How to Choose the Perfect Bike – Factors That You Should Be Considering
In this article, we’re talking about choosing the perfect bicycle.
While it may seem like a relatively simple decision, you might find yourself quickly overwhelmed by all of the options that are available on the market. There are so many types of bikes for different types of riding, and they all have a pretty significant gap in price. Simply put, you might not even know where to start!
We’re here for you with this guide. In this guide, we’re giving you everything you need to know about bikes. We’re going to cover each bike type, the different components of a good bicycle, bike size, wheel size, and how you can make the perfect decision to match your needs. Think of this as your guide to picking the perfect bike for you. Because it’s not about which bike is “best,” it’s about which bike is best for you!
Choosing a Bike – Factors to Consider
Let’s jump right into it. We’re going to help you make the perfect decision as to which bike is best for you. However, in order to do this, you’re really going to need some preliminary information about bikes in general. Before you can pick the perfect bike, you need to understand each bike type, and how each is suitable to different types of bike riding.
First – Type of Bike
We’re starting this guide with a general outline of the different types of bikes on the market. Biking is a very broad category these days, and different types of bikes address entirely different types of riding. So before you can pick the best bike for you, you’ll need to settle on the type of bike that you actually need.
There are so many types of bikes that it’s difficult to even settle on a general list of categories, but here are most of the more common types of bicycles you will encounter:
First up we have the mountain bike. Mountain bikes are durable bikes which are designed for off-road riding. This includes trails, hills, rocks, and more. Mountain bikes are specially designed to excel in these conditions, with their strong frame, a wider tire, and capable suspension. If you are planning to do mostly off-road and difficult terrain, then this is the right bike choice.
But even within this general category, there are several types you will want to consider:
One of the main aspects that makes a mountain bike suitable for off-road riding is the front suspension. Suspension is a spring-like mechanism which acts to absorb impact on the wheels of the bike, and spring it back into place. The result is a smoother ride, and an easier time handling difficult obstacles such as hills, rocks, drops, jumps, and more.
“Hardtail” mountain bikes refer to the fact that they only have suspension on the front wheels (thus making the tail “hard”). The suspension on hardtail mountain bike is located on either side of the “fork” which supports the front wheel.
The hardtail is probably the most popular type of mountain bike or BMX bike on the market. Although it lacks some of the suspension found in a full-suspension model, it is still more than suitable for most types of riding. It also tends to be significantly less expensive than a full-suspension model, and less maintenance is required due to there only being suspension on the front wheel.
Full suspension mountain bikes include suspension on both the front and back wheels. They are like hardtails, only with suspension which supports the back wheel as well. Full suspension MTBs are able to absorb impact on both wheels, which makes them more suitable for absorbing heavier and tougher terrain.
While full-suspension is typically more capable, they are usually only suitable for serious riders. This is in large part due to the big price tag. These bikes tend to be much more expensive, and can range in the tens of thousands of dollars. Additionally, they require more maintenance due to the extra moving parts involved.
Mountain biking is an extensive area of biking. As such, we can’t simply categorize it into hardtail vs. full-suspension. The truth is that, even within these two categories of MTB, there are different bikes which are developed for different disciplines of mountain biking.
There are cross-country mountain bikes, which are typically used for long distance trail riding. These bikes can adeptly handle hills, rocks, and trails, but are designed to be comfortable over long distances.
There are also downhill mountain bikes. These bikes are designed with maximum suspension, in order to handle the advanced terrain found in downhill mountain biking courses. This includes steep drops, uneven rocks, jumps, and more.
Then there is the enduro MTB, which sits somewhere in between. Think of this an all-around mountain bike. Meant to handle hill climbs, downhills, and long distances. This is great for an inexperienced mountain biker who has not yet settled on a preferred discipline.
In stark contrast to the mountain bike is the road bike. While the mountain bike is designed for uneven terrain, the road bike is designed for smooth, paved roads. A road bike is designed to be ridden for long distances at high-speeds, with thin wheels and a flat handlebar. It is the preferred bike of racers, commuters who need a city bike, and exercise enthusiasts alike.
Road bikes are excellent for long distance rides due to their extremely lightweight frames and components, as well as narrow, high-pressure tires which allow minimum rolling resistance. Additionally, the handlebars a “dropped down”, which has a forward-leaning riding position to increase aerodynamics. It’s meant for smooth roads and is not meant to be confused as a gravel bike. Just like the mountain bike, there are several categories of road bike on the market, which we will examine next:
Touring road bikes might appear very similar to regular road bikes, but there are some important differences which make them suitable for their primary purposes – touring. Touring is a long distance bike ride, which may even involve several days of biking. As a result, a touring bike is built to be able to carry the supplies you will need for a successful tour.
