How to Buy a Bike – Part 1

Lisa’s Note: Michael’s first post was so popular he’s back! He has a lot of really good information on how to buy a bike and since I’m a newbie I defer to him. You may not be on your way to Tour de France, but read this post with an open mind before you buy your bike.

How to Buy a Bike – Part 1

by Michael

First off, thank you for all the wonderful feedback on my first article How To Watch More TV. Your responses have encouraged me to write this follow up piece which is rather long, so I’ll break it up between two or three posts.

A few of you said that you love TV but you didn’t have a bike. This is a problem. How are you going to watch your favorite TV shows without a bike? Allow me to help. Here is how to shop for and buy a bike, part one.

Road Bike

As an adult, there are basically 4 types of bikes to choose from:

Road – Intended solely for riding on paved roads. (including single speed and fixed gear)
Mountain – Intended to primarily be ridden on unpaved roads.
Hybrid – Intended to be ridden primarily on paved roads but can handle some off-road duty.
Cruiser – Intended to look cool. But let’s be honest, this is not exercise equipment.

Your first decision is to figure out where you intend to ride your bike. This is really important. Do not buy a mountain bike if you’re never going to ride it in the dirt. A mountain bike is not cycling’s version of the SUV. Unlike SUVs, these vehicles are not fun to operate on paved roads. They are more difficult to ride on pavement than road bikes or hybrid bikes.

Mountain Bike

If you have preconceived thoughts about cycling or the way people look riding them in your head already, you need to forget them. You cannot go into a bike store thinking, “I don’t want to wear that skin tight clothing or ride a bike with road handle bars on it”. You’re shopping for a bike. Not the clothing, not the lifestyle, just a bike. And beyond that, I’ll bet that most of your thoughts about features that you’d want in a bike are actually the things that you don’t want in a bike. Seriously.

We’ll start with cruisers. These bikes are for people that want to look cool riding and are lying to themselves about exercising. They think they’re getting exercise without looking like they want to get exercise. Every time I see someone on these bikes they look miserable. They’re either struggling or out of breath — always. If you buy a cruiser, you will hate it, trust me, you will. Why?

Cruiser Bike

Well first off they’re heavy. Really, really heavy. These bikes tend to weigh in at around 35 lbs. Now that might not sound like much, but you’ll feel all 35 of those pounds on the very first hill you encounter. As you’re walking your bike up that hill, you’re going to get tired fast. Your arms will hurt. Your lower back will hurt. And obviously your legs and rear end hurt because you couldn’t actually ride up the hill in the first place and now you’re pushing it up the hill!

Second, these either have only one gear or have a limited set of gears. These bikes are not made for performance. You cannot go very fast on them, nor can you ride them up any hill of noteworthy size. I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but the roads around here are filled with hills.

Third, you sit totally upright. This sounds good at first, right? I mean, you already know that you can sit upright for hours on end and who wants to be hunched over? That can’t possibly be comfortable. The real problem with sitting upright on a bike is that the bulk of, if not 100% of your weight, rests solely on the saddle (some of you call this a seat but that is not what to call this. It is a saddle. If you call it a seat at a bike store, they will think you’re dumb. So don’t do this. Unless you want them to think you’re dumb, which I can’t think of any reason why you’d want someone to think that.) Anyway, if you sit in a very upright position on a bike, you’re going to be sore. Let’s say that you weigh 200 lbs. That’s 200 lbs of weight solely planted on the saddle. And every time you hit a bump, you’re going to feel it and you’re not going to like it.

Anna Paquin on Cruiser

Maybe you think I’m wrong about reason number three or that you can get a big cushy saddle which will offset any discomfort related to sitting upright. Well, you’d be wrong again. These large cushy saddles are going to increase the amount you bounce which is going to lead to back pain. Since they are wider, they’re also going to increase the amount of friction on the back of your thighs and rear as well as the inside of your thighs. And as you pedal at an average of 90 RPM, you’re going to experience a lot of friction which will lead to saddle sores and bouncing, which will lead to back pain.

Simply put, cruisers will make you miserable. When you’re out and about, look for people struggling on these things and be happy that you’re not someone that owns one.

Lance's Bike

I’ll write about what you actually want in a bike in my next post.

QUESTION: What kind of bike do you have? If you don’t have a bike, what kind were you looking for before you read this post? Has your opinion changed?

Author: Lisa Eirene

About Lisa Eirene Lisa lost 110 pounds through calorie counting and exercise. She swims, bikes, runs, hikes and is enjoying life in Portland, Oregon. Her weight loss story has been featured in First Magazine, Yahoo Health, Woman's Day and

12 thoughts on “How to Buy a Bike – Part 1”

  1. I’m one of those sad Cruiser owners. I thought it was a good idea (let’s be honest – I was going for looks more than anything else), and now I’m considering selling it! I did use it to commute to work every once in a while, but it’s a pain to ride up hills – you can’t stand on the pedals like you could if you were on a normal bike… I’m eager to hear your opinions on the other types of bikes, so I’ll know what to buy next time!!!

    1. Sheri I almost bought a cruiser too!! Then Michael stopped me and said NO! Don’t be crazy and he’s so right. Buying a road bike was the best decision. Unfortunately I focused on cost when I bought my road bike instead of quality. So my road bike is pretty heavy.

  2. I don’t have a bike currently. I have always liked the way the cruisers look, especially in pink :). I would really love to try cycling, but I worry that i am far too heavy/big to be able to enjoy it. I don’t like the stationary bikes at the gym because they hurt…maybe you’ll have some suggestion for that as well? Keep ’em coming Michael…you are too too funny! And informative!

    1. Actually I think cycling would be a good thing for you. I think if I had tried running when I was 250 pounds I would have hurt myself. But after losing weight I could do it. I think cycling is the opposite–it’s not high impact so it shouldn’t hurt you.

  3. I have a hybrid and I wouldn’t buy anything else. We do mostly paved roads, but have some paths with gravel, so a hybrid is the best pick for me.

    Years and years ago, I had a mountain bike because I lived in Colorado. Well, I never took it into the mountains and it was such a drag riding the streets with it.

    My new bike is a Fuji 😀

  4. Great post Michael! We’ve had our bikes for years and I’d buy a hybrid if I could do it over again. We are almost always on paved paths. (Though I think the paths at Sunriver were dirt)

    If someone wanted to switch models, what do you think is the best way to do that – sell on Craigslist and buy a new one. Do bike shops let you turn them in like a used car?

    1. Great question. Both can be options but it may be difficult to find a store that sells used bikes in your area.

      If you want to sell your bike to a reseller, your best option might be to find a store that deals solely in repairs. In Portland, Sellwood Cycle Repair would be the best option for you. I don’t know if such an option exists in Seattle but it probably does.

      REI’s used gear sale might be another option for you. We were just there this weekend and they anticipated having another gear sale around March/April.

      Craigslist is always an option but you never know how serious the potential buyer will be.

      You can make your mountain bike easier to ride on pavement by swapping out the tires for street tires. If it’s a newer bike, you may be able to lock the suspension as well which greatly improves your riding experience on pavement.

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