How to Choose a Bike for the Spring

Prepare the right way for your new spring hobby
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Springtime is a symbol of new beginnings. As the warm weather melts the winter blues away and you start to think of ways to get in shape for the summer, consider picking up cycling. It’s an easy and affordable way to get healthy and enjoy the outdoors.

But now you have to buy a bike, and that can be as complicated as rocket science.

Purpose

“The most important thing about buying a bike is knowing what you want to do with it,” Emily Thibodeau from Hub Bicycle says. “It’s just a tool to get a job done,” she adds. Decide whether you want a bicycle for fitness, racing or commuting to work.

Once you have a clear understanding of that, it’s time for a comprehensive bike fitting, according to Marty Miserandino from Fit Werx. This is key. “The bike fitting not only optimizes their position, but it also determines the kind of bike, size of the bike and set up of the bike including saddle height, fore and aft position, stem length and rise and more, “ he adds.

Size

Determining the right size is also important. “Many companies have a general biking system,” Thibodeau says. Some changes may have to be made at contact points of the bike so it works well for you.

Miserandino adds that while some shops base their recommendations on someone's height, it is not the proper way to determine the size and set up. “Going through a rider first bike fitting, in which the bike fitter uses a dynamic size cycle like a Purely Custom, is the best way to determine the right size and set up,” he says. Based on a person’s position, experts can determine the geometry of the bike, the size of the bike and all of the key set points such as saddle height, crank length, handlebar width, stem length and rise, and drop, Miserandino adds.  

Test ride

There isn’t a magic formula for sizing, but test rides can do wonders. “They are really important,” Thibodeau says. “You have to get a feel for the ride, pedals, handle bars.” Most shops have a loop where you can try bikes out, she adds.

But test rides can also be tricky. “If you test ride a bike in the wrong position, then you will not get a true sense of what the bike can do,” Miserandino says. “Also, if you're test riding multiple bikes that have different equipment and they're set up differently that will throw off the ride as well.” The bike fitting allows the client to experience the position and how their new bike will be set up. 

Frame and wheels

Frame is the most important part of the bike, Thibodeau says. “Breaks, tires, seat, drips and tapes will wear out and can be replaced,” she adds. You have to start with a good “skeleton.”

Wheels are next. “We always recommend the bike fitting, then the frame and fork, wheels and then the components,” Miserandino says. “Once we know what is most important to the client, where they plan to ride, their goals, etc. the bike fitting information then determines the rest.”

The bike category

There are a lot of categories of bikes – hybrids, mountain bikes, crossovers. “These days some manufacturers such as Moots and Parlee offer bikes in the adventure or gravel grinder categories. These bikes are great to take on unpaved roads such as old rail trails or on regular roads,” Miserandino says. You can coast along or you can ride them hard.  While they lack the suspension of a mountain bike, you can ride lots of difference terrain.  In the end, you want to choose the right bike for the right terrain.               

Thibodeau says that there really isn’t a multipurpose bike. “I wish there was a perfect bike.” “It’s like having shoes: You can ballet in boots but you won’t be comfortable or pretty.”

Hybrid vs Comfort bikes

Hybrids will take care of the most needs for casual bikers,” she adds. “They won’t be fast though.” Comfort bikes have room for wider tires, which can be more comfortable. These kinds of bicycles generally have more upright riding position. With them, you are capable of going longer distances.

Gearing

Depending on the style of riding, many road bikes are now coming with 11 speed gearing, Miserandino says. “It's really important for the shop to understand the person's goals, riding experience, and how they plan to use the bike.

It depends where you’re going to be riding, Thibodeau says. “If it’s in a heavy area, you want options for lower speed gearing.”  

More readings: 

10 Best Road Bikes of 2015

The 50 Best Bike Shops in America 2015

8 of the Most Common Cycling Injuries and How to Prevent Them

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