If you're in the market for a new bike, here are a few things to consider before you buy that might make things a little easier. With all the different styles and configurations available these days it can be quite overwhelming for someone who isn’t familiar with the technology of the bicycle world. Don’t get me wrong: you still get on and pedal like we did in the old days but with advances in materials, a wider range of tire and wheel sizes and all the specialized gear for specific types of riding, there are many choices available to today’s cyclist.
There are three main styles of bikes on the roads and trails today.
The road bike- These follow the ten speed, curled under handlebar style bikes from the past with a little more flair. Lighter frames, bigger gear ranges and skinny tires are the norm in the road bike world. High speeds and long distances on the roads are what these bikes are made for.
The Mountain Bike- In the late 70s the first mountain bikes began to pop up in Colorado and California and are still going strong today. The tires are fatter, the wheels are bigger, and suspensions range from mild to wild.
The Hybrid- Then we have the new kid on the block, the hybrid. These bikes are sort of a cross between the other two. More designed for everything from bike paths to commuting to just cruising.
With that said, we begin the overwhelming part. There are many combinations of the three main types that are designed for specific riding styles. You can choose anything from a grocery store commuter with a rack and fenders to a stripped down hot-rod road bike for doing 30mph on long stretches of asphalt, to a full on downhill off road racer.
Most "real" bike shop employees are riders first and salespeople second so when shopping, go to a bike shop, grab a staffer and tell them you are looking for a new bike. A qualified sales person will ask you questions about what you plan to do with your new bike. Be honest about your riding ability as most bike sellers will know if you are fibbing about how much you ride, so save the tall tales for your fishing stories. The wrong bike for an inexperienced rider can be not only uncomfortable but dangerous.
Now, this is the most important part: you have to ride the bikes, yes plural, bikes. If they don’t have time for you to ride several bikes, talk to them about coming back at a better time or choose a different shop, period. Don’t let them bully you into the bike they want to sell you. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a salesperson that doesn’t have time or patience to find the bike that’s right for you.
Once you narrow down the style of bike you are looking for, try it in a few sizes because most bikes come in a several different sizes for differently-sized riders. Riding a bike shouldn’t be uncomfortable; of so, talk to the sales person about changing the seat height or move the bars around. Most bikes are fairly adjustable because, short of twins, no two people are the same size. Fitting your new bike properly is crucial to your health and a bad fitting bike will just end up in the corner because it hurts to ride.
Take your time, ask questions, do research and you will have a fun, healthy, and environmentally responsible mode of transportation which will provide fun and freedom for many years to come.