How to Compare Bicycles

How to Compare Bicycles
The bicycle purchase is an expensive one that you likely intend to last for several years. Therefore, it's important to get it right. By determining your budget and comparing bicycle options, you will find the most suitable, best-fitting bicycle for your needs. Hopefully, you will enjoy it for years to come.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Bicycle magazines/reviews Bicycle catalogs
  • Bicycle magazines/reviews
  • Bicycle catalogs
Step 1
Think critically about why you're buying the bike in the first place. Are you looking to get out on the road and ride long distances? Do you want to enjoy a local bike path while riding with your family? Do you intend to get into serious cross country or downhill mountain biking? These are the types of questions that you'll need to answer before you can really begin comparing different bicycles.
Step 2
With answers to the aforementioned questions in mind, find the type of bike that best encompasses your bicycling intents. If you plan to ride rugged off-road trails, you'll want a mountain bike. If you want a light, fast bike for touring and long bike rides on roads, look at road bikes. Other options include hybrids, which offer a cross between road and mountain bikes--good for light, smooth trail use, but won't be suitable for technical trails and won't be as smooth or fast on roads as a road bike. Cruiser and commuter-style bikes are comfortable, upright bikes that are good for casual riding. Other bike options include BMX, recumbents and dirt jumpers.
Step 3
Zero in further. While determining the general type of bike you want is a major step, many of these broad categories offer more specific subcategories. For instance, mountain bikes can be distinguished as cross country, downhill/freeride and all-mountain, just to name the main types. Each type is optimized for a specific style of terrain and riding. So to get the most performance for your money, you'll want to get the right one. If you're unsure, discuss your intentions with bike shop personnel and they'll help steer you to the right style.
Step 4
Begin looking at bikes. You can go directly to the bike shop, but it helps to do a little background work before that. See what types of bikes are available at the shops in your area and use the company websites or catalogs to compare models and manufacturers. Look at specs such as weight, components, geometry and price. Also read reviews online and in magazines to see how the bikes stack up.
Step 5
Decide what components are most important to you. Unless you have an unlimited budget, you won't be getting top-of-the-line components at every corner of the bike. However, consider which components are important and find a bike that offers suitable options. For instance, if you want a quality fork with a lot of travel to eat up the large bumps of your local trail, be sure to look for this. Also consider the number of gears the bike has--more gears will allow you to better adapt to the terrain, something that is quite important when riding mountainous terrain or when racing. Having a large selection of gears is not as important when riding flat or downhill terrain. Bikes come with all kinds of gear configurations, from single speeds to the classic 10-speed on up to 27 gears.
Step 6
Shop at a reputable bike dealer. Bikes are available at a variety of stores, but you will find the most knowledge, experience and service at a bike shop.
Step 7
Fit the bicycle. Find a model or two of bikes that you researched and would like to try, and have a shop employee help you get fitted for the proper size.
Step 8
Take a test ride. Better yet, demo the bike if this is an option. Despite all your personal reflection and on-paper analysis, the only true way to guarantee the bike is right is to get on it and ride it. Prior to doing this, properly adjust the seat. Don't be afraid to spend some time lapping around the block to really determine if the bike is comfortable. Consider how the gear shifters work and feel, how easy the brakes are to operate, how well the saddle fits your body and how the pedals fit and feel on your feet.
Step 9
Carefully consider the overall comfort and handling of the bike as you ride. Is it easy to corner, comfortable when riding uphill and downhill, and nimble on your test ride? Do you feel comfortable when riding it or are you outstretched or scrunched awkwardly? Are you able to properly control the bike over various grades of terrain? Take all these questions into close consideration.
Step 10
Test ride several models. To be sure the bike is right, compare it with others. Also, if there's a particular problem, discuss it with the staff member assisting you and perhaps he can adjust the bike or find a better model for you.

Tips & Warnings

One of your best resources is the shop staff--be sure to ask as many questions as you have, as they can help you get the perfect bike.

Article Written By Joe Fletcher

Joe Fletcher has been a writer since 2002, starting his career in politics and legislation. He has written travel and outdoor recreation articles for a variety of print and online publications, including "Rocky Mountain Magazine" and "Bomb Snow." He received a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Rutgers College.

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