Buying Bikes on a Budget

Concern about high costs is a common barrier to riding a bicycle for transportation. There’s a stereotype of a “real” cyclist–the skinny dude on a space-age bike, dressed head-to-toe in spandex. Embedded in that image is expensive gear that may be hard to maintain and/or costly to replace. Even articles in the bicycle media often advocate for buying the more expensive bicycle and accessories.

There’s some truth in the idea that “you get what you pay for”, i.e. that more expensive bikes and gear are higher quality. But that’s also a privileged viewpoint, assuming that all potential riders have money to spend to begin with. At WABA, we want to get as many people riding as possible, lowering the barriers to bicycling in every way we can, including the barrier of price.

Any human size, any budget: there’s a bike out there for you!

Many potential riders decide to buy used bikes to save money. Last-year’s-model sales at local bike shops, consignment bicycle stores, and person-to-person sales are all options for getting great bikes at a more reasonable cost.

Second-hand and last-year’s-model bikes are not only for new riders, either.  Many women in WABA’s Women & Bicycles buy an inexpensive bike to keep around for riding through bad weather or when locking up in public for long periods of time.

But there are some risks–everything from craigslist scams to parts on the verge of wearing out to purchasing stolen bikes.

So what’s the most practical and safe way to ensure you get a good quality machine?

  • Local bike shops

    Many shops will begin to mark down bikes in the early fall to make room for new models. These sales can be extremely cost effective. Just like when you purchase any new bike, you may get access to services like simple fittings, different models and sizes to choose from, and included tune-ups.

  • Consignment shops

    While rarer, you can find bikes at area consignment shops. These are often sold as-is and may not be covered under a return policy, so make sure you ask questions before buying.

  • Peer-to-peer

    This might be the single most cost-effective way to get a new-to-you bike. Craigslist, the DC Used Bicycle Marketplace on Facebook, and of course, the robust W&B forum all offer ways to look for your new steed. There are dozens of options at a wide range of price points.

Ashley Blue, the WABA PAL coordinator, on her secondhand bike!

More helpful tips

Shop smart. Try a few different models and, if possible, different sizes. (In Women & Bicycles, a quick survey of women who are 5’7″ reveals that we ride bikes ranging from 47cm to over 56cm! Everyone’s body is different, and your bike size will be different too!)

When buying peer-to-peer, make the sale as public as possible. If possible, it’s preferable to meet in a public location like a coffee shop or on the street instead of in someone’s house.

When buying second-hand, look for obvious signs of damage or rust. Dents are not necessarily a dealbreaker, but examine what you are buying carefully.

Warning signs of stolen bikes include: pictures not matching descriptions, high-end bikes at suspiciously low prices, lots and lots of bikes from the same seller, and sellers not knowing answers to specific questions like “where did you buy the bike originally?”

Take the time to do a test ride, to see if the bike fits you well enough. If you are in immediate discomfort, you might need a different style or size of bike.

We definitely recommend you take the bike to a local bike shop, or to a local bicycle co-op, to give the bike a check-up to make sure it’s safe and ready to roll.

Learning to do your own maintenance will help you keep your (mostly) new steed rolling happily for years to come.

Wrapping up

Whether you buy a last-years-model, a consignment bike, or a second-hand bike from a private party, there are great options for getting rolling without breaking the bank. Bicycle riding should be affordable and accessible to everyone. No matter your body size or your budget, there’s a bike out there for you!

Are you women-identifying or women-aligned and a lover of all things bike-related? Sign up here to join the Women & Bicycles email list! I'm in!


Women & Bicycles sharing the bike love


Learn to Pilot a Tandem Bike with WABA!


The DC Bike Ambassadors have been teaming up with the Metro Washington Association of Blind Athletes (MWABA) all summer to grow our community of bicycling friends by partnering our pilots (the person up front who steers the bike) with MWABA’s stokers (the person in the back who provides extra pedaling) for great tandem riding!

