How to Choose a Bike

Whether you’re running errands, commuting to work, or exploring the sights and sounds of your city—riding a bike provides a low-cost, environmentally friendly way to travel. It’s also a great way to stay in shape. But before you go out and purchase the first bike you see, take a look the following advice. There are a number of options to consider when choosing a bicycle, and the topics below will help you make an informed purchase decision.

Start by Asking Questions

Before you can select the right bike for your needs, you should ask yourself the following questions.

Where Will You Be Riding?

You’ll need to consider the type of riding you’ll be doing and the types of surfaces you’ll be traversing. Some bikes are made specifically for speedy travel on paved roads, some are built for rugged terrain, and others are versatile enough to handle multiple surfaces. It’s important to know how you’ll be using your bike in order to determine which bicycle type is right for you.

When most of your biking involves shorter trips on paved roads—such as when you’re commuting to work, running errands, or exercising—road bikes and hybrids offer excellent options. If you’re riding for light recreation or leisure, you could also consider an old-style cruiser or a decked-out comfort bike. However, the great thing about road riding is that any kind of bike can be used on paved surfaces under reasonable conditions.

If you plan to go off-road riding, you’ll need a bike that can absorb the shock of the rougher landscape. While hybrids can handle bumpier terrain, serious off-road riding over towpaths, farmland, and rocky trails requires a good mountain bike with wider tires and front- or dual-suspension.

For longer, cross-country journeys, touring bikes provide the best option. By attaching some side panniers, you’ll have space to carry any gear you need.

How Often Will You Ride?

You should also consider how often you plan on riding your bike. Will you be biking every day, once a week, or just occasionally with friends and family? If you plan on riding your bike frequently, you’ll be better served by purchasing a higher level bike. More expensive bikes don’t just cost more, they are more refined, more durable, and are generally lighter in weight. However, if you’ll only be riding occasionally, a more basic bike may be good enough. Just like any activity that you participate in frequently—whether professionally or recreationally—the more you ride, the more you’ll realize the value in subtle differences in the fit and function of more expensive equipment.

Do You Have Any Health Concerns?

Your level of fitness can also be an important consideration. Your body shape, size, and overall health can influence the type of biking you do, as well as the type of bike you’ll need.

Cycling provides a low-impact way to stay in shape, and is particularly good for older people, pregnant women, and those recovering from injury. However, back country routes, hilly terrain, and long distances can present quite the challenge to the inexperienced rider. Biking through your neighborhood is not the same as taking a cross-country trek or negotiating off-road twists and turns. Unprepared riders often find themselves faced with sore muscles, blisters, and nausea. And if they don’t carry enough water, they may also struggle with dehydration and heat exhaustion.

Before you choose a bike, make sure your health is up to par for what you intend to do, and don’t rush into advanced biking too fast. By gradually improving your skills over time, you can work towards loftier bike riding goals without getting in over your head.

What Is Your Budget?

Finally, you’ll want to consider your budget. Bicycles come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and styles. And as you might expect, the higher the quality of bike you purchase, the more it will cost. Setting a budget in advance will help you narrow your bicycle search.