How to pick the right bicycle

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Whether you're looking for a road bike to ride fast on open roads, a mountain bike for off-road trails, or a hybrid bike to cruise around your neighborhood, it's important to match the bike to your size and intended use. Angie's List asked highly rated bicycle shops about choosing the best bike and getting the right fit.

Basic bike types: To get the most out of your bike, make sure it's the right type and style for you and your intended use.

  • Mountain bikes can be sized for adults or children and are used for trail riding as well as city riding, and are good for hills and mountains. A mountain bike has several gears, durable brakes and tires that are thicker than typical bikes.
  • BMX bikes are the children's version of a heavy-duty mountain bike. These bikes have one speed and are often used for bike tricks.
  • Road bikes are primarily used by adults and are made to be ridden at high speeds on a smooth surface. Road bikes are designed for competition racing; however, they are often put to everyday use on a flat surface.
  • Touring bikes are similar to road bikes but are designed to be more comfortable. A touring bike is typically made for adults. This style of bike has drop handlebars, luggage racks and mudguards.
  • Hybrids are a cross between a road bike and a mountain bike. This type of bike is primarily made for adults. The tires are slimmer than those on a mountain bike. This type of bike is generally used for city riding on smooth pavement.
  • Comfort and cruiser bikes are for leisurely and recreational riding. This type of bike is generally best for short-distance riding.

Finding the right type and size of bike for your needs can be a challenge. Consider visiting a reputable local bicycle shop where a professional bike fitter can help determine these and other important measurements.

  • Back angle¬†(in relation to the ground): Your back angle represents the curve in your back when riding. On a road bike, a back angle between 15 and 45 degrees is best depending on your lower back flexibility, riding style, and the degree to which you can comfortably rotate your pelvis forward, Richter says. Though it may seem like a wide range, remember that the handlebar is set lower on a road bike, and your position will change when sitting and standing and when going up or down hills. Hybrid bikes are designed for upright-style riding, so your back angle can fluctuate between 45 and 90 degrees.
  • Knee angle: No matter¬†what type of bike you ride, you don't want to waste energy getting nowhere fast. To achieve a more efficient ride, a knee angle between 30 and 35 degrees at the bottom of the pedal stroke is ideal, experts say. A professional fitter can measure your knee angle with a goniometer for precise fits, or more casual riders can estimate theirs, he says.
  • Handlebar width: On a road or hybrid bike, the handlebar width should generally match the rider's shoulder width. This creates a straight line from the shoulder to the handlebar grip and causes the least amount of stress and strain.

Once you pick a bike, don't skip out on maintenance:

  • If you're a casual rider, you only need a tune-up every other year or two as long as you regularly lubricate the chain and drive train.
  • A bike shop tune-up can range from $55 to $500, depending on the type of bike and services provided.
  • A standard tune-up typically costs about $100 and includes checking and inflating tires to the correct pressure and inspecting the fork cables, frame, brake pads, housing and drive train as well as cleaning the bike.

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