Friday May 15th was to be “Bike to Work Day” here in Northern Virginia, DC, and Maryland. Unfortunately, it’s been cancelled but will be back, better than ever, next year (fingers crossed!). If you haven’t been outside on your bike lately, you’re really missing some fantastic riding. It’s a great, low-impact way to exercise and clear your mind while we are all working and living at home. I’ve always loved cycling and highly encourage everyone I meet to get outside and ride. Riding often reminds me of being a kid as I raced my blue BMX bike all over the neighborhood. Since that time, I’ve owned a number of bikes for different types of riding and racing. There’s a bike for everyone, you just need to figure out what’s best for you. Here are some ideas to think about when purchasing a new bike:
- Bike selection. What kind of rider are you? Where do you plan to spend most of your time riding? In the woods, on paved roads and trails, a combination? There are many different styles of bikes, and each design is based on where you plan to ride and what’s important to you. Comfort, commuting, cruiser, grocery hauler, riding with friends and family, or racing. Bikes today are built to address multiple needs. A more upright riding position and wider tires is commonplace on new bikes today. This adds stability, comfort, and convenience allowing you to ride in various environments such as pavement, soft trails, or gravel.
- Cost: You can spend a little or a lot, depending on your priorities. The frame material often dictates cost. Most bikes frames are aluminum, this offers a great starting point from a cost perspective. Steel is fantastic too and offers a different riding experience. Carbon fiber will provide a lighter frame, but will dial-up the cost. Titanium is also a great material that’s lightweight and will last forever. Components contribute to cost. They comprise the different systems on your bike including gears, brakes, and shifters. Typically, lighter weight components tend to increase the overall cost of your bike. All bikes, of course, come with wheels. You can spend more for lighter wheels, which are easier to peddle and may increase your top speed. The bottom line is that the lower the weight, the more expensive the bike.
- Clothing: A great pair of bike shorts ensures comfort and healthy riding. Many manufacturers offer traditional spandex shorts or baggy shorts to fit your individual style. A good bike jersey will keep you cool as the weather warms up too. Wearing loose clothing works but will require more energy when peddling as the wind resistance picks up. The aerodynamics of snug-fitting clothing, also known as your “kit” makes a difference.
- Test ride. This is important to confirm you have the correct size and that you’re comfortable. Many bikes are adjustable and may be “fit” around your style of riding and physique. We have a ton of choices in supporting our local bikes shops here in Northern Virginia, DC, and Maryland. Test ride various bikes so you get the feel for what is most comfortable for you. Some shops offer a fit with your purchase to ensure you have the correct size bike and are completely comfortable. Comfort is critical, and I can’t stress this enough. An uncomfortable bike will sit in your garage and take up space collecting dust. One of the easiest ways to add comfortable to an existing bike is to switch out the saddle, or bike seat. You spend a majority of your time seated when peddling, so it’s important you have the right size.
- Safety: Please wear a helmet when you ride. You need to protect your brain. A proper helmet adjustment is important so that it sits properly on your head and performs as expected – should you ever need that protection. Also, wear eye protection. Wearing tinted or clear lenses to protect your eyes is critical, trust me on this one. If you plan to be road-riding, consider purchasing front and rear lights to make yourself more visible to drivers. Turn the lights on even during the day to stand out and add to the safety of your ride.
Now go out there and have some fun!