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Learn How Folding Bikes are Fun, Fast, and Easy to Use

Folding bikes are the essential bike for anyone with limited space, a multi-mode commute, or the desire to travel with a bicycle is a Folding bike. Tons of companies make great folders that are featherweight and easy to use. Read ahead for tips on how to choose the right one, and for information on all the benefits of a folder.

Types of folders

-Sizes

Wheel size is the major differentiation between folding bikes. They range from 12” wheels, like the wheels you find on a kid’s bike, up to 700c full size adult wheels. Most folding bike frames are sized as one size fits all. The Seat and handlebars can usually be raised and lowered almost infinitely to fit any rider. The most noticeable part of different wheel sizes is comfort and stability.

-Brands

There are many different brands out there. The major players are Dahon, Tern, and Bike Friday. Each have models that are oriented toward road riding, off-road, or touring. Tern and Dahon make their bicycles in Asia out of aluminum or steel. Bike Friday on the other hand, produces all their bicycles in Eugene Oregon out of steel. There are many other brands that make folding bikes as well, but these are the three most readily available in bike shops.

Portability

Folding bikes are great because of their size. For storage, having the ability to fold a bike up into a suitcase sized package offers a lot of options. These bikes can fit under a bed, into a closet, or the trunk of your car.

Commuting

A barrier for many people to enter into bicycle commuting is distance. For some, it is just not possible to ride 25 miles to work. A folding bike can help split up a bicycle commute. By being foldable, you can ride from your home to the bus or train, ride public transportation and then finish the trip to work on your bike again.

Wheel size

Most folding bikes use smaller wheels than their non-folding counterparts. Those small wheels are great when it’s time to fold the bike up, but while riding, they can be a bit harsher than a full size wheel.

Unique parts

Folding bikes use proprietary parts in order to fold as small as possible. Most of these parts are specific to each folding bike brand and are designed to make the bike as fold-able as possible while also being very light. The downside to unique parts is getting replacements can be an issue. Overall, these parts aren’t usually wear items, so the instance of replacement is low.

Stiffness

Folding bikes use smaller frames in the pursuit of getting as small and light as possible once folded. The side effect of a small frame is low stiffness. This flex would be appreciated if it were in a vertical plane, as it would absorb road vibration, but sadly the lateral flex of a folding bike only robs the rider of efficiency.

Tips to buying

Trying before you buy can be difficult because most shops don’t stock a large selection of folding bikes. Start by making a few calls to local shops to see what’s available to ride. Because of that scarcity, focus on testing two things – Wheel size and frame material. The wheel size and frame material have the largest effect on the ride quality of the bicycle. If you can solidify the wheel size and frame material you prefer, you can then determine the other features without riding them.

My Experiences Choosing, Traveling and Riding a Travel Bike Around the Globe

My Experiences Choosing, Traveling and Riding a Travel Bike Around the Globe

John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

I have had the pleasure of owning a travel bike for the past ten years. When I bought it, I was traveling a few times a year to different bicycle industry events around the country. Those events all followed the same script; Get off the plane, take a shuttle to the hotel, then take shuttles to event locations within five-miles. Beyond the feeling that I was being moved like cattle, it also bothered me that I wasn’t riding my bike at these bike event! To escape this cycle, I decided to bring my own bike along on the next trip. Trying to bring my bike on a plane was a too expensive for the small amount of saddle time I was going to get. So I started to look into the options for a travel bike.

Travel Bike Options

Taking a standard bike on an airplane inexpensively, means you need to get it into a suitcase that is airplane certified. Packing your bike in a full-size bike case is also an option, but you pay steep airline fees to do so. To get your bike small enough to fit it into a case, it needs to either fold, or use couplers to split in half. I was looking for a frame that could split, because I planned to build the bike with spare parts and the parts I had wouldn’t work on a folding bike. Couplers work by replacing a portion of the top and downtube, and allow them to come apart.

travel bike couplers

The two major players in couplers are Ritchey, and S&S. Ritchey makes complete coupler frames that include a case, pads, and cable splitters as a package. S&S couplers are modern day fine art but sold as couplers only. The downside for S&S couplers is they are expensive because you need have a custom bike built, or have them installed on an existing steel frame by a frame builder. For me, having a custom bike built was too expensive and labor intensive, so I picked a Ritchey.

travel bike frame

Outside of those coupler bikes there are packable and folding bikes available from other companies as well. The most packable bike is built by a company called Moulton. Moulton uses a cool truss design to create stiff, light, packable bicycles.  I didn’t consider these bicycles only because their frames are built for small 20” wheels, and the spare wheels I had were larger. Folding bikes are also a great option we have covered here on Havefunbking.com but would also require smaller wheels.

