How to Find the Right Bike

Get tips for choosing one of four bicycle designs that have the features that best fit your body and needs.

By Ellen Fix

Your body is different from everyone else’s, so your bicycle should be, too. There are numerous unique bicycle designs that can help keep you cycling in comfort. So how do you know which bike type is right for you? Here are a few general guidelines that can help.

Bike Basics 
First, skip the discount toy store racks. Instead, let an expert at a bicycle shop help you determine what style of bike suits your needs and riding plans, and find the right bike size for a good fit.

Always take a test ride before you buy. Bike shops should let you take their bikes outside to try out. Comfort is king – no matter what your confidence and ability level – so ask yourself if you’re comfortable behind those handlebars.

Bike sizes vary by manufacturer, but in general, for good fit and comfort, you should be able to stand comfortably and be stable with your feet flat on the ground with the top bar of the frame under you. Step-through frames – once called “girls” bicycles, because they were ridden while wearing a skirt – are still available today. Unless you are aiming for high mileage, these bikes are quite stable and may be appropriate for either men or women.

Prices vary widely based on components and manufacturer, but expect to pay between $250 and $600 for a quality bicycle. Here are four unique bicycles designs with body-friendly features to consider:

Bike Types

Built for recreational riding on flat, smooth terrain, a comfort bike (often called a “cruiser”) has higher handlebars than a race or road bike and a lower seat, all of which provide better handling and stability.

Wide, knobby tires and thick frames for off-the-beaten-path cycling are the trademark design elements of a mountain bike. They are strong and usually heavy bikes with good stability. Popular even on city roads, mountain bikes have suspension, which helps cushion road or trail bumps. The handlebars are usually upright and wide, providing stability.

With larger wheels, narrower tires and often lighter and less bulky frames, a hybrid provides more efficient travel over long distances than its mountain bike cousin. While a hybrid is stable enough for the occasional ride on unpaved terrain, it’s a good choice for casual riding in neighborhood parks. The handlebars have an upright stem, which lets you pedal in a comfortable upright position.

Although considered the most comfortable of bikes to ride, it can take some time to get used to the feel of riding this long and low bike. The wide, high-backed seat evenly supports and distributes the weight of your torso, relieving pressure on the arms, shoulders and back. Think of sitting in a reclining chair and pedaling in that position. Some pricey recumbent bikes also have an electrical power feature that provides automated pedaling assistance.

Among the most expensive of the group and available in a variety of designs, these bikes are partially driven by a battery-powered motor and your own pedal power. The advantage is the ability to take a break when needed and pedal with less effort while the battery powered motor does most of the work.

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