First things first. You have to get a bike.
Buying a bike is the fun part. And likely the biggest financial investment of the whole process. Quality bikes can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $13,000. The first thing you should do is set your budget. Having worked in a bike shop, I always recommend that you get the nicest bike you can afford. The ride is generally better, the components that shift the gears work better, thus giving you the best ride possible. Only buy a bike that makes you want to keep riding. If you buy a poorly made bike that is constantly broken, you won’t ride it and that’s not the investment you want to make.
After you’ve established your budget, decide what type of riding you’d like to do, as this determines what style of bike you need to be looking at. Road bikes have smaller tires and drop handlebars, best suited for, you guessed it, road and gravel road riding. Mountain bikes have large knobby tires with flat bars and generally, have either front or rear suspension for riding trails. Hybrid bikes are a bit of both worlds combined. They usually have flat handlebars and tires that are generally bigger than a road bike tire, but smaller than a mountain bike. These bikes are great for getting around town, bike paths, and leisure riding.
Once you know what kind of riding you want to do, if you have a local bike shop, head straight there to test out bikes. And then head to another one and again another one. I cannot stress the importance of testing out as many bikes as possible to find the one that fits you the best. Fit is hugely important and can get complicated, but if you’re just looking to see if a bike is a good fit right off the back, you should be able to stand over the top tube and still have one to two inches between you and the bike. Many people think they need to touch the ground while still sitting on the saddle when that isn’t the case. You also want to make sure you don’t feel too stretched out in your upper body or that all of your weight is in your hands. The bike shop salesperson should be able to help determine the right fit for you. Remember you can always make adjustments later or buy a new saddle that fits you better. I tried out about 10 saddles before I found one I liked.
When you’re ready to buy a bike, I can’t stress this enough, buy the nicest bike you are going to ride that is within your budget. Everything else will fall into place after that. Now, before you walk out the door with your nice new bike, you’ll need some essentials. Buy a flat repair kit, a helmet, and a good pair of bib shorts with a chamois (this is crucial). If you’ve never worn clipless pedals (which are actually the pedals that you clip into your bike), don’t worry about getting shoes and pedals yet, you can work up to that.
In the next blog posts, I’ll go into what to do before you hit the road and the do’s and don’ts once you’re out there.