7 Considerations Before Buying a Bike

Here’s how to make sure you get the best bike for you.

If you’re thinking about buying a new bike, you’ve probably noticed that there are a lot of different types of bikes out there. It can be confusing, especially if you don’t know where to start. Before heading to the bike store, even before deciding on which type of bike you want, we recommend asking yourself seven questions.

These questions will help you narrow down your options and ensure you are prepared for your visit to the bike store. Remember, there’s no right or wrong answer! You may not even know all the answers yet. Just answer them honestly, or take some time to think about the answer, and you will be on the path to getting the best bike for you. 

Women riding a red bike with crosswalk beneath her

1. Consider your purpose – what type of riding do you want to do?

Start by considering your overall goal. What do you want to do with your new bike? Do you want to get in shape, ride the local bike paths, take a healthier and more environmentally friendly way to work, or cruise with friends to the local farmers’ market on select weekends?

Be honest with yourself about where you are in your cycling journey, and where you want to be. This will help you buy a bike that goes the distance with you. 

If you are here, you are probably more interested in urban cycling. While many different bikes can be used in an urban setting, the two main types are cruisers and commuters. These are designed to be more comfortable for daily commuting or leisure riding than sportier bikes like road or mountain bikes.  

2. Where will you be riding your bike?

Consider your destination and your route. Are you riding to a place with bike racks, or will your bike need to be self-supported when locked up? Is your route hilly or mostly flat? Will you be on roads and pavement, or will there be a combination of paved and gravel paths? 

Combined with understanding your purpose, answering this question will help you narrow down what kind of bike you want. Cruisers and commuters have different pros and cons for various routes. In our next post, we will discuss the different types of urban bikes and what this means in greater detail.  

3. Do you prefer to sit upright or slightly forward?

Bike frames come in different shapes, with different distances between their handlebars and seats.  

The distance between the handlebars and seat and the height and shape of the handlebars will impact how much you have to lean forward to reach the handlebars and control the bike. 

How far forward you prefer to lean while riding is a matter of personal preference. It may also be impacted by your core strength, if you have any back concerns, how much weight you are comfortable putting on your hands and wrists, and how far you plan to regularly ride. Your height will also determine how far forward you need to lean on any frame. 

If you aren’t sure, think about your preferred posture while sitting down, working at a desk, or driving a car. Do you prefer to sit upright with a straight back, or do you tend to lean forward? You can also file this question away for later and make it a priority to test-ride a few bikes at your local bike store to get a feel for what you like best. 

4. Are you comfortable changing gears?

Close up of Bicycle gears

Most bikes have at least a couple of gears, which you change while riding. The different gears make it easier to go up and downhill, carry a heavier load, or go faster without spinning your feet like a cartoon character. 

Gears are changed with gear shifters while you pedal and come in a few different types.  

  • Thumb shifters (or trigger shifters) are mounted on the handlebars (usually on the bottom), and, as the name suggests, you push them with your thumb to change gears.
  • Grip shifters are part of the handle grips on straight handlebars. You twist the grip forward or backward to change the gears.
  • Integrated shifters are most common on road bikes (with curved drop handlebars). They are part of the handbrake and mounted vertically on the front of the handlebar at the top of the curve. Gears are changed by pushing the levers left or right. 

If you have yet to use one of these methods, changing gears may take some getting used to. If you are uncomfortable with changing gears, there are still options. Three-speed bikes allow you to change gears while stationary. And some bikes, like many cruisers, are single speed. This is good for leisurely riding, where you will be on flat ground for most of the ride. It also requires less maintenance. 

5. How do you want to stop the bike?

There are two main types of bike brakes: hand brakes and coaster brakes. Hand brakes, like your gear shifters, will be attached to the handlebars. If you have integrated shifters (see above), the brakes will be mounted on the front of a drop handlebar, and you squeeze them to stop. If you have straight handlebars, your brakes will likely be mounted horizontally on the front. You also squeeze these brakes to stop.

If you have a single-speed bike, you can opt for coaster brakes. These are engaged by slowly pedaling backwards. They can require less maintenance than handbrakes but aren’t as good on hills. Handbrakes will allow you to brake more quickly and with greater accuracy.  

6. Do you need to carry anything?

Revisit the first question about what you will be using your bike for. How much do you expect to carry things on your bike? Are you commuting to work and need to take your stuff for the day, including a lunch and a laptop? Are you planning to cart groceries and goodies home from the local store?  

wicker baskets on the back of bikes with flowers and groceries

Depending on what you need to carry, consider a bike basket, bike rack, or pannier. Many urban bikes come with a bike rack on the back or the ability to attach one to the frame. The bike rack will allow you to strap some items directly to it or attach a pannier to the back.  

7. Personal style

Finally, and just as important as all the other considerations, is to consider your personal aesthetic. Bikes come in many styles and colors. Do you want something that stands out, or something trendy? Do you want a bike that you can attach fancy and stylish accessories to? Is the bike’s color important to you? 

With these considerations made, you are ready to start narrowing down the type of bike you might want to buy. In our next post, we will cover the different types of urban bikes, and how your answers to the seven questions above may impact your choice.  

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How to Buy a Bike

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