Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Hints For Purchasing A Bike

1. First, give some thought to what kind of riding you want to do, your level of experience, and your overall approach to cycling. Why do you want to ride? For fitness? Just for fun? Casually, or seriously? Where do you want to ride? Street, bike trail or off-road? How frequently do you plan to ride? The more you know what you want, the easier it will be to work with your local bike store to select a bicycle which will best suit your needs.

2. Find a good professional servicing bicycle dealer in your area. Many of the best belong to the National Bicycle Dealers Association, and display the NBDA membership sticker in their windows. Tell the professionals there what your desires are, and let them advise you on appropriate bicycles for your needs. Pick a store where you are comfortable, where you are treated with respect, and where they listen to you. Professional bicycle retailers can fit you properly to a bike, assemble it professionally, and give you the kind of advice and continuing service you need to ride safely and comfortably. Beware of retailers who do not have on-site service departments, or do not offer these kinds of services. They may not meet your needs. Visit NBDA's online dealer finder to find a professional bicycle retailer near you.

3. At most bike stores, you'll probably be seeing these kinds of bicycles:

  • Mountain bikes. These are rugged bikes for off-road use, but many people ride them on pavement as well. Mountain bikes feature fat knobby tires for comfort and traction, flat bars for great control, and low gears for easier hill climbing. Some mountain bikes have suspension for increased shock absorption. Do you need suspension? It depends on how and where you plan to ride.
  • Road bikes. These are meant for pavement riding, and are built for speed. They have narrower tires and drop bars for a more aerodynamic position.
  • Hybrid bikes. These are a cross between mountain bikes and road bikes -- for the rider who wants to do a little of everything. Hybrids generally have treaded tires which are narrower than mountain bike tires, flat bars, and higher gearing than mountain bikes. They're not quite as fast as road bikes on pavement, and not quite as rugged as mountain bikes on the road. They're good for commuting, and offer a compromise which appeals to a lot of people.
  • Cruisers. One-speed or multi-speed, cruisers are for the casual rider who wants to, well, cruise.
  • Juvenile bikes. These come in many varieties, from one-speed cruisers, to performance BMX bikes, to multi-speed mountain and road bikes.
  • Comfort bikes. These are specialized mountain bikes or hybrids with more upright riding positions, softer saddles and lower gearing. They’re built for, as the name implies, comfort, but are also designed to perform well.
  • Recumbents/tandems/electric assist bikes. There are numerous "niche" bicycles available today. Recumbents allow people to ride in a "recliner-chair" position with feet forward. Tandems allow two riders on a bike. Also, a number of companies are offering bicycles with electric-assist motors.

4. The size of the bicycle is critical for comfortable riding. Work with your retailer to determine the proper size for you. Some bicycle models have eight or more sizes. The length of your inseam determines the correct frame size, in terms of stand-over height. The reach to the bars is also critical for comfort. Ask your bicycle dealer to recommend a proper fit for you based on the kind of riding you'll be doing. What's comfortable for one style of rider may not be for another. Like a shirt, fit is very important for comfort and security.

5. Buy what you like. Feel good about what you're buying, how it looks, how it rides. Ask to take a test ride to compare bikes. If you haven't ridden a dealer-quality bicycle before, be prepared to be surprised at the exceptional value and quality available today. We also advise that if you're in doubt, buy the slightly better bike. There's a lot of value in bicycles these days, and a little more money spent can equal significantly improved performance and resale value.

6. Ask the bike store for advice on things you may not understand, such as quick-release operation, shifting, braking, maintenance, etc. If you want to find other local cyclists in your area to ride with, ask the shop for reference to clubs or organized rides. Be sure to receive an owner's manual with the bicycle, and read it. Owner's manuals contain valuable information to help make your experience safer and more fun.

7. Ask for advice on other equipment you may need or want. Buy a helmet first, and wear it. There are many other products which can enhance the riding experience (see related article). There are numerous books and magazines available to help you educate yourself about the nuances of cycling.

8. Have fun, and ask your bike retailer if you have problems or questions. If you're not receiving the kind of service you want, look for another retailer. There are 5,300 specialty bike stores in the United States, and the vast majority serve their customers with dedication and flair. When you find one, that store can be your greatest ally for enjoying the cycling experience.

Tips On Buying A Bike

by Vicki Pierson,
Personal Trainer

You’ve made the decision to buy a bike. Now it’s time to start seriously gathering information on how to select the best style for your needs and get a good fit. Here’s some tips that will help you purchase the right bike for your needs.

