Having a bike is almost becoming cooler than having a new Mercedes. OK, maybe I’m exaggerating just slightly. Biking is at least making a comeback because it’s sometimes faster than sitting in traffic if you live in a small town or a compact city, it’s better for the environment, and a bike is cheaper because it doesn’t guzzle gas. Because biking is becoming cool again, though, there are more types of bikes than there have been in a long time. There are road bikes, mountain bikes, commuting bikes, and more. So, here’s a simple breakdown of what kind of bicycle is best for you and where you can find it without breaking the bank.
It’s right for you if: You plan to do a lot of fast riding on smooth pavement, and you’re a relatively experience biker. Most road bikes have dropped handlebars, which allow you to lean forward and increase your efficiency by becoming more aerodynamic, according to Century Cycles. Most people find them uncomfortable on any kind of terrain that isn’t paved, because they have thin, light tires that aren’t designed for off-road terrain. Most of them can’t carry heavy loads or mount cargo, but some, such as the flat-bar road bikes, can carry a bit more weigh and have wider tires in case you’re forced to veer off pavement for a short time. If you live in an area that doesn’t get much snow or ice, then this bike will work well for you.
Avoid it if: You don’t like the leaning far forward position, you plan to just use the bike for weekend riding or short-distance errands, you want to carry a heavy load in a bike rack, you live in an area that gets a lot of snow, you want to take the bike off pavement very often.
It’s right for you if: You want to ride your bike mostly off of the pavement. You tried mountain biking with some friends and now you’re completely addicted. You live in an awesome area with lots of mountain biking trails. If you want a lightweight bike that won’t be a pain to lug into the office, then maybe opt for a road bike or a hybrid (below). Mountain bikes are often heavier, because they’ve got all the gadgets and cool suspension and gears. If you think you might want to do lots of mountain biking, but you also want to ride the bike to work, you can outfit a mountain bike to be a better commuter bike. Unfortunately, though, most road bikes used for commuting cannot become mountain bikes unless their frame allows you to change the tires. But then you have to have a different new set of tires. Mountain bikes, which feature wider tires that offer more traction than road bikes, are better for winter riding in areas that get a lot of snow.
Avoid it if: You don’t want to lug around a heavy bike, or you don’t see yourself riding a bike on anything other than a road or a bike path.
It’s right for you if: You just want to run errands around town. You prefer a wider seat and higher handle bars so that you’re sitting in a more upright position. You will mostly be riding on paved paths or well-worn dirt paths, but you won’t be doing any heavy off-road riding. There’s a specific type of hybrid bike, call a performance hybrid bike, that is very similar to a flat-bar road bike. It allows you to ride a little longer distances than what you might do on a short errand, and it features a few gears and good tires for mild unpaved paths. Hybrid bikes would work well for year-round riding if you live in an area that doesn’t get much snow.
Avoid it if: You want to do a lot of year-round riding and you live in an area that gets heavy snow. You want to do more off-road riding than the occasional non-paved path.
Where You Can Find A Deal
Any of the above types of bicycles can easily run around $1,000 or more. If you’re looking for a deal, check your local bike shop, Craigslist, Bikesdirect.com, Freecycle.org, or a used sporting goods store, like Play It Again Sports. You can also drive around on a Sunday morning and look for garage sales. Happy biking!