Which bike?

Bike Types

Dawes Discovery

  • Most properly-fitting well-maintained bikes are good for commuting and weekend rides.
  • A Hybrid bike (general purpose  on or off road bike with gears) is a the best choice for weekend rides and commuting too. These can be bought for under £300 new. Second-hand/freecycle bikes may be cheaper, but if they have not been well-maintained, they will be less reliable and can easily rack up almost a new bike’s worth of repair bills to get them up to scratch and keep them on the road.
  • Mountain (All-Terrain) bikes are fine. Suspension can work on front, back, neither or both wheels. Some low end full-suspension bikes can be hard work if the suspension can not be adjusted, and you can end up putting as much work into bouncing up and down as you do going forwards on roads.
  • Light-weight racing bikes with narrow wheels and stiff frames are fine on roads, but may be a little harder to handle on off-road/bridle-path rides.
  • Fixed-gear (Fixie) or single-speed bikes will be harder work on hills. Single-speed track-spec bikes must be fitted with both front and rear brakes when used on roads.
  • Well-maintained quality folding bikes, e.g. Moultons, Dahons, Bromptons, are fine, but basic folders, e.g. Raleigh shoppers, not so good.
  • Tandems – fine, but riders should have practice riding on a Tandem together – click here for tips.
  • E-bikes – fine, but bear in mind the safety of other riders, most of whom wont be accelerating quite like you or doing 15mph up steep hills. On longer rides with a standard battery (250Wh), you may have to ride the last bit unassisted, when out of charge, or run the bike on lower assist settings for the whole ride. If you bring a charger then pubs may let you recharge if you ask nicely, but its quite possible they may not (specially if there are more than one e-cyclist asking for this).
  • Recumbent bikes are more efficient when going flat out downhill or on the flat, when most of your effort is spent pushing air out the way. However they can be hard work hill climbing, that’s why they sometimes have 3 sets of gears (front derailleur, rear derailleur, and hub). A flag+pole is needed to maintain visibility.
  • BMX – No
  • More info here

Bike Frame Materials

Includes:

  • Aluminium (sometimes called alloy) is what most bikes are made of, light and strong, but needs some sort of suspension, even just a squishy saddle if you want to ride offroad or on cobbles.
  • Steel (includes chromoly) has quite a lot of give in it, so needs less suspension and takes quite a bit of punishment. 531 frames are lighter but more expensive as they are double butted (thinner in the middle). Surly make top end super rugged steel bikes. Can be repaired unlike most other frame  materials.
  • Carbon Fibre – strong/light/expensive, specialists can repair.
  • Titanium – strong/light/expensive. Litespeed are a bike manufacturer that specialise in Titanium frames.
  • More exotic materials like Wood (e.g. materiabikes) and Bamboo – not from your LBS (Local Bike Shop).
  • For more into , click here.

Tyres

Tough tyres such as Schwalbe Marathon Plus or Continental Gatorskins are good choices for both on- and off- road riding (they are quite puncture-resistant). Tyres should be pumped up well (to the pressure listed on the side of the tyre).

Accessories

When buying a bike, allow for the cost of the following (if you don’t already have them):

  • a properly fitted and adjusted helmet.
  • lights (for  riding  after dark or rides through canal tunnels).
  • Back and front reflectors are required. Wheel fitted side reflectors good for inhibiting side-road impacts too.
  • Mudguards.
  • Luggage – either a rack+pannier, a saddle-bag, or light-weight ruck-sack. Panniers can be kept attached with mini carabiners.
  • a good lock – click here for more.
  • waterproofs – jacket, leggings and/or cape. Pay more for water-permeable fabrics e.g. Goretex – they should keep you dry but let the sweat out.
  • puncture fix kit – should include a pump, inner tube and/or patches, and tools to remove your wheels. It is a good idea to have fixed at least one puncture on your bike before a long ride. First detach the wheel with tools or the bike’s quick release levers, remove the tyre with tyre levers, and remove any glass, nails, stone chips etc. from the inside and outside of the tyre. Swap the tube, put the tyre back on, and pump to the  pressure given on the side of the tyre. Click here for video.
  • Toe clips or cleats? Not for the beginner. You need to be able to get your feet down quickly. As you get more experienced, you may feel that you should get toe clips or cleats+cleated shoes. They fasten the cycling shoe directly to the pedal and make cycling more comfortable as you may increase your pedal power by pulling up on one pedal at the same time as pushing down with the other. If you decide not to use them, use trainers or shoes with a good grip on the sole or your feet could slip off the pedals in wet weather.
  • Lycra not required for general riding!

Some of the above may be included in the advertised purchase price, most will not.


  • More hints here (Guardian Bike Guide)
  • Click here for Bike manufacturers.
  • Click here for Local Bike shops.

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