A buddy from high school who knows I write a blog about bikes and believes I am somewhat knowledgeable about them as a result recently emailed me asking for assistance with purchasing a bike. Poor man. If only he understood how little I really know…

In order to ensure that I am never silenced due to a lack of knowledge, I answered, and he said that it was helpful. I realised that there are probably some people who are just starting out with riding, so I thought it would be a good idea to upload an updated version of this on the off chance that any of you would be in the same boat.

Happy bike shopping!

This guide will not advise you which bike or brand to purchase, but rather, (hopefully?) help you sharpen your thoughts about what you want from a bicycle and how to get it. Although I do know a little amount, your neighbourhood bike store is going to be your greatest resource for the most of your queries. If you are kind to them and offer them goodies (beer and chocolate chip cookies will go a very long way), you will have a lovely relationship with your bike.

My first three rules of bike buying:

Do Not Buy From A Big Box Store

The low price could seem enticing, but the bike will break rapidly and the components might not be standard or be of poor quality, so it might not be possible to fix it. Some repair shops will not touch big-box motorcycles since they are essentially worthless pieces of garbage dressed up to seem like something functional.

Do Test-ride Several Bikes

You won’t have to pay to get this done at reputable bike stores, but you will probably have to leave your driver’s licence behind. You’ll be able to evaluate the difference between a bike that costs $500 and one that costs $1,000, and determine whether or not the additional cost is justified. When it comes to a bike, how it fits makes all the difference in whether or not you fall in love with it. When I tried a road bike that retailed for $2,500, I could immediately detect the difference in shifting compared to my $525 road bike that was on sale. However, after just five minutes of sitting on the item, my back started to pain. I have resolved to continue riding my more affordable and comfortable bike for the time being and to improve its components (shifting mechanism) at a later date.

Decide Your Type Of Riding

If you’re going to be riding on paved roads or bike trails, you don’t need a killer mountain bike with huge knobby tyres, nor do you probably need a road bike that is built for long rides on a smooth surface. Instead, what you need is a bike that is built for riding short distances over varied terrain. Again, try ride a few different bikes to see which one feels the best.

You don’t have to worry that riding an upright bike will make you less of a guy (not that you would have that problem, naturally). One serious male biker that I know who also enjoys skiing, rafting, and other outdoor activities travels about town on an upright bike with a front basket because he claims “it’s more comfortable.”

A few more thoughts:

  • Mountain bikes tend to be more comfortable for guys, who have the bulk of their body weight in their chest and shoulders. Unless you have issues with your wrists and shoulders, you’ll probably feel fine on this type of bike, and a more forward position takes some pressure off the heinie. This is why road bikes have a very forward position; they’re meant for long rides which could kill your backside if you were sitting straight up.
  • If you’re riding in traffic, an upright position helps you keep your head up so you can see everything that’s around you. I can’t wait to switch out my mountain bike handlebars for more upright ones.
  • Women and teen girls will probably prefer a more upright position that cruisers offer because the bulk of their body weight is in their hips, not their upper body. Electra (http://www.electrabike.com/) makes some gorgeous ones, but most bike companies are making them because they’re so popular. Three- to eight-speed cruisers will be just fine for flatland biking, but you’ll need more gears for hilly terrain. In the mountains where I live, I make sure I have at least 21 gears, though 8 would do just fine if I was mostly bike commuting.
  • Expect to pay $350-$600 for a decent entry-level bike. Paying this price means you can resell it when your kids have outgrown it or you can repair it when it breaks. It’s totally worth the extra $100-200.
  • Biking is so good for you. Some European countries have calculated that for every dollar they invest in biking infrastructure (bike lanes), they save $10-20 in health care costs. Pretty impressive.
  • Biking is great for families. During the tween/teen years, it can be hard to find things to talk about, but biking gives you the chance to do something together without the pressure of having to communicate (insert eye-rolling here) while making great memories and getting some exercise. And it’s a perfect getaway without having to buy plane tickets!

I think I’ve exhausted my meager expertise. If you have further questions, I’d be happy to try to answer them, however.