Maybe it’s a bit extreme to compare buying a bicycle to getting married, but the decisions and options are nearly as endless. Like many other purchases, the cool features and different bicycle styles could leave you a little befuddled. But we’ve created a handy guide to help you not only figure out which type you need, but to consider which features are worth the money for your cycling plans.
Types of Bikes
Firstly, you need to know which of the four basic types of bikes you’ll be using on the types of terrain and rides you’ll be on: Road bikes, cruisers, mountain bikes, and hybrids.
Road bikes offer a sleek and aerodynamic design for high speeds on paved surfaces. Their shape and seat put you in a riding position that bends you over the handlebars for balance and easy maneuverability. Because of the lightweight construction, road bikes can’t handle extended periods with heavy loads, and their thinner tires aren’t idle for rough paths.
Cruisers are a comfortable cousin to a road bike. Their wide seats and tires, as well as upright handlebars are made for a fun, easygoing ride rather than speedy races. Most have a single gear reminiscent of 1960s and 1970s movies set at the beach. People often chose these for their simplicity and easy maintenance.
Mountain Bikes’ names imply exactly what they are used for. Wide, ribbed tires, bulky frames, and a plethora of gears create a machine that can tear up a rough mountain trail. While they may not go as fast as road bikes, they tend to last longer. Mountain bike owners can expect a comfortable riding position from their high, upright seat and straight handlebars. The popularity of mountain bikes in the last twenty years and their reasonable prices makes them an easy sell for most local bike shops. They come with lots of awesome features such as X for Just be sure that if you will be using your bicycle for ANY paved riding, you consider the last type of bicycle instead of a mountain one.
Hybrids are the last type of bicycle on the market. Again, their name is pretty self-explanatory. If you’re rides will be a good mixture of on and off-roading then a hybrid might be just what it demands. There are loads of options for both trail and paved rides on these kinds of bikes. Generally, they have skinny smooth tires that can go faster than mountain bikes, but seats and handlebar positions that are more upright and comfortable. A lot of college students in Eco-friendly areas chose hybrids for their campus and city rides, especially ones that include hills and require durability and cost efficiency.
These are the four basic types of bikes, but in addition to these standards the bicycle market has filled with other options.
“Road bikes come with mountain bike brakes and there’s suspension for mountain bikes,” said Gordon Johnson, Service Manager at Bicycles, Inc. in Arlington, Texas. “Even five inch wide, low pressure tires designed for snow and ice.”
With the image-based society that’s grown in America, it’s no surprise that a monster all its own, marketed as a Lifestyle Bike, has taken the market by storm. With swooping handlebars and brilliant, wild colors and patterns, this all-about-comfort machine is a highly stylized version of a cruiser. It appeals to every faucet of the just for fun crowd, from reminiscing older citizens to younger generations looking to stand out and make a statement.
Another thing many cyclists are concerned about is the material of their frame. Carbon offers an eco-friendly, conscious clearing, light-weight frame. Of course, as with most things you will get what you fork over for. Lower cost carbon frames will probably be of inferior quality and not last as long. Aluminum or an alloy carbon mix are available at a lower cost, but the ride may be a tad stiffer and rougher then you desire. Steel and titanium are close seconds compared to carbon as far as aerodynamic and durable frames are concerned. It all depends on what’s comfortable and what works into your budget.
Even if you go into a local bike shop (LBS) with some idea of what you are looking for, there are a lot of other things to consider. That is why guys like Gordon are there to ask you questions about how your bike will fit into your lifestyle.
“We ask them [patrons] whether they ride, if this is a first or second bike, what else they do to get or stay fit, and how much money they are looking to spend,” Johnson said. He knows how important some other accessories are for riding if someone new to the sport comes in, so that also gets figured into the total cost. “[People usually spend less on] a helmet and cycling shorts [than they should]. Those are for protection, and they save your butt.”
Often people also forget to take into consideration a few more necessities for their bike purchase. For example, be sure to buy a pump or CO2 canister and corresponding pump to inflate tires. Another example Johnson offered is a way to transport your bicycle to wherever you’re riding if it’s not super close. “There are some great trails at the Metroplex, but you’ve got to get your bike there.”
Once you’ve figured out the best style of bike for you, it’s time to start shopping. Here are tips to help you make the best purchase possible.
Consider Buying Used. Online and paper classifieds can be a great way to find a steal of a deal. This is especially a great idea for anyone that is just getting into cycling, has a low budget, or isn’t sure if the sport is for them yet. Be sure that you take the bike for a test ride. Most people looking to sell their two-wheeled good are reasonable enough to let you get in a good ride. We’d recommend 30 minutes or more on terrain similar to what you would be riding on. Don’t be afraid to ask after any accessories that might go with the bike. Either they’ll have some they won’t need any more that can be worked into your deal, or they are professional riders looking to upgrade and need to keep bike racks and tools for their other machines. They’ll be forthright about it either way.
Borrow a Friend’s Bike. This is a great way to really know if the sport is for you, as well as the style or feel of the bike they use. More than anything else, you need to feel comfortable on the machine you invest in. So borrowing a bike for a few days or weeks and really getting a realistic feel for its style and form will help you make the most informed decision when it comes time to purchase your own.
Don’t Go Cheap. We mentioned in the frame material comments above that the adage “you get what you pay for” is especially true in the cycling market. As tempting as it is to base your decision on price tags, in the long run you’ll be wasting money. If you buy cheap, you will be back for another bike sooner because it will break down sooner. Or you’ll find yourself back in your LBS for maintenance. The bottom line is that if price is the biggest concern, save up a little longer and get what you need and are most comfortable with.
Let Your LBS Help You Out. There’s a reason LBS is a commonly known acronym in the cycling community. Most do so much more than offer bikes, accessories, and safety equipment. Your local bike shop can assist in maintenance or learn to care for your own machine. In addition, they can adjust seat and bars to your body for maximum efficiency and comfort. Many also have bulletin boards covered top to bottom with used bike ads, event information, and other great resources. Others, such as Bicycles, Inc and The Bike Stop in Wichita Falls, have awesome websites chock full of resources and blogs with great topics. They’re here to help, so let them.
Of course, we here at Wheel Brothers also are here for you, so feel free to shoot us questions or comments via email, or add your input on buying a bicycle in the comments below. We love hearing from you.
Like we mentioned, buying a bicycle is a big investment in your future. Okay, maybe not quite as big as marriage, but as you can see its going to take some time, perspiration, and serious thought to commit.
Until next time, keep on riding!