Feb 23, 2019 | One Sport Ninja |
No BS Bike Buying Guide 6 Steps to Choose a Right Bike for You Welcome to the amazing world of bike riding! Despite the dawn of on-demand transportation like Uber or Lyft, biking has not become outdated as a primary mode of transportation! From bustling cities like San Francisco to suburban college towns like UC Davis, you can see that bikes are still a popular and favorite mode of transportation. Feeling lost in the massive bike market? Look no further because below is my step-by-step bike buying guide for beginners on how to begin your hunt. Why did I create this guide? Throughout my life, I have ridden many bikes from BMX, mountain, hybrid, to even leisure cruiser bikes, and I am excited to share my experiences as a long-time biking enthusiast. However, standing from your perspective as a novice biker, what kind of bike suits you the most? Where can you get a bike? What brands can you plug into Google search bar to start browsing? I have been in your shoes before. Here's my story. I moved to San Francisco recently and decided to sell my car and get a new bike for my commute and weekend activities. Typical, right? Little did I know that there was so much noise on the Internet that made it hard to narrow down the exact bike I was looking for. Based on my previous experiences, I was able to choose a versatile bike that fit my lifestyle needs. From my constant Snapchat and Instagram posts of my biking adventures, I became somewhat of a "biking enthusiast" in my friend group. However, I hit a block when some of my friends asked me for advice on how to buy and choose a bike. That was where I found it difficult to simply link them to actionable and beginner-friendly guides online. I could have simply said, "Hey just go to Walmart and ask a salesperson." But we both know that the person who sets up the bikes at Walmart is likely also the person who unboxes the new vegetables in the grocery section. "If you can not find what you looking for, you create it." Keeping this in mind, I have decided to create a buying guide taken from my personal bike-buying experience. Step 1: Intention: Why do you need a bicycle? This is arguably the most important question you'll need to ask yourself. Why do you need a bicycle? What purpose will it serve you? From my experience, I have narrowed down for you these 4 types of bikes: Each type of bike offers its own advantages and disadvantages. For an example, In terms of usability, the hybrid, folding and road bikes are great for a standard commute to work as well as for casual riding on pavement. On the other hand, mountain bikes are better suited for relatively rougher natural trails. However, not everything is black and white. You can definitely still use a mountain bike for commuting, it's just not as ideal as the other types of bikes. Like I said, it all depends on your unique lifestyle. Hybrid Bike Folding Bike Road Bike Mountain Bike Commute x x x x Casual Recreational Cycling x x x Rougher, natural trails x Step 2: Let's take a deep dive into each class of bike Hybrid Bikes Comfort: As a beginner rider, comfort is arguably the greatest factor you should take into account when making a purchase. I am not just talking about the obvious comfort of the bike seat for your bottom, I am talking about posture. Being a mix of mountain bike and road bike, hybrid bikes can allow you to have the most comfortable upright riding position given its thicker tire size and back-swept handlebar position. In a world where we are very "heads down" slouching over our smartphones or laptops, neck and back stiffness are now top concerns for most. If you are one of those people with that pain point, why should you add biking as another contributing factor? This category is also arguably the broadest because a hybrid bike could be more mountain bike than road bike or vice versa. Regardless of the ratio, you should also make sure you keep comfort in mind when adjusting your saddle height. My own tip: Usually I like to match saddle height to the height of my hips (think about the lower edge of a belt if you wear one). Ease of use: Quite a number of hybrid bikes I have come across usually feature a relatively lower frame. My personal favorites are hybrid bikes with a step-through frame, making it easy to quickly swing my legs over to get on the bike. Trust me, as a guy, no one wants to get into a situation of getting stuck on his bike frame at the wrong angle while getting off his bike. Aside from getting on and off, I love the simple design that makes hybrid bikes easily identifiable. While some hybrid bikes contain more mountain bike features and others contain more road bike features, it is important to identify the right kind for YOU. Some hybrid bikes will have disc brakes that allow you to have amazing stopping power like mountain bikes do under wet or aggressive road conditions. Not to mention disc brakes require less maintenance, which is great news for