Whether you're buying a bike for fitness, health, or fun, it's crucial you get the bike that suits you. You may need a bike to commute, ride with your kids on the weekends, or join a team of cyclists for road trips. When it comes to choosing the right bicycle, the options may seem endless, making it quite confusing and frustrating. Generally, you should purchase a bicycle that’s comfortable to ride, fits your daily needs, and is value for money. This bike buying guide highlights some of the key factors to consider before buying a new bicycle.
What Do You Want to Use the Bike for?
The first point is to determine what you are going to do with the bike. Bikes are categorized into various groups: road, mountain, hybrid, cyclocross, urban hybrid, gravel, etc. Your choice of bike will be shaped by the bicycle's intended purpose.
Will you be using it on the road only? If so, then a road bike or hybrid is more suitable. Road bicycles are designed for speed and efficiency and function well when road conditions are good. They have thin tires and drop handlebars.
If you plan to be taking it off-road, then you’ll be better off with a cyclocross, mountain, or gravel bike. They may have front suspension to withstand shocks on rough terrains and may also come with disc brakes.
If you live near the desert or in an icy region, fat bikes, as the name suggests, have extra-wide tires. They are efficient for such conditions and can be a pain to ride on the road.
There are hundreds of bicycles in the market, each with a different price range. From the simplest to the most advanced, your choice will be governed by how much you're willing to spend.
Generally, the higher the price, the greater the features and the more comfort and quality. Budgeting is the trickiest part because you can choose to base your decision on features and quality or simply the purpose of the bike.
Additionally, the material used on the bicycle affects the price. For example, carbon fiber frames are more expensive than aluminum frames.
The Size of the Bike
The one-size-fits-all rule doesn't apply when buying bicycles. It's extremely important to choose the correct size with preference to your height and weight. The correct frame size makes it possible to achieve the correct posture, which in turn, greatly improves efficiency and comfort while reducing the chances of injury.
Kids' bikes are grouped by wheel size, and range from 12.5, 16, 18, 20, and 24 inches. As for adults, you get wheel sizes from 26, 27.5, and 29 inches. To buy the right size, it's imperative to know your height and inside leg measurement. Most manufacturers offer guides on their websites and online stores displaying the size of the bikes and the matching heights.
Components and Specifications
Before settling for a bicycle, you may want to consider the components and specifications, including the frame, handlebars, chain type, pedals, and saddle. You also want to check the type of gears, brakes, and wheels the bike comes with.
Note that good wheels are faster because of the rotational weight, and you can find them in most bike shops. Better wheels are also smoother and improve aerodynamics, which is important since as a cyclist, you’ll be fighting wind often on the road.
Generally, a bike with plenty of gears is more efficient at maintaining comfortable riding speeds. However, if you feel strong, you don’t need to go for a bike with a lot of gears. Higher gear number makes riding uphill and on bumpy terrain way easier.
A single gear bicycle relies on your pedaling power to move and is a great option if your focus is to shed some extra weight. But, it can be a real pain riding a single gear bike in hilly areas.
The Bike’s Durability
Like we mentioned earlier, bikes are made using different materials, and this will determine how long the bike will last, as well as the price. Here’s a breakdown of the most common materials used to manufacture bikes:
Aluminum: Bikes made from aluminum are the most popular due to their affordability. They are durable and a great choice for both beginner and professional cyclists.
Titanium: Titanium bikes are more expensive, but are highly durable. They are more suitable for heavy-duty use, plus they are flexible for proper shock absorption.
Steel: Carbon steel or high-tensile steel is ideal if you’ll be using your bike on cross-country trips because it's strong, stiff, and heavy-duty. Chromoly steel, on the other hand, is lightweight and more responsive. It's used on bikes with minimal suspension.
Carbon Fiber: It’s the most durable material and is used to make heavy-duty frames. It's used mostly on mountain bikes to withstand rough terrains.
You won't know how the bike will really feel without taking it for a spin. This is your chance to test out the comfort of the saddle, handlebars, as well as the efficiency of the gears. Some dealer shops have a demo bike that you can rent while many offer free demo days.
If you don’t like the handlebars or anything else, you may opt to swap them (if it's acceptable) or choose a different bicycle. At the end of the day, you want to invest in a bike that will give you the best experience.