How to Choose a Bicycle

How to Choose a Bicycle

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There many different types of bicycles and many different types of people with different biking needs. Some people like tricks, some like races, and some like speed control. You will need to take into account your own preferences when choosing the right bicycle for yourself.


  1. Learn how to ride if you don't already know. That's the first and most important step. You can do this on practically any bike that is the right size for you, but starting on a basic single speed bike with coaster brakes is usually best, since you don't have to worry about shifting gears and front/rear braking sequences.
  2. Learn about the basic types of bikes. Here are a few examples, with a brief description of each.
    • Standard bikes. These are old-fashioned, single speed bikes with coaster brakes (pedal backwards to brake). Good for leisurely riding around town if there are no serious hills or other obstacles.
    • BMX bikes. Low profile bikes with 20 inch, usually knobby tires. These are for "competition" biking on trails or courses. And have cable operated caliper brakes on the front and rear. These bikes are single geared bikes.
    • Road bikes. This is a general term for traditional bicycles designed for good performance on pavement. There is a wide range of choices within this category; often they can be classified into the two broad groups of racing/performance or touring. Racing bikes are designed for pure speed with an emphasis on light weight, and place the rider in an aggressive posture. Touring bikes are designed for sustained comfort and carrying loads. They have heavier components for durability, mounts for rack and fender attachments, and have a more upright riding position. Road bikes traditionally have "drop" or "aero" handlebars which allow the rider a range of hand positions for comfort or for achieving an aerodynamic riding position.
    • Mountain bikes. Bikes designed for offroad use, with compact frames, stable handling, clearance for wide and knobby tires, and higher handlebars for a more upright position. For hilly terrain these bikes will generally come with low-range gearing. There are many types designed for specific purposes, such as downhill versus cross-country racing. They can be equipped with sophisticated suspension and disc brake systems. Mountain bikes are also very popular as all-around bicycles due to their versatility; with slick tires they can be efficient on roads.
    • Tandem bikes. These bikes have an extra seat and set of pedals for two people to ride together.
    • Recumbent bikes. These bicycles seat the rider in a "reclining" position with the pedals forward, which is a more natural position requiring less flexibility than upright bikes. They can be fitted with windshields for good aerodynamic performance. However they are generally heavier and can't match the performance of racing style upright bikes.
  3. Choose a mountain bike if you like going over large bumps and dirt. Many mountain bikes have at least a front suspension, to improve comfort and steering control on rough surfaces. Mountain bikes can also be good for general urban riding, due to the stability and for going over curbs and the like. Beginners may find mountain bike handlebars and controls easier to use.
  4. Think about your intended usage. If you don't intend to ride on unpaved trails, a road bike will be more efficient. But the racing style bikes will not be very comfortable or practical for casual or practical riders. It can be difficult to find more comfort-oriented road bikes in shops; they tend to push either racing bikes or mountain bikes. A popular middle ground is the "hybrid" style bike.
  5. If you intend to mount a basket, saddlebags, or a baby seat, you will want to be sure the frame is compatible with these devices. Many bike shops have complete assemblies with these attachments already mounted, so there will be no doubt of their suitability.
  6. Road and mountain bikes usually have gears and shifters, usually operated by some kind of trigger. They are very useful for most riders, especially in hilly terrain, or for high performance. They let you adjust your pedalling effort to account for hills, wind, or your own fatigue. However, these systems also add significant cost and complexity (and weight). For this reason, or just for the challenge, some riders choose a bike with a single gear ("singlespeed" bikes). Any bike can be converted to a singlespeed, but unless the frame is designed for it, a chain tensioner will be required.
  7. The fit of the bike is essential to consider. Different bikes have different dimensions for varying body types. Make sure the straddle height isn't too high for you, so that mounting and dismounting will be comfortable and easy. Bikes come equipped with tires from 12" for children's bikes, up to a standard 26 inch, for adults, and even higher for specialized racing bikes.
  8. Test ride a bike before you buy it. If you can't get the bike shop to let you try theirs out, go to another shop, or borrow one from a friend. It is easier to get a bike that fits, than to adjust and get acclimated to one that doesn't.
  9. Buy or have your bike professionally assembled. This is especially true with derailleur equipped bikes, but having it done professionally insures all the nuts and bolts are installed and tightened correctly, and all the accessories are properly fitted and adjusted correctly, as well.



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