Buyers guide

How to choose the right bike for you?

When it comes to picking out the bike of your dreams, it’s important to be a little selfish and remember that you are at the center of the equation. What is the best bike? It’s the one that suits your needs the best, and nobody else’s.

It’s our job to help you answer this question, and we take our work seriously - from fancy, customized rides to a first kid’s bike off the rack - we’ll take the time to make sure that you’re on the right bike.

Why do we take it so seriously? Our reputation depends on it! We believe that everyone who wants to ride deserves the best help that they can get Whether you’re a first-time cyclist or a 30 year veteran of the sport, you deserve our best.

Our lifetime service policy and lifetime warranty on all bikes we sell allow us to continue our service beyond the sale, and keep your bike rolling smooth.

Things you should ask yourself before you stop by the shop

What kind of riding do you want to do? This is where it all starts.

Are you looking to ride with your kids? Cruise around town for fun? Get a 45-minute-high-intensity workout in before you start your workday? Replace your car? The possibilities of what you can do with a bicycle are endless - honing in on what you want to do narrows down the search for a new ride.

What kind of bikes do your family or friends ride? Silly as it seems, it’s important to have the right tool for the job. If all of your friends are going to Santa Cruz to ride mountain bikes on the weekends, you’ll want a bike that is up to the task.

Are you getting back on the bike for the first time in a while? If you’re new to cycling, or have been bike-free for a number of years, certain types of bikes are more comfortable, more stable, and easier to gain confidence on.

How hard are you on your things? This, for sure, is a challenging topic to broach, and we’re sure to tread lightly. That said, it’s important to consider your riding style and your body type - the more aggressively you ride or the larger you are, the more durable your bike needs to be.

Do you tend to replace things often? Or are you the type of person who would rather buy one thing that lasts forever? With bicycles, money spent up front on a complete bike with nicer parts will always cost less than an upgrade later. Bicycle companies have a lot more spending power than any of us do, and they get their parts at a better deal we can offer you on an upgrade later.

Things to know for your test ride experience

Size matters. A lot. Every day, someone asks us what size bike their son, daughter, or friend rides. It’s not possible for us to honestly answer. There is no substitute for getting on the bike. Don’t buy a bicycle sight unseen, and don’t compromise on size. You can change a lot of things about a bike down the road, but you’ll never be able to change the size.

Try them out. Take test rides. Take a lot of them! The only way you’re going to get the right bike is by riding them. We could talk your ear off all day about all the bikes we carry, but without trying them out, you’ll never get a feel for how a bike rides. All bike shops should encourage you to test ride when you’re in the hunt for a new bike. It’s the only way you’ll get comfortable and be able to pick out the perfect new bike.

There are so many types of bikes out there. Bicycles come in more flavors now than ever before - you’ve got road bikes, all-road/adventure road bikes, gravel bikes, cross bikes, monster cross bikes - and to the untrained eye, they all look the same! With proper assistance, you can narrow down your focus to a couple of different bikes that should suit your needs to a T. This is what we do!

Don’t forget the accessories. it starts with the bike, but doesn’t end there. If you’re starting from scratch, there are essentials that you’ll need to ensure everything goes as planned for your body and your new bike. Having the right tools for the job will ensure that your riding experience is both safe (helmet, pump gloves), legal (headlight and taillight), and enjoyable (bike shorts work wonders). Build some money into your budget to make sure you’re well equipped - we have some package deals  to make it easier on your wallet

Want some help before you come into the shop? Let us make a custom quote for you.

Fill out our brief form with some information about yourself and what you’re looking for. Someone on our sales team will get back to you with some options that we think are a good fit. We can schedule a time for you to come in and test ride your pre-selected bikes in the correct size. It’s easy! 

BUYERS GUIDES BY CATEGORY

ROAD BIKES



A road bike is the perfect bike for exploring the open road, for feeling the bliss of long climbs in the saddle, for getting out with your buddies on a weekend spin, or for racing. Road riding is a sport that you can pick up at nearly any age, and stick with it for years to come. If you’re wanting to ride with a local cycling club, such as Team Alameda or Alameda Velo, this is the kind of bike you’re likely to want. Within the road bike category, there are a few different types of bikes to look at.

Not sure where to start? Fill out our custom quote form and we can help you pick out the right bike for your road.

