Suspension set-up is crucial to getting the best performance from your mountain bike. Trek Certified Service shows you how to make sure you’re getting the best ride out on the trail.
Suspension set-up is crucial to getting the best performance from your mountain bike. Trek Certified Service shows you how to make sure you’re getting the best ride out on the trail.
WHEN WE SELL A BICYCLE, we always ask whether you have a good helmet, too. Why? Because we know that head protection is the most important safeguard when cycling. In fact, according to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, if they’d been wearing helmets, 90 percent of bicyclists who were seriously injured or died in accidents in recent years would have survived with treatable injuries.
The thing that makes helmets so important is how high your head is above the ground when you’re riding. That’s a long way to fall and quite an impact if you strike your head. Fortunately, all our helmets offer outstanding protection. They’re even tested by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to ensure that they’ll do their job. Here are some guidelines for choosing from the many models and styles we carry.
Apart from their life-saving potential, helmets provide other benefits. One of the most surprising is their ability to cool your head. While this may seem counterintuitive, better helmets actually insulate the head from heat. They provide shade, of course. And, they’re made of polystyrene, which is similar to what coolers are made of; a foam-like material that keeps heat out. Also, modern helmets venting systems force air through providing a constant cooling breeze. Tests have shown that these features actually make a helmeted rider cooler than a bareheaded one, even on a hot day or tough climb.
Another great feature, especially for off-road riding or touring on a bike with an upright seating position, is a visor. These keep sun out of the eyes improving visibility by reducing glare and cutting down on sunburn. Plus, when you’re riding off road and the sun is low in the sky, the visor helps block rays flashing strobe-like through the trees. They’ll also knock away small branches that might hit you in the face as you ride past on narrow trails.
Modern helmets are also brightly colored, a clear signal to motorists. And because they’re on the top of your head, the highest point on your body, they make you much more visible in traffic.
Head and helmet shapes vary so the most important rule is to try on several models and brands to find the type that fits your head best. Start by trying on any helmet to see what size you are. Or you can measure your head just above the eyebrows with a tape measure to get an idea (small is roughly 20 to 22 inches; medium: 22 to 23.5 inches; and large: 23.25 to 24.5 inches).
Usually helmets come in at least three sizes depending on the manufacturer. You’re looking for one that offers a snug fit. Ask us for help if you have questions. We’re happy to help and we have the experience to point you toward a helmet that’s right for your head shape, riding style and budget.
Generally speaking, there are round and oval heads and helmet shapes that match. You can tell when the helmet fits right. It’ll feel snug all the way around. To test it, try moving the helmet side-to-side and front-to-back. If there’s more play side-to-side than front-to-back, you’ve probably tried on a round-shape helmet and you probably have a more oval-shaped head.
Keep in mind that all helmets come with fitting kits. These pads adhere to the inside of the helmet to customize it to your head. The helmet however, should almost fit your head before you add any fitting pads. Otherwise, you may have to put in a lot of pads to get it to fit, which will compromise the fit. In a really good fit, you may need no pads or only two pads, one on either side or end to snug the helmet a bit.
Fit doesn’t depend only on pads and helmet size. Most helmets today include retention devices, which are comprised of wide straps or plastic web-like retainers built into the back of the helmet that hold the base of your head. These are adjustable to fine-tune fit. And, when the retention device is properly set, it helps hold the helmet in place. This is a great feature when you’re riding over bumpy terrain.
You can spend from $30 to $200 for a bicycle helmet today. Surprisingly, almost all quality models protect equally well. How can you tell a good one? Look for a sticker inside the helmet that says CPSC. If it has this sticker, the helmet has passed rigid testing standards. All our helmets have passed these tests.
Consider how you’ll use the helmet, too. As we mentioned, a visor is a handy feature for off-road use. You may not want it for road use, however, because if you ride with your head down, the visor can block vision a bit. Many helmets today come with removable visors though, which allow you to use the same helmet and customize it for the conditions.
As you spend more for a helmet, you don’t get more protection. What you get is more vents for increased cooling, lighter weight, which makes an energy-saving difference on long rides, and slightly more advanced strap and retention systems. Also, better helmets feature molding technology that incorporates the helmet’s hard shell into the polystyrene body. This helps keep the helmet in good condition longer through daily wear and tear.You might feel a difference worth paying for by trying on these helmets and if so, you should buy one. Usually, the more you ride, the more you’ll notice the design enhancements.