We had our first Tandem Pilot Training Session in May. Since then, we’ve participated in many more rides and training sessions with MWABA. If you would like to join in on the fun, our next tandem training session will be Friday August 25th from 5-7pm at the Eastern Market metro station. Helmets will be required and tandem bikes will be available to try out. No tandem experience (in either position) is necessary but patience and willingness to make mistakes and learn are highly encouraged.

Quick Tandem Tips

For those excited to try tandem riding for the first time, a few things are key to a successful outing:

  1. Communication — You should already be communicating regularly with those around you in everyday bicycling life; signally when turning, alerting those behind you verbally and with your hands so that they know that you are about to slow down or come to complete stop. When it comes to riding in tandem with a partner, you should also communicate when you are going down a hill and want to start coasting, when there is an upcoming bump or pothole in the road.
  2. Flexibility — As a pilot, it is much easier to adapt to your stoker’s riding style than the other way around.
  3. Perseverance — Do not worry if you can’t get it on the first try. Even very experienced pilots need time to adjust to a new stoker to make a well-oiled tandem team machine.

We hope to see you there!

Sign up here

If you would like to learn more about the DC Bike Ambassador Program please join our Facebook page for all the latest updates.

A Day in the life of Trail Ranger

WABA’s Trail Rangers are a near-constant presence on DC’s trails, and they work harder than just about anybody else around here. Here, for the first time, is your chance to experience a day in the life of a Trail Ranger. Enjoy!

Interested in keeping in touch with the team? Sign up here! Yes!

Photo credit: 501pix Photography

Whew! That was quite a ride, wasn’t it? Next time you see a Trail Ranger be sure to give them a wave and a smile. They’re working hard to make the trail better for all of us.

Full photo shoot can be found here.

Sign up for our DC Advocacy Workshop

We know that when we build safe, connected spaces to bike, people come in droves to use them. So, as we aim to triple the number of people who bike in the region, creating quality infrastructure plays a huge role. But actually getting a protected bike lane installed takes time and hard work. It takes a lot of continuous support to push a project through every step.

Over the next few years, the District Department of Transportation plans to build almost 18 miles of protected bike lanes all over the city. But those plans might never be realized unless people like you keep the pressure up and participate actively in every step of the planning process.

On Wednesday, August 30, we are hosting a workshop to help you get in the game. Join us to demystify the process, get looped into opportunities for input, and most effectively support bike projects you care about.

Better Bicycling Advocacy Workshop
Wednesday, August 30 | 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Shaw Library | 1630 7th St NW
Cost: Free!

Register Here

At this training, we will cover:

  • staying informed: learning about projects before they break ground
  • the process and language of transportation planning
  • best practices for creating safe streets
  • reading and comparing concept plans
  • Opportunities for input, effective comments, and being heard

This training will use examples and projects specific to the District of Columbia, but advocates from other jurisdictions are welcome to attend. Click here for more information and to register.

Meet Rachel, A Sock Loving WABA Member!

Meet Rachel Maisler, a dedicated and enthusiastic WABA member who recently represented the WABA community at the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI)!

Rachel, who has been an member since 2013, loves to show off her passion for WABA, proclaiming: “it’s all about the socks.”

“Just kidding. I love WABA for so many reasons! WABA does a great job of building community among DC area cyclists and advocating for what’s important to its members.”

It was this sense of community that Rachel brought with her to Iowa, where she completed the 411 mile journey for RAGBRAI XLV. Cyclists travel from around the world to Iowa to ride across the state in the world’s longest, largest, and oldest bicycle touring event. Although she was in another state, Rachel still felt like part of the WABA community. “I made sure to bring my WABA jersey and socks with me. Each time I wore them, people were shouting out that they’re from DC (or the suburbs), too. I probably ran into about 10 other WABA members on the ride.”

“When I was trying to figure out how to get my bike to Iowa, I remembered WABA offers a bike box as a member benefit. I was able to pack up my bike and bring it on the plane with me.”

When she is not representing WABA in rural Iowa, Rachel is involved with WABA closer to home. “Bike to Work Day is always fun. This year, my councilmember asked me to plan a route and ride to work with him on Bike to Work Day. It was really cool to ride with him and point out what DC does really well for cyclists and how the city can improve.”

