Dutchi bicycle by Linus Bike.

A beginners guide to picking the right bicycle

Many recent graduates of our adult bike classes have a number of burning questions all around the same topic: what type of bike should I buy? What’s the best bicycle for me? And, most importantly, how much should I spend?

Whilst all good questions, we thought we should provide you with a checklist that will help you make the right decision. Firstly, whilst it’s tempting to just ask for any bicycle as a Christmas gift and leave the decision-making process to someone else, be aware that this will result in two things: 1) You will have a bike (yay). 2) You will most likely have a bike that, at least in some respects, you may not actually like. So, make the choice of picking a bicycle yours, then, with a specific list of criteria defined by you, hand the list to Santa (or go shopping yourself).

A lot of budget conscious beginners wonder whether purchasing a second-hand bicycle would do the trick. With any bicycle the question is, do you know what you want? If you do and you find the right bicycle on gumtree, of course that’s an option. With any new purchase that’s not from a reputable retailer, do budget money for a decent service before you embark on your first ride. Be aware that a very cheap bike may turn into a costly steed if many vital parts need replacing. If you’re not sure how to check whether a bike is roadworthy, do yourself a favour and go with a purchase that comes with a warranty.

Start your contemplation by pinning down what type of riding you think you’ll be doing most. Think about the lengths of rides, are they short strolls around your neighbourhood? Are you planning to go riding in the hills? Do you want to commute to work? How fit are you and what skill level do you have? The distance you’re planning to travel, the type of surface you’ll be riding on and the potential to carry bags with you are all determining factors of what will be most suitable bicycle for you. For someone who is just getting back into riding these questions may not be easily answered, but they are incredibly worthwhile to think about.

Find a quality retailer who is helping you with customising your bicycle to suit your needs.

As long as you’re not sure what type of riding you may enjoy, the best option could be to simply hire a range of different bikes over a few weekends and trial them for comfort and fit. Try a bicycle with a step through frame that will see you sit-up straight and will allow you to move your leg onto the bicycle easily. The advantages of step-through bicycles are they are easy to ride for beginners as their tires are usually wider, allowing you to ride with ease on asphalt as well as gravel surfaces. Step-throughs are also forgiving when you bumble over curbs and they handle storing of little cargo like shopping, or handbags in baskets or on penny racks easily.

Disadvantages? Step-throughs are usually heavier and slower. If you plan to put your bicycle onto, or inside your car to get to the start of your riding trip this type of bicycle will require some serious elbow-grease. Another down-side is the number of gears. Usually step-throughs come with a smaller number of them (three to seven). This makes getting the hang of them easier, but it also means the longer and more hilly your ride, the more effort is required on your behalf.

Mountain bicycles are perfect for gravel roads and off-road adventures. They can be even fun to ride in city environments and make handling curbs and bumps easy. Plenty of gears will get you up those hills in no time and their thick, wide tires provide plenty of grip on gravel, although they will slow you down on asphalt. The flat, straight handlebar of mountain bikes can be challenging for beginners as the seating position feels a lot more forward, which can be daunting.

If you like the flat handle bar of a mountain bike, but are planning to ride more on sealed ground a combination of the step-through and mountain bike could be the right vehicle. City bicycles or commuter bicycles can usually accommodate a little bit of both worlds and still give you a some level of comfort. City bicycles come usually with thinner tires – remember, the thinner the tires the speedier the ride! While enjoyed by regular riders, a quick, sleek ride can be slightly terrifying for beginners.

You should know that any part of your bicycle can be customised. For example, if a standard flat handle-bars is annoying you, it can be replaced with a differently shaped one. If you love the colour and frame of your pick, but don’t like its seat, it can be fitted with another one. The key is to find someone who listens to your wishes and is assisting you with adjusting your bike. if you are told that replacing pedals or putting on a penny rack or basket isn’t possible then you may not be talking to the right person. It definitely pays to shop around.

After you’ve tested a few bicycles go with the one that you’re comfortable with right now, not the one you’re told will be the right match in a year’s time. Plenty of bicycles end up unused, stacked in garages because they just weren’t the right purchase. Things like position of the seat, handlebar, ease of reaching and using your brakes are crucial – if it doesn’t feel right now you will very likely be dreading to get on the bicycle instead of using your new vehicle regularly. The advantage of going on a test ride is that you can see whether after twenty minutes your opinion of the bicycle is still the same or whether it is uncomfortable. Always listen to your butt as well as your gut!

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