How to find the right bike for you
So you decided you wanted to buy a bike, but you’re not sure what to do next! There are so many different sizes, styles, and prices out there.
Choosing the right bike for your riding goals will make a big difference in your satisfaction with the bicycle you buy.
Sounds like a lot? Don’t worry - there are three key questions you can ask yourself that will help you determine which bike is right for you.
1. What type of rider will you be?
What kind of rider are you hoping to become? Maybe you just want to ride recreationally, or perhaps you plan on taking your cycling to another level by commuting regularly, training actively, or even competing. By answering this, you will be able to better determine what your goal is in your bicycle journey and what type of bike will suit you best!
Types of Bike Riders:
- Casual – I want to enjoy cycling with my friends and/or family. Comfort is extremely important, but going fast isn’t.
- Fitness - I’m excited to go farther (and possibly faster) than I’ve gone before. I want to improve my health and challenge myself a bit more and I want a bike that can help me reach these goals.
- Competitive – I’m going to see how fast I can go and maybe even join some local charity rides or races.
For a majority of people, bikes designed for casual and fitness riding will be their choice, as these bikes offer smooth and predictable handling. They are built with wide gear ranges to make climbing hills easier, and they are built to get you in a more comfortable, upright riding position. Casual and fitness bikes typically come with comfort-focused parts like extra-padded saddles and cushioned grips.
2. Where do you plan on riding your bike?
Generally, bikes are designed to be ridden on specific terrain and will perform best when they are ridden on that type of surface. For example, a mountain bike is less efficient on a paved road and a road bike would not get you very far on a rugged dirt trail. The good news is, because of all variations in terrain, ,there are many different styles of bikes to match.
For most bicycle purposes there are three categories of terrain to consider when it comes to purchasing a bike:
- Paved Surfaces: streets, sidewalks, and bike paths
- Mixed Surfaces: gravel or packed dirt trails
- Off-road surfaces: loose dirt or rocky forest trails
Each of these terrains correlates to several styles of bikes that are suited for that environment.
- Paved Surfaces: Road, Urban, or Folding bicycles
- Mixed Surfaces: Sport Hybrid, Cruisers, or Comfort Hybrid bicycles
- Off-road Surfaces: Mountain bicycles
There are a variety of bike styles and types to choose from. If you are not sure what style you are looking for, that’s okay. You can learn more about the different types of bike styles (link to choosing the right bike page) that are available.
3. How much do you want to spend?
Bicycles can vary a lot in price, but you don’t need to spend a fortune to get a great bike. At the same time, as price goes up, the components of the bike also change. Simply put, higher cost tends to equal a higher grade of components and a lighter frame. There are additional benefits that can come with higher-priced components, but there are also a lot of good bikes that won’t break the bank, and you can always upgrade components as you go.
What are bike components?
As mentioned, as the price goes up on your bike, the level of components that are on your bike also tend to increase incrementally.
Components: any mechanism or accessories that are attached to your frame and fork. That means anything from the seat, to the shifters and brakes, to the pedals and rims of your tires are all components.
Components are specific to the style of bike that you choose. This might mean a different style saddle, a certain type of brakes, specific wheels and tires, and even a drivetrain specific for your bike. You can view a complete list of all bicycle components for every type of bicycle in the Anatomy of a Bicycle.
If you plan on riding often or increasing your fitness on the bike, it would be a good idea for you to invest a little more upfront on your bike frame and components so that it will be able to grow with your experience level. Another option is to buy a bicycle with a frame that you enjoy now, and if you need to, upgrade the components individually later.
A note on weight and materials
The weight of a bike is most often linked to the materials of the frame, although components also contribute to the overall bike weight as well. Bike frames generally come in three basic materials:
- Steel: A steel frame is sturdy and absorbs some vibrations when riding, but is the heaviest of the three.\
- Aluminum: Aluminum frames are the most popular. They are both light and stiff, and are widely used across many bike styles. The trade-off is that you can feel a bit more vibration from the terrain.
- Carbon Fiber: A carbon frame is the lightest of the three materials, but it is also the most expensive.
Time to check out the bikes!
Once you have a good idea about where you want to ride your bike, how much you want to spend, and what level you plan on riding at now and in the future, you will be able to make your way through the bikes at your local bike shop or other store.
To learn more about the categories of bikes, check out Choosing the Right Bike.
Remember if you still have questions, just ask your local Schwinn bike dealer!