FIND A GOOD BIKE SHOP
You might pay a little more, but you're more likely to be satisfied.
Bikes from big box stores might not be properly assembled or well matched to your body.
Mass-market bikes have poor quality controlled parts and cheaper components that are less responsive than higher prices bikes and weigh several pounds more.
TAKE A TEST DRIVE
Before you buy any bike, ride it to make sure that the brakes and shifters are easy to use, the fit is comfortable, the gears can go low enough for climbing hills, and the frame and suspension adequately smooth out the bumps.
A good bike helmet is essential. Special cycling shoes and cleats can ease your pedaling. Gloves will absorb vibrations and help to protect your hands in a spill. Polycarbonate glasses can shield your eyes from bugs and errant pebbles. A water bottle is handy to have on those long, hot summer rides.
Consumers Report's Bike Buying Guide tested bikes costing between $300 and $2,000.
They found that more money buys a lightweight frame made of carbon fiber, aluminum (or a combination of both materials), or high-strength steel and other high-quality components.
WHAT KIND OF RIDING WILL YOU BE DOING?
This will narrow your choice to one of the four basic types:
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