Editor's Note: In 2010, the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey showed that more than half of one percent of American workers use a bicycle as their primary mode of transportation to work. While this number represents nearly 40 percent growth since 2000, it also shows there is still work to do in making communities truly welcoming to bicyclists. So why not start today because May is National Bike Month!
They say you never forget how to ride a bicycle. While this is true, the body might have an objection.
Last summer, I had the privilege of participating in a 15-mile ride along the Niagara River from downtown Buffalo to North Tonawanda. Unfortunately, the bikes given to our group were not fitted for us. My body was not happy after this long ride and I started thinking about how much better the ride might have been if I had a bike that fit me.
To find a bike, I was told to visit Campus Wheelworks on Elmwood Avenue, a store that has been around for over 30 years. Tony "The Taco" Mueckl buyer and salesman for the business, happily explained everything I needed to know about buying a bike, especially how to find one that would fit me.
Mueckl first asked what kind of bike I was interested in - road, touring, or a hybrid (a combination of mountain and road bike), and where I would be riding it - trekking long distances, commuting around the city, or for leisurely comfort rides. For my purposes, I'd want a bike designed for comfort.
Next was figuring out the bike frame size as they come in different sizes. To find out your frame size, measure your inseam (the inside of your leg, from the bottom of your foot up). Or seek help from your local bike store. An experienced, professional bike sales staff can quickly determine your frame. Mueckl pegged my size at 16.
Then we talked about some of the parts of a bike that would make it fit me better. Mueckl pointed out that a wider seat or saddle is fine, but if I was planning on any more long rides, that a smaller seat would put less pressure on my back side. We also talked about the size of the bike's wheel rims. A 29" rim is becoming standard on comfort bikes as bigger wheels offer a smoother ride, better traction, more stability and the wheels roll better.
Mueckl described another feature on a bike designed for comfort, known as "crank forward". In this frame design, the crankset (which is composed of the chainring and crankarms on which the pedals are mounted) is moved forward from its traditional position directly below the seat and the seat is located further back. This design allows the rider to sit upright and lowers their center of gravity, allowing for a more relaxed angle that relieves pressure on the wrists and hands.
Had it not been raining when I visited Campus Wheelworks, Mueckl would have had me do a test ride on the bike I selected and then on a different, but similar, bike. "We do that so you can compare the bikes and show you the differences in them."
With all the measurements taken, features and test ride explained, I wondered just how much I'd be spending. Mueckl said that bikes usually range in price from $350 to $650, but can go as high as $1,000 to $3,000, depending on the weight of the bike and other components. Not bad, I thought, as a lot of people, including Mueckl, use a bike as their only mode of transportation.
Another thing to think about when buying a bike is where you buy your bike. You can get bikes just about anywhere: the box stores, the Internet or yard sales. The advantages of buying from a professional dealer are service and knowledge. "When you buy from us, we make sure it's a good fit between you and the bike, all the parts on the bike are tight and we offer things like a lifetime adjustment on brakes and derailers, a six-month tune-up and a one-year warranty on all components," Mueckl said. "We do a lot in our repair shop. Everything from repairing them to building them from parts people bring in."
With this advice I received, I think I'm ready to buy my new bike.
For more information on Campus Wheelworks, visit http://www.campuswheelworks.com/ or call (716) 881-3613.