How to choose and use the right bicycle
How to choose and use the right bike
Want to engage in an outdoor fitness activity that's fun, fast and freewheeling? Head to your nearby bike shop or go online and pick up a new or used bicycle, which can quickly burn calories and serve as a trusty form of transportation with no fuel costs or pollution involved.
Dave Duecker, CEO of Bike.com in Dallas, says the perks of pedaling a two-wheeler are plentiful.
"Riding a bike is a great form of exercise, as it provides a low-impact aerobic workout. It can help develop and maintain stability and balance, too. And it's a great way to get outside, enjoy nature, and reduce stress. You can feel good about doing it," he says. "Riding a bike is an eco-friendly transportation option and, most importantly, it allows you to feel like a kid again."
San Antonio-based Phil Kang, an experienced cyclist who has participated in international cycling tours and biking to raise money for charity, adds that cycling is a terrific hobby.
"Owning your own bike helps you measure progress over time by measurable improvement in speed and distance. Ownership also encourages deeper learning about the mechanics and provides the hands-on satisfaction of repairing one's own ride," Kang says.
Virtually anyone is a worthy prospect for cycling, assuming you are in decent health and enjoy normal mobility.
"At any stage of your life, you are a great candidate for buying and riding a bicycle," Duecker continues. "And with the advent of electric bicycles equipped with a motor comes the reduction of many perceived barriers of cycling. This includes overcoming challenging hills, managing headwinds, and keeping up with friends who might be more advanced cyclists."
Bikes today are relatively affordable, with prices on used or mass retail models starting around $150, per Duecker; bikes at specialty stores and independent bike dealers typically begin around $500. Electric bikes and better-equipped performance bikes can be had from $1,000 and up.
The most popular types of bikes are road bikes designed for smooth pavement; hybrid/crossover bikes made to ride on mixed surfaces (pavement, grass, gravel, off-road trails); touring bikes that specialize in longer-distance riding; fitness bikes with a lightweight frame and often a flat handlebar; and mountain bikes engineered for off-road and rougher riding.
"It's so important to think about the kind of riding you want to do. A bike built for weekend riding on bumpy forest trails might slow you down on a six-mile commute to work over the pavement. If versatility is what you are after, some bikes do both -- but keep in mind that they won't excel at either," advises Erik Rolfsen, editor of Pedal Street in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
To help find the right bike for your size, comfort and needs, the pros recommend visiting a local bike shop, which can offer good advice and will likely have new and used models for sale.
"Be aware that newer bicycles have been harder to get during the pandemic. That's partially due to increased demand, but the bigger factor has been supply chain issues," Rolfsen says.
Note that used bike prices have risen around 40% over the past year, according to Gustave de Laureal, a cycling expert in Atlanta.
"This is due to the increased demand and the proliferation of bicycle flippers during the pandemic," he says.
If a local bike store or an online retailer doesn't have what you want, you can shop around for a bicycle on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or at nearby garage sales.
The most crucial features to prioritize on a bicycle are the components, "which are more important than the brand or model," Kang insists. "I favor Shimano, Sram and Campagnolo. Each will have a low, middle or high caliber. I recommend choosing the middle range, even for a starter bike; purchase the most component quality you can for your budget, as buying a lower-end bike takes some fun out of the experience and might discourage the hobby."
Once you have your bike in hand, try to create a bicycle fitness regimen that can help you lose weight and stay fit.
"Incorporating a bike ride into your daily commute can turn something that you have to do every day into a reliable fitness routine. And if you are a goal-oriented person, consider setting an objective of completing a 100-mile or 50-mile century ride, which are often held every summer in many regions, with cyclists of all levels participating," Rolfsen says.
Also, consider joining a local cycling club.
"Mine met every Saturday morning, and it was a great function that forced me to remain active on my bike," Kang says. "Having an appointment to meet cycling friends on a schedule got me out of bed and on the road every time and really made the fitness happen for me."