Thinking about buying a bike? Great!
Cycling is great for your physical AND mental health. It doesn’t matter whether you are taking it up for exercise, commuting or leisure; it is one of the most rewarding things you can do, with benefits for the whole community.
But with all the different kinds of bikes out there, buying a new bike can be a daunting task.
This short guide to buying a new bike will hopefully answer a few questions and point you in the right direction. Buying a bike should be fun and we are here to help!
First Consider Your Budget
Quality (new) bikes for adults start around 300. Many you see for less are cheaply made, poorly assembled and generally come with poor quality components that will wear out fast (or break!). They are NOT fun to ride and you will likely be back at the bike shop before you know it.
A good bike is built to last and will actually save you money (and headaches) in the long run. Consider spending a little more and get something that will bring you joy for a long time.
Start by figuring out what kind of riding you want to do. There are many kinds of bikes, and knowing how you will use yours will narrow your choices.
How often and how far will you be riding? What kind of terrain will you be encountering on your way? Are you cycling to work, are you more interested in long weekend rides along country lanes or are you planning to go off-road?
Once you have considered your budget and what kind of riding you will be doing; you can look at the different kind of bikes available.
What Kind Of Bike Do You Need?
Lets have a look at some different styles of bike and try and match a bike to your needs.
The hybrid was originally created to provide the advantages of road bikes, touring bikes and mountain bikes. A great all-rounder with fatter tyres than a road bike and a much more comfortable riding position due to the upright handlebars and laidback geometry.
The general-purpose Hybrid can tolerate a wide range or riding conditions and are best suited to shorter commutes, casual riding and cycle paths. They will also accommodate racks for carrying pannier bags and are therefore ideal for commuting, errands and trips to the shops.
Many will come equipped with mudguards and a rear rack as standard.
Some hybrids that are more focussed on leisure cycling will come with a step-through frame. This means the usually horizontal ‘top-tube’ of the bike slopes down and makes mounting and dismounting a lot easier. These bikes generally offer the most upright riding position too.
Buy a hybrid if;
- You are interested in casual riding and leisurely trips along cycle paths
- Are keen to commute to work
- Are looking for a do-it-all bike
- Value comfort over speed
A mountain bike is designed to be ridden off-road and will excel on rough terrain, woods and trails. To deal with these conditions they will be equipped with larger, wider, knobbly tyres to help with grip, and disc brakes for better braking in wet, muddy conditions.
Depending on the kind of riding you are planning and your budget, you will choose either front suspension (hardtail) or full suspension.
Mountain bikes are generally heavier than road bikes and the addition of suspension and wide/knobbly tyres can be inefficient for road riding. You will, of course, have a more relaxed, upright riding position and a wide gear range.
Buy a mountain bike if:
- You are interested in off-road, single track, woods and trail riding
- Are interested in lightweight bikepacking trips that will take you over rough terrain.
A touring bike is a bike designed for longer rides on mainly tarmac road, but are tougher than road bikes and have a more relaxed riding position. Usually made of steel with mounting points for racks and mudguards.
Racks, panniers and a strong set of wheels all help with carrying loads over distance. Touring bikes are designed to carry weight and the reinforced frames means a slightly slower ride, but enough comfort for long days in the saddle when taking in your surroundings takes priority over speed.
Buy a touring bike if;
- You are planning on long cycle tours
- You need to carry camping equipment such as tents, cooking gear etc
- Taking in the scenery and enjoying the journey takes top priority
- You need to carry equipment on your commute
Think skinny tyres, drop handlebars, lightweight frames and a more aggressive riding style. Road bikes are best suited to (you guessed it!) tarmac roads and are built for longer distance and speed.
They can also be great for longer commutes, but keep in mind that many will not have the correct mounts for racks if you also need to carry anything on the bike.
Buy a road bike if:
- You are interested in longer, faster rides.
- Fitness is your priority
- You are looking for something lightweight
- You have a long commute
Most bikes will come under one of the above headings, but there are some other terms and styles worth noting.
A Gravel bike (sometimes called an adventure bike) is a road-bike style bike with off-road capabilities. Usually these bikes will have drop handlebars like a road bike (but not always), but will accommodate much wider tyres.
The road bike design with the larger tyres and lower gearing means that you can make good progress on tarmac roads, but can transition to rougher terrain when required. The general idea is a bike suitable for adventure riding, unconstrained by the terrain.
Also known as the do-it-all bike!
Buy a gravel bike if;
- You are looking for something fast but capable of handling some rougher terrain
- Interested in a do-it-all bike
- Considering some light touring/bikepacking
- Adventure is your thing!