Road Racers, Loaded Tourers, Recumbents, Hardtails, Dualies, Hybrids, Cross Bikes, Sport Tourers, Commuters, Cruisers, Comfort Bikes, Tandems.
These are just the more common bicycle types available today. There are also folders, singlespeeds, freeriders, downhillers, jumping bikes, track machines, travel bikes and more.
With such a dizzying array to choose from, it’s a small miracle any new buyer wondering how to buy a bicycle leaves a shop with the right model. Sadly, it’s common for people to buy the wrong bike, such as getting a model built for abusive off-road use, when the MTB will be ridden primarily on pavement.
To prevent such mistakes, if you’re in the market for a new bike, especially if it’s the first new machine in a while, start the shopping process by answering the key questions that follow. When you’re sure about these things, you’ll stand the best chance of leaving the shop with a bicycle you’ll love and not outgrow too quickly.
After you’ve nailed these questions, refer to the chart which explains the five basic bike types to help decide which is most suited to you and your riding plans.
Why do you want a new bike?
Plenty of people buy the wrong bike because they only know they want one. For example, maybe your friend bought a bike so you want one just like it. That’s okay ó if you plan to ride just like your friend. It’d be better to list what you want out of the purchase. Is it riding for fitness? Is it for pedaling around town? For off-road excursions? For travel? To take up bike racing? To commute? Write down as many reasons as you can come up with and think carefully about which ones are realistic.
What kind of person are you?
Some types want the best of everything; others are frugal and consider affordability first. A serious athlete will have different goals than someone mostly interested in recreation. Tech heads prefer the latest and most advanced engineering in frames and components. Many cyclists want a unique machine that sets them apart from the masses. One way to determine where you fit is by thinking about other big purchases you made recently and the decisions you made in the process. The better you know yourself, the easier it’ll be to get a bike you’re happy with.
What kind of riding do you want to do?
Before answering, consider what type of riding is available in your area. For example, it might be questionable to purchase a downhill racing mountain bike if you live in Flatsville, Wisconsin. So think about where you’ll bike. If you’re not sure because you’re new to cycling or the area, visit a local shop and ask the people there where the great riding is to help decide which model will be most fun for you. For many cyclists, the answer is two bikes, one for road use and another for off road use.
How much do you want to spend?
Hit the shops with a good idea of what you’d be comfortable spending. Every bike type is available in a wide range of prices based on the frame material, the design and the components it’s equipped with. If you can determine your price comfort level, the dealer can steer you toward bikes of the type you like in that general range and it’ll save searching the aisles. It’s worth looking at slightly more expensive models to get a feel for what a little extra cash buys. Often, for 15% more money, you can get parts that would cost much more to purchase individually. If you’ve got the bucks it might make sense to get the better bike. But keep in mind also that there are essential accessories such as a helmet and flat-tire repair kit that you may need and that these will add to the total cost of the bike.
Best used for: Training and racing on the road or century riding. Also can be used for credit-card touring (carrying minimal gear and staying in hotels).
Best used for: Fitness rides, centuries, commuting, distance touring.
Best used for: Trail riding for fun, fitness and racing. And around-town use if you’re not going far and aren’t in a hurry (just bring a lock!).
Best used for: Fitness riding on and off road, running errands and commuting. Okay for touring though upright position not the most efficient.
Best used for: Fitness riding, centuries, touring, training and racing in recumbent races.