Buying and maintaining a Bike
Congratulations! Clicking on this page means that you are thinking of either buying a new bike, or replacing your current stead. Many happy miles wait in front of you to traverse. Despite the relative simplicity of a bike, advancements and specialisations in recent years have made purchasing a bike a bit more of a daunting task than it used to be. My Journey is here to help you though, with a handy guide of what you need to consider before making that purchase.
Where will you be cycling?
The first question that you need to think about, is what are you planning to use your bike for? Perhaps it will just be for leisure, or for travelling into work, to pop down to the shops or for longer multi-day cycling holidays. Depending on how you plan to use it, you can get a more specialised bike for yourself. Your bike should be something which complements your lifestyle, and depending on how you think you might cycle, the type of bike you choose can make a very big difference.
What type of bike?
Following on immediately from the last question, it will probably be helpful to have a look at the different types of bike that you can choose. Each of them will come with their own benefits, but just because it is more expensive and specialised doesn’t mean it will suit you better. Think about what’s essential for the journeys you make, and move from there.
These are lightweight bikes with skinny tyres and designed to be fast on a relatively even surface. Most have drop handlebars, which shift your body position forward over the bike, making you more aerodynamic. They are perfect for road racing, but also for shorter trips into the town. One thing to note though - as many tend to be quite rigid - they can be uncomfortable going over any uneven surface and excessive riding over bumps and divots will damage the tyres.
Very much the opposite of the road bikes above, mountain bikes have thick durable frames, and tyres with good brakes and a high number of lower gears. Some have suspension on the front tyre, some on the rear, and others for both which makes it much more comfortable riding over bumps. These kind of bikes are perfect for off-roading, or anywhere you might find rough ground. They are also a comfortable ride on roads, though they won’t be as fast as a road bike.
A hybrid bike takes most of the speed from a road racing bike and blends it with the improved strength and gearing of a mountain bike. A little heavier than a road bike, but lighter than any of the others, it also comes with smooth tyres which make it quite fast on the roads. Similar to a mountain bike it has an upright riding position which makes it a good choice for cycling in traffic and town commuting. It is a good everyday option to use on roads and generally cheaper and more comfortable than a road bike. Not very suitable for off-roading.
Folding bikes are more compact bikes, with smaller wheels and fewer gears. They can fold up into a small size, making them easy to carry and to take with you aboard other forms of transport, such as buses or trains, or to place under your desk at work. These bikes do not achieve high speeds and are not the best for long journeys or over rough terrain. They are perfect though for those who are looking to transfer from car commuting to public transport, as they can cycle to the station on the bike, take a bus or train and then use the bike again to continue onto their office.
Electric bikes, are recently becoming much more popular, as they have become more affordable. An attached battery pack provides extra power to the user, to assist them in cycling longer journeys or cycling up steep hills. There are two basic types, either the power will kick in automatically when you are struggling, or it can be activated on demand. The additional power provided tends to be pretty subtle, and so while you do notice it, it is still at a reasonable cycling pace and not like a motorbike. Be aware that the batteries only have a certain amount of life, and must be charged at home afterwards. Though this is generally easy, via plugging it into your wall socket, you should be aware that due to this, it is not as environmentally friendly as the other bikes.
This type of bike is perfect for those who struggle to complete their cycles, due to age or infirmity or other reasons which might put them off standard cycling, as it will make their cycles much easier and still help them get fitter.
A step-through bike is designed so that the middle part of the bike, the crossbar, is lowered to the ground, so that users can literally step onto the bike without having to raise their legs high. This bike is practical for those, who have to frequently get on or off their bike, if you cycle in a skirt or dress, if you have mobility issues. They are also easier to get on and off the bike if you cycle with a child seat behind.
Alternatively known as classic or vintage bikes, this style of bike has its handlebars raised high, so the rider tends to have an upright sitting position, a low crossbar, so that it is easy to mount and descend from, and popularly has a basket on the front. They generally have either few or no gears and are suited for urban cycling, rather than long distances or fast speeds. The upright seating position tends to make them much more comfortable to ride, and gives the rider a better view to navigate through traffic. The basket on the front also makes them very practical.
More specialised bikes
The bikes described above are the more general bikes that you might choose to use for cycling. Below are details of more specialised bikes which you can also get.
Recumbents are low to the ground, so the rider sits in a reclining position. They can be beneficial to people with back or knee problems who experience discomfort with traditional upright riding positions.
Touring bikes are very similar in design and appearance to road bikes, in that they tend to be relatively lightweight, have a wide array of gears, no suspension and have drop down handlebars. However they are built a bit more sturdier and with a thicker frame, so that they can carry more weight - specifically panniers on the back. They are built to cycle long distances, at a relatively quick speed, and comfort, making them ideal for cycling holidays.
These bikes are similar to road bikes in that they are lightweight, but they are much sturdier. Suitable for riding long distances, they are designed to accommodate panniers, making them perfect for cycling holidays.
As the name suggests, a tricycle has three wheels. Depending on the design it may have two wheels in front and one behind or the other way round. They are perfect for those who have balance issues, as they provide more support, or for those who are disabled, visually-impaired, or those who haven’t cycled for a long time.
