If you’re in the market for a new bike, the available choices can be quite bewildering. This is especially true if you’re new to biking or have not bought a bike in a long time. The new widely available bike categories are proliferating so fast, we’re running out of ideas for what to call them: Hybrid? City? Urban? Asphalt? Cross? Gravel? Adventure? Whatever you call them, most contemporary bikes offer off-the-shelf utility and a versatile range at a reasonable price.
But the question "what is the best bike?" is still best answered by "it's the one that's best for you." Therefore, this guide is less about giving you advice on which type of bike to buy, and more about arming you with information so that you can make the best choice for you.
What this guide is NOT
This guide is not going to help you if you’re looking for a highly specialized bike to use for any kind of racing, competition or endurance event. Rather it is a no-nonsense compilation of our many years’ experience of helping customers find the right bike for their needs. We hope it will help you too find a lifestyle bike that you may want to use around Chicago for transportation, recreation, adventures or riding with your family.
Should you buy a new bike?
Bicycles are quite durable, so if you already own a bike, you may be trying to decide if you should really be getting a new one, or if it makes sense to keep the old one going a little longer. We have these conversations with customers all the time, and we’ve compiled the salient points into this summary:
Lifestyle and use considerations
Try to anticipate where and how often you will be using your bike. Think about how the bike will be used. Some questions that may help you along:
Will it be a dedicated urban bike, or will it double your vacation or adventure companion? If it’s a bike that has to serve multiple uses, you probably want something more versatile than a single-speed.
Will you ride strictly on pavement, or on unpaved trails as well? Choose a bike with tires that are suitable for a variety of surfaces.
Will you wear a skirt or carry children? You may consider a step-though frame that won’t force you do swing your leg over the bike to get on and off.
Do you plan to ride in inclement weather, or need to wear professional clothes? Consider a bike with internal gears, a chainguard, and fenders.
Will you have to store your bike in a small space or carry it up the stairs? Will you be combining biking with public transit? A folding bike can work very well in these situations.
Types of Bikes
Below we highlight various types of popular bikes with some insight into their best intended use. But don’t get too bogged down with bike categories. These days there is a lot of crossover between different types of bikes, and —with few exceptions— most bikes adapt very well to a variety of uses. Don't be too concerned about the brand either. Within a given price range, most manufacturers of mainstream lifestyle bikes offer comparable value, as far as the quality of the frame and components (This may not apply to specialty manufacturers of higher level, and custom bikes, but that’s not what this guide is about.)
Comfort & Fit
We’ve put together a common sense Guide to Bicycle Fit to help you understand what to look for when test-riding new bikes, and request modifications on a bike you may want to purchase.
How much will it cost?
In an era when most of our purchases are either completely disposable, or expected to become obsolete after a season of use, a quality bicycle is remarkable for its longevity. We’ve talked a lot about the relationship between bicycle price and bicycle value, and we hope these articles will give you some perspective on bike pricing, and how much you should reasonably expect to spend on a bicycle you may enjoy for decades to come.
A quality bicycle offers literally lifetime value. Can your cell phone do that?
How much should a bike cost?
You could buy a car for that! Typical bike prices.
We compare bike prices to other more or less useful expenditures.
What if we convinced you, but you still can’t afford to spend that much?
Deciding to buy
We believe that a successful bicycle purchase is not the end, but the beginning of a relationship.