When I think back on my childhood, I’ve noticed most of my fondest memories revolve around adventures on my bicycle. Over the years, I have owned plenty of bikes and as I’ve grown up, I’ve strayed away from the activity because I haven’t had the time or the motivation to get out there and ride.
However, there comes a time in everyone’s life where the nostalgia sets in and the yearning for that “wind through your hair” sensation of bicycle riding comes back in full force – and I’ve been hit pretty hard. So how does someone who’s been bit by the bicycle love bug find his or her perfect match? It’s actually much easier than you would think.
Before heading to your nearest bicycle retailer, make sure to brush up on your terminology and have a general idea of the style you want. Below are the names, description and price ranges you’ll find at most bicycle shops…
As the name implies, this bicycle is meant for paved roads. However, let me offer a word of caution: this bike is not meant for the casual rider. Road bikes are designed for serious fitness riders and cyclists looking to compete in races, triathlons and touring. This style of bike is well known for the skinny wheels and curved handlebars. While some bikes give wiggle room with fitting, it is imperative your road bike fits you perfectly. If it doesn’t fit right, it will lead to an uncomfortable ride and can reduce the efficiency of the bike. Road bikes can be differentiated by two separate handlebar styles, the drop-bar or flat-bar. The drop-bar handlebar is made for an aerodynamic and efficient ride and is preferred for racing and touring. A flat-bar handlebar is made for a more comfortable and relaxed ride, but lacks the efficiency of a drop-bar. Both bikes are perfect for fitness junkies, but deciding on the style of handlebar is all about personal preference.
Road Bike Price – $500 to $2,000+
If you enjoy the thrill of riding tricky trails in your local park, or traveling down a bumpy mountainside, then look no further. Mountain bikes are meant to be ridden on dirt, rocky or gravel roads, but they can be ridden on pavement if you get the proper tires. The mountain bike is built in two separate varieties: hardtail and full-suspension. A hardtail gives you the shock absorbing power in the front wheel, but makes it easier to travel over bumpy roads if you choose to do more casual riding on pavement. A full-suspension bike has shock absorbers on both the front and back tires and is for the hardcore trail riders. Not only is this bicycle more ideal for steep, bumpy and windy roads, this style mountain bike can handle a drop of up to five feet. Both styles of mountain bike come with gears to assist with steep hills and tricky terrains.
Mountain Bike Price– $400 to $2,000
Unlike a mountain bike, a recreational bike is made specifically for dual-terrains. You can take this style of bike on the pavement or on gravel and dirt roads. The best part is that they are significantly less expensive than road or mountain bikes. Although this style of bike is made for virtually any terrain, it is not recommended to ride on steep hills. This bike is best suited for flatter terrains instead of daring mountain trails. As with the previous styles, recreational bikes are also categorized into two separate styles: comfort and hybrid. Comfort bikes are named for the fact that they are more comfortable than other styles (they have a bigger seat) and give a smooth ride. Hybrid bikes are the combination between comfort and road offering a comfortable ride, but also allowing you to exert less effort while pedaling.
Recreational Bike Price – $350 to $800
Urban and Commuting
As the name suggests, these bike are made for city travel and are primarily used on paved roads. The frames are built to withstand the elements and are tougher and heavier than the previous styles. With urban traveling in mind, these bikes require a more vertical sitting position. This not only helps you better see while riding, but also keeps you in the sight of motorists. You can also customize these bikes with racks, fenders, lighting and other useful add-ons for an easier commuting experience.
Urban and Commuter Bike Prices – $450 to $1,200
Last, but certainly not least, we come to cruisers. A personal favorite of mine, these bikes feature a more vintage and retro style. They have curved handlebars and a larger seat for a more comfortable ride. These bikes typically do not come with gears and are best suited for flat, paved surfaces. They are typically the least expensive model you can buy, but are not practical for racing, fitness, off road or commuting. Cruisers are ideal for people who enjoy a casual ride through a city park or by the beach during a much-needed vacation.
Cruiser Price – $200 to $700
Now that you’ve read through the styles, you need to focus on finding the right fit. Simply Bike, a blog all about bicycles, parenting and academia, offers a great entry on finding the right sized frame for your height and leg length. Each bicycle style requires a slightly different size chart, so make sure you read them carefully and if you are ever in doubt, consult a professional or a bike shop worker. For other tips about finding the right sized bike, go to nycewheels.com.