The best bike brands can be purchased from a local bicycle shop (LBS). A department store does not offer top-rated machines.
Big-box store bikes are designed for very casual use. They are cheaply constructed and often weight 10 lbs more than a quality bicycle. Also, they are often put together by workers who don’t know anything about bikes.
When you visit the local bike shop, you will find offerings from one of three major brands, including Trek, Specialized, and Giant. But there will be others you have never heard of, as well — like Haro, Diamondback, Schwinn, Jamis, Cervelo. They are all good bike brands. It is more important to determine a pricepoint.
How much do you wanna spend?
Big name players
Trek: The Madone is their flagship model, featuring Shimano Dura-Ace or SRAM Red components and
Bontrager parts. Trek also offers a way to customize your bike with components and paint schemes.
But if you can’t afford a $10K bike, no worries. Trek’s current entry-level and mid-level offerings in 2013 are excellent.
They have sport and performance racing bicycles, along with hybrids for paths and MTBs for the trail.
Giant: I have owned two Giant bicycles. In my opinion, Giant makes the best bicycles for the money — bar none. And there offerings in 2013 are no exception.
They can offer a better value because of the volume of bikes they produce. As you will learn later in this article, they have the largest market share of bicycle manufacturers worldwide.
Specialized: The Specialized Roubaix doesn’t need an introduction if you are a road cyclist. This is the bike that the Classics rider Tom Boonen help tweak and helped him.
Why only 3 best bike brands?
There are way more excellent bicycles on the market. I highlighted the three major brands for a reason: There are very few mass scale bicycle factories.
Most of these factories, which are overseas and owned by one of the three major brands, build bikes, especially carbon fiber ones, for competing retailers.
For example, a carbon fiber frame is built from a mold, which is an expensive piece of manufacturing equipment. Smaller bicycle companies can’t afford to own these molds, so they rely on larger companies that can afford them.
The bicycles are built on the same equipment as the best bike brands but the difference between them is in the paint scheme, the parts on them, and subtle frame geometry changes.
The frame geometry is what determines how the bike fits you, and that is the most important part. This is worth repeating: How the bike fits is important, which a bike shop can help you with.
Although there are hundreds of different bicycle manufacturers, you will be better served to visit the shop, look at their offerings, and discuss with an employee how you plan to use the bike.
What bike is right for me?
The first question is, what type of rides will I do with my new bike?
You will want to think about where you will do most of your riding — i.e., on bike paths, on gravel roads, on trail rides in the woods, or …
This will determine the style of cycling machine you buy.
Different styles have different purposes, which we’ll get to, but it’s important now just to note riding locations.
After determining where you’ll ride, you’ll want to note how much time do you intend to ride or how much time you currently ride each week.
This will help you determine your fitness level and a good price point, which can range from road bikes under $500 up to $10,000.
Example: If you are an arthritic, my-back-always-hurts-kind-of-person who plans to ride a dozen times a year on the bike path, a $2500 racing bike is not for you despite how cool they look.
Your reason for cycling, as well, serves as determining factor for buying a bike.
You may want to just get out and do a fun ride with your family, tear up the local racing circuit, or do a few charity rides.
Your future rides are important to note, too; otherwise, you’ll buy a bike that will not allow any growth, which means you’ll be searching for another bicycle 6 months from now.
The goal is to find one that offers a balance between your current needs and future needs.
Styles of bicycles
Bikes come in different styles for different purposes.
A mountain bike is a rugged bicycle, with wide knobby tires, a beefy frame, a generally a front suspension fork.
This machine is horrible for riding on the street. It’s heavy and the tires offer a lot of rolling resistance. If you do trail rides with it, you are using it for its purpose. If not, you will be better served by a different style of bicycle.
If you plan on riding exclusively on the streets, racing, or doing any type of charity rides, a road bicycle will be the answer.
A road bicycle is lightweight, uses skinny tires, and is an efficient machine.
For commuting, riding on bike paths, or riding in the woods a few times a year, a better bicycle would be a cross between a mountain bike and a road bike.
A hybrid or cyclocross bike is the answer. It is the middle ground between a road and mountain bike; it can be used for light off road rides and on the street efficiently.
After you’ve determined the style of bike, you’ll want to do a little research.
Research good bike brands
Grab a phone book or check the Internet for bike shops in your surrounding area. You’ll want to learn what brands the shops offer.
You’ll also want to learn if a shop specializes in certain bikes. It won’t make much sense to buy a road bike from a shop that specializes in mountain bikes — that’s a guaranteed way to find a bike that’s not the right fit for you.
You’ll want to feel the shop out as well. Find out how friendly they are and if you would want to spend your hard-earned money there.
Also, you can inquire about tune-ups, which many offer for the lifetime of the bike for free, and service plans.
I always check out the websites of the brands. This gives me an opportunity to find out the details of a bicycle before spending any time in a shop.
It’s common for bicycles in a model line to use the same frame. The difference will be the components, including wheels and drive train parts.
Within a model line, the more expensive unit will have better parts, which may last longer, operate smoother, and be lighter.
The frame, though, is the base of your bicycle and it’s best to buy the best frame you can afford then worry about the components.
As component parts wear out, you can replace them and upgrade to a higher quality unit.
Where to buy a bicycle
When you get to the local bicycle shop, you’ll be able to spot out bikes you researched. You’ll be an informed consumer.
This will make it easier for you to talk with the salesperson, and he/she won’t be able to steer you into a bike that’s wrong for your needs.
If you are looking for a bike to do charity rides with, you don’t want the salesperson pushing a racing bike.
The salesperson should listen to you and pick out what your intended use of the bike will be. He or she may be able to recommend a slightly different style bike. The key is to ask why. The reasons should be logical and compelling, not just snake oil salesmen fluff. If you find it to be fluff, go to a different shop.
The salesperson should also be willing to help fit you to the bike.
What size bike is right for me?
Sizing a bike is difficult and relative. You won’t be able to come up with a generic size that’s right for you by reading an article.
Sizing is based on your leg length, arm length, torso length, along with a host of other factors, including flexibility.
Each bike can be adjusted using different seat posts, crank-sets, stems, and handlebars.
This is why it’s important to find a bike shop and salesperson you feel comfortable with.
With a little reflection and research, you will pick up one of the best bike brands from your LBS.