Buying a Complete Bike
It can be a hard choice to make when choosing a bike, and downright confusing too. Here is some practical advice for beginners just starting out or enthusiasts looking to try something new.
For mountain bikes, you have to make some choices. Gone are the days where you can buy a plain old mountain bike.
Rigid - the basic mountain bike, very durable and comfortable, good for all around riding on roads and smooth trails.
Front Suspension - also known as hardtail. Has a suspension fork making the ride more comfortable, and the rider more in control. Very popular.
Dual Suspension - Has front and rear suspension for ultimate control on the most rugged trails. You will enjoy better traction, control and speed with a suspension bike, and will be safer too. Another benefit is your body will not take such a beating as with rigid frames.
Freeride/Downhill - Different models will incorporate features of the hardtail and the dualie. Has reinforced frame, components and wheels. This bike is for serious downhills, jumping, and trail use.
Front suspension bikes are lighter, easier to clean and maintain, and are very efficient. Dual suspensions are fast, comfortable, and provide you with a lot of control (and the new ones are pretty efficient, too.) It really will depend on the type of riding you think you will do. The more difficult, technical, and rugged the terrain is, the more you will lean towards dual suspension.
Buying a new road bike is an exciting event, whether you are looking for an entry level road bike or looking to ride the same bike that Lance does.
One bit of advice. Because of the way components are grouped, it is cost beneficial to get the best bike possible today. Upgrading components at a later date is just not viable. By the time you add up the cost of the components and the labor to perform all the work, it can add up to a hefty upgrade.
Most bicycle manufacturers produce their own frames and even some components, and then assemble the bicycles using components and accessories produced by other manufacturers. For example, Trek and Cannondale might start with different frames, but then build the bike with the same Shimano component group.
Road frames are built with either steel, aluminum, carbon fiber, or titanium. There are, however, different types of each material, and each bike manufacturer engineers their frames differently, all providing different quality and feel to the end product.
Let's look into frame materials...
used by frame makers for over a century
durable, affordable and easy to repair
provides a smooth, quality ride
tends to be heavier than other materials
can rust if not properly cared for
currently the most popular material
offers a lively ride
frames are light and will not rust
usually the most expensive
lighter than steel, stronger than aluminum
comfortable and very lively ride
hottest type of bike in recent years
easy to shape for better designs
some say it has a "dead" feel (unlike aluminum)
high-quality, high-performance frame
Once you have selected the frame type, your next most important choice is the component package. The two biggest names in the business are Shimano and Campagnolo.
Each company offers various levels of component groups, which consist of brakes, hubs, chain, cassette, bottom bracket, cranks, derailleurs, and shifters. As you move up each level, you will notice differences in weight, quality, and performance. Unless you are a pro, the mid-level groups should provide you with quality products.