Yes! The budget is in and you’ve got the cash to buy a bike. But as you visit The Great Outdoors and see the selection of bikes, something becomes very apparent- there are lots and lots of bikes from which choose. How do you choose the right one?
Visualize Your Bike
Imagine riding along a wide country lane. Or touring Europe by bike. Or hitting the local single track on a mountain bike. What idea excites you the most? What kind of bike do you see? As you may have guessed, the first thing to decide when choosing a bike is how your bike will be used. A commuter’s needs are different from the needs of a mountain biker, a road racer or a family. The Great Outdoors in Vermont has bikes made specifically for each category of riding. A number of bikes are also versatile enough to cover two or more categories. Here’s a breakdown of the main types of bikes:
Mountain Bike – Designed to be light weight while maintaining strength, the mountain bike is perfect for tight trails with roots, rocks, bumps and dips. Within this category are different types of bikes as well. There are full-suspension cross-country bikes to help soak up obstacles, or downhill bikes with long-travel suspension to take on mountain-sized bumps and drops.
Road/Recumbent Bike – Since the late 1800’s, the basic design of the bicycle hasn’t changed much, until recently. New road bikes are light and sleek, while fairly new concepts, like the recumbent bike, are challenging the way we think of two-wheel transportation. Both styles are great for commuting or recreation on city streets, open roads or country lanes.
Commuter Bike – The exotic metals and plastics used on mountain bikes also took commuter bikes a giant leap forward. Commuter bikes were most commonly pared-down touring bikes, nut now they are more likely to use the same materials as a mountain bike but in more relaxed angles for upright, comfortable riding. They usually come with a rear rack to hold panniers or a rack trunk.
Touring Bike – Built to take miles and miles of abusive road conditions while under weight, touring bikes have also benefited from the materials revolution. They are not lighter while maintaining their strength. They offer upright riding positions and plenty of rack space to hole panniers and bike bags.
Cruiser/Comfort/Tandem – For riding around on the flat spaces of neighborhoods and parks, you can’t beat the category of bike called variously Cruiser, Comfort or Urban. Generally less expensive than more advanced mountain, road and touring bikes, they’re perfect for families who want to cycle together. A tandem – a bicycle built for 2 – is also a good solution for couples or family outings.
BMX – Not just for kids, BMX bikes are increasingly for the adventurous adult who hasn’t forgotten the thrill of daredevil riding. As in mountain biking, there are several styles of BMX rides from which to choose.
Kids’ Bike – The Great Outdoors in Vermont carries all sizes of kids’ bikes for every stage of their learning process. We also carry trail-a bikes, which attach to your bike or a tandem for more family fun.
Allvie Haro Biker's BMX Street
Budget for the Right Bike
Now that you’ve come back from you little vacation, you’ll want to think about that budget. As with a computer, the rule, generally, is that you should buy the best bike you can for the money. Unlike computers, this is a fairly easy task. Bikes in any category come in three rough price classes:
Under $500 – Steel Frame, Low-End to Middle Components (Brakes, Pedals and Such).
$500- $1.000 – Steel or Aluminum Frame, Middle to High End Components
$1000+ - Aluminum or Titanium Frame, High-End to Custom Components.
Versatile, cross-country-type bikes are found in the low to mid-level range. A good mid-level mountain bike, for example, can also make a good commuter bike (with nothing more than a tire change).
When budgeting for your bike, be sure to include the cost of some accessory items into your calculations. You’ll want to get a helmet, gloves, saddle pack, hydration system, tire pump and tube repair kit at minimum.
Choose Your Skill
The Great Outdoors offers bikes that are used for touring, mountain biking, road riding and family outings. Within these categories, there is a wide range of skill levels. Generally speaking, however, there are three skill groups.
-Comfort and Urban – You like to ride smooth trials or cruise about town. You prefer few obstacles, no steep climbs and rides of less than 10 to 15miles.
-Weekend Warrior – You like to put your equipment to the test and get the most out of your ride. Steep, technical descents and long climbs are a thrill and you insist on accurate shifting and great braking.
