Where do you want to ride? We break the options down into road, mixed surface and off-road. Photo Credit: Zach Walbridge.

So you’re looking for a new bike. Maybe you’re looking to hit the open road. Maybe you’re wishing for an easier way to get around town, or maybe you just want to escape for a gravel adventure in the afternoon sun. Whichever it may be, a bicycle is an age-old ticket to motion and freedom. The bicycle has evolved into a variety of different purpose-built machines and choosing the right one for you can be challenging. Fortunately our Skirack team is here to help guide you to your dream ride.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the bike buying process and intimidated by the innumerable options out there, fear not. After reading this short guide you will be able to confidently choose your next ride. We will go over just a few basic steps that will help you narrow down your search as well as some finer points to think about before making your final decision.

Regarding supply chain issues - yes, the bike industry is still experiencing supply chain issues. Even though Skirack currently has a great selection on our bike floor, that may not be the case later this spring and going into summer. Certain makes, models and colors may be hard to come by, so act fast!

The First Step: Where Do You Want To Ride?

The first step when selecting the right bike is to consider where you want to ride and on what terrain. This could be as general as the roads, paths, and trails around Burlington or as specific as the mountain bike trails at Kingdom Trails. Whatever intended use you have, there is a bicycle for you. Terrain can be broken down into three basic types: road, mixed surfaces, and off-road.

1. Paved Roads / Bike Paths

If you ride or plan to ride on smooth, paved roads for the majority of your time there are a few bike types to consider. Bikes designed to be ridden on smooth surfaces range from the comfortable and casual to the performance-focused, lightweight machines we see at the Tour de France.

Molly bikes along the paved Burlington bike path in Vermont. Photo Credit: Zach Walbridge.
Molly casually bikes along the paved Burlington bike path in Vermont. Photo Credit: Zach Walbridge.
Cannondale Treadwell
Cannondale Treadwell comfort bike

A. Comfort Bikes

On this spectrum you’ll find comfort bikes like the Cannondale Treadwell. This bike is designed for those riders who put comfort first and want something to ride casually around town with friends. An upright pedaling position and a soft seat make for an enjoyable ride without the need for cycling-specific clothing. Bikes like this are wonderful to have no matter how experienced you are and they are equally great on the street as they are on the bike path.

Specialized Sirrus hybrid bike
Specialized Sirrus hybrid bike

B. Hybrid Bikes

If you’re looking for a combination of performance and comfort a hybrid bike can be a great option. Bikes like the Specialized Sirrus and Cannondale Quick blend comfort with on-road performance. They will be lighter and more lively than a cruiser while still keeping your body in an upright and comfortable position. You can ride them to and from work, down to the end of the Causeway and back, and everything in between.

Specialized Roubaix road bike
Specialized Roubaix road bike

C. Road Bikes

On the far end of the road spectrum we find road bikes. Road bikes come in a variety of designs from racing bikes like the Cannondale Supersix Evo to more-relaxed endurance bikes like the Specialized Roubaix, but are all ultimately designed around on-road performance. They will be the lightest and fastest bikes on pavement with the most aggressive body positioning. If you’re looking to ride long distances, climb hills, or get in a workout, a road bike may be the bike for you.

2. Mixed Surface

As a rider in Vermont, it’s likely that you won’t just be riding on paved roads, and even if you are, we all know that the pavement here is often more similar to a rumble strip than it is a smooth surface. If you find yourself riding a mix of pavement, dirt roads, and paths you’ll want to look at bikes that can handle all of those surfaces in stride.

A gravel rider speeds past a tractor on one of Vermont's many dirt roads. Photo Credit: Zach Walbridge.
A gravel rider speeds past a tractor on one of Vermont's many dirt roads. Photo Credit: Zach Walbridge.
Specialized Sirrus X cross hybrid bike
Specialized Sirrus X cross hybrid bike

A. Cross Hybrid Bikes

If you’re looking for something casual to handle all the surfaces that our little state has to offer, you should look at bikes similar to the Cannondale Treadwell or Specialized Sirrus X. These cross-hybrids are built to handle rougher roads with larger, grippier tires, and vibration dampening or small amounts of suspension travel. They will keep you in an upright and comfortable riding position while also providing the much-needed technology to handle confidently when off-road.

Cannondale Topstone gravel bike
Cannondale Topstone gravel bike

B. Gravel Bikes

Maybe you’re looking for a little more adventure and speed to explore all of the roughly 8,600 miles of unpaved roads Vermont has to offer. If that’s you, a gravel bike could be your next adventure buddy. These bikes are the hot new thing around the country and fit in perfectly here. They are similar in shape to a road bike, but that’s about where the similarities stop. They feature bigger and meatier tires, improved gearing, and geometry that inspires confidence on washboard and Class V roads alike. Gravel bikes like the Cannondale Topstone and Cervelo Aspero offer heaps of performance and fun from dirt to pavement.

3. Off-Road / Trail

Finally, we get to off-road riding. This can mean different things to different people. Maybe you’re camping and need something to ride around the campsite. Maybe you’re getting into mountain biking and need something for the local trails. Whatever it may be, if you’re riding off-road you’ll want the right tool for the job. Sometimes, if you’re riding on very mellow off-road terrain, a capable gravel bike or cross-hybrid can be all you need. However, if you want to ride rough trails or singletrack in Vermont, a mountain bike is the bike for you.

