While buying a bike is not on the same level of commitment as, say, getting married, it is still a decision that warrants some thought. And, especially if you are considering buying a bike for the first time, it can seem as if your options are nearly endless.

What is the Right Kind of Bike for Me?
Your first decision comes in determining what type of bike you are after. There are basically four main styles of bikes to choose from, and your selection should really depend on what you anticipate your main type of riding to be.

Road Bikes are designed for riding on paved streets and going fast. Featuring skinny tires, a lightweight frame and a riding position that puts you bent over the handlebars, you might choose this type of bike if traveling longer distances at higher speeds is important to you. The frames of most road bikes are not particularly beefy in construction and generally won’t stand up well for extended periods under heavy loads or on really rough surfaces. They are about as well-suited for a path in the woods as you would be when wearing high heels.

Mountain Bikes have exploded in popularity over the past twenty years. These bikes have wide tires, usually with knobby treads and a stout frame, and are designed to handle the rugged trails without disintegrating.
Mountain bikes do not go as fast as road bikes, which is a trade-off for their durability along with a more comfortable riding position. You sit higher on these bikes, more upright with the straight handlebars, which is often a happier choice for people with back problems than being hunched over as you are on a road bike.
Warning: sometimes mountain bikes are the default choice of salespeople at the bike shop because they are easy to sell and usually less expensive than road bikes. Too many times though, new mountain bikes with lots of impressive features for climbing a steep mountain trail end up like those four-wheel drive SUVs that never actually go off the pavement. If you are going to buy a mountain bike, make sure you are doing so intentionally because you know that you will in fact be riding off-road. Otherwise, you will be paying for unnecessary features, and probably missing out on a bike that would be a better choice for you.

Hybrid bikes are compromise between road and mountain bikes and offer the best features of both if most of your riding will be shorter trips on pavement. With skinnier, smooth tires, they typically can go faster than mountain bikes, yet feature the upright seat and handlebar position that many people favor. Hybrids are a good choice for most city riding, and offer speed, durability and comfort.

Smart Shopping for Bikes
Once you’ve figured out the best style of bike for you, it’s time to start shopping. Here are tips to help you out

  • Borrow a bike and try it out
  • When you've figured out the right style of bike for you, to make double sure that you're making the right choice, borrow a bike from a friend and try it out. Be sure to go on a ride longer than a lap around the parking lot, too. Twenty minutes should be enough to know if you are comfortable with the way you sit on a particular type of bike, and if the pace is right for you, or if it will be something that ultimately disappoints you.

  • Resist the temptation to go cheap.
  • With bikes, like most everything else, you get what you pay for. Chances are you won’t be happy over the long run with a cheapie bike from a big box discounter, even if it was a deal. They are heavy and the components won’t last like they would in a quality model. Ultimately, you’ll be frustrated, and end up spending the money to get that better bike you should have bought in the first place.

  • Spend some time at your local bike shop.
  • The people who run your local bike shop are your best resource on bike buying. These folks are knowledgeable, and can offer tips, advice and service that you can never get over the internet.
    So, after you’ve thought thoroughly about they type of riding you’ll be doing, and taken a several different types out for test rides, go get the very best bike you can afford. It’ll be money well spent.

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