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Choosing the Right Bicycle

Cycling has enjoyed increasing popularity in recent years as more people realize the benefits and enjoyment of the sport—in fact, in 2017 there were 66 million riders in the United States. It’s a great way to spend family time, to do on your own, or even to consider as a way to commute to work. This low-impact exercise boasts many health benefits including improving mental well-being, promoting weight loss, building muscle and boosting your cardio health.

You can always jump on a stationary bike at the gym, but if you’re the outdoorsy type, buying a standard bicycle costs less overall than its stationary little brother. Before you buy, you’ll want to arm yourself with some knowledge about how to purchase the right bicycle for YOU.

What to look for in a professional bike shop. There’s nothing wrong with shopping for bicycles online, but consider all of the advantages of going to a brick-and-mortar store. Besides fit sessions and test rides, a bike shop will ensure quality assembly and might offer free adjustments for a period of time, as well as other discounts on accessories included with the purchase of a complete bike. A bike shop is also a venue for getting to know other cyclists through organized group rides and events. Customers are invited into the cycling community, which can be a great service for the new rider.

With over 5,300 specialty bike stores nationwide, doing a little homework may pay off with a good deal AND a good retail relationship as you take up this sport. Be sure to pick a store that not only sells bicycles, but services them as well. A good bike dealer will take care of your selection, fitting and future bicycling needs. To locate a dealer near you, visit Find Bicycle

What type of bike are you looking for? According to the National Bicycle Dealers Association, there are many points to consider: size, feel, look, ride, and what kind of terrain you’ll be riding on. Here are the main types of bicycles and what to look for in each:

  • Mountain – Look for a mountain bike with wide, knobby tires, a flat handlebar, strong brakes, and shock-absorbing suspension that’s made for rough, unpredictable trails.
  • Road – Most road bikes have smooth, skinny tires and a curved handlebar, and place you in a bent-over position suited for speed.
  • Hybrid – Hybrids provide comfort and stability via moderately thick tires and an upright riding position, a compromise that allows you to ride easily on city streets or packed-dirt paths. They are lightweight and fun to ride, making them a solid choice for commuters or new riders who want one bike to run errands, cruise the rail-trail, and ride with the family.
  • Commuters or Urban – Commuter bikes range from sturdy workhorses to stylish fashion accessories, and often have utilitarian features like rack and fender mounts, an upright frame design.

Get the right fit! Whether you purchase an entry-level bike or a top-shelf model, the right fit is key to your cycling experience. A good salesperson should help find the right size for you, and then make at least four adjustments, to: seat height, saddle position, handlebar height and reach. More serious riders may want to find a shop staffed with a certified bike fitter—that will take precise measurements, set you up on multiple bikes, and swap parts if necessary to optimize your position.

Test drive a few bikes. You wouldn’t buy a car without test driving a few models. Same goes for your new bike. In some cases, you’ll be spending several hundred to potentially several thousand dollars, so you want to come away feeling happy, comfortable and not compromised. Try to focus your options to three models based on your budget and intended use. Then make sure you take an adequate test ride of at least 15 to 20 minutes—longer if you can. Once you make your selection, don’t be afraid to negotiate on price with the bike dealer.

Budget for more than just the bike. Decide how much money you want to invest in your cycling goals before you start shopping. Then, regardless of your budget, allocate about two-thirds of it to the bike. You’ll want to save some for accessories, like a good helmet, tire pump, water bottle, and bottle cage. You’ll also want basic tools and a spare inner tube in case you get a flat tire. Ask your retailer for advice on what other equipment you will likely need.

Seek out bicycling resources. Your first resource is your bike store. You may need some advice or a demonstration of all the bike’s features, such as shifting, braking maintenance, etc. Make sure you receive the owner’s manual with the bike, and read this valuable resource for safety and optimal operation. Also, don’t forget that there are many books, magazines and online resources available if you want more information about cycling.

Safety and Sharing the Road. Many Americans are increasingly choosing walking, running, and bicycling to stay active and as an alternative to the daily drive to work. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Share the Road effort reminds everyone that we have a responsibility to do just that so we can all safely get to where we’re going. By law, drivers must share the road with cyclists and pedestrians. But bicyclists and pedestrians have responsibilities, too. Ride and walk with safety in mind. Just like vehicle drivers, bicyclists must obey street signs, signals, and road markings. Always ride with traffic, ride defensively assuming others cannot see you, and ride attentively.

Good luck with your new bike, stay safe, and enjoy the ride!

Resources: National Bicycle Dealers Association,, Cycling Weekly,

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