Cycling has many health benefits, and is also an excellent mode of transport. If you have decided you want to start cycling, or are just ready to buy a new bike, you'll need to consider which type of bike is right for you.
The type of bike you buy depends on several factors:
If you live in a city and are going to use your bike to commute to work, or go to the shops i.e. ride on road or pavement and not much else, the bike you choose will be different than if you live in the country, plan to cycle on rough terrain every weekend, or take your bike on long cycling expeditions.
If you are going to store your bike outside, you need to ensure that the bike you buy is resistant to rust. If your bike will be stored inside, this is not such an important consideration.
Not all bikes have room to store your bag, rucksack or shopping, so if you think you’ll want to store things in your bike, you’ll need to buy one that has a front or rear rack, or is compatible with added storage. If you just want your bike to be able to carry a few small items, a bike with a basket might be right for you.
This is a huge consideration when buying a bike. How much you spend depends, again, on what you want to use your bike for, how often you are going to use it and how long you expect it to last. If you think there is a likelihood that your bike might be stolen, you may not be willing to invest a lot of money in it, although buying a good lock and always storing your bike safely can decrease the risk of this happening.
There are several different types of bike available to buy; most fall into the following categories:
As the name suggests, road bikes are used for cycling on the road, although the category includes a wide range of bikes including those used for racing. Road bikes have a narrow frame, thin tires, and can have drop or flat handlebars. The drop handlebars are suitable for experienced cyclists, and allow the rider to go faster, while the flat handlebars reduce strain on hands, wrists and shoulders and are better for beginners, or those newer to cycling. Road bikes are lightweight and are built to go quickly and are ideal for commuters and those not carrying much on their bike.
Touring bikes are sometimes put in the same category as road bikes, but they differ in terms of their design. They are structurally stronger, with a bigger frame triangle, and are built for cycling longer distances, and with heavier loads than road bikes. They also often have more space for storage and have lower gears suitable for going up hills. This type of bike is also good for commuters who want to carry things on their bike, or for those who like to go on long expeditions.
Mountain bikes are versatile bikes that can go on a range of surfaces without any problems due to their suspension. They have smaller, heavier wheels with larger treads, more gears and better brakes than road or touring bikes. There are several types of bike within this category that are designed for specific purposes, such as going downhill or doing jumps. Mountain bikes are ideal for those who want to be able to cycle on lots of different surfaces.
Popular with those who want to do tricks and wheelies, BMX bikes are off-road bikes with small frames and knobbly tires. They are great for doing tricks, going up ramps and dirt racing, but are not good for long distances as the low seat can be uncomfortable.
Hybrid bikes combine the best of mountain and road bikes. They have thicker wheels and a wider seat than road bikes, better wheel tread, and the handlebars are slightly raised, making them more comfortable. They don’t usually have as many gears as mountain bikes, and do not go as fast as road bikes but are generally good for commuters, and those who want to be able to go over a variety of terrains, although mountain bikes are still best for those who want to frequently ride off-road.
These simple bikes have just one gear and are often used for leisure cycling. They have wide tires and seats, upright handlebars and are best used on flat surfaces. It is not possible to “coast” with a fixed gear bike, so you need to pedal to keep the bike moving, and you brake by pedalling backwards.
The rider sits in a reclined position on a recumbent bike, which is good for the back and means you are able to see what is going on around you very well. However, they are difficult to pedal uphill, and can be very heavy.
Tandem bikes are made for two cyclists to ride together, and can be useful when one cyclist is weaker than the other.
As well as buying the right bike, you’ll also need to purchase some equipment. Some of this equipment is essential, and some is optional.
A helmet worn in the UK needs to meet the European Union standards. It’s important that your helmet fits you correctly. The best helmets have easily adjustable straps, sit level on your head and cover your forehead, while sitting above your eyebrows. There should not be a gap between the helmet and your head.
If you want to leave your bike outside, you’ll need a lock. The sturdier your lock, the less chance there is of someone being able to steal your bike.
If you plan to ride at night you will need a front and rear light and some reflective lights. Make sure that you carry extra batteries for your lights, or charge them before going out. You can also buy lights that have generators that generate electricity as you pedal, so you don’t need to worry about batteries.
You will no doubt need water while cycling, so buying a water bottle holder and flask/water bottle will mean you can easily transport this much-needed refreshment.
These allow you to attach bags to your bike.
If you choose not to store your things in your bike, you’ll need a good rucksack to ensure that the weight of your items is spread evenly across your back.
This includes jackets, shoes and gloves, as well as all manner of other items.
These are arguably essential in the winter, as they will protect you from getting wet, and will protect your bike from salt/grit.
Also consider carrying a bicycle pump, and other useful tools such as Allen keys, a flat-bladed screwdriver and a chain link extractor.