I started cycling to work every day. The bike I'm currently using is a mountain bike with a tiny frame and has begun to hurt my back. So, I'm looking to purchase something new. I'll be cycling around a city. My distance to and from work is a 25 mile round trip.

I'm not looking to spend a gigantic amount of money. I'm wondering what type of bike I should be looking at? I really know very little about bikes so I'm sort of baffled by the many types e.g mountain bikes, hybrid bikes, etc.

What would you guys recommend? If it's any additional help I'm male and under 25.

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    I suggest you read What bike+equipment for a long daily urban commute? and its answers. Then, if you like, either close your question as "duplicate" if that already answers yours; or, edit/add to your question to say in what way your question/situation is different from that one. – ChrisW Mar 27 '11 at 17:54
  • The question @ChrisW mentioned doesn't mention bike fit at all, so I'm inclined to agree that this question needs to address that. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Mar 28 '11 at 2:16
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    Are you extraordinarily tall, or short, or heavy? All these will make a difference. For example, very tall people need larger bikes, and not all bikes have a good selection of frame sizes. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Mar 28 '11 at 2:19
  • There is some (maybe not enough to answer the OP's question) explanation of 'fit' at Explaining the effects of frame geometries. – ChrisW Mar 28 '11 at 11:43

If you hadn't mentioned "tiny frame" and back pain, I'd agree with mgb about minor changes to your existing bike instead of getting a new one. It sounds like you need a bike that fits you and you have a bike that's too small. There might be a few things that could be adjusted to make a too-small bike work better, but it's likely you're better off getting a new bike that fits right.

We had a similar (not duplicate, I think) question a while back asking about a very similar round-trip distance, etc, you might find reading the question, answers and comments there helpful: What bike+equipment for a long daily urban commute?

A "hybrid" is a bicycle with smooth (road) tires and flat (mountain bike) style handlebars. There's a lot of subtypes that are also "hybrids" such as "commuter", "urban", etc. A lot of them are actually very similar to each other.

From what you describe, I think a good option for you would be a basic "commuter" with smooth tires, flat handlebars and the option to easily add a rack and fenders. It will have handlebars like what you're used to, but roll better (and faster) on roads.

I have a similar length commute and went with a "touring" bike. (basically a heavy duty road bike designed to be able to carry plenty of cargo).

The lower-end "cyclocross" bikes can make really good commuter bikes once you replace the tires. Cyclocross bikes are like road bikes with knobby tires (and often disc brakes). The lower end ones often have the stuff for mounting a rack and/or fenders on them.

Some things to note:

  • Consider drop handlebars (road bike) because the choice of handlebar positions can help keep your hands from getting tired on long rides. If you don't like them don't worry about it, though.
  • I would avoid any kind of suspension (some "comfort" hybrids have some). They don't do you much good on roads and on a cheaper bike it will just add weight and add one more thing that could break. Stand on the pedals with elbows and knees slightly bent when you see rough patches ahead instead.
  • A big heavily cushioned seat can be tempting, but will tend to press into the muscles that you're using to pedal, press into sensitive areas, and rub against things. A lightly padded seat that's just wide enough that you're sitting on it with your pelvic bones will be better for long rides even if it takes a little while to get used to it.
  • Try out the bikes. Most shops will let you try a quick ride around the block or something like that.
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do you wear a backpack to carry your stuff? A heavy backpack causes back pain for me regardless of how well the bike fits.

What is a gigantic amount of money to you? You will have to determine your budget and then do some shopping. Start with friends and family. A lot of people have unused bikes sitting around that could be tuned up and fitted to you. Check police auctions, local craigslist, REI, and local bike shops.

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  • Yes I now have a pannier instead of a backpack and like it better than carrying stuff on my back. Answers to Explaining the effects of frame geometries suggested that various bikes have more or less room to fit a pannier. – ChrisW Apr 1 '11 at 0:46

That's a decent ride. If you're not too worried about speed I really liked riding a older steel frame road bike. Slightly wider tires and some tooth on the tread. The steel frame is heavier and takes the potholes better than a lighter bike. Buy used (but not Craigslist, they're too often stolen). There's usually a bikeshop or DYI wrench place (here in LA we have the Bike Oven) around rebuilding older bikes. I was on a Raleigh from 1980 for a couple of years, chain guard, gen light, rack, etc. and it was a great commuter. Pay attention to your wheels and the frame size. You need true wheels and a good posture to ride that many miles a week as a commuter.

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  • Are you sure that steel is heavier? I thought that because Alu is weaker there therefore needs to be more of it, so that it ends up being no lighter ... but Alu rusts less than steel does. – ChrisW Apr 1 '11 at 0:48
  • @ChrisW: If you make two objects with the same strength, the steel one will be heavier and the Aluminum one will take up more volume. Alu bikes have wider tubes than steel, but the steel frame will weight more. – freiheit Apr 1 '11 at 5:41

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