How to Find the Bike That’s Right for You
Before buying a new bike, it’s important to think about the type of riding you’re interested in and how much you’re planning on riding. There are various types of bikes that allow riders to be more comfortable, faster and more efficient on different terrain. Here is a breakdown of the general categories of bikes and what they are best suited for.
Road bikes with drop bars and skinny tires are the most efficient for smooth, paved roads and paths. They are excellent commuting bikes. They also offer a variety of hand positions, which can make for a more comfortable ride if you’re planning on riding for longer periods of time.
Next is the gravel or cyclocross bike. Both are very similar. The cyclocross bikes tend to be a bit more aggressive and forward with lower positioning in the front end, while the gravel bikes will give you a more upright position. They both offer wider tires with knobs to improve grip on surfaces other than pavement. They also perform quite well on the pavement, but will have a higher rolling resistance since the tread on the tires is made for off-road performance. If you’re looking for a bike that’s a good all-rounder, this bike could be the one for you. It’s also quite easy to learn to swap out the tires to more aggressive treads for slick, muddy rides or smoother treads for road-style riding.
Mountain bikes are yet another category that allow for off-road riding. These bikes typically perform the worst in terms of speed on the road, but they’re the most efficient for bumpy and rocky trails. The larger volume of air in the tires means that they can take on more intense terrain and give a smoother, more comfortable ride on rocks and gravel. These bikes are great for shorter distances and rougher terrain.
Track bikes, fixed gear and single-speed bikes are also quite popular on the road, typically in urban settings that are quite flat. People often use them on the track for competitive cycling, but they’re less useful for hilly or off-road riding. These bikes tend to be less expensive since there are less mechanical features and moving parts. In general, they are less versatile when it comes to commuting due to the lack of gearing. If you are in a very flat area and are looking for a quality bike for a low price, this might be the bike for you.
Another category is hybrid bikes, which are a “hybrid” between mountain bikes and gravel bikes, but with a smooth tread on the tires similar to road bikes. They are most useful on bike trails that are paved or have well-groomed gravel. These bikes are typically heavier, so very hilly routes can become quite difficult. Hybrids are good for casual riders who want a lower price bracket and don’t necessarily need a high-performance bike.
BMX bikes are also popular, especially for younger people. They allow for mixed surface riding due to the wider tires, but they are not good for extended distances because of the lack of efficiency. BMX bikes are also great for street riding, especially on uneven surfaces and parking lots. Locally, Cedar BMX Track in the Clarks Summit/Newton-Ransom area allows beginners and skilled riders to take laps on the course and race to improve their skills.
The last main category of bikes are time trial or triathlon bikes. Because they’re speed-oriented, they put you in an aggressive position designed for improved aerodynamics. This forward and low position puts you on the aero extensions that do not have a breaking lever, which can be dangerous. These bikes are typically used on flat roads away from traffic.
When it comes to purchasing your first bike, knowing roughly what type of riding you’re interested in will be very beneficial. Bike shop employees should be able to give you an idea on your options in store. For all of these different bikes, there should be different price levels based on the technology and the materials used to create the frame and the rest of the components, including shifters, brake levers and so on. More entry-level bikes will be made out of a metal alloy, while higher-end bikes will be made mainly of carbon fiber to improve stiffness and weight.
Cycling can sometimes be expensive. But, I typically tell people that it’s better to get a bike that’s a little bit more expensive compared to a department store bike because there are tangible performance benefits. Performance isn’t just for competitive cyclists—these benefits can make riding more enjoyable for casual, non-competitive riders too.
Your local bike shop or cycling club can help you figure out what type of bike is best for you. You can always reach out to NEPA Velo on Facebook with any questions related to cycling, including what to look for in your first bike.