The bikes are strong and durable, often due to their aluminum or carbon fiber frame. They also have stronger wheels, and more braking power. They also have a wider wheel base, which provides more stability for a longer ride. They are also meant to be ridden in a more upright position, which is more comfortable over the long haul.
Touring bikes also have special features designed to allow you to carry supplies. This often includes a rear rack, extra water bottle holders, and even the ability to install extra racks if needed. All things said, these bikes are ideal if you are a commuter, or like to use your bike for extended trips.
Some road bikes are designed to be used specifically for competitive purposes. This means that they are designed to go the furthest distance in the least time possible.
Racing road bikes have a few notable features which make them especially adept for speed and distance. They are ultra-lightweight, with carbon fiber and sometimes even titanium frames. They have large wheel diameters and very responsive brakes. The handlebars are dropped to allow maximum aerodynamics for the rider.
You need to really know that you require a bike of this magnitude. Because, simply put, these tend to be extremely expensive. If you’re looking at a high-end racing bike, it can cost you as much as a car! Additionally, they are simply not practical for every-day riding. They are not the most comfortable ride, and they are not equipped to carry the various things you may need to haul around.
A cyclocross is sort of a “middle-ground” type of road bike. They are meant to handle a variety of uneven terrain, including gravel, dirt, and bumpy road. While nowhere near as adept as a mountain bike, it is a good choice for the road biker who doesn’t always find themselves on smooth pavement.
These bikes are a bit more durable than your average road bike. They have wider tires to grip different terrains, and powerful brakes which work on slippery or muddy terrain. The handle bars are not quite as “dropped” to allow a more comfortable seating position.
Cyclocross bikes are adept for the rider who wants a road bike, but isn’t going to be just riding on roads. If your daily commute has uneven terrain, then this would be more what you are looking for. They’re nowhere near as off-road capable as a mountain bike, but they’re great for a specific type of rider.
From mountain biking to road biking – two opposite ends of the biking spectrum. Are you a rider who wants to go off-road and hit the trails? Or do you prefer a smooth road ride? Of course, there is always the possibility that you (like many other riders) fit neatly into neither category! And that is what the hybrid bicycle is built for.
The hybrid bike is the best of both worlds. It incorporates features of both a road bike and a mountain bike, which makes it adept for all types of terrain. If you don’t know what your specialty is, or you simply want to purchase one type of bike, this is for you.
These bikes tend to have wide tires which make them suitable for various terrain. They generally have a durable frame and adaptable brakes. They are meant to be ridden in an upright position, which generally makes for a more comfortable ride. These bikes can come with or without suspension, depending on the make and model.
And that’s not all! Although hybrid, road, and mountain bikes are the most popular types of bikes, there are various other specialty bikes meant for various other types of riding. Let’s examine some here:
First up is the fat tire bike. These bikes have especially large (or “fat”) tires which are meant for maximum grip and off-road capabilities. These bikes are suitable for even ice and snow! These are ideal if you want to ride a bike in the winter, or just for novelty purposes.
An electric bike (or E-bike) is a popular type of bike that is taking the world by storm. These bikes can be ridden like a traditional bike using the pedals, but also include electric capabilities which “assist” the pedaling, making it easier for the rider to get up to speed. Typically, e-bikes either assist the rider up to a certain speed, or have an option for completely automatic riding with a throttle. There are even some bikes which can do both.
That’s not all! There are many other bikes for different types of specialty displines. This includes BMX bikes, tandem bikes, seated trikes, unicycles, and more! While most people will gravitate toward one of the more traditional bikes above, there is certainly the option for a more specialty type of bike if you are interested.
When you start shopping for a bike, you might run into a lot of terms you don’t quite understand. Bikes are complicated machines. And when you start hearing terms like “suspension”, “gears”, “wheel diameter”, and more, you might get a little overwhelmed.
In this section, we’re giving you the basics of these bike components. This is meant as a beginner introduction to many of the main components of a bicycle, so that you can shop for a bike more knowledgeably. This will help you differentiate between different bicycles within the same category, and help you to make tell which bikes are high quality and which aren’t.