When trying on helmets, after fit, look for comfortable straps and ones that have a secure locking device (so they don’t change adjustment all the time). You want soft pads too that can’t chafe your head, an overall design that appeals to you, and a price that suits your budget. Remember: you don’t have to spend a lot. You’ll find very nice, perfectly safe helmets that look almost identical to the big-buck models in the $45 to $90 price ranges.
When you get the helmet home, don’t ignore the owner’s manual. Study it. Even if we adjusted the helmet to your head, it’s important for you to understand how the helmet should fit and how to adjust it because as you wear the helmet, the straps may change adjustment.
Many people make the mistake of tipping the helmet back on the head when adjusting it because they think it’ll fell cooler that way (see the girl’s helmet in the photo). That’s a big mistake because a tipped-back helmet can’t protect your face in a crash.
The helmet must sit squarely on the head (see the policewoman’s photo) so that the front of the helmet will hit first if you go over the handlebars. The straps are what adjust the helmet so it will remain in this position naturally when you put it on. Adjusted correctly, you should be able to lightly tug on the helmet and it shouldn’t move or tip excessively. It should want to return to the proper position automatically. Also, the small strap buckles on either side should rest just beneath the ear lobes. Instructions in the owner’s manual explain in detail how to adjust the straps for the proper helmet fit. Be sure to ask us for help if you’re not sure.
Another important thing you can find out about in the manual is the guarantee. Some makers offer replacement policies for crashed helmets. You won’t get a helmet for free but you may save some money by returning your helmet with a letter describing what happened.
Finally, helmets don’t last forever. Helmet manufacturers recommend getting a new helmet at least every 5 years. This is important for your protection in a crash. Helmet materials break down slightly over the years and helmets just naturally take a beating in use as you toss them in the truck, drop them and ride.
We look forward to showing you some helmets!
Looking to put a little excitement into your life? Want to venture off road to escape traffic and congestion? Attracted by friends’ tales of sweet singletrack and jaw-dropping overlooks? You’ve got the mountain-bike bug. Good for you. Now’s a great time to be shopping and we’ve got a showroom full of sweet fat-tire flyers that’ll satisfy all your dirt dreams.
Do A Little Homework First
Before you rush in and kick some knobbies, though, think about how and where you’ll ride. If you’ve got mountain bikers for friends, you probably plan to ride with them, which is great because they know the best trails. Just ask and they’ll give you an earful about what these rides are, and then we can set you up on a dialed-in rig that’ll be perfect for your rides and budget.
Or, if you’ve got a biking background such as BMX riding and want to try a mountain bike, think about how you’ll really use it. For example, if you’re interested in popping wheelies, dirt jumping and freeriding, you’ll want a different bike than the rider wanting to enjoy scenic forest loops.
If you’re new to the world of off-road thrills and hills, find out more about the riding around here (or where you plan to ride). We can tell you about the area’s best off-road routes and advise you on bike types and equipment that excels (starting right here!). You might consider asking to borrow a bike from a friend so you can try off-road cycling to get a feel for where and how you’ll ride because this information will help you pick the right machine.
You’ll find that there’s a fascinating range of off-road bikes and equipment; so much so, that shoppers are sometimes struck with analysis paralysis and have difficulty picking the right bike. We offer lots of tips in this article. But, it’ll help you decide (and help us help you decide when you visit our store), if you spend some time contemplating your shopping tendencies. Knowing yourself and what you like is a fine way to narrow down the many new-bike possibilities and ensure that you get a winner.
For example, are you the type who has to have the best or would you be happier getting reasonable quality at a pleasing price point? Do you like simple designs or are you infatuated with cutting-edge technology? Will you keep this bike for ten years or more or are you thinking that you’ll upgrade as your skills and interests develop?
While you’re soul searching, give some thought to how much you’d like to spend on your new bike. Shop our online catalog to view some models and see how prices vary. And, think about what you’re comfortable spending. Keep in mind that you often need accessories with new-bike purchases, such as a helmet, gloves, shoes and cycling shorts. Because these will add to the bike’s purchase price, include some extra in your budget.
