Cycling gear | 7 MIN READ

How to choose the right bicycle

Bicycles are becoming increasingly popular in modern culture. Not only are they used for exercise and recreation, but they are also an environmentally friendly mode of daily transportation. For millions of people all over the world, bikes are the preferred method to commute to work. Recreationally, bikes are enjoyed by many both leisurely and through professional sports. Mountain biking, road racing, triathlon, and cyclocross are just a few ways for you to enjoy a bicycle. Whatever your needs and interests may be, there is almost certainly a bike for it.

Velosurance would love to help you choose the best bike for your needs. Let’s learn about main types of bikes.

Types of bicycles

Road bikes

“Road bike” is a term used to describe a bicycle that is specifically meant for riding on paved roads. These types of bikes are commonly used in racing in Grand Tour events such as Tour de France and Giro d’Italia. Road bikes are designed and built for performance on pavement, but due to the individual needs of each rider, different subtypes of road bikes exist.

Racing bikes. There are two main factors that are considered in the design of racing bikes: speed and weight. These bikes will usually require more aggressive position from the rider. Inexperienced riders might encounter lower back and shoulder pain when riding these for extended distances.

road bike

Touring bikes differ greatly from racing bikes in that touring bikes are designed to be more comfortable. These bikes often feature flat handlebars which results in a more upright position of the rider. It is also common for these bikes to have fenders to protect the rider from debris and panniers to carry cargo. Due to the heavier components used on touring bikes, they tend to be more durable.

Other than road racing and touring, road bikes are also used for fitness riding, commuting and long-distance rides. A proper fitting procedure is required when buying a road bike.

Price range: $500 - $20,000
Best for: pavement roads
Best uses: racing, fitness cycling

Mountain bikes

A mountain bike is a type of bike that is typically ridden off-road. It's built for control while riding gravel roads, rocky mountain trails, and dirt trails. The sturdy suspension system is perhaps one of the most important features of a mountain bike, as it is what allows a rider to ride through various natural obstacles like drops, jumps, roots, stones, and mud. The suspension system of a mountain bike absorbs much of the shock, making it a safer and more comfortable riding option when exploring off-road terrain.

mountain bike

Mountain bikes are usually heavier but more compact than road bikes and usually feature smaller frames and smaller wheels along with knobby tires and disc brakes. Mountain bikes have their own sub-categories, such as downhill bikes, cross-country bikes, and fat-tire bikes that are designed for specific off-road activities. There are three common wheel sizes for mountain bikes: 26, 27.5 (650b) and 29 inches

Despite the name, mountain bikes are not restricted to off-road use. Like a touring road bike with a flat handlebar, a mountain bike can be used for commuting, too.

Price range: $400 - $10,000
Best for: off-road, rocky trails and dirt trails
Best uses: mountain biking (cross country, downhill)

Comfort/hybrid bikes

Hybrid bikes, commonly referred to as “comfort bikes,” are mainly used for recreational rides in areas where there are no serious obstacles, but also ride well on gravel roads due to the size of tires. These bikes are great choices for commuting and leisurely rides with the family. Most modern hybrid bikes feature a front wheel suspension to make the ride on small bumps as smooth as possible. These bikes usually make great starter bikes as they fill a “happy medium” in many categories, such as price, utility, speed and comfort.

comfort bike

Price range: $400 - $2,000
Best for: pavement and limited off-road
Best uses: recreational riding

Commuting bikes

As the name suggests, these bikes are specifically designed for commuting. They feature rugged, durable frames designed to withstand heavy city use. Other terms that are applied to this category of bicycles are “urban bike ” or “city bike”. Commuting bikes are ridden in a more comfortable upright position, allowing the rider to see further and to be seen by others. It is very common for commuting bikes to have features like lighting systems, chain guards, and racks. High-end commuter bikes are also equipped with hydraulic disc brakes to handle emergency braking situations better.

