Bikes are complicated. It’s easy to pretend that you know what you need but when you’re in the bike shop does anyone really know what they’re looking at? Don’t be afraid of the jargon, it’s not too difficult to get your head around when you take it step by step.
How much should I pay for a bike?
It depends what you want to use it for and how long you’ll want to keep it. The more you pay for your bike the better it will perform and the more durable it will be. If you plan on using it loads then it's worth investing in a more expensive one than you'd usually go for but if it's going to be used once or twice a year there's no point in stretching your budget.
What bike should I buy as a beginner?
If know you want to do a particular kind of cycling, start with one of the more affordable options in that category and if works for you a little further down the line you can invest in something more specialist. Otherwise, keep on reading to see our suggestions based on what you'll use it for and where you'll ride.
What kind of bike should I get for exercise?
Any. They will all help you keep fit, even electric bikes.
Which bike is good for a long ride?
You’ll want something that will be comfortable riding for a long time without slowing you down too much on the surface you'll be riding on. Look out for different frames, handlebars and tyres.
- Getting from A to B: Barring a disaster, all bikes will do this, so don’t rule anything out yet.
- Commuting: Folding bikes are designed with commuting in mind. They’re compact and portable so you can take them on trains and buses and are great for squeezing through standstill traffic. They also tuck nicely away in the corner of your flat when you get home. If you’ve got a bit more space at home and don’t need to take public transport, hybrid bikes offer the speed and agility of road bikes with added comfort and an upright riding position better suited to riding on busy streets.
- Enjoyment: Endurance bikes are road bikes designed to keep you going for hours on end. With less aggressive designs than racing bikes, they’re more comfortable to ride and, if you’re not racing, are the perfect choice to keep fit and rack up the miles. There are also loads mountain bike trails in the UK, so depending on how much suspension you want, take your pick between hardtail and full suspension bikes.
- Racing: Let’s be honest, if you’re racing you know what you’re looking for.
- Paved roads: Bikes with thin tyres and light frames are made for riding on standard roads and tarmac.
- Unpaved roads and paths: For broken roads and dirt tracks, you’ll want thicker tyres to cut through the rubble without puncturing.
- Off-road: When the paths run out and nature determines the course mountain bikes come into their own.
The kind you see in the Tour de France with skinny tyres, lightweight frames and the iconic drop handlebars.
With road bike frames and thick tyres, these are built for broken dirt and gravel tracks that thin tyres would struggle on. Cyclocross bikes have the same features but are geared for racing.
Compact bikes perfect for city living that can be folded away into the corner of your flat and taken on the train.
With bikes in all categories apart from kids’, an integrated motor and battery give you an assist up hills and a headstart at traffic lights. Perfect for commuting without breaking a sweat, if you live in an extra hilly area or if you’re all about downhills and don’t want to waste time climbing.
For children aged two and over. 12 to 26 inch wheel bikes to keep your youngsters covered as they grow, as well as balance bikes to help get smaller kids used to sitting on a bicycle.
- Materials: Frame materials affect the weight and ride quality of the bike. The main three are steel, aluminium or carbon. The more expensive a bike is, the lighter and more robust the frame material is likely to be, with the top end in all categories boasting carbon frames that are super light and help to soak up road vibrations to ease pressure on your joints.
- Suspension: On mountain bikes, suspension is arguably the most important element. There are two major differences: hardtail bikes, which have no rear suspension; or full suspension bike, which have both front and rear suspension to make the ride as smooth as possible.
- Fork: Like with the main frame, materials are important in the fork. For bikes with no integrated suspension, the fork takes the biggest impact from the road so those made from carbon will make life easier on rougher tracks. On a bike with suspension, the fork provides movement on the front of the bike to reduce shocks and strains to your arms, hands and shoulders. The fork is also vital for controlling the bike - with a high quality steerer handling will be easier and you’ll be more agile on the road or trail.
- Size: For maximum comfort and efficiency, you’ll need a frame that’s suited to your height and inside leg. Be careful though, because bikes are measured by seat tube length, frames sizes can differ between bike types, brands and even models, so make sure you pick the right one. We’ve put together a size suggestion chart to get you in the right ballpark, however it’s always good to check each brand’s guide where possible or go into a store for a test ride.
