What to Look For
Before the age of 16, most teenagers use a bicycle as their primary means of transportation. When looking for a bike that will serve this purpose, you need to consider that it will be used in a variety of different terrain. Concern yourself with a strong frame, look for tires with a medium tread, and make sure the brakes are manufactured by a name brand.
A common mistake is to choose a cheap bike from a mass-market manufacturer, notes Consumer Reports. While these bikes sell for less than $200, they are extremely heavy and often ill-fitting. In the mid-$200 and low-$300 range, you can get much better bikes that come in a variety of sizes. Such bikes are found at specialty stores rather than general sporting good stores or department stores.
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Where to Buy
At bike stores, you will receive expert assistance. A wide variety of bikes will be available that are made in a variety of sizes. You may also be able to trade your seat or pedals for another type if the original ones do not fit you well.
The cost of a good bike ranges from $250 to $1,300. The difference between these bikes is lightness and materials. The more expensive brands are made of lightweight graphite and thereby ride much faster, and the derailleurs and other materials are simply more sophisticated. For most teenagers who are not competitive riders, there is little reason to go much above the $250 range.
A teenager using a bike for transportation will want a steel frame mountain bike or hybrid bike fitted with medium-sized tires. There should be 21 gears, and the brakes and other accessories should all be name brand. Spokesman Bicycles claims that steel frames are usually the strongest and therefore the most durable. Medium tires work well on roads, grass and dirt. Wide tires do not work so well on roads, while medium tires work poorly in any off-road riding. Twenty-one gears provide enough variety and power for teenagers to get up hills and to move quickly without giving them more choices than necessary.
Every bicyclist needs a helmet. The trend as of 2010 is for round helmets. The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute feels that the edges and tails popular on elongated helmets can catch on curbs, trees, parked cars and other obstacles. Their testing shows that cheap and expensive helmets provide equal impact resistance. The key with a helmet, then, is getting one that will fit snugly, but comfortably, and stay on in a crash.
Schwinn and Raleigh make some cheap bikes that end up in department stores, but they also make some reasonably priced good bikes that you can find at bike stores.