How to Choose a New Bike

There are types of bikes for every need, so consider your options to find the best ride for your money.

| July 10, 2008

Maybe the gleam of aluminum and shiny rubber broke your “thriftbone.” Maybe that rusty old Western Flyer finally gave out on you. Maybe you'd just like to use a saddle that hasn't been broken in by someone else's butt. For whatever reason, you've decided to purchase a new bike.

Great idea! For about $450, you can snag yourself a reliable vehicle that can take you as far as your legs can manage. That may sound like a lot of money up front, especially when you can get a new bike from Wal-Mart for less than $200. The key term, though, is reliable. Bikes sold from discount stores are, by and large, poorly made and sloppily assembled; often they can’t even be repaired. Buying a new cheap bike every year or so (to replace a broke one) versus buying a solidly built bike that can last decades quickly becomes a losing proposition. 

And besides, that $450 is, for the most part, a one-time expense. That a new bike won’t require any $4 a gallon gas, ever. Beyond routine maintenance and the occasional repair job, you’ll have a fun, reliable ride for the long term. The more you ride it, the more you’ll save and the better shape you’ll be in. 

If new wheels aren’t in the cards for you right now, odds are you can find a quality used bike.

Answer Me These Questions Three

Before you slap down your hard-earned money for a bike, though, ponder why, where and how you're riding or want to ride. Answering those questions will help you figure out what bike will best fit your needs.

So, why do you want to ride — to exercise, commute to work, run errands or just for leisure? Where do you want to ride — potholed city streets, open roads, gravel bike trails, maybe a mix of environments? Finally, how do you like to ride — in an upright position, leisurely paced or always leaning forward, in race mode wherever you go?

Mountain Bikes

If your main terrain is pockmarked streets and/or bike trails, a mountain bike will probably be your best bet. Chances are you won't need a dual-suspension bike, but you would feel better on a hardtail with front shock absorbers if the streets are especially bad. My main commuting/errand running/around town bike is a hardtail mountain bike with a right (non-shock absorper) front fork and semi-slick tires. Semi-slick tires grab blacktop better than knobby mountain bike tires, so if you’ll be riding in town, get a pair of those. Kona, Specialized, Trek and many other manufacturers make excellent mountain bikes that sell for $500 or less. Check out Mountain Bike Review for ratings on the latest models.

6/30/2017 5:37:28 AM

3/28/2014 9:43:12 AM

I see this article was originally written in 2008. $450 will not get you a lot of bicycle today in 2014. Yes, there are many bikes available for less than that but they are not quality bikes. Good components cost money so if you are shopping on a budget the key is to buy a simple bike with quality components instead of a fancy bike with very cheap components. You will not get a good bike with suspension and disc brakes for $450. However you can get a good basic bike for $500. Some examples: You can also save 50% of more by buying used. Many people buy a bicycle for $1000 or more and never ride it. A couple of years later you can buy it for pennies on the dollar.

3/19/2010 8:03:24 PM

Recumbent bikes are nice, but they are also very pricey. This article also overlooked another category of bike that is probably the best choice for most people. That bike is the Hybrid. At first, a hybrid may appear to be a mountain bike, but a closer look would tell you that this is a unique combination of features from road and mountain bikes. The hybrid has the upright riding position, which is the reason many people buy mountain bikes. The hybrid also uses the 700c sized wheels that are higher than the mountain bike's 26" wheels. This means that you go farther with each revolution of the wheel. The tires on a hybrid are also an "in between" typically 35 to 40 mm wide. That is right between the 22 mm skinny tires found on road bikes and the 2.5" fat tires on mountain bikes. The result is more stability than a road bike, but less rolling resistance than a mountain bike. While a hybrid is not designed for heavy off-road riding, it can easily handle packed trails and pock-marked streets. In my experience, the hybrid is the perfect balance. The only. The only people that I don't think would like a hybrids are the die hard road riders, or heavy off road riding.

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