Mountain Bike Types
Now that you’ve considered how you’ll bike and have zeroed in on your buying tendencies, the next step is considering what type of off-road rig best suits your needs. To help, we’ve provided this simple chart to show what the different types of mountain bicycles offer:
|Rigid||The basic no-frills mountain bike||Comfy riding position, low maintenance||All-around riding on both roads and trails; is very efficient on smooth, flat ground|
|Front Suspension||Also called a Hardtail, it features a suspension fork||All the features of the Rigid plus front suspension.||Increased comfort and control for riding on rougher terrain|
|Full Suspension||These MTBs sport front and rear suspension||Front suspension fork, rear shock and probably disc brakes for superior braking||Awesome comfort and better control for rugged trails; less impact on the body, too|
|Dirt Jumping||These Hardtails have strong, low profile frames with short chainstays||Built minimalistic and strong to handle numerous crashes, they are often Singlespeed and rear brake only||Highly maneuverable with ample stand-over clearance|
|Freeride||Medium travel, Full Suspension bikes designed with a slack, low-profile geometry||Built for those who prefer descending and jumping, but also pedal to the top||Ideal for gravity-fed jumps, terrain parks and downhill|
|All Mountain||One of today’s most-popular and versatile medium-travel Full Suspension bikes||Pedaling efficiency, durability and medium-travel suspension||All-around off-road riding from epic cross country to downhilling, these do it all|
|Downhill||Rugged, fast Full Suspension bikes specifically built for riders who love to fly downhill||Sturdy frames, forks, wheels and components and the longest travel||Great for taking the ski lift up mountains and enjoying the trails down, racing, or for any extreme descent|
|29er||Hardtail and Full Suspension bikes but with 29-inch wheels (larger than the standard, which is 26-inch)||The larger wheels roll over obstacles better and provide additional traction||All-around and cross-country use|
|Singlespeed||Rigid or Hardtail bikes with only one gear; made for simplicity, low maintenance and reliability||Light, elegantly simple bikes with no shifters and derailleurs to foul up or breakdown||All-around on- and off-road use; there are even Singlespeed XC races|
Understand that within each bike type, there are various designs with significant differences. For example, if you’re shopping for a full-suspension bike, you’ll decide whether you want one with short-, medium-, or long-travel suspension; whether you want lightness and climbing efficiency; or a beefy frame and rugged components and wheels to withstand lots of air time and hard landings. If you can tell us where and how you plan to ride your new bike, we’ll point out the key differences and explain why you might prefer one over the other. And we won’t be surprised if over time you end up with several different mountain bikes. Many people do because they’re all so much fun!
Mountain-bike frames today are built of several materials. And, you’ll find people who insist that theirs is the only way to go. But, don’t put too much stock in one person’s opinion. We have bikes at all price points and while their frame materials vary, we’re confident you’ll find a ride you love. That’s what’s most important, not what the frame is made of. Keep that in mind and don’t decide until you’ve had a chance test ride some bikes.
Most of our mountain bicycles are built of aluminum, which is a great material for the job. It produces good-looking, affordable, responsive, lightweight and strong frames that won’t rust. There are different grades of aluminum and different ways of forming aluminum tubing, which both result in different feels, so there are many aluminum designs and rides to choose from.
There are also frames built of steel, carbon and titanium. Of the three, steel is the most traditional and least expensive material. Manufacturers still produce steel frames because it keeps the price down while offering excellent ride characteristics, reasonable lightness, and durability and repairability, too.
Carbon and titanium are costly materials and more difficult to build frames with, so they’re found on more expensive bicycle models. Carbon frames are sometimes called “composites” because they’re often comprised of carbon tubing and aluminum tubing and/or aluminum fittings. Carbon is actually a fabric that’s saturated in glue and formed into tubes that are then built into a frame. Or sometimes the carbon sheets are placed in a mold and crafted into a monocoque design, which is essentially a one-piece frame. Because carbon is a fabric it’s possible to align it in different ways, to layer it, to change the number of threads and to include different types of fibers, too, all of which allow designers to extensively fine-tune the frame to dial-in the ride.
The advantages of a carbon frame are super-light weight, excellent vibration damping and top-notch corrosion resistance. The shortcomings are cost and durability. But don’t get the wrong idea: Carbon is extremely strong and under normal use will hold up as well as any other material. However, if you’re prone to crashing and ride hard enough to bash your bike, you run the risk of your frame striking the ground or trees or rocks, and a severe impact could damage the structural integrity of the frame since carbon is more prone to impact damage than metal frames (these may dent but that’s more a cosmetic than a structural problem).
