You have finally decided to buy a bike! This is great news. Cycling is a great activity which is both environmental friendly and good for your health. However, the vast variety of bikes to choose from can be a bit overwhelming. This is where we come in. We have made this ultimate bike buying guide to help you in your bike purchase. We have more than a decade of cycling experience and will help you make the best decision.
The process of buying a bike is quite easy. You just have to follow the steps in this guide and you will eventually find a great bike that fits your needs perfectly.
Types of Bikes and Pros and Cons of Each Type of Bike
Let’s look at the types of bikes you can choose from. Each bike has certain pros and cons as well. Once you know the bike type and their details, you will find it much easier to pick the right bike for yourself.
The first and most popular type of bike is the mountain bike. Mountain bike is your go to bike if you are looking to hit the trails or go off road. It comes with wide tires which offer great grip on the trail. Mountain bikes have large number of low gears. This is because in off road, you may need to ride up steep slopes or hills. Low gears make it easy for you to ride the incline slopes and allow great control.
There are two kinds of suspension usually found on mountain bikes. First is the full suspension. Full suspension is when there is suspension in both the front and the back. Having suspension on both wheels will provide a much comfortable ride. However, this option may be expensive. The second suspension is the hardtail suspension. The hardtail suspension only has the front suspension fork. This makes the bike lighter in weight, which helps you bike on the slopes easier. However on the downward slope, it may be difficult to control the bike. Front suspension fork is cheaper than the full suspension.
Mountain bikes come mostly in 26 inch wheel size. 26 inch wheel size suits most riders as it is the most versatile. Teenagers and adults can all ride 26 inch wheel bikes. Nowadays, you also get the 27.5 inch and 29 inch size. The larger wheel size allows for easier cycling on the rough trails. However, you need to be a certain height to ride the bigger wheel sized mountain bikes. Read more about this here.
|Great for trails and off road
|Slower on the road due to different tires
|Wide variety to choose from. Something for everybody
|Full suspension models may get pricey
Road bike is a popular choice among bikers. For anyone cycling on a paved road, road bikes are the best choice. They are much faster than mountain bikes and have skinny wheels, which allow them to go fast. So if you are looking for a bike to commute in, a road bike can be a good choice. A road bike is ideal for people looking to cover large distances. It is also preferred by those cycling for fitness. On road bike, you ride in an aerodynamic position. This position may be uncomfortable for beginners. So this is something to consider. Most road bikes are made of aluminum, which is lightweight.
Gravel bikes are also a sub branch of road bikes. They allow the biker to ride on paved road as well as gravel. This makes them more versatile. These also come with a drop handlebar, meaning the riding position will be flat or aerodynamic.
|Offers the most speed in bikes
|Aerodynamic riding position may be uncomfortable for some
|Not as versatile as it is only suited to paved roads
Hybrid bikes take the best features of mountain and road bikes. They are very versatile. You can cycle with hybrid bikes on different types of surfaces. Hybrid bikes come with flat handlebars, slightly wider wheels than road bikes, and tires with more grip than road bikes. If you are looking for a bike which you can take to road, trail and anything in between, hybrid bike is a great choice. Hybrid bikes are very popular among kids and adults alike. People cycling for fitness purposes will also find this bike a great fit for their needs. The riding position is upright, which is more comfortable for casual cycling. The speed may be compromised a little but the overall comfort and versatility of the hybrid bike makes it a great choice for most people.
|Versatile as can be used on different types of surfaces
|Slower than road bikes
|Upright riding position is comfortable for most bikers
|Unlike mountain bikes, cannot be taken to rough trails
Electric bike is an emerging bike which has gained popularity in recent times, especially among commuters. E bikes have a motor which turns on when you cycle up a hill. This assistance make it a great choice for most commuters who are cycling to save gas and not necessarily for fitness purposes. The pedal assistance makes it easier to cover longer miles. Senior citizens will also find electric bikes useful as they are not as strenuous as the other bikes.
|Pedal assistance makes it easier to bike longer distances and steep climbs
|Much heavier than other bikes because of the motor
As the name suggests, touring bikes are for people going on longer routes. They are much sturdier than road bikes. They also have different attachments like the rear rack to hold your bags and other items. They come with the drop handlebar. Hence, the riding position will be aerodynamic. Touring bikes are better than mountain bikes as they offer much more speed than their counterpart.
|Great for longer routes
|Not as fast as road bikes
|Sturdier than road bike
|Aerodynamic position may not be the most comfortable for most people
|Comes with attachments for storage
Folding bikes are for people who use bikes to commute and find it hard to find parking. These bikes can be folded and easily stored next to you. This makes them ideal for commuters. This is also great from safety point of view as the bike will always be with you in a bag. You can even ride on a train as you can fold the bike and carry it with you.
|Good for commuters who don’t have enough parking space
|Performance is compromised compared to hybrid bikes
Things to consider before buying a bike
Now that we know the different types of bikes and their features, we must consider the following factors before picking a bike.
