Perhaps because I blog about it a lot, recently more and more people are asking me for my advice on buying a bike. What kind to get is really the most frequent thing I’m asked, it’s also the most difficult to answer. Because I found myself telling multiple people the same thing, I figured it was time to make a blog post about it that I could just point people to in the future.

The answer to this isn’t as simple as “here’s the bike you should get” because this is a very personal choice and has every bit as much to do with how you’ll end up using the bike as what you want it look like. It’s like asking what is the best color of car to get, or which is better a 2 or 4 door. Well, depending on your usage and goals that answer is totally different. I know people who ride mountain bikes as their main bike and all swear by them. Same goes for folks who ride road bikes, ride track bikes, and every weird hybrid in between. That said, I can provide my personal thought process, which may or may not apply to you.

I used to ride a bad ass mountain bike with 27 gears and all kinds of shocks and shit. Actually that was the main thing I rode since about college. Recently I realized that I almost never shifted gears even though I spent a lot of time worrying about what gear I should be in. So I went to the other end of the extreme with a single speed road bike and I couldn’t be happier. I can go faster, I can go further, I’m not carrying around lots of extra weight, and the only thing I think about is where I’m riding, not if I’m doing it right. I feel like I’m more efficient and there’s less that can break on the bike.

I was telling Jason today that I always assumed I needed shocks to ride on city streets, and it wasn’t until I rode a bike without them that I realized how much momentum they eat up. This was one of the major factors in my decision to leave the mountain bike for the trails, and get a road bike for the road. I know, crazy idea. I also opted to go fixed gear for a handful of different reasons. I should preface that by saying I spent years saying anyone who rode a fixed gear in the street was insane. So now I’m a hypocrite, or insane myself. Or both. Whatever, I love it.

First of all it’s a totally different feel to bike riding, so after spending my whole life on a bike to some extent, suddenly riding one is new again. It’s exciting and like putting a new coat of paint on the house. It’s also more of a workout which I wanted -since you never stop pedaling your cadence improves and you burn more calories. I figured if I was going to ride a bike everywhere I wanted to see some physical benefits, and costing just wasn’t going to do that as quickly for me. Interestingly, because there’s no freewheel I tend to “feel” the road a lot more. Rather than reacting to what the bike is doing on the road, I feel like I’m making more of those decisions. The bike doesn’t slip out and I have to recover from it, the second it starts to lose traction I know and can correct it before it ever slips. Again, none of that may apply to you but I’m really happy with it.

A few off the cuff recommendations:
Avoid Huffy’s and Target bikes. They are pieces of crap and riding them will suck so you’ll either give up or decide to buy a new bike, either way you’ll have wasted the cash you spent on it.
Try out a few things, and keep in mind where you will be riding. Last thing you want to do is spend a few hundred bucks on a roadbike only to realize that most of the area you plan to ride in is covered in sand.
How much to you want to tinker with your bike? The more stuff on it the more things that can break or go wrong.
Don’t be fooled by a padded seat. The more cushioned and gel filled the more it will hurt. I know that sounds wrong but it’s the truth, you want something much more firm.

OK, that’s enough to get you moving anyway. Later I’ll talk about riding in a city with cars and traffic and fucked up streets, but you need a bike first so we’ll get to that another time.