Unlike carbon, titanium is a metal like aluminum and steel. This strong, light tubing makes a lively and comfortable frame. Also, because titanium frames are impervious to corrosion and rust- and scratch-resistant, they’re often brushed or polished instead of painted, which means there’s no paint job to worry about. Additionally, titanium holds up to abuse and hard riding quite well and, while not invulnerable, can handle a lot. The chief disadvantage is cost. Titanium frames tend to be among the most costly because titanium is expensive and difficult to work with.
Most new mountain-bike buyers purchase a model equipped with suspension. Ironically, even if you buy a rigid bike (one without front or rear shocks), you actually get a certain level of suspension thanks to the cushioning effect of the fat tires, which float over bumps (if you don’t pump them up too hard).
It’s likely, however, that you’ll prefer the additional bump-busting ability of a bike with a suspension fork or one with front and rear shocks. These machines offer many advantages for trail riding. Because the wheels are sprung and can travel up and down, they remain in contact with the ground on even the most technical terrain. This results in more speed, traction and control and safer rides. Plenty of mountain bikers in fact, discover that they can easily ride trails they used to fear simply because they have a good suspension system.
Another wonderful thing about suspension is that it greatly reduces the amount of beating your body takes. If you’re suffering from a stiff neck or sore lower back on rides, you’ll be amazed at the difference a suspension makes. Jolts from big hits are absorbed by the shocks and never have a chance to slam your body so you finish rides relaxed and comfortable (think of the money you’ll save on chiropractor bills).
Front or Full?
There are two main types of suspension mountain bikes, those with front suspension (called hardtails) and those with front and rear suspension (called full suspension). Deciding which to get is the bicycle world’s equivalent of whether to buy a PC or Macintosh computer, though full suspension tends to be the more popular choice for most riders.
Traditionally, front-suspension mountain bikes have been lighter and a tad more efficient, which is why hardtails had pretty much dominated the cross-country racing scene. As weights have dropped and full-suspension efficiency has improved, even World Cup pros are pulling out fully suspended bikes for rough courses.
Because front-suspension bikes have only one shock, the frames are simpler than full-suspension models, which means they’re lighter and a little easier to clean and maintain. There are also dirt-jumping hardtails made for air time, wheelies and urban assault (riding on and over obstacles you find almost anywhere), which feature low, beefy frames and suspension forks.
Full-suspension machines are becoming more the norm because they offer speed, comfort and control, which is so much fun that most people don’t mind the slight weight penalty. Plus, any pedaling efficiency lost in the rear suspension system is more than made up in faster downhill and flat-terrain speeds. You’ll also find your rear wheel sticking to technical climbs better than on a hardtail. And, you’ll have more energy on long rides because you’re taking less of a beating.
Short Or Long Travel?
There are different types of full-suspension bikes defined by the amount of travel the shocks provide and what the bike is designed to do. Short-travel models offer one to three inches of suspension to take the bite off the rough stuff while retaining impressive efficiency. They’re popular for cross-country and all-around use.
Slopestyle and gated-racing bikes utilize about three to four inches of travel. The frame’s geometry, however, more closely resembles that of a dirt jumper. You’re standing up off the seat when riding these bikes, and the ample stand-over height allows them to be highly maneuverable. These bikes fly fast and high on dirt jumps, drops and gated racecourses.
Two types of medium-travel suspension bikes are the all mountain and freeride. The former is great for riding challenging cross-country courses with its 4 to 6 inches of front and rear suspension. Plus, its efficient frame and components channel most of your energy into forward motion. The freeride bike has a frame that’s oriented more for downhill with steeper, technical descents and possibly drops and jumps. It too climbs to the top, but its durable components and wheels may add extra weight.
Downhill bikes have long-travel suspension (7 to 10 inches) and are designed for descending steep and technical terrain. The slack head-tube angle and long wheelbase stabilize the bike at speed and over rough terrain. The plush suspension absorbs both fast chatter bumps and big hits. This bike is a beast to pedal uphill and is better suited for gravity-oriented rides.
We can show you some of these different bike types and demonstrate how they vary and how the different suspension systems and components work. The important thing is to think about how and where you’ll be riding the bike to have an idea, which type of suspension and how much suspension you want/need.
