After being cooped up all winter the summer sun has you scrambling to enjoy the outdoors whenever possible, so you've decided to buy a bicycle. But before you attach a banana seat to the frame and pom-poms to the handle bars, make sure you find a bike that fits you.
The National Bicycle Dealers Association lists a number of criteria for finding the right bike. First, think about what kind of riding you will do and your experience level. Determine why you want to ride – for fitness, for fun or for your daily commute. Do you plan to ride your bike on city streets, bike trails, off-road trails or a combination of them all? Do you need to carry books, groceries and other items on the bike as you ride? Figure out what you'll need your bike to do for you.
Decide what type of bicycle you want: a mountain bike to handle hilly, rocky off-road rides, but also appropriate for pavement; a road bike for speedy pavement riding, ideal for frequent commuting; a hybrid bike for the rider who wants to ride a little of everything; a beach cruiser for casual riding with a fixed gear or multiple gears; a recumbent, tandem, electric assist or other niche bicycle, designed more for novelty than for everyday use.
Next, work with a retailer or a friend who rides bikes often to determine the proper size for you. The length of your inseam helps you determine the correct frame size. Try out a few bikes to find a comfortable reach to the handle bars. On most bicycles you can adjust the handle bars and the seat to find the most comfortable and secure position.
Test ride a few bikes. Shop around to find one that looks good and rides well. While you're looking at bikes, keep in mind you can easily repaint a frame, replace old tires or buy a more comfortable seat to bring an older bike up to date. You can also add a rack above the back tire for attaching your belongings.
As you're shopping, ask for advice and get any questions you have answered. If possible, read through the owner's manual of a new bike. If you're buying a used bicycle, make sure it's been properly maintained and is in safe, working order before you buy it.