Bicycling is emerging as a new way to commute and get exercise in our new normal. Besides the fact that a lot of people have spent the last couple of months on a stationary bike like the Echelon or Peloton, with the country slowly opening up, biking has started becoming more popular as it provides a fun, healthy way to spend time outdoors while keeping a safe distance from others.
We spoke with Tucson, Arizona-based professional cyclist Ellen Noble, a three-time Cyclo-cross World Cup winner about everything you need to start biking, from a bike to the all-important helmet, and what you need to know if it’s your first time out on the road in a while.
Think about where you’re going to be riding
If you’re getting ready to buy a bike, it’s important to consider what kind of terrain you’re going to use it on. Will you be riding around your neighborhood, or hitting the trails?
“Match your bike to the terrain that you’re riding,” says Noble. “You wouldn’t want to ride a road bike off-road, depending on the tires and how it’s built. It could be a pretty rough ride.”
GT Men’s Aggressor Pro Mountain Bike ($479.99, originally $669.99; dickssportinggoods.com)
For those of you looking to take your bike off-road, this is an ideal entry-level mountain bike, according to hundreds of reviewers, who give it a 4-star rating. As one reviewer writes, “The bike has held up incredibly well to some aggressive terrain and more between 150-200 miles of single track thus far.”
Nishiki Women’s Pueblo 26” Mountain Bike ($279.99, originally $329.99; dickssportinggoods.com)
Another 4-star pick, this lightweight bike has strong front shocks to absorb all that the trails throw at you, and is great for petite riders.
Co-op Cycles DRT 3.2 Bike ($2,379.09, originally $2,799; rei.com)
This aluminum frame bike promises its front suspension will keep the ride smooth and its wheels glued to the trail. As one fan raves of the high-end bike, “You won’t find a better price on a bike with this component set up.”
Co-op Cycles DRT 1.1 Bike ($549; rei.com)
Far cheaper and similarly made for off-road adventures, this bike has 21 gears and special tektro hydraulic disc brakes that deliver reliable stopping power on or off-road in any weather condition.
Electra Townie 7D Bike ($539.95; rei.com)
Now if you’re looking to ride your bike on streets and around your neighborhood, these are the kids to look out for. With an average customer rating of 4.5 stars, this bike earns raves for how comfortable and easy it is to ride for countless miles.
Schwinn Signature Women’s Largo 7 26” Cruiser Bike ($399.99, originally $449.99; dickssportinggoods.com)
For some old school flair, reviewers love this bike for its gorgeous blue color and easy, smooth ride.
Schwinn Women’s Perla 26” Cruiser Bike ($249.99, originally $299.99; dickssportinggoods.com)
This matte yellow bike is ideal for flat and paved roads, comes with a seven-sheed shifter and a spring saddle for cushy comfort.
Ubike Rapido 20-in. Folding Bike ($538.99, originally $599; kohls.com)
If you live in a city or a smaller home, a folding bike is an excellent option for easy storage.
Going from inside to outside
Whether you’ve picked up a passion for biking through a new stationary bike habit, or you’re just new to cycling and don’t know what to expect, understand there are huge differences between biking inside and being out on the road or trails.
“You have to keep an eye out for other people,” says Noble. “And you need to be a little bit more self-sufficient. You need to know to be able to change a flat, or at least have a phone to have somebody come pick you up in case of emergency.”
As Noble continues, “You need a pump to be able to air up your tires a little bit more often than people would expect. Having a flat repair kit can be very helpful, if you are handy enough to be able to do that yourself, otherwise people will rely on their local bike shop to do flat repairs.”
Blackburn Mountain Air AnyValve Pump ($14.95; amazon.com or $14.99; dickssportinggoods.com)
This pump’s AnyValve head adapts automatically to Presta, Schrader and Dunlop valves, which means you can use it on most popular bike types.
Charge Bike Floor Pump ($29.99; dickssportinggoods.com)
This floor pump works with Presta and Schrader valves and is rated 4 stars by shoppers, with one writing, “I have bikes, strollers, wheelbarrows and automobiles. Any and all tires can be handled by this pump.”
Schwinn Cyclone Plus Bike Pump ($19.99; target.com)
This 4-star rated pump has a dual-headed valve to fit on Presta and Schrader systems.
Schwinn 9 in 1 Multi-Purpose Bike Tool ($8.59; target.com)
This multipurpose bike tool with nine different screwdrivers in different sizes. This is perfect for someone new to biking to help with a sudden repair on the road.
Finish Line Dry Teflon Bicycle Chain Lube ($9; amazon.com)
“It can be really helpful to pick up some sort of chain lubricant, which is usually pretty inexpensive and will really make your ride feel a lot better,” says Noble. “It makes your chain less likely to break while you’re riding.”
Be safe on the road
Bontrager R Flare Rear Bike Light ($50; rei.com)
“The safety products that I really, really believe in are flashing tail lights,” says Noble. “Bontrager makes one that I really like. Objectively, I feel like they make the best in the business. It’s called the R Flare and it can be seen from like almost a mile away.”
Bell Lumina Hi - Lumen LED Light Set ($22.99; target.com)
Another option for bike lights, this set from Target is high-rated by cyclists, with one writing, “Provides a pretty good amount of light. I love that it is rechargeable.”
Giro Adult Revel Bike Helmet ($39.99, originally $49.99; dickssportinggoods.com)
This helmet, which has 22 vents, is designed for commuters and those cyclists who are hitting the trails, with one reviewer writing, “Fits great, very adjustable and very comfortable to wear. The vents really do a great job of cooling off your head!”
Bell Adult Primus Bike Helmet ($32.99; dickssportinggoods.com)
Designed for road biking, this tough helmet will keep you safe on your commute, or a ride through the park.
Thousand Heritage Bike Helmet ($89; amazon.com, rei.com)
If style is important to you, this vintage look bike helmet will keep you safe and looking as chic as humanly possible in a bike helmet. Available in multiple sizes, one reviewer writes, “This helmet actually fits over my head instead of just on top. Very stylish and fits fantastic!”
Note: The prices above reflect the retailers’ listed prices at the time of publication.