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Picking a Bike that’s Right for You

Part of the Cycling For Dummies (Australia/New Zealand Edition) Cheat Sheet

Deciding to ride a bicycle (or start riding again or more often) is a big step forwards. Well done. But before you can pop down to the bike shop, make a purchase and ride off into the sunset, you have to give the purchase some thought. Most bike stores have a bewildering array of bicycles to choose between, so give some thought to the kind of riding you’re planning on doing before visiting a store. Here are some types of bike and some of the things they’re good for:

  • Road bikes: These bikes are meant to be ridden fast, in a bent forward position, on roads. They have curved handlebars and can be very light — and very expensive. Road bikes are good for racing, training and fast commuting.

  • Mountain bikes (MTBs): These are tough bikes that either have front or dual (front and back) suspension. They have wide, knobbly tyres to grip any surface and gearing to help with steep uphill climbs. They’re great for trails and off-roading, but can also be used for a comfortable, less speedy commute (although you might want to think about getting smoother tyres for commuting).

  • Cruisers: The curvy frames, wide saddles and colours of these bikes create a style statement that can’t be denied. Cruisers generally have no gears, or just three, and a back-pedal rear brake. They’re great for short trips but not usually designed for fast or long journeys.

  • Comfort bikes: These bikes are safe and steady option for anyone who wants a gentle — and comfortable — ride. They usually have a wide, low saddle, often with seat suspension, and allow you to ride in an upright position. Some are made with better quality components that enable longer rides.

  • Hybrids, city bikes, exercise bikes and flat-bar road bikes: While the definitions for these bikes may blur and merge a little, they’re all designed for medium-paced to slightly faster cycling. They have straight handlebars and allow a more upright riding position than a road bike.

  • Folding bikes: You can fold and pack up these bikes in a matter of seconds — and you can ride pretty fast and far on them, too.

  • BMX bikes: These bikes may be small, but they’re not just for kids. BMXs are great for flips, rolls and grinds, but not the best for travelling further than the local skateboard park.

  • Fixies: These bikes look like road bikes, but they have no gears and the fixed-wheel system means you can’t freewheel — so if the back wheel is turning, so are the pedals. Fixies are great for being cool and urban.

  • Tandems: These bikes offer two saddles, two sets of pedals and handlebars, two wheels and two riders. While often chosen by lovers, tandems are also great for people who can’t (for medical or physical reasons) ride a bike on their own.

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