There are many varieties of bicycles from which to choose, but such a wide choice can overwhelm the novice bike shopper. However, by deciding what type of rider you want to be, the selection narrows, with fewer bicycles matching that style.
Evaluating a bicycle for exercise doesn’t have to be daunting. To begin, you’ll need to decide whether you will be riding on roads or trails. The two primary types of bicycles are road bikes and mountain bikes. As the name implies, road bikes are ridden almost exclusively on roads. Mountain bikes, although not necessarily ridden on mountains, are designed to be used off-road. Either choice will get you plenty of exercise.
The most important feature to consider when selecting a bike is fit. Choosing a ride that fits your body will help ensure that you look forward to your next ride. A poorly fitted bike will result in an uncomfortable ride and could discourage you from maintaining a regular exercise regimen.
Many local bike shops have trained personnel and special equipment to measure your dimensions—height, weight, leg length, reach and shoulder width—and match you with the proper size bicycle. If you are handy with a tape measure or your local bike shop doesn’t have a fitting program, you might want to try a website such as Wrench Science. Its Fit System feature will suggest a bike frame with dimensions that match yours after you measure your body and input that data on the site.
Besides proper fit, cost is a factor. The more you are willing to spend, the more choices you have in terms of bike performance.
Other factors to consider are whether you want a smooth ride or are willing to sacrifice a little comfort for increased speed. The terrain is another consideration. If you will be facing many hills, the weight and gearing of the bicycle will be more important than if you are riding mainly on the flats.
High-tech or Simple?
How integral bike riding will be to your overall exercise program is another factor in choosing your bicycle. You’ll want to choose one kind of bike if riding will be the focus of your program or a different kind if riding will augment other kinds of exercise such as weightlifting. It’s possible to achieve weight loss and cardiovascular benefits strictly by riding a bike several miles a week. If that sounds like your plan, you may want to invest in a more sophisticated bike made from high-tech materials and offering state-of-the-art brakes and gear shifters. On the other hand, if you think your bike ride will serve merely as the cardio component of an exercise regimen, you may want to place less emphasis on technologically advanced models. If your bike riding will merely offer exercise in the form of leisurely rides, bikes designed for that generally offer greater comfort with less performance.