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."

5 Trouble-Shooting Tips to Keep Your Houseplant Alive

iStock
iStock

Maybe you’ve heard that houseplants can help improve indoor air quality. Perhaps you’ve read that looking at plants can help you focus. Or maybe you just really like how that ficus looks in your living room. But buying a plant and keeping it alive are two different things, and the answer to your botanical woes isn’t always “don't forget to water it.” Here are five green-thumb tips to make sure your plant stays as leafy green as it was the day you bought it.

1. Don't overwater your houseplant.

You don’t want to neglect your plant, but it’s easy to go overboard with the watering can, and that can be just as harmful as forgetting to water your plant for weeks. A watering schedule can help you keep track of whether or not your plants need attention, but you shouldn’t water just because it’s Sunday and that’s when you usually do it. Before you go to water your plant baby, make sure it actually needs it.

Your plant’s water needs will vary based on the type of plant, its location, how old it is, and plenty of other factors, but there are a few rules of thumb that can put you on the right track. Lift the pot. If it’s heavy, that means that the soil is full of water. If it’s light, it’s dry. Dig a finger into the soil around its roots, making sure to feel beneath the surface. Still damp? Hold off. Dry? Grab the H2O.

If you really struggle to strike the right balance between too much and too little water, consider a smart plant system. And regardless of how often you water, make sure to use a pot with good drainage to prevent root rot.

2. Watch the temperature of the room your houseplant is in.

Be aware of where your plant is situated in the room, and whether there might be any temperature extremes there. Is your fern sitting right above the radiator? Is your peony subject to a cold draft? Is your rosemary plant stuck leaning against a window during a snowstorm?

As a rule, most houseplants can handle temperatures between 58°F and 86°F, according to a bulletin from the University of Georgia. The ideal range is between 70°F and 80°F during the day, and between 65°F and 70°F at night. Below 50°F, sensitive plants can suffer damage to their leaves. However, as with most plant advice, it depends on the species—tropical plants usually do well in higher temperatures, and some other plants are happier in colder rooms.

If your sad-looking plant is sitting in the middle of a cold draft or right next to the heater, consider moving it to a different spot, or at least a few inches away. If it’s near the window, you can also draft-proof the window.

3. Maintain humidity for your houseplant.

Be mindful of the kind of ecosystem that your plant comes from, and know that keeping it happy means more than just finding the right amount of sun. A tropical plant like an orchid won’t thrive in dry desert air. According to the Biology Department at Kenyon College in Ohio, a dried-out plant will look faded and wilting. You can immerse it in water to help it bounce back quickly. (Warning, though: A plant that’s getting too much moisture can look that way, too.)

If your home gets dry—say, when you have the heater on full blast in the winter or the AC on constantly during the summer—you’ll need to find a way to keep your plant refreshed. Your can buy a humidifier, or create a humidity tray by placing the pot on a tray of pebbles soaked in water. The plant will soak up the humidity as the water under the pebbles evaporates. You can also get a spray bottle and mist your tropical plants periodically with water. (But don't mist your fuzzy-leafed plants.)

Not sure how humid your house is? You can get a humidity gauge (known as a hydrometer) for less than $10 on Amazon.

4. Look out for bugs on your house plant.

Even if you do all of the above correctly, you can still struggle to keep a plant healthy due to infestations. Keep an eye out for common pests like spider mites, which will leave brown or yellow spots on leaves or make the plant’s color dull. If you discover these tiny mites (you may need to use a magnifying glass), wash your plant immediately with water to knock off as many mites as possible. Wash the plant with an insecticidal soap, too, but make sure the label says it’s effective for mites.

5. Repot your houseplant.

Healthy plants often outgrow their homes. if you notice that there are roots coming out the drainage holes at the bottom of your pot, or that water sits on the surface of the soil for a long time before draining down, or that your plant’s roots are coming up out of the soil, it’s time to upgrade to a bigger pot. Signs of a “root bound” plant whose root system is too big for its container can also include wilting, yellowed leaves, and stunted plant growth.

No matter what the size of your plant, it’s good to repot it once in a while, since the nutrients in the soil deplete over time. Repotting creates a fresh nutritional start and can help perk up unhappy plants.

If your plant looks unhealthy and you're still stumped, try consulting the website of a university horticulture department for other signs of plant distress and potential solutions.

Yale Is Offering Its 'Science of Well-Being' Course for Free Online

Chainarong Prasertthai/iStock via Getty Images
Chainarong Prasertthai/iStock via Getty Images

Even if you’ve heard that money or career success won’t necessarily make you happier, it’s still hard to resist the impulse to correlate your own well-being to external factors like those. Why are we so bad at predicting what will make us happy, and how can we figure out what actually does the trick?

These are just a couple questions you’ll be able to answer after completing “The Science of Well-Being,” a Yale University course currently being offered for free on Coursera. According to Lifehacker, the 10-week course consists of about two to three hours of reading and videos per week, and you can work at your own pace—so you can definitely take advantage of a free weekend to fly through a few weeks’ worth of material at a time, or postpone a lesson if you’re swamped with other work.

The class is taught by Yale psychology professor Laurie Santos, who will lead students through relevant research on how we’re wired to think about our own well-being and teach you how to implement that knowledge to increase happiness in your life. Since the coursework is task-oriented and the course itself is aimed at helping you build more productive habits, it’s an especially good opportunity for anyone who feels a little overwhelmed at how vague a goal to “be happier” can seem.

As for proof that this is definitely an undertaking worth 20 hours of your time, we’ll let the previous students speak for themselves: From 3731 ratings, the course averages 4.9 out of 5 stars.

Though the course is free, an official certificate to mark your completion—which you can then add to your LinkedIn profile—will cost you $50. Enroll on the Coursera website, and check out 23 other science-backed ways to feel happier here.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

[h/t Lifehacker]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER