6 Smart Questions to Ask When Buying a Bike

iStock
iStock

Since May is National Bike Month, it’s prime time to get outside and spin your wheels. Haven't been on a bicycle since your childhood 10-speed? Well, you know what they say about riding a bike. But while the actual act of pedaling should feel like second nature, knowing what bike to get isn't so easy. Walking into a bike shop can be totally intimidating: There are tons of models to choose from, additional components and accessories for sale, and, often, serious cyclists in spandex hanging around—it's enough to make any newbie nervous.

A good bicycle shop employee will ask you several questions (about your experience, where you plan to ride, etc.) to help narrow down what bikes you might like. But being ready with some questions of your own will help you feel confident as you browse and purchase a new two-wheeler.

Consider this your cheat sheet. Keep reading for the top questions you should ask a salesperson to make sure you’re in a good shop and buying the right bike for you. Then go out and enjoy the ride!

1. DO YOU ALLOW TEST RIDES?

Why ask this? If you’re buying from a good shop, they’ll likely get you set up and fit the bike for you. While that helps with ensuring a comfortable ride, it can’t "give you the real-world sensation of actually riding the bike on the open road,” says Sam Dodge, Global Business Manager of GURU Sports.

He suggests testing a couple bikes for a short ride around the block and treating it as though you’re tasting wine. Compare the models closely, taking note, for instance, if one of them seems to brake more smoothly or handle bumps better. “Once you are happy with the functionality of the bike, you can shift your focus towards the more important options—like what color you are going to buy!"

2. IF I BUY A BIKE, WHAT LEVEL OF FIT DO YOU OFFER?

A woman trying out a bike at a bicycle shop
iStock

Why ask this? If your bike isn’t adjusted to fit your body, it won’t be comfortable to ride—and could lead to injury. "Some shops along with the tune-up plans will offer a basic fit at time of purchase,” says Dodge. "At the very least, the shop should set your saddle height correctly and advise you on adjustments that might need to be made on the bike.”

Once you’re on the bike, the salesperson might notice that you could be better off, for instance, if you swap out the saddle (read: seat) or handlebar that came with the bike with another type. While you’re on the subject, ask this follow-up question, too: Does the fit come with a follow-up session a few weeks down the road? It’s good to know you can pop back in if you need to make additional adjustments.

3. WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE GROUPSET ON THESE BIKES?

Why ask this? One of the details that affects the price of a bike is its groupset, which refers to mechanical components like the shifters, chain, and cassette. Some of the pricier ones might weigh less and shift a bit more smoothly, but it’s not necessarily worth your extra dollars if you’re a cycling novice—so inquiring might help you choose a less expensive (but still fantastic for you) option.

4. DO YOU OFFER FREE TUNE-UPS? AND WHAT'S INCLUDED?

A man working on a bicycle at a cycling shop
iStock

Why ask this? Many shops will do a basic tune-up of your bike for free within the first year, sometimes longer. If you’re in a shop that doesn’t, it might be worth checking out another store. "It is definitely worth looking at what is being offered and understand what is included in that free tune,” says Dodge. However, don’t assume that a flat tire or worn-out brakes will be replaced free of charge without asking. “Most good shops will explain their policy so that your expectations are set at the time you’re buying. Ultimately they want to see you again and make sure you are happy with your purchase."

5. DOES THE SHOP OFFER ANY SORT OF BIKE MECHANIC 101 COURSES?

Why ask this? It’s smart to be able to handle a little simple maintenance—like changing a tire or fixing a chain that’s slipped off—on your own, because you might be riding miles away from a shop when a problem like these pops up. "A flat tire is a nearly inevitable rite of passage for the new cyclist,” says Dodge. "Having the right tools and knowledge to get you back on the road is a great life skill to have.”

6. DOES THE SHOP HOST A WEEKLY GROUP RIDE? ARE ALL LEVELS WELCOME?

Why ask this? It’s more fun to ride with friends! Plus, when you’re starting out, it can make you more confident, says Dodge: "If you are not super comfortable with the road or trails, this is a great opportunity to learn the best places to ride.” Bonus: You’ll easily pick up the best etiquette and rules of the road—which is great because no one likes a rude rider. “It’s always better to a get thumbs-up and not the middle finger from other cyclists and motorists."