Endurance Road Bikes

Built to ride all day. Endurance road bikes put your body in a position where you’re able to pedal efficiently and comfortably over a period of several hours. Bikes in the endurance road category have frame geometry which allows you to sit a bit more upright than many other road bikes. Endurance geometry also allows the bike to handle poor pavement with a little extra comfort. They also have built-in clearance for wider tires, which we love. More rubber on the ground equals more traction, and thus more speed. That said, they still accelerate quickly and handle well in the corners. A large percentage of century riders and multi-day event riders (such as AIDS LifeCycle) are on endurance road bikes.

Road Racing Bikes

Road race bikes are designed to be light and fast. A road race bike is usually the lightest bike a manufacturer offers. They put the rider in a more aerodynamic position than an endurance road bike, and offer more total all out speed. In turn, race bikes tend to require a bit more flexibility in the rider to fit comfortably, as the frame is designed with a shorter headtube and usually a longer top tube. Race geometry is formulated for the bike to smoothly handle corners at high speed. With stiffness in mind, these bikes tend to deliver a bit more chatter to the rider while minimizing flex and power loss. These bikes capture every watt of power that the rider puts out and turn them into blistering speed.

Gravel Bikes

Built with endurance road geometry but the ability to ride dirt as well as pavement, Gravel bikes have risen into prominence in the bike world. Gravel bikes have the ability to run tires more than twice as wide as an old-school road bike, which opens a lot of doors to an adventurous cyclist. Want to keep on pedaling when the road turns to dirt? Or maybe you feel like our East Bay roads are barely paved at all? A gravel bike, equipped with low gearing and disc brakes, allows you to get off the beaten path while still handling like a champ on the road.

Touring Bikes

If you want to ride all day, and then the next day, and then the day after that, you should look at a touring bike. Touring bikes are built with geometry that handles comfortably while loaded down with weight. Where to carry all that weight? Tourers have mounts on the frame for adding racks to carry all the stuff you could dream of carrying, as well as fender mounts to keep you dry in case of rain. Touring bikes are built stronger than other road bikes, and as such tend to weigh more. Stronger wheels are the cornerstone of a good touring bike, with more spokes than other road bikes for extra strength. Touring bikes are often made of steel, a frame material that minimizes road feedback to the rider and offers a comfortable ride.

Want to explore into the woods? Pedal out on a dirt path with no route in mind? Or explore the vast network of trails in our regional parks and beyond? A mountain bike might be what you’re looking for. There are a lot of different types of mountain bikes, built for everything from jumping off of logs and flying over rock gardens to cruising down a groomed dirt trail. If your level of daredevil is anywhere from nonexistent to Evel Knievel, there’s a mountain bike out there for you.

Mountain bikes are heavily driven by technology and innovation. Yesterday’s high end bikes seem like dinosaurs when compared the newest models - it can seem like the greatest, newest things are being rolled out all the time. The upside here is that technology and innovations for high end bikes trickle down to the middle and entry level quite quickly. Things that used to be standard on only the fanciest bikes (hydraulic brakes, dropper seatposts, etc) are now found on mountain bikes a quarter of the price. This is good for all of us.

Not sure what kind of mountain bike suits your needs the best? Fill out our custom quote form, and we’ll follow up with some guided recommendations to let you hit the trail as soon as possible.

Cross-Country Bikes

Most of the mountain bikes that we sell fit into this category. Cross Country bikes truly cover a wide range of mountain bikes, from an entry level hardtail for a first time rider to a super lightweight dual-suspension race bike.

If you’re a beginner looking for your first mountain bike, likely it will be a cross country hardtail (that is, a bike without rear suspension). They offer enough suspension to help tackle technical descents while still being efficient and nimble on the way up. These kind of bikes tend to have a relatively neutral geometry - a sort of jack of all trades type of ride.

If you’re a more seasoned mountain biker tackling all day rides, or looking to get into racing, a higher-end cross-country bike is likely the ride for you. These come in both hardtail and dual suspension models. The geometry, components, and ride quality are very different from entry level type bikes, but still fall under the cross country umbrella. These bikes go fast, climb well, and minimize flex to keep as much of your power in the bike as possible. We also see people looking at cross country mountain bikes as commuter bikes for places where the pavement is awful or nonexistent. These kind of bikes are designed to be ridden off road, and can be good for commuters who value durability over speed.

