By Tommy Noyes
A wide variety of bicycles are available from big-box stores and local bicycle shops, and add to those choices the used equipment offered for sale. Here are a few tips on how to select a bike that will meet your needs.
What style of bicycle appeals to you? Currently in America the most popular design is the versatile mountain bike with gearing suited to climbing hills and fat knobby tires, while in Europe and Asia utilitarian bicycles built for commuting and carrying shopping predominate. Road bikes appeal to fitness enthusiasts. Hybrids combine the versatility of the mountain bike, the practicality of a utility bike, and the efficiency of road bikes. Single-speed or three-speed beach cruisers are often seen on the multi-use path. Give some thought to which style will best meet your needs.
Select a bicycle that fits you properly. Check a standard diamond frame bike for size by straddling the bike and standing just in front of the saddle. The clearance from your crotch to the top tube should be about one to three inches, or a bit more if the top tube slopes down towards the rear. Determine the proper saddle height by sitting on the saddle and placing your heels on top of each pedal. With one pedal in the down most position (six o’clock) note the angle of your leg. At this position your leg should feel comfortably straight, but not extended. The frame size chosen should not require raising the bike saddle more than three inches over the handlebar in order to obtain proper bike fit.
Considering a used bike? Be sure to do the ABC Quick Check.
A is for air — are the tires sound and properly inflated?
B is for brakes — are both front and rear brakes properly adjusted with serviceable brake pads, and will they stop you?
C is for chain, cassette, and cranks — shifting through all the gear combinations should be smooth and these components may need replacement if rusted or worn. The quick releases should be secure, and check the frame to be sure it’s not corroded, bent or cracked.
Saddles carry your weight. The size of the saddle is related to the rider’s position on the bike. If the saddle’s positioned behind the pedals, a broad seat is typical. Conversely, a frame that positions the rider more directly above the pedals will be fitted with a narrow saddle. Saddles for women are shaped differently, so women may want to check with a local bike shop for advice and options on saddles suited to their anatomy.
Any bicycle with wheels larger than 16” is considered a vehicle and is legally required to be registered at the County’s DMV for a nominal fee.
No matter what type of bike you choose, it’s well worth your while to enroll in one of the free bicycle skills for adults’ class offered by Kaua‘i Path, listed at www.KauaiPath.org. Then get outside and ride your bike. Working up to extended bicycle rides with mild exertion is an excellent way to exercise your heart, lungs, and legs.
- Tommy Noyes works for the Hawai‘i State Department of Health’s Public Health Preparedness branch, serves on Kaua‘i Path’s board of directors, and is a League of American Bicyclists certified instructor.