Designed mainly for dirt and motocross cycling, BMX bikes have since moved into towns and cities where people use them to do tricks in skate parks and for shorter journeys. BMXing is great fun, super cool and a nippy way of getting around town.
Most popularly seen around holiday destinations, a tandem bike generally can hold two riders at the same time. While initially steering and pedalling with a partner can be tricky, it is quickly mastered after a couple of minutes. It is perfect for those who like a little novelty in their rides, those who prefer to cycle along with others, or for a strong and weak rider to cycle together.
This list is provided to simply help give you ideas about what might be available for you to ride. When it comes to choosing different types, there is nothing like actually having a look around a bike shop and examining the real thing. Take a test ride before you buy, and choose what feels right for your body.
What bike size?
When you’re choosing a bike it is important to buy the right size frame for you. Having the right size bike means that your bike is much easier to control, keeping you safe.
There are no standard guidelines on different size frames for adults, so it pays to think about the type of bike you want, and the kind of riding you’ll be doing. Consider how much clearance you need from the cross bar - this is the main tube that runs from the saddle to the handlebars and how much reach from the saddle to the handlebars, to achieve a comfortable riding position.
Once you’re happy with your choice, the handlebars, saddle height and tilt are adjustable for comfort, pedal-power and control. Reputable bike shops will normally offer to do all of this for you, or you can set up your bike yourself.
How much should I spend?
When deciding on your budget, think carefully about your needs and the features that will be useful to you. Try and get the best you can afford because it will ultimately be a better investment in terms of quality components, features, durability and ride.
If you are on a tight budget or simply giving cycling a try, a pre-owned bike can be much better value for money.
Is your bike set up properly for you?
There are a number of things that you should consider with a bike, to make sure it is set up right.
Your riding position can be altered by adjusting the saddle and handlebars. There are three things you want to achieve:
- The right saddle height – to make the most of your leg power and to make sure you can put a reassuring foot on the ground
- Good contact with your pedals to maximise the power in your legs.
- Ability to reach the handlebars and your brakes – for good control and comfort. Everyone is different so you will need to find a comfortable balance that suits you.
Well-positioned handlebars are crucial for your comfort, and important for control of your steering and brakes. Handlebars vary in how they can be adjusted. A good position to start is with your handlebars at the same height as your saddle. If you prefer a more aerodynamic ‘head down’ position, lower the bars. If you want a ‘head up’ riding position that’s easier on your back and gives confidence in traffic, raise the bars. Make sure you can still reach the brake levers once you’ve adjusted your handlebars!
Getting the saddle in the right place will help you get the most from your pedal power without straining your body. Some bikes have a handy feature that allows you to move the saddle forwards or backwards and adjust its angle. Adjust the saddle so your leg pushes vertically down on the pedal. If you find you want to slide forwards or backwards as you ride, adjust the saddle to suit.
Use an adjustable spanner or an allen key (depending on your bike) to loosen the bolt underneath the saddle at the top of the seat post. You can then slide your saddle backwards or forwards and tilt it up or down. Tighten it well before trying it out.
Adjusting saddle height
Follow these three steps to find the right height for your saddle:
- Place your bike next to a large wall
- Hop on and put one hand on the wall for balance
- Put the ball of your foot on the pedal at its lowest point without stretching. Your leg should be almost straight, with a very slight bend in the knee. To double check, try with your heel on the pedal - this time your leg should be straight
If you find you’re rocking from side to side when you ride, you’re probably too high and cycling will be harder work.
To adjust the height of your saddle undo the bolt or quick release at the top of the frame so you can slide the seat post up or down, making sure you don’t go past the minimum mark.
If your seat needs to be higher than the seat post allows, you need a longer seat post or a bigger bike.
Women tend to have wider hips than men, and so womens' saddles are wider than mens' for the correct fit. Do make sure your saddle is comfortable – it can make all the difference to the enjoyment of riding your bike.
Maintaining your bike
Perhaps your bike is slick and shiny, and ready to go, or perhaps it may have sat in the shed for a few years. Before any journey it is important that you check your bike is roadworthy. Check out this helpful video from Sustrans to make sure your bike is ready to use.
Cycling UK have produced a simple bike maintenance guide - check it out here.
Check your bike in 11 easy steps
Read the Sustrans M check guide on how to check your bike in 11 easy steps.
If your bike needs some work what should you do? The first and best port of call should be your local bike shop.
My Journey sometimes brings along Dr Bike to some of our events who can provide a free bike check for you. Check out our events page or contact us for more information on this.
Cleaning your bike
Read the Sustrans guide for some useful tips on how to clean your bike. It’s always a good idea to keep your bike clean. Any dirt or grit that’s on the moving components of your bike can start to wear and damage them.
Buying a new bike for a child?
If you are thinking of buying a new bike for your child Cycling UK have published some very useful information on how to choose the right size bike.
We have cycle helmets for sale at a cost of £12.00. Please download the form to order one which can be found under Related Downloads.
Discount at Berkshire Cycle Co
Please download a voucher for 10% off any accessories at Berkshire Cycle Co which can be found under Related Downloads.