Buying a bike is great fun, but it’s like buying a puppy – it is extremely important to choose the right one. Here’s a beginner’s guide to help you to choose the right type of bike.
The right bike for you is probably completely different from the right bike for your parent, child or spouse. That’s because the huge variety of bikes offers options for all different kinds of people. For example, recumbent bikes make cycling possible for people who might think they cannot cycle because of back problems.
However, most people are not sure what the differences are between the various kinds of bikes, and so they may end up purchasing the wrong bike. When looking for a new bike, use this beginner’s guide to help you narrow down the many choices of bikes. By the way, if you want to buy a used bike, check out our post on How to Buy a Used Bike, or just subscribe and get a free copy of our book on the subject.
Recreational, or Comfort, Bikes – such as Cruisers
These bikes are built for casual riding, so if you are looking for a bicycle that will allow you to ride comfortably around paved bike paths at the park, for example, this style is perfect. Choose one with wider tires for a smoother ride.
Cruiser bikes are an example of comfort bikes. These bikes have become much more popular in recent years, and just keep getting more popular. This probably has to do with the global movement towards making cycling a normal part of a relaxed and healthy lifestyle. Many of these cruisers are strikingly good looking bikes. And you can get a really good one for well under $1,000, which is a bargain price for a great bike.
The highly respected Momentum Magazine says about the PUBLIC bike above, “for anyone looking for a head-turning, pretty bike that’s easy to ride, look no further.” For only $600, it’s a great beginner bike.
Mountain bikes are perfect for off-road use. While they will work on the pavement, they are really better suited for gravel roads or those that are full of rocks and uneven terrain. This is why they can also work on city streets that are filled with potholes and other cracks in the pavement.
Mountain bikes are built to be very durable, with large tires and cushioned seats to keep you as comfortable as possible while riding over uncomfortable roads. They are also built with high quality suspension and brakes, and they are also heavier than other bikes. You should be able to descend and climb fairly steep inclines with these bikes, and the shock absorbing features will help you not to feel too much strain on your body.
Mountain bikes are available with no suspension at all; hard tails (suspension in the front only, like my Norco Storm above); and as dual suspension (suspension in both front and back). Dual suspension (like the Norco Truax 1) are usually much more expensive, and are only necessary if you are planning some extremely adventurous rides, including big jumps and steep downhill mountain rides.
Road Bike or Hybrid Bike?
If you are trying to decide between a road bike and a hybrid bike, this short video could be useful. It sums up the key differences between road bikes and hybrid bikes:
These bikes are lightweight, which also allows them to be fast. They have narrow tires, and though they will get you where you are going faster, they also tend to be less comfortable in the long run than other bikes.
A variation on road bikes is what is called a relaxed design road bike, such as the Sequoia Elite above. These are designed to make it easier for you to be in the saddle for many hours – so they are really good if your aim is to do your first criterium or charity bike ride.
You can also choose from road bikes that have flat-bar handlebars or drop-bar handlebars, so you can go with whatever you feel most comfortable with.
Women Specific Bikes
For a long time, there were more men than women riding bikes. As a result, all bikes were designed for men. As more women started riding bikes, manufacturers finally realized that they should be selling bikes specifically planned for women. This basically means bikes that recognize some biological generalities, such as the fact that most women are shorter than most men, and most women have smaller hands than most men. Also, if you look at the overall height of men and women, women have longer legs relative to their entire height than men do.
All of this boils down to the fact that it may be easier to find the right bike if you choose a women specific bike (assuming you are a woman). If you are a short woman with tiny hands, you might want to narrow your search for the perfect bike down to women specific bikes.
Giant makes some excellent women specific bikes too.
Hybrid bikes combine the best features of both mountain and road bikes. The wheels are built to a size that is somewhere between the thin versions found on road bikes and the fat versions found on mountain bikes, so they will work on just about any type of terrain.
Then there is the Devinci Copenhagen, which is another great performance hybrid bike, ideal for commuting. You can read a review of my Devinci Copenhagen here.
A middle option between road bikes and hybrid bikes is a cyclo-cross bike. Here is a review of the excellent Specialized TriCross, which is a cyclo-cross bike. A cyclo-cross bike looks like a road bike, and is fast, but it is tougher and more robust than a road bike. It is made for racing on road and off road, and light enough to be portaged across mud and rivers.
If you are going to get a great bike, get a great bike lock. This is the best selling bike lock on Amazon, and it’s great value for money with its current sale price.
Another variation on road bikes is touring bikes. These are much like touring bikes, but much stronger and heavier, so that they can carry heavy loads while you are touring.
Bikes for Bigger Folks
Cycling is an excellent form of exercise for people with extra weight. However, there are some special considerations when buying a bike in this situation. We have a post all about that!
Related: Guide for Fat Cyclists
Electric bikes provide varying levels of assistance when you bike, using an engine that is usually integrated into the rear hub or the crank drive. These bikes are great for people with disabilities, but they are not just for people with disabilities. Electric bikes make cycling so much more viable as a transportation option. Even if you have a long commute with many hills, it could be doable with an electric bike. Or if you need to tow children behind you, the assistance will help you get up hills with them. And studies have shown that people who buy electric bikes get fitter than people who buy regular bikes, because they use them much more!
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Invest in Insurance Too
No matter what type of bike you purchase, just be sure that you also have a great insurance plan in place. There are many to choose from, such as hybrid bike insurance, which will cater to your specific needs and your budget. Or ask your household insurer about adding your bike on as an extra.
Author Bio for this guest post:
Claire Dixon is a freelance writer and blogger who enjoys riding her bike several times a week. She got herself a hybrid bike so that she can enjoy the best of both worlds and partake in mountain biking as well as recreational biking activities. She feels it was a great investment.
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