A crowded bike rack on the corner of Mass Ave and Alabama Street.
How to Choose a Bike

Bikes, bikes everywhere, but which to choose for you? For those of you who are new to the bike world, it can be an intimidating idea to figure out what bike to buy. How much should you spend? What style is best? Where should you shop? We are here to tell you that the answers to your questions are limitless, but here is a quick guide to get you started on your journey.

Step One: Go to a Bike Shop
Bike shops are filled with friendly, experienced, and professionally trained bike fanatics. At least the good ones, anyway. They know everything youíd ever want to know about bikes, riding, accessories and more. They can answer all your questions and make sure you get a bike that will fit your needs and your comfort level. They also have lots of bikes that you can hop on and try out right there. That is something Wikipedia canít do for you. Even if you donít decide to buy your bike from a bike shop, they are a wealth of information that will point you towards the bike that will be right for you.

A Note of Caution: If you do choose to get your bike from another source like eBay, Craigslist, a big department store, the cobwebbed back corner of Uncle Teddyís garage, always take it to a professional bike shop for a tune-up and a once-over. Bikes need to be assembled correctly for the best riding experience, but also for safety and we are sorry to say that the guy in the back room of a big department store had no idea what he was doing and may have forgotten important bolts. So if you want your bike to last and no pedals flying off halfway down the Monon, let the professionals get your bike in the best shape right from the start. Remember that regular tune-ups are important for the life of your bike. You should take it in at least once a year for general maintenance depending on how often you ride and in what conditions.

Step Two: Decide What You Will Do with the Bike
When looking at different styles of bikes, a key deciding factor is what the bike will be used for. Different bikes were designed for different use. Here is a quick breakdown of some general bike styles and their uses.

Bike Styles

Road Bikes Light frame, skinny tires, and a crouched rider position for speed and long distance rides. They can be delicate and uncomfortable for urban traffic.
City Bikes Very similar frame to the road bike, but the rider sits upright. More comfortable in the downtown settings, but potentialy less so for long rides.
Touring Bikes A sturdy frame and slightly wider tires for better use on a variety of terrains. A highly versatile bike used for everything from urban commuting to long travel.
Cruiser Bikes A thick frame and fat tires built for the comfort of the rider. These bikes are nice for short casual rides, but not much more.
Mountain Bikes Heavy bikes with wide treaded tires designed for rugged trail riding. Sturdy bikes, but often slow for urban riding.
Fixed Gears One gear for max speed. Great for cycle couriers and downtown riding but not practical for long distances or going up hills.

Step Three: Get a Bike that Fits
Believe it or not, bikes come in sizes and it is vitally important to get a bike that fits. A wrongly sized frame with be uncomfortable and potentially frustrating to ride. This is one of the many great reasons to go to a bike shop. Sizing a bike can be complicated and the guys at the bike shop have plenty of experience doing it. They know how to perfectly size a bike to you and even if they donít have the frame you love in the right size, they can probably order it for you.

A note about money: Now that youíve spent some time in a few bikes shops, you might start being worried by price tags that range from $300 to $3,000. The truth about spending money on a bicycle is that itís an investment. Particularly for those of you considering seriously downsizing your time in a car in favor of a bike, think about how the money you save in gas, car payments, insurance, and more that will very quickly pay for the bike. You need a quality bike that you can rely on. What good does it do you to buy a cheap, low quality bike now that will need plenty of repairs and then replaced in a year or so?

Now, for those of you just using your bike occasionally for short distances, you can get away with just about anything. As long as you take care of it, it will take care of you.

So, as a start, spending a lot of money on a bike is not necessary. But you may soon find yourself falling in love with cycling and desiring a lifelong companion bike. Just a warning. Bicycling can be addictive.

Step Four: Get a Comfortable Bike You Like
The truth is, you can ride just about any style of bike for whatever purpose. Particularly with downtown commuting, any bike will do. All this information is just a guide. The most important thing when choosing a bike is to pick one that is comfortable and that you enjoy riding. If you like your bike, you are more likely to actually get out there and make good use of your investment. Save the environment. Save the budget. Save your waistline. Bikes are nothing but good for you.

Still not sure how to choose? Check out some of these Indianapolis bikers, what they are riding, and why.

Bike Shops

Since we keep telling you to go to bike shops, we figured we should tell you where some are. Indy is full of great bike shops. These are some of our favorites and this is by no means a complete list.

Bikes on Mass Ave: A Modern Urban Cyclery
Our top shop for great city bikes and the absolute coolest kid's bikes.
643 Massachusetts Avenue

Freewheelin' Community Bikes
They take donated bikes and use them to teach neighborhood kids how to fix bikes. You can get a quality used bike at a great price and support the community all at the same time.
3355 Central Avenue

National Moto+Cycle Company
They build custom motorized bicycles in vintage style. So awesome.
5206 N. College Ave.
317-698 2418

Joe's Cycles
It's where the Fixie guys go and you can go there, too.
1060 Virginia Avenue

Shamrock Cycles
This guy makes bicycles by hand. He just won Best City Bike at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. Yup. There's a whole show for that and its actually pretty big.

Indy Cycle Specialists
5804 E. Washington St

Bicycle Garage Indy
Downtown: 222 East Market St 317-612-3099
North: 4340 East 82nd Street 317-842-4140
South: 997 E County Line Road 317-885-7194

Gray Goat Sports
7750 S. Meridian Street Suite A

A1 Cyclery
6847 West Washington Street

Valley Bikes Recumbents
Recumbant bikes are basically lounging bikes where you sit leaning back in a chair with the pedals in front of you. And this guy makes them out of his home.

add a comment