beginners out there! On the other hand, if you are a commuter, you may care more about lighter hybrid bikes with quicker acceleration ability or thinner tires like road bikes. Environment You'll notice that hybrid bikes can potentially serve many purposes. Featuring a mix of road, mountain, commute, and touring designs, a hybrid bike mashes up lots of specific features to create a basic do-it-all device. You can use your bike for city commuting, riding paved paths, smooth streets as well as cruising on a mix of pavement and gravel. Word of caution: While hybrid bikes seem like the best of both worlds, they are exactly that: a hybrid of a road and mountain bike. As a result, I would advise against taking a hybrid to a rugged mountain trail, and likewise, I would advise bikers who love fast acceleration to invest in an official road bike for pavement riding. Uniqueness Hybrid bikes are extremely versatile, and this is what makes them unique. They blend characteristics from more specialized touring bikes, mountain and road bikes. Simply put, they are general purpose bikes which can potentially tolerate a broad range of riding conditions and applications. This is definitely a favorite for beginner bikes! Folding Bikes: Comfort Most folding beginner bikes are built for convenience. In my search, I have seen many folding bikes in stores and at my fellow city friends' houses. Most of them have smaller wheels, which make them a little less efficient and trickier to operate than their conventional counterparts. Thankfully, they offer unrivaled levels of adjustability. They bring onboard quick release clasps which you can easily adjust to set the height of your handlebars and saddle height. Like their hybrid counterparts, the seats of folding bikes are usually at a lower position than the handlebars. As such, they support an upright riding position. Ease of use Folding bikes feature relatively smaller wheels and frame, a feature that supports easy getting on/off the bike. One of the biggest concerns I had about folding bikes was also efficient folding. What good is a folding bike if I cannot fold it with ease? This is particularly important if you live in an apartment with limited storage space. Rather than parking your bike outside and risk it getting stolen, fold your bike up and store it next to your shoe rack! A good rule of thumb is to read the product reviews for any folding bike you consider to see how easy/difficult it is to fold the bike up! Note that with easy folding comes tradeoffs. For an example, you may not be able to easily adjust the saddle or the frame without taking the foldable bike apart againchoose wisely! You would also want a folding bike that boasts an effective braking system. A significant number of folding bikes are fitted with V-brakes, which are good but may not be effective in rainy weather. If you are a commuter, I'm guessing you plan to bike your commute rain or shine. For frequent rainy conditions, I recommend investing in a folding bike with disc brakes that are known to last through wet weather conditions. Fair warning: Most folding bikes do not come with disc brakes but installation can be done at an additional investment for some folding bike models. Environment: Without a doubt, foldable bikes are a great option for city dwellers. If you reside in the downtown core of a major city and you likely do not want to own a car or pay hefty parking fees, a foldable bike is a sensible and portable option. When in fold mode, you can easily carry them into buildings and store them nearly anywhere. To cut the story short, a folding bike is a great way to commute in a busy urban environment. Uniqueness: Folding bikes are characterized by their high level of portability. You can easily transport and store your bike nearly anywhere. One of the biggest selling factors of a folding bike for me was how little room it would occupy in my tiny, overpriced San Francisco apartment. However, what ultimately deterred me from committing to a folding bike was the limited types of places I could bring it to. Aside from pavement riding, I could not think of other riding environments I could venture on. Road Bikes: Comfort Road bikes often come fitted with either flat or curled-shape drop handlebars. Though flat handlebars can be great, the curled-shape drop handles tend to perform better. If you didn't know, they provide multiple hand positions, allowing you to adjust your frontal profile to suit every terrain. Road bikes allow you to reach the brakes and gear shifters with ease, giving you the ability to be more aerodynamic and efficiently move through and against the air. Additionally, road bikes can also come in various forms depending on the saddle height. Sportier road bikes will have a saddle that is higher than the handlebars, giving you a more sporty and athletic riding position to accelerate down a bike path. However, comfort road bikes will have a saddle that is more parallel to the