When I was a motorcycle instructor, students would come up to me all the time asking this classic question. And, with a smile, I would say — as would my co-instructors: “The one you can afford.”
The same holds true for any new tool you need for a new interest. Right? So now that we have that out of the way, let’s get into a little more detail about what kind of bike you should get!
First, if you have no idea where to start and you live in the city, figure out how you’re going to store the bicycle. If space is a concern, perhaps a folding bike is the way to go. There are many types on the market today, and at different price points. If you can hang it on the wall or suspend it from a high ceiling (really), then you’ve just opened up a whole world of choices.
Second, think about the type of riding you would ultimately like to do a couple of years from now. Are you what I call the Mary Poppins-type rider? You know, easy-going, with a basket on the handlebars?
Will you want to do triathlons and ride in the city? Perhaps a hybrid bike is the way to go. And, yes, it could happen, because my philosophy is that anyone who can walk, swim, and ride a bike can do a sprint tri, so don’t rule out the idea! (I’m a coach, remember.)
Maybe you’re just like a bat outta heck and wanna go fast all the time, so a road bike and some spandex/lycra could do the trick.
Do you envision yourself riding trails? Then a mountain bike is something to look at. Do you want to race on the trails? Then a cyclocross bike could be just the thing for you.
Or do you like an upright position but want speed? Then maybe a mountain bike frame with city slicks, tires with less tread, will suit you just fine.
Finally, most experienced riders will tell you to avoid big box stores because the bikes there are, well, crap. And maybe they are, but if a “Good Enough For Now Bike” is what’s in your budget — and you cannot find a good quality used one at that price — then there’s no shame in getting one. Just know that you could spend more money at your local bike shop getting stuff repaired more often than with a higher quality bicycle.
Just so you know, in NYC, it is the law to have a bell (the “brrring-brrring”, not “ding-ding” are better), front headlight, and a rear taillight.
My recommendation is that whichever awesome ride you find, you’ll be happier if it has some gears, handbrakes, and a place for a water bottle. While we’re on the subject, please, please, please, invest in a good bike lock! Other add-ons to consider: kickstand, rear rack, front basket.