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Mongoose Tyax Comp Men's Mountain Bike, $269.99
Mongoose Tyax Comp Men's Mountain Bike

How to Buy a Bike

By Yana SimoneSHOP.COM Contributor

Although the weather is getting cooler, there's no better time to invest in a good bike to bring you fun and adventure and get you in the best shape of your life. Buying a bike is both a commitment and an investment and the choices can be overwhelming. With so many options, your first decision should be what type of riding you are planning on doing and then you can determine what type of bike suits your needs. Read on and we'll steer you in the right direction to finding your perfect bike.

The Basics

Step 1Road Bikes: Designed for riding on paved streets and going fast, road bikes are also known as cycling bikes. Featuring skinny tires, a lightweight frame and a riding position that puts you bent over the handlebars, you might choose this type of bike if traveling longer distances at higher speeds is important to you. The frames of most road bikes are not particularly beefy in construction and generally won't stand up well for extended periods under heavy loads or on really rough surfaces.
Step 2Mountain Bikes: These bikes have wide tires, usually with knobby treads and a stout frame, and are designed to handle the rugged trails without falling apart. Mountain bikes do not go as fast as road bikes, which is a trade-off for their durability along with a more comfortable riding position. You sit higher on these bikes, more upright with the straight handlebars, which is often a better choice for people with back problems than being hunched over as you are on a road bike.
Step 3Hybrid Bikes: These bikes are a compromise between road and mountain bikes and offer the best features of both if most of your riding will be shorter trips on pavement. With skinnier, smooth tires, they typically can go faster than mountain bikes, yet feature the upright seat and handlebar position that many people like. Hybrids are a good choice for most city riding, and offer speed, durability and comfort.
Step 4Cruisers: Cruisers have wide tires, wide seats, upright handlebars and sometimes even just a single gear. These are the bikes that you'll often see at the beach. More simple mechanically, they are easy to maintain but work best with flat terrain and a rider whose main interest is more about being comfortable than going fast.
Step 5Fixed Gear Bikes: These bikes are increasingly becoming popular, especially among young adults and teenagers. Fixed-gear bikes are bikes that do not have a freewheel. This means that the pedals are always in motion and the biker does not need a brake to stop. They are typically lightweight and usually can achieve higher speeds than a regular bike with freewheels.
Step 6Bicycle Clothing: Bicycle clothing is very helpful, even for the occasional biker because it's made of breathable fabrics and is specially designed to make biking as comfortable as possible.

The Lingo

Wheels: A road bike typically has narrow, smooth high pressure tires that minimize contact with the road to provide the least rolling resistance possible. As these types of tires allow you to feel each bump and pebble in the road, it's not necessarily the most comfortable ride. A mountain bike usually has wide, knobby tires that offer more substantial grip and traction on a variety of surfaces, including gravel, dirt, rock and sand. Tire pressure on mountain bikes is less than on road bikes, due to their greater volume and the better traction offered by a softer tire. The wheels on a hybrid bike are a true combination of what you find on road and mountain bikes. Wider, like a mountain bike for greater stability and durability, but then with a higher recommended air pressure that puts it in the same level as a road bike when it comes to inflation level.
Frame: The material used in bike frames will vary depending on their cost. In general terms, the more expensive a frame is, the lighter it will be. Cro-moly is the least expensive material which is heaviest and can be prone to rusting. Next on the ladder is aluminum, which is light and rust-proof and relatively strong, but not immune to breakage over time when subjected to repeated stress. Carbon fiber frames, the next higher level of material, are similar to aluminum in being light, rust-proof and very strong, but also prone to breakage. Top-of-the-line bike frames are made from titanium, which is super light and incredibly strong so it pretty much resists breakage.
Handlebars: Road bike handlebars go out straight from the stem and then curl under, allowing riders who want to go really fast to hunch over when riding at that point, in order to reduce wind resistance. Mountain bike handlebars are typically flat, and go straight out from the stem. With a wider grip, usually about shoulder width, these handlebars allow riders to sit upright and offer a better position for vision and control of the bike on up and down terrain. The handlebars on a hybrid are typically flat like a mountain bike, and go straight out from the stem. With a wider grip, usually about shoulder width, these handlebars allow riders to sit upright and offer a better position for vision and control of the bike than the handlebars on a road bike.
Position: The way that a road bike is designed allows riders to bend far forward, cutting down on wind resistance, along with putting them in a position to drive maximum power from their legs and hips through the pedals. The way that a mountain bike is designed allows riders sit upright in a position that gives them best control of the bike, with well-placed center of gravity and the ability to shift weight forward or back to provide balance and adjust to varying terrain. Like a mountain bike, a hybrid's design allows riders to sit upright in a position that gives them best control of the bike with well-placed center of gravity and in a posture that reduces strain on the neck and back.
Gears: Road bikes have a wide range of gearing, with low gears that allow a rider to more easily climb steep hills up through rather high gear choices that a rider uses to go really fast. Typically a road bike will have either two or three chain rings as part of the crank assembly in the front along with eight or nine gears in the cassette on the rear wheel. Mountain bikes have a wide range of gearing to allow them to handle a broad range of terrain. With low gears that go well below that of most road bikes, riders are more easily able to conquer some super steep hills. Hybrids have a wide range of gearing to allow the rider to both climb hills and go fast on flat and downhills.
Pedals: Road bikes may come equipped with platform pedals or clipless pedals. If needed, toe clips can be added. If the pedals are clipless, the rider can clip his or her cleated shoes to the pedals, providing the ability to drive the pedals through the full rotation of the circle. Mountain bikes come equipped with platform pedals. This is useful if you're the type of rider who frequently puts your feet down. More advanced riders may prefer clipless pedals but people have different levels of comfort when it comes to being fully attached to a mountain bike given the varieties of terrain encountered. Hybrids come equipped with platform pedals.