commuter bike

Price range: $500 - $3000
Best for: pavement and limited off-road
Best uses: commuting

Electric-assist bikes

The main characteristic of an electric-assist bicycle is the battery-powered motor, which not only eases your daily commute, but reduces the effort required when climbing hills or if your bike is carrying a heavy load. Urban and cargo bikes are the ones that get the electric-assist treatment most often.

ebike

Price range: $700 - $8,000
Best for: pavement and limited off-road
Best uses: commuting, recreational rides

Folding bikes

This type of bicycles is ideal for a commuter who is limited in storage space. They are usually lightweight and become very compact when folded. Some models even come with a large carrying bag, a good choice for people who like to travel. While folding and unfolding such a bicycle is a relatively quick process, the downside of this type of bike is its generally low speed and possibly diminished maneuverability. Folding bikes usually have smaller wheels, which limits their usability to smooth paved roads.

tern bike

Price range: $250 - $2,500
Best for: pavement
Best uses: commuting

Cargo bikes

Cargo bikes are bicycles designed specifically around an urban environment with the goal of replacing a personal automobile. These bikes are rather large, capable of carrying groceries and often up to three kids. Cities with well-developed bicycle infrastructure, like Portland, OR, make it quite feasible to replace a car with a cargo bike.

yuba v3

Price range: $500 - $6,000
Best for: pavement
Best uses: commuting

Women's bikes

A “women’s bike” is not a type of bike, but rather a wider category of bicycles that are built for women’s body types. Several features, including the size and geometry of the frame, handlebar, and saddle type make these bikes ideal for women. These differences cater to the proportions of a woman’s leg and torso lengths, which often differ from that of men. In recent years, bicycle manufacturers have recognized and addressed these differences, creating women’s bikes that meet nearly every need and use, including road, mountain, touring, and hybrid.

womens bike

Activity-specific bikes

This category includes bikes that are made for use in specific sports and activities. The most common types of bikes in this category are tri-specific bikes constructed for triathlons and cyclocross bikes built for cyclocross competition. There are also low profile BMX bikes that usually have 20 inch wheels and fixed-gear bikes, which are essentially a commuter bike, but with just one gear set. The one-gear feature makes fixed-gear bikes light and easy to maintain, their resilience makes them good city use.

How to choose the right type of the bicycle

To help build a good picture of what features you are looking for in the bike, ask yourself a series of questions:

  • What kind of terrain will you be riding most often?
  • Are you looking to engage in a specific activity, like racing or triathlons?
  • Is this your first bike?
  • If you had a bike/bikes before, what did you like and dislike about it/them?
  • How long is your average ride?
  • How often do you plan to use your bike?
  • Is the bike for fun or transportation/commuting?

If you plan to start riding with a group of friends, try riding a bike that is similar to what the group rides. Showing up to a road ride on a mountain bike will likely result in you being “dropped”, or at the very least, having to exert yourself more than everyone else in your group.

If you are still not sure what bike would best suit you, but find that you mostly ride in the city, take a look at the “hybrid” bike. It combines features of both a road bike and a mountain bike, which make it a good option for most riding surfaces and conditions in the city.

A road or mountain bike might be your best choice if your focus is on fitness. Just remember, while a mountain bike can be ridden on the road, a road bike will most likely not be able to endure off-road terrain.

For urban everyday use, a commuter bicycle would likely meet your needs.

Choosing the material of the bike

Aluminum

Aluminum has been the material of choice since 1980s. Aluminum is light, possesses a pleasant ride quality, and is relatively easy to manufacture, making it inexpensive.

Technological improvements in the way the metal can be manipulated resulted in a new generation of high-performing bikes. Every major manufacturer has a number of aluminum models, from entry-level and expensive carbon machines, in both road and mountain bikes.