WABA is so happy to have Rachel as a member and a passionate advocate for bicycling wherever she goes! Thank you, Rachel!

PS: Want to get a pair of those pink socks Rachel loves for yourself? You can purchase a pair here.

WABA Member Highlight

Are you a WABA Member ready to share your story? We’d love to hear how you started bicycling, or an inspirational tale of how it has changed your life.

Contact Tara Kelbaugh at if you would like to share.

Make a difference in your community – teach bicycle education

Are you looking to make a positive impact in your community? Do you ride your bicycle and think, “I’d like to see more people riding their bicycles safely and happily.” Do you have spare time on Saturdays and Sundays that could be better spent making bicycling better in the region? Then, you should consider applying to become a WABA instructor!

In 2016, WABA taught 483 adults how to ride a bicycle for the very first time and 311 adults how to ride more comfortably and confidently throughout the region. None of this could have been accomplished without the help of our amazing team of League Cycling Instructors (LCIs).

WABA is growing our instructor team and looking for people to teach with WABA to get more cyclists on the road in our region. WABA is hosting a LCI seminar in November. This seminar will be an intensive, fun and engaging course taught by experts and it will be free! Click here to learn more and apply.

Recently, I asked one of WABA’s Lead Instructors, Liz, why she applied to become a LCI four years ago. Not only does Liz teach for WABA, she also provides one-on-one instruction to many members of her community. Liz shared some very compelling reasons to to become an instructor:

I applied for the LCI seminar because I’ve always been enthusiastic about preaching the gospel of bike commuting, but now I could be paid to do so! Seriously, it seemed like a brilliant way to make some extra money doing something I was doing anyway. But once I started going through the process, I discovered that becoming an LCI is so much more.

The LCI seminar is, hands down, the hardest I’ve ever worked to get through a training program but is also the single most valuable professional development course I’ve ever attended. The things I learned there helped me communicate not only to bicyclists but also helped me communicate better and get more done in my day job. Knowing about how people learn and how to cater to more than one learning style makes every communication more powerful.

I keep teaching because it is joyful to see someone master a new handling skill or pedal away for the very first time. The WABA classes are a blast, but I also give private lessons and help friends improve their bicycling. I’ve found that many of my private clients are women who didn’t grow up in the U.S. who now want to learn to ride bikes to keep up with their children or get back into shape now that their kids are more independent. As a new mom, I can relate to this line of thinking now!!

I especially love the students who are nervous or scared or think they are too old to learn. How brave it is to try new things as we age! I admire every single person who reaches out to me or shows up at an Adult Learn to Ride class and takes a big step out of their comfort zone. They remind me to keep trying new things, and they are SO GRATEFUL for the few short hours of time I devote to them. And, somehow, I’m paid very well for this time that I’m lucky to spend with them. It’s a dream job.

If you’re interested in teaching for WABA or know someone who would be a great asset to our instructor pool, join us in bicycling better in the region.

Let’s Talk about E-Bikes


Caption: So much better than driving to school!

You’ve probably noticed that there are more electric bikes (e-bikes) around than there used to be. Once the domain of DIY tinkerers, bikes with an electric motor to make pedaling easier are now available off the shelf. For folks who are accustomed to bicycling without the help of a battery, this trend can inspire skepticism and uncertainty. Today we’re going to talk about that.

Before we dive in, it’s helpful to clarify what we mean by e-bike. E-bikes basically fall into to two categories:

Pedal Assist bikes use a motor to add power while you’re pedaling. If you stop pedaling, the motor stops. A limiter built into the motor stops adding power when the bike reaches a specific speed, usually 20mph.

Throttle On Demand bikes use a hand operated throttle, rather than pedaling action, to determine whether or not the motor is adding power. It’s possible to use the motor on a throttle-on-demand bike to propel the bike without pedaling. As with pedal assist e-bikes, a limiter built into the motor stops adding power when the bike reaches a specific speed, usually 20mph. Generally a user needs to use a mix of pedaling and electric assist to achieve a reasonable range.

Several states and national advocacy organizations have worked with the bike manufacturing industry to develop the following classification system for e-bikes.

