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Find the Right Bike for You

Bike shops don't have to be intimidating. Here's what you need to know to get your new favorite bike (even if the last one had tassels and a basket).

Start by knowing what you want to use the bike to do - commute, take long rides, cycle to the coffee shop on weekends, and so on. You'll quickly sift through the slew of choices. Once you know the kind of bicycle you want, reserve an afternoon to visit a bike shop, says Joanne Thompson, owner and manager of Bike Station Aptos in Aptos, California. "Those guys will be your go-to source for repairs, tune-ups, and cycling advice," she says. Try out a few shops to discern the services they provide and the models available.

At the shop Thompson recommends testing at least three bikes (don't be shy, they're happy to let you). Ride up hills, do sprints, and pay attention to details, like how quickly the chain shifts when you switch gears and whether the brakes stick. "Be sure to buy the best bike you can afford," says Selene Yeager, author of Every Woman's Guide to Cycling. "Lift a $200 bike, then do the same with a higher-end model, and you'll feel the difference. The inexpensive bike's heavy frame adds weight you won't want to pedal up a hill, but what's worse, the cheaply made components mean more frequent breakdowns."

After you buy Get a professional fitting, where a technician will adjust the handlebars, saddle, and even the cleats on your bike shoes to suit your size (we recommend doing this for your current bike, too). "Cycling's gentle on your body, but you're in a fixed position doing a repetitive motion," says Yeager. "Even during a quick outing, little imperfections-like a too-high saddle-can give you aches that will make you quit riding." Fees range from $25 for the basics to $150 or more for extras, like video of you pedaling and an analysis of your form.