Today, most off-road bicycles come equipped with components from the major manufacturers Shimano and SRAM. Shimano makes a full line of components. So does SRAM, however, they make drivetrain components and shifters under the SRAM brand name, while their brakes carry the Avid brand name, and their crankset brand is TruVativ. Our chart below displays the various parts groups these companies offer, how they differ and what level rider each is designed to suit.
Note that, depending on the components you choose you may have an option of a double- or triple-chainring crankset. Choose based on your riding and shifting preferences. A triple is the traditional mountain bike setup excellent for all-around use. Doubles are popular with competitive riders who prefer the simpler, faster shifting they offer. (Please ask us if you have any questions about the components on the bicycle you’re interested in and we’ll be happy to explain more.)
Keep in mind that bicycle companies don’t always use the same level of components on a bike. For example, as a nice upgrade, sometimes they’ll put on a Shimano XT rear derailleur on a bike that’s mostly equipped with Shimano Deore components. And, you may also see bicycles with a mix of SRAM, Avid, TruVativ and Shimano components. Also, the larger bike makers like to “brand” their bikes by installing components made in house. So you’ll often find pedals and cranks bearing the company’s name or the name of their in-house brand.
|Entry||Alivio||X-3/X-4||8-speed cassette, great braking and shifting||impressive function at a sweet price|
|Active||Deore||X-5||9-speed cassette, great braking and shifting, stylish looks||better shifters, sleeker shapes, less weight|
|Sport||SLX & SLX DynaSys||X-7 & X7||9- or 10-speed cassette, great braking and shifting, light, durable||sweet parts and price|
|Race||Deore XT||X-9 & X9||9- or 10-speed cassette, great braking and shifting, lighter, fine finish, durable||shifts and brakes as good as the best, excellent durability, great looking, affordable, not as light as top-line parts|
|Race||Deore XT DynaSys||X.0 & X0||9- or 10-speed cassette, great braking and shifting, lighter, beautiful, durable||works as well as the best, almost as light, excellent durability|
|Pro||XTR||XX||10-speed cassettes, phenomenal shifting/braking, super-light, gorgeous and ultra reliable||world’s lightest and highest-tech off-road parts groups, designed for awesome function, lightness, appearance and durability|
|DH/freeride||Saint||none||9-speed cassette, great braking and shifting, extreme durability||Shimano’s downhill/freeride-specific components|
Rim Or Disc Brakes
In the past few years there have been impressive advances in brake designs and today you’ll find amazing stoppers on every bike you buy. There are two types, rim (usually called “linear-pull,” “direct-pull,” or “V-brake”) and disc (the common types are “mechanical-disc” and “hydraulic-disc”).
Rim brakes are the traditional brake design that rub on the rim to slow and stop the bike. These work great, usually weigh less than alternatives and are simple to service and repair.
Rim brakes have some weaknesses, however. Because they rub on the rims, they gradually wear the rims, which may damage them in time. Also, muddy and wet conditions rapidly wear rim-type brake pads and also reduce gripping power, sometimes significantly.
For these reasons, many off-road bikes today come with disc brakes, which grip a disc (also called a “rotor”) attached to the center of the wheel and work similar to some car brakes. These are affected less by wet and muddy conditions (so you don’t lose much braking power) and they don’t wear the rims so your wheels will last longer. Some models utilize hydraulics for awesome modulation, stopping power and reliability.
Like the brake pads on rim brakes, disc-brakes have brake pads (sometimes called shoes), that wear, too, however, these tend to last longer and hold up far better in muddy and wet conditions so the pads don’t need replacing as often. Plus, with hydraulic discs, there are no cables to worry about so with just a little simple maintenance you have amazing brakes always at the ready.
Mountain bikes come with impressively reliable wheels and tires that are designed to withstand the rigors of off-road riding. The rims are wide and shaped for optimum strength. And they’re protected by fat tires containing a good cushion of air that prevents impacts from damaging the rims/wheels. Rider weight, terrain and technique are also factors in how long off-road wheels last. With just a little care, they’ll run true for years.
