Getting started with cycling as an adult can have a steep learning curve. But getting comfortable in the seat (aka saddle) is just a matter of time.
One of the trickiest parts is finding a good bike for beginner adults. Whether you're looking for a road bike, one for cruising around town or a sturdy pair of wheels to hit up rockier slopes, choosing the perfect bike comes down to the activity you're doing.
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Finding your Goldilocks beginner bicycle can feel overwhelming, especially because there are so many options, and the price tag for a good bike can go into the thousands. Learn all you need to know about purchasing adult bicycles and browse some expert-approved models in each category to make sure you're making a good investment.
How We Chose
To help you decide, we chatted with a trainer and a bike-industry expert to better understand what to look for in a beginner bike for adults. We chose our top picks based on their recommendations and criteria, including:
- Bike size and weight
Some bike manufacturers market bicycles to different genders, so we have listed both women's and men's picks below. However, the main difference between men's and women's bikes lies in the frame size. In most cases, men's bikes are a little taller than women's versions. Shop for your bike according to your body's height, making sure to check size charts before you purchase.
The 3 Best Road Bikes
A road bike is meant for just that — the road. This pick is for someone who wants to move fast and is looking for an option that will challenge them on the move.
Not typically intended for casual riding, road bikes have drop-style handlebars, which put the rider in a more aggressive, forward-leaning cycling posture. This form makes them great for speed and efficiency, according to Eddie Meek, customer experience manager at Priority Bicycles.
He also adds that they have a variety of gears, which amp up your efficiency and tackle everything from long straightaways to steep climbs. "The extra control can help you match the energy output to the right terrain and gradient you're riding," Meek says.
You also want to take bike weight into consideration with road cycling, according to Garret Seacat, CSCS, a triathlon and cycling coach at Absolute Endurance. The lighter your bike, the faster you go. Browse Seacat's personal recommendations below for a speedy beginner adult bicycle.
1. Trek Domane AL 2
Buy it: TrekBikes.com; Price: $1,129.99
2. Specialized Tarmac SL7 Pro
Buy it: Specialized.com; Price: $7,800
3. Ventum NS1 Road Bike
Buy it: VentumRacing.com; Price: Starts at $3,699
The 3 Best Fitness Bikes
Fitness bikes (also known as hybrids) are best for multi-purpose riding, according to Seacat. These bicycles are ideal for someone who wants to ride around town but also enjoys a more intense bike workout over the weekend.
Fitness bikes are in between a mountain and road bike. They do well on the road but won't go as fast as a road-specific bicycle. Similarly, they drive well on gravel paths but probably won't be too stable on a mountainous trail.
These bikes also have more upright handlebars than a standard road bike, making it easier to stay alert on the road, Meek says. However, you could easily upgrade to a drop style if that's the aesthetic you're looking for.
1. Cannondale Quick 1
Buy it: Cannondale.com; Price: $1,625
2. Specialized Sirrus Expert Carbon Women's Commuter Bike
Buy it: Specialized.com; Price: $2,100
3. Canyon Roadlite 6
Buy it: Canyon.com; Price: $1,099
The 3 Best Mountain Bikes
Mountain bikes are designed with a bumper on the back and include a wider tire with more tread compared to road bikes — that's why they do so well on uneven trails, Meek says.
They also come with the most gears available, as well as disc breaks, helping riders tackle adverse conditions, like mud or dirt on rocky trails.
"This tread digs into dirt, rocks and looser terrain to make the ride as smooth as possible despite the obstacles in your path," he says.
1. Giant Trance Advanced Pro 29
Buy it: Giant-bicycles.com; Price: $3,830
2. Yeti SB115
Buy it: YetiCycles.com ($5,800); CompetitiveCyclist.com (on sale for $4,350)
3. Trek Roscoe 7
Buy it: TrekBikes.com; Price: $1,899
The 3 Best E-Bikes
Most e-bikes — or electric bikes — cater to commuters or anyone looking for pedal assistance on the road. "They really make it easier for someone to get somewhere without showing up completely drenched," Meek says.
These days, there are more e-bike options than ever. There are now some e-bikes with all different kinds of gearing systems, built for various activities, Meek says.
Something important to take into account when adding extra oomph to your pedal power: how much battery life the bike has.
If you do a good amount of the pedaling, you could have a battery that lasts between 60 and 80 miles, Meek says. But if you use the bike pedal-free, depending totally on the motor, you get a much shorter range (about 25 to 35 miles). Before you leave home with an e-bike, make sure you know how much juice you've got for your ride.
1. Kona El Kahuna
Buy it: KonaWorld.com; Price: $3,499
2. Trek Rail 9.8 XT
Buy it: TrekBikes.com; Price: $9,199.99
3. Canyon Grail:ON CF 8 eTap Gravel E-Bike
Buy it: Canyon.com; Price: $6,499
4 Factors to Consider When Buying Your Perfect Adult Bike
Terrain is the biggest determining factor when browsing beginner bikes for adults, according to Seacat. Take a look at the chart below to find the best type of bike for your needs:
Speedy cycling sessions on asphalt or cement roads.
Bumpy or hilly trail rides on uneven terrain or gravel.
General commuting or bike riding on roads or easy dirt paths.
Road biking with a little extra power boost.
Beginner bicycles for adults can vary in price from a few hundred to thousands of dollars. So, your budget determines a lot of the options available to you. However, price is a pretty big factor where bike quality is concerned, according to Seacat.
Higher-end bikes, although pricey, are generally more reliable. Plus, most quality bike brands offer free tune-ups and warranties in case you experience any issues.
Some warranties are even life-long, says Anna Wolf, who owns two bike shops in Brooklyn, New York: King Kog and Sun and Air. "The last thing you want is to buy something cheap online that will end up shortly in a landfill."
Although second-hand bikes are also an option, Meek suggests holding off to buy new until you feel confident about where you're buying the bike and what you're actually getting. "For $1,000, you can have something really, really solid," he says.
No matter the price point of your bike, you want to make sure it's built with long-lasting materials, Seacat says, such as the following:
Aluminum: This is a lightweight, durable metal that's rust-resistant.
Titanium: Here's another popular bike frame material that lasts ride after ride. It even absorbs shock to help protect your knees while biking.
Carbon fiber: Most commonly used on road bikes, carbon fiber is one of the lightest materials out there. However, it's not quite as durable as aluminum or titanium frames.
Your bike size makes a big difference in staying comfortable and injury-free. Bikes range from 47 centimeters (18.5 inches) to 62 centimeters (24.5 inches) from the ground to the top of the seat, according to Seacat.
Each frame size matches a specific height. But different sizes (small through extra large) correspond to different measurements across companies. So, before you buy a bike, check out the size chart for your specific brand.
The best bike for beginner adults allows you to keep a good cycling posture. You should be able to stand over the center of your bike with both feet flat on the ground. When you're in your seat, your hands should rest on the bars with a slight bend in your elbow.
You never want your knee to lock out as you push down your pedals, either. Like your elbows, you want a small bend in your knees through each pedal stroke.
The Best Gear for Your Bike
Additional reporting by Bojana Galic.