“Hey… What kinda bike should I get?”
That is, by far, the question I get asked the most. Being a person who rides his bicycle around town a lot, I’m used to questions, but that one is the king… by a mile. And my answer most of the time? Get the bike you can get. Borrow one if you can. Drag that roommate’s bicycle out of the basement and dust that sucker off. Or keep an eye out for garage sales. Hell, pull one out of the dumpster. Spend as little money as you can to get you on two wheels. Then you’ll be able to figure out what you want and like. Don’t worry about getting the “right” bike just yet. Get any bike. Just ride something. Learn the rules of the road, build up some stamina, learn to be comfortable in traffic.
Most people, especially those who either buying their first bike or their first bike since they were kids, should start off with something cheap. Let me repeat that… If it’s been a while since you’ve ridden, or if you’re looking for your first bicycle, start with something cheap. Do NOT go plunk down half of your paycheck on something that, quite honestly, you may not be riding in a month. Many people think they want to start riding a bicycle and go looking for the best, fanciest, sexiest bicycle they can possibly afford and then hang that bicycle in their garage like a forgotten piece of modern art after riding it only a few times.
Three things can happen starting off with an expensive bike and two of them ain’t any good.
- You buy the bicycle and it’s everything you hoped it would be. You feel like you’re flying every time you ride and it changes your life… or at least your exercise habits. This is the best case scenario, but one that is the least likely.
- You buy that glorious, expensive bicycle and it just doesn’t suit your needs. Even if you do your research and you’ve decided what bike would suit you best, it all can go out the window as soon as you get a mile from your house. Even the bike that should fit often doesn’t.
- Your gleaming steed finds a wall to relax against as you discover that, despite how much you love your new, high-dollar bike, bicycling itself just isn’t as much fun as you hoped it would be. Nobody wants to admit this, but it happens all the time. You may really, really want to ride a bicycle, but it is definitely not for everyone. Don’t waste a lot of money finding out it’s not for you.
Now, given those options, and I admit to some truncated logic here, your best option is to buy something under $300 and call it a day. If you love it, great! You can use the money you saved to buy some good lights, fenders, some simple tools, a lock, and a helmet. But if you don’t love it, you won’t be out so much money that you can’t turn around and buy something better suited to you.
So go spend $30 at a garage sale. Or ask to borrow your friend’s bike. Or go to Wal-Mart (While I’m not super keen on the big-box stores and their cheaply made bikes, I admit that for some people this is a viable option… and a bicycle is a pretty damn simple machine. Even a cheaply made bike will roll when you pedal and stop when you apply the brakes… My first mountain bike was a $100 Murray from Toys R Us that I regularly rode on 20-30 mile rides and loved every minute of it.). And then ride that bike for as long as you can. If you go a week and realize that you want something better, then hop to it. No big deal. But if you can ride that bicycle for a month or even a year, you’ll have an excellent idea of what kind of bicycle to buy next. But whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of thinking only an expensive, name-brand bicycle can work for you. I rode a $35 bike that Jessie found for me in a garage sale, and it remains one of my favorite bicycles of all time. Nobody needs an expensive bicycle. Now if you want one, then go ahead… buy whatever makes you happy, especially if it’ll prompt you to ride more. But don’t do it because you feel that only a “real” bike is worth pedaling.
So, go ride what you can. Ride cheap. Beat it up. Chain it up to that barbed wire fence with no heed to the paint job. Use and abuse it. Bicycles are meant to be used frequently with only a small amount of care needed. Most importantly: ride whatever you can get your hands on. Don’t worry about what kind of bike it is. Grab it and ride it. You’ll learn pretty damn quick what you like about it and what you don’t. And then you’ll feel more comfortable about what you want in your next bicycle.
Remember… It’s the actual riding of a bicycle that is the biggest challenge… not what kind of bike you are trying to ride.