Bike-buying guide

Tips for finding the right bike and gear for you

Need new wheels but don’t know where to start? Follow this advice and you’ll soon be hitting the roads or trails in perfect comfort. Start with “Fit tips” to guarantee a bike that matches your physique. And don’t miss the pointers on equipment that’ll keep you safe.

• Fit tips
• Bikes + gear: Beginners
• Bikes + gear: Intermediate riders
• Bikes + gear: Advanced cyclists
• Safe cycling accessories

Fit tips

A hand-me-down bike may cut it when you’re six, but you’ll need a perfect fit now to prevent back pain and put less stress on your body.

When you’re standing
With both feet flat on the floor, you should have a two- to four-inch clearance between your groin and the bike frame. You’ll need even more clearance on a mountain bike.

When you’re sitting
Your legs should reach the pedals with a slight bend in the knee. Your hands should easily reach the brake levers and gear shifts. When you grasp the handlebars with a straight back, your elbows should be bent. If you’re straining to reach the handlebars, move your seat forward, shorten the stem where the handlebars attach or adjust the brake levers and gear shifts.

If you’re shorter than 5’4″
Look for a specially designed bike for petite women, such as Trek, Gary Fisher or a Rocky Mountain (bike stores, $900 and up).

Bikes + gear: Beginners

If you’re just starting out, here’s the equipment you’ll need to ensure a comfortable ride:

The right bike Buy a hybrid or comfort bike with adjustable handlebars, large tires and a cushioned seat. The Giant Cypress ST has 21 speeds you can shift by simply clicking the gear. (Bike stores, $370)

A woman-friendly bike seat Comfort is key in selecting the right seat for you. Try a gel seat such as the Eliminator RX model by Serfas (saddle gel). (Bike stores, $50)

A water bottle and cage Take a sip of water whenever you stop at a light to stay hydrated. You should aim to consume one litre of water per hour of biking. (Canadian Tire, $10)

Other options: the Trek 7100 ($440 to $470) and the Kona Tiki ($500 to 520)

BONUS Get a workout to suit your cycling level.

Bikes + gear: Intermediate cyclists

Once you’re riding longer distances and climbing hills, here’s what you need to stay cool, dry and motivated:

The right bike The Norco Scorcher is ideal for riding on roads and dirt trails. It has a sturdy frame and big tires for extra stability. With a wide range of gears, this bike makes riding uphill easier. (Bike stores, $270)

A bike computer It sits on your handlebars, clocking your distance and speed. (Canadian Tire, $29)

Padded bike shorts Wear these for a more comfortable ride. (Mountain Equipment Co-op, $60)

A microfibre jersey It wicks away sweat from your skin. (Bike stores, $50 and up)

Padded gloves They reduce stress on fingers and palms. (Canadian Tire, $25)

A hydration pack It holds up to two litres of water and allows you to squirt water into your mouth through a tube without taking your hands off the handlebars. (Canadian Tire, $30)

Other options: the Kona Tiki Deluxe ($800 to $850) and the Giant Cypress LX ($750 to $830).

BONUS Get a workout to suit your cycling level.

Bikes + gear: Advanced riders

You’re at home on city streets and park paths. Now, you’re ready to try mountain biking on a dirt trail. These equipment picks will make the transition from the road to a rougher path a little smoother.

The right bike Choose one with front shock suspension, such as the Rocky Mountain Trailhead, because it absorbs the jolt when you go over a rock or bump. (Bike stores, $1,099. Check for a dealer near you.)

A bike rack It transports your bike to dirt trails. (Bike stores, $120 and up)

A bike tool kit When you take it on trails, your bike will probably need more frequent maintenance. (Canadian Tire, $35)

Clippable shoes and pedals They interlock for secure pedalling and release if you fall. (Bike stores, shoes, $100 and up; pedals, $90)

Other options: the Giant Boulder SE ($480) and the Trek 4300 ($540).

BONUS Get a workout to suit your cycling level.

Safe cycling accessories

Hitting the road? Here’s what you need to stay safe and visible:

Headlights, reflectors and working brakes—it’s illegal to ride without all three.

Protective eyewear and a helmet that has padding on the inside for a comfortable and secure fit and air holes to keep your head cool. The Giro helmet is made especially for women with a hole to slip a pony tail through. (Bike stores, $40)

A bell so you can signal your presence to cars and pedestrians. (Canadian Tire, $4)

Velcro reflector strips which, when wrapped around your leg, keep the bike chain from chewing your pants. (Mountain Equipment Co-Op, $3 each)

A tire pump. Your tires should be as hard as new tennis balls, says Martin Hammond owner of First Cycleworks in London, Ontario (for mountain bikes that’s 50 PSI-pounds per square inch). The Bell Pro Deluxe Frame Bike Pump attaches to your bike frame. (Canadian Tire, $20)