For more tips on shopping for a bike, keep on reading.
Summer and early Autumn is the perfect time to shop for a bike — retailers want to unload last year's models and make way for the news ones. If discounts motivate you to shop, get out there and start doing some physical research. To figure out your size, test ride a bunch of bikes — different brands and models will help you learn your size as will the helpful sales folks at bike shops. This can be time-consuming, but from experience I can say trying out bikes is a fun way to spend a couple of afternoons. I would do this even if you were shopping for a used bike through Craigslist.
Riding a variety of styles and brands can help you narrow your search, because the geometry of different manufacturers varies a lot. You want to pay attention to how the bike feels on your hands, bum, and feet (the contact points) and the surrounding joints. When test riding a bike, make sure to have the seat height adjusted so at the bottom of the pedal stroke your knee is only slightly bent (if your knee is locking the seat is too high and if your knee is quite bent the saddle is too high). Seat height will affect how your knees and low back feel. Check that the reach for your arms isn't too far or too short. If you feel like a cycling bear from the circus, chances are high the bike is too small for you.
Another element to consider when searching for the perfect ride is the material of the frame. Price and weight being the two major considerations here. I suggest testing out all types of frames to see if you notice a difference.
When testing a bike, shift the gear up and down as much as possible. Climb some hills if you can and push the speed limit too — the front wheel shouldn't wobble when you're riding fast or descending. Go easy on the brakes at first too. New bikes tend to have sensitive brakes, and a sharp squeeze could send you flying. Just remember to wear your bike shorts if you're planning on testing a bunch of bike. The seams of jeans can start to interfere with the joy of riding a bike, even if it is just a five-minute ride.
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