Bicycles might have started off as two-wheeled wooden frames, propelled by the user’s feet kicking the ground—in fact, they did start that way, and they were called hobby horses—but over the last 150 years bicycles have developed to meet the needs of those who use them for transportation, for sport and even for art. But if you’re on this website you’re probably not looking for a bike as a symbol of beauty (though, who doesn’t love these?) but rather because you’re a sportsperson, amateur or otherwise. There’s a few things worth considering before you buy a new bike.
When you buy a new car you would spend some time considering what you’re going to buy. You’d read up on performance, on space, on fuel efficiency, on CO2 output, on durability, and on longevity, depending on what your needs are. With a bicycle it’s no different (well, you may not really consider CO2 emissions or fuel efficiency). Decide on if you want a bike designed for city use, for off-roading in the mountains, or for long-distance touring. Nothing is worse than having a mountain-bike on a 200 kilometre trip through paved, flat trails, except perhaps having a large- and narrow-wheeled long-distance bike going up a muddy mountain trail. The type of cycling you’ll be doing should govern your decision tremendously.
It’s not quite as straightforward as it may sound however. Even if you’re going to be using your bike as a primary mode of transportation in the flat city where you live, it could still be a good idea to invest in a mountain bike if there are a lot of building sites in your area or numerous potholes and or any other analogous obstacles.
Where possible you may consider joining a cycling club to talk to people to hear their stories, and, if you befriend members of a club, you may be able to try out their bikes. Also, have a look at any cycling events going on in your area so you can see how competitors cycle. You may even want to follow some pros in some of the larger, more famous events such as the Tour d’Italy or the Tour d’France. Following the sport as a spectator can also give you some ideas on what kind of bike you should buy to meet your own needs.
Before you purchase anything however, check your area for bike shops and bike rental places. A quality bicycle is not a cheap investment and buying several hundred dollars for one is the lower end of the spectrum. Have a look at a local retailer and if they rent bikes, see if you can’t take a couple out for a few hours. Sometimes the best way to know if you’re suited to a bike, or it to you, is to get on the saddle and have a pedal!