“It’s just like riding a bike.”
But, when it comes to choosing a new bike, the old adage does not hold so true.
The sport of bicycling has undergone a transformation over the past decade. With advances in technology and materials, there’s a lot more to consider than if the bike is the right size.
Purchasing a new bike is a big decision. If you choose the right one, it will serve you for many years. Pick the wrong one and it may be Craigslist-bound within a year.
To help in your quest for the best bike to fit your specific needs, here’s a list of questions we suggest to ask yourself.
Question #1: What Type of Riding is Your New Bike For?
Will you use it for trail riding and off-roading on your next camping trip? Are you thinking of biking to work? Maybe you’re considering some long distance, touring rides? All of the above?
There are two basic types of bikes available: Road Bikes and Mountain Bikes.
These bikes are made from lightweight materials and are designed for speed. They are engineered for performance minded riders, with an aerodynamic body style. Narrow, smooth tires provide a precision response on paved surfaces.
Road bikes are an excellent choice for the casual weekend rider or those wanting to bike for exercise.
The key feature of mountain bikes is the suspension. A suspension system absorbs the bounces and jolts of dirt trails and rocky terrain. Although mountain bikes are fine on paved roads, their bulky frames sacrifice speed and maneuverability. Wheels are thicker, have large tread, and are heavier.
Choose a mountain bike to conquer rougher terrain or to cruise nature trails.
Note: Want the best of both worlds? Consider a hybrid bike, such as the Vilano Diverse 3.0, which combines the speed and lower weight of a road bike with the rugged versatility of a mountain bike.
Question #2: What is Your Budget?
A new bike can cost anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to several thousand.
When budgeting for a bike here’s the most important advice you’ll receive: be honest with yourself. How much use do you plan to get out of it?
Camping becomes a new adventure when you bring a bike along. If your plans are to brave the great outdoors on your two-wheeled ride, investing in quality will be well worth it.
On the other hand, spending a few hundred on a bike you plan to ride occasionally is perfectly acceptable. Less expensive frame and components will stand up to minimal wear and tear.
For a detailed breakdown of the costs for different bicycle types, check out this Beginner’s Guide to Buying a Bike.
Question #3: Which Components are Important?
The main components of a bicycle are the gears, suspension, and brakes.
If you’re an off-the-beaten-path type camper, choose a bike with a lower range of gears. It takes less effort to climb those mountainous trails.
Mountain bikes offer two different suspension types: hardtail and full suspension.
Look into a full suspension if you’re planning a heavy dose of backcountry biking. But for the typical camper, the lighter hardtail will do the trick. Plus, you keep some of the versatility for camping treks and city cruising.
Hybrid bikes are more commonly fitted with a traditional V-brake system. If you tend to camp in all types of weather, consider disc-brakes. Growing in popularity, disc brakes offer more stopping confidence in wet weather.
Question #4: What Type of Seat Do You Need?
Saddle up! It’s a feature you shouldn’t ignore.
A padded, pillow top saddle is fine for the Saturday afternoon cruiser, but for more serious bikers, there are other things to look for in a good bike seat. A gel padding molds to your body and absorbs shock to aid in overall riding comfort.
The base should be large enough to accommodate your bottom. The sole purpose of a bike saddle is to disperse your weight evenly in order to reduce pressure from the more sensitive areas to the areas less sensitive to bumps and bounces.
The bottom line when it comes to your bottom: try saddles until you find the best fit.
Question #5: Finally, Does Size Matter?
Yes. It does.
The size of a bike frame needs to fit the rider. Don’t just pick any old bike and rack it to your camper. Choosing a new bike that doesn’t fit your body will not only be uncomfortable but hard to control.
Here are some general guidelines for bike size based on height:
- 4’11” – 5’3″ = 13 – 15 inches
- 5’3″ – 5’7″ = 15 – 17 inches
- 5’7″ – 5’11” = 17 – 19 inches
- 6’0″ – 6’2″ = 19 – 21 inches
- 6’2″ – 6’4″ = 21 – 23 inches
- 6’4″ and taller = 23+ inches
If you’re thinking of purchasing your new bike online, it’s a good idea to use more detailed bike sizing charts.
Happy Trails Ahead
We campers put a lot of thought into our outdoor vacations. We plan our campfire menus, decide what gear to pack, and map out destinations.
Choosing a new bike should be as important as deciding which tent or camper to purchase.
Whether your intention is to cruise the campground or add a little adventure to your next family camping trip, do your research first.
The memories are waiting. Enjoy the ride!