Choosing a bicycle as a beginner can be an arduous task.
“Do I need this, do I need that” etc.
If you’re brand new to cycling, there are several bike types that are designed for different purposes. Again, another factor that makes it just that bit harder to choose a bike that works for you.
In the second part of this series I’ll take you through what bike types there are, what they are good for and how to make it work for your budget.
Whilst you can slave away at details, this course is designed for the beginner and as such we’ll keep it informative to the level you need.
Choosing your bike type
I’m a road bike rider. They take a little bit to get used to if you haven’t ridden one before. Thin tyres and low handlebars.
The tyres are suitable for tarmac surfaces and predominantly smooth ones at that. The handlebars are like horns and drop low, but still allow you to sit up and ride if you want to. This makes for good versatility in riding position.
I’ve found i’m usually sitting up more than on the drops on my road bike – so it’s down to what you do and what you prefer.
You can get them with disc brakes (more expensive and very sharp) or with brakes you’re probably more familiar with when you grew up as a child.
Beginner road bikes tend to be aluminium (no bad thing) which makes for a sturdy ride, but once you get to the 4 figures you’ll start seeing full carbon bikes which need a little more balance and stability from the rider.
It’s always worth trying to test ride one before you purchase. Most independent bike shops will be happy for you to have a spin before you buy your first bike.
Road bikes are suitable for commuting, weekend road rides, and road racing
New prices start from around £300
Choosing a hybrid bike is a good idea for a starter not too confident in the abilities.
I was a hybrid bike owner at first with a Boardman Comp from Halfords. I did however switch to a road bike months later as I started doing longer rides with a cycling club.
Hybrids take the best of road and mountain bikes. The tyres are in between a MTB and a road bike and on more occasions than not, the handlebars are flat. It will probably be something you are more familiar with as a beginner cyclist looking to choose their first bike.
Again, you’ll probably find most hybrid bikes you look at as a beginner bike, to be aluminium. My Boardman was a smooth ride, and I miss it as it’d have been perfect for commuting!
Hybrid bikes are suitable for commuting, short weekend road rides, and mild off-road terrain.
New prices start from around £150
Choosing a mountain bike for your first beginner bike seems to be popular first riders because of the price tag.
The fat tyres and heavy frame are designed to go on trails more so than tarmac, which makes it difficult and hard-going for anything other than that.
You’ll get suspension on mountain bikes, another tell tale sign this are just for your off-road riding. But there’s no harm in using it to commute back and forth – though I personally suggest a hybrid just for that.
If you wish to go on MTB trails then this is the beginner’s bike for you.
Mountain bikes are suitable for commuting and off-road environments.
New prices start from around £100
Choosing a bike frame material
If we were to put the cost of material to one side and weigh up the pros and cons of both, you’ll gauge what might be right for you.
Even if you have no preference, understanding material and benefits to each is good cycling knowledge to have.
- Steel can make for a sturdy ride and as it is quite a weighty material, it is durable. It’s a cheap frame material to have and might crop up when you choose your beginner bike.
- Alumnium is another common beginning bike option and you even see it in the upper ranges. It’s ability to be light and tough makes for a good option; although not guaranteed to be the smoothest of cycles.
- Carbon is what I ride. Full carbon starts from around near £1000, so not necessarily the best option if you are choosing a bike on a budget. Carbon is lightweight – if not the lightest of them all- and from what I’ve experienced, lovely to ride!
I recommend looking at alumnium frames if you are choosing your first bike, but there’s no harm in going all out and investing for a long-term carbon speedster.
How to choose a bike frame size
The next important thing is to get your bike size and frame right.
Choosing a bike size is fairly easy – and more so if you go into a shop with a qualified sales assistant.
Incase you want to know your bike size right now, I put together this sizing chart so you can measure yourself against it.
Once you have chosen your bike size, there will still be a little bit of work to do.
This involves choosing your saddle height and position, as well as choosing your handlebar height.
If you find yourself cycling a lot, I suggest going to find a bike fitter. But this is another £100 cost you don’t need as a beginner cyclist. Just sort your frame size to start and then make sure your comfortable for your riding.
Understanding cycling pedals
You’ll see a lot of cyclists clipped in to their bike. Kinda scary right?
Whilst clips seem worrying at first, you get used to them.
As a beginner cyclist, when you choose a bike, they will likely come with flat pedals. These are the pedals most people know and associate with cycling, where you can wear any shoes to push them round.
Clips require cycling shoes that you attach cleats onto. The cleat on the cycling shoe clips into the pedal mechanism and fixes you in. To unclip you simply twist your heel!
Have a look at the image below to get an idea of what cleats look like.
Make sure to test your new bike
As I mentioned a little bit earlier in the post, when you are choosing your bike it is good to test ride.
I took my now Cannondale for a trip around Cheltenham when I chose my bike and fell in love with it there and then. But I was lucky as that was the first bike I tried. To be honest, I probably should have tried a few more…
Anyway, most shops will let you have a go to make sure it’s a fit made in heaven.
You’ve chosen your bike but you need to figure out what to wear. Look stylish, ride fast.