Off-road tires provide awesome traction and control and they’re soft enough to lessen the jolts you feel riding over ruts, roots and rocks. They’re tough and reliable to cut down on punctures, too. But, if you’re riding in super-rough or thorny areas, talk to us about additional tube protection for preventing flat tires. Sometimes it’s just a matter of running the correct tire pressure. Other times you may need special tubes or sealant or heavier tires, but we can solve the problem and ward off those ride-ruining flats.
All our mountain bikes comes with sturdy wheels you can depend on. As you spend more money the wheels get lighter because reductions here are most noticeable on the trail due to the fact that wheels are rotating weight. Strip a few ounces from the wheels and the bike will pedal much easier.
So, as you pay more, you see wheels with fewer spokes and lighter hubs and rims. At the highest price points, you get wheelsets, which have been custom designed and built to be super reliable and ultra light using such gee-whiz features as featherweight materials, fewer spokes, trick spoke lacing, and hidden nipples.
Our MTB tires are spec’d by the manufacturer to handle the way they believe you’ll ride that bike. So, a rigid mountain bike, which they think will see road and off-road use, might come with a dual-purpose tread that rolls smoothly on pavement but also delivers a decent dirt grip.
Our hardtails and full-suspension bicycles sport tires geared toward trail use with tread patterns that provide excellent traction, control and handling. Interestingly, these vary from heavy tread patterns to semi-slicks, which appear almost bald.
Tire choice is a function of where you ride. While speed or race-oriented riders might ride semi-slicks because they appreciate reduced rolling resistance and higher speeds, more riders prefer deeper tread for better grip on slippery surfaces.
If you’re wondering how different tires work on the trails around here, just ask. We’ve ridden all the different rubber and can offer advice on how various tires handle.
Look Ma, No Tubes!
A great feature you’ll find on high-end and mid-level bicycle models, is tubeless tires. They offer two significant advantages over conventional knobbies:
By eliminating the tube, pinch flats (a common puncture that’s caused by a hard impact that pinches the tube against the rim) are eliminated. Even better, because pinch flats aren’t possible, you can run lower tire pressures, which provide better traction, cornering, control and a more comfortable ride, too. As tire choices increase and the technology gets better, expect to see these tires on most bikes in the future.
You won’t ride much if your bike doesn’t feel right, which is why we spend time checking you to make sure you’re on the perfect frame size before we start recommending bicycles. Three other important considerations are your contact points with the bike, the handlebars, seat and pedals.
You’ll find two common handlebar types on mountain bikes, flat and riser bars. Flat bars sit lower (depending on the frame design and stem) and are slightly lighter. They’re usually favored by cross-country and long-distance riders.
Riser bars come in different shapes, but they’re all higher than flat bars, typically a little wider, and swept back a bit making them easier to reach. Riser bars let you sit a little more upright, and give you a wider stance from their greater width, which many people prefer on technical terrain and for downhill riding because it provides more control. You can get a feel for which you like by sitting on different bikes in our shop with the different bars and feeling them for yourself.
Here, it’s mainly a matter of personal preference. The saddles on our bicycles are excellent but it’s crucial that the one you get fits you properly and everyone’s a little different. The best thing is to give it a try to see how it feels. Keep in mind that it takes several rides to get your body used to riding. It’s also an excellent idea to ride in cycling shorts, which include a layer of padding in the crotch area and transfer moisture away for optimum comfort (regular shorts have seams in them that you sit on when biking causing numbness and pain). Don’t worry, we have excellent cycling shorts that resemble your favorite baggies. There’s no need to wear skintight Lycra shorts unless you want to.
On basic mountain bikes you’ll find basic pedals, sometimes simple, flat, platform models and sometime models equipped with toe clips and straps. These are perfectly adequate and comfortable for most all-around riding.
As you ride further or more athletically, clipless pedals will allow you to spin the pedals faster and put more energy into your cycling. Which is why on better mountain bikes, riders prefer clipless pedals. These require cycling shoes with cleats on the bottoms that lock your feet to the pedals when you step on them offering the ultimate in pedaling efficiency.
While the idea of being locked into your pedals my seem dangerous, it’s as easy to get your feet out of clipless pedals as it is to get in. Just swing your heels to the side to “click” out of the pedals and get your feet down. It takes a little practice to get the hang of entering and exiting the pedals (we recommend practicing a lot standing next to the bike before doing any serious riding). But, once you’ve mastered the foot action, we think you’ll love the additional control and efficiency of clipless pedals.
