Bicycle Buyer's Guide
Finding the Right Bike For You
You want a new bike. You start looking for a bike and realize there are a lot of different styles and brands out there. So, how do you know what bike you need? The first question to ask yourself (or you should be asked when you go to a bike shop) is what type of riding do you intend to do? You may be familiar with a road bike and a mountain bike, but unfamiliar with all the options in between. We've put together this short guide of the basic styles of bikes, brief descriptions, and questions to ask to help you get started.
Questions | Road | Hybrid | Cruisers | Mountain
Questions to ask when buying a bike
You should ask whatever questions you have to make sure you get the bike suited for the type of riding you want to do. This should be the goal of any bike shop: "more people on bikes" by helping them find the bike they need. If the person you are talking to makes you feel bad, or embarrassed...go somewhere else. We believe that anyone can be a cyclist and we want you to believe it, too. You should feel comfortable asking questions and be encouraged to do so. Here are a few questions to help get you started.
What size bike do I need?
What do I need to do to maintain my bicycle?
Do you have a pump? Will it work on the type of bicycle you buy?
Do you have a helmet?
What is the warranty on the frame and components?
Where will I ride? (road, trails, greenways, around the neighborhood)
What is my budget?
How often do I plan to ride?
How far/long do I plan to ride?
Who will I be riding with?
What types of bikes do they have?
Road bikes are lightweight and nimble with thin, slick tires designed to go fast on the pavement. They have drop handebars (like rams horns) that allow for different riding positions from a more comfortable upright position to a more aggressive forward position. There are two main categories of road bikes: race and sport/endurance. sport/racing: addict rc, foil endurance: speedster, addict
As the name implies, these bikes are made to race. The geometry is longer and lower than the sport bike with speed and aerodynamics in mind. They want to go uphill with the least amount of resistance and downhill as quickly as possible. Click below for the Scott Road Bike Guide for more info.
These bikes are light and fast, but built for longer rides with the rider in a more upright position for more comfort over long distances. These frames have higher stack heights and more tire clearance for stability over aerodynamics. Perfect for those long group rides with your friends, or on you own.
Gravel bikes are all about versatility. Known in the UK as adventure bikes, adventure is what these bikes are designed to do. Essentially a road bike designed to handle a variety of surfaces, such as loose gravel paths and fire roads, a group ride on the road, or for bikepacking. Gravel bikes have rack mounts on the frame and a handlebar designed to carry gear.
Most cruisers weigh in upwards of 40 lbs, but the Jamis Earthcruiser is an incredibly light 29 lbs. That combined with a memory foam seat and 2.25" balloon tires set the standard for the cruiser style bike.
Hybrid bikes are what they sound like, a hybrid of the road bike and the mountain bike, taking features from each to create a bike for multiple uses. While that sounds simple enough, there are A LOT of bikes that fit into this category now. Hybrids will generally have a flat handlebar more like a mountain bike and a more upright sitting position as well as rack mounts for commuting. Some hybrids have more in common with a road bike and some are more akin to a mountain bike. One way to tell is by the wheel size. Road bikes have wheels measured in centimeters, 700c, and mountain bikes are measured in inches, 26 in. But there are other features to consider that are far more important. With hybrids you definitely need to consider the type of riding you will be doing, so that you can select a bike with the features you will need.
Fitness bikes blend the speed and efficiency of a road bike with wider tires and a flat handlebar. A more upright sitting position allows riders to be able to sit up and see better in traffic. Can be used for commuting, paved greenways, and around neighborhoods.
Urban or Commuter bikes are designed for riding on pavement. Equipped with a flat handlebar, wider tires with more tread than a road bike helps handle differences in the pavement, and 18-24 spd gearing allows you to pedal hills and flats with ease. A key component of this type of bike is rack mounts, or braze-ons, built into the frame from the factory. These mounts allow racks, fenders, and panniers to be attached to the bike to carry groceries, laptops, or whatever you need.
Also known as a trekking or adventure bike, the dual sport is a hybrid bike that shares more features of a mountain bike than the fitness bike. These bikes have a front suspension fork, higher end models often have a lockout to allow for more efficiency on the road. Wider and lightly knobby tires make this a versatile bike for those who enjoy paved and unpaved trails such as the Virginia Creeper Trail.
These hybrids are built with comfort in mind. Often designed with a longer head tube and shorter top tube to move the handlebars closer to the rider, combined with a wide seat, adjustable stems, and riser handlebars everything about these bikes is tailored to comfort. Some recreation hybrids come with a suspension seatpost and front suspension fork. These bikes are generally used for riding up to an hour at a time around parks, greenways, and neighborhoods.
No races will be won on a cruiser bike and that's okay because they aren't made for competition. With wide seats and handlebars and balloon like tires, cruisers are made for casual, comfortable rides around the neighborhood, greenway, or the boardwalk. They are generally designed with a one or three speed coaster brake gearing, no derailleurs or hand brakes make for low maintenance, just get on and pedal.
Similar to road bikes and hybrids, there are several categories of mountain bikes and subcategories from those categories. Mountain bikes are designed for the specific type of trails you will be riding on. Much of this has to do with the geometry of the frame and the travel of the front suspension, and the presence (lack of) rear suspension. It can get confusing. Here we will focus on the basics of the two main categories, but for a more in depth look at each category check out this article. Mountain bikes are made to go off-road from rugged rocky trails to gravel paths, these bikes are at their best when the terrain isn't smooth. You'll find two main wheel sizes, 27.5" and 29", though a 26" wheel can still be found on older bikes.
Hardtails are also called front suspension bikes because they only have a front suspension fork. The front suspension absorbs the impact on your hands and upper body. These bikes are lighter weight and suited for cross country trails. With less moving parts they are also easier to maintain and much cheaper, especially for those just getting into the sport. You can purchase a quality hard tail for under $500. Most offer a lockout feature on the front suspension making the bike rigid and more efficient on smooth gravel paths or paved roads.
With suspension in the front and the back these bikes are made to tackle rougher terrain by absorbing more impact. They are able to handle more technical terrain than a hardtail. These bikes are equipped with air shocks allowing riders to adjust air pressures to their specific weight for a dialed in ride. There are different types of full suspension bikes for different types of riding. Cross Country, Trail, Enduro, and Downhill.