There comes a time in every mountain biker’s life when he/she needs to buy their first bike or a new bike.  If there is one common theme for mountain bikers, it is that they always want a new bike.  The question becomes when is the best time.

There are several factors that go into buying a new bike, but the two best times to buy retail are around September and during and after the Christmas season.

When Do Prices Drop on Bikes?

Typically, new bike models come out in September of every year.  Just like buying a car, when the new models come in, the old models go on sale.  That is true with mountain bikes.

The key is to ride different models at demos so you know the specific model and size you want.  Once you know what you want, it is time to start watching and checking.  If you are willing to wait and do research, you could get a great deal on your dream bike.

There is no way to know how much a bike will be discounted, or if the particular bike you want will be in stock and/or be on sale, but it is worth waiting for.  Local bike shops start to discount bikes when the new models come in, and they will continue to discount them until they sell out of the old models.

Is it best to buy from a local bike shop?

Good question.  Ask ten mountain bikers this question, and you will get ten different answers and reasons. There is not a right answer, just a right answer for you.  Definitely ask other bikers’ advice; at the end of the process, decide what is right for you.

The first option is your local bike store.  The benefits of buying local are numerous.  First, you are supporting a local small business owner in your community.  If you are connected to your local community, it might be important to you to pay a bit more in order to support your local economy.

For a beginner, one of the biggest benefits of buying from a local bike shop is that you will have a place for service.  When we start riding, most of us don’t know anything about fixing our bikes, so having a relationship with a bike repair shop is ideal.  Mine is on speed-dial.

Buying new and from a local bike shops also affords us the luxury of a warranty.  As sure as the sun will rise, something will go wrong with our bikes, sooner rather than later.  It’s nice to have a warranty and a place to service that warranty.

One of my favorite parts of having a relationship with my local bike shop owners and techs is that I can go in and just socialize, talk about bikes, that I can see them on my trails and connect.  You can certainly do most of this if you buy a bike somewhere else and have it serviced at your local bike shop.

What is the deal with buying a bike from a big retailer?

If you are around mountain bikers very long, you will find out very quickly that they are a bit elitist when it comes to buying a bike at a big retail store.  They will hurl the insult “Walmart bike” with disdain when they can.

Sure, buying a bike at Walmart is not necessarily the ideal, but when you are starting out and/or do not have a big budget for a bike, the big retailers are not a terrible option.  There are a couple of things to keep in mind when buying from a big retail store.

You may not be able to find a bike in the right size for you.  Yes, you get a great price, but the downside  is that a big retailer will only carry a bike in one or two sizes.  Obviously, this is not ideal; however, if you find a great deal, you could make it work for an entry-level bike.

As with the mass-produced size, you are also going to get generic components.  If you have been riding for a while and know what you want, this could be a drawback, but if you are just starting out, you might not care what type of derailer you have—or even know what a derailer is!

components on mountain bike

One of the biggest drawbacks is that you won’t have a person who knows bikes well to assist you, nor will you have a service department to work on your bike.  The warranty is not going to be the same.  You will most likely have to ship the bike back to the manufacturer to correct a big warranty issue.

Sure, there are some significant drawbacks to buying a bike at a big retailer.  You just need to decide if this works for you.  If you find a good enough deal, this is an option for a beginner bike.  Don’t listen to the haters and ride your first bike with pride.  We all did not start riding a $6,000 bike.

When do retail stores like REI and Walmart have sales?

Big retail stores like REI and Walmart may discount bikes at different times.  A big chain like Walmart will not get new models in at the same time as local bike shops, thus September is not necessarily the best time to buy a bike at a big retail store.

Unless you live under a rock, you probably know there are good deals on Black Friday.  Mountain bikes at retail stores are frequently discounted during this time.  Unlike the local bike shop experience, the models/sizes/types will be more limited on Black Friday, and it might require you to outrun other excited shoppers.

If Black Friday is not your thing, the Christmas season will usually produce the best retail prices on mountain bikes at big retail stores.  Even if you miss the Christmas season, as the weather stays cold, there are still deals to be found until the weather warms up and bikes are in higher demand.

Is it cheaper/better to build your own bike?

It can be, but as a beginner, this is the toughest way to get the best deal.  It is possible to find a great deal on a frame and buy components along the way to create a budget-friendly bike.  However, it requires you finding that good deal, knowing how to build the bike yourself, and requires patience.

You could buy all the components and have a local bike expert build the bike, but it is likely that you will spend more on this than just buying a complete bike.  This might be something to keep in mind when you get into the sport and get more confidence in maintenance and know exactly what components you want.

What about buying a used bike on a website or from a friend?

A good way to get a deal is to buy from an individual.  Some people buy a high-end bike and find quickly they are not into the sport, or they get hurt and need to unload the bike.  Whatever the reason, you can find a great bike on Craigslist, Ebay, or on local bike sites.

It is ideal to find one locally you can test ride and really examine to see its condition.  If you are meeting someone in person, PLEASE meet them in a very public place and take a friend along if possible.  There is a real safety issue with meeting a stranger and exchanging a large sum of money.

Is the bike stolen?  See if they have receipts for the bike or service on the bike, see if they have pictures of themselves riding the bike—we need to do everything we can to catch bike thieves.  If that deal is too good to be true, it probably is.

Tips for finding the best deal on a bike.

  1. Ask your local bike shops if they have demos for sale. Demos might have some miles on them, but you will save a good deal of money on good bikes.
  2. Buy a used bike from an individual—see above.
  3. Think about getting a wheel size that mountain bikers don’t think is cool anymore. 5” wheels are the thing now, so you could get a better deal on a 29er or get a really great deal on a 26.
  4. Check the website of particular bike brands. This is something we don’t think about as mountain bikers, but the companies might have a better deal than the local bike shop, especially when their new models are coming out.

Check Bicycle Blue Book to know exactly what bikes are worth