Steel

Tough and dependable, steel was the first material of choice for bike manufacturers from the beginning of time. Steel’s popularity has diminished once mass-produced aluminum frames have entered the market. Nevertheless, steel has place and time in bicycle design. Bikes with extremely long, load bearing frames, such as tandems and cargo bikes, are often built out of steel. Many mountain bikers and single-speed riders prefer steel to aluminum and carbon due to its superb ability to absorb high-frequency vibration.

Carbon fiber

If you are looking for your bike to be very light, you probably need a carbon bike. Carbon fiber is the lightest material used in bike construction, but it is also the most expensive. While extremely strong, carbon does not fare well when impacted by sharp objects, such as rocks.

Titanium

Titanium is a low-density, high-strength metal that possesses many qualities of carbon fiber. Unlike carbon fiber, titanium is resistant to sharp object impact, can be welded and repaired easily. Titanium bikes are prized for having some of the best riding qualities and “fatigue endurance.” A titanium bicycle will offer exceptional comfort, performance and ride the same in its first mile as its millionth. Unfortunately, titanium is a rare material and requires highly specialized welding equipment and strictly guided manufacturing processes, which makes titanium bicycles quite expensive, often on par with their carbon fiber counterparts.

Take the bike for a test ride

Test riding bikes is a great way to find out which type or specific model is best for you. It is always better to buy and tune a bike that fits well than to fit and adjust a bike that does not fit to begin with. If a store does not allow test rides, try finding one that does. We would recommend test riding a bike until you get a good feel for it, at least a couple times around the block. When you have decided on a specific bike type, ride a few similar bikes offered by various brands.

test ride

While test riding a bike consider the following:

  • How heavy/light does it feel?
  • How does it feel in turns?
  • Are you comfortable on the bike?
  • How do the brakes feel?
  • How good are the gears and how well do they shift?
  • What's the overall quality of the bike? Is it sturdy?

Always try to test the suspension system of the bike, if it has one.

A proper fit is a must

A bike that fits well and the bike that is right for your body type and proportions is a bike you will always love to ride. On the other side, a bicycle that fits you poorly will lead to loss of general comfort, ease of handling, aches and pains after riding, all of which diminish the enjoyment you get from riding. Many bicycle stores provide bike fitting services, often included with the purchase.

Talk to people at your local bike shop

If you have questions about anything related to bicycles, visit your local bike shop and spend some time talking to people who work there. They are generally knowledgeable about all types of bikes and can give the best advice.

If you are not sure which bike most suits your needs or lifestyle , ask the rep to give you a rundown of their pros and cons and which one offers more bang for the buck.

Accessories to buy with the bike

There are some accessories that are an absolute “must have” if you are to become a cyclist.

To enhance rider safety, the following items should be bought at the same time when purchasing a bike:

  • Helmet
  • Gloves
  • A good quality lock

Other non-required items are:

  • A water bottle
  • A basket or a rack for urban style bikes
  • A lighting and visibility system
  • Bicycle insurance policy from Velosurance

Other considerations

Whether riding around with friends, commuting in town, or competing, cycling carries certain inherent risks. This article wouldn’t be complete without mentioning bicycle insurance.

There are three major losses associated with cycling: theft or damage, medical costs in case of an accident, and liability. Until recently, a homeowner's or renter's insurance policy was the only option available for bicycle owners when insuring their bicycles for theft, leaving them largely exposed for other possible losses. Velosurance is an industry-leading company that is changing that. The Velosurance policy was designed with cyclists in mind and provides coverage for the vast majority of risky situations that a cyclist and their bike might be involved in. The bicycle is also covered while in transit by airline and other shipping companies, or when carried in or on a car.

While covering the bike for theft and accidental damage, a Velosurance policy extends coverage to cycling apparel, spare parts and accessories, such as a racing wheelset or a bike computer, and provides race fee and rental bike expense reimbursement for those situations where the bike is lost or damaged before an event. Medical coverage option can mitigate or eliminate the annual out-of-pocket expense in case of an injury.

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