Buying a bicycle is an intimidating process if you are new to it. If you are reading this, you might be a beginner cyclist or have been off the two wheels for some years now. The variety of choices since your last ride has expanded.
This beginners guide to buying a bicycle aims to help you make the key decisions needed in purchasing your first bicycle.
What Kind of Rider Are You?
The first step in buying your bicycle as a beginner cyclist is to determine what sort of cyclist you see yourself as. Your intentions should be clear and neither underestimated nor overestimated. For example, if you aim to use your bike as something you do for recreation in an urban setting then a performance-based bike might hold you back with its limitations. Likewise, other beginner cyclists may make similar mistakes in different categories.
If you are just looking for recreation activities in a city setting, you`ll save money because the price range is not too much for such types of bicycles. However, Mountain settings are a whole different animal to deal with, since in this situation, you get what you pay for. You`ll find that expensive bikes might not be the most comfortable ones but they`ll be lighter, stiffer, and with better components. These bikes will last you longer than most. So, decide the sort of cyclist you are aiming to be and you`ll get your answer as to what level of bike will suit you and your budget.
Here`s a guide sorted budget-wise:
For recreation, you`ll find bikes between $500 to $1800 for mountain bikes, $1100 to $2500 for roads, and $500 to $1300 for urban bikes. Enthusiast level in the same categories will go over $3500, $3000, and $2500. Performance level bikes will cost you over $4000 for mountain bikes, $6000 for road bikes, and urban bikes for over $2000.
Don't Shop for A Certain Size
Adult bikes come in various sizes of frames, but manufacturers have different ways of measuring frame size. A 55cm frame may differ from brand to brand. So, stop looking at the frame dimensions until you are sure about which brand or manufacturer you`ll settle for your first bike.
Frame size is the most important aspect of your first bike. It`s like buying the wrong size of shoes. The same goes for bikes. There are ten crucial dimension points you need to look at on your first bicycle purchase. All manufacturers mention these ten points for dimension.
Types of Bikes:
The Mountain Bike
Mountain bikes are constructed and designed for off-roading. They come with a suspension at the front (hardtail) or a full suspension. The tires of mountain bikes are designed for a strong grip.
They have knobbly tires and flat handlebars. Mountain bikes tend to be on the heavier side when compared to roads or hybrids. This is because they have suspension and to make them more durable because of the beating these bikes take on rougher terrains.
Mountain bikes have disc brakes designed to be more efficient at stopping in muddy or slippery conditions. These bikes have lower gearing to allow for steep mountain slop riding.
A little bit of on-road commuting is possible on mountain bikes that come with lockable suspension.
These hybrid bikes are designed for city riders, for commuting, for those who experience mixed terrains or touring. These bikes are the cheapest in the category so they can be used for runarounds to the shops.
Despite the best features from the two types of bikes, do not buy them if you are into off-roading. These are also not suitable for long rides because the extra weight makes them less ideal for such needs.
Buying a jack of all trades has its pros and cons. This means these bikes are not suited for any one thing. If you are learning to ride, this type is not recommended in my opinion. Try to commit yourself to either polarity.
These have narrow tires and stiff and or light frames. The handlebars are dropped and used for higher speeds with the least amount of effort.
These have rigid frames which allow for more transfer of power. The gear ratio of this type allows for a spin up the hills and move faster on flats.
There are some small variants for different functions. Some models have aggressive frames which means you get to lower down and aerodynamics for racing. Those frames with relaxed geometry are more comfortable for long rides and touring.
Apart from these major distinctions, there are other sorts for performing even more specific functions. These types include downhill bikes, fat bikes, and jump bikes which are all variants of the mountain bike. For example, a jump bike is somewhere between a mountain bike and a BMX and is most suitable for tricks.
In the road bikes category, there is cyclocross for hitting the trails, gravel bikes for non-tarmac surfaces. Time trials road bikes are for timed race events with better aerodynamics and faster speeds.
Fixed Gear or Single speed bikes
These bikes are for those who are looking to save a buck or time since fewer parts mean less time for maintenance and a lesser price tag. These are a variation of mountain and hybrid frames.
Bikes are constructed using different materials. Depending on your budget or reasons, a bike`s material will influence your riding experience.
These materials include steel, aluminum, and carbon fiber.
Steel frame bikes
The traditional material for cycles is steel since it is used for cycles for decades. Steel frames offer comfort durability and strength. It is easily repairable and affordable.
Steel frame bikes are ideal for touring since repairing is widely available. Also, if you are on the heavier side, steel frame bikes will last you longer than other materials. However, it is not a good choice for hitting the hills because of heavyweight.
Aluminum is lightweight and stiff when compared to steel. It is also rust-free, unlike steel. However, being stiff, it is not comfortable. It is also weaker than steel.
Its stiffness gives it a much better power transfer. Also, it is an affordable material than lower-end carbon fiber frames.
Carbon fiber bikes
Carbon fiber is the lightest material of all three types. Since it is a non-metal, bikes constructed using carbon fiber are better designed for aerodynamics and refined for stiffness in some areas and strength in others.
Carbon fiber bikes are getting affordable, especially at the beginner level. The lifespan of the frame can last you a lifetime if maintained correctly and regularly. It is prone to cracking and unlike metal frames, you cannot ride it until it is repaired.
Also, the price factor may put you off a little bit since carbon fiber frames are not cheap. If you find a cheap carbon fiber bike, I suggest you go for metal frames because the quality of a low-end carbon fiber bike is just awful.
I hope this guide will help you in making the right and informed decision on your first purchase. Be it a road bike or any other type, cycling is a good outdoor activity and saves you commuting expenses, paying for itself in the longer run.