The Bike

Ritchey makes complete road and cyclocross coupled frames under their “Breakaway” series. Because I wanted a bike that could handle the widest range of conditions I threw at it, I opted for the cyclocross frame. My new Ritchey Steel Cross Frame arrived in its black suitcase and I couldn’t wait to get it open. Moments later I had freed my orange and grey beauty from the packaging that had imprisoned it. I quickly built it up and took it for a spin. I was surprised at how efficient the bike felt. Somewhere in my mind I must have assumed that because it was a travel bike, there would be additional flex, more weight, or just some sort of compromised ride. The reality was that the bike rode just like a bike without couplers.

How Does It Work

travel bike packed

It is easy to pack the Ritchey by removing the wheels, handlebar, seat and seatpost, and decoupling the frame. The resulting six parts fit neatly into the supplied Ritchey suitcase with enough room left over for a helmet, shoes and some bike gear. The supplied padding Velcros in place to protect the paint on each tube and even includes a small bag to protect the rear derailleur. To close the suitcase, just zip it up and compress the contents with the 3 exterior straps.

Is a Travel Bike Really That Easy?

In the years I’ve owned my bike it has treated me to thousands of miles over far away roads. I have built it in airports, hotel rooms, and conference rooms across the globe. Assembling it is easy and quick with just a folding set of hex wrenches. Even though assembly is easy, don’t forget to have the bike routinely maintained at your local bike shop. While it’s not necessary each time you travel, packing and unpacking a bike can accelerate the need for maintenance.

I hope you have a similar, positive experience with your travel bike. Bringing a familiar “two wheeled friend” along on your bike journeys is the best way to explore.

Hybrid Bikes: What are the Differences and What’s the Right One for You

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Trail or fitness bikes, Hybrids, Dual sport bikes, all fall into the same category of bike. Although these bikes all occupy the same category, they have very different uses. Read on to find out what bike will fit you needs best.

Step one, determine where you want to ride

Hybrid

Road, Trail, or Offroad.

-Road

Paved surfaces are more inviting to cyclists than ever before thanks to bicycle conscience city planners and influential cycling groups. Bike lanes on city roads, bike paths on retired rail lines, and dedicated cycling trails are just a few of the options open for paved riding. Because of these options, there are many bicycles available for paved riding specifically.

-Path/Trail

By far, Path and Trail riders are the largest segment of casual cyclists. This is due to the vast availability of riding options. Due to the fact that there are tons of options, these bikes are designed to ride comfortably,  and efficiently through almost anything.   

-Off Road

A newly emerging category is casual off road riding. For this reason, many bicycle manufacturers have developed products to allow riders to enjoy trails comfortably. These bikes are similar to Path/trail bikes, but usually include tires with more knobs and suspension.

How frequently do you plan on riding?

The cost of a bicycle can range from around $300 up into the tens of thousands. The most basic models use less durable materials like plastics rather than metals in the shifting components, and mild steel rather than stronger alloys for the drivetrain and cockpit. As the prices increase, stronger materials replace less durable materials, lending to a bicycle that will hold up better to frequent use. Consequently, at a certain price (different for every category of bicycle), the durability doesn’t increase, but the instead, the weight begins to decrease. A lighter bicycle is easier to control and accelerate (making for a more enjoyable ride). Determining how frequently you intend to ride and weighing that against the bikes you are looking at will ensure you get the right bike for your needs.

Bike Features

Disc Brakes vs rim brakes

Hybrid

Rim brakes work, by two rubber pads squeezing the aluminum rim of your wheel. They are inexpensive, functional, and lightweight. when conditions are good, they work incredibly well. Disc brakes use hardened semi-metallic pads to squeeze a hardened steel rotor. Disc brakes produce an enormous amount of friction, and that friction can overcome poor conditions. To summarize, both brakes work, but disc brakes work better in poor conditions.

Suspension vs no suspension

Hybrid

Bikes that go offroad typically use suspension forks to silence the chatter of gravel paths, dirt roads and trails. Bikes with rigid forks tend to handle better because they are laterally stiffer and due to the lack of moving parts, end up being lighter.

