Before heading off on a bike road or trail, it’s crucial to get the right bike for you. Especially if cycling becomes a regular hobby, the right bike can make or break your rides. It’s important to think for quite some time where you will most regularly ride. Most people think they will do more off-road riding than they ever do, and therefore the need for a mountain bike or a hybrid is often less than people perceive. The process isn’t as simple as heading to the store and picking out the one you like the most. It should be a carefully made decision to ensure the bike is right for you.
The Right Type
There are a few different bikes to choose from, and the right one for you depends on what kind of riding you will be doing. There are road bikes, cyclo-cross bikes, mountain bikes, hybrid bikes, and now e-bikes (battery/motor-assisted) are rapidly increasing in popularity. Mountain bikes are mainly for going off-road but can be used on the road as well. They have suspension (usually front and rear) and fat tyres to help you negotiate rocks, dirt and whatever else you may encounter on trails. They are not as “efficient” at riding on roads or paths, as quite a lot of energy is lost in the rolling resistance of the tyres and the bouncy suspension, so you have to work harder to get an equivalent speed to a road bike.
Road bikes are for riding on bitumen or concrete paths or roads and are built for speed.
For a cross between, people opt for hybrid bikes which are not fast like road bikes, not as rugged as mountain bikes, and are good for commuting.
Within these types of bikes, there are even more sub-categories to choose from. There are tandem bikes, Recumbent Bikes, BMX bikes, fixed-gear bikes, time trial bikes, and many more.
My personal recommendation when starting out, and if you aren’t entirely sure what type of surface you’ll be riding on is either to get a “relaxed” geometry road bike with very puncture-resistant tyres at least 32mm wide, or a cyclo-cross bike (which is basically a road bike, with a more comfortable geometry, usually disc brakes and tyres 32-45mm wide with some nobbles to grip on dirt). These both ‘look’ like road bikes and you may think they are less comfortable, but you’ll actually find the various positions you can hold the handlebars on road or cyclocross bikes are more comfortable for your hands and neck than the flat bars you get on a mountain bike.
Know Your Budget
Bikes can range from $700 to $3500, and even up to $10-000 or even higher. If cycling is a hobby you’re just now getting into, chances are you aren’t ready to spend thousands of dollars on a new bike. With a budget of $700 to $1200, you can find bikes with basic steel or aluminium frames $3500 to $5500 or higher, will get you a great performance bike that is reliable, light and will last you many years. Most are made out of carbon these days, but personally, I’m a sucker for titanium (which means customising your build).
Get the Correct Fit
It is very important to choose the right fit for you. This greatly impacts the quality and comfort of your rides. If the frame is too small or too large for you, it’ll be too hard to maneuver or control. However, if you have to pick a frame that may be a little too small vs a little too large, my personal preference is to go smaller as it will push you a little more upright (rather than stretched out) which I personally find more comfortable on long rides. The professional at the shop should be experienced to help you find the right fit for you.