handlebars, giving you a more upright riding position for long-distance riding. That being said, make sure to choose the position you are most comfortable with! Ease of use When I did a test-ride on a road bike, I was definitely not accustomed to the "roller coaster" position that I felt when I hopped on. Because most road bikes have curled, drop-handlebars, I felt like I was extremely hunched over when I was biking. Even after trying both comfort road bike and sportier road bikes, I still felt very unstable when I was on these beautiful, thin bikes. While this biking posture was new to me, I definitely loved the lightweight and sleek design of the road bike. Being a city dweller and commuter, I could definitely see myself carrying this road bike into buildings with ease or accelerating through the bike lanes when I'm late for work. Environment Road bikes are highly versatile machines and can be used for a broad range of pursuits and activities. While their slim tires will not endure rugged and rocky terrain, it will definitely take you places quickly if you are on pavement or smooth surfaces. Maybe take up trail biking or bike tours? Personally, I preferred the lightweight road bikes and the various bike paths that the city has to offer that are road-bike friendly. However, if you are more of a mountain bike person, read onward! Uniqueness: I'm sure you've seen bike commuters with thin tires and sleek frames. In my opinion, road bikes have the sexiest designs out of all the bike type I've explored. Road bikes are definitely a worthy investment for you if you are a commuter who plans to frequent smooth bike paths. Mountain Bikes Comfort If you ever think biking on smooth pavement is tiring, just think about biking on rocky mountain trailsyou definitely need a bike that can handle that vibration and shock that comes with breezing through rocks and boulders! For this reason, mountain bikes are generally very comfortable because of their fatter tires and straight, flat handlebars. When I test-drove a mountain bike, I definitely felt more stable than I did on a road bike, but I could also feel that I could not accelerate as quickly as I could on a road bike. Tire size makes a huge difference, but if speed matters in your biking journey, then the road vs mountain bike difference is something to consider. Ease of use Mountain bikes can be one of the most costly bikes to own, depending on the features they have. From my experience, you can take a mountain bike on your commute and on various "off-road paths" like mountain trails and other rocky terrains. Because these bikes are suitable for rougher road conditions, their maintenance cost could stack up if you do not do regular self-care and tune- up. Also, because these bikes have wider and "knobbier" tires (bumpy ridges on the wheel) than road bikes, they do not accelerate as quickly as road bikes do on smooth pavement. In terms of maintenance, it is also important to note that mountain bike tires wear down much faster on pavement since they were fundamentally not built for the purpose of simple commuting on roads. Environment It goes without saying that mountain bikes are bikes designed for off-road cycling. They boast superb features that enhance durability and performance in rough terrain. The tradeoff is that they might not perform as well on smooth pavement, and you may be better off with a hybrid or road bike if you are just staying on city roads. Uniqueness Mountain bikes can come in hardtail or full suspension, depending on whether or not they have shock absorption suspension system in just the front or in both the front and back of the bike. Just as the name suggests, mountain bikes are unique in that they can be taken on rugged adventures if you are brave enough to venture onto rocky and steeper mountain terrain. Step 3: Bike Price Guide Now that you have a rough idea of what kind of bike you want, I want to introduce to you a few brands that can help you start your bike shopping experience. I have split up this part into 2 sections: affordable and high-end brands, depending on your budget. Affordable brands: Your dream bike can potentially cost up to $10,000! However, the best bike doesn't have to be expensive. In this category, you'll find decent bikes ready for all your future adventurers, at fairly affordable prices. Of course, it's imperative to note that for this roundup, I'll focus mainly on simplicity, durability, and performance, rather than top-notch qualities such as full-suspension, carbon frames, dropper saddles, and high-speed drivetrain. Great news! Most brands listed below offer bikes that list under $500-$600 and will often feature excellent quality parts and frame build. Mongoose The Mongoose brand of bicycles is best known for their BMX and mountain bikes. From my search, Mongoose sells affordable and reliable bikes that are great for simple on-road commutes. You can find Mongoose bikes on Amazon, your local Walmart, and of course, on