A good quality bicycle can cost as much as a cheap car, but you can save time and money if you decide what sort of riding you’ll be doing before you buy.
Designed for off-road adventures, mountain bicycles are built to withstand rocky terrain and steep inclines and declines. Traction is key and for this reason mountain bicycle tyres are thick with knobby rubber designed to maintain friction on uneven surfaces. If you’ve ever ridden a mountain bike on a smooth path, you’ll have felt the friction pulling you in and slowing you down. If you intend on rattling down an extensive suspension system makes the ride easier to manage and much more comfortable. Because of these features, mountain bikes are far heavier than their on-road counterparts and favour stability over speed.
Hit the roads
The most popular of all bicycles, road bicycles have lighter frames designed for speed. Good quality road bikes often feature carbon or titanium frames to curb excess weight whilst still maintaining strength and flexibility. Road tyres are thinner and slicker than off-road tyres, and rely more heavily on the rider’s skill to maintain friction. Suspension systems vary greatly with road bikes – if you think you might do the odd rocky path it’s probably worth getting a bike with light suspension. If you keep your two wheels to sealed roads and bike paths, then a road bike is the way to go.
A little bit of both
If you like the best of both worlds, then a hybrid bicycle is the perfect compromise. A cross between a traditional road bike and a mountain bike, hybrids are designed chiefly for roads and bike paths but ride well on unsealed paths, too. Hybrid frames are lighter than mountain bikes allowing for speed, but still maintain enough strength for some rough handling. The wheels on hybrids are a mix between on- and off-road tyres – thicker than traditional road tyres, yet thinner than off-road tyres. This balance ensures traction on both sealed and unsealed surfaces. Many bicycles nowadays come with removable wheels, so you’re free to experiment with different sizes and widths – as a general rule, the lighter the frame the more expensive.
Buy second hand
Buying a second hand bicycle can save you lots of money and if you find one that has been well looked after, it’s easy to upgrade individual components if need be. But remember, there’s no warranty when buying second hand, so you need to know how to separate the trash from the treasure:
- Inspect the frame closely. Run your finger along the main frame. If you feel ripples it’s bent – steer clear.
- Hold the bike up and spin the wheels. If they wriggle up and down or side to side, they’ve had a good beating and will need replacing.
- Look closely at the whole bike. Do the rims match? Is everything roughly the same age? Beware of bikes that have had ‘home fixes’ with a mix-match of parts.
- Rust is a big deal breaker, be sure to check the frame thoroughly.
- Check for the obvious signs of wear a tear such as scratches, dents and kinked cables.
- Go for a test ride – how does it feel? Does the frame size fit you?
- Test the brakes, it’s possible they may be worn and will need replacing.
Whether buying new or used, keep your wits about you and never be afraid to ask questions. You may score a bike at a steal, but always take into consideration the future costs of repairs, parts and ongoing maintenance.