If you're planning on learning to cycle, bravo! Nothing makes you feel or look better than a bike ride. You'll drop pounds, get that outdoor glow and your mental outlook and self-confidence will soar -- which may be the best benefit of all. Whatever bike fits your style and goals will be a good one; some are better than others for beginners, however. The best bet is to choose an affordable bike that's comfortable and then ride it. You can always upgrade later if you'd like.
Road bikes are made from all kinds of materials, but the most common and most affordable are made from aluminum. Sure, there are other materials that cost more such as carbon-fiber, but unless you want to spend twice the money on your first bike, aluminum is just fine. It's light and responsive. It feels eager to run. Most entry-level bikes are made from aluminum. Other options are steel. Steel road bikes are even more affordable than aluminum, but they are heavier.
Don't shop specifically for a woman's bike. Road bikes are not gender-specific, even though some of them claim to be. The only real difference is that they are smaller, and may come painted with flowers, vines or graphics indicating that they are for women. If you're into fashion instead of performance, that's fine, too, but a beginner bike should focus on affordability and comfort. Bikes are bikes, and most are distinguished only by size. Don't fall for the pitch, but if you fall in love with a women-specific bike, buy it and ride it proudly. If you love the way your bike looks, you will ride it more often.
Focus on comfort. Lots of road bikes are made for speed. This is fine if that's what your intentions are, but this type of bike is not as comfortable. They are fast, but they are stiff and put your body into an aggressive, hunched-forward stance. Get on the bike and ride it. A good beginner bike won't make you bend your neck up at an uncomfortable angle just so you can see in front of you. The handlebars should be slightly higher than the seat. Your arms should be bent slightly and you shouldn't feel excessive pressure on your palms or your butt. Try to imagine yourself sitting on the bike for an extended period of time. If anything hurts or pinches, try something different.
Don't be afraid to buy second-hand bikes. Road bikes are tough, resilient and there are literally thousands of them out there. Online sales of top-quality used bikes are one way to get an expensive, comfortable bike for thousands less. It's fine to shop at the local bike shop, learn what size you need, do your research and then use that information to shop online -- lots of people do it. You can be riding an expensive, carbon-fiber bike for a fraction of the cost of a new one.
Specializing in hardwood furniture, trim carpentry, cabinets, home improvement and architectural millwork, Wade Shaddy has worked in homebuilding since 1972. Shaddy has also worked as a newspaper reporter and writer, and as a contributing writer for Bicycling Magazine. Shaddy began publishing in various magazines in 1992, and published a novel, “Dark Canyon,” in 2008.