Trail Bikes

If you’re looking for one mountain bike to do everything, the trail category is where you should look. Bikes in this category have different geometry than cross country bikes - designed to handle aggressive downhills with a lot more comfort and control. These are bikes that can go over stuff as well as around stuff. You don’t always have to pick a perfect line here.

Many trail bikes are fully suspended, with anywhere from 120mm to 150mm of travel in both the frame and fork. There are also trail hardtails, with geometry similar to a full suspension bike and only a front suspension fork. Dropper seatposts, which allow you to adjust your saddle height with a push of a button, are often found on trail bikes. Droppers get your saddle out of the way to make technical descents a lot more comfortable. When it’s time to start pedaling again, hit the lever and go back to your normal saddle height. They’re a game changer. If you’re the kind of rider who doesn’t mind grinding out a climb in order to have some real fun on the way down, a trail bike is what you’re looking for. They don’t climb quite as quick as a cross country bike, but with modern suspension design and geometry innovation, they’re definitely catching up.

All Mountain and Enduro Bikes

These have longer travel than a trail bike and are definitely designed more for the downhill than anything else. They’re heavier, are more rugged, and are designed to take a beating. Climbing will be more of a chore here with their geometry and weight, but still not impossible - they’re not pure downhill bikes. After all, a true Enduro race is only timed in the downhill sections. These bikes eat up larger rocks and big rooty sections, handle bigger drops, and do well in big mountain situations. While they may be a bit overkill for general East Bay riding, Enduro bikes shine in places like Tahoe and Santa Cruz, where the trails are generally more rugged and technical.

Downhill, Freeride, and Dirt Jump Bikes

We don’t do a lot of these at our shop, but they’re certainly a segment of mountain bikes that has a lot of popularity worldwide. Our terrain doesn’t really call for downhill bikes, but if you’ve got the need for speed and fear isn’t something you’ve ever heard of, a downhill bike may be just what you’re looking for. Go to Northstar at Tahoe, get a lift ticket, and bomb your way down. These bikes have more travel than any other category and can handle whatever is thrown their way, as long as it isn’t climbing.

Freeride bikes and Dirt Jump bikes are even more niche - designed usually for jump parks or pump tracks, and built with geometry and equipment that is genre-specific. Dirt Jump bikes are often single speed, and have about as much in common with mountain bikes as they do BMX bikes. We do see a segment of riders on dirt jumpers who are simply people that are too tall or feel too adult to comfortably ride a BMX bike. Dirt jump bikes can be a fun short distance cruiser for people who like to jump curbs and ride like they did when they were a kid.

Commuting to work on a bike has so many benefits. You save money on gas, you don’t have to pay for parking, you rarely sit in traffic, and you get exercise every day. It’s also good for the environment - you’re one less car on the road. Be careful though, you will spend more money on food. Where you live and where you work will help define what kind of commuter bike you need. Whether you’ve got a short spin on either end of a BART ride, or a long trip complete with potholed roads and hills, we’ve got a good bike to get you where you need to go.  Don’t need a bike to get to work, but just want a bike to get around town? To run errands, ride through the city, and take in the view? We’ve got plenty of bikes for that too. 

City and Street Bikes

Good for shorter commutes and city riding. These bikes tend to have straight or swept back handlebars, a wide range of gears, and wider tires than your standard road bike. You sit relatively upright, which makes riding through traffic more comfortable than being hunched over. The wider tires help mitigate potholes and give you more stability, which helps if you’re carrying a bag on a bike rack. These type of bikes make up the majority of what we sell, be it for commuting to work or just riding around. There are city and street bikes to fit everyone’s needs and budget. They can be as basic or deluxe as it gets - the possibilities here are endless.

Folding Bikes

Great for people who have a limited amount of space. Can’t take your bike into work? Put it under your desk. Riding on a crowded BART or Caltrain car? Need to put your bike in the trunk of your car for part of your commute? Folding bikes take up very little space. They do have smaller wheels than your average bike, so they’re best suited for people who don’t have to ride long distances. Smaller wheels spin up to speed quickly, which is nice for stop and go riding - they feel snappy from the get go. 

