When you were a child, a bike was a bike. It had two wheels (possibly four, if you needed training wheels). There were handle bars, a seat and maybe some pretty streamers to give it pizzazz. Life was simple … of course, that was then. We grow up and things get complicated. Now, a bike is no longer just a bike. There are categories, styles and various price points. You’ve got your road bike, mountain bike, beach cruiser, foot-forward bike. The list goes on and on.
If You Want a Bike, Where Should You Start?
Fred Griffin, owner of Griffin Bike and Mower on Norwich Street in Brunswick, says the first thing to consider is what you’ll be using the bike for – that is, what’s your riding style? You should consider whether you’ll be riding primarily on pavement, off road, through mountains or on a beach. “People come in here and say, ‘I’m looking for a bike.’ Then I ask them what kind of riding they plan on doing. That tells me where to lean: Beach cruisers, comfort bikes, hybrids, road bikes, mountain bikes,” Griffin said.
- Many are serious riders who will compete in road races, while others just enjoy casual trips around an island or in their neighborhood. It’s all about purpose and function. “If you’re just going to be tooling around your neighborhood, you can get by with a beach cruiser. You can still get some exercise,” Griffin said. “The beach cruiser is good for the beach, and people typically buy these to ride around Jekyll.”
- For other casual riders, the comfort bike is a good option. It will give you a workout without putting your body in an awkward position. “You can still have something with gears, but you don’t have to lean over to ride,” he said. “You can get a 21-geared comfort bike and sit upright to ride.”
- For those who want to ride longer distances with more intensity, there is the fitness bike. “This is basically a 15-, 17-, or 19-inch bike. They are kind of built like mountain bikes,” Griffin said.
A road bike serves a similar function, but it’s for a more serious rider. Its design is extremely light weight and is good for multiple pavements. “They are lighter bicycles. They have the turned-down handlebars and more narrow tires. It’s really responsive to turns,” Griffin said. “The geometry of the frames is different from any other bike out there. You have to have the bike fit to your body. We get the basic measurements: Arm length, leg length. Then we put you on the bike, on a trainer, and see what your pedal stroke is like.”
For the rider who goes against the grain, there is the mountain bike. It’s mainly for those interested in taking to trails well off the beaten path. “This is for you to get off the road. Those who buy mountain or all-terrain bikes can ride on the pavement, too, but also go off road and have a ball. That’s the primary use for it,” he said.
A hybrid bike is another breed. “The hybrid is basically toward the fitness end. They are a little heavier, like a fat tire comfort bike, with a bigger tire,” Griffin said. A similar idea is the foot-forward bike. “That’s where your foot is forward. Your feet are out in front of you and not under you. It’s a really comfortable bicycle and a design concept that’s really caught on,” he said. Regardless of the bike style you opt for, comfort is the most important aspect to buying a bike. “We want you to be totally comfortable. If you’re not comfortable, you’re not going to ride the bike. We don’t want it to just sit in your garage,” Griffin said.
Chris Beaufait, owner of Monkeywrench Bicycles on St. Simons Island, agrees. “I liken selecting a bike to ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” You have to choose the bike that feels right,” he said. “If you buy your bike from a reputable bike shop, you’ll get a good bike. It’s not going to be a bad bike. But you need to know what’s right for you.” That’s where a test ride comes in. “Some people actually switch the style of bike after they test it. They come in to get a comfort bike and end up with a beach cruiser after they test it. It’s about comfort,” he said. How to choose Chris Beaufait, owner of Monkeywrench Bicycles on St. Simons Island, often uses analogies to shoes or cars to help customers choose a bike.
Here are a few:
1) Comfort bike: As the name suggests, a comfort bike is built for comfort. It has slightly wider tires than other bikes. It has a comfortable seat and a very relaxed sitting position. Prices start at about $200.
2) Beach cruiser: This bike emphasizes comfort and ease of handling. It is a lot like a flip-flop. “There is a bike version of the flip-flop … these are the beach cruisers. They give you comfort and ease of use. They’re simplistic for those who don’t want to try to ride a marathon,” Beufait said. The price starts at $250 and goes higher, depending on options. “It depends on whether or not you want the gears or that super cool point job,” he said.
3) Mountain bike: This is ideal for off-road pedalling and will definitely give you a workout. You can get a comfort mountain bike, a standard mountain bike or a hybrid version. Beaufait likens the bike to a pair of running shoes. “You wear those when you want to work out. It’s a little faster and a little more distance. You can go anywhere on it. You could also see these as a Jeep.” The price of a comfort or hybrid style ranges from $350 to $650.
4) Road bike: This is the creme de la creme of the bike world. It is for a serious rider and works best on pavement. Beaufait compares a road bike to a sports car. “These are riding or racing bikes. We have a group that rides from St. Simons to Jekyll, 38 miles, and this is what we use,” he said.
Of course, a sports car isn’t cheap, and neither is a road bike. “The more money you spend, the lighter the bike. And that is really important when you’re pedalling over the Sidney Lanier Bridge. You want it to be light,” he said. Road bike prices start at about $700 and go to $15,000 to $20,000.