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How to buy a bike

A simple guide for the bike-geek-in-training

By Michael Frank
Bicycling Magazine

We recognize that just because you enjoy the act of riding, you're not necessarily fascinated by the technology of the bike. But even if the pros and cons of frame and component choices elude you, you can still find your dream bike. Here are four important things to consider:


Start with your motivation to ride: lose weight, pedal with your kids, do triathlons, spin with friends, hammer on the shop ride. When you're in the shop, explain the type of rider you want to be. From there, the salesperson can help you determine your priorities and steer you toward the right frame.


The functions and benefits of components are as important as specific component levels. For example, you can select gearing (compact road gearing can help you climb hills more easily; sprinters may prefer standard gearing), but also crankarm length (in general, taller riders need longer crankarms). Your handlebar should be the proper width for your body size, so your neck and shoulders are comfortable. If you're buying a mountain bike, the suspension fork should be properly set up for your weight and riding style. Ask the shop to help you identify variables that may make your specific type of riding more pleasurable: If you're a heavier mountain biker or ride steep terrain, you'll want a larger front-brake rotor; if you plan to commute, heavy-duty wheels with thick-sidewall tires will be more durable; if you're planning to race, opt for lightweight wheels and tires.


A good shop has expertise in bike fitting--vital in this process--and will address your personal needs. It also provides quality return and warranty policies.


An aluminum Thomson seatpost will ride differently than an equivalent carbon seatpost made by Easton, but the point is that you shouldn't let brands--or component materials--override more important factors such as frame geometry, fit and how you intend to ride. A gorgeous paint job might make you want to get on your bike more, but when you're out riding, how it feels is what's most important.