-Obsessed - When you get home from a long, challenging ride, you hang you bike on your bedroom wall so that it’s the last thing you see when you fall asleep. Your bike is light and category specific, sports many custom components and costs over $1,000
“Determine what kind of riding you feel comfortable doing. The person who likes smooth trails needs a different bike from the person who prefers steep descents.”
Today’s Skills vs. Tomorrow’s Skills
You’re saying, “Now- wait a minute. My bike skills are going to improve; I don’t want some bike that I’m going to outgrow in a season.” A valid point! And here’s what you do: Get a good frame!
Not all frames are created equal. Some mid-level bikes will sport some fairly high-end frames with lower-end components. How do you know a high-end frame when you see it? Check out the specs. Mid-level frames will have double or triple butting (the art of making a frame tube thick where it needs it and thin where it doesn’t), and be made of chromyl steel or 6061 or 7005 alloy (aluminum). When the lower-end components start wearing out, gradually replace them with high-end components. Voila! In a couple of years you’re riding a high-end bike to go with your growing skills.
Make the Bike Fit You
Just as good fitting boots can make the difference between a good hike and a painful hike, a good fitting bicycle can mean the difference between years of enjoyable riding and a frustrating experience.
Check out our online bike-fitting clinic. We’ll show you how height, length, and riding style can be used to “dial-in” The Perfect Fit.
Online resources include newsgroups such as rec.bicycle. Other cyclists are good to talk to as well. They’re a friendly lot and can tell you what experiences they’ve had with a piece of equipment. You can also call The Great Outdoors at 1-802-334-2831 or email us. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice or explanations on things you don’t understand.
Consider Taking a Test Ride
Advice and reviews can only go so far. IN the end, the decision is still yours to make. Since you’re reading this, you likely want to buy a bike online. You can! We have complete sizing charts. And you can always call or email us to have your questions answered. However, if possible, we do recommend going to The Great Outdoors or any bike shop, for that matter, to better understand the type of bike you want. Test-ride several bikes in your price range. Ask Questions:
○ Does the seat feel too hard?
○ How does the shifting feel?
○ Are you stretching too far to reach the handlebars?
○ Are the handlebars wide enough for your comfort?
○ Remember that the bike should be as comfortable as a running shoe from the moment you push the pedals.
Here’s where the real fun comes in. There’s so much cool gear to go with your bike you’ll hardly know where to begin. Again, think about the kind of riding you’ll be doing, consider you budget and ask questions. There’s an accessory for just about every bike activity.
○ Seat Packs
○ Water Bottles
○ Buy a helmet! If you’re thinking of riding without one, you shouldn’t be thinking about riding.
○ It’s hard to ride a bike if the tires are flat. There you should get a frame-mounted tire pimp, a tube repair kit, tire levers and pressure gage.
○ A saddle pack (for repair kit, wallet, keys, etc.) is invaluable.
○ Keep your grip on the handles with a good pair of gloves. Look for leather ( or synthetic leather) grip and a moisture-wicking backing.
○ If you’re going on an extended bike ride, you’ll need to carry some water with you. Water bottles or hydration packs fill this requirement.
○ Cycling shorts make a long ride far more comfortable with strategically placed padding and chafe-free seams.
Choosing a Bike For a Child.
You’ve had your fun, now it’s time to outfit the rest of your family. Throw all the other considerations out the winder, for now. When you’re buying your child’s bike, the most important consideration is size.
Children are most comfortable around objects built to their size. Same is true for a bike. Try not to get on they will “grow into” but on e that fits them comfortably. Get a bike that’s too big and your child will have a hard time controlling the bike and won’t feel confident as a result. A Properly sized bike will be safer because it will be easier to control, and your child will have much more fun.
Kids’ bikes are sized the same way you size for adults. You’re looking for 1” to 2” of crotch clearance over the top tube. Give at least 2” of room if the bike is going to be ridden over rugged terrain, as you would with a mountain bike or BMX bike.
It’s best if you can bring the child with you to the store to size the bicycle. However, if you’re shopping strictly online or for a bike as a surprise, you can use a tape measure method to judge the correct height. Again, make sure you measure to an imaginary, horizontal top tube on a girls’ bikes, just a s you do for women’s bikes.
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