A Beginner's Guide to Buying a Bike

"They're athletic, they're already in shape, so we know they're going to go gung-ho," says Breed. And if you don't like the drop-handlebars on a road bike, Breed says, consider a new style: the upright road bike.

Price range: $700 to $10,000

Mountain bikes: There are no mountains in Florida, but that hasn't stopped the mountain bike from becoming a hot seller. The reason? In the 1990s, it became the bike of choice for people who wanted a bike that was more durable than a road bike and could handle riding on different types of surfaces, including sand and dirt paths and brick streets.

If you're looking for the basics, remember this: Mountain bikes (also known as all-terrain bikes) aren't for riding fast, they're for riding furious—meaning that you can jump curbs or go off-road or bounce around on them, and they'll hold up well. But you'll be left in the dust by your friends riding road bikes if you're out on a 20-mile trip.

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Price range: $200 to $3,000

Hybrid bike: In recent years, the debate among occasional riders has been whether to buy a comfort bike or a hybrid bike. Both bike styles allow riders to sit up straight, rather than leaning forward, road-bike style. But hybrids have been more popular than comfort bikes, says David Sanborn, owner of David's World Cycle.

The reason? While comfort bikes have a wide tire and a smaller wheel, hybrids have a skinnier tire (like a road bike) and a bigger wheel, so the bike will go faster without as much effort. "Hybrids are lighter than comfort bikes, and everybody likes to go a little farther a little faster," says Sanborn.

Price range: $300 to $2,000

Lifestyle bike: The newest family in the bicycle kingdom is the lifestyle category of bikes. Lifestyle bikes encompass several different types of bikes, but they all share one thing: attitude.

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The old beach cruiser, for instance, has gone retro, with bright colors and swooping handlebars. "These are bikes for a certain lifestyle," says Sanborn. "It's an image. It's for rolling over to the Starbucks and getting a coffee."

Also included in the lifestyle category are comfort bikes, which have as many as 21 gears but come equipped with a wide seat and a wide tire like that found on a mountain bike.

Some high-end lifestyle bikes are also sporting a new feature: a three-speed gearing system that shifts automatically. Also in the technology department, one American bike company, Electra, has developed bikes with "flat-footed technology" that allows riders to put their feet flat on the ground at a stoplight—without getting off the seat.

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"This is great for people who've had knee operations," says Breed. "At intersections they don't want to stand up on their tiptoes. They want their feet securely on the ground."

Yet it's the splashy colors and the comfortable, squishy ride that are drawing customers. "We have young kids that come in and want to look crazy on these wild-colored bikes, and then we have people who are grandparents who come in, and they want that bike because it's like the one they had when they were kids," says Sanborn.

Price range: $199 to $700

More: Bike Buying Guide: What to Consider When Buying a New Road Bike

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Linda Shrieves can be reached at lshrieves@orlandosentinel.com. To see more of The Orlando Sentinel or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to www.OrlandoSentinel.com. Copyright (c) 2007, The Orlando Sentinel, Florida. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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