The exception is if you’re purchasing a dirt jumper and intend on doing lots of stunts. Riders with these skills tend to prefer regular flat, platform pedals and standard shoes, too. If you’re not sure what type of rider you are yet, we’re happy to show you the different pedals and help you decide what’s right for your new machine.
We hope this overview helps you pick out a great new mountain bike. Feel free to surf around and kick some virtual knobbies on our website. And, please contact us if you have questions about anything in this article or anything else bicycle related.
Be sure to visit our store, too, where you can see all our bicycles up close and personal and take a test ride to actually try them out!
Is it time to buy your child their first bicycle? Or, is your “little one,” not so little anymore and ready for a bigger bike, or one without training wheels? A bicycle has always been a perfect gift for the holidays.
If it’s been a while since you’ve bike shopped, you’re in for a pleasant surprise.
Today, there are more types of children’s two-wheelers available than ever before. While this means you have a better selection, it also increases the possibility of purchasing the wrong bike or one that is lesser quality or poorly designed.
To help, here are some fun tips to ensure that you get a bike your tyke, kindergartner, pre-teen and young adult – and every juvenile in-between, will love. And remember that we’re always happy to help answer questions, show you and your child which bikes fit and how they differ, and handle any other issues that crop up as you get your whole family pedaling together. We can keep a secret, too, in case that new tot rod is a surprise!
While adult bicycles are selected according to frame size, kids’ bikes are sized (and referred to) according to wheel size (see our photos and chart below).
Also, fitting a bike to children is more than determining their age and height. We also (and you should) evaluate coordination and riding ability. For example, taller children lacking cycling confidence do much better on smaller bikes because they feel more comfortable and in control. And a coordinated 10-year old with long legs who has ridden smaller bicycles growing up might be ready for a full-size bike.
The most important deciding factor is safety. You want a bicycle that lets them ride easily in complete control. All our children’s and young-adult bicycles are adjustable to fit as your child grows.
So, don’t make the common mistake of believing you should get a bike that’s a little big in order to have growing room for your child. Oversize bikes like this can be dangerous and can cause crashes. They’re also harder to ride. These things can have the opposite effect of what you want, and instead of being fun for them, actually turn your kid off to cycling. And don’t worry, once they’ve outgrown any bicycle, you can easily sell it online, in the newspaper or at a yard sale.
|Sizing by age and wheel size
Age: 2 – 4
Wheel size: 12-inch (or smaller)
|Age: 2 – 4
WS: 12-inch pedal bike (can include training wheels)
|Age: 3 – 6
WS: 16-inch pedal bike (can include training wheels)
|Age: 5 – 9
|Age: 7 – 11
|Age: 10 – Adult
When you’re checking a bike’s fit, make sure that the child can sit on the seat and place both feet firmly on the ground, which means they’ll be able to hold themself upright and get on and off without difficulty. If the bicycle is equipped with training wheels, it’s okay if the child reaches the ground with their toes only, because the training wheels provide the support.
As they develop their balance, gradually raise the training wheels so they get used to leaning the bike to turn. This is easy to do on our quality training wheels.
It’s also important that children can comfortably reach the handlebars and steer. If the bars are out of reach, steering will pull them forward causing a loss of control. Plus, if the bicycle has hand brakes, it’s crucial that the child can reach and operate the controls. If the child doesn’t have the hand strength to operate the levers, it’s usually possible to adjust the systems to make it easier for them, which we can help you with.
For children who cannot ride yet, and the youngest and least coordinated kids, running bikes are a great way to start. These compact, uncomplicated and totally fun learning machines are also referred to as balance or push bikes. They are very intuitive for most children and inspire confidence because their feet are on the ground so much of the time and the bikes are small, light and easy for them to handle.
These ingenious bikes have a sturdy frame, nice wheels and tires and a seat and handlebars, but they have no pedals, cranks, drivetrain or brakes. They are powered by the child pushing along with their feet, a natural motion they’ve already mastered. And, as they propel themselves along Fred Flintstone style, they quickly learn how to steer a bicycle and soon also get the feeling of balancing a two-wheeler. Once that happens they’re well on their way to a pedal bike.
It’s important to note that even new riders can scoot along quite quickly on running bikes. So be ready to keep an eye on your little ones and make sure they only ride where it’s safe. Also, these bikes can handle pavement and dirt, so they’re great for learning off-road skills, too.