 Can be pedaled without motor assistanceCan propelled by motor without pedalingMaximum assisted speed
Class 1 - Pedal AssisYesNo20 mph
Class 2 - Throttle on DemandYesYes20 mph
Class 3YesSometimes28 mph
MopedNoYesOver 28 mph

In most circumstances, WABA supports treating speed limited Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes as regular bikes. These low speed e-bikes make bicycling a viable transportation option for more people. They reduce barriers for folks who have longer distances to travel, heavier loads or passengers to carry, or other challenges that might otherwise preclude using a bicycle to make a trip. More people on bikes is an unequivocally good thing.

Some common questions:

Don’t e-bikes go too fast for trails?

Not really. Class 1 and 2 e-bikes are technologically limited to 20mph, and research shows that on trails, e-bike riders are generally a bit slower than unassisted bicyclists. People riding e-bikes are also subject to the same speed limits and trail safety rules as everyone else.

Biking too fast is a behavior problem, not an equipment problem. You don’t need an electric motor to be a 25mph jerk on a bike. We’ve all had the experience of being buzzed on a trail by someone riding far too fast.

By making it easier for more people to ride faster, e-bikes could democratize the capacity for bad behavior. This does not mean we should ban e-bikes any more than we should ban people with strong legs. It means we need to have systems in place to ensure that everyone is using our trails safely—infrastructure, rules, education, and social norms.

Aren’t e-bikes cheating?

E-bikes are only cheating if you’re competing.

Bike lanes and multi-use trails are not competitive spaces, they’re part of our region’s transportation and recreation network.

At WABA we’re pretty clear on this: the joy and convenience of bicycling should not be limited to the physically privileged. Everyone should be able to get where they’re going on a bike, period.

Why can’t e-bikes just ride on the street?

Since many of our region’s trails don’t have low-stress, on-street alternatives, forcing people on e-bikes to use “parallel routes” isn’t feasible or equitable. Riding a low-speed e-bike feels mostly just like riding an unassisted bike, except it’s a little easier to pedal. They’re not motorcycles, and they certainly aren’t any less stressful than an unassisted bike on busy, high-speed roads full of tired, distracted, or angry drivers.

Isn’t this a “slippery slope” toward letting electric motorcycles on trails?

No. There’s a clear framework for distinguishing between e-bikes, mopeds, and motorcycles. No one is arguing that a Tesla-Harley Davidson collaboration should be allowed on the Mount Vernon Trail.

The conversation about e-bikes highlights an important reality: Lots of different kinds of people bike for lots of different reasons.

For some folks, biking is a purely recreational. For others, it’s about fitness or competition. And for many, it’s transportation. The needs of bicyclists aren’t always going to align. This isn’t a problem—it’s a testament to the versatility of the bicycle.

More people are biking in our region than ever. That’s a good thing. But that means some of the places we bike are getting crowded, and it means that you’re more likely to be sharing space with folks who are riding for different reasons than you are.

This is where we point out, because it’s what we do, that our region needs lots more bike infrastructure. But new trails take years to plan and build. (We’re working on it!)

In the meantime, the best way to keep our trails as pleasant places is not by excluding different kinds of riders, it’s by practicing courtesy and common sense. Here are a few of our recommendations:

  1. Follow the rules of each trail, including speed limits. Call your passes and give plenty of space when passing. Remember, it’s your responsibility to negotiate space in a way that is comfortable and safe, both for you and for everyone else on the trail.
  2. Have reasonable expectations. We live in a major metropolitan region, and our trails are some of our greatest public spaces. Expect to share them with other people biking and walking. Expect to accommodate people who are moving at different speeds than you.
  3. Don’t judge other people’s reasons for riding. All bikes are cool bikes! It’s much more fun to celebrate the shared experience of bicycling than it is to be grumpy at people for riding differently.

Get in touch!

We know WABA members and supporters have strong opinions about e-bikes from many different perspectives and that’s okay. Please feel welcome to share your thoughts by dropping us a line at

Disclosure: The Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) is an independent membership 501(c)3 non-profit organization. WABA receives no direct funding from the electric bicycle manufacturing industry.