Wheel size

hybris

26″ x 1.75 and 700×37

In this category, you will find smaller wheels and larger ones. The smaller wheels are usually 26” in diameter and around 2 inches wide. The larger wheels are sized out at 700c (roughly 28″ in diameter) and usually are between 28 and 42 millimeters wide.

Differences

Once you have figured out where and how often you want to ride, and you learned about some of the features, it’s time to learn about the differences in the bikes.

Hybrid

Hybrid bicycles at one point were the only bike in this category. They get their names, because initially they were a hybrid of a Mountain bike and a Road bike. Today, a Hybrid is a great bike for fun and fitness. They usually incorporate suspension forks to smooth out the road. Most types use a tire that is 30-40mm wide and well suited to gravel roads, rails to trails, or paved roads. If you are looking for the most comfortable ride across the largest segment of conditions, A hybrid is the right choice for you.

Fitness bikes

Fitness bikes share a lot of features with hybrids. They have similar wheel sizes, similar riding positions and similar gearing. Where they differ, is that hybrids incorporate a lot of features to add comfort, while fitness bikes focus on efficiency and light weight. If you are the type of rider who wants to get a great workout, and enjoy your neighborhood or local bike path, a Fitness bike is the right choice.

Dual Sport bikes

Dual sport bikes are a new and quickly growing segment of this category. The Dual sport bike is similar to the hybrid, in that it uses suspension. Where it differs from a hybrid is that they are designed for off road use. By changing the rider position, incorporating wider tires, and using disc brakes, these bikes excel on bike trails that are a bit more technical. If your adventure takes you off the beaten path, Dual sport bikes are the tool of choice.

How

Paramount to buying the right bike is trying them. Start with a bike that fits you correctly. Take it for good 10-15 minute ride to see how it handles. Ride it on hills and on some path if possible. Next try some other models that use different features. Test riding will quickly highlight the benefits of disc brakes, suspension, and tire sizes. Once you feel comfortable on a few bikes, try them back to back and figure out which is the right fit for you.

Road Bikes: What are the Differences and What’s Best For you

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Road bikes have been popular in cycling for longer than any other category. For example, many would remember the iconic dark green color of a Schwinn varsity from the 60s as the bike hanging in their parent’s garage. As time went on, Schwinn road bikes made way for the lighter European and Japanese bikes. Thanks to Celebrity involvement and exceptional product, road cycling has seen a resurgence in the last quarter century. Read on to see how to wade through a century of history, and countless products to find the right bike for you.

What Is New In Road Bikes

Road bike fit

For too long, road bikes were designed with tradition in mind rather than riders needs. Regrettably, it was the job of the rider to conform to the bike rather than the other way around. Thanks to a lot of market requests and a lot of work by manufacturers, we now have road bike with drop bars that fit all types of rider needs.

SMOOTH AND COMFORTABLE

Newer road bikes are far more efficient and comfortable than ever before. Road bikes are now laterally stiff, allowing them to efficiently transfers your force through the bike and into forward motion. While being laterally stiff, newer bikes are also vertically compliant, limiting the amount of vibration that is transferred from the road into you.

MORE POSSIBILITIES

road bike adventure

As bicycles have become more efficient and comfortable, people are seeking new and more difficult terrain. Wider tires are being used to add traction as these new territories are being explored. Additionally, braking systems have become more powerful to aid in control.

Materials

Steel tubes have been used for making bicycles since the late 1800’s. Steel was an ideal material because it is strong, and was inexpensive. Currently, Steel frames are usually found on high end frames built by custom builders. As a matter of fact, steel frames today use high quality tubes that are very strong and light. With that in mind, the benefits to steel frames are that they are very strong and naturally  flex to absorb vibration, making the bikes durable and comfortable.

Aluminum is a light and stiff material and those qualities are beneficial when used in a bicycle frame. Being light helps the bike accelerate under the rider and being stiff transfers your energy efficiently. The downside of aluminum is that it can transfer vibration effectively from the road into the rider. At the same time bicycle designers have found ways to manipulate the material and the tube shapes to offer a more compliant ride with aluminum.

Carbon fiber is a material perfectly suited to making bicycle frames. Carbon fiber frames can be laterally stiff and very efficient, vertically compliant and comfortable, and incredibly light. The only downside to carbon fiber bike frames is that they are more expensive than steel or aluminum bikes.

