Summary: Consider your most frequent potential uses, research and trial the options and prioritize flexibility. The best bicycle for you is the one you will actually end up using often for the various purposes of interest - commuting to work, getting around, carrying things and recreation.
cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by nevil zaveri
> See the buying a bike and gear category of this blog
> Key decisions that will help narrow down the most suitable bike to buy
1. Familiarise yourself with the most common types of bicycles
- Utility or transportation bicycles are quite different to racing and recreational bicycles. You need to familiarise yourself with the main bicycle types that suit your desired uses - e.g. commuting to work. Common utility cycling types include: Hybrids, City/Commuter bikes, Flatbar road bikes, Single Speed/Fixed Gear bikes, Folding bikes.
> Bicycle types (Century Cycles) ; > Bikes designed for transportation
2. Determine how many bicycles it makes sense for you to own
- Consider how many bicycles you really need and can practically afford and use. It's common for cycling enthusiasts to buy different bikes for each niche purpose (e.g. A Road bike for long, fast weekend recreational rides vs a City bike for commuting to work). However, if you are constrained by money or storage space, or are not clear about all of your likely common uses, you should err on the side of flexibility for your first utility bike.
- Don't get a bike which has a frame that prevents using wider tyres or that doesn't have attachments for practical things like racks.
3. Prioritise practical and functional needs over style and brands
- Avoid fashionable bikes that are unnecessarily heavy, not designed for daily use or come with impractical accessories. Many bikes look great, are from popular brands and have cool names but are not optimised for riding as much as possible in all conditions. For example, some comfort, vintage or ladies bikes are too heavy to happily ride up hills or more than a few km. Bikes that prioritise style also may not be built with components that will last months/years of daily use.
4. Do not buy ultra-cheap department store or eBay bikes
- Avoid ultra-cheap Bike Shaped Objects (BSOs) from Department stores, eBay, etc. These ultra-cheap bikes are typically made from sub-standard parts that will rust or break more quickly. They are also often not put together properly and are quickly consigned to the garage or trash.
5. Figure out in advance how you will maintain your bike after the free service period
- Consider how you will maintain your bike once the free tune-up period is over. The most common adjustments required for regular utility cycling are derailleur adjustments (gears not shifting properly) and wheel truing (straightening the wheels). Bike maintenance can be expensive ($80 for a standard service) so if you can't afford this you will either need to learn how to do some/all of the required maintenance yourself or buy a bike that eliminates or minimizes some of this maintenance.
- Buying a Single Speed/Fixed Gear bike eliminates all maintenance involving the derailleurs and gear shifting. Buying a bike with wider rims/tyres (or fitting wider rims/tyres) minimizes the amount of wheel truing required.
Commuter Bike Center: Best Commuter Bike – Ultimate Buying Guide
Bike to Work: Choosing the Right Bicycle
ebicycles: What Type of Bicycle Should I Buy?
Yay Bikes: Ever-Rising Interest - A Commuter Bike Buying Guide
Shawn Feddes: A guide to buying a commuter bicycle