The key to comfortable, fun riding is having a good bike, and there are plenty on the market. But before you head to your local mass retailer and pick something out based on a “bargain” price, you may wish to do a little homework. Ask yourself, “What kind of riding will I or the person I’m buying for be doing? Will it be street riding or trail riding or will it be a combination?”
Once you have defined your riding needs, it’s time for a little research. Basically, there are four bike types available:
- Road Bikes – These are lightweight bikes with skinny tires (less road resistance), with “ram horn” handlebars. Great for speed and long distance riding on smooth paved streets or large parks like Detroit’s Belle Isle.
- Mountain Bikes – This bike is tougher and heavier than a typical road bike. Designed for heavy off-road use they have thick knobby treaded, wide tires (more resistance on pavement), and a strong frame that can take a lot of punishment. Not as fast as road bikes, but they’re sturdy, flexible and offer a comfortable upright riding position.
- Hybrid – This popular bike combines the best of both road and mountain bikes. Durable and speedy, they’re great in the city and perfect for light trail riding. They have skinnier, smooth tires similar to road bikes, but with a little more meat to them. Seats are generally a little larger, comfortable and the handlebars are positioned upright, creating less stress on your back. Perfect for rough, chuck-holed laden streets, urban exploring, and investigating out-of-the-way places.
- Cruisers – A basic, well-built, rugged bike for those wanting comfort over speed. Best on flat, smooth surfaces, they are easy to maintain, usually have one gear, wide tires and comfortable seats. Commonly found on Mackinaw Island and other places renting bicycles. Great city bike.
Once you’ve decided on the type of bike that best fits your riding style, shop around. Visit a few bicycle retailers to get their advice on what’s best for your needs. They’re knowledgeable and a great source of cycling information.
Whatever bike you decide on, get the best you can afford.