Bike buying tips for cycling re-starters
Does this sound like you? You rode a bicycle as a child and at university – but then came the family years when you were busy working and looking after the domestic chores. Holidays were a chance to lie on the beach or by the pool in the sunshine.
Now, though, you have more time and you fancy joining the new cycling revolution. The children have mostly flown the nest, you have a lot more me-time and you want to go on holiday to exciting places with the freedom for self-guided touring and exploration.
A cycling touring trip sounds like the perfect way to travel… if only you had a bike and the required fitness.
This is a guide to buying a bike for leisure cycling and other things you might need.
What bike do I buy?
There are many different types of bikes from racers to mountain bikes and lots in between. They each achieve different things, such as speed or good grip and gears for off-road trails.
If you are hoping to book a fairly easy-graded leisure cycling tour the type of bike you need is something in between the racer and the mountain bike. They are usually called hybrid bikes. That is, they combine some of the speed and ease of a racer bike with various components of a mountain bike but also with a greater emphasis on comfort.
Also consider an electric bike. They are pricey but they allow you to ride further without needing to put in a full day of power and effort. Hire an electric bike first to see how you enjoy it.
The benefits of a hybrid bike include:
The seated position is more upright than a racer but less ruggedly aggressive than a mountain bike. It’s the perfect position, in other words, for people who are returning to cycling after a gap of many years. You do not need to adopt a bent over position to effectively ride a bike.
Flat handlebars rather than drop bars make it easier to reach the bars when on the saddle.
A wide range of gears make it easier to go up hills and make good speed on the downhills and the flats.
Tyres are not too skinny and smooth nor are they too wide and chunky. They are in between. Most hybrid tyres will work well on tarmac as well as some trails. You can also change the tyres, if you need to, for different terrains.
Tyres that are wider and smoother are more comfortable to ride and roll more easily.
Most hybrids come with a comfortable saddle. If it doesn’t, make sure you buy one and fit it yourself. There is no need to be uncomfortable on a bike.
Hybrid bikes are usually fitted with flat pedals so you can wear your ordinary shoes or trainers for cycling. It makes life a lot easier than the clipped-in shoes and pedals that you see on racer bikes.
Male and female bike designs mean you can choose the right design and fit for you.
A bike stand makes it easier to leave your bike when you are not using it.
How much should I spend?
This is a “how long is a piece of string question”. My advice is to set a budget and then, if you see something you really like, spend a bit more. In general, you won’t regret it.
Go to a reputable store and ask for their advice. Fit and comfort is more important than price.
The more you spend the greater the chance of a lighter bike with better components. A bike that is too cheap, such as one less than £250 is likely to be heavy and will not be so well made. Generally you will want to spend more than £500 although you might be lucky to find a bike that was £500 but is now discounted.
Lift up a few bikes to feel their weight. If it feels really heavy move on to the next one. This is a very general rule of thumb but you'll know when you feel a lighter weight bike.
Spend as much as you can for a bike that is lighter and has good components. You'll find it easier to ride and it will last a lot longer.
Some stores, such as Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative, have their own brand (Revolution) and you might find you get more bike for less money.
You need to love your bike. If you don’t like the fit or look you are less likely to ride it so when choosing a bike it’s important that it ticks the right boxes: Fit, comfort, price but also that you love the look of it.
But beware of the super trendy bikes. Some bikes look really cool and funky but they can be very heavy. Again, take the advice of the store and be honest about the type of cyclist you are and where you plan to cycle.
Things to check include, can you reach the handlebars comfortably, can you pull the brakes, can you change gear, is the seat height easily adjustable, can you easily get on and off the bike?
Other kit for cycling
The aim is to be comfortable when riding a bike. You do not need cycling specific clothing or Lycra unless you want to wear it.
Clothing with seams in the wrong place will rub, which is why many people do choose to wear cycling shorts/tights.
Loose clothing might get into the chain or flap about annoyingly so choose clothing that fits well.
Cycling gloves will prevent your hands from becoming sore and chafed.
A bike helmet is important for safety. Some countries insist that you wear a helmet.
Make sure you have a bike saddle that is comfortable and suitable for your gender. There are male and female bike seats for a reason!
Sun cream. You can end up sun burnt in odd places when cycling, such as the tops of your knees, back of your calves, back of your arms and neck. Also, when cycling you might not notice how hot the sun is. Make sure you apply high factor sun cream.
Spare inner tubes and puncture repair kit, as well as a bike pump. It's important that you know how to sort a puncture. Ask a local bike mechanic for a lesson if you do not know this.
How to get cycling fit
The best way to get fitter on a bike is to simply go out and ride your bike. Try making cycling a good habit, such as commuting to work or cycling to the shops.
Build up the miles slowly and over many weeks. If you go out and ride too far too soon you'll end up sore and less inclined to cycle again.
Learn how to use your gears so that you are turning the pedals more quickly and easily, rather than pushing hard in higher resisting gears. A higher cadence (revolution spin) is better for endurance.
If you plan to book a cycling tour holiday check what the terrain will be like. If it’s going to include a few hills you should include hills on your leisure rides at home.
But most of all you should aim to enjoy your cycling. Find a cycling friend and go out for a spin. Plan to take in a café or a picnic stop on each ride. Cycling should be fun and rewarding, not a chore.
If you need advice about the right cycling tour holiday for you give Macs Bike staff a call. They can talk you through the options according to your experience and fitness.