If you are thinking about getting started with cycling, you will probably wonder “what is the best beginner bike for me?” About two years ago I started shopping for my first bike in over twenty years. My goal at the time was to find a good bike for riding around with my kids and getting a little exercise, and I wanted an affordable bicycle. Now, after getting into cycling during the past two years, and riding many bikes, I’ve come up with some tips for choosing the best beginner bike.
To start off, consider how you will most likely use the bicycle, and then you can consider the main bike categories below:
Mountain Bikes – Mountain bikes were designed of off-road biking. When I say off-road, I don’t mean a flat gravel path at your local park (most any bike would be fine for that). Off road means jumping stumps, traversing washouts, going down steep un-paved declines, sharp-rocked trails, and other uneven surfaces. This is where the knobby-tires and suspension of a mountain bike are worth while (on paved surfaces they are just extra drag and weight).
Cruiser Bikes – usually have a single gear or very few gears. They have big tires and big seats and allow a comfortable riding position. If you want to have a relaxed-pace riding with few challenging hills and either paved or gravel paths, a cruiser might be the way to go. A cruiser is not the best idea if you decide to try to ride at a fast clip or go on a long ride. Those big seats are not ideal for more aggressive riding and can actually lead to chafing if you ride too hard.
Comfort/Hybrid – designed for general-purpose utility and commuting on a wide variety of surfaces, including paved and unpaved roads, paths and trails. It combines features from the road bike and the mountain bike, and includes variants such as the city bike, cross bike and commuter. If you’d like a cruiser but need gears for hills, comfort bike might be good for you. For those wanting a serious workouts but whose backs can’t tolerate the seat position of a road bike, a hybrid bike will be good choice.
Road Bikes – are built for traveling at speed on paved roads. These are the best bikes for long distance riding or strenuous riding on pavement, but understand that you’ll be in more of a hunched over position. Quality road bikes also tend to be more expensive than the entry-level bikes in the other categories. A road bike is for you if you can see yourself riding on long rides for hours. Most road bikes are truly fine-tuned machines that are excellent for their intended use.
Commuter Bikes – In recent years, high gas prices and environmental awareness have caused more people to look to bicycles as a transportation option for work, school, and errands. Although you could use any bike for commuting, generally people prefer commuter by bikes to have fenders, chainguards, racks and even built-in lighting to make commuting by bicycle comfortable and safe. A subcategory of commuter bikes are folding bikes, which tend to have small wheels and can be folded quickly to allow carry onto commuter trains and city buses. If you are looking for a low-cost commuter bicycle, you can see my recommendations at Best Commuter Bicycles.
It is helpful to have a budget in mind, but prepare yourself to pay more. I have read many reviews by people not satisfied with cheap bikes, as there really is a quality difference. There are many bicycle reviews out there by people who have bought cheap bikes and quickly had mechanical problems, and sometimes been injured also — there really is a quality difference. For reviews of all types of beginner bicycles, please see Cycling For Beginners.