Last updated: September 26th, 2023
Patience pays when you’re buying bicycles.
Over the years, I’ve personally saved thousands just by shopping slightly out of season.
Here’s how you can, too.
For price, autumn is the best time to buy a new bicycle.
That’s when most shops want to make space for new models and clear out older inventory before the slower winter months. The catch is that inventory will be limited.
For inventory and new features, the best time to buy is typically late winter. New models are fully in stock (barring any supply chain disruptions) and not yet picked over.
The trade-off is that the best deals don’t happen during prime riding season. If you don’t have a serviceable bike at all, then it’s probably not worth waiting!
When do bikes go on sale?
There’s no universal sale date, but bikes are most commonly on sale in late summer and early autumn (roughly September and/or October).
Most bike shops have at least a couple sales scattered throughout the year. That’s less common for independent shops, but it’s always worth keeping an eye out.
Some, especially larger chains, will also have sales around holidays.
It varies from shop to shop and year to year, so check frequently. In addition, many large bicycle retail chains have sales around spring and summer holidays, too.
However, you might miss the year’s best riding by waiting for sales, so think carefully about whether the savings are worth it.
Urban, city, commuter bikes change very little from year to year, so they’re less affected by sales. In fact, some of my favorite brands (like Brooklyn and Priority) are sold direct-to-consumer and don’t have sales on a regular basis.
Do bike prices drop in winter?
Bicycles are usually at the lowest prices in winter, but inventory is often low. Most detailer discount current-year bikes in the fall, so a lot of inventory is already gone by winter.
By late winter—usually March—most of the sales are long since over and new model-year bikes are widely available.
In my experience buying and selling dozens of used bikes, secondhand prices are lowest around January and February. After that, cyclists start gearing up for the spring season, and prices may rise slightly.
Keep in mind that there’s less seasonal variation for simple, timeless bikes than for more cutting-edge ones.
How much can you save buying a bicycle on sale?
It’s common to see discounts of 20%-30% off new bikes from the current model year. It varies wildly between shops and bicycles, but I’ve purchased multiple bikes at about 30% off in autumn.
With some luck, you may be able to find 50% discounts on occasion. That’s likelier at huge retailers like REI or Performance Bike than at your local bike shop, however.
In most years, fall is also when used bikes are widely available at great prices. Just like shops need floorspace, plenty of individuals need garage space for a new purchase.
Bottom line: if you aren’t chasing the latest and greatest, then fall is the best time for new and used bike shopping.
Here’s when new bikes come out
New bicycles are usually announced from late summer through early fall, or roughly August and September, around the time of industry trade shows. Some are available almost immediately whereas others don’t reach dealers until late winter.
Traditionally, the biggest releases are at (or right before) industry events are the Interbike trade show in North America and the Eurobike expo in Europe. Both are usually held in September.
That’s near the end prime cycling season in most places, so manufacturers can introduce the new model year without cannibalizing current-year sales.
However, some of the largest manufacturers like Specialized have abandoned industry trade shows in recent years, and now hold their own events for dealers and press. These events may happen sooner, perhaps as early as July.
By the way, you’ll sometimes get sneak peaks as early as springtime. Flagship models are sometimes leaked at races and events, and eagle-eyed industry journalists are quick to cover them.
Is it worth waiting for new model-year bikes?
If you value the most cutting-edge bike possible, then you’ll probably find a worthwhile upgrade with each model year. However, remember that road and mountain bikes only improve incrementally. Truly revolutionary changes—like disc brakes or suspension—appear rarely and slowly.
Conversely, if you cycle for transportation or leisure purposes, then newer bikes won’t offer anything that older ones don’t.
These are usually subtle changes, like new carbon-fiber manufacturing techniques or suspension dampening circuits. They only come into play when you’re pushing the limits of performance or terrain, so they don’t exist on a typical hybrid or city bike like most of us ride.
Besides, even a halfway-decent bicycle will last many years, so there’s no little reason to upgrade just for the sake of upgrading.
Why are new bicycles hard to find in 2021?
The pandemic created unprecedented demand for bicycles, so the supply chain was simply exhausted. With so many people looking for solo, outdoor activities (or a better way to commute), bike sales had already hit all-time highs by April 2020.
Many retailers expect the bicycle shortage to last into at least 2023, for components and complete bikes alike.
While it’s great to see more people cycling, and it’s an incredible boon to the industry, it also strained every link in the supply chain, from frame tubing suppliers to suspension manufacturers.
It can take months to source raw materials, complete manufacturing, and ship the final product to dealers. Large brands need time to meet new demand for millions of bicycles, and small brands need time to find materials (and factory capacity).
Based on my shopping and conversations with dealers, the shortage is most severe at the entry to mid-level, since that’s what new cyclists are likeliest to buy.