How To Choose The Right Bike For Toronto

Bike by Ilkerender
Bike by Ilkerender

Plenty of adults haven’t ridden a bicycle since learning as a kid, so choosing a new bike can seem overwhelming. But don’t give up so easily! There are lots of bike options available to you and great stores to advise you when in doubt. The first step for picking the right bicycle is just asking yourself a key question: “What is the main thing I want to use my bike for?”

Occasional Biking

If you just want to take it out on the weekends or for the occasional outing with the family then your main concern will be comfort. The seat of a bike that isn’t ridden all the time doesn’t get worn in, so you will want something comfortable that you don’t dread riding. You might also want to opt for something with an upright riding position, as it is more comfortable not to be bent over on a leisurely ride.

These needs can easily be met by a comfort hybrid. Something like the Opus Classico is nice because the seat has a lot of cushion and the gears are simple to use. You can easily pick up a leisure bike for somewhere around $400-$800. But you don’t need to break the bank for a bike that you’re only going to use every once in a while; just make sure you get one that is comfortable and easy to ride because, after all, if you aren’t using it all the time, it will last you a long while.

Daily Biking

Toronto Biking by James Schwartz
Toronto Biking by James
Schwartz

If, however, you want to bike on a daily basis and perhaps use it to get to and from work, something a little tougher might be called for. Performance hybrids are great for downtown biking because they are easy to maneuver, they go fast, and they can take on bumps and sharp turns with ease. Also, many of them come with “braze-ons” which allow you to attach a rack for carrying your work bags or other travel items. If your usual routes are pretty straight, you may opt for a performance hybrid that is a little more lightweight and can therefore go faster. But if your routes take you through parks or over a lot of bumpy stretches, a versatile hybrid might be better because it has thicker tires and is generally more durable. A good option to take a look at for commuting is the KHS Urban Express. It is rugged but not too heavy and has mountain-bike-style handling.

Mountain Biking

Good Day for Biking by Michael Gil
Good Day for Biking by
Michael Gil

If you’re interested in getting into mountain biking, you will want a bike specified to that task. Mountain bikes are typically heavier and have fatter tires, which means they go slower and are therefore not ideal for road cycling. You can switch out the tires on a mountain bike for thinner ones with higher air pressure if you want it to double as a road bike. Your speed will still be less than that of someone with a true road bike, but this is an ideal solution if you have an old mountain bike in your garage that you want to get multiple uses out of. It is important to keep in mind that mountain bikes typically have flat handlebars and therefore allow for only one hand position. This means that you can experience some hand numbness over longer rides. Bottom line: mountain bikes can be used for other purposes, but if you’re going to invest in one, it is best that you have some kind of park or range near you where you will get the most use out of it. You can pick one up at a used bike store for a couple hundred, or if you’re feeling more serious, you can invest in a new one for anywhere in the upper hundreds.

Road Biking

Road bike by Bob
Road bike by Bob

If it is going fast on long stretches of flat road that interests you then a road bike is your number one choice. The price range for a good road bike can be somewhere in the $700-900 range if it is used or on a clearance sale and can go all the way up into the multiple thousands for brand new. What is important to remember is that each element of a road bike (seat, handlebars, tires, pedals) can be switched out and/or upgraded to suit your needs.

Tune Your Bike

For example, the seats are designed specifically for men’s and women’s needs, respectively, and for various degrees of comfort. Regardless of how comfortable a seat you get, you will still want to invest in biking shorts for any ride over 15 minutes. These are shorts with padding built in that help to reduce saddle sores when biking longer distances. If you are going to get into competitive road cycling, you will want to invest in items such as clip-in pedals and shoes as well as “tri-bars,” which allow for a more aerodynamic position. This style of bike can take some getting used to, as the sitting position and steering style are a little different. The seat is almost in line with the handlebars, so you may feel like you’re falling forward the first few times you take it out.

The steering is also very sensitive, so don’t be alarmed if you feel jerky in the time it takes to get used to it. Road bikes are ideal for longer distances because their handlebars have “drop bars” which allow for a greater variety of hand positions. They are light-weight bikes that come apart easily and therefore are easy to travel with.

Race Biking

Queens Park Grand Prix by Marc Falardean
Queens Park Grand Prix
by Marc Falardean

If the main reason you are shopping for a bike is to get involved in races then a lot more research is necessary. The most important thing here is to not make any rush decisions. Race bikes are more expensive than your basic hybrid bikes because they are scientifically engineered for the best possible performance. So shop around! Stop in at a few bike stores and see what they have to offer you.

If you stop by a bike shop and find the prices a little too much for you as a beginner, that’s okay! There are some great bike stores in Toronto, such as Mike the Bike and Charlie’s Bike Shop, that sell reliable used bikes for reasonable prices. And if you have any questions about what kind of bike is right for you, I find the staff at Urbane Cyclist extremely qualified and helpful. Whatever your cycling needs, there is a bike for you, and Toronto is filled with great bicycle stores to help you make sense of the biking world!

2 thoughts on “How To Choose The Right Bike For Toronto

May 31, 2016 at 8:33 am
vic says:

I am looking for a road bike: (1) Light weigh (aluminium frame or whatever light materials) (2) Fully equipped (3) Good condition (4) Under $1,000 (5) In Toronto
Please contact me by email above

Reply
June 3, 2016 at 5:38 am
Jamie Sarner says:

Hi Vic,
Unfortunately, I don’t sell bikes, so I can’t help you with your request. However, you can scout the ads at kijiji or check out this used bike stores list. Hope you will find your bike soon!
Regards,
Jamie

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