For many people, cycling is a casual activity. They find joy in taking the weekend or occasional ride out to different parts of town or the seaside alone or with friends. For others, it is a competitive sport (Think Calvin Sim‘s recent gold medal at the SEAGames in Kuala Lumpur that ended Singapore’s 20-year drought for gold). Whether you’re a casual or competitive cyclist, having the right (type of) bike certainly enhances the enjoyment of your activity.
“Riding a bike is fun because you can see the scenery go by,” says Alice Burron, MS, an exercise physiologist in Cheyenne, Wyo., spokeswoman for the American Council on Exercise, and author of Four Weeks to Fabulous. “You can do it with friends. You can do it alone. You can ride in the mountains. You can ride in the city. It’s very versatile and it’s a great exercise for a change of pace.”
Choosing the right type of bike isn’t much of a science – all you need to know is where you intend to ride with it, the type of terrain you’ll be covering, and to a lesser degree, the distance to be covered. Choosing the right bike however, is an art as much as science – you’ll need specific knowledge on measurements.
1) Choosing the Right Type of Bike
Categorically, there are four to five basic types of bikes to choose from. Though the same two-wheeler, each bike has its own specific niches and drawbacks. Before you choose, however, ask yourself these questions:
- Where do I want to ride it? (roads or trails?)
- Why do I want to ride? (Fun, fitness, or cost-cutting on petrol?)
- What’s the most comfortable position to ride? (Fully upright? Leisurely and leaning forward? Or racing mode?)
After answering these questions, avail yourself of the following choices:
- Mountain bikes. Functional on pavements but built specifically for dirt roads and mountain trails. Have bulkier wheels with rougher treads for better traction. Rider sits fully upright. (Go here for 3 best MTB by Togoparts)
- Road bikes. They sport narrower wheels than mountain bikes and are built more for roads. Great for touring and long distance riding through streets and districts. Rider sits hunched forward; proper fitting is important for road bikes if you’re going to ride long distance. (Click here for a guide on 4 best road bikes by Togoparts)
- Hybrids. A hybrid is a cross between a mountain bike and road bike. They have the suspension forks of mountain bikes but the thinner wheels of road bikes. Good both for pavements and off-road. Also ideal for beginners.
- Recreational bikes. The shared bikes like Ofo, Mobike and Obike are basically recreation bikes. They have single-geared cranks and usually one to three rear-derailleur gear shifts. They do not go exceptionally fast, but outfit a basket and you’re all ready for grocery shopping!
2) Choosing the Right Bike
As aforementioned, choosing the right bike is an art as much as science. Alice Burron, MS, an exercise physiologist in Cheyenne, Wyo, recommends that you head to your (nearest) bike shop for a proper advice-taking session with the bike seller. Buying online is convenient – but only after you’ve known your specifics. Now, just what are these specifics?
They’re the measurements of your body. This specific branch of “science” is relatively easy to grasp – all you need is some patience and a good block of time allocated to – patiently – choosing your bike.
- Measure Your Height – Stand on a flat surface and place your back flat against a wall. Feet spaced no more than shoulder width apart- exactly how your P.E. teacher used to take your height and weight!
- Measure Your Inseam – That’s the most important measurement for sizing a bike. Your inseam length will determine the correct size of your bike more so than the other measurements.
a) Stand with your back against a wall and spread your feet 6-8″ apart.
b) Place a book between your legs and up against the wall, spine up; raise it until snug against your crotch to simulate sitting on your bike seat.
c) Get a friend to measure from the top of the book (spine) down to the floor.
- Measure Your Torso – A secondary measurement, but nonetheless important should you need it. To measure torso length, do so from your groin to the “V” of your throat, just above your sternum.
- Arm Length – Collarbone to the centre of your palm.
Next, use these measurements to compare against the charts offered by the bikes you’re about to purchase. These charts may be found on the bike’s website, or you could request the bike shop seller to walk you through the size specifics of the particular bike you’ve set sights on.
How to Read Bike Sizing
Many bikes give you a reading you’re familiar with – S, M, L or XL. However, there are other bikes that provide a sizing chart listing in inches or centimeters. “Frame size” denotes the seat tube length, and there’re two ways this measure is given in: from the center of the bottom bracket to the top of the top tube (C-T) or from the center of the bottom bracket to the center of the top tube (C-C).
A large number of bikes use male standards for their sizing.
While many bikes offer a size you’re familiar with, such as S, M, L or XL, others don’t. Many bikes instead provide a size listed in inches or centimeters as one number (e.g. 18″). The “frame size” of a bike refers to the length of its seat tube. This measure is given in one of two ways: from the center of the bottom bracket to the top of the top tube (C-T) or from the center of the bottom bracket to the center of the top tube (C-C). This guide serves to illustrate the C-T standard; between the two standards, the C-C is shorter than C-T by by 1 to 1.5cm.
Women and Children’s Sizing
Women and young girls have shorter arms and longer legs as compared to men. They’ll thus need a different sized bike, particularly road bikes. Should you choose between two bikes and you fall somewhere in between the two, go with the smaller one. Smaller bikes are easier to control, and you can adjust the saddle height to fit your own needs.
Read this article to for the specific instructions and charts on bike sizing.
I won’t go into detail for how or what to outfit your bike, but if you need:
Helmets. Get a proper-sized helmet that fits your head snugly. Do not compensate for any looseness around the edges; it must sit snugly on your head and be able to stay tightly on in event of a crash.
Locks. Get cable locks or better still, U-locks. Spend ten dollars more for a good $20-something range lock (unless you get one at a discount). The extra tightness is worth it. (Read this article for a guide on choosing a good lock.)
On an ending note, make sure you’re able to sit comfortably on your bike with a little bend at the knees when when your pedals are in the 12 and 6 o’ clock positions. This ensures sufficient leeway and strength for pushing off.
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