Fitness Articles

Tips for Buying the Right Bicycle

An Introduction to Styles, Frames and Sizes

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Hybrid bikes ($200+) mix features of mountain bikes (such as comfortable seating) with characteristics of comfort bikes (like wider tires), making them great for riding on both pavement and dirt trails. Hybrid bikes are ideal for both serious and casual riders who want more agility and speed than typical comfort bikes can offer, whether riding on-road or on trails. Most hybrid bikes will have approximately 27-inch (700C) wheels and 21-24 gears.

BMX bikes and dirt bikes ($150+) are general-purpose bikes that can be used for basic transportation or dirt riding. Smaller than other bikes, these typically feature: 20-inch wheels, one gear, hand brakes, short wheelbase frames, and knobby tires.

Bike Frames
Now that you have a good idea about the type of bike that will meet your needs, you'll also have to decide on a bike frame, which can be made from one of several different materials: aluminum, steel, carbon and titanium. While each has its own merits, what really matters is finding a bike that fits your budget and your needs.
  • Steel frames have classic style. They're durable, easily-repaired, affordable, and lightweight. But if left to the elements, these can rust easily.
  • Aluminum frames have modern style. They're durable, affordable, lightweight and rust-resistant.
  • Carbon frames have high-tech style. They're durable, lightweight, and more expensive than both steel and aluminum, but do not rust.
  • Titanium frames have a variety of finishes and styles. They're durable, lightweight, and the made of the most expensive materials, but will not rust.

Frame Size and Style
  • Finding a bike that fits the length of your legs and the size of your torso is very important. Women’s bike frames fit a woman’s longer leg and shorter torso, which makes riding more comfortable. However, men’s frame sizes are small enough to fit almost anyone comfortably. If you are tall, a bike shop can adjust a men’s frame for you. 
  • Bikes purchased from a true bike shop, not a department store, are sized to proportionally fit both your leg length and upper body.
  • Getting the right size of bike is an absolute must for safety. A bike that’s too large for you makes it difficult to start, stop and get on or off. A bike is a big investment, but you won’t ride it if it doesn’t fit your properly.
Before you go ahead a buy a particular bike, take it out for a lengthy test ride—a quick spin around the block won’t be enough. While you’re out, make sure the seat is comfortable and you can reach the handlebars easily. If you’re not satisfied, keep trying other bikes until you find the perfect fit. The better a bike fits you, the more you’ll ride. Now strap on your helmet and hit the open road!
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About The Author

Leanne Beattie Leanne Beattie
A freelance writer, marketing consultant and life coach, Leanne often writes about health and nutrition. See all of Leanne's articles.

Member Comments

  • These bikes seem to be streamlined for the much younger crowd. I have a one speed with a standard brakes. I don't compete any more, so i felt I didn't need a real expensive bike. The article is informative, but a bit shy on the different types of bikes. I have friends that ride the recumbent bikes, however, they are not for me. - 6/23/2016 2:35:17 PM
  • I wished I would have read this before I purchased my bike, the first thing I had to do was change my seat - 6/23/2016 7:38:18 AM
  • I too found this article poorly written.Yes recumbents were not mentioned BUT neither were any traditional touring bikes. Not everyone wants (or NEEDS) a 27 speed monstrosity.. Not to mention I have never seen a STEEL framed bike rust. They have paint for a reason and if you don't want to use some common sense (like occasionally cleaning your bike and NOT leaving it out in the rain or all winter) then ,yes, of course its going to succumb to the elements just like anything else. - 6/27/2015 1:48:46 PM
  • I've been looking to get back into biking. I have never been so confused by the tons of styles and the range of prices it makes my head spin. Gone are the days of going to Local Bike S hop and picking out a Schwinn in a color you like and riding it home (unfortunately).

    I think it is very important to go to a qualified bike shop and discuss what you want the bike for and how much do you want to spend. Most bike manufacturers make styles that only are for the BBS not independent bike shops. These bikes are less expensive, you have to assemble and there is really not much support once purchased.

    I've been to about four LBS and finally tried out a bike, it's been years and of course I fell when I tried to stop with the very sensitive hand brakes of today's bikes. I now have to wait until hand heals before I can continue my quest. Make sure that the LBS will go out with you when trying bikes if you haven't been on one in years to make sure you know how to use the brakes unless you are getting a Cruiser which have the good old fashion back pedal brakes. You should be fit to the bike you get - bikes are usually an investment so they should fit your body, get a lock and helmet.

