What to consider before buying a bike

December 16, 2014

Ready to buy a bike but unsure which kind? A good place to start is considering how you plan to use it, the features you want and how much you can afford to spend. Here's some advice to help you figure it out.

What to consider before buying a bike

The vast array of bicycle choices can confuse even the most knowledgeable of riders. Before you buy, first decide how you intend to use your bike, which features are the most useful according to your needs, and what your budget will allow. Here's what you need to know about choosing the perfect bicycle.

Which type of bike is for you?

From daily urban commuters to weekend bike-trail warriors, there's a bicycle type to suit everyone's needs and interests.

  • Road bikes: Designed for a smooth, comfortable ride on paved roads. They're good for speed, but uncomfortable on the behind.
  • Touring bikes: Have a frame that features mounts for fenders and cargo racks and are generally used on long trips. Touring bikes are the perfect blend of comfort and practicality.
  • Mountain bikes: These off-road brutes come with wide knobby tires, full-suspension frames and high gear ratios for handling steep and challenging terrain. Virtually bullet-proof, they can be somewhat tiring on paved surfaces.
  • Hybrid bikes: If you can only own one sport bike, this might be your type. Hybrids combine the qualities of a smooth-riding road bike and a rugged mountain bike.
  • Cruiser bikes: These gentle beasts are for casual riders and have cushy seats, fat tires and limited speeds. They're super comfortable, but don't expect to get anywhere real fast.
  • BMX bikes: Small frames for dirt track racing, jumping and trick riding. These bikes are excellent for hardcore thrill seekers.
  • Electric bikes: Also known as E-bikes, they sport a rechargeable on-board battery to assist with pedalling. Electric bikes are expensive, but perfect for those times when you need a little extra help.

What features should you consider?

Generally speaking, the more features there are on a bike, the higher the price. Also, you don't need to have a fully-loaded bicycle to enjoy the pleasure of two-wheeled freedom. Some of the features to consider include:

  • Frame materials: The least expensive bike frames are made from steel, aluminum or chromoly. Ultra-lightweight carbon fibre and titanium frames are found on the most expensive road, racing and triathlon bikes.
  • Suspension: Shock-absorbing suspension forks are found on most mountain bikes and hybrids. Bikes with front suspension are called “hardtails.” Bikes with front and rear shock absorbers are said to have “full suspension”. For extra comfort, some bicycles even have seats with built-in shock absorbers in the post.
  • Handlebars: Drop-bar handlebars put the rider in an aerodynamic position, leaning forward. Flat-bar handlebars are typical of road and cruiser bikes and put the rider in an upright position. The grips on flat-bar handlebars are usually much more padded and comfortable than on drop-bar handlebars. What's more, drop-bar handlebars are not recommended if you have back issues.
  • Tires: Road and touring bikes tend to have narrow tires and shallow tread for a fast, smooth ride on paved surfaces. They don't offer much cushioning over bumps and potholes. For more contact with the road, hybrid tires are slightly wider and have a thicker tread. In contrast, mountain bikes feature broad, knobby tires for balance and traction on rough trails and for scaling obstacles. Although mountain bike tires are rugged, they can be noisy on paved surfaces.
  • Gears: Bikes used on flat terrain or for short distance riding can have as few as three gears. It’s not uncommon for some touring, hybrid and mountain bikes to have up to 27 gears to handle everything from long straightaways to the most extreme inclines.

Are there other factors to think about when buying a bike?

Before you pick out the shiniest, most expensive bicycle in the store, take a moment to think about:

  • Use: Consider where you’ll be riding the bike to determine which type of bike is right for you.
  • Longevity: If you intend to keep the bike for a long time, invest in a stronger, lighter frame with quality components.
  • Size: Select the frame size that fits your height, weight and abilities for proper handling and comfort.
  • Economy: Steel frame bikes are inexpensive, but also heavy and prone to rust and corrosion. In contrast, chromoly alloy frames cost more but are much more durable and last longer.
  • Gender: The frame on a women’s bike is usually V-shaped or has a lower cross bar. They also tend to be smaller than the frame on a man's bicycle. Ultimately, your comfort will determine which frame size and style you pick.

Cycling is a fun and affordable way to travel and stay active. When chosen carefully, a well-built bike that suits your physique and has the features you need for a comfortable ride will carry you towards adventure for many years to come.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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