Buying a bike can be as big a deal as a new car, or TV, or a new cell phone. Lots to consider! Doing some homework will pay off when buying a bike. The benefit will be  a bike that fits properly and comfortably, whether the purpose is to learn to ride, mountain biking, commuting,  or just purchasing a new adult bike for health and recreation. Here are some tips that can ensure you have chosen the right bike.

First, to get the right bike, consider what type of riding you plan to do, not just for today, but what about next year or the year after? Have plans to do a bit more at some point? Hybrids will probably be the most common type of purchase for many. Commuter, hybrid, road, gravel, mountain, recumbent, cruiser, or fat bike are some of the types of bike to consider. What fits you the best is key. The optimum experience that will pay off is to go to a bike store and try out a few machines once you have an idea of what TYPE of bike would fit your aspirations.

Here are a few other tips for size. The rule of thumb is age determines wheel size.

-A three to four year old, with an inseam about 15 inches, needs a 10-inch-12-inch wheel size. The child should be able to put their feet flat on the ground while seated, and can reach the handlebars without bending forward very far, if at all.

-A four to seven year old, with an inseam around 20 inches needs a 16-inch wheel size. The child should be able to put her feet on the ground while straddling the top tube, with a few inches of clearance and turn the bike easily without stretching out uncomfortably.

-The six to nine year old is up to a 20-inch wheel size. A child shouldn’t look too cramped or stretched out, can turn the bike easily at slow speeds, and can stop and put her feet on the ground without toppling.

-The nine to thirteen years old, with an inseam around 26 inches or more, is ready for a 24-inch wheel size.

-Thirteen and above are ready for an adult bike, wheel size is 26-inch or 700 c. Adult sized bikes still need the same approach. BE SURE THE RIDER CAN STRADDLE THE BIKE WITH BOTH FEET ON THE GROUND AT ANY POINT ON THE TOP CROSS BAR! This general guide can be of help:

Your height / Bike SizeHybrid Bike Size Chart

  • 4’11” – 5’3″ = 13 – 15 inches
  • 5’3″ – 5’7″  = 15 – 17 inches
  • 5’7″ – 5’11” = 17 – 19 inches
  • 6’0″ – 6’2″ = 19 – 21 inches
  • 6’2″ – 6’4″  = 21 – 23 inches
  • 6’4″ and taller  = 23+ inches

Find a reputable bike shop. You might feel you saved a boatload of money buying at a rummage sale or discount store, but you walk away with no guarantees, unsure of a fit, and perhaps a bill for maintenance on an unsafe or poorly built bike. Bike shops offer trained sales people who back up bike reliability, help adjust your bike properly, help you purchase the best bike for your loved one or yourself, and support it by offering expert mechanics for maintenance. The biggest option bike shops offer is peace of mind. Keeping mind that spending a bit more for a quality bike, especially for youth, keeps the bike a sellable item when they grow out of the size. There are plenty of families looking for quality used options for their youthful riders.

While a guide was offered an the aforementioned paragraph, you or your child are unique. Consider your personality or that of the person you are purchasing a bicycle for in terms of coordination, size, timidness, and aggressiveness. These all change the make up/type of the bike you buy. Your bike shop expert can help you make the right adjustments.

Next, for youth, avoid the notion that your child will grow into their bike. While adjustable handlebars and seats can work within reason, there are problems. Too-big bikes are hard to control, making it more likely the rider will crash. Always remember the keys to a small child fit: being able to safely put both feet on the ground as they stand over the top bar, and being able to turn without reaching uncomfortably far. Youth bikes should be as low weight as possible so that developing skills comes more readily.

For older youth and adults, consider wheel size and width. Tire size does not make a bicycle more stable. That is the riders job. A tire size can help with comfort and roll. The wider the tire the more vibration it absorbs. The smoother and narrower the tire, the more ROLL you get with each pedal stroke. Find the balance that works for you.

Last, while Internet purchases may seem enticing, you will find that when all is said and done, buying locally has lots of benefits. Make sure you add in the cost of building the bike out of the box. NO BICYCLE comes ready to ride in the mail. The average cost to build a bike out of the box is $75-90.00. Be sure to add this to the cost. Keep in mind that everybody’s body composition is different.  You may end up with a bicycle that has fit issues. The relationship you develop with a local bike dealer/shop goes along way to helping you with many questions, maintenance, and improvements over time. You often receive discounts on ancillary equipment- lights, fenders, racks, water bottles/cages, and helmets. Having a GREAT riding experience can be best developed from working with a local bike shop.

Keep in mind that the real money savings or cost avoidance comes when you actually get out and ride. Take for instance the fact that a person saves $1.00-$3.00 for every mile they ride their bike for transportation. That means that for every 100 miles, you can avoid spending $100-300 dollars. How long would it take  you to ride 100 miles? An average, decent hybrid bike costs about $399-449.00. A person can recoup that price in the first year with a reasonable effort. How many years would you have a bike like that? The savings will just add up. So, it is not just the initial cost to think about. Think about the cost avoidance and the benefits in health, outlook, and weight control that you can enjoy! Purchase a better bike, just beyond your first inclination in price. You won’t regret it.