Sunday, August 03, 2008

How to Buy your First Bicycle

Buying your first bicycle as an adult can be a daunting process. Whether you’re looking to buy a fast road bike with drop, racing-style handlebars or a fat-tire hybrid with straight bars, here are a few pointers to help you in your search.

The most important thing you should look for in a new bike is how you feel when you’re on it. Look for a bicycle that makes you feel good when you test ride it. Don’t just ride around the parking lot. Bring your bike shorts, shoes and helmet and test each bike for a good 5 or 10-mile ride.

If you’re a woman, look at models designed specifically for you, such as those by Terry, Trek, Fuji and Specialized. Women tend to be shorter, and have smaller hands and longer legs in proportion to their bodies than men. Get a bike made with all that in mind.

You should be able to stand flat-footed over the bike without touching the frame. If you can’t, then it’s too big and you won’t be safe riding it. Go down to a smaller size.

The bike shop should first adjust the seat for your height, set the handlebars even with your seat, and then show you how to use the brakes and shifters. Then you should ride the bike and think about how you feel. Do you feel safe? In control? Can you reach the brakes and shifters comfortably? Is your back relaxed? Try cycling up a hill. Can you shift into a gear that makes it easy enough to pedal? If you have trouble with the shifting, turn around and try it again until you get it right.

After a couple miles, do you notice any discomfort? Do your arms ache from stretching? Do your legs feel cramped for space? Do you find yourself squirming to find the right position? If so, then try a different bike. When you find the right bike, you’ll know it. Your body will tell you.

You’ll notice that I’m not suggesting you buy a steel or carbon fiber or aluminum bicycle frame. Or to worry about the wheel size, handlebar shape or type of components. What is most important is that the bike fits you and makes you feel good. The better you feel, the more you’ll ride.

Before you know it, you’ll be thinking about buying your second bike, and that’s a whole other blog entry - for later.

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