Many people cycle for different reasons. Some ride for commuting to work. Others bike for off road adventures. Depending on your goals and what you want from your bike will make it easier to choose a bike. For commuting, road, hybrid and folding bikes are great. If you are looking to save on gas and find an alternate source of transport, electric bikes are a great choice. If you are looking to explore the trails, mountain bikes will be best for you. Therefore, the first thing is to consider your goal and why you are investing in a bike.
The second thing to consider is your budget. Every bike above comes with features which may or may not suit you. For instance, having a bike with both front and rear suspension will offer a comfortable ride but will be heavy on the pocket. Compare this to hardtail suspension, which will also offer a great ride but is much more budget friendlier. Cutting down on features you don’t need will help lower the final price you pay for the bike. Therefore, after considering why you want a bike, consider your budget and set a target of how much you can spend on your bike.
As mentioned above, your route will play an important role in the type of bike you select. If you are riding on paved road and going a long way, you want something with speed and smooth ride. A road bike will be great for that. If you are cycling for fun or fitness, a hybrid bike will be a good choice. If your route has a lot of inclines and declines, an electric bike will be better choice for you. Therefore, consider the route you will be cycling on before purchasing a bike.
Your Bike Type
Once you have determined your route, you pretty much know what type of bike you want. A mountain bike is suitable for off road and trails. A road bike offers the most speed but is only suitable on paved paths. A hybrid bike offers more versatility than mountain and road bikes, though some performance may be compromised in the process. At the end of the day, you have to pick the bike type best suited for your goals and route.
Once you have selected the bike type best suited for your needs, you must consider the bike material. Bikes made of aluminum are lightweight but expensive. Bikes made of steel are sturdy and durable but may be heavy for you.
Having suspension on both the front and back wheels will offer a smooth riding experience but at the cost of added weight. Full suspension is also expensive compared to front suspension only. Therefore, once you know how you will be cycling, you can pick up the type of suspension best suited to your cycling style.
Bike Wheel Size
Most people opt for the 26 inch wheel size. This wheel size is very versatile and people of all heights can ride this sized bike. However, if you are taller or want more performance, a 27.5 inch or 29 inch bike may also be a good choice for you. You can read more about wheel sizes here.
Depending on your route and cycling style, you have to consider the number of gears. Low gears are great for cycling on steep hills. Hence mountain bikes come with more low gears. On the other hand, road bikes are best suited for speed. These have more gears which help achieve maximum speed.
The type of tires affect the grip and stability during your biking trip. Fat tires offer the most grip and are commonly found on mountain bikes. Though they offer the most grip but they lack on speed. Road bikes have skinny tires which offer the most speed. Skinny tires won’t work the best in rough terrains.
Brakes help you in stopping or controlling the speed of your bike. Therefore, it is important that you invest in a reliable brake set. Most bikes nowadays come with disc brakes. These are a good choice as they stop the bike smoothly. You may also opt for the cheaper rim brakes or the more expensive hydraulic disc brakes depending on your budget.
Your Riding Position
There are two types of positions. The first is the aerodynamic position. This riding position is mostly seen on road and touring bikes. Aerodynamic position is great for speed as it minimized the wind resistance. However, many beginners will find this position uncomfortable initially. The second position is the upright position. Upright position is seen on mountain and hybrid bikes. They offer a comfortable ride at the cost of speed. Most people do prefer the upright position as it is more comfortable.
Finally, you may choose additional accessories. Things like mud guards offer protection against mud in slippery conditions. Rear racks are useful for storing and carrying along items like backpacks. You can select as many additional accessories as you require based on your requirements.
Biking Size Charts
Many online stores offer bikes in different sizes. It can be a bit confusing to see which one is the size best suited for you. The following bike size chart will give you a clear idea of which bike size you should choose.
|4’10 – 5’2
|13 to 15 inches
|5’2 – 5’7
|15 to 17 inches
|5’7″ – 5’10
|16 – 17 inches
|5’10 – 6’2
|16 – 20 inches
|6’2″ – 6’4
|18 – 21 inches
|6’4″ and taller
|21 inches and above