How To :: Choose a Bike Part I

Whether you are buying the first bike of your adult life, or you are upgrading your ride, choosing a bike can be a harrowing decision. Do you want cache? Or value? Both?

According to experts, women do far more research and take longer to make a purchase decision than men (when it comes to bikes). Here we will give you as much information as possible to catalyze your decision.

What are the most important factors you should consider when making the big purchase? Some are up to you, and some are across the board important.


1. Bike Type.
If you already know you want a mountain bike, or a road bike, or what have you, skip to #2. If you still don’t know what type of bike to buy here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. Are you buying a bike to ride with your friends? Then buy the same type of bike. If your friends ride road, buy road, if they ride mountain, buy mountain. Don’t buy a hybrid to try to ride with friends on road bikes.
  2. Do you have access to mountain bike trails or great road riding? Do you prefer to be out in nature, or do you like to be on the road?
  3. Will you use your bike for errands and commuting? A road bike would be desirable. If all you will do is commute, you can look at hybrids and townies as well, especially if you prefer to ride in normal apparel.
  4. Are you planning on riding in a charity ride? Then a road bike is most likely the best choice (unless it’s a mountain bike ride of course!)
  5. “I want to do triathlons.” That is fine and good. Buy a road bike. A time trial bike will be useful in only a triathlon and you can’t go on group rides with one (the narrow bars and precarious brakes make it dangerous to ride in close proximity to others). Get a road bike first, TT bike later. that way you can ride with people and have options.

2. Fit. Fit should be the number one consideration. A bike too large will be too difficult to handle. A bike that does not fit you will cause myriad of issues from neck pain, knee pain, back pain and so on. A proper fit is the number one consideration.
What if I am too short to fit on an adult bike?
No doubt, there are going to be women’s specific bikes you will find that fit you. Stand strong and find the right shop to service you.
What about standover height?
Back in the day we talked all about standover height. Nowadays it is less important to have 2-4″. At this point, we want some clearance, but focus more on top tube length and overall length of the bike and its handling.
How do I know what size is right for me?
The best way to find the proper size is to measure your body parts. I love the Bike Fit Kit system and you can find a dealer here. I also like the Competitive Cyclist online fit calculator which you can do at home. Focus on the top tube measurement. Once you purchase a bike, I recommend a fine tune fit.
Do I need a women’s specific bicycle?
That depends– which is why you need to measure yourself, or get measured, and find out what geometry is best for you. Women’s specific bicycles are made for women’s position and riding preferences. And we’ll talk much more about that later.

3. Weight. No doubt, the more expensive the bike, the less it is going to weigh. When making your decision, be sure to consider your weight to bike weight ratio. If you weigh 125 pounds and your bike weighs 25 pounds, that is 25% of your body weight. If you are riding with a male who weighs 175 pounds and his bike weighs 20 pounds, his bike is 11% of his body weight. The weight of your bike is important. Parts are one component, wheels are a major component, however the frame is the thing. High end carbon frames for women are lighter than the men’s versions and a perfect choice. For road bikes, look for something around 17 pounds and definitely under 20. For mountain, 20 pounds is good, while under 23 for full suspension should be available to you. Of course, the lighter the better, and if budget is of no concern, you can always replace heavy parts (bottom brackets and cranks, stems, bars and wheels are usually big culprits on women’s bikes).

4. Materials. Titanium, aluminum, carbon, steel and so on. If you  want Ti, choose a custom frame. When choosing a custom frame, be sure you have been riding long enough to know how the bike should fit. Many times clients dive right in to a custom frame before their bodies have adapted to cycling, and they outgrow the frame too soon.

Aluminum is light enough, and with today’s technology has become much smoother amongst the bumps. However, it is heavier than carbon. Will it outlast carbon? Probably. Value? High.

Carbon is the smoothest and the lightest frame material. I would choose a carbon bike any day of the week. The first carbon hardtail I had the chance to ride was light, stiff and faster on the downhills than most aluminum dual suspension bikes. I love carbon for its weight and handling.

Steel is of course a classic material. For a beautiful handmade one of a kind bike, steel is the ultimate material.

When it comes to choosing your material you have to decide: custom (ti, steel) or stock (carbon, aluminum)?; price is no issue (Ti, carbon, steel) or budget (aluminum, steel)? If price is not an issue, you obviously have free rein to decide which features you prefer in a bike frame.

So far we’ve covered the basics of choosing your new bike. From type, fit weight materials you can move on to some of the more nitty gritty decisions. Hard tail or full suspension? Color? Racing or trail bike?

Your first job is to get your measurements, either on your own or at a bike shop so you may find the proper size. Once you know your size, determine what is going to be most important to you as well as your budget. Prioritize your wishes. Size, weight, color, and so on. Size better be number one, as it may limit all other factors!

Once you have your size, we can move on to the next step. Do you have questions? Ask-a-chick at If this is simply too much, mtbchick offers personal shopping. Multiple bikes brought to you to try before you buy.


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