The Experts

REI.COM says "The type of shoes you select depends on the kind of bike you're riding, and whether it has clipless pedals, toe clips or platform pedals. Shoes that are designed for cycling have rigid or semi-rigid soles. This ensures that the energy of your leg stroke drives cleanly through the pedal. (Soft-soled shoes diffuse that energy, contributing to foot and leg fatigue.) Neoprene booties that slip over your shoes provide valuable protection during wet weather."
REI.COM says "You don't have to be decked out like a competition racer to ride your bike to work. But if the commute is longer than 3-4 miles, investing in some cycling shorts with chamois padding can make the ride a lot more pleasant. Shorts are available in both the sleek, body-hugging road-racing style or the looser, laid back mountain-bike style. A moisture-wicking top is also a good choice. It will help keep you cool and dry when it's warm. And it's equally adept at keeping you dry and warm when it's cool."

The Brands

Schwinn is by far the most well known American bicycle manufacturer and many older models are highly sought after by collectors.
Diamondback: Specialized Specialized is more than just a bike company, they are a company filled with passionate cyclists who are dedicated to innovation, environmental advocacy and creating bikes and equipment for every kind of rider.
Mongoose is an affordable brand suitable for commuting or for paved trails. Not recommended for BMX biking.
Cannondale The leading manufacturer of high-end bicycles, and is widely regarded as the bike industry's leading innovator. Many of the ideas that keep Cannondale products on the cutting edge come from the sponsored athletes on the company's professional racing teams. The mountain bike teams have captured a dozen or more World Championships, World Cup Series overall titles, National Championships and two Olympic medals.
Specialized Specialized is more than just a bike company, they are a company filled with passionate cyclists who are dedicated to innovation, environmental advocacy and creating bikes and equipment for every kind of rider.

The Price

$: K2 Vista 2.2 Women's Mountain Bike This bike is an affordable choice for recreational trail rides and fun around town. It's also great for unimproved roads, trips across campus and short-distance commutes. Aluminum hardtail frame is lightweight and strong for easy handling and longevity; features a replaceable hanger. SR Suntour M2025 fork offers 80mm of travel to ease your ride over ruts and rocks.
$$: Schwinn Sierra DSX Adult Comfort Bike This cruiser bike has a 26-inch N'Litened Gold Label aluminum frame; SR/Suntour suspension fork with dual pre-load adjustment system; SuperSoft elastomer-foam saddle with special waterproof stretch cover; smooth-rolling 26-inch all-weather touring tires. Tektro alloy linear pull brakes are ideal for commuting to work or cruising around town  with dual-compound pedals.
$$$: Cannondale F4 Bike 2009  This mountain bike is is not about to take the back wheel to any competitor, the Cannondale F4 hardtail bike has plenty of performance and attitude. Enjoy T6061 aluminum Caffeine frame with oversized seatstays that's quick, responsive and rugged enough to stand up to demanding rides.