If you are just getting into cycling, you've come to the right place. This guide covers all the basics you'll need to know to start pedalling. (Except balance -- you can't teach that in a wiki!) All the basic types and their differences and features are covered. You can also find more information on specific cycling-related products on one of the many subpages that are linked from this guide. Whether you prefer dirt trails or city streets, you can find everything you need online.
If you are looking for specifics on other types of bikes, please see Road Bikes, Mountain Bikes, or Kid's Bikes.
Bike Types and Cost
Below you will see a series of bikes and a few details about what type of riders they are meant for. As far as cost goes, bikes can start off inexpensive, say £130. Bikes for serious riders can cost far more -- some as much as several thousand pounds. However, for recreational riders, bikes costing under £300 are more than adequate for occasional spins around town or for a yearly bike trip with the family.
When it comes to the construction of your bike, there are various elements to understand. Not all of them will make a huge difference to your final decision if you are just going to get a basic department store bike. However, if you want something to last, give the most comfortable ride, and provide the utmost in performance for your needs, you need to have a grasp of what's available, useful, and within your price range.
Don't forget that when shopping, you'll need either a male or female bike. The bar on men's bikes are straight across, and the crossbar on women's bikes are pointed down diagonally. Women with particularly long torsos may be more comfortable on a man's bike.
Also consider if the bike will be for everyday use, or just for occasional riding. Many new bikes come with an easy pop-off rear wheel (quick-release axle) for mounting the bike on a rack or for putting into a car, you can also buy a bike rack for easy bike storage.
Frame -- The average consumer bike has a steel or aluminium frame. However, high-end bikes have alloy, titanium, or carbon fibre frames.
- Steel is cheaper, heavier, and more rust prone than aluminium. Mild steel is often used in low-end bikes, and is often weaker than aluminium or better alloys.
- Aluminium frames are lightweight, stiff and are good for mountain, less expensive road bikes or recreational bikes. It is the most commonly-offered frame material today.
- Alloy is a mixture of steel and other metals, typically lighter and stronger than the mild steel mentioned above. It appears most commonly in older or higher-end road bikes.
- Titanium is the next step up, providing lightness, durability and a compliant ride, but it is by no means cheap. It is usually found in road bikes.
- Carbon fibre is the top of the line for both professionals and enthusiasts. It gives a smooth, comfortable ride, is lightweight, and absorbs shock. This is an ideal material for road bikes, if expensive.
- If you don't like riding hunched over and don't mind sacrificing speed, choose a straight handlebar over a dropbar.
- Straight handlebars are standard on mountain bikes, hybrids, and comfort bikes.
- Dropbars are standard on racing and road bikes.
- Most dropbars feature multiple grips, which means you can vary your positions from crouched (ideal for fast, aerodynamic riding) to upright.
- Road bikes sometimes come with toe clips or straps (or both) to keep your feet on the pedal, helping you keep control, maintain a steady pace, and stay comfortable.
- Clipless or clip-in pedals require cleated cycling shoes that lock into the pedal. Traditionally used for serious road riders, they're now also commonly used by mountain bikers (read more about it here). Nonetheless, they're still not for beginners.
Gears, Shifters, and Brakes
- The more gears you have, the easier it will be to ride uphill. For riding around on flat surfaces, you need a smaller number. Generally, choosing a gear number is a matter of need, preference, and value.
- Consult this guide that will pair your needs and preferences with your ideal gears.
- Handlebar shifters come in different styles and should be chosen according to personal comfort.
- Usually road bikes use caliper-style brakes and mountain bikes use V-style or disc brakes, which are more expensive, but which work better when wet.
- Saddles can be replaced for around £10, but for professional grade expect to pay over £100.
- Comfort is the word.
- Some of the best seats have grooves or holes to reduce pressure.
- Gel cushions provide extra padding.
- For road riding, you will want a smoother tread, maybe even Kevlar-beaded tyres.
- On mountain bikes and hybrids, go for the knobbiest tyres for mud or loose dirt, but something smoother if you want to ride on packed dirt or roads.
- For more information about tires, see the Tyre Buying Guide.
Bikes for Fun
- BMX Bikes aren't just for kids. Extreme sports are so named for a reason!
- Small, lightweight frames are perfect for doing tricks.
- The low bar design gives you maximum manoeuvrability.
- Usually they only have one rear brake.
- There are three types: BMX racing ,BMX freestyle with pegs and spinning handlebars, and BMX jumping with 48-spoke wheels.
- Prices range: £150 and up.
- These tandem bikes look strange, but offer fun for couples, siblings, parents and children, friends...
- Usually the stronger rider sits in front and handles the steering, and the other hangs behind pedalling at the same speed.
- One person will always do more work; be prepared.
- They aren't very good for rough terrain or hills; they are perfect, however, for flat, smooth surfaces, either on the road or in parks.
- £800 and up.
- Electric Bikes come in a variety of funky styles from motorcycle-looking to classic bike style.
- What makes these bikes fun is the on-board motor.
- Fuelling and the added weight of the motor can be a drag.
- Makes for an easy commute or long distance ride.
- Some models fold up for added convenience.
- £300 and up.
For this resource in your home country, please see:
NL: Fietsen Shopgids
CA: Canadian Bicycles
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