Hailey mountain bikes down a challenging trail at Kingdom Trails in East Burke, Vermont. Photo Credit: Zach Walbridge.
Hailey mountain bikes down a challenging trail at Kingdom Trails in East Burke, Vermont. Photo Credit: Zach Walbridge.
Kona Honzo hardtail mountain bike
Kona Honzo hardtail mountain bike

A. Hardtail Mountain Bikes

If you’re new to riding off-road or if you enjoy riding casually through the woods or around the house, a hardtail mountain bike like the Kona Honzo is a great option. Hardtail mountain bikes are like swiss army knives, they can do almost everything you’ll need them to. They are built to handle the rocks and roots you’ll find out on the trails while working equally well on mellower terrain too. The big knobby tires, suspension fork, powerful brakes, and mountain-bike geometry will help you ride comfortably and confidently through all but the gnarliest terrain.

Santa Cruz full suspension mountain bike
Santa Cruz full suspension mountain bike

B. Full Suspension Mountain Bikes

From Sunny Hollow to Catamount Outdoor Family Center to the Richmond Mountain Trails and beyond, we are very fortunate to have world-class mountain biking at our doorstep. If you’re looking to explore these trail networks and develop your skills as a rider, a full suspension mountain bike is for you. A full suspension mountain bike like the Santa Cruz Tallboy is developed and designed for trail riding through-and-through. When the going gets rough, which it does in Vermont, a full suspension bike will smooth out the trail and let you ride to your potential.

Electric Bikes

So you’ve decided on the general type of bike that best fits your riding style and aspirations. Great! The next consideration you should make is whether or not you’d be interested in an electric bike. The prevalence and popularity of electric bikes has exploded over the last five years and you can now find electrified-versions of every bike type found at Skirack. Electric bikes are wonderfully easy to use and offer a great way to get out for a ride without the usual hassle and slog of riding up our steep roads.

They open doors for riders who want a little assistance when needed and make for awesome, fast-paced commuting. From cruisers and commuters to gravel and mountain bikes, E-bikes bikes have helped more riders get out the door more often and are certainly worth a look!

Sarah, Chloe and Sam bike along the Burlington bike path on electric bikes. Photo Credit: Zach Walbridge.
Sarah, Chloe and Sam bike along the Burlington bike path on electric bikes. Photo Credit: Zach Walbridge.
Specialized Turbo Vado SL 4.0 EQ
Specialized Turbo Vado SL 4.0 EQ electric hybrid bike

A. Comfort / Hybrid Electric Bikes

The most popular and more entry level of the e-bike category are electric comfort / hybrid bikes. With the help of e-assist, they allow for longer rides, letting you easily power up hills; add more weight to your bike with the help of a rack and panniers. There are many variations of electric comfort / hybrids out there and many more in the making to fit your lifestyle and comfort. These bikes are perfect if you haven't been on a bike in a while, as your daily commuter, getting around town or just enjoying a fun bike ride without breaking a sweat.

Specialized Turbo Creo SL
Specialized Turbo Creo SL electric gravel bike

B. Gravel Electric Bikes

Enjoy the geometry and gearing of a gravel bike with the ability to add more speed and help on those long, daunting Vermont hills. They are perfect for longer rides on paved or dirt roads and make it easier for you to keep up with others if needed.

Specialized Turbo Levo SL
Specialized Turbo Levo SL electric mountain bike

C. Mountain Electric Bikes

Quickly gaining acceptance and access in the mountain bike community are electric mountain bikes, which let you climb rocky and rooty trails quicker and easier with less effort. Want to keep up with your partner or friends on a group ride? Want to continue to ride after an injury or if you’re a bit out of shape (we’ve all been there)? Want to continue to ride trails as you age? No problem at all with e-assist. Just note that e-mountain bikes are not allowed on all trail systems - do your research prior to riding.

Frame and component materials can dramatically change the price and ride quality of a bike.
Frame and component materials can dramatically change the price and ride quality of a bike.

The Finer Points

Now it’s time to take the next step in the process and dig into the details. Regardless of if you choose a comfort cruiser or a full suspension mountain bike, there will be a range of prices and associated performance levels to choose from. The price vs performance decision is going to be highly personal for each rider and will ultimately come down to your budget and how much you intend to ride the bike. If you’re stuck between two bikes at similar prices, here’s a few key areas to look at:

1. Materials

Frame and component materials can dramatically change the price and ride quality of a bike. Two of the most common materials used in bikes are aluminum and carbon fiber. Aluminum is a lightweight and durable material which is often found on most entry to mid-level priced bikes. Carbon fiber is the “creme de la creme” and is found on higher-end bikes. Carbon fiber offers lighter weight and often improved ride quality and is something to look for when comparing bikes!

2. Components

If you have two similarly-priced bicycles and need help choosing between the two you should dig into their components. Reliable and high-quality components can improve your riding experience dramatically. Crisp shifting and powerful brakes are always a great thing to look for across the board while mountain bike-specific components like dropper seatposts are overwhelmingly important for riding off-road at any level.

Shopping local ensures you have a shop to go back to when your bike needs to be serviced.
Shopping local ensures you have a shop to go back to when your bike needs to be serviced.

Other Tips for Purchasing a Bike

1. Budgeting / Financing

Determining a budget is an important piece of any big purchase and a bike should be no different! Stay under your targeted number and set realistic expectations. Skirack offers financing options if you’re looking to space out your big purchase over the riding season which can help make the bike of your dreams a reality!

2. Shop Local

Shopping local is another important piece of the bike buying process. Test riding and checking out different options in person gives you important feedback and information into what will be best for you and your riding. This process will also help you build a relationship with the shop so you can feel comfortable bringing your bike in for a service after you’ve had a blast riding it all summer long!

Hopefully this guide has served as a resource for you and has helped you to find the right bike for your riding! If you have any other questions please feel free to come by the store or reach out to our bike team at any time!

- Cooper Willsey,
Former Skirack Employee