When I was in Boston two summers ago, I had attempted to get a bike to commute to work. I was overwhelmed by the options available. Craigslist was full of people selling bikes – some had 10 year old bikes for $300, while some had 3 year old bikes for $250, some were giving away road bikes, some giving away mountain bikes, some had cruisers, while others had comfort bikes. WalMart had bikes from $75 to $275, while other stores started at $350 and went up to $2000. I was so confused by the options available and the different prices that I ended up whiling away the whole summer figuring out what I want.
Jen and I moved to Seattle and decided with a stronger resolve to become bike people this summer. Though we had had bikes before, mainly as kids, we both really didn’t know much about what are the different kinds of bikes and which ones are good for what. We were determined, however, and finally ended up with a very well informed choice which we are very happy about. Read on if you are bike virgins like we were and are trying to navigate around the sea of options to get a bike and make use of the awesome summer ahead of us. Also, this post will be most relevant to you if your main use is going to be around daily/frequent commuting 5-15 miles, paved trails in parks, or a little off-roading and dirt trails.
We started out by doing a lot of research online. It quickly emerged that there were mainly 3 kinds of bikes: road bikes, mountain bikes and hybrid bikes. Road bikes are very thin and light bikes, with large but thin wheels and drop-down handlebars. These bikes are built “tight” to be responsive to every little pebble on the ground or the microscopic motions you make as you shift weights. Mountain bikes are the exact opposite with thick and strong frames, smaller and thicker wheels and straight handlebars – these will often also feature disc brakes and front and/or read suspensions. Hybrid bikes are the catch-all for everything in between. They are not so thin and light, nor are they too thick or heavy. They have not so thin wheels, nor do they have very thick wheels. They may have suspensions, may not have suspensions. This, it emerged, was the category of bike that would work for us. Read on for what happened next …