Bike Buying Guide

How to buy the right bike for YOU                 

1, Possibly most important is getting a bike that is suitable for the type of cycling you want to do. What will you use the bike for?

If you plan to use your bike mainly to cycle on roads and gentle cycle paths then the most sensible option is a Hybrid or Comfort Hybrid. These bikes have bigger wheels with semi smooth tyres that allow you to roll more smoothly and get further, easier. The comfort version has front suspension. This makes the bike a bit heavier, but if you plan to ride on rougher terrain, like canal towpaths, this may be a more comfortable option for you.

If you plan to use your bike on trails and off road the obvious choice is a Mountain Bike. Using a bike on bumpy terrain could mean that you will need suspension, either front suspension only, known as a hard tail or dual suspension. A note of caution needs to be added here. If you want a bike with suspension that works you will have to spend at least £500 for a new bike. There are many cheap bikes (under £200) that come with suspension, but the sad truth is that it will not work properly; it will be made using poor quality components that will fail in a short time, if they ever work properly at all. A hardtail (front suspension only) is probably all you will need if you are planning on taking your bike on tracks and trails. Don’t be tempted by the all singing all dancing bike for £150 at your local large outlet store. They may look good, but they won’t be good.

If you are looking for speed, then a Road Bike is a good option, fast and light with very thin tyres to help you move faster, these bikes are a great way to build fitness. The tyres are thin, this means that you should not be jumping this bike up and down curbs or over potholes, not only will it be painful, it will damage the wheels. Road bikes come with either drop handle bars or flat bars; it’s a matter of personal preference. Test riding is recommended before buying, just to be sure that your new investment is right for you and is comfortable enough for you to take out for long rides.

A touring bike is a good option for those wanting to use their bike for longer trips that include carrying provisions, such as sleeping gear or even shopping. These bikes are made of solid construction and take racks and panniers. Similar in many ways to a road bike, but just a little sturdier with tyres that are a bit wider for those long hours in the saddle touring the countryside with everything you need for your trip.

For the commuter, a Folding Bike is a great option, small enough to take on the bus or train and to be stored under the desk at work. Like all bikes, the more you spend on the bike, the lighter it will be and the better the quality of the components. It can be a false economy to buy the cheaper versions, they may be cheaper, but they will need servicing and repair work more quickly. In fact if the quality of the bike is very poor, it is possible that the first time you take it to have some work done on it you may be shocked when the mechanic tells you that the cost of getting it running properly is more than you originally spent on it. The reason for this will likely be that the quality of the components are so poor that they need to be removed and replaced, resulting in the associated costs of new parts and the mechanics time.

So my advice would be to buy the best that you can afford.

2, Where to buy?

Tempting as it may be to buy a bike online, think twice. Yes, you can probably buy the bike cheaper online, but the most important thing about your new bike is not going to be its specs, weight or components, or even its price, but rather its fit. Also often the bike will come needing some assembly. Many ‘Box Bikes’ need full assembly. It’s not safe to do this yourself unless you are experienced with bike mechanics. If you do buy a bike this way, take to a bike shop, many  offer a bike building service for a charge, usually around £30-£40. One of the other pluses of buying from a bricks and mortar shop is that all good bike shops offer a free tune up after a month or so. Cables stretch etc. as all bikes have an initial breaking in period, and bringing your bike in for this complimentary service will see you get more from your bike and will keep it running smoothly for longer. So while you may save a few pounds by buying online this is usually more than compensated for by the service you will get from your local bike shop. Buying from independant bike shops should mean that you receive a high level of customer service. Buying a bike from a local bike shop should be the beginning of a long term relationship. All bikes need maintenance and repairs, so having a good relationship with a local shop makes sense.

A good option for getting a good deal is buying a pre owned bike, but buyer beware, that bargain on ebay may turn out to to be worn out and need expensive repairs. If you are looking for value for money and peace of mind, buy a used bike that has been fully serviced and refurbished by qualified mechanics. Many bike projects sell fully refurbished bikes that come with a warranty and that all important fee tune up after a month.


3, Getting the size right.

The best way to get the right bike for YOU is to go into a bike shop. Online shopping is great, but in the case of buying a bike you really do need to try before you buy. The bike you buy should be the right size for you. You need at least 1 inch clearance between the cross bar and your body, more for a mountain bike you plan to take off road as you may need to do some emergency stops. When in the saddle you should be able to extend your leg with the ball of your foot on the pedal. This is important as cycling is very biomechanical and repetitive, not using your muscles correctly can lead to strains and stresses. You should be able to sit on the seat and reach the ground on your toes. If a bike is too big it can be quite dangerous, as not only will it be too tall, it may also be too long making it difficult to steer around corners etc. The joy of buying a bike from a specialist bike shop is that they will help you find the right bike, with the right fit. Make sure you test ride any bike you are considering buying. They all feel different and the deciding factor for using your bike will be that you like riding it. Riding positions vary on bikes and it is personal preference. So don’t be shy, ask for a test ride.


4, For Your Safety and Security

Once you have tried and test ridden a few bikes and found the one that is right for you, don’t forget your safety and security gear.

Essential kit includes a good fitting helmet, lights, front and rear and a lock, better still 2 locks. A D or U lock and a cable lock.  If you can only afford one lock, it needs to be a D or U lock made of solid steel construction. These locks act as a deterrent to bike thieves. Park your bike in a well-lit public area, preferably one that has some CCTV cameras. If you have quick release wheels and saddle, remove them and take them with you if you can, if you can’t use your cable lock to secure them to the parking stand. The truth is that no bike security system is bike theft proof and if the thieves want it they will get it- just don’t make it easy for them. There is a growing problem of Brooks leather saddles being stolen. If yours is not quick release, then cover it with a plastic carrier bag before leaving it, not fool proof I admit, but better than leaving your beautiful saddle exposed. Some people mark them and scratch something onto them to make them less easy to be sold on by bike theives. Register your bike on one of the police preferred Bike Register schemes, many stolen bikes are recovered by the police every year, but if there is no record of who owns the, it is almost impossible for them to find you. So make a note of your frame number and any distinguishing marks, take a couple of pictures, then if it does get stolen and recovered you can prove it is yours. And get it insured.

Below is a link to the Free Immobilise Bike Registration page, part of the nation proprty register, it''s free and it only takes a few minutes to complete. It could help you recover your bike should it get stolen. Also a link to Bike Register, where you can register your frame number and bike, print off a log book and buy other security upgrades.

5, Your emergency tool kit

It makes sense to take a small kit out with you, especailly when going for longer rides. Below is a list of the items you should take with you so you can carry out minor repairs by the side of the road.

1, A spare inner tube

2, Tyre levers

3, A good quality multi tool

4, A puncture repair kit

5, A pump with a bit of insulation tape wrapped around it, (could come in handy and wrapping it around your pump means it won't take up extra space)

6, A torch if you are planning to ride in the dark

7, A couple of cable ties - these have a multitude of potential uses.

Now all that’s left is to go out and enjoy the ride.