I’m thinking about buying a bike. What kind should I buy?
If you plan to ride mostly on streets/roads, a mountain bike would NOT be your best choice. That’s a common mistake many new cyclists make. A mountain bike takes more effort to maintain the same speed as a road bike due to the increased weight and rolling resistance (due to the wider tires with aggressive treads). This is especially a factor when going uphill. Mountain bikes are excellent for what they are designed to do–go off-pavement–but not especially well suited to road riding.
There are basically three types of road bikes: full-on racing bikes, “recreational” and full-on touring models. Unless you plan to get into serious racing or long-distance loaded touring, the best choice for you would be the “sport touring” type. These are a little more relaxed (you don’t bend over as far) than racing bikes and they have more gears (to help get up hills or pull into that famous Oklahoma wind). A good starter road bike will be in the range of $600-$800. Make sure you select one with a triple crank (three chain rings in front).
Another type of bike you might want to consider is the “hybrid” or now sometimes called “comfort bike”, or “city bike”. There is a huge variation in this type of bike. For longer distances (over 10-15 miles) you’d want one with narrower tires and a lighter frame (I prefer 700c tires as opposed to 26-inch–ask the bike shops to explain). You should expect to pay about $300-$400 for a decent bike of this type, and prices can go on up over $1500 for fancy models with lightweight frames and high-end components.
One final type you may want to consider is the recumbent. This is a bike that allows the rider to sit back in a reclining position with the pedals out in front. These are a little harder to learn to ride, but can be mastered by anyone with a little patience. The primary disadvantage to recumbents is the inability to stand on the pedals to get up a hill, but ‘bent riders will tell you the advantages (comfort, less wind resistance, etc.) far outweigh the disadvantages. In the end, it’s a matter of personal preference. Recumbents are more expensive than “regular” bikes. There are one or two entry level recumbents that can be had for around $700 but most will cost over $1000.
If these prices seem high to you, remember that these are quality bikes and very well made. They’ll last for many years with appropriate care. It is not unusual for someone to have a bike for 10 or more years and put over 50 thousand miles on it. However, most of us just get to hankering for a shiny new model long before our current mount is close to being worn out.
The MOST important thing about choosing a bike after you’ve determined the type that best suites your needs is SIZE. You wouldn’t expect a runner, for example, to just grab any pair of shoes without regard to size. Same is true for bikes. If it doesn’t fit properly, it will HURT your body. Any good bike shop will make certain to help you select a bike that fits properly. Also, HERE is some very good info on bike fit.
The best way to select a bike is to visit the bike shops and tell them the type of cycling you plan to do. Ask questions. Look at the bikes. Visit several shops to get an idea of what each offers. As far as brands are concerned, ANY bike sold in a bike shop will be of good quality. Some people prefer one brand over another for various reasons, but all the bikes in a good bike shop will be of good quality and will serve you well. Here’s a complete list of Bike Shops
Click HERE for information on selecting the right bike for you
Click HERE for a list of local bike shops. They will help find you the perfect bike for you, and make sure that it is adjusted for your height.
What do I need to carry on my bike?
Every cyclist should be prepared for minor road-side repairs, especially repair of flat tires. Even though you might be riding with others, you should carry your own spare inner tube and pump or inflation cylinders (small cylinders with compressed CO2 for airing up tires). Changing a tube is not a difficult task. Ask a cycling friend or your bike shop mechanic to show you how, then practice at home so you won’t be doing it for the first time in the middle of a ride.
Beyond tire repair essentials, you should also carry at least one water bottle or a hydration pack (“camel back”). To avoid becoming dehydrated, you should drink about one water bottle (20 oz.) every hour you cycle regardless of the temperature. You’ll need even more in very hot and/or humid conditions.
Carry a cell phone to make calls for help.
It’s also a good idea to carry a couple bucks in case you want to stop for a Gatorade or something.
Since cell phones have been mentioned, it’s best to keep them turned OFF while cycling unless you have stopped to make a call. Otherwise you may be tempted to try to answer the phone while cycling–an act which could endanger you and those around you. Please don’t do it! You’re on your bike–phone calls can wait until later. Why spoil the ride? It’s probably a nuisance call anyway.