In Consumer Reports' most recent report, we paid from $280 to $1,800 for the four types of bikes we testedand we 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, but we did find some lower-priced standouts.
If you are looking for a bike, read our bike guide and take these preliminary steps.
Decide what kind of riding you'll do
That will narrow your choice to one of the four basic types in this report. If you're an avid cyclist you may prefer a conventional road bike, which differs from most of the models we tested mainly in how low you have to bend over the handlebars.
Find a good bike shop
You'll pay more, but we think you're more likely to be satisfied. Bikes from big-box stores might not be properly assembled or well matched to your body. If you don't like the pedals or seat on a particular model, some bike shops will swap components at little or no cost.
Take a test ride
Before you buy any bike, ride it far enough 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 the bumps.
Avoid cheap bikes, except for very casual use
Inexpensive bikes selling for less than $200 from brands such as Huffy, Mongoose, Roadmaster, and Schwinn may seem like good deals, but we advise spending $300 or more, if your budget allows. Why? Because you'll get a lot more bike for your buck.
Mass-market bikes have cheaper construction than higher-priced bikes and can weigh seven or eight pounds more. They come in only one size, so you're not likely to get a great fit. And mass merchants can't match bike shops for quality of assembly, expert advice, and service.
Adults should consider inexpensive bikes from a department store only for the most casual use, and stick with a front-suspension model, which is likely to be better than an inexpensive full-suspension bike. You might want a mass-market bike for kids who will outgrow a bike quickly or handle it roughly.
Consider these extras
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 long, hot-weather rides.
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