Types of road bikes

Competition road bicycles are designed to position the rider in the most efficient position possible. The riders positions on these bikes is focused on aerodynamics. Typically positioned with the hands and back low, this position is an effort to cheat the wind. Competition bikes also incorporate design features that transfer as much of the riders effort to forward motion.

Endurance road bikes are designed for long miles and maximum comfort. To that end, they use all the same efficiency designs as the competition road bicycles, but incorporate a higher bar position to be more comfortable. In addition to efficiency features, endurance road bikes use design features to increase the comfort of the rider. These designs absorb exceptional amounts of road vibration, leaving the rider feeling better after a day in the saddle.

Adventure and touring bicycles are a growing category rooted in the most traditional aspects of cycling. With that in mind, these bicycles are ridden through terrains not possible for Competition or endurance road bikes. Some are equipped with tires typically found on mountain bikes, creating greater traction and stability. These bikes are capable of long rides well past the end of the pavement. If you plan an overnight adventure, these bikes are capable of being loaded with racks to ensure you can bring everything you need to enjoy your adventure.

How to I figure out what’s the right bike for me?

Try them out. Test ride as many bikes as possible by going to your local bike shop ready to ride. If you have them, bring your Helmet, shoes and pedals, and wear your cycling clothes. The difference in road bikes can be very subtle, so only by riding many bikes can you discern the difference.

Start off with a bike that is your correct size. In brief, Take a 10-15 minute test ride to get a very good feeling of how the bike handles. A good course for a test ride will include some hills, some turns that can be taken at speed, and a flat long section. Focus on how the bike accelerates, climbs, descends, and turns. After you ride enough bikes, the right choice should present itself to you.

here are some Trail/Path cycles that will look like Mountain Bikes, but aren’t designed for off road use

Mountain Bikes: What Is Best for You and the Terrain You Will Ride

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Mountain Bikes (MTB) may all look similar, however there is a difference in features and not only the cost of the better components. First lets take a look at the “It looks like a mountain bike” version, then we will look at a true mountain bike.

Trail/Path Cycles Only Look Like Mountain Bikes

There are some Trail/Path cycles that will look like Mountain Bikes, but aren’t designed for off road use. These Trail/Path bikes are popular because riders like the stability, traction, control, and upright riding position of a Mountain Bike but don’t need the features geared toward off road use.

Mountain Bikes in name

Trail/Path “Mountain Bikes” have higher bars, narrower tires, and less suspension travel.

Mountain Bikes True to Their Name

A true Mountain Bike is designed to be ridden off road over loose and rocky terrain. These actual all terrain bicycles offer suspension designed for control rather than comfort, are equipped with low gearing designed to navigate steep, loose terrain, and are built using more durable components to hold up to the constant impacts of riding off road.

Mountain bikes Yeti

True Mountain Bikes have more suspension, and larger tires.

Mountain Bike Suspension

A key feature of a true mountain bike is the suspension that allows the wheels to move up and down over objects giving the rider better traction and more control. The amount the wheel can move is called travel. Therefore, a suspension fork that has 100mm of travel can move up and down 100mm (roughly 4″).

Mountain Bikes Suspension

What Kind of Mountain Bikes are Available?

Mountain bikes get grouped by their intended riding conditions. As an example, Cross country bikes (XC) are designed to move quickly both uphill and downhill. For example, XC bikes are light and the suspension is most often limited to 100mm of travel.

Trail bikes are like cross country bikes, but rather than being concerned with maximum speed uphill, they focus a bit more on the downhill. Trail bikes have suspension ranges between 100mm and 140mm of travel.

Mountain Bikes Trail

All-mountain (or Enduro) bicycles take the idea of a trail bike a step further. Therefore, they offer more travel and are focused on offering the most amount of control and speed while descending, while still being capable of riding back to the top of the hill.

Within each of those categories hardtails (front suspension only) and full suspension (front and rear suspension) are available as well as electric assist versions (using a battery and powered motor)

What is the Deal with wheel size       

                     

Unlike road or city/path bikes, Mountain bikes come in many different wheel sizes. The first mountain bikes were built in Marin County California 40 years ago. Notably, the only tires available were old balloon tires from the 50’s which is why 26″ wheels were used. As technology progressed, the benefits of larger and wider tires became apparent. Initially, 26” tires were made wider for more traction (up to 3” wide). Then a few small builders tried the idea of a larger diameter wheel (29”). The benefits of a larger wheels are that objects are smaller in relation the them, offering a smoother ride, and the amount of rubber on the path is greater (better traction). Now there are a half dozen wheel sizes available, that all have their own benefits and drawbacks.

