Sunday, September 8, 2019

What is the best bike to use for ... ?

Post by: John Burnham

Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels
"What kind of bicycle should I buy?" is a question I occasionally get from friends who want to start bicycling more. It may be for recreation, fitness, commuting, or other reasons to get around by bike.

If you know you need to purchase a new bicycle, this guide (for example) provides a basic summary of all the types of modern bicycles available and their typical usage. A simple internet search will reveal a wealth of additional information, should you want to go down the proverbial rabbit hole.

"But" you remark, "I already have a bicycle! Do I still need to buy a new one?"

Not necessarily. Depending on what your goals are, the bike you already have is the best bike to use. The key: it is in good working condition. This means checking the bike over to make sure all the main components are functional.

1. Wheels:

  • Tires can be properly inflated (and stay inflated for a reasonable amount of time)
  • Tires have no bald sections or cords showing in the tread and no cracks in the sidewalls (dry rot)
  • Rims are straight with no cracks or dents
  • No loose or broken spokes
  • Nuts or quick-releases can be tightened securely (wheels stay attached while riding!)

2. Brakes

  • Brake levers squeeze easily without binding or resistance in the cable
  • Brake levers can be squeezed completely without contacting handlebar
  • Pads apply even pressure to rims when brake lever is squeezed
  • Pads align with the rim on contact and do not hang over
  • Pads contact only the rim and not the tire when applied
  • Pads have sufficient material left (usually there are wear indicators) and are not hardened or glazed over
  • Cable is not rusted, ends are not frayed 
  • Functional coaster brake, for single speed bike that brakes by back-pedaling

3. Seat & Handlebar

  • Seat can be securely positioned at the right height
  • Handlebar & stem can be positioned securely for a comfortable reach while riding

4. Drivetrain (chain & gears)

  • Chain turns freely throughout travel around front chainring(s) and rear sprocket(s)
  • Chain is lubricated
  • Ideally, chain is free from any rust. Sometimes a chain will move freely even if there is some minor surface corrosion, but it should be replaced once it starts showing signs of binding.
  • Front and rear gear shifters move freely without binding, and chain moves through all available gears without binding, slipping, or falling off.
  • Chainring & sprocket teeth are not worn down (resemble "shark fin" shape)
  • No excessive grime, built-up dirt
Photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash
If you do not feel comfortable inspecting your bicycle or making the necessary adjustments or repairs, any Local Bicycle Shop (LBS) can perform a safety and maintenance check, and can offer tune-up and repair services to get you safely cycling.

Next up: Basic Tools for Home Bicycle Maintenance

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