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How to Choose a Bike

August 15, 2021

If you’re new to cycling, you might think it’s simple to determine how to choose a bike. With all of the options, styles, and brands, it can be overwhelming. But, we can help distill the choices for you.

Buying a bike is a considered purchase. There’s a lot that goes into selecting the right bike, particularly considering all the available bike styles, not to mention other nuances like your suspension system, gearing, frame materials, and more. It’s always best to visit your local bike store to get an expert opinion.

If you’re just getting started, keep these three factors in mind:

  1. What type of bike will best fit your needs?
  2. How much is your budget?
  3. Whatever route you go, make sure your bike fits your body correctly.

Where Are You Looking to Ride Your Bike?

Here’s the first question to ask yourself. Where will you do most of your riding? On streets? On unpaved roads and trails? On various terrains? Where you ride and how you ride will determine what bike makes the most sense for you. Also, consider how often you’d like to use your new bike and for what length of ride.

Here’s a breakdown of bike styles and the best road surface for each:

Road bikes, fitness hybrid bikes, e-bikes: Best on paved roads and bike paths.

Comfort Hybrid bikes, e-bikes: Best on paved roads and smooth, natural surfaces

Gravel bikes: Best on roads, dirt roads, and gravel roads

Mountain bikes, e-bikes: Best on dirt roads, trails, and bumpy terrain

A Closer Look at Bike Styles and Terrains

On closer look,  road bikes work best for long-distance and speed owing to their lightweight. So, if you’re looking to tour and ride for fitness purposes, a road bike may make the most sense for you.

Mountain bikes are best suited for offroad use but can also accommodate pavement and dirt roads. They will have more rolling resistance but will give you the versatility to ride on all types of terrain.

Hybrid bikes offer a balance between mountain and road bikes. Because they are lightweight, fitness hybrids perform best on pavement and very smooth dirt roads only. Comfort hybrids  provide greater flexibility for pavement, dirt, grass, sand, and smooth gravel roads. They offer a slightly more upright position than a fitness hybrid or a road bike.

A gravel bike delivers the same type of flexibility as a hybrid bike. Its wider tires provide a more forgiving ride and improved traction over a traditional road bike.

And then, there’s the e-bike. Electric bikes give you that added boost when going up a hill or when fighting winds. You’ll be able to cycle longer to build your fitness and overall cycling ability. Plus, you’ll enjoy hassle-free commuting.

This list doesn’t even cover every bike style. You can also select from fat-tire bikes, specialty bikes, and even folding bikes.

How Much Do You Want to Spend on a Bike?

Let’s face it, cost is always a factor. So, you’ll need to determine how much you want to spend on your bike. Adult bike costs vary considerably from as little as $200 to as much as $10,000 and even more.

Generally, frame materials and the components used to create them determine cost. A carbon fiber frame, for instance, costs more than an aluminum frame, but it offers a more shock-absorbing ride. Full suspension bikes that include front and rear shocks cost more than hardtail bikes (front shocks only), but they’ll deliver a smoother ride and allow you to tackle more aggressive terrain.

Other factors that impact bike costs include component quality, wheel specs, and add-ons.

Purchasing a Used Bike vs. a New Bike

The other consideration is whether you need the bike to be new. Often, a used bike may do the trick. The upside is that you can purchase a quality bike at a reduced cost. So, if you’re looking to save some money on your first bike purchase, a used bike could be an option.

That said, you’ll want to make sure the bike hasn’t had excessive wear and tear on critical components like the drivetrain, brakes, wheels, and suspension. Again, that’s where getting support from experts at a local cycling shop can be helpful.

Select the Right Size Bike

Once you’ve determined how much you want to spend and which bike style best fits your needs, you’ll need to determine bike fit. Remember this – no matter what you pay or what style bike you purchase, if you select the wrong bike size, you’ll never be satisfied with your bike. You’ll always feel uncomfortable on the bike and may even suffer injuries as a result.

Fit comes down to several key components:

  • Frame size
  • Saddle
  • Pedal position
  • Handlebar height

The only true way to determine fit is with a bike fitting. Charts can only go so far as to determine whether the bike fits your body properly. A professional bike fitting ensures the bike you purchase fits your body perfectly. 

You’ll enjoy your ride infinitely more while eliminating the potential injury risks associated with a poor bike fit. That’s why it pays to purchase your bike from a bike shop where fitting services are typically a standard offering.

Selecting Your Brakes

What brakes will serve you best? Brakes aren’t just brakes. Different styles determine your stopping power in various conditions.

Disc brakes deliver all-weather performance. Entry-level bikes usually offer cable disc brakes. Hydraulic brakes, however, provide even better control though demand more maintenance. Disc brakes provide superior stopping power making them well-suited for mountain, road, and hybrid bikes.

Rim brakes require little maintenance with lesser complexity than disc brakes. Rim brakes remain available on some kids' bikes and entry-level bikes.

The More Bike Gears, the Better for Various Terrains

Gearing presents another consideration. Some bikes come with a single gear, while others offer 30 bike gears and even more. The key is to make sure that the gear range meets the needs of the rider. Whether you’re using a 1x, a 2x, or a 3x drivetrain, make sure that the low and high gears meet your needs. The current trend is to eliminate gears in the front, to make shifting trouble-free but still ensure that the range in the back is wide enough.

Choosing Your Bike Frame Material

The frame material you select impacts the longevity and weight of your bike. Aluminum bikes reduce costs, making them a popular choice. Aluminum bikes now offer strength while being light and cost-effective.

Another popular material choice is carbon fiber. It adds cost but delivers exceptional durability and shock absorption.

Even Your Handlebar Selection Impacts Your Ride

As mentioned concerning bike fitting, handlebars make a big difference in ride comfort. Make the wrong selection, and you risk back and wrist concerns. Here’s a rundown of handlebar options.

Road bikes typically include drop bars owing to their aerodynamics. Drop bars provide better maneuverability with a sleek profile. Typically, they're made from aluminum or carbon fiber.

Hybrid cyclists prefer   flat bars or rise bars  because they are strong, heavy-duty, and responsive. These reduce stress on your shoulders, arms, and wrists.

Mountain bikers use flat or riser bars. Because they are higher and closer to the saddle, they offer improved steering and control features.

Talk to a Reputable Cycling Shop

If you’re looking to choose your first bike, don’t go it alone. Take the time to talk with someone at a bike shop near you. Their staff has the expertise to guide you through the process that ensures you don’t walk away from experience with a disaster on your hands.

Plus, they can help you select appropriate bike gear to make your ride even more enjoyable, not to mention reducing your injury threats with a proper bike fitting. If you’re investing in a bike, you’ll also want to make sure to go somewhere for bike repair. Maintaining your bicycle ensures you’ll extend your investment for a lifetime.

Whether you’re ready to repair your bike or purchase a new bike, visit our Mt. Kisco bike shop. The National Bicycle Dealers Association recently named us as one of the Best Bike Shops in America. It’s the ninth year in a row we’ve received the honor.