the Mongoose website. Some of my favorite mountain bikes I've found are the Mongoose Dolomite Fat Tire Bike and Mongoose Impasse Bike. Giant Giant produces both advanced and beginner-specific bikes. Even though the company manufactures nearly all types of bikes, they are best known for road bikes. Most of their affordable models feature lightweight aluminum frames. Every Giant product, whether mountain, hybrid or road bike will give you an opportunity to experience cycling in a new dimension. Schwinn If you are old enough, you can probably remember those times when Schwinn bikes ruled the market. Today, this brand manufacturer has lost its title as the king of biking. Of course, it is because new manufacturers have come into the market with revolutionary products that offer great performance and amazing features. Generally, Schwinn produces two broad bike categories including discount series and signature series. Personally, I have seen the greatest review on their hybrid and cruiser bikes like the Men's Fremont Hybrid Bike and Women's Perla Cruiser Bike Additionally, if you are interested in a folding bike, Schwinn also has a popular Schwinn Loop Folding Bike that is strong enough to accommodate a 6-foot rider. Vilano Manufacturer of Vilano fixed gear bikes, road bikes, hybrid, and foldable bikes, you can't go wrong by purchasing a Vilano product. Wouldn't it be awesome to find a bicycle that was budget-friendly, offered reliable quality as higher valued bike brands, lasted long and looked fantastic? Well, Vilano products offer just that with their aluminum frame road bikes! Though they also manufacture other types of bikes, they are best known for their performance- oriented road bikes. Some of the popular Vilano road bikes I have found are the Vilano Shadow Road Bike and Vilano Aluminum Road Bike High-End Brands: Open up your wallets because these bikes below can get expensive! The 4 brands below are what I found to be expensive but worth it if you have the budget for it. You can find them at your local bike shop or on an online bike retailer. Trek Trek is a world-learning bike manufacturer that produces budget-friendly $300 bikes to high-end road, hybrid to electric bikes, cruisers, mountain bikes, and kids bikes along with several eco-friendly products. Pay a visit to their online site and you can see the wide range of bikes they sell. While their bikes can price up to $12,000, their Trek Care warranty and loyalty program is protective and reliable! I put Trek under 'high-end" brands here because they produce some of the best mountain and road bikes for commuters on the market like Domane Disc and Super Commuter. However, if you have a more modest budget, take a look at their FX Series. Specialized A California based company, it designs and markets fantastic bikes tailored to meet the current riding demands. Trust me, these bikes are sleek! Like Trek, Specialized does offer great hybrid bikes that go for as low as $500, but they are most well-known for their sportier looking mountain bikes and slim but lightweight road bikes. Momentum This is an award-winning bike manufacturer that offers arguably the highest quality bicycles and gear aimed at lifestyle mobility solutions. Every Momentum bikes boast innovative features and thoughtful designs which make it healthy, easy and fun to get where you are headed. It is imperative to note that Momentum mostly concentrates on bikes for urban commuting. BEIOU This is a new brand, and specifically manufactures carbon fiber sports products, including bicycles. Bikes featuring carbon fiber frames are usually very expensive. If you want a top-end mountain bike that can effectively tackle rough and tough trails, get it from the BEIOU! While I personally do not own a BEIOU bike, you can read more about this popular BEIOU mountain bike and how people like it here. Step 4: Where should you buy these bikes? Option 1: Your average Walmart or Target stores Walk into any Walmart retail outlet and you'll find all types of hybrid bikes, mountain bikes, road bikes, and folding bikes at all price ranges. One advantage of purchasing an item from a mass-market retailer is that the prices are budget-friendly and retailers have decent warranties. However, there is one notable problem associated with mass-market retailers such as Walmart like I said in the beginning, the same person putting milk in the dairy section may also be the same person who helps you in the bike section. What this means is that you are not going to get the type of help or answers you need from a Walmart or Target employee. My two-cent is that you should do your own research before heading to Walmart! If not, I recommend you to bring your new bike to a local bike shop for a safety check. Option 2: Your local outdoor sports retailers So, should you shop at stores that specialize more in sports? Absolutely yes! Unlike the sellers at either Walmart or Target, you will have much better luck getting bike