I haven't had a bike in about three years, and I'm realizing that it's just plain crazy to live in Charleston without a foot-powered mode of transportation. And with all this nice weather we've been seeing this week, I'm sure I'm not the only one itching to get on two wheels.

But for those of us who are in the market for a new bike, it can be overwhelming to find the right model.

First, you have to decide on the type of bike you want, then you have to factor in the price, which must be carefully balanced with the bike's quality.

I've learned this week that buying a new bike isn't too hard once you get the hang of it, kind of like riding a bicycle.

Here's a quick buying guide that may help you find the right model for the best price.

The style

First, decide which type of bike you want. Casual riders and beginners may feel most comfortable in a beach cruiser, which has thicker wheels and raised handlebars.

Road bikes are popular among city-dwellers, since they typically have skinny wheels for swift turning.

Brian Parks, a manager of Charleston Bicycle Co., said he also suggests hybrids for beginners because they're essentially a cross between a cruiser and a road bike.

The Lowcountry's terrain doesn't exactly call for traditional mountain bikes, which have the thickest tires, but there are many variations that are suitable for street riding.

Quality counts

You can't talk about the best price of a bike without first discussing quality. I didn't realize that the last time I bought a bike. I went to my nearest big box store and bought the cheapest model, which lasted about two years until it needed $145 in repair work. And of course, I just stopped riding the bike instead of getting it repaired because I didn't think it was worth it.

So if you want a brand-new bike for less than $100, you can find several that fit your criteria at stores like Walmart or Target. But it may be worth it to spend more up front than have a pricey repair bill down the road. "We call it investing in a bike," Parks said. "It's a machine that has to be carefully assembled. It's not a toy."

The right track

Quality, affordable bikes run from $150-$450. Affordabike, a local bike shop at 534 King St., has beach cruisers for men and women priced at $150. That's about $20 more than one of the cheaper models found at Target, and the purchase comes with a service warranty.

Another idea is to check pawn shops or classified ads for used bikes, but be sure to do some research about the models for sale before you strike a deal.

Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail.