- 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
Bike Frame Materials
- 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 its 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. Mine mysteriously snapped!
- More exotic materials like Wood (e.g. materiabikes) and Bamboo – not from your LBS (Local Bike Shop).
- Click here for more information.
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).
When buying a bike, allow for the cost of :
- 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.
- Luggage – either a rack+pannier, a saddle-bag, or light-weight ruck-sack.
- a good lock – click here or more.
- waterproofs – jacket, leggings and/or cape. Pay more for water-permeable fabrics – that 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? Not for the beginner. You need to be able to get your feet down quickly. As you get more experienced, you may feel that toe clips or cleats, which fasten the cycling shoe directly to the pedal, 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 toe clips, 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.