Beginners guide to buying a bike
Published 4 July 2012
If you're just starting out, buying a bike can be a little confusing. With so many different bikes available from hundreds of manufacturers, and lots of price points, where do you start? Here's our beginners guide to the different types of bike on the market.
Generally appearing at £400 plus, road bikes are very lightweight, and usually have thin tyres and drop-handlebars. They’re great for speed and long rides on tarmac. As the name suggests though, they're not ideal for use off-road, and often lack the ability to add mudguards or a rack, which limits their adaptability for commuting or more general use.
The mountain bike is the most popular type of bike on the market and with good reason. It can go anywhere thanks to its strong frame and wheels, powerful brakes, knobbly tyres, wide range gearing and confidence-inspiring riding position. While slower than a road bike on tarmac, a mountain bike can be easily adapted for road duty by swapping to slick tyres. Add mudguards and a rack and you've got an ultra-sturdy commuter or touring bike. Decent starter mountain bikes begin appearing at around £250-300.
These, as their name suggests, are a cross between a road and mountain bike. They generally have the larger wheels of the road bike, with tyre widths midway between a road and mountain bike, which means a comfortable, fast-rolling ride. Most hybrids have flat handlebars with mountain bike-style controls, giving a more comfortable riding position with better visibility and easy access to the brakes and gears. Hybrids often have the ability to mount racks and mudguards – some come equipped with these items as standard, making them ideal commuting and everyday use bikes. Bikes labelled as hybrids can often be very different, with some much more akin to mountain bikes, while at the other extreme, some are little more than road bikes with flat handlebars. Good quality hybrid bikes begin at around the £250 mark.
If you're pushed for space or would like to combine your cycling with other forms of transport, a folding bike could be perfect for you. They pack down small and will fit in car boots, on trains and under desks. Decent quality folding bikes begin at around the £350 mark. Don't be tempted by the bargain basement folding bikes though – in the main, they're poorly designed and poorly made.
Upright ‘Dutch’ bikes are perfect for popping out for flattish rides or on fairly short, sedate commutes. They’re usually fitted with full mudguards and fully enclosed chains, making them perfect for anyone who wants to cycle in everyday clothes. Town bikes often come fitted with racks, dynamo lights and sometimes locks, making them complete, ready-to-roll packages for relaxed, short-hop town riding. Brakes and gears tend to be simple and enclosed, making for a low maintenance, reliable ride.
Got your bike? Now find a ride.