A Beginner's Guide to Buying a Bike

Walk into a bike shop today, and it's easy to get lost in the choices.

There are road bikes and hybrid bikes, mountain bikes and comfort bikes. Beach cruisers and commuting bikes. "City path" bikes and touring bikes. Even the most basic bike, the standard beach cruiser, may be operating under a new alias: a lifestyle bike.

Confused? No wonder.

Bike-shop owners face this problem regularly. People wander in and don't have a clue what type of bike to buy. The answer depends on what kind of biking you want to do—long-distance rides, trail riding, road riding—or just spins around the neighborhood.

"I get asked about bikes all the time," says George Cheney, president of the Florida Freewheelers, Florida's oldest cycling club. "My advice is borrow a bike and see what you think. Or ask a lot of questions. But don't go out and buy a real expensive bike until you know that you enjoy the sport and know what you want to do. Don't go out and buy a $5,000 bike. You can have an awfully good time on a $500 bike."

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