A Beginner’s Guide to Choosing the Perfect Bike
I have always been a supporter of clean bikes. Until recently, I rode the same bike I rode on my 10th birthday. Sure, it still got me where I needed to go, but it was definitely time for an update. As a complete beginner, I have found that choosing the right bike is not as easy as I thought. Here’s how to find the perfect ride – from frame size to optional features.
Choose the right bike type according to your needs
When I walked into the local bike shop and they asked what I was looking for, I had no idea what to say other than “really cool bike.” I didn’t know where to start, so I told them I just wanted something to ride around the area. Even then, I discovered that there are options.
The National Bicycle Dealers Association (NBDA) lists the main types of bicycles that you can find in most of the shops here . You probably know the difference between a mountain bike and a cruiser (pictured above), but there are several types in between. Here’s a quick breakdown:
- Mountain bikes : Sturdy and built for off-road use, but you can use them on tarmac too.
- Road bikes : Designed for use on sidewalks such as city riding . Built for speed.
- Hybrid bikes: A cross between mountain bikes and road bikes. Not as fast as road bikes and not as durable as mountain bikes, but good for commuting.
- Cruisers : Regular cruise bike. People ride these bicycles on boardwalks near the beach.
This infographic also does a great job of breaking down the different types of bike for beginners. Of course, there are all sorts of additional, specific types of bicycles: tandem bicycles, BMX bicycles, fixed gear bicycles. But for us newbies, these four are a good start. I needed a good transport bike, but maybe I can ride the nearby trails, so the seller suggested a hybrid.
Calculate how much you want to spend
It goes without saying that bicycles can be expensive. However, these prices vary quite a bit, from hundreds to several thousand depending on what you buy. Ebicycles.com says newbies can expect to spend at least a few hundred dollars, and CostHelper breaks down the prices (emphasis added 🙂
- The lower range is $ 80 to $ 300. Usually these basic metal frames are just functional, although they often remain stylish. Target sells low-cost models from many brands including Huffy and Forge.
- Mid-range bicycles cost between $ 300 and $ 1,000. These aluminum or lighter metal bikes are the best choice for casual riders because their high quality wheels, chains and pedals increase their durability.
- High-end bicycles start at $ 1,000 and up. These models are usually made from the lightest metals, including carbon and titanium, and are designed for tougher day-to-day use or light competition. Racers can create their own model in the store or online, choosing from several frame sizes, colors and wheel types.
You can also find used bicycles at an affordable price. For example, the Around the Cycle store I visited specializes in recycling old bicycles, so there were many options in the mid-range of $ 200- $ 300. The Bicycle Blue Book can help you figure out which used bike you can get for your price.
Once you know what type of bike you are looking for and what level of quality you are looking for, it’s time to dive into the details.
Make sure your bike is right for you
I’m a short woman, so my kids bike did the trick, but it was still too small. I looked not only funny, but also uncomfortable. However, it was difficult to find an older bike because most of them were really big and I had a hard time maneuvering. As I was told in Around the Cycle, the size of the bike frame must be suitable, otherwise it will be awkward and difficult to control.
Your ideal frame size depends on the type of bike, your height and the length of the inseam (distance from crotch to ground). Here are some frame size charts to help you choose the right bike frame for all of these factors. Or better yet, use this calculator to determine your bike frame size .
Here’s a simple rule of thumb : The frame size should be about 0.65 times the length of the inner seam. If you have a 25 ”inseam, you will need a bike with a 16” frame.
Most bike shops will tell you the frame size, but you might be buying it from Craigslist or a garage sale and the owner has no idea. At the very least, you can get a rough estimate by standing above the bike frame and roughly measuring how many inches go between the bike and your crotch, as Bicycle-and-Bikes demonstrates in the video above. And eBicycles further explains:
If you have an inch or so between the frame of your racing, touring, or hybrid bike and your crotch, it should be roughly correct. For a mountain bike, the distance to the frame should be greater. For children, the best way to ensure the correct frame size is to place the child in the seat so that they can place their foot pads on the ground and reach the handlebars comfortably. You should also make sure they have a 25-50mm gap between the bar and their crotch if they are over the center bar.
The steering wheel matters too. After all, you want to be able to reach them, so make sure the distance between your seat and the steering wheel is comfortable. According to REI , the further the seat is below the steering wheel, the more comfortable the ride is. But a taller handlebar allows more power to be applied to the pedals. The shape and position of the handlebars also depend on the bike you are purchasing.
