Your first decision comes in determining what type of wheels you are after. There are basically four main styles of bicycles to choose from, and your selection should really depend on what you anticipate your main type of riding to be.
Road Bikes are designed for riding on paved streets and going fast. Featuring skinny tires, a lightweight frame and a riding position that puts you bent over the handlebars, you might choose this type of bicycle if traveling longer distances at higher speeds is important to you.
The frames of most are not particularly beefy in construction and generally won’t stand up well for extended periods under heavy loads or on really rough surfaces. Mountain bikes have exploded in popularity over the past twenty years.
These bicycles have wide tires, usually with knobby treads and a stout frame, and are designed to handle the rugged trails without disintegrating. These do not go as fast as road bikes, which is a trade-off for their durability along with a more comfortable riding position.
You sit higher on these bicycles, more upright with the straight handlebars, which is often a happier choice for people with back problems than being hunched over as you are on a road bike. Sometimes mountain bikes are the default choice of salespeople at the bicycle shop because they are easy to sell and usually less expensive than road bikes.
If you are going to buy a mountain bike, make sure you are doing so intentionally because you know that you will in fact be riding off-road. Otherwise, you will be paying for unnecessary features, and probably missing out on a bicycle that would be a better choice for you.
Hybrid bikes are compromise between road and mountain bikes and offer the best features of both if most of your riding will be shorter trips on pavement. With skinnier, smooth tires, they typically can go faster than mountain bikes, yet feature the upright seat and handlebar position that many people favor.
Hybrids are a good choice for most city riding, and offer speed, durability and comfort. Cruisers are bicycles that have wide tires, wide seats, upright handlebars and sometimes even just a single gear.
These are the wheels that you’ll often see at the beach. More simple mechanically, they are easy to maintain but work best with flat terrain and a rider whose main interest is more about being comfortable than with going fast.
If after you’ve checked out these styles, still none of these bicycles offers you what you need, check out these other kinds of wheels. Tandems, recumbent, and tricycles are all unique types of wheels that you likely won’t see very often, either out on the trail or on the showroom floor at your local bicycle shop.
But each offers specific features and functions that may be just what you are looking for. Once you’ve figured out the best style of wheels for you, it’s time to start shopping.
If you have decided on the right style of bicycle for you, to make double sure that you’re making the right choice, borrow a set of wheels from a friend and try it out. Be sure to go on a ride longer than a lap around the parking lot, too.
Twenty minutes should be enough to know if you are comfortable with the way you sit on a particular type of wheels, and if the pace is right for you, or if it will be something that ultimately disappoints you. Like most everything else, you get what you pay for.
Chances are you won’t be happy over the long run with a cheap from a big box discounter, even if it was a deal. They are heavy and the components won’t last like they would in a quality model.
Ultimately, you will be frustrated, and end up spending the money to get the better wheels you should have bought in the first place. Go to your local bike store and tell the salesperson what you want to do with the wheels, and they will help you choose the right one.
Jack R. Landry is a personal trainer and has authored hundreds of articles relating to physical training and fitness bikes. He has been a health expert and physical trainer for over 15 years.
Jack R. Landry