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Basic Guide To Choosing The Right Bike

Walking into a bike shop can be a dizzying experience, especially if you haven’t ridden a bike since you were a kid. Fortunately, today’s bicycles are lighter, faster and more adaptable to a range of riding styles. No matter what type of riding you plan to do, there is a bike that’s right for you. Here’s a basic guide to help you make the right choice.

WHO IS THE BIKE FOR?

The first thing you need to ask yourself is, what is my motivation to ride? Are you trying to lose weight, ride with your kids, enter a race, or maybe a little of all three. Whatever the answer(s), explain all this to your shop salesperson, and they should be able to help you identify priorities and steer you toward the right types of bike choices.

You’ll also need to consider the functions, benefits and cost impact of the components that come with your new bike. Your handlebar should be the proper width for your body size so your neck and shoulders are comfortable. If you’re buying a mountain bike, the suspension fork needs to be properly set up for your weight and riding style. You can select compact road gearing to help you climb hills more easily. And the list goes on and on. Ask your salesperson to identify component variables that may make your specific type of riding more pleasurable.

BIKE CHOICES

Just as a car dealership features comfy sedans, snappy sports cars, and usually a few models in between, a bike shop has everything from cushy cruisers to ultra-light, stiff road racing machines. Choosing the best bike for you will depend on the kind of riding you wish to do and your budget. Here is a breakdown of some of the main bike categories.

ROAD BIKES

Bicycles made for road riding generally have downturned “drop” handlebars and skinnier tires. Most road bikes boast 18 to 30 gear combinations, which are easily controlled by shifters located on the handlebars. Road bicycles are among the sleekest and lightest available, with race-inspired technology that infuses the entire category. Some road bikes are built more for comfort and durability. Others are ultra-light and stiff for fast riding or racing. Fitness road bikes provide many of the benefits of traditional road bikes, but incorporate a flat handlebar for those who prefer a more upright riding position.

COMMUTER BIKES

These workhorses are built for comfort, versatility and durability, yet are still incredibly fun to ride. Whether you commute to stay fit or to reduce your carbon footprint, commuter bikes can take you from home to office and back again safely and efficiently. Commuter bikes come in a variety of configurations, including multi-speed, single-speed, flat bar, drop bar, skinny tire and fat tire models. They also offer increased options for attaching lights, fenders, locks and cargo-carrying racks.

MOUNTAIN BIKES

These bikes are recognizable by their fatter frames and wheels, and come in rigid, front suspension and full-suspension models. Mountain bikes are generally heavier than road bikes to withstand the punishments delivered by singletrack trails. They also feature a broader range of gears to help you stay in control as you climb and descend steep hills.

Like their distant motorcycle cousins, full-suspension bikes have front and rear-end shocks that cushion the ride over bumpy terrain, while maintaining more tire contact with the ground to improve traction. These factors make full-suspension models the most popular choice for enthusiast riders, while hard-core racers sometimes opt for front suspension only because of the bikes lighter weight and improved climbing efficiency.

Traditionally, mountain bikes were built using a 26-inch wheel platform, and the majority of mountain bikes are still 26ers. But recent years have seen the rapid emergence of 29er mountain bikes, which utilize 29-inch wheels. These big wheeled bikes are lauded for increased momentum once rolling. Their tire’s larger contact area on the trail also provides enhanced traction and control when climbing or cornering, and they more easily roll over larger obstacles. Anyone looking to buy a new mountain bike should test ride both 26 and 29-inch models before making their final purchase decision.

HYBRID BIKES

Think you’ll spend time both on and off-road? Then a hybrid bike may be the way to go. These bikes provide the ability to comfortably ride on different types of terrain. Some bikes in this category incorporate suspension componentry to provide a cushy ride, while others provide a slightly stiffer ride akin to road bikes. They also offer increased options for attaching lights, fenders and cargo-carrying racks. Even if you primarily ride a road or mountain bike, a hybrid bike is a great second bike due to its versatility and value.

CRUISERS

These timeless and fun bicycles feature wide handlebars, cushioned seats, balloon tires and other comfort features for short jaunts around town or on the bike path. They typically have a single speed and coaster brakes, which make them easy to ride and maintain. Due to their greater weight, they are best for flat riding.

WOMEN’S BIKES

Women’s bikes are no longer differentiated by a sloped top-tube, floral decals and pink paint. Today’s women’s-specific bikes are designed to meet the demands of today’s female cyclist. They are just as light, technical and aggressive as bikes for their male counterparts.

Most, but not all women have longer legs and a shorter upper-torso than men. Women’s-specific bicycle designs take this into account by decreasing the reach from the seat to the handlebar. Many also provide a shorter reach to the gear shifters and brake levers, taking into consideration slightly smaller hands. Handlebars also come in widths more consistent with the width of female shoulders, solving a dilemma for women who previously felt like they were driving a bus rather than riding a bicycle.

While women’s-specific bicycles are designed to accommodate a broad range of female body styles, they should not be considered the only solution. Just about any bicycle can be adapted to fit a female rider, so select the model that best matches your riding style, technical demands, visual preferences and budget.

 

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