advice at stores like REI or a quick search on Google for your local bike shop. Some general retailers include: REI Recreational Equipment, Inc, popularly known as REI, is a US retail and outdoor recreation services company. It sells camping gear, sporting products, and clothing you can even find kayaks and snowboards there! One thing I did not like about REI was the high-tier price tag. If you are a beginner biker, I definitely recommend going to REI to see what bikes are out there but to at least go to another bike store for price comparison Performance Bicycle One of America's leading cycling retailers, Performance now has over 100 stores in 20 states, find one near you! I used to live near a Performance Bicycle, and there are bike experts there! From helmets to bike lights to bike types, the sales reps there are very knowledgeable and can help you find your suitable bike. Sports Basement This is one of my favorite local retailers in the San Francisco area. They are like a massive Costco version of REI and have pretty good sales. If you go to Basically Free Bike Rental shop, you can rent and try out different bikes and use the rental fee as credit at the Sports Basement store. Neat, right? Dick's Sporting Goods Similar to Sports Authority, this popular retailer sells more than just your average Nike running shoes and Adidas sweatpants, they have a huge variety of bikes both online and in-store that you can browse. One caveat I want to add is that since they sell a wide variety of items, you may need to ask around for the bike expert in the store. While they may be more knowledgeable than the floor members at Walmart, don't bet on them being the perfect subject matter experts. My bottom line best advice when shopping at any retailer is: Don't be shy to test-drive multiple bikes and make your decision based on comfort and ease of usability. I was definitely that "annoying" customer before who asked to try 6-7 bikes in one store visit, with no promises to purchase at the end of the day. Key components to test include brakes, gear shifting, and steering. At the end of the day, make sure it is a bike you are comfortable adjusting while riding before you make any purchase decision. Step 5: First-time rider? Below are 7 essential accessories you need Helmet You already know the immediate benefits of wearing a helmet during your rides. In the event of an accident, your helmet is the first line of defense against head injuries. Do not risk head trauma and buy a defensive helmet. Water bottle rack It is always a great idea to carry water with you on any ride regardless of the length, to keep you hydrated and keep performance at its peak. When picking a bike, make sure that the water bottle rack is available or can be easily installed. If you are a weekend adventurer like me who does not always like carrying heavy things in his backpack, a water bottle rack is a great alternative to lighten some weight in your pack! Portable tire inflator This is one the most basic, mandatory tools to own. They are designed to serve a very simple purpose; adding air to your wheels at the hour of need. I recommend learning how to use one before you purchase one. You never want to run into a situation where you THINK you know how to use one but end up spending more time in blind confusion when a tire puncture occurs. Stay safe, friends. Multi-tool Your swiss-army knife, bike style! In the event of a mechanical breakdown, you would need your multi-tool to do minor fixes, so don't neglect buying one! After you buy one, like the tire inflator, learn how to use one! Reflective lights/clothing: You would need to be as visible as possible to reduce your chances of being involved in a crash. Yes you will look like a human lightbulb, but better safe than sorry, right? Be sure to purchase at least one neon colored jacket and 2-3 bike lights to make sure vehicles on the road next to you know you are there. Bike lock Have you ever seen a bike with missing wheels or frame? It is a very sad sight. If you are usually a frugal person, please do not be frugal when thinking about investing in a good bike lock. It will be unfortunate if you invest in a quality bike just to have its valuable parts be stolen because you weren't willing to invest in bike security. A good rule of thumb is to spend 10% of your total bike budget on a lock. If you choose to purchase bike insurance, make sure the bike lock brand is also covered. Portable phone charger Lastly, this is not bike-related but it is extremely crucial that you keep your phone charged in case of emergencies. Aside from the obvious function of calling for help, smartphones are your source of information in times of needassuming you are still in an area with adequate phone signal. No one can ever say they are 100% prepared for any type of bike crisis. Although you may be equipped with the right tools, you will encounter situations that require you to consult a Youtube video or a tool guide online. Wouldn't it be unfortunate if you couldn't do so because you left the house with your phone in "low battery mode"? Step 6: FAQs before you finalize the purchase Whether or not you buy at a store or online, here is my FAQ checklist before I make any bike-related transaction. 