With so many incredible mountain bikes for sale today, the key question to answer isn’t necessarily “which bike performs the best?” Rather, one should ask, “how to get the best deal possible on a high-quality mountain bike?” Here are 7 strategies for scoring a killer deal on your next mountain bike purchase.
1. Buy in the Off-Season When Prices Are Discounted
If you’re dead set on buying a shiny-new mountain bike but don’t want to pay top dollar, consider roaming the bike shop floors in late fall and winter. Bike shops–especially those selling bike brands that still operate on a model year system–are desperate to sell their inventory at this time of year, and you should be able to score a serious discount on an pristine mountain bike. “New models left over, or slower-moving models, can see discounts anywhere from 10 to 25 percent off,” says Brent Van Eps, Sales Manager for Absolute Bikes in Salida, Colorado.
The one caveat to this tactic is that the selection of bike models, sizes in each specific model, and colorways will be very limited at this time of year. “These are typically XL-sized bikes or models that were outsold by other bikes with better features, benefits, and ride quality,” says Brent. If you’re extremely selective about what you’re looking for, you might want to pay top dollar and buy in season.
2. Buy a Used, But Well-Maintained Rental Bike from a Shop Fleet
This is one of my favorite strategies on this list. In addition to shopping in the off season, most bike shops with a rental fleet will sell off their rental bikes each season, allowing you to get an even deeper discount than on a brand-new bike. While the bike may have been ridden before, since it’s been maintained by a professional mechanic, these demo bikes are usually in superb shape.
Sometimes, since you’re buying the bike directly from a bike shop, your new steed will still come with the same manufacturer’s warranty that a new bike would carry. Other times, the warranty will be shorter–it all depends on the brand. “We do our best to make sure the rider understands what they give up warranty-wise if buying a demo model,” says Brent. (Caveat: the warranty isn’t as good as you might imagine, even if you do get the full-length warranty.)
Sometimes you can even use this strategy to purchase a demo bike from a traveling demo fleet, but to do this you need to be in the right place at the right time (like Outerbike in the fall).
While buying a demo bike is often a great deal, beware of buying a gravity-oriented bike from a ski resort’s demo fleet, or from a fleet that’s been ridden at a resort. These bikes may have taken a monstrous beating. That said, depending on the shop, all of the wear parts may have been overhauled before resale. Apply the same level of criticism as you would while buying a used bike from a private party (see below).
3. Find a Great Demo Program
One way to score a reasonable deal but also get the perfect bike for you is to find a top-notch demo program. Absolute Bikes in Salida, Colorado offers one such program. At Absolute, you can pay $200 to demo as many bikes in their demo fleet as you can ride in four months… though most riders only take a few weeks to ride the key bikes they’re interested in. “We set up each bike perfectly for the rider and thoroughly go over the ride with them when they are done,” says Brent. “One of the best things about this program is the variety of brands, sizes, and models in our fleet. Also, [we have] year-round riding on some of the best trails in the state!”
If you pay $200 for Absolute’s demo program and then choose to buy a new bike from them, that fee gets applied to your new bike purchase–an instant discount on your dream bike.
4. Buy a Used Bike from a Private Party
Possibly the number one way to score a great deal on a mountain bike is to buy it used from a private party. Since mountain bikes depreciate, on average, 45% in the first alone, you can get a year-old mountain bike for a fraction of the original MSRP!
The key to buying used is to accurately assess the wear and tear that the bike has sustained. If it’s still in great shape and has only been ridden lightly, you may be getting an excellent deal. But if it’s been ridden hard and many components need to be replaced… it’s probably not such a great deal.
For more information on buying a used bike, especially online, be sure to read Michael Paul’s guide.
5. Opt for a Wheel Size or Standard that’s Fallen out of Fashion
In addition to buying used from a private party, if you opt for a wheel size or a component standard that’s fallen out of fashion, you can often score very deep discounts on a used bike.
Right now, the key example is 26″ wheels. People are practically giving away lightly-used mountain bikes with 26″ wheels, for just a fraction of what they originally paid. If you opt for a 26-inch-wheeled mountain bike that was a bit ahead of its time–like the Yeti SB66–you could easily ride that beast for many years to come.
Other examples include non-boost-spaced mountain bikes, frames that aren’t compatible with stealth-routed dropper posts, and more. If you can live with that specific limitation, you can often save a great deal of money.
6. Buy a Frameset and Build a Custom Bike
It’s possible that by buying a frameset and utilizing components you already own, or hand-picking budget components off the internet, you could build a custom bike for less than it would cost to buy one.
However, be cautious with this approach, as it often ends up costing more than you’d expect.
Bonus: if you combine building your own bike with buying used parts and opting for out-of-fashion standards, you’ll probably beat everybody else.
7. Buy from a Direct-to-Consumer Bike Company
Alright, if you’ve read through this list and you want a brand-new bike, you don’t want to wait until the off season, you want something very specific, and you don’t think you can make a custom build pay off, your best bet is to buy a brand-new mountain bike from a direct-to-consumer company.
Brands like Canyon, YT Industries, Commencal, and others are producing incredible mountain bikes that compete with the biggest brands in the world, and yet they’re selling them for hundreds or even thousands of dollars less. The most amazing thing right now? From year-to-year many direct to consumer brands, like YT Industries, are actually dropping prices while speccing better components. Take advantage of this trend while it’s here and score yourself a killer mountain bike.
Your Turn: Do you have any strategies for scoring a great deal on a mountain bike? Share them in the comments section below.