With so many bicycles available on the market today, how do you choose which bike is right for you? Take into consideration how you plan to use your bicycle. Want to ditch the car and pedal to work? Consider a commuter bike. Thinking it’s time to get rid of that spare tire around your middle? Maybe it’s time to go for a road bike. But if you’re looking for a combination of these elements, there are many bike options in between.

Types & fitting

Durable, single-speed  BMX bikes with 20-inch wheels are designed for tricks, generally featuring reinforced frames, brake rotors and pegs; these are at home on the street, in the dirt or at the park.

Mountain

Agile, resilient  mountain bikes can be ridden easily on a wide variety of terrain, thanks to responsive handling, large tires for stability and a comfortable — but athletic — riding position.

Fat tire

All-terrain bikes that get their name from the wide tires they use. The wider tires and deeper treads mean more contact with the ground and increased stability when riding on soft terrain, like sand and snow, which would cause normal bikes to sink into the surface. Bonus: fat tire bikes ride well on mountainous terrain as well as on the road. Keep in mind that this type of bike will be heavier than a traditional bike. Also, wider tires increase friction, which decreases agility and handling.

Hybrid & Comfort

Great for paved trails and street riding, lightweight  hybrid bikes with slightly more narrow tires and multiple speeds provide an efficient ride that’s perfect for the fitness-conscious rider.  Comfort bikes are designed with soft saddles, suspension forks, and an upright riding geometry that keeps riders as comfortable as possible on their journey.

Cruiser

Ideal for a more relaxed ride, comfort and cruiser bikes are great for bike riding on paved roads or the street.  Cruiser bikes feature retro-styled frames, oversized spring saddles, and swept-back handlebars that come together to create a comfortable, upright riding position.

Road bikes

With narrow tires and a lightweight frame,  road bikes are ideal for the rider who’s most concerned with fitness and performance on the road.

Specialty

There are three types of bikes that fall into the specialty category:  adult tricycles, tandem bikes and electric bikes.

Tricycles for adults provide more stability for riders who are carrying heavy loads or for the elderly who may have medical considerations. Tricycles are available in multiple speeds, or as a single-speed folding, lightweight version. Most often, these tricycles feature comfort seats, larger wheels and a sizable basket.

Tandem bikes are bikes built for two riders and are all about fun. Whether used for short trips to the park or for longer journeys on the open road, tandem bikes allow for extra help on steep inclines and for one rider to take a break when the trip gets exhausting. Featuring two seats,, two sets of pedals, and two handlebars, tandem bikes are an easy way for two riders to spend a fun day together.

Electric bikes or e-bikes feature an integrated, rechargeable electric motor that can be used to assist in pedaling or can be used instead of pedaling. Electric bikes range in power and select models can reach speeds up to 25mph or more. Look for distinguishing features such a pedal-assist or throttle-controlled power-on-demand to determine which type fits your needs.

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Fitting an adult bicycle

When buying a bicycle, ensuring you get the right size will not only improve your comfort, but it will decrease the chances of an accident. Keep in mind, however, that sizing a bike for an adult requires different measurements than those needed for a child.

Sizing adults

  • Straddle the bicycle.
  • Note the clearance between your inseam and the top tube. There should be 1″ to 2″ of clearance between them.
  • Sit on the seat. You should not be able to stand flat-footed while seated.
  • If you can, raise the seat. Only your toes
Inseam Height Mountain bike frame size Mountain bike wheel size
Less than 27″ 5′ to 5’4″ 13″ Bikes with either 26″ or 29″ wheels may fit this size rider.
27″ to 29″ 5′ 3″ to 5′ 7″ 15″ Bikes with either 26″ or 29″ wheels may fit this size rider.
29″ to 31″ 5′ 6″ to 5′ 11″ 17″ Bikes with either 26″ or 29″ wheels may fit this size rider.
31″ to 33″ 5′ 10″ to 6′ 3″ 19″ Bikes with either 26″ or 29″ wheels may fit this size rider.
33″ to 35″ 6′ 2″ to 6′ 5″ 21″ Bikes with either 26″ or 29″ wheels may fit this size rider.
Greater than 35″ 6′ 4″ to 6′ 6″ 23″ Bikes with either 26″ or 29″ wheels may fit this size rider.

