Shop at a big box store and you can easily get a bike for under $100. Go to a specialty bike store and you’ll find bikes for thousands of dollars. With such a wide range of prices and so many options, buying a bike can feel overwhelming. In honor of Bike to Work Week, we’re here to break it down and show you what you need to know in order to buy the perfect bike for you.
Choose your price point.
Yes, you can get a bike for less than $100 and if you’re an occasional and very casual rider, then go for it. If you plan to use the bike regularly for exercise, recreation or to commute, then you’ll want to plan on spending at least a couple hundred dollars.
Choose the bike that suits your needs.
If you’ll be cruising on rough terrain, then go with a mountain bike. If you’ll be using your bike for the occasional trip to the corner store, then a comfort bike may do the job. Road bikes are for the serious cyclist. If you will be commuting, you may save money and fare just as well with an urban bike (over a road bike).
Find the right fit.
Wear the shoes you’d wear when cycling. Straddle the bike. If it’s a road bike, you should have about one inch of clearance over the top tube. On a mountain bike it should be at least two inches. Your legs should be slightly bent when you sit and pedals are at their lowest point. Your elbows should also be slightly bent when you grip the handlebars.
Finding the right fit online.
It’s possible to find the right fit even when you shop online. Look for a site that offers a bicycle size chart. One of the most important numbers on that chart is the standover height. Measure your inseam and make sure there is that 1-2 inch clearance against the listed standover height.
Give it a test drive.
The best way to determine if a bike is right for you is to take it for a test drive. Don’t be afraid to ask a store if it’s okay to test drive. Most REI stores have an area (typically in the parking lot) where you can give those wheels a spin.
Consider buying used.
Bikes can get really expensive, so it may be worth it to shop used. Make sure there are no dents or cracks on the frame and that rims aren’t bent. Check resale stores that specialize in sporting goods like Play It Again Sports. Or, contact your local bike club and ask if any members are selling their bike.
Shopping for the kids.
Children’s bikes are measured by wheel size, not frame size. Typically a 4-8 year old would fit a 16″ and an 8-12 on a 20″, though the determining factor is height not age. Don’t buy a too big bike thinking your child can grow into it. It could affect your child’s ability and safety when they hit the road.
Look for deals.
Check for deals before you shop. For example, you can find in-store savings on the internet for sporting goods stores like Big 5. Some of the best sales happen in fall when many manufacturers release new models sending the older models to the sale section.