Want to get into cycling, but not sure where to start or what kind of bike you need?
Bicycling is an amazing way to get exercise and enjoy time in the outdoors with friends and family, no matter what type of riding you prefer. Take a leisurely ride along the local paved trails; hit the open road with a group of friends and challenge yourself on a long-distance ride; or head out into the woods and explore a local mountain bike trail.
Whatever your riding preference, there are many different bike options available today, each designed for different surfaces and riding styles that will allow you to make the most out of your ride.
With all the different kinds of bike models available today, however, finding the right bike can be a bit confusing if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. So if you are new to cycling or simply haven’t ridden in a while, here are a few tips to help you navigate through all the various options, so you can begin choosing a bike that works for you.
The first thing you need to consider before looking at specific bike models is where you see yourself riding. Do you think you will primarily be riding the local paved trails? On the roads? Off-road trails? Or maybe a combination of each? To help get you pointed in the right direction, here is a rundown of the main types of bicycles and which bikes work well for each riding surface.
Ride the open roads or explore the local paved trails.
If you think you will only be riding on paved surfaces and won’t be venturing off-road, then choose any variation of a pavement-specific bicycle. These bikes are available in a wide range of styles, so narrow down your selection by choosing bikes that best fill your needs by having the right combination of performance, versatility, and comfort.
These bikes combine many of the characteristics and benefits of road bikes with a more upright riding position, which for some people offers a more comfortable and relaxed ride. They have narrow, smooth-rolling tires for an efficient ride and are built on relatively lightweight frames. The upright riding position allows for good visibility and awareness while you ride crowded streets or bike paths. Because of this blend of performance and comfort, these bikes are perfect for riding the Razorback Greenway.
So if you’re going to be primarily riding paved trails, look at something like the Giant Escape series for men and the Liv Alight series for women. These are our most popular “greenway” bikes and are great for leisurely rides with the kids or for longer, more fitness-oriented cycling.
Price range: $360 – $700
Traditional “drop-bar” road bikes are designed to be fast and efficient on smooth, paved surfaces. They are generally lighter than other bikes, with smooth, skinny tires, and a more aerodynamic riding position that maximizes pedal-power and efficiency. Road bikes come in a variety of performance options and styles that are designed for everything from fitness rides, to long distance cycling, and road racing. They are good for paved trails like the Razorback Greenway, although some people may prefer a more relaxed riding style on these bike paths, where speed and pedal-efficiency are less important.
Price range: $600 – $2,000+
With their upright, comfortable riding position, Comfort Bikes are designed for casual rides on pavement, for cyclists who value comfort over speed. They are heavier than road bikes, come with wider tires, and often feature a shock-absorbing, suspension seat post. These bikes are great for rides around the neighborhood and leisurely outings on the Greenway.
Price range: $340 – $600
Here in Northwest Arkansas there are miles and miles of expertly built off-road bike trails for us to enjoy, as the area is quickly becoming one of the top mountain biking destinations in the country. Slaughter Pen, Blowing Springs, Lake Atalanta, Hobbs, Lake Fayetteville – just to name a few – are all easily accessible trails scattered across NWA.
If you plan on primarily riding trails like these that range from smooth dirt to rocky terrain, then look at a a few different Mountain Bikes, which provide the ultimate performance for off-road adventures.
Designed for rough off-road trails, Mountain Bikes are built to be durable and able to tackle all the rocks and roots along the way. They also feature very low gears, enabling riders to pedal up steep terrain.
Mountain Bikes can generally be divided in two basic categories: Front-Suspension (also called “hardtails”) and Full-suspension (which utilize both front and rear shocks). Both styles have their own unique benefits and the choice usually comes down to personal preference, riding style, and other factors.
Front-suspension models: $500+
Full-suspension models: $1,500+
Sometimes you may need a bike to ride on more than one riding surface. For example you might plan to ride the Greenway but also need a bike for dirt roads or other types of terrain. In that case, consider one of the various types of Gravel or "Adventure Hybrid" bikes that best suits your needs.
Multi-terrain Hybrid bikes are designed to offer performance both on and off-road. While not as fast or efficient on pavement as road bikes or well-equipped enough to handle rough mountain bike trails, hybrids are ideal for cyclists who want multi-surface versatility for casual, recreational rides. Most models have front suspension to smooth out rough city roads or dirt trails. For pavement performance they use the more efficient 700 millimeter wheels, similar to road bikes, along with medium-width tires. Some models, like the Giant Roam series are also equipped with a “locking” front shock to improve efficiency and speed when riding on pavement. Simply turn a knob to lock the front fork when riding on pavement, and unlock for rides when you need suspension.
So, if you plan on riding paved trails, but also need a bike to handle bumps and some light, off-road duty, you might consider looking at a multi-terrain bike.
Price range: $460 – $900
Gravel bikes are new and one of the most versatile bikes out there. Gravel bikes are kind of like road bikes on steroids that are designed to be ridden on a combination of mixed terrain. They have drop-handlebars like traditional road bikes, but have a more durable frame, beefed up wheels, and a frame that also provides enough wheel clearance for wider tires for better off-road traction. The tires that come on Gravel bikes are about halfway in between traditional road bikes and mountain bikes. They are great for gravel / dirt roads, paved trails / roads and even can be ridden on some mountain bike trails. You can have an extra set of wheels / tires or just road tires, and go on road bike rides.
Bikes such as the Giant Revolt and Liv Devote are becoming increasingly popular because of their versatility, as they are designed to handle a wide variety of surfaces and obstacles: pavement, dirt, gravel, potholes, curbs, mud - just about anything you throw at them. These bikes are good for commuting, riding the paved trails, gravel/dirt roads, and even certain types of smooth, off-road trails.
Cyclocross bikes are very similar to Gravel bikes and have been around longer. Essentially, they have a shorter wheelbase than Gravel or Road bikes, which allows them to make tighter turns. They can also be ridden on paved surfaces, however, for faster rides, Road and Gravel bikes are better.
Price range: $1,000 – $3,000+
Sometimes, It’s hard to know which bike you like until you’ve spent a little time riding. That’s why we offer a 30-day test ride with every bike we sell. That means you have 30 days to see if it’s the right bike for you. If not, you can bring it back to trade for any other model we have.
Hopefully this article answered some of your questions or at least armed you with enough info to ask the right questions. If you’re still not sure about which kind of bike will best meet your needs, come in and visit with one of our Bike Outfitters at our Rogers or Springdale shops. We’ll be happy to spend some time with you, let you ride our bikes, and discuss all of your options with regard to your own unique set of goals.