Road Bikes

Got a long commute that feels more like an adventure? A road bike will let you cover that distance faster than any other type of bike. Traditional road bikes make good commuters if you don’t have to carry a lot of stuff with you. Have a laptop, a change of clothes, and your lunch? Check out a touring bike - it’ll let you put a rack on and carry your gear with ease.

Just want to get out there and ride? If you’re looking to get a little bit of outdoor time or get outside with your family, we’ve got a lot of different options to get your legs moving. Head out on a paved path, cruise along one of our local bike trails, or just head out along the beach. Bikes don’t have to be that serious - they’re supposed to be fun, after all!

Cruiser Bikes
Cruisers are great for riding comfortably on flat surfaces. They’re upright, have wide tires, and wide handlebars. Cruisers are often single speed, but do come in multi-speed options. Looking for the bike equivalent of a Cadillac? Start here.

Comfort Bikes
Comfort bikes are great for people looking for a ride similar to a cruiser, but with more versatility. You’ll find wide tires and upright geometry on comfort bikes, designed to make the ride as smooth as possible. They take the strain off your neck, wrists, and back, with ergonomic components and a very upright position. These bikes are better for longer rides than a cruiser, as they’ve got a wider range of gears. Comfort bikes are great for people looking to take their bikes to a park or on a family camping trip. They can usually handle light dirt paths as well as pavement.

Hybrid Bikes
You’ll hear the term hybrid used often in the bike world. A true hybrid bike bridges the gap between a street bike and a mountain bike, borrowing a little bit from each category to make a bike that does well in various conditions. You’ll find the straight handlebars and shift levers like a mountain bike, but a wheel and tire size closer to a road bike. Hybrids have semi-knobby tires which give you enough grip to ride on dirt but are smooth enough to not drag you down on pavement. Disc brakes give you stopping power on various surfaces and light suspension forks smooth out the ride. They’re not meant for technical off road riding, but they can hold their own on dirt. Hybrids are relatively upright as far as bikes go, but less so than cruiser or comfort bikes. 

City Bikes
Similar in position to a hybrid but designed for the pavement. There are a ton of options in this category, from basic around town bikes to high end, deluxe commuters with all the trimmings. City bikes tend to be faster and smoother on the pavement than hybrids. They’ve got smoother tires, no suspension, and usually weigh less than your average hybrid. We stock a ton of different bikes in this category - it’s our most popular, for sure.

FITNESS BIKES

Cycling is a fantastic way to get some exercise. Whether you’re an ex-runner whose knees are saying “no more” or someone who is looking to make their lifestyle more active, riding a bike is a fun and engaging experience. It’s also refreshing to feel the wind in your hair and smell the ocean when compared to the environs of your local gym. Any bike you ride will totally get your heart rate moving, but some types of bikes are better than others when fitness is the task. We’ve got a bunch of different bikes that are tailored to different levels of aerobic activity. Your own workout goals will help us get you on the right one.

Not sure which bike is right for you? Fill out our custom quote form and one of our salespeople will look over your information and give you some personalized recommendations.

Flat Bar Road Bikes
When someone comes in and says “I’m looking for a bike to get some exercise” this is the first place we usually start. Pairing the smoothness of a road bike with the familiarity of a hybrid’s flat handlebars, these bikes give you the best of both worlds. They’re lightweight and efficient on the pavement, yet a bit simpler and more purpose built than a road bike. Not necessarily designed for a 3 hour effort, a flat bar road bike (also called a fitness road bike) is better for an hour of power on the road. With a flat handlebar you get a position that is more comfortable for people who are less used to riding in traffic - good for anyone who is active but new to cycling.

Endurance Road Bikes
An endurance road bike makes a great fitness bike for someone who is ready to dive deep into a new sport. While the majority of endurance road bikes that we sell are to cycling enthusiasts looking for an upgrade from their first road bike, they also make great bikes for people who see fitness as an endurance challenge. If your idea of a “run” used to be more like a “half marathon” then an endurance road bike might be a good place to start? 

Comfort Bikes
Comfort bikes make great fitness bikes for new riders or older folks whose bodies demand a more upright position. A comfort bike may be a little slower and a lot more relaxed than a flat bar road bike or hybrid bike, but in many cases, your body’s happiness comes first. You can’t get any exercise if getting onto the bike is a chore.