How to Start Bike Riding No Matter Your Skill Level

Everything you need to know about getting back in the saddle — and what to know if you need a new set of wheels.

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August 27, 2020
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Photo by: Jeremy Woodhouse/Getty Images

Jeremy Woodhouse/Getty Images

Bicycles have been flying off the shelves this year. Sales have skyrocketed in recent months and with good reason; bikes are a fantastic way to exercise, commute safely and clear your head. But if you haven’t ridden a bike since you were a kid, buying a brand new one can feel confusing and frustrating, especially with multiple shortages. Before you make another pandemic purchase, we asked for buying tips from people who know bikes best: Samantha Kraemer, Brand Manager at Schwinn and Emily Hutchins, Certified Personal Trainer with RSP Nutrition.

Why Start Biking?

For many of us, staying at home all day means more snacking and less movement. Although it can be hard start a new habit, picking up a healthy one like biking is, well, as easy as riding a bike. Biking is a forgiving hobby that you can jump back into easily: all you need is a bike, some sneakers and the open road. Hutchins notes that biking burns more calories than walking alone, and due to the relaxed nature of it, you can exercise for a longer duration compared to walking or running, which she says helps to increase aerobic capacity. And, if you’re concerned about your impact on the environment, Kraemer says changing up your commute could positively affect the world we live in.

The Health Benefits of Biking

Biking is a fantastic way to get cardiovascular exercise, and due to the non-impact nature of cycling, it’s easier on your joints than running or walking. Hutchins says, “Biking can help to improve joint mobility, improve coordination and even boost balance.” She says that even leisurely, recreational biking can help to build core, leg and arm muscles all while giving your joints a break. She also points out that if you have a pre-existing problem like arthritis, biking is a soft and safe way to get cardiovascular exercise that you might otherwise be missing. An added benefit? Mental health! Exercise has been proven time and time again to reduce stress and boost endorphins, and cycling is a fantastic way to get outside and clear your head.

How Do I Choose the Best Bike for Me?

Before buying a new bike, Kraemer suggests honestly assessing your intentions. She recommends asking yourself one major question: Where do I plan to ride? Setting actionable intentions for your biking future will help you better determine the best option for you, and will give you an idea of exactly what to look for when shopping.

If you’ll be riding recreationally to shops and the beach, go for a cruiser-style bike, which Kraemer says has a more relaxed seat and posture (most of them even have a convenient basket for hauling sandwiches or a bottle of wine.) If you’ll be in the mountains or tough terrain, go for a mountain bike, which Kraemer says has wider tires, allowing for better balance on bumpy ground. If you have your heart set on higher-speed rides and a faster commute, opt for a road bike. Road bikes are designed for speed and are a fantastic option if you’ll be riding your bike to and from work every day.

Want a little bit of all three? No problem! Kraemer says “A hybrid bike is like the multi-tool of bicycles. It’s speedier than a mountain bike, but has wider tires than a road bike and can perform on gravel or pavement. With different handlebar options, it’s a great way to get the most bang for your buck.”

How Much Should I Spend on a New Bike?

When deciding on a budget for your new bike, Kraemer says that caring for a good bike is more important than spending tons of money on a brand new one. “Any bike can be a good bike if you take care of it,” Kraemer says. A higher cost usually means a lighter bike with more functions, but you don’t have to break the bank to get a sturdy, well-functioning bike. Your budget should depend on how much you’ll use it, where you want to ride and what kind of functions you’re looking for.

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