Buying bikes 101

Bicycles have long been a method of transportation and are becoming even more popular with rising oil and gasoline prices. From mountain biking to road biking, there are many categories within each division. Racing, touring, and casual bikes suit different types of people. Prices can range from a couple hundred to several thousand depending on the components of the bikes. Many people know brands like Schwinn, Trek or even more specific like Felt, Giant or Motobecane. Each brand offers various models in a wide range of prices. Where does this leave you, me and any other average consumer?

LOST? It is easy to get lost and confused in the world of bicycles. The focus of this article will be to clear up any confusion and hopefully set a framework for finding the right bike for your price range. There are several variables that need to be considered when buying a new or used bike. These include:

1. Price – obvious category but there are many more

2. Sizing – very important for cyclists, recreational cyclists and anyone who wants to get into the sport.

3. Bike Type: Comfort, Hybrid, Road, Time Trial

4. Specificity of the bicycle: components and parts included in the bicycle

DIMENSIONING

I’ll get into the bike price aspect in a future article, but I wanted to address the last three points first. Size is a crucial element that many people struggle with. Professional cyclists and triathletes often have trouble dialing in their ‘fit’ and look to expensive trial service routes to find the optimal fit. This is one extreme, but there are many other routes for the average cyclist. Your local bike shop will often do a free bike fit for you or even take your measurements so you can plug it into specific calculators, like the FIST fit calculator on Slowtwitch.com. Often people are looking for something simple or inexpensive to get the job done. Proper sizing goes a long way toward comfort and, in my opinion, is a critical determining factor in choosing the right new or used bike. Injuries can occur if the frame is not suitable for your size. Too small a frame often leads to knee problems, where larger-than-recommended frames can make it harder to reach shifters or the ground. Most of the time people of average height have no problem finding an optimal fit, but outliers – tall (like me) or short can have trouble finding the right bike.

TYPES

Comfort, road and time trial bikes are the most common in the road bike category. While you can ride each of these, selecting the one most relevant to your style gives you the most comfort and satisfaction. The first type, comfort bikes, are usually designed with upright handlebars compared to other bikes. These can be very useful for the average rider looking to put in a few miles but stay as comfortable as possible during the ride. Some bikes known as cruisers often fall into this category and come equipped with fewer and much heavier gears. Designed for short distances, like crossing the street to the grocery store, they wouldn’t be the best option for longer distances. Road bikes are very common for the average cyclist, the professional cyclist, and anyone new to the sport. When looking to ride longer durations (say 2,3,4+ hours), road bikes are the best option. They are also fast due to the skinny tires and lighter weight. With a variety of frame types, sizes, and brands, it’s easy to find the right road bike. Used bikes can often save people 50% or more on MSRP.

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