If you don’t already own a bike, it’s time you did. Not only are they better for the environment than an automobile, but they are also a great way to improve your health and enjoy the outdoors. Unless you give in ice-laden land, a bike is a great investment to add years to the planet – and your life.

Buying a bicycle – especially your first one – can be a little overwhelming. Here are some basics to buying your new bike, whether it’s your first one or a much-needed upgrade.

What kind of bike do I need?

It can be confusing at first with the different options, but we’ll break it down into the most common:

Mountain bikes
If you are interested in a little off-road biking, and gearing up for some adventure, then the mountain bike would be your best bet. Mountain bikes include different gears (most often, 15+), a stronger frame, thicker, knobbier tires, and often some form of shock-absorbancy.

If you are thinking of a mountain bike, bear this in mind: using the thicker tires and heavier frame makes normal, everyday riding a little slower.

Hybrid bikes
These are perfect for commuters, combining an upright, still durable frame, with lighter wheels and a smaller frame.  They are a cross between a mountain bike and a road bike (hence the name) and perfect for everyday use. With treaded tires and higher gearing, they give a sample of both worlds.

Road bikes
If you’re buying a bike for serious fitness, consider investing in a good road bike. With their streamlined, aerodynamic shape and thin, smooth tires, they are built for speed and flow.

Cruisers
These bikes are true to their name: perfect for the casual rider who just wants to cruise. Often available in simple one-speed versions. (pictured right)

Comfort bikes
Mountain and hybrid bicycles can come in the form of comfort, with an upright riding position and lower gearing.

Recumbent bikes
You might have seen these “reclined” bikes on the road, with feet forward and a full seat with back.

Tandems
Bicycles built for two.

Things to consider:

  • Are you riding just for fun?
  • Where will you be riding?
  • Will it be used for fitness?
  • Do you plan on becoming a serious cyclist?
  • How frequently will you be riding?

orange-cruiser-bicycle

Where should I go?

Opting for professionals is the way to go. The owner(s) and staff in bike-specific specialty stores can advise you on appropriate bicycles for your needs, and will take the time to treat you respectively and efficiently. Talk to people in your area and see what they recommend – usually you’ll get a few that’ll praise the folks in certain stores.

Things to consider:

  • Choose a retailer who has an on-site service department; if anything goes wrong with your bike, and when it comes time for its yearly tune-up, your best bet is to go to the source of purchase
  • Ask a lot of questions – you’ll know soon enough how savvy the staff is.

How should the bike fit?

It’s recommended to go to an actual bike dealer, as opposed to a large store that just stocks bikes. Department stores and large sporting good chains often aren’t equipped with higher-end bicycles and staff know-how. Going to a bike dealership optimizes the experience by having knowledgeable staff to help you make adjustments to fit your needs.
Things to consider:

  • When you extend your leg on the pedal, your leg should be slightly bent.
  • Have a comfortable distance between the seat and handlebars
  • Women can use men’s bikes and vice versa – often, they are the same, other than the cross bar.

What size should I get?

Bicycles can have over eight sizes, but the easiest way to narrow it down is using the length of your inseam to find the correct frame size. Your reach to the handlebars is also important for comfort. Based on these, find a few you need, and see if the dealer can recommend a proper fit.

Things to consider:

  • Just because it feels right sitting on it in the store, doesn’t mean it is comfortable
  • The dealer wants you to be pleased with your purchase (otherwise, you should seek out a new store), so they should willingly suggest you go take it for a short ride.

What does ______ mean?

If your dealer is talking bicycle mumbo-jumbo, and you stare blankly at them in return, feel free to ask. Like most people knowledgeable in their field, I’m sure they love to talk about any bike information that people will let them.

Things to consider

  • If its your first bicycle, it’s okay not to understand how to change gears/inflate tires/get on bike. Just ask.

Aren’t seats extremely uncomfortable?

On road bikes and some hybrids you’re less upright, so a thinner seat is better since it’s only carrying about half your body weight. But if you are a woman, you might want to opt for a women-specific seat, to carry wider hips. If you aren’t keen on the comfort level of the seat, opt to buy a whole new seat instead, as opposed to a ten dollar gel padding. If you are going to use it frequently, it’s worth the investment.

Things to consider:

  • Before you use a new seat, adjust it. Sometimes the seat’s nose is the problem – try shifting it, first.
  • Alternatively, try a model with a channel centered down the length of the seat, bearing less weight on your sensitive region
  • The seat should support your sit bones – so make sure you can feel them on the seat

How much am I going to spend?

Consider your bike as an investment, especially if using it for fitness. If you’re opting for only using it to get from A to B, you might want to spend a little less. Additionally, if you live in a busy area and locking it outside as you work inside for eight hours, you might want to consider spending less, in case of theft or damage.

Less expensive bikes that are still excellent quality (especially for fitness or a lot of commuting) start at around $650 and can run into the thousands. But just do your homework, ask a lot of questions, and see what fits you best. With bicycles, you pay for what you get (for the most part), and you pay for extras that you might decide you need (or not).
Here are some great, quality bike manufacturers; peruse their sites to get a feel for what they offer, find out who deals their bikes, and then bring a list with your questions to the store:

specialized.com

feltbicycles.com

giant.com

norco.com

bikes.com [Rocky Mountain]

rei.com

brodiebikes.com

cannondale.com

Have any other questions? Let us know!

Image courtesy of justbicycles.com


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