Green on 2 wheels: What to know about buying a bicycle

Allecia Vermillion

More commuters are making the switch to biking, sometimes supplementing it with public transit. If you’re interested in pedaling your way to work, here are a few things to consider when shopping for a safe and comfortable ride.

Where to go?

Bicycles are available at discount chains, sporting good stores and a variety of other retailers, but regular riders overwhelmingly prefer the broader selection and expertise offered at dedicated bike shops.

These stores’ staff members are highly knowledgeable and can walk you through all the necessary considerations when selecting your wheels. The shop where you buy your bike also will be a valuable resource for future maintenance.

Which bike best meets your needs?

While there are several subcategories, your best bet is likely one of the following types of bikes, according to the National Bicycle Dealers Association.

Road bikes are built for pavement riding, with narrow tires and aerodynamic drop bars designed for speed.

Mountain bikes have sturdier tires with heavy-duty tread for extra traction and low gears to help you climb hills. Many mountain bikes also offer suspension systems to help with shock absorption. Talk to the staff at your local bicycle store about your local terrain and how and where you plan to ride to determine whether you need suspension. Once you’ve selected your bike, these shops can adjust the bearings and help with any necessary assembly.

Hybrid bikes meld features from both mountain and road bikes. Generally, hybrids have sturdier mountain bike-style frames and narrower versions of a mountain bike’s treaded tires. These are a popular option for commuters.

Get the proper size

Bicycle frames can come in eight or more sizes. The length of your inseam, or “stand-over height,” will help determine the size that works best for you. The distance of your reach to the handlebars is also important.

A bicycle shop can work with you to determine what frame fits you and your riding style best. Look for a store where you can take a short test ride to get better acquainted with your bike.

Buy a few key accessories

The array of grips, fenders and add-on mirrors at your average bike shop can be mind-boggling. It’s best to hold off on pricey accessories until you have some experience riding and a better handle on your needs.

However, definitely purchase a helmet, a tire repair kit and a lock to keep your new wheels secure.