Here are some common rudder shapes and what they are used for:
- Drop lane : Found on most road bikes. Lightweight and aerodynamic, ideal for fast driving. You are in a lower, hunched position, which can be uncomfortable on your back.
- Flat Bar : Common on hybrid bikes, sometimes road or mountain bikes. They allow you to sit up straight in a more comfortable position, which reduces stress on your arms, wrists and shoulders.
- Lift Bar : Often used on mountain bikes. They extend slightly up and back and allow you to sit further to see ahead and maintain control.
- Mustache Bar : Found on some road and hybrid bikes. Something like a vertical bar, but the drop is not as deep. According to the REI, “they give you different hand positions, allowing you to sit more upright than with arches.”
Once you decide what type of bike you want and what you want, it’s time to decide what you want from its characteristics: gears, wheel size, suspension and brakes.
Know your gears, suspension and brake type
When I was a kid, 10-speed bikes were the most beautiful thing you can dream of. Bicycles come with all sorts of mechanisms these days, and there is a lot to it – enough to write a completely separate post. That said, as a beginner, here’s what you need to know, according to the REI :
To keep things simple, the most important factors to consider are your fitness level and the terrain you will be skating on. If you are going to be riding a lot of hills and it is difficult for you to climb, then you will want to choose more gears. If you’re a strong cyclist or only riding flat terrain, you won’t need as many downshifts to climb a hill, so you can get away with fewer gears, making your bike lighter.
You can also consider suspension for your bike. The harness is designed to keep you in good shape if you are driving over rough terrain. If you are looking for a mountain bike, you probably want one with full or at least front suspension. Full suspension helps maintain control and increases traction. The front suspension absorbs shock and provides a smooth ride and is also ideal for hybrids. If you have a road bike, it may not have any suspension at all.
Finally, the brakes. There are several types of brakes and they all have their pros and cons. Here are the most common ones:
- Rim brakes : Pads that mesh with the rims of the wheel. They are simple and easy to maintain, but they can wear out the wheel rim, and they can be less effective if the rim is wet or dirty.
- Disc brakes : These are brakes that attach to and grip the wheel hub. They can be more difficult to check and replace than rim brakes, but they perform better in different weather conditions.
- Coaster brakes: These are the brakes that work when you pedal backwards. Low maintenance and are good for children who may lack hand strength. However, they may not be ideal when cycling downhill.
- Drum brakes : built into the wheel hub. They are unpretentious in maintenance and resistant to atmospheric influences. However, if the drum wears out, the hub and wheel may need to be replaced.
Depending on the bike, you may not have much choice of brakes, but it is good to at least know what brakes are supplied with your bike.
Adjust fit and take a test ride
When I selected my bike and the salesperson adjusted my seat, I was confused. My feet barely touched the ground and it felt wrong. He explained to me that they should not touch the ground. Ideally, when depressing the pedals, my knees should be only slightly bent and my leg fully lowered. The bicycle universe explains why:
When you pedal and your leg is fully lowered (pedal position 6:00), your knee should be slightly bent. If your leg is straight (knee locked), your seat is too high. If your knee is very bent … your seat is too low. Any problem can injure your knees, and a seat height that is too short takes away strength and makes it difficult to ride … Also, in a normal riding position with pedals parallel to the ground, your front knee (almost from the front edge) should be directly over the pedal spindle. (middle of the pedal). This avoids knee pain.
They add that the corner of your seat should not drop down either. Even though it may seem comfortable in the crotch area, it will force you to lean forward and strain your arms, hands, and neck.
Perform a test spin on your bike. When you do this, there are a few important things to look out for for every e-bike:
- Comfort : Do you like the pose of your chosen bike? If it’s a hybrid, do you sit upright normally? If you are going to use your road bike for commuting, will you feel comfortable pedaling for as long as it takes you to get to work?
- Off-road ability: Ideally, you should try cycling on different surfaces. See how it handles turns, hills and descents.
- Carrying Capacity: If you plan on carrying things with you on your bike, you want to see how it handles when you have loads on it. If it is a light bike, it may be difficult for you to ride it. As eBicycles suggests , you may need accessories like a towing trailer, or you may just need a heavier hybrid or mountain bike.
You can also experience riding multiple bikes to get a feel for the different styles. There are plenty to choose from, and the process can be tricky if you’re not a bike enthusiast. These are just the basics, but they should help you get started and choose the bike that’s perfect for your needs and your comfort.
This story was originally published on 6/23/16 and updated on 10/19/19 to provide more complete and up-to-date information.