03/08/2012 07:45 am ET Updated Mar 08, 2012

How To Choose A Bicycle: Bicycling Magazine's Buyer's Guide For Every Cyclist

Just signed up for a triathalon? Interested in swapping out your car for a commuter bike?

With spring right around the corner, creating more bicycling-friendly weather in many climates, a new cycling regimen is a great way to get in shape, save on gas money and lower your carbon footprint. But it can be intimidating to get started. With most bikes running between $300 and $3,000, a new set of wheels can be a major investment.

Luckily, Bicycling Magazine has shared their top tips and favorite models, handpicked by their editors and expert testers, from the newly released 2012 Buyer's Guide as part of their April Issue -- there's even an extended, first-ever iPad edition, more than 200 bikes and gear reviewed. We got a sneak peak and learned a great deal about what to look for in our next model. Whether you're a commuter newbie or a weekend warrior, here's what to know before you set foot in the bike shop.

A few basics:

Shop around: Bikes and bike shops vary greatly -- and what suits someone else may not necessarily jibe with your lifestyle, fitness goals, or even your particular anatomy. It's important to find the right bike, so take some time to comparison shop.

Test drive: You wouldn't buy a car without getting a feel for its handling and control, would you? The same goes for bikes. If a shop won't let you take its merchandise for a spin around the block, it's time to find a new place to patronize.

Ask for freebies: Free tuneups, maintenance, tire air and other little perks are very often on offer at your local bike shop. Make sure to ask.

Budget in essential extras: A bike isn't safe without a helmet, lights or reflectors for night riding, a horn and a lock -- make sure you have enough room in your bank account for these as well.

More tips from Bicycling, if you're in the market for ...