How to Choose a Bicycle
Before you spend hundreds of dollars on a bicycle, take a moment to think about how you intend to use it. Choosing the wrong type of bike can ruin a good ride. Choosing the right type of bike can provide hours of enjoyment and fun.
Difficulty: Moderately Easy
Choose the type of bicycle that best meets your needs. Some popular types of bikes are single-speed, road, mountain, tandem, recumbent and hybrid bikes. Ask a bicycle dealer for permission to take the various models for a spin.
Buy a single-speed bike if you're going to use it primarily for cruising around the neighborhood or the beach. Single-speed bikes typically use "coaster brakes" that are operated by pushing backwards on the pedals. While single-speed bikes are the easiest to ride, they're not designed for climbing hills or off-road trails.
Choose a road bike if you're looking for a sleek, lightweight model designed for speed and riding on pavement. Designed for high performance, even the most inexpensive road bikes typically weigh less than 20 lbs. Road bikes feature aerodynamic handlebars, clipless pedals, 12 to 18 speeds using a "derailleur" to shift gears, low-profile seats and thin tires (called "slicks") that are inflated to high pressures to reduce drag. Road bikes are the most efficient types of bicycles.
Shop for a mountain bike if you plan on riding mostly off road. Mountain bikes are heavy-duty cousins to road bikes, with the emphasis on durability instead of conserving weight. Most mountain bikes feature front and/or rear suspension. More expensive models also use disc brakes for superior stopping power. Like road bikes, mountain bikes often use "clipless" pedals designed to be used with "cleats" that are attached to the bottom of riding shoes. Clipless pedals offer a more efficient power transfer between the rider and the machine. Mountain bikes also feature straight, traditional handlebars that allow the rider to remain more erect while riding. Tires on most mountain bikes are heavy "knobby" tires designed to grip the road when it's muddy, wet and rough.
Buy a tandem bike if you and your significant other want to ride the roads together. Tandem bikes are designed to act like two bikes attached together. The rider in front is the pilot, responsible for steering and guiding the bike on the road. The rider in back is called the stoker, the principal source of power. Tandem bikes are typically outfitted with the same equipment as single-rider road bikes--thinner, lightweight tires, caliper brakes, 18-speed derailleurs and "drop-down" handlebars.
Choose a recumbent bicycle if you're in the market for a road bike that's something different than traditional models. Equipped like road bikes with lightweight tires and derailleurs, recumbent bikes offer solutions to people who enjoy road riding but are limited by low back pain. Because the rider rides in a traditional sitting position, it's easier on the spine and upper extremities. The downsides to recumbent bikes are cost and lost efficiency while riding uphill.
Buy a hybrid bike if you want a bike that can handle all types of moderate terrain. While hybrids are not true versions of road or mountain bikes, they are durable enough to handle anything you throw at them. Hybrids typically feature tires that are a cross between smooth slicks and knobbies.
Tips & Warnings
If you're looking for one bike that can do it all, choose a hybrid.
Avoid taking road bikes onto dirt roads if you can. Keep your road bike clean for best performance.
Avoid taking road bikes onto dirt roads if you can.
Keep your road bike clean for best performance.
Article Written By Allen Smith
Allen Smith is an award-winning freelance writer living in Vail, Colo. He writes about health, fitness and outdoor sports. Smith has a master's degree in exercise physiology and an exercise specialist certification with the American College of Sports Medicine at San Diego State University.
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