Need Help Picking Out a Bicycle?

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There are tons of bicycles out there and since I got mine, a lot of people have been asking me for help on what they should get. I won’t tell you what kind you should get – answer that for yourself. I’ll just provide a guide to help you make a decision.

Another thing to keep in mind is that I intended to get a bicycle to give myself a workout. I’m also a pretty lazy person, so I don’t want to do a lot to maintain the bicycle. I bought a fixed gear track bike from an online bike store (State Bicycle) and had it assembled at a nearby shop. I LOVE MY BIKE.

What kind of bicycle should I get?

Bicycle types are based on intent of use and usually line up with a specific frame, tire, and gear combination. You don’t necessarily have to go with the norm and put different types of gearing and tires on any type of frame. There are common sense no-nos like putting a thin track tires on a mountain bike, plus it just looks dumb as hell.

First, find out what you want to do with your bike and paths (terrain type) around your area. That will help you find out what type of route you’ll most likely be taking on your bike and what type of bike fits.

Type Gearing Tires Use
Cruiser Single Semi tread

Comfort riding
Road Multiple Thin, no tread Paved roads with steep hills
Track Fixed Thin, no tread Paved roads with low grade hills
Mountain Multiple Fat, super treaded Off road, crazy terrain

Gearing is not as simple as one gear or multiple gears. Fixed and Single Speeds look pretty much the same, so be sure to ask what it is, but most importantly take it for a test drive.

  • Fixed Gear – If the wheel spins, the pedals spin. Pedal backward and you’ll be moving backward. No coasting.
  • Single Speed Freewheel – Coasting is available. If you pedal backwards, nothing really happens beside a lot of clicking.
  • Single Speed Coaster Brake – Coasting is available. If you pedal backwards, you brake.
  • Derailleur Gears – Multiple gears. Great for lots of uphill climbs and tons of speed. Less reliable than single geared bikes.

Gear ratios are important for fixed and single speed bikes. A higher gear ratio means a tough start, but you get higher speeds. A lower gear ratio means an easier start, especially on hills, but you’ll be pedaling like a crazy person trying to go really fast. This is why many prefer multiple gears so they can have a range of gear ratios to pick from.

What should I pay attention to when test driving a bicycle?

I highly recommend test driving a few bicycles before purchasing one. Even though I didn’t test drive a lot of types of bikes, I knew I wanted a bike for the city and a fixed gear was already in my sights.

  • Posture. Do you prefer to be in an aggressive posture (like a crotch rocket), relaxed with back straight up (like a Harley), or somewhere in the middle?
  • Tires. Fat tread tires (mountain bike) or skinny no tread tires (track bike – most fixed and road bikes are).
  • Weight. Different frames and components make a big difference. Frames: steel vs. chromoly vs. aluminum vs. carbon fiber vs. cardboard.
  • Fixed vs. Everything. Fixed gear bikes’ crank will always be moving when the back wheel is moving! It feels awkward at first and on sharp turns, you have to be aware of your toes not hitting the front tire. Happens to me a lot, but it’s easy to adjust.


After riding my fixed gear bike for about two months, I will most likely be looking to get a track bike with gears next. Not to replace, but complement riding around the city. It will allow me to go on longer rides and on hilly terrain. I’d compare it to getting a compact car and a truck – two totally separate functions and one isn’t “better” than the other.

I can identify a few positive and negative things though:

Positives Negatives
Fixed gear speeding down hills! Fixed gear climbing hills suck
Track tires: low rolling resistance Track tires: low shock absorbance
Fixed gear low leaning/sharp cornering: pedals can hit the ground and/or front tire
Frame geometry: aggressive posture
A fixed gear bike looks clean as hell

I didn’t cover all kinds of bicycles here. I don’t think anyone can ever do that. There are just way too many, so just do as much research as you need. Most importantly, just go out and test drive a bicycle at a local shop and see what you like.