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Inseam Height Road bike frame size Road bike wheel size
Less than 27″ 5′ to 5’4″ 49 cm Bikes with 26″, 29″, and 700cc wheels may fit this rider.
27″ to 29″ 5′ 3″ to 5′ 7″ 52 cm Bikes with 26″, 29″, and 700cc wheels may fit this rider.
29″ to 31″ 5′ 6″ to 5′ 11″ 54 cm Bikes with 26″, 29″, and 700cc wheels may fit this rider.
31″ to 33″ 5′ 10″ to 6′ 3″ 56 cm Bikes with 26″, 29″, and 700cc wheels may fit this rider.
33″ to 35″ 6′ 2″ to 6′ 5″ 58 cm Bikes with 26″, 29″, and 700cc wheels may fit this rider.
Greater than 35″ 6′ 4″ to 6′ 6″ 61 cm Bikes with 26″, 29″, and 700cc wheels may fit ths rider.

Fitting a child’s bicycle

Kids’ bicycles are sized to take growth into consideration and therefore use a different size scale than adult bikes. Because kids change and grow so quickly, bikes are designed to accommodate this seemingly overnight change. The rims of the bike tires serve as a good measurement for size. Always buy a bike that fits your child at the time of purchase rather than one they can ‘grow into.’ If a bike is too big, it won’t provide a safe ride.

Approximate age Child’s inseam Child’s height Wheel size Comments
2-5 years 14″ to 17″ 26″ to 34″ 12″ Most come with training wheels, some are direct drive.
4-8 years 18″ to 22″ 34″ to 42″ 16″ Most have rear coaster breaks and pneumatic tires, some have front hand brakes.
6-9 years 20″ to 24″ 42″ to 48″ 18″ Not commonly available
7-10 years 22″ to 25″ 48″ to 50″ 20″ Some models are multi-speed with hand brakes.
Youth (9+ years) 24″ to 28″ 50″ and up 24″ Can have most of the features of adult bikes.

Balance bikes:

balance bike is a pedal-free training bike that helps kids learns to balance and steer for an easier transition to pedal bikes. Balance bikes, unlike tricycles and training wheels, allow kids learn to balance without assistance. Instead of pedaling, kids run the bike until they can coast along with their feet up.

Kids’ tricycles:

Tricycles are the bridge between ride-on toys and bicycles. Once children have outgrown their kids’ trikes, they can use their new skills on regular bicycles or balance bikes. Best suited for children aged 2 to 5.

Components & Accessories

Frame, fork, gears, and shifters are just some of the many components that make up your bike and will determine bicycle weight and handling. These are important factors when you consider your purpose for buying a bike and the rider’s ability.

Frame materials & fork construction

Steel frame

  • Best for recreational rider
  • Affordable
  • Strong
  • Flexible ride
  • Heavier weight

Aluminum frame

  • Best for long distances
  • Lightweight
  • Strong
  • Solid ride (less flexibility)

Rigid fork

  • Most often made of steel or aluminum
  • Responsive
  • Most often found on youth, freestyle and cruiser bikes

Springer fork

  • Retro front suspension to smooth the ride
  • Found on some cruiser bikes

Suspension fork

Shifters and gears

 A single-speed bike has no shifters and is best suited for comfortable, easy riding; common on cruiser and youth bikes.

  • A twist shifter allows riders to keep a grip on the handlebar while shifting; common on mountain bikes.
  • A trigger shifter allows precise gear changes and better performance; common on road bikes.
  • 1-speed (single speed): Best for casual riders; most often found on cruiser and youth bikes.
  • 7-speed: Allows for easier rides over a variety of terrain; most often found on cruiser and comfort bikes.
  • 21-speed: Gives you a wide variety of gear options for any kind of terrain, on-road or off-road; most often found on comfort, hybrid and mountain bikes.
  • 24-speed: Gives you lots of options for challenging terrain or off-road; most often found on mountain bikes.

Rims and brakes

  • Steel rims are a great value. They’re also durable and adjustable.
  • Mag wheels come in plastic or aluminum. They’re heavier for more aggressive riding.
  • Aluminum rims are rustproof, durable, lightweight and adjustable.

Coaster brakes

  • Easy to use
  • Pedal backward to activate
  • Most often found on cruiser and youth bikes

Caliper brakes

  • Smooth, reliable stopping
  • Most often found on youth and beginner bikes

Linear pull brakes

  • Better stopping power
  • Less hand fatigue
  • Responsive results

Disc brakes

  • Consistently powerful in all weather
  • High performance
  • Durable

Bike Accessories

What you do with your bike may also determine what little extras you’ll want to add to your bike. Consider these reasons to ride and the bike accessories to help you enjoy the trip.