    I can't wait to get back to the shop and complete my trial run on a bike. - 6/10/2015 9:15:03 AM
  • I have several health problems, I can only bike and swim for exercise. I bought a wonderful bike that's Electric! It gets me out there people, on the trails and into the woods and on the beach and every where! I love it, and it's so nice to have this bike because my knee's or my ankle can give out on me at any time. With this bike I don't worry about how I am going to make it back to the car or home. I love riding so much my husband had made a carrier for our dog (Westie) and we take him with us and he loves it! Happy biking - 1/19/2015 9:11:11 PM
  • A good bike is more than you think. If you really want to cycle, the old adage of 'buy cheap buy twice' holds very true. I have a Cyclocross bike for winter riding. It looks like a road bike but has wider wheels and knobbly tyres. It's great for trails, good for the road and it's a tough all rounder. I have a road bike, with skinny wheels for munching those miles in the nicer weather. I spent a lot of money on them but am a serious cyclist.
    When we come across new cyclists, here in the UK, we recommend that they spend not less than 300 on a bike. The cheap ones really are cheap and nasty and do not give a good ride experience, which is why so many people start and very quickly stop cycling.
    Cheap bikes are heavy and clunky. Really nasty and off putting. A slightly better quality bike will be fun to ride and last for ages. - 12/31/2014 12:19:07 PM
  • There are more options than just these. Currently the comeback are the City bike and the cruiser. There are also ridiculous bikes as well. Look into local bike clubs and find the one that works for you. Also remember that for daily commutes a bike with fenders and a chainguard will allow you to ride in your work clothes, or modified work clothes. I love biking in heels and a skirt. - 9/22/2014 1:00:06 PM
  • I have been riding a retro men's cruiser for years. One thing I tell anyone that is thinking about getting into biking, if you do not love the bike moment you see it, or the moment you sit in the saddle, you are likely not going to ride it. My bike is a huge beast, 40lbs! But the second I plop into the saddle a smile comes on my face and nothing can be wrong while I ride it! So loving the bike is a key factor to making it part of your life. - 9/22/2014 12:46:54 PM
  • I'm still trying to give my bile a "type" title!! Its a TREK and I paid abov $400 for it!! Will have to dig around for the specs. I have the manual but misplaced thewarranty etc etc.
    Thanks for the good article. - 8/23/2014 11:53:44 AM
  • I'm old school and am more interested in a coaster bike. I don't want to fool with gears and never liked brakes on the handle bars. - 4/6/2014 11:04:10 PM
  • Adjustable handlebars are a must for those of us with chronic neck and shoulder pain. - 12/20/2013 12:12:35 AM
  • You left out one very important style of bike - the recumbent. They come in 2 and 3 wheelers. I have a two wheeler and love mine. I ride so much more than I did on my road bike. - 7/13/2012 1:49:01 PM
    I agree with many of the preceding comments that much more thought should have gone into this article. Failure to mention recumbents was the thing that stood out to me. However, there were a number of other issues that could have been mentioned that were not, many already noted. I think SAFETY should have been stressed much more. Having a properly fitting helmet and wearing it are essential. I had two accidents this summer that would have been severe if I had not been wearing a helmet. But there are many other issues in terms of proper clothing, obeying traffic rules, and proper riding techniques that should be addressed or referred to another article for further info. - 11/9/2011 1:26:08 PM
  • @ Beatletot - for a triathlon you would want a time trial bike OR a very aero road bike. Cervelo ( makes the fastest time trial and road bikes on the market today.
    As an avid cyclist (3,000 - 4,000 miles per year), I was hugely disappointed in this article. It was not well written nor researched. I'd like to know when the authors threw a leg over a bike last. The biggest tips for buying a bicycle is to go to a Local Bike Shop (LBS) not Wal-Mart or Target, Be prepared to spend money and get a proper bike fit from a certified bike fit professional - and make sure part of that fit includes a saddle fitting too. There are bikes for every budget, but when you pay more you get more, just like with a car. The lighter the bike, the more comfotable it will be and you'll see an equally higher price too.

    Oh and learn to wear a helmet properly. They DO NOT sit, tipped back onto the rear of one's head. Anyway that is my .02. - 11/9/2011 12:34:26 PM
  • Not only are recumbents a niche bike they tend to be extremely expensive. Usually this is sought by someone who for various health and comfort reasons just cannot make any of the other types of bikes "work" for themselves.

    It is OH-SO-IMPORTANT to work with your local bike shop in choosing a bike as they may help you explore issues and angles you may not have thought of in selecting your bike.

    For instance I thought I would want a hybrid bike because I thought I would be too uncomfortable with a road / touring bike with drop-down handlebars. However after discussing with the LBS and other experienced cyclists my desire to cycle longer distances (50+ miles) I received much encouragement to consider a road bike with drop-down handlebars. Taking the plunge I can now say in hindsight that this was SUCH a smart move! My hands used to go numb on my old mountain bike. With the various hand positions offered on my drop-down handlebars I no longer have this problem. PLUS the improvement in SPEED! Woo hoo!

    We each have our own personal goals, preferences and motivations which draw us to cycling. Your LBS will tremendously help you begin to hone in on this and make a bike choice that best suits your needs.

    Don - 11/9/2011 8:32:41 AM

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