15 Convenient Products That Are Perfect for Summer

First Colonial/Lunatec/Safe Touch
First Colonial/Lunatec/Safe Touch

The Fourth of July is the epitome of summer—and after several months spent indoors, you need some outdoor fun more than anything. Check out these 15 summer must-haves while they’re on sale and save an extra 15 percent when you spend $50 or more with the code JULYFOURTH15.

1. CARSULE Pop-Up Cabin for Your Car; $300 (20 percent off)

Carsule tent from Mogics.
Mogics

This tent connects to your hatchback car like a tailgate mobile living room. The installation takes just a few minutes and the entire thing stands 6.5 feet tall so you can enjoy the outdoors from the comfort of your car.

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2. Mosquito Killer Lamp; $30 (25 percent off)

Mosquito-killing lamp.
Kinkoo

If you just so happen to be one of those unlucky souls who attracts a suspicious amount of mosquitos the second you step outside, you need this repellent lamp to help keep your arms and legs bite-free. It uses a non-toxic combination of LED lights, air turbulence, and other methods to keep the pests at bay.

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3. Super Shield Mosquito Repellent Electronic Watch Band; $17 (57 percent off)

Mosquito repeller watch.
Safe Touch

While a lamp is a great non-toxic solution for keeping bugs at bay, active individuals need a bug repellent that can keep up with their lifestyle. This wrist wearable keeps you safe from mosquitoes anywhere by using ultrasonic sounds to drive them away.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

4. ZeroDark 3-Piece Tactical Set: Flashlight, Lantern, and Headlamp; $20 (66 percent off)

Aduro flashlight set.
Audro

If you want your summer to be lit, this set will do the trick. All puns aside, this trio of LED brightness is perfect for camping fun and backyard parties, or it can be stored in the car for emergencies.

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5. Outdoor Collapsible Cooler and Camp Table Set; $64 (27 percent off)

First Colonial cooler.
First Colonial

Cookouts are easy with this cooler and table set that chills your drink until you're ready to pop it into one of the four convenient cupholders. Bring this set camping or out by the pool for convenience anywhere.

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6. Trident: Underwater Scooter; $550 (21 percent off)

Trident underwater scooter.
Geneinno

If you’ve ever dreamed of better mobility while exploring the water, you’re not alone. The Trident underwater scooter, which raised over $82,000 on Indiegogo, can propel you through the water at up to nearly 6 feet per second, which isn't that far off from how fast Michael Phelps swam in his prime. The battery on it will last 45 minutes, allowing you to traverse with ease.

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7. Go Portable Solar Oven; $119 (14 percent off)

GoSun solar grill.
GoSun

Bake, roast, steam, or broil anywhere you bring this portable oven. Measuring in at just over a foot long and weighing only two pounds, the oven will work in most daytime weather conditions and can hold around 13 ounces of food.

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8. 3-in-1 Waterproof Bug Zapper Lantern; $25 (50 percent off)

3P Experts bug zapper.
3P Experts

Mosquitoes tend to be a big problem at night, partly because it's hard to swat in the dark. This lantern will light the area and zap mosquitos from nipping at you in the process.

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9. Urban E-Skateboard: Basic Version (Orange); $120 (73 percent off)

Urban Rover E-Skateboard
Urban Rover

This e-skateboard is perfect for getting around during the summer. You'll catch a breeze while you’re cruising on the battery-powered platform and won’t break a sweat when you pop the compact board in your bag.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

10. H2 Headlamp: Waterproof, Rechargeable LED Wide 180° Angle Headlight; $37 (26 percent off)

Headlamp from One80Light
One80Light

Camping, car troubles, and sports all pose a problem at night. This LED headlight will light up your surroundings across a 180-degree radius for prime visibility, meaning your outdoor activities won't have to stop when the sun sets.