Know Your Type
First, you’ll need to decide what you want to use the bike for. Where will you be riding your bike most, on road, off road, or both? The answer will help you determine the type of bike to purchase. There are five basic types of bicycles in three categories that you need to be aware of:

  • Road Bikes. They used to be known as the "ten-speed," however road bikes now range from 12 to 21 speed. Within this category of bikes are touring, racing, and sport bikes.
      Touring Bike. This bike is not built for speed, rather, it’s designed to provide comfort for the long haul. A touring bike is an excellent bike for long distance riding. The drop handlebars provide comfort, good control and allow for multiple hand positions. Twenty one speeds will take you over any type of incline you’ll encounter and cantilever brakes can stop you even when you’re heavily loaded down.

      Racing Bike. This bike is built for speed, sporting an aerodynamic, thin and ultralight frame. A short wheelbase allows the bike to respond to the slightest movements and 12 or 18 gears will get you, and keep you, at top speed. If you’re into winning races, this is the bike for you.

      Sport Bike. This bike falls between the touring and racing bike. Not as light as a racing bike but more responsive than the touring bike. The sport bike’s drop handlebars provide comfort and control and the aerodynamic design allows for faster speeds. If you’re into taking rides of 10 or more miles while turning up the intensity by adding some speed, this bike can take you there.

  • Mountain or All Terrain Bike. This bike is rugged. Built with a sturdy frame, straight handlebars and fat, knobby tires, it can tackle the rigors of off road riding. The upright riding position on the bike makes it comfortable while giving you leverage for steep inclines.

  • Hybrid Bike. This bike is a cross between the road bike and mountain bike. It’s lighter than a mountain bike, but not as fast as a road bike. Straight handlebars, medium-width tires, 21 gears, and upright riding position makes the bike perfect for short distances, running errands or commuting.

    The Perfect Fit
    Once you know which type bike you want, make sure the bike you select fits you properly. There’s essentially two ways to accomplish a good fit. If you want a perfect fit, for about $50, have a quality bicycle shop calculate your bike size using a computerized program called the Fit Kit. They’ll take various measurements such as, length of your legs, torso and arms then give you a printout of your measurements and which frame height and length best suits your body.

    The second best way to get a good bike fit is to follow these guidelines:

  • Frame Height. Straddle the bike. You should have one to two inches of clearance between the top bar of the bike and your crotch, three to four inches if you’re going to be riding on off-road terrain. If you want to be a little more exact, measure your inseam, straddle the bike, pick it up until the top bar touches your crotch, then measure the distance between the bottom of the tires and ground.

  • Frame Lengths. Be sure when you sit on the bike you can comfortably reach the handlebars. If the handlebars are too far away you won’t have adequate control, if they’re too close you’ll be uncomfortable and tire easily.

  • Seat and Handlebar Adjustment. A quality bike shop will make the necessary adjustments for you to fine tune the fit of the bike. A critical adjustment is seat height. Your knee should have a 25-30 degree bend when the ball of your foot is on the pedal at its lowest position. The handlebars should be one inch lower than, or the same height as, the seat. Check to be sure you can comfortably reach the brakes and that the width of the handlebars are approximately the width of your shoulders.

  • Take a Test Ride. Just like purchasing a car, this is where the rubber meets the road. You should feel comfortable and in control. Your elbows should be relaxed with a slight bend and squeezing the brake levers should be easily accomplished. Slide your rear back off the saddle, stand up on the pedals, flex and round your back, and move your hands to various positions on the handlebars to assure you can move around on the bike easily while it’s in motion.

    Once you select the bike to purchase, you’ll want to get some accessories to go with it. Most important is a helmet. You may also want to consider a tire pump, tube repair kit, pressure gauge, seat pack, water bottle and cage and a lock. The bicycle shop can help you select these and install them on your bike. Depending on how much you spend on your bike, you may be able to convince the salesperson to throw in some of the accessories at no charge.

    Enjoy the ride.

    "How to Buy the Perfect Bike", Fitness, October, 1996 p.76
    Buying a Bike: Rec.Bicycles FAQ Part 2/5 at http://www.cis.ohio-state.edu/hypertext/faq/usenet-faqs/html/bicycles-faq/
    A Bike That Fits at http://www.geocities.com/Colosseum/2737/fit.htm

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