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Ready to Ride? How to Decide What Kind of Bike You Should Buy

man smiling with bike helmet onAbout 53 percent of U.S. households have a bicycle.[1] Are you thinking about joining their ranks? If so, you could be making a smart move for your health, fitness and wellbeing.

Riding a bike regularly can improve your physical and mental health in numerous ways. It can decrease your risk of coronary heart disease, reduce stress, help you burn calories and control your weight, elevate your mood, improve joint mobility and strengthen your bones, among other benefits.[2],[3],[4] Plus, for a lot of people, bike rides are just plain fun.

However, if you are buying a bike for the first time in a while, the choice can feel overwhelming. Whether you go the new or used route, there are numerous options—road, mountain, fixed gear, hybrid, recumbent, and cruiser bikes just a few of the most common.

How do you decide which type of bike is the right one for you? How you answer these questions may help you narrow your options.

1. What kind of riding have you done in the past?

Maybe the last time you rode a bike was in childhood. Maybe you took up mountain biking or road cycling “back in the day.” Consider the types of bikes you have owned and riding you have done throughout your life. What was the most fun for you? Was there anything you liked or disliked about that kind of riding or the bike you used?

2. What kind of riding do you plan to do now?

Think about your primary reasons for buying a bike at this point in time. This will help you figure out not only what style might be right for you but also the level of components (e.g., shifters, wheels, etc.) you should consider.

Will you be riding to lose weight and get in shape? Are you planning to race—and, if so, what kind of racing? Is your bike going to serve as your primary mode of transportation for commuting to work or running errands? Will be riding casually or taking multi-day bike tours? Do you need your bike to serve multiple purposes?

3. Where will you ride most of the time?

Different bikes are built for different terrains. Their geometry, weight and tires vary based on their intended use.

If you buy a road bike, which is typically lighter with thin, smooth tires for minimal resistance, but only have access to a dirt path near your home, you probably won’t enjoy your rides very much. You would want something with treaded tires such as a mountain, cross or hybrid bike.

So, consider whether you will be riding on technical dirt trails, paved or unpaved roads, paved or unpaved bike paths, gravel or dirt paths, or maybe a little of everything. Also think about the typical distances of your rides. Will you build up to multi-hour or multi-day rides, or do you plan on briefer ones? You will want something built to provide the right comfort and support for how you will use it.

4. Who will you ride with?

Whether you plan to exclusively ride around the neighborhood with your kids or join a bike club and go on group rides will have some impact on your decision. You don’t need a quick light frame if you will only be taking casual family rides, and a hybrid isn’t cut out for 30 miles in a paceline.

Plus, if you know who you will be riding with, you can ask them about their bikes or bikes they’ve had in the past. What do they like or dislike? What new technology is surfacing? What do they think you should consider as a new buyer?

Finally, make sure that whatever bike you choose it is one that fits your body as well as your needs. For starters, you should be able to stand over the bike with your feet flat on the ground. A frame that is too big for you could be dangerous. One that is too small could cause discomfort. Both extremes could lead to injury. You can learn more about bike sizing and fitting online through websites such as REI, but it is important to understand that there are different fit considerations for different types of bikes.

Visit your local bike shop and discuss your needs with a sales person. They can help you compare options and find something that correctly fits your needs, your body and your budget.



[1] Poushter, Jacob. “Car, Bike or Motorcycle? Depends on Where You Live.” Pew Research Center. April 16, 2015.

[2] Victoria State Government. “Cycling – Health Benefits.” Last updated Nov. 2013.

[3] Markham, Derek. “The Top 7 Health Benefits of Cycling.” Discovery News. Oct. 3, 2011.

[4] Yeager, Selene. “How Cycling Makes You Smarter and Happier.” Bicycling. March 31, 2014.

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Posted in: Adults, Biking, Fitness

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