Home / Bikes / Beginners’ Guide: F.A.Q.


This is one of the first questions we are often asked, but in fact it’s one of the last steps in the bike-buying process. The first thing to think about when you are looking for a new bicycle is what type of bicycle you want, how much you want to spend, etc. Bicycle size is rarely a limiting factor when you’re selecting a model. Once you know what bike you’re interested in, we will begin assessing your correct size.

Generally speaking, it’s helpful to think of  bikes in terms of Large, Medium, and Small. Most of us know where we fall in that category, and generally it will hold true for bike sizing. Here’s a handy chart to help out:

Rider Height General Size Mountain Bike Road Bike Hybrid
4’10-5’3″ X-Small 13″-16″ 43-47cm 13″
5’3″-5’7″ Small 16″ 47-52cm 15″
5’7″-5’10” Medium 16″-18″ 52-56cm 17″
5’10”-6’2″ Large 19″-21″ 56-58cm 19″
6’2″-6’4″ X-Large 21″-24″ 60-62cm 21″

Because bicycles are highly adjustable–Seatposts can be moved up or down, as can handlebars, etc.–Most people can achieve an acceptable fit on more than one bike size, so keep an open mind, and try a couple of different sizes to determine your preference. Remember that we offer a variety of bicycle fitting services for new and existing bicycles. Click here for more information.

Buy a hard-tail (or front-suspension-only) mountain bike if:

  • Your budget is $2,000 or less. (There are dual suspension mountain bikes available at sub-$2,000 prices, but you won’t enjoy riding one, and we don’t recommend them.)
  • You ride your mountain bike primarily on pavement or dirt/gravel roads.
  • You want to carry a rear rack with panniers.

Buy a dual-suspension mountain bike if:

  • Your budget is $1,200 or more.
  • You ride your mountain bike off-road.
  • You are an inexperienced mountain bike rider. (Yes, you read that right. The worse rider you are, the better your bike should be! It can help you navigate tricky situations that you couldn’t get through otherwise.)
  • You are an experienced mountain bike rider. (Then if you’re even reading this, you already know all about the benefits of dual suspension.)

If in doubt, try ’em both! We have an extensive fleet of demo bikes, both hard-tail and dual suspension. Take some time and take them both out on the trail. Remember, you can your first day’s rental price against the purchase of your new bicycle.

Like most things, there are advantages to both.

29″ wheel bikes:

  • Roll more easily over rocks and roots because of the larger wheel diameter.
  • Roll faster on pavement and smooth trail.
  • Have less travel in the suspension, hence more efficient pedaling

26 or 27 1/2″ wheel bikes:

  • Have lighter wheels and thus accelerate more quickly.
  • Have laterally stiffer wheels for better cornering.
  • Have more travel in the suspension for better big-hit compliance.

Ideally, ride both and see what you think. Generally, if you like to sit down and pedal, you’ll like a 29er. If you like to hop, skip, and jump your way down the trail, you may prefer a 26″ bike. If you’re a casual rider looking for fun on the trails, you can get it on any wheel-size. Choose your bike for fit, price, and ride quality, and hit the trails!

A few things to consider:

  • How much do you know about bikes? If you are knowledgeable, you may be able to find yourself a great deal on a used bike. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re a babe in the woods–Who knows what you’ll end up with?
  • Generally speaking, a used bike is worth at most half of what it cost new. A new bike comes with a full warranty, fitting service, lifetime tune-ups, and a satisfaction guarantee. If you’re going to go without those things, you should be getting a great deal.
  • Does the bike fit you perfectly? If not, budget for paying full ticket on a fit, saddle, stem, and/or handlebars.

It depends on how you define comfort. If you’re looking for a Lazy Boy, you won’t find it on a bicycle. However, you should be able to ride your bike without being distracted by pain or numbness. The saddle you need depends both on your individual anatomy, and the type of riding you do. Here are some things to think about:

  • Start with taking a seat on our “butt-o-meter.” It’s a wonderful Trek-designed diagnostic tool that helps us measure the width of the saddle you’ll need.
  • Consider getting a complete bike fit that will include not only saddle selection, but handlebar, seat height, and stem selection as well.
  • The more upright you sit, the wider the saddle you’ll need.
  • Generally speaking, women need wider, flatter saddles than men.
  • Soft saddles are fine for shorter rides. If you ride for hours at a time, you’ll want firmer support.
  • Your saddle should not hurt you–Don’t put up with a painful ride! We offer a generous exchange program if you want to try a saddle: Buy one you think will work, try it for a ride or two, and if it doesn’t work out, you can bring it back in good condition for an exchange or refund.

The best bike may be the bike you have–What’s important is to ride it! The ideal bicycle, though, depends on your commute. Here’s a quick summary:

Ultra-short commutes, flat terrain, low investment: Cruiser bike:  $250 and up.

Short commute, varied terrain, all weather, low investment: Hard-tail mountain bike–$350 and up.

Short commute, urban terrain, most weather, high style, medium investment:  European-style commuter–$500 and up.

Medium to long commute, urban terrain, most weather–700c hybrid–$500 and up.

Long commute, maximum efficiency, most weather–Road or cyclocross bike:  $1000 and up.