So you're ready to buy a bicycle. Awesome. If you are a total newbie, returning to childhood fondness, or ready for epic century rides, there is something in this wonderful sport for all comers.
So much of our lives are spent in sedentary, indoor modes. We work in an office, we sleep in a bedroom, we eat inside a restaurant sitting on our haunches and being completely isolated from the world outside. This is a sure way to have a short, unengaged life. Not good.
Meanwhile, pollution levels have never been higher, costs of transportation skyrocketing and healthcare getting inundated with policies, prescriptions, and patients. While I can’t claim the bicycle to solve all of these problems, it will certainly steer you in an alternative direction from those dark possibilities. It’s just a matter of getting started. But, first, how do you start?
You have to get a bike.
What to buy
Cycling is a wonderful activity that has something for all. If your sole purpose is to simplify your trip to the corner grocery or you want to finally see the Colorado National Monument in its full splendor, there is a bike that will help you get there. When you ask a cycling enthusiast “Which bike should I get?” they will sometimes suggest “All of them”. Just know, that there is a bike for every job and some bikes do a lot of them well. Let's start with what you want to do.
Hybrid or "Comfort"
If you want a simple, around the neighborhood or to the pub experience, there are the Hybrid and Comfort bikes. These bikes are designed to keep the riding position comfortable with good visibility. The Comfort bike tires tend to be larger to soften the ride and increase surface traction. They provide a wide, sofa-like experience and wide handlebars to offer confidence. The Hybrid is more nimble and lighter at the sacrifice of a little cushion.
You also have Cruisers that exaggerate the style and luxury of the Comfort bike. This comes at the sacrifice of being heavier and therefore a little more sluggish to get up to speed. They feature lower-maintenance components like in-hub drivetrains, zero-maintenance belts instead of chains, and sealed bearings. The Hybrid and Comfort bikes cost will begin at around $300 and can range up to $1000 for a nice cruiser set for the boardwalk.
If your goal is fitness, but not full out racing, there are Road Bikes that have the high-quality components, lighter-weight, yet less aggressive riding positions. These are great options for someone who wants to take advantage of the low-impact health benefits without committing to the more bent-over riding style of the racing bike that is optimized for uncompromised speed. Bikes in this category will start at $500 and go up to $2000+ to get nicer components, carbon fiber frames, and the latest technology.
Then, there are the racers. You will find the best technology at this level with efficient, precise components, light-weight frames and parts, and an aggressive riding position. This bike is all about getting you from point A to B ahead of the other guy where only your own fitness level will hold it back. The range of prices will span from $800-$10k for the ultimate, pro-level ride.
Most of us tend to focus on the elements of a bicycle that make it faster, lighter, or more enjoyable. Safety should not be overlooked. All bikes are required to include certain safety precautions such reflectors and chain guards. There are also other additions that should be added. First of all, a helmet is a must. It is too much of a risk to even consider riding without. You can recover from most cycling injuries, but head injuries notoriously leave permanent side effects. It’s so simple, even if it’s inconvenient at times. Don’t question, just get one that makes your eyes pop.
Having a light on the front and rear of your bike will also be helpful in visibility – the ability for others (read: people driving cars) to see where you are at in the early morning or evening hours. You can get battery-powered lights or dynamo-driven lights that only shine when your wheels are moving. The battery-powered option is more convenient but requires a charge after pretty much every ride. The dynamo is more environmentally-friendly, but a good setup can be more expensive. Just make sure the lights are bright and reliable. A dealer can install any of these options easily and you won’t have to question whether you have done all you can to protect yourself.
For mechanical safety, it’s good to have a basic toolkit with you that includes wrenches that let you adjust your chain, handlebars and seat. For tires, I would first recommend installing Tannus Airless Tires so you won't ever have to worry about what’s on the road and whether it could puncture your tires. They also require no maintenance. They can sit all winter long and will be ready to go when you have the desire to ride. No problems.
If you do have air-filled tires on your bike, you want to include a spare tube, patch kit, and pump or CO2 compressed air dispenser. All of this can be added to a seat bag that keeps them out of the way of your ride.
Where to ride
Now, the fun part! Let’s go ride. You can simply pull out of your garage or apartment building and hit the street. A trip down to the local cafe on a bicycle brings awareness to a whole new world you’ve been passing by. You hear all the sounds, smell all the smells (some good, some not), and you travel at speeds that let you see things without making the journey unreasonably slow. It is liberating and empowering. No gas, no problems, just ride.
You can also look up the local bike trails, parks and other locations that have dedicated bike paths. These can take you to a blissful world where you feel the air on your face and see the often beautiful surroundings with no worries about cars, trucks, or buses. This is the optimal way to have a rejuvenating cycling experience and it’s even better with a friend or a loved one. Memories are made, conversations had that can lift and sustain you through the doldrums of daily life.
To take it to the ultimate experiential level, you can get involved in local or distance organized events. There are rides, races, and Gran Fondos for all levels of riders that take you to places that are calendar worthy. It’s an opportunity to meet people with similar interests in being healthy outdoors. You even join a cycling club that goes out as a group on a regular basis. We highly recommend checking in with your local bike shop as they tend to be the hub of local cycling events and even sponsor many of them. Supporting their involvement is a reciprocal blessing to all involved.
Start spinning those pedals!
We find ourselves facing a world now that makes our lives more convenient and less about getting ourselves out of our comfort zone. Cycling is really a great opportunity to break out of the patterns our modern world has introduced. You may start to find yourself daydreaming about your next adventure astide your new best friend – your bike.