If you’re new to bicycling, walking into a bike shop can get your intellectual shifter skipping and cognitive brakes slipping.
Never before have there been so many types and styles of bicycles and so many options on parts and accessories such as derailleurs, brakes, handlebars, forks and shocks.
But it’s not really that complicated.
Which type of bicycle you choose should depend on the type of riding you want to do, represented by three basic varieties:
Road bikes: Built for speed and riding on pavement, these bicycles are lightweight, have skinny tires and usually dropped handlebars that put you in a more efficient riding position, which is important on rides of any distance. Within this category are racing and touring bikes.
If you want to get in peak shape and ride fast on the road, you’ll probably pick a super-light racer with extremely skinny tires.
If you want to take long rides at a lesser pace, carry more gear and maybe take treks into the country over a couple days, look seriously at a touring bike. They have a longer wheel base (distance between the axles) and a wider range of gears for a smoother ride and easier pedaling up long hills.
Mountain bikes: Made for riding gravel and dirt trails, these are built with sturdy frames that can take a beating, plus fat, knobby tires for traction, flat handlebars for an upright riding position, and low gears for climbing.
Most high-end mountain bikes now also feature a suspension system on the front forks to absorb the shock of bumpy trails. These bikes work on roads, but their fat tires make them significantly slower and less efficient on pavement than road bikes. However, mountain definitely are the best choice for off-road riding.
Hybrid bikes: If you plan on riding mostly on the road, but want a bike that will handle dirt and gravel, this cross between a road and mountain bike might be your best choice.
With gearing somewhere between the low range of a mountain bike and the high range of a road bike, tires of medium thickness and usually flat handlebars, this is also a good choice for bike commuters. But hybrids do represent a compromise: not as tough as a mountain bike off the pavement, not as fast as a road bike on it.
Whatever type you choose, figure to pay at least $275 for a good quality, dependable bicycle.
Cheaper cycles from discount stores do work, particularly for very casual bicycling, but demand frequent maintenance and adjustment and will not last as long.
Once you’ve decided the type of bike you want and the stores where you want to shop, climb on the models that appeal to you and ride. Select a few that fit and feel good, that shift smoothly and brake firmly without excess noise.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.