Today, kids’ pedal bikes vary as much as adult models. For tots, there are tiny brakeless “sidewalk” bikes not intended for street use. Once they turn about eight, many kids want BMX (Bicycle Moto Cross) models, which are ideal for everything from cruising to school and around town to trick riding, racing and dirt jumping. Also popular are cruisers, and even mini mountain bikes with suspension, and full-on performance road bicycles.
If your child is very small, you might be able to pick out a bike for them. Once they get a little older, though, this gets tricky. Remember, that it’s their bike and keep in mind that they’re more likely to want to ride and to get excited about biking if they’ve got the two-wheeler they like best.
To find out what they want, just ask them. Or bring home some catalogs or visit us online with them and have them point out models they like. Or, make a day of it and bring them in shopping so they can show you the models they think are cool.
If the new bike is a surprise gift, check what your child’s friends ride. That should ensure that you pick a winner. Also, we’re happy to exchange new bicycles if it turns out that your child had their heart set on a different type.
Our professional bike shop is the best place to buy
We hope that this basic information on choosing, sizing and buying a children’s bicycle is helpful and that you’ll come see us when it’s time to share your cycling love with that eager little one. We carefully select the kid’s models we carry and assemble every one by hand plus stand behind every bicycle with a full guarantee, too, should you ever have a problem. We also properly fit the bike to your child and can show you the adjustments you can make as your child grows.
We’ve got a full selection of accessories, too. You’ll want to get them a helmet and we’ll make sure that it fits right. And, if they’re old enough to bike to school, you’ll want them to have a quality lock and know how to use it. You might want them to have a light and bell or a rack for carrying books and clothing. We’ve got it all and are happy to show you.
One of the best features of cycling shoes is that they last far longer than other sports shoes. For example, you must replace running shoes every six months (or sooner) because the materials inside the soles lose their ability to provide cushioning. Also, regular sneakers are in constant contact with the ground and the soles and uppers wear rapidly. Contrarily, if cared for, a quality pair of pedal pushers could last five or even ten years! These easy tips will help you get the most from your shoes:
The best way to pick up mechanic skills is by reading a good repair book. We offer these in our store and you’ll find them instructive and easy to follow. It can be scary to get started so we recommend learning the basics first, which include such things as airing tires, lubing the chain and fixing a flat.
If you get into repairing your bike gradually like this, you’ll develop your confidence one step at a time and build your tool kit purchasing only those things you need right now. As your requirements change and you want to tackle more challenging procedures, you’ll have an idea where to start from you previous experiences, and things should go smoothly.
Keep in mind that you only need to be an expert on your bike(s), so there’s no pressure to be an all-knowing mechanic. Most bicycle parts are quite user friendly and are easy to diagnose and repair with inexpensive tools, some of which you may already have, such as pliers, screwdrivers and adjustable wrenches. Another cool thing is that a lot of bicycle parts come in pairs, so as you work on one component, you can refer to the other to see if you’re forgetting anything.
To give you a head start, here are five important bike-repair rules:
1. Almost every part on a bicycle is regular thread, meaning you turn to the right to tighten and to the left to loosen (remember “righty, tighty; lefty, loosy,” if it helps). The one part that’s not regular thread is the left pedal. Turn it counter-clockwise to tighten, clockwise to loosen.
2. Because lightweight materials are used, bicycle component threading can be delicate so it takes a while to learn how tight is right. It’s best to tighten things until they’re snug, test to see if the part is tight, retighten if it needs it, and so on. If you’re too heavy handed with your wrenches, you’ll strip parts quickly.
3. Never force anything. If it doesn’t fit, determine why before you ruin the part or damage your bike.
4. Allow time to complete a procedure. A rushed job is usually a botched job.
5. Work where you can safely leave things if you get interrupted, so important parts don’t get lost. And, use good lighting and work on a smooth, clean floor so you can easily find small parts you drop.
Are you having trouble selecting the “right” bicycle saddle? Well, we think we can help!
Selecting a saddle is arguably the most personal component choice made by any rider. That’s why every Bontrager saddle is backed by the Unconditional Comfort Guarantee — so you can be confident in your choice.
Why take chances on which saddle might be the perfect match for you? Bontrager has taken he “guess work” out of selecting a new saddle.