Buying a Bike
So, you want to enjoy the benefits of cycling but where do you start???
This article will help guide you through the maze to find the bike that is right for
Where to go:
Nowadays cycles are no longer the preserve of dedicated bike dealers. You can buy them
in supermarkets, toy shops, on auction websites or online retailers.
However for expert advice a specialist bike trader remains your best bet – look out for the
Association of Cycle Traders (ACT) sign in the window.
Many bike dealers will offer a free service after a few months to ensure that all is well with
your new purchace.
Try before you buy
Avoid buying a bike without seeing and trying it first.
Sit on the bike – or better still take it for a test ride – most bike shops are happy for you to
Can you straddle the top-tube with at least an inch clearance whilst standing?
Does it feel comfortable?
Can you reach the pedals and handlebars easily?
Is the riding position comfortable?
New or Second-hand?
Don’t be tempted by cheap bikes retailing in some shops and supermarkets for less than
They tend to be heavy and have poor quality components. Many you have to assemble
For a reasonable quality new bike you will be paying in excess of £150. Look out for
reputable brands such as Cannondale, Claud Butler, Dawes, Edinburgh Revolution, Giant,
Kona, Marin, Raleigh, Ridgeback, Saracen, Scott, Specialized and Trek amongst others.
If your budget is limited consider a quality second-hand bike.
Many cycle dealers offer a trade-in facility for people switching to a new bike. They then
sell on the traded-in bikes at a competitive price.
The dealer should give the used bike an “MOT” and service before selling it on.
Look out for womens’-specific bikes with frames that are better suited to a woman’s reach.
Features to Look Out For:
You’ve been framed
Look out for Alluminium Alloy frames – they are lighter than traditional steel frames –
meaning less pedalling effort for you.
Some higher quality steel frames (eg. Reynolds) are very robust and are worth considering
– ask your bike dealer for details.
Keeping you in suspense
Many bikes offer suspension to cushion your ride:
Front suspension – shock absorbers on the front forks of the bike
Rear suspension – shock absorber between to rear wheel and the seatpost.
Full suspension: Front and rear shock aborbers
Seatpost suspension – a spring-loaded seatpost under your saddle.
Be warned – suspension adds to the bike’s weight and will need replacing periodically.
If you mainly cycle on roads or smooth paths you probably don’t need front or rear
suspension. A sprung seat-post will iron out most bumps.
Most bikes have “derailleur” gears offering between 18 and 27 gears to select from – most
of which you won’t use! Also consider modern hub gears which are more robust than
Bits n Bobs
Some bikes come pre-equipped with mudguards, pannier racks (to attach bags to) and
bells. If not they can be easily added to most bikes.
Don’t forget British Standard approved lights if you plan to cycle in the dark
Types Of Bike
Traditional bikes have large 28” (700mm) wheels and an upright sitting stance. Many
come equipped with mudguards and pannier racks and a limited range of gears.
Excellent for short-medium distance utility or leisure cycling. They are ideal for road and
occasional cycle path use.
Mountain (or “All Terrain”) bikes typically go nowhere near a mountain (just like a 4X4 car
rarely leaves tarmac).
They have compact frames with smaller (26”) wheels than traditional adult bikes.
Great for tracks and paths, they are sturdy but not very fast on roads – mainly due to thick
tyres. Switching to thinner, slicker tyres will improve this.
The new generation of hybrids combine features of mountain and traditional bikes and are
Some have 26” and others 28”/700mm wheels.
Typically having alloy frames, with a good range of gears, they are ideal for road and light-
off road use.
They are very popular with commuters and leisure cyclists.
Racers and Tourers
These are aimed at more serious cyclists, having drop handlebars and no suspension.
Racing bikes have very lightweight frames and narrow tyres to promote speed. They have
a low riding posture and are only suitable for road use.
Tourers are aimed at longer distance rides. They have wider tyres than racers, mud-
guards and pannier racks and can be used as commuting bikes.
These are increasingly popular with commuters using public transport as you can bring the
bike with you (even on Metrolink).
Ideal for short rides in an urban environment. The have small wheels and are not suited to
long-distance or off-road riding.
Prices range from £150 to £1500.
Alloy Frame – A bike frame made from aluminium – lighter than steel
Steel Frame – Traditional frame – can be very heavy and prone to rust
Cromoly/Cro-mo Frame – A stronger, lighter form of steel frame
Top-Tube – The tube running from the handlebars to your seat. Step over it as you mount
Seat Post – The adjustable post that your saddle attaches to
Forks – Link the wheels to the main bike frame (some have suspension)
Gears - Change the speed at which you peddle to move to allow for the terrain you are
Clipless Pedals (SPDs) - Pedals with built in cleats that attach to your special cycling
shoes. More efficient than traditional pedals.
Bar ends – Short bars that attach to the end of your handlebars. Useful for hill climbing.
Derailleurs – Gears using a cog system that “derail” the chain from one cog to another as
you change gears. Most common type of gears on adult cycles.
Hub Gears – Gear system where the mechanisms are encased within a rear-wheel unit.
Ranging from 3 to 8+ gears. More reliable than derailleur gears and lighter than they used
Handlebars – What you grip to steer the bike. Can be flat or drop bars (the latter are used
on touring and racing bikes).
Shifters – Devices to change gear (on the handlebar or the frame).
Rear Mech. – The rear wheel gear changing device with derailleur gears
Stem – Links the handlebars to the frame
Rim – the part of the wheel that the tyre is mounted on.
Head Tube – Links the forks to the top tube
Down Tube – The frame tube linking the head tube to the seat tube
Spokes – Link the wheel hub to the rims. Give the wheel strength.