The question I have fielded the most.
While there are numerous articles and posts out there on google, but people around me still ask me this question. So I thought why not put in a general conversation that I have.
Me: Have you been riding any kind of bike or will this be your first bike?
Person: First bike.
Me: What is your purpose? Why do you want to start riding the bike? Where and how often do you plan to ride?
Person: I plan to commute to work 2/3 times a week. Ride once over the weekend on the river trail. This is just for getting healthy, and becoming active, it is also part of my new year resolution :).
Me: Ok, that is great. Do you have any idea on how much money do you plan to spend?
Person: I think the bikes are pretty expensive, I guess $500 to $700. But I don’t want carbon fiber.
Me: Well, in my opinion you can get a new bike for well under $500, and from stores like Walmart or Target, you can get it for less than $200. Ofcourse, there is a lot of quality and sophistication difference between a sub $200 and a $500 bike. But, you know what, $200 bike will also get you the same amount of exercise, and fitness as the $500 bike as long as you ride :). At the most these are the various type of bikes that you should be familiar with-
Hybrid bike- can be ridden on most trails, road, dirt and gravel to an extent.
Road bike- Thin tires, bent handle bars. Ride only on the road and paved trails. Off road not suggested for inexperienced.
Mountain bike- Thick tires, straight handle bars, can be ridden on road, as well as on all types of off road terrain.
Person: But what brand Bike should I get. Someone told me to buy the Trek bike, but my office colleague rides Specialized.
Me: Well, all the bike frame materials are the same. As a novice you won’t find any difference. Once you get into high end bikes, then a lot matters on the bike, its geometry, and what all customization the bike brands offer.
Initially, you should just go with a cheap bike, that is well tuned up, ready to ride and gain lot of experience. I would even suggest buying a used bike, which is well tuned up and parts working.
Person: No, I do not want a used bike.
Me: Ok my suggestion then, is to still go and checkout few bike stores, tell them your budget. OR go to Walmart and Target, and buy a new bike for much less price.
Person: What is the single most important thing that I should look for?
Me: Bike Fit.
Person: What is that?
Me: Your most ergonomical position on the bike.
Person: How do I get that?
Me: By going to the bike shop, and have them fit you on a bike.
Person: Is it expensive?
Me: For beginners, NO. Shops give you this as complimentary. And for sure you do not need a race fit on the bike.
Person: What do they fit you for?
Me: Basically, your saddle height, your standing height on the top tube. Your hand position, your leg reach. All of this is to avoid any kind of pains, and make your cycling pleasant.
Person: Should I get one or not?
Me: I would suggest, first get a bike, or borrow a bike, and start riding it for a while, enjoy the experience. Get a feel for the bike, for the distance, and then invest in all other things like bike fitting, bike shorts, and other accessories.
Person: So what do you suggest? Going to the bike shop, or purchasing it online.
Me: I would suggest talk to 3-4 bike shops. Find your budget, and then make a purchase. A good bike shop guy will even suggest you to buy a used bike.
My first bike was a Target bike (for $170), which was way too big for my height. And I rode it for 2-3 years, getting few metric centuries, and a double metric as well.
I learnt to fix flat on the bike, learnt to adjust brake. Learnt some basic cycling skills on it.
I then sold the bike for $100 J.
As I started riding more and more, I figured I want to ride only on the road, and climb hills, and race. So I went out and bought my first Carbon fiber bike, with Shimano components. Learning how different the frames are, how different the components are.
I bought my third bike (triathlon bike) online for $800, which was a carbon fiber as well, and modified components on it. Rode it for 1 year, and sold it for $700.
Bought my fourth bike, a Cervelo P2 at a discounted sale, and still riding it J.