What type of Mountain Bike is best for me?

To start, think about what you want out of your ride. Someone who wants to burn through a loop of their local park as fast as possible, or likes to push themselves on the climbs as much as they do the descent would probably be a good candidate for a cross country bicycle. It’s light weight frame and efficiency will help that rider get more enjoyment/speed out of their ride.

Another rider might like to make good time on the climbs, but push a bit more on the downhill. They ride quickly (trying to beat their friends maybe) but aren’t looking to enter a competitive race. In this case a trail bike helps this rider have more fun.

Finally, another rider might totally live for speeding downhill. Getting back to the top of the hill is only an inconvenience for this person. therefore, they are willing to push a heavier bike up the hill if that weight equates into more traction and more control at high speeds. This rider would love the benefits an all mountain (or Enduro) bike gives them.

Are there any other kinds of Mountain Bikes?

Yes. There are Fatbikes, Downhill bikes, Trials bikes, dirt jumping bikes……The list goes on and on. To delve into all the subdivisions of bicycles, head into your local bike shop. Seeing and test riding the nuances of different bicycles will give you a quick education.

 

 

 

 

Teach Kids to Have Fun Riding With a Balance Bike

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Balance bikes are sweeping the world as the best way to teach children to ride bikes. What is a balance bike and how does it work? Balance bikes look a lot like a normal bike with two wheels, frame, seat and handlebars. What you won’t see on a balance bike is a crank, chain and pedals. Balance bikes are designed to teach kids the most difficult portion of riding – Balance.

Fit and fun

The best way to get kids excited about their balance bike is to make sure it fits them and it’s fun. To adjust the fit, start by loosening the seat and dropping it all the way down. Next, have your child stand over the bike and lift the saddle until it makes contact with their backside. Tighten the seat at that height. Once the seat height is set, adjust the handlebars to a comfortable position for your child. They should be able to reach out normally and hold the grips. If they look as if their arms are too high (this will fatigue them prematurely) lower the bars. Inversely, if the child is reaching too far down, raise them.

balance bike sizing

So once the bike is fit right, be sure to make it fun! In short, make sure the bike is what the child wants it to be. Stickers, colored tape, bags, bells or horns work great to customize your child’s bike for them.

Saftey

A balance bike is a bike and should be treated as such. This means, you want to practice in a flat safe area free of traffic, wear a helmet and be careful of obstacles.

Start out fun

Starting out on the balance bike can be intimidating for your kids. Try to keep it fun. Kids love motorcycle sounds and wheelies. In my 15 years working in a bike shop, I never once ran into a kid who didn’t like getting pushed around on a bike while making motorcycle noises. If you can add a wheelie to the mix, all the better. Even if the first rides aren’t very long, be sure to stop as soon as it’s not fun. 5 – 10 minute rides may seem short, but are totally acceptable.

Support the child not the bike

While helping your child with their balance bike, remember that the goal is for your children to understand how to balance WITH the bike. This is different to balancing ON TOP of the bike. A great way to help this is to support the children by the shoulders rather than holding the seat and handlebars. If you support the child, they will learn to use the bike to help them balance. If you hold the bike stable, the kids have more trouble feeling what real bicycle balance is.

Pedals aren’t all bad

All our talk about balance makes it sound like pedals at the young age are a bad thing, That’s not the case. Bikes with training wheels or tricycles have a great place in teaching kids how to pedal. The action of pedaling forward is not as difficult to learn as balance, but the frustration of not being able to do it can hamper a child’s move from balance bike to pedal bike.

What age

Balance bikes come in many different sizes. The smallest sizes can accommodate kids as young as 18 months. Before picking a bike try to have the child stand over it. You want some clearance between the child and the bike, and a comfortable distance from the seat to handlebars. Most Balance bikes will top out sizes for kids around 6.

Transitioning to a full size bike

In a few stories you will hear about the kid who got off his balance bike, onto his pedal bike, and pedaled away. It’s a great story, but not too common. Transitioning to a pedal bike takes a little effort. Start in a similar fashion to the balance bike – Fit and Fun. Adjust the pedal bike’s seat and handlebar. Next step is to explain how the bikes brakes work. With a balance bike kids can become accustomed to stopping by dragging their feet, so it’s important to show them how the pedal bike stops. Next step is to let them ride while supporting them by the shoulders and let them pedal around. Once they feel comfortable pedaling, you can let go. You will find they have almost no issues riding and the transition from balance to pedal bike will happen within a day.

