Every bike comes with pros and cons. Follow these steps to find a bike that you enjoy riding, feels comfortable, and meets your needs.
1. Talk with people who bike
Speak with friends, neighbors, or people you see passing by on a bike. Ask them if they’ll share their experiences, what they considered when getting a bike, and any tips they have for you.
2. Answer a few questions
What's your budget?
A used bike will cost less than a new bike of the same quality and ride just as well.
You’ll also need to buy things like lights and a lock. Factor those into your budget. Ask shops if they offer discounts on extra parts and accessories purchased when you buy a bike. Don’t forget batteries for the lights.
What type of bike do you want?
If comfort is your priority, consider an upright bike. If speed is your priority, consider a road bike. Want a mix of speed and comfort? A hybrid may be right for you. Consider a step-through or mixte frame if you don't want to or can't lift your leg over a high top bar, like on a road bike. Folding bikes can go wherever you go. If you can’t sit up on a typical bike seat, look into recumbent bicycles. Consider a tandem if you want to ride with a friend. Tandems are also great for biking with people who don't have good balance or can't see well.
Remember, bikes don’t have genders! Find what works for you.
What will you use the bike for?
Will you bike just for trips around your neighborhood? For commuting? For errands and grocery shopping? Will you be biking with small children?
Consider all of these things before choosing your bike. Be mindful of parts that you may want to add later, like a basket, a rack, saddle bags, child seats, etc.
If you plan to run errands by bike you’ll probably need to carry things. Look for bikes with braze-on mounts so that you can easily add racks. Otherwise, you’ll need to use p-clamps.
Where will you ride?
While Boston is pretty flat, you'll want gears to help with hills. Generally, 3 to 8 gears should be enough.
On bikes with external gearing
, the number of gears (or speeds) is determined by multiplying the number of sprockets on the front by the number of sprockets on the back. For example, a 21-speed bike has 3 sprockets in the front and 7 in the back.
Internal gear hubs can offer the same flexibility as external gears, with less hassle. There will be a higher upfront cost, but internal gears need less maintenance over time. They also allow you to shift while stopped, which is helpful if you want to shift to a lower gear while waiting at a red light.
Where will you store your bike?
If you’ll be storing your bike inside and up stairs, be sure to consider the weight of a bicycle. If you have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, check to see if your bike is covered.
3. Find a bike shop that you like
You’ll probably need to visit a bike shop at least once per year for a tune-up. Find a shop with friendly staff that fits your budget, and where you feel comfortable asking questions.
4. Get the right fit
Find a frame that fits you
Bikes come in different sizes and styles. Frames cannot be adjusted! Make sure the bike frame fits your body. When riding, you should be able to sit on your seat and comfortably reach the handlebars and pedals.
If you’re buying a bike with a diamond frame, you can gauge the fit by standing over the bike. The top bar should be about 1-2 inches (3-5 centimeters) from your body.
Adjust the seat
Find the top of your hip. Stand next to the bike and raise the seat until it’s at the top of your hip.
Proper seat height is an important part of protecting your knees. On most bikes, you should not be able to rest your feet on the ground while sitting on the seat.
You can start with your seat lower and work your way up. Alternatively, consider a crank-forward
bike if you always want to have the option of putting your feet on the ground.
5. Go for a test ride
Try out a few different bikes before you invest in one.
Your saddle should get more comfortable over time. Aside from that, anything that’s extremely uncomfortable during a test ride is going to be uncomfortable during every other ride.
Test the bike in a variety of situations. Check the brakes; come to a complete stop a few times. Test the gears; ride up an incline or two. Feel for bumps; ride over some uneven pavement.
6. Make adjustments
As you ride your bike more you’ll probably want to make small adjustments. For example, bike seats can move up/down, forward/backward, and be tilted at various angles. If something starts to feel off, make an adjustment.