There is a couple of things to take into account when looking for a new bike. Here is what to think about…
Firstly and most importantly, you need to consider what type of riding you are going to be doing? There are numerous subcategories of bikes but these are the basics:
- A road bike – Used for riding on the road, believe it or not, 700 cc size wheels and usually drop handlebars. Not great for anything off-road or towpaths
- A mountain bike – Split into two categories: a hardtail (given the name, it is a bike with only front fork suspension) and a full suspension (both front fork suspension and rear shock). A good option if you want to add a little bit of comfort for your ride with the suspension sucking up some of the bumps!
- A hybrid bike – As the name suggests can handle a little bit of both on road riding and very light off-road such as gravel and canal paths, with front suspension
After you’ve found which type of bike you’d like, you need to make sure you have the correct size. Unfortunately, sizing is not measured exactly the same from brand to brand which makes it slightly more complicated. Generally speaking, most brands will have size charts online which correlate to your height in cm. This will give you a good measure of where you sit on the chart, bearing in mind the size of the bike will reflect the reach which is the most important aspect.
Being able to comfortably reach the handlebars whilst sitting on the bike with a slight bend at the elbow will make the ride much more comfortable, and prevent excessive stress at the top of the back from overreaching.
Once you’ve found the size and style of bike you’d like, its about whittling down the specification of the bike to suit your budget.
Generally speaking, most brands have two or three models per style depending on the budget. The lower end is going to be the cheapest with basic components (brakes and drive chain – the moving parts like the spiky chaining on the front and moving bits on the back that changes gears).
As you move up in models, the components and brakes will usually get slightly better and the shifting of gears will feel easier and smoother. Usually, the middle of the range bike is the best value for money, and if you can go with hydraulic disc brakes, they offer breaking in most conditions over the traditional V-brake system. On the top-spec bikes you can expect to get better quality bearings (in the headset and wheels, which will feel smoother) and complete matching groupsets (often on the lower budget bikes, brands put different brakes and group sets on to keep the price point low).