Many of us have fond memories of our riding a bicycle during our childhood. Cycling is one of the simplest, most accessible forms of transportation humans have ever made. “Riding a bike” isn’t a part of countless idioms and metaphors for no reason. Almost everyone can relate to it.
But as we grow older, many of us also tend to get away from that glorious feeling of freedom that a bike can give you. It can give you a temporary escape into nature, away from your daily routine and problems. Biking can be an alternate, green, and healthy way to commute to work every day.
It can be a great way to spend time with friends or family. And when biking you will always be getting the added benefit of exercise. There isn’t much downside to it.
If you do decide to hop on the pedals again, it can be rather daunting when choosing which type of bike to buy yourself. Fear not, cycle companions, this guide is here to be your training wheels again. Not for long, for as you know, getting back to biking is like riding a bike, you never really forget. (Sorry for that unnecessary joke.)
Types of Bikes
We’ll start with a few of the main types of bicycles out there to familiarize you with their purpose so you can apply the knowledge further down in the article.
These are your speedsters and the most efficient bikes. They are made of lighter materials and larger, slimmer wheels made for speed and efficiency. They are designed to be used only on paved roads or trails. Road bikes also have “drop” handlebars, requiring the rider to bend over more when riding.
These are generally reserved for the more serious cyclist, people looking to race or train/exercise over fairly long distances. You can really move in these suckers. Getting your speed up and keeping it up doesn’t require as much effort as other bikes.
Road bikes generally aren’t the most ideal for commuting due to the riding position, although there are certain road bike designs out there specifically for commuting, but if they are what you are familiar with and are near and dear to your heart, please go with one. That’s what biking is all about.
Most of us are familiar with this rugged bike. I had one as a kid growing up, though I mostly used it around the neighborhood, not too much trail riding for this adventurer. Mountain bikes are designed to be tough, sturdy, and take the punishment that can be delivered by nature. They usually are also made to ascend very steep hills a little easier with certain typed of gears.
Mountain bikes also have smaller, fatter, knobby tires for grip and sturdiness on rugged terrain. This makes them less efficient than road bikes and therefore less ideal for commuting or longer bike rides.
They also have flat or upright handlebars for more steering control and support for your back. Just FYI, those bikes with really large, fat tires you see around these days are called fat bikes. Those are under the mountain bike umbrella.
The main reason to go with one of these is if you plan on frequently going off-road with your bike. Otherwise, the next option may the perfect one for you.
Hybrid bikes are the twisted lovechild of the road bike and mountain bike. Not really, but they do take the best of both designs to offer the most versatility to riders. They have the larger, more efficient tires for road riding longer distances, and the higher, flat handlebars for more comfort.
A lot of times they also have padded seats for comfort as well, but this is a variation usually designed for more casual riding.
Hybrid bikes have tires in between road and mountain, with a little more thickness than road bikes for stability and a little bit less knobby tread than mountain bikes for just enough grip. They can be used on the road or on smoother trails. They have balanced suspension and brakes for ultimate utility.
These are actually the most popular type of bicycle today because of their all-around function. People use them for commute, training, and casual riding. Hybrid bikes are the safest bet for you if you are just getting back into biking.
Cruising or Lifestyle Bikes
This last type of bicycle is a classic. It’s the type of bike you think of someone cruising down the boardwalk along the beach at sunset. With the raised, mustache-style handlebars and the fat seat, this bike makes the biggest style statement of them all. And they are cool, just not very functional.
Lifestyle bikes, as they are increasingly being referred to these days, are for casual rides with friends or family. Cruising around the neighborhood or to a local coffee shop. They aren’t designed for long rides or difficult ones. They usually only have one gear and very inefficient tires.
Cruising bikes are for those who bike casually and style is important to them. And there is nothing wrong at all with this. As stated before, biking is joy and freedom, so feel free to choose the bike that makes you happy.
Other Bike Types
There are many other types of bicycles out there, but they all have more specific functions than the ones already listed. There are touring bikes made for very long distances. There are cyclocross bikes designed for multi-terrain racing. There are BMX bikes designed for tricks. There are folding bikes designed for commuters needing to carry their bike with them.
If you are in specific need of one of these bicycles, you have probably done your research already on other sites tailored to these specific needs. So they won’t be covered here.
What Type of Riding Will You Do?
This is the most important question to answer when determining which type of bike to acquire and how much to spend. Will you be riding every day, to and from work or for serious exercise and training? You should go with a mid-range or nicer road or hybrid bike. Are you going out into nature to escape the city? A mountain bike is the choice. Will you just occasionally be cruising with your friends on a Sunday afternoon? Go with a lower-end hybrid or lifestyle bike.
It is important to consider how much you will be riding, where you will be riding, who you will be riding with, and how often you’ll do it. These are the main factors when choosing the right bike for you.
How Much to Pay for a Bike
This again depends on how serious and how often you will be riding. If it is only occasionally, a cheaper option will do fine. But if it is more than that, you should at least go with a mid-range as the components of the bike will last much longer, dozens of years even with the right upkeep. Bikes can be anywhere from $100 to upwards of $5,000. So the range is huge.
A cheap bike will be in the $100-$300 range.
A middle tier bike will be from $300-$800.
A top end bike will be anything over that.
Obviously, it also depends on your means. You can find used bikes in many places like Craigslist or eBay. Just be remember to always beware as the buyer. Inspect the bike if possible before buying. A good guide for secondary market bicycle pricing is Bicycle Blue Book. Check it out before buying a used bike.
There are also countless places to buy a bike these days. The internet is where you’ll find the best prices, but you must make sure it is the correct size. You usually won’t get any kind of service deal with an online purchase either, and sometimes you have to assemble the bike yourself and returns can be difficult.
Going to a bike shop is the surest way to get the right bike. The professionals there can size you and up and determine which bike fits your needs best, although I hope this guide does that sufficiently enough for you, wink wink. You will also be paying a premium price for their assistance and sometimes the selection can be limited.
My recommendation is to go to a bike shop and listen to their recommendations and sizing and take a few different bike types out for a test ride. Then go back home and buy your bike online. This is gaming the system and somewhat taking advantage of the bike shop, but sometimes you have to look out for number one, you know?
Fitting Your Bike
Even more important than the cost is how your bike fits your body. You can spend all the money in the world on an amazing bike, but if it doesn’t fit your body, it won’t be worth anything to you. The fit of the bike really comes down to one main component, the frame size. You want the right frame size for your body so you are riding the most comfortably, healthily, and efficiently as possible.
You also want to make sure your seat is at the correct height for riding. This will be better for comfort and for knee health. The main rule to follow is when the pedal is straight down and you are sitting on the seat, you want your knee to be slightly bent.
Again, I would recommend going to a bike shop to get fitted correctly for a bike before spending a few hundred dollars on one. It is absolutely worth your time.
Get to Pedaling
Biking is a fantastic form of freedom and health. It is a great way to share a day with someone or to see a city from an entirely new perspective. Biking is really just a pure form of joy. Use this guide to choose the right bike for you and get out there and start a new journey or take a different path on life. One last little tidbit, please wear a helmet. All this joy isn’t worth a dime if you lose your head. So stay safe and happy out there!