Commuter

Do you use your bicycle to ride to and from work? To run errands? Here are the accessories you might need:

  • Storage for groceries, books or work material: Think about a messenger bag, backpack or bike basket.
  • Lights: If you might be riding at night or during times of low visibility, make sure drivers can see you.
  • Bike locks: Consider a cable lock or a U-lock for the best protection while your bike is unattended.
  • Repair equipment: A tire-repair kit and a pump that attaches to the frame are invaluable if you get a flat.

Health and wellness rider

Are you riding for exercise? Do you generally begin and end your ride in the same place? Some accessory suggestions:

  • Bike computer: Track your speed, distance and time to help with your training.
  • Water bottles and cages: Attach a cage (or two!) to your bike, and store water bottles to help keep you hydrated during rides.
  • Repair equipment: A tire-repair kit and a pump that attaches to the frame are invaluable if you get a flat.
  • Tools: Sometimes you hit a good bump and knock your seat a bit loose. Keep a toolkit on hand for any adjustments.

Recreational rider

Do you prefer to ride casually, at a relaxed pace — possibly with your family members and friends? Suggestions for the social rider:

  • Floor or frame pumps: Make sure to keep your tired properly inflated.
  • Locks: Consider a cable lock or a U-lock for the best protection while your bike is unattended.
  • Bells or horns: They come in all sorts of shapes and styles, and they also come in handy when you want to be heard.
  • Bicycle baskets: Baskets make it convenient and easy to carry small items while riding.

Helmets & Safety

Safety Checklist

  • Wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet.
  • Make sure the bike is the right size for you.
  • Check the tires to make sure they’re properly inflated.
  • Check the brakes to make sure they work.
  • Check and oil your chain regularly.
  • Wear neon colors or reflective tape.
  • Avoid riding at night. If you don’t have a choice, make sure you have reflectors or lights on your bike.
  • Watch for hazards, such as potholes, broken glass, puddles and dogs.
  • Control your bicycle. This means no “Look, Ma, no hands!”
  • Go with the flow of traffic. It’s the law.
  • Obey all traffic laws.
  • Obey traffic signs and signals.
  • Yield to traffic when appropriate.
  • Stay alert at all times.
  • Look behind you before turning.
  • Watch for parked cars and people getting into or out of vehicles.
  • Wear sneakers, not flip-flops, while riding.
  • Never ride barefoot.
  • Leave the earphones at home, so you remain aware of surroundings.

 

Choosing the right helmet

Helmets are designed to fit immediately. Don’t choose one to “grow into,” because it will not offer proper protection. It’s very important that a helmet be comfortable and has a snug fit. Look for a CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commisssion) sticker, which indicates the helmet has passed all U.S. testing standards.

There are two styles of bicycle helmets: microshell and hardshell. Microshell is lightweight and aerodynamic, with numerous vents to keep the rider cool. Hardshell is typically used by more aggressive riders and has limited venting.

Helmet features

Visor
  • Helps protect the rider’s eyes from the elements

Vents

  • Provides air flow to keep the rider cool
  • The more vents, the cooler the rider will be

Adjustment devices

  • Retention fitting at rear of the helmet creates a custom fit
  • Straps go under the rider’s chin and can be adjusted a variety of ways

Padding

  • With a variety of padding configurations, try them on to find the most comfortable fit

How to fit a helmet

  • The helmet should sit level and the fit should be snug enough to keep the helmet from moving.
  • Adjust the retention fit so that it sits snugly against the back of your head.
  • Adjust the straps.

1.             While the helmet is level to your head, fasten all straps so there is equal tension.

2.             Look up; the front edge of the helmet should be just visible.

3.             The side straps should meet in a “Y” just below the ear.

4.             The chin strap should be snug enough that when you open your mouth wide, the helmet will pull down slightly.

 Proper helmet care

  • Clean the shell, pads and retention system with mild soap, water and a non-abrasive cloth.
  • Don’t use cleaning solvents. They can damage the protective shell.
  • Keep the helmet away from extreme temperatures that might damage the shell.
  • Store the helmet in a cool, dry place that’s out of direct sunlight.
  • Reassess the helmet after three years.
  • Replace a helmet after any impact.