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11. Whirlwind Cool Bladeless Mini Fan; $22 (63 percent off)

Bladeless fan
Whirlwind

This portable fan comes in a powerful handheld size so you can keep cool while on the move. Unlike other portable fans, this one has a sleek, bladeless design and features three different speeds.

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12. Bladeless Personal Fan; $22 (63 percent off)

Bladeless fan
3P Tech

This bladeless fan won't just keep you cool while you work on your laptop—it also has a built-in rechargable battery that you can use to charge your phone.

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13. MOGICS Coconut: Portable Waterproof Light; $37 (24 percent off)

Mogics portable lamp.
Mogics

This portable light is designed to adapt to your lighting preference. It self-inflates in a few seconds and can bounce, get wet, and set the mood.

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14. Lunatec 1L Hydration Spray Water Bottle; $25 (21 percent off)

Lunatec spray water bottle.
Lunatec

A water bottle can do more than hydrate you. This one has a spray nozzle that can create shower, stream, and mist patterns for doing dishes while camping, sharing a sip without sharing germs, and washing off those muddy shoes after a long hike.

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15. Sport Force Hydration Backpack; $25 (68 percent off)

Hydration backpack.
It's All Goods

Hiking enthusiasts know how important it is to stay hydrated, but carrying around awkward jugs of water is a hassle. This unique hydration backpack can be filled with two liters of water and features a convenient drinking nozzle that extends to the user's mouth. Now, you can replenish those fluids without breaking stride.

Buy it: Mental Floss Shop

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. If you haven't received your voucher or have a question about your order, contact the Mental Floss shop here.

The 10 Most—and 10 Least—Stressed-Out States in America

The French Quarter in New Orleans makes for a fabulous vacation spot, but Louisiana can be stressful for full-time residents.
The French Quarter in New Orleans makes for a fabulous vacation spot, but Louisiana can be stressful for full-time residents.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

When your car breaks down, your card gets declined, and your alarm fails to go off all in one week, it probably seems like your own state of stress has nothing to do with the state you happen to live in. But some states do tend to have more stressed populations than others.

To find out which ones, WalletHub analyzed 41 factors across four different types of stress—work, money, family, and health and safety—and scored each state’s collective stress level on a scale of 100. The findings don’t exactly jibe with the idea that life is slow-moving and easy-going down South: Nearly all 10 of the most-stressed states are in the South or Southwest, including Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Arkansas, Kentucky, Alabama, and Oklahoma.

Louisiana came in first with just over 57 points, ranking third for work-related stress (which covers things like average hours worked per week and unemployment rate) and second for money-related stress (think income, credit score, and housing affordability).

Residents in Alaska, which clinched the 10th spot with about 49 points, don’t seem to have much money-, family-, or health-related stress; the state landed at 46th, 36th, and 23rd for those three categories, respectively. Their work stress, on the other hand, is higher than any other state, largely due to low job security and long hours.

If you’re looking to move somewhere mellow, your best bet is the upper Midwest. Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa are the four least-stressed states in the land. Minnesota, whose stress score is less than 28, has some of the lowest poverty and divorce rates, some of the highest credit scores, and an abundance of psychologists per capita. But you don’t have to resign yourself to living in a cold climate if you want to settle down somewhere calm—Hawaii ranked seventh, and temperate Maryland rounded out the top 10.

Take a look below to see if your state is especially harried or not, and see the full list of scores here.

Most-Stressed States

  1. Louisiana // 57.30
  1. Mississippi // 56.20
  1. New Mexico // 52.68
  1. Arkansas // 52.00
  1. West Virginia // 51.96
  1. Nevada // 51.03
  1. Kentucky // 50.59
  1. Alabama // 50.30
  1. Oklahoma // 50.13
  1. Alaska // 49.23

Least-Stressed States

  1. Minnesota // 27.62
  1. North Dakota // 30.17
  1. South Dakota // 30.55
  1. Iowa // 31.38
  1. Utah // 31.92
  1. New Hampshire // 32.01
  1. Hawaii // 33.73
  1. Colorado // 35.46
  1. Wisconsin // 35.49
  1. Maryland // 35.76

[h/t WalletHub]