The first thing you might wonder about a bike is how big you need it to be. Bikes come in all shapes and sizes for different riders. Typically, the size of the frame will be the main differentiator which makes a bike suitable for larger or smaller riders. It is actually quite complicated to give one general rule for bike sizing. This is due to the many different types of bikes on the market, and the different sizing guidelines for each.
We recommend that you get professionally fitted for a bike before you purchase. Getting the right size is key to ensuring that your bike isn’t hard on your joints and muscles. A bike fitting will be based on your height and weight, and will ensure that you get the perfect bike for your needs.
Another feature you will encounter when bike shopping is “suspension”. This is an especially important feature in mountain bikes, as we discussed above.
Suspension is the part of bike that is manufactured to absorb the impact felt from riding over different harsh or uneven terrain. The suspension absorbs the impact at the wheels, and gives a smoother experience to the rider. Suspension is essentially a “spring-like” mechanism, which contracts to absorb impact, and springs the bike back into place to stabilize the rider. Suspension is most often located on the “fork” which stabilizes the front wheel, but can also be found at the back wheel.
Suspension uses either air pressure or an actual coil of spring to achieve the absorption and the bounce-back effect.
The frame is very important in deciding many aspects of the bike’s overall ride. The material used to make the bike frame largely determines the weight of the bike, which has a major impact on speed and maneuverability. It also determines the durability and strength of the bike itself.
Higher end frame materials include carbon fiber and titanium. These are very lightweight, but significantly increase the price of the bike. Many bikes have aluminum frames, which is generally lightweight, and suitable enough for most riders (and less expensive). Of course, the frame material also differs based on the type of bike you are looking to buy. For example, a lightweight frame is more important in a high-end road bike.
A groupset is a fancy name for many of the components that are necessary for a bike to function properly. This includes the brakes, gears, crankset, chain, cogset, brake levers, and more. These are components which assist with crucial tasks of the bike, including braking, gear shifting, and general riding.
As a bike buyer, it isn’t really necessary to go into the exact complexities of what each component does. After all, basically every bike will have these features, so it won’t really be a differentiating factor. Rather, you should simply focus on the quality of these parts. Usually, a groupset is all provided by a specific manufacturer. As long as your groupset is quality and well-manufactured, then it’s all you really need to know.
Tires & Wheels
The tires and wheels are an essential part of any bike buyer’s decision, and they make a massive difference in the type of bike riding you can do. Generally speaking, wider bike tires allow you to ride on more varied types of terrain, including terrain which is bumpier or uneven. Wider wheel diameters also allow the bike to go faster, and are also more adept for off-road purposes.
The “wheelbase” is the horizontal distance between the center of each wheel. The wider the base, the more stable the bike ride will tend to be. While a narrower wheelbase will allow for a more maneuverable bike.
So we’ve covered the different types of bikes, and we’ve covered the main components you should know in bike purchasing. You might now have one question on your mind – what’s the best bike on the market? The truth is that there is no “best” bike for everyone, there is only a best bike for you!
Therefore, in this section we’re giving you the top factors to consider in order to pick your new bike. Consider these options, and then compare them to the types of bikes above, and we are confident you will make the right choice.
Price vs. Quality
First up, it’s no secret that bikes come with a pretty wide range of potential price tags. You can spend anywhere from hundreds, to thousands, to tens of thousands on a bike! We think that a better metric is price vs. quality. You need to consider how much you are willing to spend, but you also need to consider how much quality you want to get for that price.
It is best to think of a bike as an investment. Provided you do your research, you can expect to get a higher quality bike for a higher price tag. This bike will last you longer, and also be more suitable to your riding style. So consider what a good bike is actually worth to you, rather than simply comparing based on price.
Next up, the best way to decide what type of bike you want is to evaluate how you will actually be using your bike. This includes how you will be using it now, and how you hope to use it in the future. Do you prefer city riding or off-road riding? Is this for a commute or for a hobby? Are you interested in becoming a competitive biker?
These are all questions you need to ask yourself to decide how you actually want to use your bike. The best type of bike is really just the bike that matches up to the way you use it!
Thanks so much for reading our comprehensive guide to buying a bike! As you can probably tell, this is no simple decision. The world of biking is vast, with a bike built for pretty much anything you can imagine. We hope that this article has helped to give you a basic knowledge on the types of bikes, but also helped you to decide which type would be best for you. We aimed to give you knowledge, and also to help you make the perfect decision.
Good luck purchasing your brand new bike!
For further reading, check out our bike storage ideas.