Getting a good fit

Straddle the top tube to find the right size frame, then adjust the seat and handlebars to the correct positions for your particular body.

Buying a bicycle
Buying a bicycle

At some point in shopping for a bicycle, you’ll want to visit a bike shop, where you’re likely to find knowledgeable people who like cycling and can offer useful advice about what style of bike and particular features will work best for you. Then, once you’ve decided the best kind of bike for the type of riding you plan to do, it’s important to get a good “fit.” Mostly you just need to figure the size of frame and the seat position that is most comfortable for your body.

To start with, stand with both feet flat on the ground and straddle the top tube of the bicycle. Lift the handlebars to raise the front wheel off the ground. If you can lift the front wheel an inch or so before the bike hits your crotch, the frame height is just about right. If you can’t lift it at all, try a shorter frame. If you can lift the wheel several inches, look for a taller one.

To get the seat in the right position, swing your leg over the seat and sit square in the saddle. Now put your foot on one pedal and rotate it to the lowest position it can go to. When you’re in that position, your knee should bend just a little bit. When you’re pedaling, your knee should never extend completely. It’s just a little bend at the knee. You don’t want the pedals to be so high that when you’re riding your knees get all bunched up around your chest.

Finally, you’ll want to check that the placement of the handlebars is in relation to the position of the seat. Just sit up straight in the seat, then let your body fall forward until your hands find the top of the handlebars. Your arms should feel comfortable and loose in this position. If you have to reach way out or if the handlebars seem too close in, you can move the seat back or change the handlebar stem. The folks at the bike shop can help you with that kind of detail.

For leisure riding around town, the standard cruiser is ideal because it’s comfortable, reliable, and built to last. Cruisers usually have only one speed, so unless you want to burn a lot of energy, ride the cruiser on flat terrain.

A hybrid bicycle is perfect for running errands or commuting to work. The hand brakes are simple to use, the gear changes are within easy reach, and you can attach a basket or a book rack. A flag will greatly improve visibility on busy streets.

If you’re ready to go off-road, an entry-level mountain bike is a good place to start. The tires on this bike are wider for rough terrain and the knobbier treads provide traction for slippery surfaces. Unlike the sportier, more extreme mountain bikes, this version allows you to ride in a comfortable, upright position, perfect for recreation riding on park trails and smooth dirt paths.

For long-distance rides on paved streets, you’ll need a road bike with thinner wheels, slick tires, and a lighter frame. The modern version of the “10-speed” now has 18-21 gears, which will help you conquer any hill. Whether you feel the need for speed or prefer long-distance touring, a road bike will accommodate your needs.

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