At first glance, shopping for a bike involves lots of choices. But these choices can be simplified!
For starters, when trying to decide on the best type of bike for you, think about these questions:
- What bike have you had in the past that you liked? - What have you had in the past that you disliked? - What would you like to do with your new bike? - Who would you ride with?
- What do they ride?
- How much money are you comfortable spending?
Examining The Questions
If you are buying a bike to ride with a group of friends—buy something similar to what they ride. You will not be able to keep up with road bikes if you are on a mountain bike or cruiser. Similarly, a road bike cannot go on the dirt or the sand. Consider what you like and what you will enjoy! If you enjoyed a three-speed as a child, you may find this a fun bike again. If you disliked the road bike you bought a few years ago—perhaps a city or 29er bike would be more to your liking.
Getting to know what bikes are out there
Road bikes are fast and easy to pedal on roads and pavement. They are made for speed; they are not made for riding off-road. Many people enjoy them for fitness and racing, but many others find the riding position (with its forward drop bars and aggressive stance) difficult to maintain for a long time.
Hybrid and city bikes are almost as fast and easy to pedal. As the name suggests, they are a hybrid between mountain and road bikes, designed for fitness and/or moderately longer rides at distances not as far as a traditional road bike, but with a gentler, upright riding position. (And are much lighter weight than a mountain bike.)
Mountain bikes are designed for terrain. For city riding, they are slower on roads or pavement, but many "29ers" are great for their versatility. The suspension shocks that come on some mountain bikes can add weight to a bicycle, but absorb bumps in the route and allow for better control for both descents and climbs.
Fixed gear bikes are cousins to singlespeed bikes, as some fixed gear bikes can switch to freewheel mode. (In freewheel you can stop pedaling and the bike will keep going; in fixed gear, the pedals move with the bike.) Fixed gear bikes are designed for track racing such as a veldrome. In the city, some cyclists enjoy the control of a fixed gear and compare it to the experience of driving a stick-shift car versus an automatic. Others prefer to avoid the concerns of knee injury from pedaling and swap it to freewheel. Fixies are popular in urban environments because they are lighter weight and lower maintenance.