are excited to work with riders of all ability levels and share the joy (STOKE) of mountain biking.