Tips & resources

Choosing a bike

There are so many bikes out there, how do you know which one is right for you and what you want to do?

So you’ve decided you want to starting riding or you want to ride more, but are not sure what type of bike to get. The answer all depends on why you want to ride. 

What bike is best for you?
Some of the questions you should consider include…
  • Do I want to ride to get fit, to get to work, to go shopping, to have fun, to get rid of a car?
  • How far do I want to ride and how often?
  • Do I want to ride in my usual clothes or am I happy to wear dedicated cycling kit?
  • Am I fit enough to ride as much as I want, or do I need some help?
  • Do I like riding fast through the bush, swooping around corners and dodging obstacles?
  • How much space do I have to store a bike?
  • Where do I think I’ll ride, e.g. sealed bike path, dirt tracks, busy road?
  • Do I need to ride up steep hills regularly?

Hybrid bike

Hybrid bikes tend to have flat handlebars to allow the rider to sit upright, wider wheels than road bikes but not as big as mountain bikes, and sturdy frames to allow pack racks, baskets and mudguards to be added. 

Positives

An all-rounder bike, you can use most hybrids to commute, shop, or go for a fun weekend ride. The upright position suits less confident riders and is well suited to urban settings where you have to be aware of many risks around you. They come in strep-through models for women who want to wear skirts and riders with limited hip mobility.

Negatives

Not as fast as a road bike and rarely have suspension so it won’t be comfortable to ride for long periods on gravel or dirt paths. 

Mountain bike

Mountain bikes allow you to ride off-road on gravel and dirt tracks, and have the strength and suspension to jump obstacles or ride for hours on bumpy surfaces.

Positives

Dedicated mountain bike tracks are a fun way to spend a weekend in beautiful countryside and track difficulties are graded from beginner to advanced so the whole family can enjoy it. Mountain bikes can also be used to ride in urban settings, especially if you live on a steep hill.  

Negatives

Mountain biking can involve more risk of injury if you take on tracks above your ability. 

Road bike

Road bikes are built for speed, they are usually made of lightweight materials and have narrow tyres and drop-down handlebars that put the rider in a heads-down, bums-up position to reduce wind drag.

Positives

If you want to get fit or get somewhere fast a road bike is one of the best ways to go about it. 

Negatives

Not great if you want to carry anything, although plenty of commuters ride a road bike wearing backpacks. Some people don’t like the bent-over riding position but you can get brakes fixed to the upper bar to allow a more upright position.  

Electric bike

Electric bikes have motors that kick in when you pedal to help you ride faster and further. Most are hybrid style bikes with batteries on the downbar or pack rack of the bike and motors in the cranks or on the front or back wheel of the bike. Electric mountain bikes are also popular to help you ride up steep slopes. 

Positives

You can ride further with less effort, arrive at your destination without working up a big sweat, carry heavier loads, and tackle hilly terrain comfortably. Come in strep-through models for women who want to wear skirts and riders with limited hip mobility.

Negatives

Electric bikes are more expensive and much heavier than pushbikes because of the battery and motor. 

Compact/folding bike

Smaller frames and wheels but with extendable seats and handlebars, compact and folding bikes take up less space and can be used by a wide range of rider heights. 

Positives

If space is at a premium where you live compact bikes are easier to store, are easier to carry if you have a caravan or motor home, and are better suited to carrying on public transport. The small wheels make them more maneuverable and quicker for riding around town.

Negatives

Can feel the bumps and holes on a road more than on a large-framed bike.

Cargo bike

Cargo bikes have stronger frames to carry heavier loads and have either a longer pack rack than standard bicycles or dedicated front storage vessel. 

Positives

Can be used to carry grocery shopping, children, dogs and many other items, allowing them to be used instead of a car. More electric models are on the market making them even easier to ride for a wider variety of people, including people who want step-through frames. 

Negatives

These are more expensive than standard electric bicycles but should be seen as an alternative to car rather than compared to other bicycles. Can take time to get used to the longer frame and turning with a load in front. 

By Jarrett M - Cargo Bike, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74297541

Buying a bike

Once you think you have a better idea of what sort of bike you’d like to get, do an internet search so you understand the price range for different makes and models and note the cost of extras like mudguards, racks, baskets, bottle holders, etc.

Should I buy new, second hand or even department store?

Not sure where to get your trusty stead from? Check out this quick guide to buying a bike which runs through the pros and cons of your options.