It’s a thought that might pop into your head on a beautiful day: “I’d like to go on a bike ride.” If the bicycle sitting in your garage or storage shed is a little rusty, with flat tires, maybe even some cobwebs, and you can’t remember the last time you rode it, you might be due for a new one.
The World Economic Forum, citing statistics published by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, reported in June 2021 that after essentially flat spending dating at least back to 2018, Americans—likely fueled by pandemic restrictions—spent $6.9 billion on bicycles and accessories in 2020, $800 million more than the year before. This number was expected to jump to $8.2 billion for 2021.
For Montgomery County residents looking to buy a new bike, there are plenty of independent shops to choose from. We’re highlighting seven shops in the Bethesda area. Here’s what you should know before you walk through their doors and find yourself surrounded by shiny bicycles and accessories:
Pick your purpose. Every bike shop employee we talked to agreed on some variation of the first question they ask a customer: What do you want to do with the bike? Be ready to describe as best you can where you want to ride, how often, how far and on what kind of surface—pavement, gravel, dirt or all three. To help customers determine the style of bicycle they need, Manny Madrid, co-owner of Bike Center LTD in Gaithersburg, asks: “Are you looking for a sports car, a four-wheel-drive truck or crossover SUV?”
Get a good fit. Bicycle frames come in sizes, generally based on your height. The shop can adjust the saddle height and handlebar distance and angle to dial in your comfort. Some shops offer a more comprehensive and expert bicycle fitting session, including 3D video recording, and will provide a discount on the service if you buy a bicycle from them.
Try it. When you have some bike candidates, you can test them out. The store will lend you a helmet, and you can ride on nearby neighborhood streets and bike trails. Shops advise giving yourself enough time—at least 45 minutes—for working with a salesperson and going on test rides.
Embrace what’s available. Several salespeople mentioned that it helps to be flexible. With continuing supply chain issues, some shops may struggle to get a specific color or model, so be willing to try other options.
Find the right bike for your kids. Not surprisingly, most kids choose their bike based on the color and graphics rather than how it feels. It’s wise to let bike shop experts select a few bikes for them to try and to make sure they are able to ride comfortably. Another option, particularly when shopping for kids, is to consider refurbished bikes, which you can buy at a few of the stores in our guide to bike shops in the Bethesda area.
Americans—likely fueled by pandemic restrictions—spent $6.9 billion on bicycles and accessories in 2020, $800 million more than the year before.
The bike shops
Well placed in its location adjacent to the Capital Crescent Trail, Big Wheel Bikes’ Bethesda shop is one of four outlets for the Washington, D.C.-area retailer. They particularly highlight their service and repairs. Using refurbished parts, their mechanics often can make repairs at more affordable prices. Big Wheel Bikes offers a variety of brands, especially Fuji, and has started stocking electric bikes. Along with selling new bikes, Big Wheel buys and sells used ones and has a robust rental service.
6917 Arlington Road, Bethesda, 301-652-0192, bigwheelbikes.com
After working for other bike shops for more than 20 years, Manny Madrid opened Bike Center LTD with his partners in Gaithersburg three years ago. Madrid emphasizes the shop’s commitment to serving the entire range of cyclists, from beginners to experienced riders and triathletes. Their selection reflects that commitment, offering a range of road, mountain, kids and commuter-style bicycles. Bike Center LTD also offers a selection of custom-fit services for more experienced cyclists, including a video analysis as part of a comprehensive Full Bike Fitting package.
15930 Luanne Drive, Gaithersburg, 301-366-0927, bikecenterltd.com
Just up the street from Big Wheel Bikes, you’ll find Griffin Cycle, a 50-year-old Bethesda institution run by Nick Griffin, whose father was the original owner. Griffin sells only Trek bicycles, including their line of electric bikes. What Griffin may lack in brand selection is covered in availability thanks to Trek being able to avoid some of the supply chain hiccups that smaller brands may face. On the day we visited, Griffin had nearly 500 new bicycles in stock—“a bike for just about anybody in any category,” says Griffin, adding that 79 more were arriving the next day, including a plentiful selection of kid-size bicycles. Griffin also offers 15 months of free tune-ups and adjustments with any bike purchase.
4933 Bethesda Ave., Bethesda, 301-656-6188, griffincycle.com
“Hello, fun” is electric bike company Pedego’s motto, and it’s hard not to have fun when you add a smooth electrical boost to your bicycle ride. After watching his 90-year-old father enjoy a Pedego electric bicycle, owner David Bondareff left his operations job in the food industry to open the Pedego Bethesda store, one of over 200 locations. Pedego offers 18 models ranging from comfortable cruisers to trail-ready mountain bikes. Bondareff says Pedego originally targeted the “boomer” generation, but with the pandemic, electric bikes have become popular for all generations.
4926 Hampden Lane, Bethesda, 240-800-3154, pedegoelectricbikes.com/dealers/bethesda
In downtown Silver Spring, you’ll find the appropriately named Silver Cycles, which is owned by Linda Mack. Tracey Foley, who is a manager at the Silver Spring location and a co-owner of the D.C. outpost with Mack and Mack’s daughter Lana, jokes that the shop’s name could also refer to her and Mack’s hair color after 18 years in the business. Silver Cycles is the only women-owned bike shop in the area, according to Foley. It features some unique brands, such as Surly, Breezer, All-City and SE, all of which attract the urban and commuter crowd. Foley touts Silver Cycles’ extensive service and repair operation as well as the business’ commitment to all kinds of riders, particularly families and kids. They sponsor a junior cyclocross race team, Rock Creek Velo. Silver Cycles’ website includes extensive how-to guides on choosing a bike and basic bicycle maintenance and repairs.
8307 Dixon Ave., Silver Spring, 301-585-1889, silvercycles.com
Takoma Bicycle welcomes customers into a brightly colored space set inside a 100-year-old Craftsman-style bungalow home—look for bicycles hanging along the front porch during warm weather. Owner Bruce Sawtelle grew up in the bike shop business. If you bought a Schwinn bicycle in the ’80s in Maryland, there’s a good chance it was from one of his dad’s six area shops. Takoma Bicycle focuses on beginner and casual riders, especially kids. Inside, you’ll find a variety of bikes, including a good selection of the Giant brand’s Liv line, designed for female riders, as well as an impressive range of accessories.
7030 Carroll Ave., Takoma Park, 301-270-0202, takomabicycle.com
Terrapin Bicycles is one of Bethesda’s newest shops, opened by former Fannie Mae accountant Kevin Strumwasser on Norfolk Avenue in early 2021; the shop moved to a new space on Auburn Avenue in April. Strumwasser describes Terrapin as “mechanic owned,” meaning that he and his staff know their bicycles inside and out. They carry a variety of brands, with a focus on Giant’s Liv line. The shop’s name comes from the Grateful Dead song “Terrapin Station,’’ but is perhaps also a signal to any Maryland resident that they will feel welcome here. The new space includes a beer and wine license so customers can enjoy a drink while shopping.
4933 Auburn Ave., Bethesda, 443-333-9879, terrapinbicycles.com
Born and raised in the D.C. area, Jeffrey Yeates works for the federal government. His last major bike ride was the 2021 Civil War Century ride, a 103-mile jaunt among historic battlefields and on Catoctin Mountain in Maryland.