The more broken the surface is, the thicker the tyres you’ll need will be, you can see the differences clearly between road bikes, gravel bikes and mountain bikes.
For road riding, thin tyres are what you need, they reduce friction on the road to increase efficiency on flat surfaces where grip isn’t as important. Gravel bikes need slightly thicker tyres to cut through broken paths without skidding or puncturing too easily. When the road runs out, thick mountain bike tyres provide grip, balance, comfort and strength to keep you moving over rough surfaces and hold firm against hard and sharp obstacles.
Different wheel sizes come into play mainly with mountain bikes. The two most popular sizes are 27.5 inches, which handle better on loose terrain, and 29 inches, which dominate the faster trails.
Finding the right handlebars is mainly about comfort - you want your hands and wrists to be comfortable for the whole ride. The main thing that changes between types of bike is the shape.
Drop handlebars that are found on road, gravel and cyclocross bikes offer a range of different positions that are suited more to certain riding styles and terrain, for example it’s more aerodynamic to be on the drops so they’re better for sprinting and in a headwind. You might also want a bar ends or bullhorns which give you a more comfortable option for riding out the saddle.
Especially important for commuting is the capacity to carry baggage, bikes that are made for racing aren’t made to have racks and panniers on them because they don’t need them in a race so if you need to carry bags that you don’t want on your back then you’ll want to avoid those. Touring bikes, folding bikes and a large amount of hybrid bikes do, however, have excellent options for attaching panniers as they often come with racks already on them.
Mudguards are also a vital addition to your bike if you want to stay clean and dry, they sit just over the wheels to prevent water and dirt splashing all over your back and legs. If you don’t have changing facilities at work then this is essential. Unlike racks, you can equip mudguards to a lot of road bikes so if carrying bags isn’t a problem then they might work for you.
This is where most of the jargon around bikes comes from, the groupset is the mechanics of the bike - what actually drives the wheels. It might not matter to you what each component does but it’s definitely useful to know.
- Gear levers: Whether it’s a grip shifters, trigger shifters or road bike shifters, they all change your gears and are incredibly straightforward. One for the front cog and one for the back unless you’ve only got one right at the front. If you’re riding a singlespeed or a fixie you don’t need to worry about these.
- Brake levers: Similarly, one for the front wheel and one for the back and none if it’s a fixie.
- Brakes: The big decision here is between rim brakes and disc brakes. Disc brakes tend to be more expensive but that’s because they’re more reliable, powerful and hydraulic disc brakes can do more with less physical effort. For mountain bikes, disc brakes are the norm because strong braking in tough conditions is the name of the game. For other kinds, it’s a mixture and both get the job done, so it’s down to personal taste. A test ride might be a good idea if you haven’t tried disc brakes to see if the difference in performance is worth it.
- Derailleurs: The derailleurs are what actually move your chain between sprockets when you shift gears. The more you pay the more precise and reliable the shifting will be.
- Bottom Bracket: This connects the chainset and pedals to the bike and allows them to rotate freely.
- Chainset, chain, cassette and sprockets: Your pedalling turns the sprockets on the chainset round moving the chain to drive the cassette and in turn spin the back wheel. Basically, the chainset is the bit that the chain sits on by your pedals, the cassette does the same job on the back except it actually moves the wheel and the chain connects the two. The sprockets, also known as chainrings, are the gears that you’re in. If you’re in the biggest gear you’ve got, you’ll be on the largest front ring and smallest back ring.
Buying a new bike is always exciting but don’t forget to keep yourself safe with good head and body protection as required. We have lots of high quality bike helmets to choose from to suit all kinds of riding styles and budgets. We also have body armour for those of you planning to head off-road and hit the mountain biking trails and high visibility accessories such as lights and jackets for the commuters amongst you.
Regular bike cleaning, maintenance and servicing will help to keep your bike working at its best for longer and if you are really racking up the miles, a professional bike service is really worthwhile to prevent any future breakdowns. All Cycle Surgery stores have a bike workshop with Cytech certified bike mechanics who are ready to help. Check out our bike maintenance and servicing options here.
If you are planning to use your bike to commute to and from work, the UK’s Cycle to Work Scheme could save you hundreds of pounds off the retail price. Simply ask your boss to sign up to the scheme, they buy the bike and you pay the money back from your gross salary, saving you money on income tax and national insurance.
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