If you're in the market for a bike, you might consider getting a used one at our Online Gear Swap. If you're thinking about getting a new bike, MEC bikes are designed for members who commute to work, cycle tour, ride off-road, or just ride around the neighbourhood.
The following sections may help you narrow your bike options:
Ideal for commuting and running errands. They have a long wheelbase, fatter tires for cushioning, and clearance for fenders. their flat handlebars allow you to ride upright for visibility in traffic. Sitting upright is usually more comfortable for trips of an hour or two, and is more relaxing for new cyclists. The posture shifts weight to the rear, so flat bars are usually paired with a wider, supportive saddle.
Fixies or single-speeds appeal to riders who want a bike stripped to basics. The frames usually have a short wheelbase, which gives them quick acceleration and fast steering response. However, a short wheelbase doesn't absorb road shock very well, so they aren't super-comfortable on longer rides. The lack of gears, fenders, and racks means they suit shorter rides on flat or rolling terrain.
These are designed to carry you and your gear on multi-day trips, over a wide range of terrain and in all kinds of weather. Like urban bikes, they have a long wheelbase and fatter tires for comfort, stability, and clearance for fenders. They usually have dropped handlebars, which give a much greater variety of hand positions. Touring bikes have a wider range of gears than urban bikes, for hills or headwinds.
These frames usually have short rear triangles and steep head angles, for better acceleration and quicker steering. They have dropped handlebars, so you can change hand and body positions for climbs or to reduce wind resistance. Designed for paved surfaces, they have high-pressure tires, for low rolling resistance, and a narrow gear range to reduce the gaps between gears.
If you only need one bike for road riding, touring, commuting, or light off-roading, these bikes will do well. Cyclocross races cover paved roads and dirt paths, and involve quick dismounts to carry the bike over obstacles. Their frames have clearance for mud and fenders, and the range of gears is greater than road bikes but less than touring bikes. They're reasonably responsive and comfortable, and have dropped handlebars for a variety of hand and body positions.
Mountain bikes are designed to be ridden off-road over a wide range of different surfaces and grades. Their long wheelbases are reinforced to withstand crashes. Telescopic front forks improve steering control by keeping the front wheel on the ground, and reduce fatigue by isolating the rider from bumps. Like urban bikes, mountain bikes have an upright position for better visibility. Riders have more time to see and react to things on the trail. Twitchy steering is a liability on rough surfaces, so mountain bikes have slower steering, and wider handlebars to give more leverage and control on rough surfaces.
Chromoly is relatively inexpensive, lightweight, easy to weld or repair, and can flex without fatiguing. It can be made into very thin-walled tubing, which springs back quickly after flexing, so it feels livelier to ride than other materials. However, chromoly can rust in salt environments.
Aluminum is three times lighter than the same amount of steel, but only half as strong. Aluminum tubing has larger diameters to compensate. The increased diameter also increases stiffness, so aluminum frames don't feel as lively to ride as steel. But they do accelerate quickly, and they don't rust.
Carbon fibre is lighter and stronger than steel or aluminum. It can be formed into shapes that are stiff in certain directions and flexible in others. Ideal for performance bikes, it keeps the frame's weight to a minimum. Unfortunately, carbon fibre is expensive compared to steel or aluminum, and can't easily be repaired if damaged.
Most good-quality frame tubing has a thinner wall in the midsection and a thicker wall (or butt) at each end. The thicker wall withstands the extra stress where the tubes are joined together and can't flex, and the thinner wall saves weight where the tubes can flex and relieve stress. The thinner wall also allows the tubing to spring back quickly after flexing, giving the frame a lively feel to ride.