Bike Buying Guide: Get the Ride that’s Right for You

Burning calories, reducing your carbon footprint and enjoying the weather are three great reasons to take up biking.

But if your last bicycle had a banana seat and streamers, you might be due for a new one. Here’s a quick guide to help you find the best bike for you.

Road: For women who want to zoom up Sheridan Road on the weekends.

Intended for paved surfaces, road bikes are the most efficient way to ride, says Brandon Olson, manager of Higher Gear in Wilmette. Jamis has a line of road bikes that cater to a woman’s body and optimize performance. The frame is designed for a lighter female rider who uses less power than a male rider of the same size, explains Michael McDonough, co-owner of Joie de Velo in Lake Bluff.

Mountain: Good for women who want to go off-roading or ride with the guys.

Mountain bikes are good for forest areas because they have the capability to deal with rougher terrain. But women in this region make up a small subset of mountain bike riders, McDonough says. So you may have to cycle solo or buy a bike for your husband.

Hybrid: Good for women who value comfort over performance.

Hybrid bikes are intended for a variety of surfaces ranging from well-blazed trails to concrete pavement. McDonough suggests Ruegamer bikes—designed by a woman for women. These custom carbon frames can weigh as little 720 grams (before you add components), whereas a cruiser, which is typically made of steel, can weigh more than 35 pounds.

Classic: Good for women who want to shop around town.

Boasting a retro look, classic bikes are usually based on traditional European design dating back to the 1930s. McDonough recommends Pashley for a beautiful English bike. It’s a good alternative to a car if you want to run errands, he says.

Cruiser: For women who are searching for a stylish ride.

Cruisers offer the best of both worlds: the design of a modern bike combined with the aesthetics of a traditional one. With an upright seated position, cruisers are often used for recreation, not for training.

Now, ride!
Once you buy a new set of wheels, you may want to check out one of two women’s riding groups that meets Wednesdays at 9:30 a.m. at Higher Gear’s Plaza del Lago location. The fast-paced group rides about 20 miles to Highland Park and back at speeds of 15 to 18 mph. “The fast group is more about fitness. We want to push ourselves on how far and how fast we can go,” Olson says.

The moderately paced group rides at speeds less than 15 mph and sticks to a “no drop” policy. Nobody gets left behind, and the group rides as far as everyone is willing to go, he says. “We like to encourage women to ride and get out there and have fun.”

Now all you need is a cute pair of cycling shorts.