How do you live in this city and not already own a bike? Because you can ride your roommate's sister's rusty cruiser with the brakes that don't work, right? It's time to get over your fears of gears and buy your own bike. We asked some trusted professionals for their help—so don't worry, you'll be a snob soon enough.
• First of all, Portland has nearly 60 bike shops. The staff should be friendly and super-helpful in your bike search—if they're not, turn up your nose and go somewhere else.
• You should shop around anyway. "Go to a couple shops and try out a few at each, so that you'll have an idea of what will work best for you," suggests Kim Fey, co-director of North Portland Bikeworks. Try out different kinds of handlebars—upright? Drop?—and different kinds of shifters until you find a setup that feels good. "It's a learning process. Speak to people, call around," says Tom Daly, owner of WTF (that's "Well-Tuned, Fast") Bikes.
• "Figure out what you actually want a bike for," says Fey. If you want greater stability on year-round rough terrain, go for wider tires. If you're hell-bent on going fast, you'll want a lighter frame and skinnier tires. And the more gears you have, the easier it is to go uphill.
• Used bikes can be much cheaper and just as good as new bikes. But ask how old the parts are (wheels, chain, shifters, etc.) and if they were high quality to begin with. "If it's not ready to ride, don't buy it!" says Daly.
• Beware a bad frame. The great thing about bikes is that you can change out every single piece on them—but start with a solid frame. "Look at the frame closely—check for cracks and dents, rippling in the paint... check the fork to make sure it's not bent," says Leigh Ryan of Citybikes.
• Steer clear of Craigslist unless you know what you're looking for. Yes, it has the cheapest bikes in town. But if you don't know much about bikes, you could easily pay too much for a clunker or, worse, pad a bike thief's pocket.