With today’s emphasis on inexpensive transportation and physical fitness, two-wheeled people-powered vehicles have become extremely popular. But choosing a bike isn’t just a matter of picking out a stylish ride. To get the most out of your bike choose a model that fits both your needs and your physique. Mismatched bikes end up gathering dust in the garage, but the right bike can serve you well for years to come.
Form Follows Function
The first step in choosing a bike is deciding what kind of riding you’ll be doing. While there are numerous categories of bicycles, the most common are mountain bikes, racing or road bikes, and comfort bikes.
Mountain bikes are for off-road use. They have knobby tires that can grip in dirt. Mountain bikes are built with sturdy frames and wheels. Some have suspension systems. The gearing is wide, with emphasis on low ratios that can flatten out steep hills.
Racing and road bicycles are built on lightweight frames. They’re designed for speed and the gears range from mid to high ratios. The handlebars are dropped and the rider assumes a low and aerodynamic position.
Today’s most popular bikes are called comfort or hybrid bikes. Comfort bikes have low rolling resistance tires and are built with sturdy frames, comfortable saddles, and upright handlebars. Some have suspension or a shock-absorbing seat post for an ultra-comfortable ride. Because comfort bikes are built to travel moderate distances without overtaxing the rider, they’re ideal for commuting or general cruising.
Fit to be Ridden
Bikes are classified by wheel size, with bikes having 26-inch or larger wheels being appropriate for adults. Itty-bitty kids might start on a 17-inch bike, then graduate to a 20-inch. Bridging the gap between kid bikes and full-size rides are 24-inch bikes. Adults of less than 5’5” might be happier on a 24-inch bike.
Once you’ve chosen a bike, it should be adjusted for fit. Pedal crank length can be changed on some bikes. Finding a length that’s best for you makes pedaling easier. One guide suggests that the optimum crank length is equal to 18.5% of the distance from the bottom of your foot to the top of your femur.
Saddle tilt is adjustable on most bikes. The best position is a comfortable position. If the saddle is tilted down at the nose, you’ll slide forward, if the nose is high, it will be uncomfortable. Level is usually best.
Saddle height can be adjusted on all bikes. The goal here is to find a height that will allow a slight bend in your leg when the pedal is at the bottom of its travel. To adjust height, center yourself on the saddle. With the pedal at the bottom of its travel, your heel should rest on the pedal when your leg is fully straight. This will result in a slightly bent leg when riding.
Many saddles have a fore and aft adjustment. How far back the saddle is located relative to the pedals determines how balanced your body will be. All riders bend forward some amount, but when bending forward you don’t want to have to support your weight with your arms. If the saddle is positioned correctly, most of your weight will be on the saddle.
Handlebar position is related to saddle position. With your seat positioned correctly, you should be able to reach the bars without upsetting your balance.
Safe in the Saddle
No one, child or adult, should ride a bicycle without a helmet, and many cities and states require their use. Choose a helmet from a reputable manufacturer that fits properly. A cheap, ill-fitting helmet is not much better than no helmet.
If you’re going to ride at night, equip your bike with front and rear lights. The front light generally mounts on the handlebars, while the rear light is mounted on the seat post. Bicycle lights are inexpensive, but the extra security that a light provides is invaluable.
*To receive Dunham’s coupons and information on new products, events and sales, sign up for Dunham’s Rewards.