Make your bike a balance bike

After all this you’re probably asking yourself “Why can’t I just pull the pedals of my child’s bike and use that as the balance bike?” The truth is, you can do that.

Pulling the pedals off a bike will give you a lot of the same benefits as a balance bike. The shortcomings of doing that are pedal bikes are wider than balance bikes and make it more difficult for the child to push off. Pedal bikes are also heavier than balance bikes. Pushing around the extra weight of a pedal bike can be difficult for smaller riders.

However you choose to teach your kids to balance, keep it fun.

 

 

 

What is the Right Bike for You?

 

Like everything else in the world today, there are no shortages of choices when it comes to bikes. So how do you figure out what is the right bike for you?

Step one, determine where you want to ride.

Typical choices are:

Road Bikes designed exclusively for pavement riding.

Path/Trail Encompassing everything from paved roads to dirt trails.

Off Road These bikes are designed for Mountain Biking offroad.

Step two, how frequently do you plan on riding?

The cost of a bicycle can range from around $300 up into the tens of thousands. The most basic models use less durable materials like plastics rather than metals in the shifting components, and mild steel rather than stronger alloys for the drivetrain and cockpit. As the prices increase, stronger materials replace less durable materials, lending to a bicycle that will hold up better to frequent use. At a certain price (different for every category of bicycle), the durability doesn’t increase, but the instead, the weight begins to decrease. A lighter bicycle is easier to control and accelerate (making for a more enjoyable ride). Determining how frequently you intend to ride and weighing that against the bikes you are looking at will ensure you get the right bike for your needs.

Step three, why are you riding?

Fun and fitness, speed and adrenaline, or competition all put different strains on a bicycle. Be sure to match your riding style with the bike you get.

Step Four, What to ride.

Once you figure out the “Where”, “How frequently”, and “Why” questions, only the “What” remains. What is the right bike? Start with the three main categories Road, Path/Trail, MTB. First figure out the main category (each one has its own subcategories).

Road Bicycles

Designed with speed and efficiency in mind, Road Bikes are best suited on roads due to their narrow tires. Don’t let the narrow tire deter you, road bikes use narrow tires because pavement offers ample traction, so a wider tire only slows the bike down. Road bicycles are the lightest of the three categories. Some are equipped with flat handlebars, but most come with a drop bar. Many riders love the speed and lightweight of these bicycles. Click for more info on Road bikes.

Path/Trail

Path/Trail bikes are the largest volume of bicycles sold. These bicycles use an upright handlebar and a more comfortable seating position. The tires range from something narrow (a little wider than a Road Bike) to as wide as a Mountain Bike. Some are also fitted with suspension designed to make the bike feel smother over rough paths. While not as quick as a Road Bike, these bikes offer great efficiency on longer bike tours. Click for more info on Path/Trail bikes.

 

Mountain Bikes

Mountain Bikes are designed for off road use.  They sport the largest tires of any category and are equipped with suspension designed to keep the rider in control on rough trails. Mountain Bikes have low gearing so riders can pedal up steep grades of loose and rocky terrain. A lot of riders enjoy the stability and position of a Mountain Bike for Path/Trail riding as well as true off road riding. Click for more info on Mountain Bikes.

Test rides

To learn about the subcategories, and individual models it’s best to visit your local bike shop and start taking test rides. As you test ride bicycles, the differences and your own preferences, become clearer as you ride more bikes.

For your first test ride, take a bike that fits you properly, is in a price range you feel comfortable with, and is in the category you think you want. Pay attention to how much effort it takes to get up to speed, how quickly it turns, how stable it feels at speed, and how comfortable you feel on it. When you try a second, third, etc. (typically I recommend you try the same type bike in a slightly lower or higher price point) compare them. Even with as few as three test rides you can begin to feel the differences between the bicycles. You will find that making a final decision on the right bike is easy after an day of test riding.

In the case of Mountain bikes, many shops have Demo bicycles that you can take to your local trails for a ride. Riding a demo bike is a great way to get the feel for a bike on trail, but is best done once you have test ridden a few models around the shop and are closer to a decision.