1. Do I get a decent warranty with this purchase? 2. Does the person helping me put the bike together know what he is doing? 3. How can I perform a simple self-safety bike check? 4. What perks do I get with this purchase? Some benefits I have seen include complimentary tune-ups and maintenance at local bike stores. 5. What is the return policy? 6. What can I do if my bike has a faulty part shortly after purchase? 7. How do I adjust my seat height and pump my tire? 8. Do you have any recommended bike mechanics? Bonus #1: Find people to bike with Online Reddit/Bike Forums During my quest for the perfect bike, Reddit was probably my favorite source of information because of the honest user reviews that are on there. Fair warning that you will need to ignore some of the noise and debate that may be on some subreddit threads, but if you take what you read with a grain of salt, it is usually very helpful. So how can I connect with bikers around me? Reddit users can also be very responsive in the bike community. If you perform a simple Google search of "[YOUR CITY] cycling group Reddit," I'm sure you will find a few threads that have cycling groups in your local community Other bike forums that I also went on occasionally are bikeradar.com and bikeforums.net. These forums usually are categorized by niche bike needs like "women's cycling" "road cycling" "mountain biking" and even training and health tips. The Old-Fashioned Way Talk to People Being an extrovert, I made friends with bikers who just happened to be biking in the same park or local path as me. Here is exactly what I did: Step 1: Perform a simple Google search for a local biking park. Make sure not to pick a challenging one if you are not too comfortable biking alone yet (and of course, if your bike's structure does not allow it). Step 2: Next time the weather permits, hop on your bike and ride away! If you see a lone biker or a group of bikers who look like they know the park, ask them for tips and advice on which parts of the parks have the best views. Step 3: Well, I can't give you advice on how to make friends, but talking to more people definitely helped me learn more about biking in my local area. While this is not a guide on how to make friends, some common questions I asked people include: 1. What are some other bike parks in the area that you would recommend for a beginner cyclist? 2. I just got into biking but don't know much about bike tune-up, can you recommend any local shops to me? 3. What is the best advice you can give to a beginner, recreational cyclist? Bonus #2: Electric Bike Also named "e-bikes," electric bikes come equipped with pedal assist technology that can propel you up steep hills with minimal pedaling effort! Depending on which pedal assist mode you set (or you can set no mode and pedal it like a regular bike), you will excel on various terrains! Some e-bikes come with knobbier or thicker tires than others, but across the board they will treat you well on most biking environments because of their pedal assist technology. The reason why I did not include electric bikes in my bike types is because they are a hefty investment. My two-cent for e-bikes is that you should experience Uber's e-bike sharing platform Jump first before you invest in an e- bike. Conclusion I'm sure you will have more questions along the way as you get more engrossed in finding the perfect bike for you. No matter where you shop, you will be overwhelmed by a myriad of choices, but just keep these steps in mind: 1. Intention Why do you want to buy a bike? 2. Type Which 1-2 bike types do you want to focus on? 3. Budget Set and stick to your budget, but flexibly so. Who knows if an extra $50 can make a difference in your search! 4. Retailers Find out where your local bike retailers are located and start test-driving there 5. Safety gear Equip yourself with the proper gear to stay safe and prepared for all situations 6. Ask the right questions Learn as much as you can about the bike, components, and even warranty before you purchase! If you are a beginner, I would say do not drop a huge wad of cash on your first bike, but slowly build up on bike costs as you tailor your biking needs to your new lifestyle and mode of transportation! For an example: Perhaps you decide that you want to Uber on rainy days, so maybe that investment in disc brakes is better made elsewhere. One thing I did not get much into is the health benefit that comes with biking, but keep in mind that biking is probably one of the best decisions you will make for both your body and your monthly transportation budget. Originally published on One Sport Ninja.
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