Bicycle Buying 101
Is it time for you to take up cycling? Bicycles are flying out of the shops these days as people look for cheaper, safer, environmentally friendly ways to navigate their cities. Post pandemic, bikes have become the new toilet paper. Trying to find one for sale is getting more and more difficult.
Cycling is rapidly growing in popularity in the U.S. There are over a billion bikes in the world, with a new bike being produced every single second. Did you know that 76% of all bike trips are made by men and we outnumber female cyclists three to one?
If you’re new to cycling, then buying a new bike can be intimidating. There’s practically a whole language of cycling jargon and terms for equipment. You probably don’t want to look like a noob when you ask the store clerk how to change the gears or why are those tires so fat?
As always, Men’s Variety’s got your back. We’ve come up with a bike buyer’s guide to take some of the guesswork out of your new favorite mode of transportation.
What Type of Bike Should You Get?
You shouldn’t just go out there and buy a bike based on price or availability. There are a few different types of bikes and some bike types won’t fit your needs. So, here are a few of the main types of bicycles.
Mountain Bikes – Suitable for dirt roads, gravel, and trails.
Mountain bikes have built-in shock absorbers and heavy frames that can really take a beating. The gears are fewer and mostly in the low range so that you can take on hills and mountains. A full suspension bike is the most expensive type of mountain bike because it has a suspension set-up for the front and the back.
Road Bikes – Suitable for city riding on paved roads.
Road bikes are the go-to choice for urban dwellers. You can spot a road bike by the handlebars. Usually, the handlebars curve inward like a ram’s horns and riders are leaning forward over the top. There are a few different types of road bikes. The touring bike has attachments for cargo. Performance bikes are lightweight and ideal for catching lots of speed.
Hybrid (Fitness) Bikes – Suitable for nearly any surface
Hybrid bikes have less suspension than mountain bikes but have the same straight bar design for the handlebars. The tires are a bit wider than road bikes for occasional trail riding. They’re lightweight and usually have comfortable seat cushions. Hybrid bikes are sometimes called fitness bikes because riders tend to cycle for exercise purposes.
Specialty Bikes – suitable for certain conditions and have unique features
Some bikes don’t fit into any other category or crossover into several categories. These specialty bikes are built for purpose. There are bikes that fold down for easy transport and storage. There are big cruiser bikes that are ideal for short rides on the boardwalk. You can also put electric bikes into this category, too.
Factor in the Features Before You Buy
When you’re shopping for a bike on a budget, then you should take a closer look at the individual features of the bicycle. The size of the tires, the gears, the seat cushion, the suspension, all these things and more can drive the price of your new bike.
Wheels and Tires
You’re riding on two wheels and tires all the time. So, your bicycle’s feet are extremely important. Cycling professionals might spend $10,000 on a set of wheels and tires. You don’t have to break the bank on this one feature, but it helps to be a bit savvy when shopping.
It all comes down to strength vs. weight with the wheels. The more spokes the wheel has the more weight it can support. Fewer spokes mean lighter weight and more speed. The type of bike you want will determine your wheel choice for the most part, but you can play around with different wheels if you’re thinking about upping your performance.
The wheels need to conform to your bicycle’s brake system. For rim brakes, the sides of your wheel need to be flat so that the brakes can slow down your tires. For a disk brake system, you need a certain type of wheel for that. There’s a rotary flywheel used in disk brakes that usually isn’t transferrable to rim brake wheels.
The tire sizes are pretty standard. There’s 27.5 inch and 29 inch tires for most mountain bikes, and 700 mm for most road bikes. But again, the type of bike determines your tire size. You can find your correct tire size by reading the size measurements on the side wall of the tire itself.
You will need to replace your tires from time to time. You can buy tires that are damage resistant, but these can get a bit pricey. Your best bet is to buy tires with a wider width. These provide more traction and they’re also more forgiving for novice riders.
The Bike Frame
The frames of modern bicycles are made from lots of different materials. Aluminum bike frames are stiff and durable. Steel frames are rigid and less flexible but come cheap. Titanium bike frames are becoming more popular because they offer a great middle ground between comfort and strength. Top of the line bicycles will have carbon frames. You’d better dig deep into your budget for these nimble racers.
Another thing to keep in mind when shopping for a new bike is the geometry of the frame. This tends to fall in line with the type of bicycle. Mountain bikes have a certain frame geometry. The geometry of a road bike is slightly different.
Performance bikes are more stretched out and aerodynamic. If you can’t test drive the bicycle you want, then you can test a bike with a similar frame geometry. This will give you an idea of the posture you’ll need to ride that particular type of bike.
The Bike Gears
When talking about bicycle gears, you’ll hear terms like classic, compact, 10-speed, 11-speed, and mid-compact. It’s enough to make the average person turn left and go buy a pair of running shoes instead. Here’s what you should look for when shopping for a new bike.
The purpose of gears on a bicycle is so that you can pedal comfortably on different types of terrains and at different elevations. Keep that in mind. It doesn’t have to get too complicated. High gears are for riding at speed and going downhill. Low gears are for exactly the opposite.
A single gear bike is fine if you live in a flat area and only use your bike on the same type of surface. This is ideal for people who commute to work. You travel the same path and the journey is relatively straight forward.
For beginners, think about the weight of a gearbox on your new bike. You’ve got to push that thing around with you and you could waste time and energy toggling through 30 gears when all you needed was one. Your best option is to choose fewer gears and less weight.
Enjoy the Ride
The most important part of cycling is enjoying the experience. The freedom of movement, the rush of wind, the meditation of movement – it’s all about enjoying the ride. Cycling can be an enjoyable pastime in of itself, but there are numerous benefits. Here are just a few:
Benefits of Cycling
You’ll save a ton of money on gym membership fees and parking in the city.
Your annual transportation costs are far cheaper than owning a car.
Cycling can drastically reduce your risk for type II diabetes and heart disease.
Now, once you get your bicycle and you’re ready to ride, you might want to check out some tutorials and beginner guides like this one below.