How to Choose a Bike
Riding a bike is a great way to stay active while enjoying the outdoors. But with so many different styles of bike available, it can be hard to know which bike is best for you and your lifestyle. With our guide to choosing a bike, you’ll learn the most important things to consider to help make your choice a little easier!
Before you start looking at specific bike models, it’s important to answer three main questions so you know where to begin your search:
- Which type of bike suits my riding preferences?
- Which features do I want my bike to have?
- Which size of bike will I need?
Once you’ve answered these questions and narrowed down your choices, you’ll be ready to start comparing specific models to find the best bike for you!
1. Which Type of Bike Should I Get?
The first thing to consider when choosing a bike is which style will suit your planned riding experience. Each bike type has different tires and design features to accommodate different conditions and riding styles. Once you've decided the right type of bike, make sure you choose a helmet suited for your ride!
Road bikes, just like their name suggests, are designed to be ridden on smooth pavement. They are usually lightweight and are often used during races. Road bike tires are slim and treadless to glide across pavement. Most road bikes have a handlebar that curls down and toward the bike's rear, allowing the rider to lean forward in a more aerodynamic position. Road bikes are a great option for riders who plan to go on longer rides since the aggressive riding position makes it easier to complete these rides. They are also a great option for riders looking to train for competitive events.
Best For: Long rides on pavement
Cruiser bikes are designed for casual riding and are great for leisurely rides around town or your neighborhood. They offer an upright riding position and usually feature a large cushioned seat to help casual riders stay comfortable. The tires on cruiser bikes are wide to provide stability and have minimal tread to help the bike move across pavement. In addition to casual rides, cruiser bikes are great for short-distance commutes and errands and come in a variety of colors to suit anyone’s style.
Best For: Casual riding & Short-distance commutes
Mountain bikes are designed for off-road riding. The gear range on mountain bikes is usually lower than most other bikes, making it easier to pedal up slopes. Mountain bike tires are wider and have more tread to provide traction on rough, off-road conditions. Mountain bikes are available in two styles: hardtail, meaning they only have a front suspension, and full-suspension, meaning there is a suspension in both the front and the rear. They can be ridden on paved paths, but are not as lightweight or efficient as bikes designed for pavement.
Best For: Off-road riding & Trail riding
Hybrid bikes were originally designed as a mid-point between a road bike and a mountain bike. They have a more upright position than road bikes, making them a great option for beginners. Hybrid bikes are also an excellent choice for riders planning to ride on both pavement and unpaved bike trails. Hybrid tires are available in a wide range of styles, from slimmer tires for long rides on pavement to wider treaded tires for dirt and off-road conditions. Their versatility makes them great for several types of riders, including exercise, commuters, and recreational riders.
Best For: Pavement and trail riding & Recreational riders
Electric bikes, also known as pedal-assist bikes, are a newer type of bike with an electric motor to help move the bike forward. As long as you continue to pedal, the motor on an e-bike will help rotate your tires, giving you a little boost to keep your ride easy and fun. This makes them a great option for riders with an injury or who need the extra assistance to keep up when riding in a group. They are also a great option for commuters, since the extra power will make it easier to ride to work or run errands without requiring a lot of physical work. E-bikes come in all bike styles, like road bikes, commuters, and hybrids, so every rider can find a pedal-assist bike for their ride. To learn more about the benefits of an e-bike, check out our guide to electric bikes.
Best For: Longer commutes, Injured riders, Riders who want extra assistance
2. Which Features Do I Want?
Next, you should think about the features you would like your bike to have, like the brake style and your budget. While the features on your bike are largely determined by the type you choose, it’s still good to keep them in mind since they can help narrow down your choices!
There are three main features you'll want to consider that aren't determined by your bike type. These are the price point, the type of brakes, and the bike frame materials. By thinking about each of these features, you can make sure your bike is going to give you the most enjoyable ride possible.
First, you should consider your overall price point. While not a feature in and of itself, your price point will be a significant factor in the bike you choose. While it can be tempting to choose a less expensive model, especially if you’re unsure how often you’ll ride, choosing a higher quality bike will give you a better riding experience. Dealing with an unresponsive or difficult-to-ride bike is frustrating and can turn you away from riding completely.
A good option for newer riders is to choose a mid-range bike that will give you a smooth, enjoyable ride but isn’t as much of an investment as a top-end bike. Some great options for getting back into bike riding include the Trek 820 Mountain Bike, the Trek Verve, or the Trek FX.
Next, think about the type of brakes you’d like on your bike. Adult bikes have two brake options: rim brakes and disc brakes. Rim brakes use brake pads that squeeze directly against the sides of your rims when you engage the lever. Disc brakes have a rotor (a metal disc) mounted to the wheel—the brake squeezes this rotor to stop the wheel’s motion. Although they are more expensive to maintain, disc brakes offer more stopping power than rim brakes. Disc brakes are also more reliable in wet and muddy conditions.
Usually, casual riders will want to choose rim brakes since they won’t need to worry about maintaining them, while more serious riders often prefer disc brakes because of the added stopping power.
You should also consider the materials of the bike frame. Most bike frames are made out of either carbon or aluminum. Carbon frames are lightweight and are most common in road bikes and racing bikes, but are often more expensive than aluminum bikes. Unless you’re biking competitively and need to minimize weight, either frame material will work for your ride.
3. Which Size Bike Do I Need?
Finding the right size of bike can be a little tricky, especially if you aren’t shopping in person. The size of the bike you’ll need is largely determined by your height. Since the design and shape of the bike’s frame can vary from bike to bike, most bike manufacturers offer size charts for their specific models. It’s best to check out the details on any bikes you are interested in to find out the recommended sizes from the bike’s manufacturer. If you’d like some help finding the right size bike for you, stop by your local SCHEELS and talk with one of our bike experts.
Whether you want to ride around the neighborhood or head off-road, having the right bike will make your ride more enjoyable. From road bikes to mountain bikes, SCHEELS has a bike to help anyone learn to ride and enjoy the outdoors. Just remember to consider where and how you’ll be riding, any features you’d like your bike to have, and which size bike you’ll need, and you’ll be ready to start shopping for your new bike!
Before you head out on your new bike, make sure your ride is safe with our guide to choosing a bike helmet!