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How to choose the right bike for you.

Posted Aug 17 2010 9:00am

Biking is such a great activity that burns calories, gets you fit, and takes you places!

I think there are 2 main reasons that people don’t continue with biking once they start.  One is that they buy the wrong bike, and the other is seat comfort.

When you are looking to buy a bike, ask yourself these questions:

1.  What type of riding am I going to do?  Casual, commuter, longer trips, trail riding, races, etc.

2.  What kind of terrain will I be riding on?  Asphalt, gravel, trails, mountains, etc.

3. How much do I want to spend?

There are basically 4 classes of bikes you can choose from.

Road bikes are very light and are built for speed and distance.  These are the bikes you see on TV in races.  The tires are very thin and the posture over the bike is bent over (for aerodynamics).  Not meant for gravel paths or grassy type terrain.


Mountain bikes are big and beefy.  Very heavy as they need to be sturdy to take a real beating.  This is fine and good if you are doing trail riding, but if you want to ride to and from work – it’s really too heavy and you will dread riding it (been there).  The posture is more upright than the road bike, but not as upright as a commuter/comfort bike.


Hybrid bikes are kind of a cross between the mountain and road bike.  They have a wider tire than the road bike, but are lighter than the mountain bike.  The posture is bent over like a mountain bike and will have straight across handlebars rather than curved under (like a road bike).  These are good for distance riding on a variety of paths, but not serious mountain trails.


Commuter/cruiser bikes are really all about comfort for the rider.  The seating posture is more upright, so the handlebars are at a higher angle.  The tires are wider for good stability. The seat is usually much wider and more padded.  The bike will be heavier than a hybrid and more sturdy than a road bike.  It is not meant for really long distances.

Each class of bike is going to have a range of cost per bike.  Generally, the more expensive you go, the lighter the bike is and the better quality the individual parts are.  As you get higher grades, the differences can be pretty small, so be realistic with your budget.  A really good road bike can set you back several thousand dollars!  Good entry level road bikes are going to be around $600+

I think my best recommendation is to not purchase your bike at anything other than a bike shop.  You can buy off the rack bikes at Target or Walmart, but for just a little bit more, you can buy a good quality bike and get professional advice and a bike fitting (also very important).

When we lived in Colorado, we bought a pair of mountain bikes at Walmart because we were in Colorado and thought that is what we should get.  Plus they were cheap.  Well, I was 220 pounds at the time and the bike was super heavy.  We did road riding, but there were hills and I was completely miserable trying to truck a heavy bike up those hills.  I thought I hated biking.  Years later when I decided to try again, I ended up purchasing a used bike that was a hybrid and  fit me well, and it made all the difference in the world!  You all know how I loved that bike (curse you thief!).  It really felt like an extension of me when I went out.

When you go to a bike shop, don’t be intimidated.  Just go in with the list of the answers to these questions, and they can steer you towards the proper bike.

For example, my answers are:  I am biking for exercise, doing some duathlons, and taking long trips for enjoyment.  I am riding long distances (40 miles on average) and the surfaces I ride are gravel and asphalt.  I have a budget that out of necessity needs to be $600 or less (preferably a lot less LOL).

This puts me in the hybrid category, and more specifically, the performance hybrid.  That means a bike suited for longer rides.  The choice at this point really comes down to price and what I am willing to spend on the bike.

For seat comfort.  I had talked about that already about how time will build up your sit bones.  You also can change out the seat on any bike.  You can purchase a more comfie saddle and install it (or have it installed).  Having a comfortable seat can make all the difference in loving riding!

Hope these help a little bit if you are thinking about a bike (or wondering if the one you have is right for you).

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