Road bike: Thanks to its thinner tires, which have less drag on the road, and its light frame, this speedster leaves mountain bikes in the dust. It’s the bike of choice for tours, races and triathlons.
Mountain bike: While this type of bike is heavier and slower than a road bike, it’s also sturdier and less vulnerable to the flat tires that plague road bikes. You can sit upright on a mountain bike, whereas road bikes force you to hunch over the handlebars so that your upper body is almost parallel to the ground.
Hybrid bike: A combination of road and mountain bikes. Like mountain bikes, hybrid bikes let you sit upright and have sturdier wheels, but like road bikes, they’re lighter. They’re a good compromise for beginners.
Helmet: Helmets are absolute necessities for safe riding, and in some states, they’re legally required. Have a professional in the bike shop fit you for one. If it’s too tight, it can cause headaches; if it’s too loose, it could slip off if you hit your head. Look for one that’s been certified by the ASTM, ANSI, Snell Memorial Foundation or CPSC.
Clothing: You can ride in street clothes as well as in special outfits. The more you ride, however, the more useful you’ll find padded bike shorts (which help soften the ride) and gloves (which keep your hands from slipping off the gearshifts, absorb shock and protect them from branches and bushes when you’re riding on trails).
Seats: Test a variety to find the seat that’s most comfortable for you. Ones designed specifically for men or women can make a long ride more enjoyable and less painful. (Women’s seats are generally wider and shorter than men’s.) Padded seats or gel seat covers also improve comfort.
Pump and tool kit: Bring a repair kit so that you can fix your bike in an emergency. It should contain enough tools to let you fix everything on your bike — for instance, a multipurpose wrench, patches and other parts to help you fix a flat tire. Since blowouts on road bikes are common, every biker who covers more than 10 miles per ride should know how to change the tires.
Water bottle: Don’t forget to bring an ample supply of water. Some bikes come with a small water bottle and a holder clipped to the frame; you can also buy these separately.