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Getting Started in Bicycling

Updated on March 8, 2015
The author out on a bike tour
The author out on a bike tour

Cycling is an activity that people can do & enjoy from very early in life to very late in life. Several generations of a family can ride together. It’s a great way to increase your fitness & lose weight. If you are looking to meet new people, there are probably clubs & organized groups in your area that you can find with a little bit of searching on the Internet. I realize that getting started in cycling when you know very little about it can be a little intimidating. I remember when I decided to get into bicycle touring back in 1978. After going to a local bicycle store and looking at three different Fuji touring bicycles. I agonized over which one to buy before deciding to go all out & buy the top of the line Fuji America. It cost $429, which was a lot for a college student at that time. I have never regretted that purchase.

Most local bike shops are glad to help you get started in what will hopefully be a lifelong source of fun & enjoyment. They want to help find something that is right for the type of cycling you will be doing & that fits your budget. Before they can do that, you need to decide which of these types of riding you plan to do:

  1. I want to get into bicycle racing
  2. I just like to ride as fast as I can with my friends
  3. I want to ride my bike across America
  4. I want to ride / race off-road trails
  5. I want to get into BMX racing
  6. I want to ride on paved, bicycle-only trails
  7. I want to do short bike rides in my neighborhood

Author's Note: I am one of the owners of Circle City Bicycles in Indianapolis. The bikes I describe here will be ones that we carry, because those are the ones I am familiar with. Other brands have very similar bikes at similar prices.

1 & 2: Road Bikes

For those of you who want to race or go fast on roads & paved trails, road bikes are recommended. Knowing some folks are on tight budgets, most bike shops stock a wide range of bikes. The SE Royale 14 is an entry level road bike, priced at $579. As you go up in price, here’s what you get for your money:

  • Better frame material – Lower end bikes are usually aluminum or steel, while higher end bikes are typically carbon fiber composite
  • Better components
  • Better aerodynamics – such as aero shaped frame tubes or flat spokes to reduce drag

By moving up to the $759 Masi Inzio, you get an aluminum frame with a carbon fork. The carbon fork does a good job of damping out road shock. If you move all the way up to the $1,499 Scott CR-1, you can get a bike with a full carbon frame that weighs only 17.5 pounds.

The Scott CR-1 features a full carbon frame
The Scott CR-1 features a full carbon frame

3: Touring Bikes

If you want to get into bicycle touring, we recommend that you get a touring bike. Some features that you will find on a touring bike include:

  • Longer wheelbase - This allows you to put bags on the rear of the bicycle without hitting them with your heels. It also softens out the bumps a bit.
  • Wider tires – When you go touring, you will occasionally encounter gravel roads or unpaved bike trails. With the wider tire of a touring bike, these should not be a problem
  • Strong brakes – You may need these when you are going downhill with a loaded touring bike.
  • Very low gears – You will definitely need these going up steep hills. Touring bikes have triple front chainrings instead of double chainrings like you will find on most road bikes.
  • Braze-ons that allow front and rear racks to be mounted on the bike

The manufacturer's suggested retail price for the Fuji Touring bike is $739.

The Fuji Touring bike is designed for carrying camping gear when you go on trips
The Fuji Touring bike is designed for carrying camping gear when you go on trips

4: Mountain Bikes

Mountain bikes are designed for off-road riding. Full suspension mountain bikes have front & rear shocks, while hardtails have only a front shock. Mountain bikes also have powerful brakes, low gears & wide tires to deal with difficult terrain. They have slightly larger wheels than road bikes, either 27.5” or 29”. Hardtails are sufficient for most mountain bike riding In Indiana. If you go out west & ride on rock instead of dirt, you might want a full suspension mountain bike.

The Haro Flightline is an entry level mountain bike that sells for $369. For $599, you can move up to a Scott Aspect 950, which features a lockout (Turns off the front shock for road riding when it isn't needed) and a more powerful disc brake (The Haro Flightline has a V brake).

The Scott Aspect 950 mountain bike features disc brakes
The Scott Aspect 950 mountain bike features disc brakes

5: BMX Bikes

BMX bikes are single-speed bicycles that are intended for dirt riding. These are popular with kids, although some adults like them as well. The Haro Downtown is an entry level BMX bike, priced at $300.

BMX bicycles are single speed bikes designed for dirt riding
BMX bicycles are single speed bikes designed for dirt riding

6: Hybrid Bikes

Hybrid bikes are a cross between road and mountain bikes. They are not as good as a road bike on paved surfaces, and not as good off-road as a mountain bike. Nevertheless, they are fine on roads if you don’t mind going a little slower. Hybrid bikes also make excellent commuter bikes. Hybrids usually have a front shock and a seatpost shock. Many people like them because they are designed for a less aggressive, more upright riding position. Prices start at $399 for the Del Sol 7.1.

The Del Sol LXI 7.1 has a front shock and seatpost shock
The Del Sol LXI 7.1 has a front shock and seatpost shock

7: Comfort Bikes

Comfort bikes are designed for relatively short, leisurely rides. They are very similar to hybrid bikes, but have slightly smaller diameter tires. Their tires are also a little wider than those on hybrids. The entry level Del Sol 6.1 sells for $399.

The Del Sol LXI 6.1 is very similar to the LXI 7.1 except for the tires
The Del Sol LXI 6.1 is very similar to the LXI 7.1 except for the tires

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