MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP - A major goal of Meridian Township is to encourage the use of alternative forms of transportation.
Among these forms of transportation is bicycling, which is commemorated each May during National Bike Month.
What many individuals may not realize is a properly-fitted bicycle is just as important as a properly-fitted shoe and that buying the right bike means more than just looking at tire size or appearance.
The first step in purchasing the right bike is determining the intent of the user.
"The first thing we want to do is find out what (the biker) is going to do, and then we can introduce them to different models of bikes that would fit their qualifications," said Dennis Vandecar, President of Denny's Central Park Bikes.
Among the major types of bikes are mountain, road, fixed-gear, and hybrid.
A mountain bike has larger, rougher tires and is designed to be able to tackle tough terrain.
Road bikes have slender tires and are to be ridden on flat surfaces, such as cement.
Fixed-gear bicycles also have thin tires, but are more often than not used by individuals who view cycling as a serious sport.
Hybrid bikes blend characteristics of mountain bikes and road bikes and are a popular choice for casual, recreational use.
Meridian Township Environmental Commissioner Bill McConnell bikes to Michigan State University's campus every day for his job as the Associate Director of the MSU Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability.
McConnell used to make his commute with a mountain bike, but has since switched to a road bike and believes it to be the right fit.
"There's less rolling resistance, that's the tires on the road," said McConnell. "There's less wind resistance, that's me blocking the wind."
It's important to note that there's a big difference between bikes sold at department stores and those that are made to custom-fit riders, be it for sport or recreation.
"The non-bike shops, people that aren't a bike shop, like toy stores where you buy bikes, they don't have sizes of bikes," said Vandecar. "They have wheel sizes, but they don't have a size to fit the person's body. So that's why it's good to buy at a bike shop to get the right bike, right size."
There are many components to the bike-fitting process.
"We adjust the seat to the proper height," said Vandecar. "That is a process of getting the person on the bike, and seeing where their heel falls on the pedal and then we can adjust the seat properly for that."
"Handlebar height is somewhat personal. Some people like to lean over, takes the weight off the spine, a little more performance. Some people like the very upright position which is more cursing, more comfort."
Vandecar said much like buying a new car, it is important to take a bike for a test ride before purchasing it.
Denny's Central Park Bikes also offers a professional fitting service, which runs about $200. Individuals trained in bike-fitting will analyze a customer's body frame, weight, foot size, height, etc to find the perfect bike.
For McConnell, the process of finding a perfect bike begins with observation.
He said that he would tell those looking to buy a bike that fits their lifestyle to observe cyclists using their bikes for a purpose close to their intention.