When you are starting out, buying a bicycle can be a bit overwhelming. There are lots of types of bike and many brands.
Friends or family who ride can be a great source of advice and help. But keep in mind that they may not do the sort of cycling that you want to do – and different types if bikes are designed for different purposes.
As a first step think about what type of riding you want to do?
- Commuting: riding between work and home, riding to meetings
- Utility: doing your shopping, going to the library, visiting friends, transporting kids or dogs
- Racing: on road or track racing
- Recreational trails: exploring places using recreational bike paths
- Long distance touring: travelling all day and overnight, exploring between towns or cities
- Off road: exploring bushland
Think about how much money you want to spend.
Take your time. Be true to yourself. And have fun with the process. Some bikes will suit more than one type of riding and accessories can help you maximise use.
Try before you buy
When you’re ready start doing some research.
Hire some different types of bikes. Borrow friends’ bikes. Go for different types of rides.
Find out about the bike shops in your local area. Ask friends and family. Bike forums, such as Sydney Cyclist, will have threads about bike shops (and you can always post your own question).
Talk to the staff. Tell them what you want to do and listen to what they suggest. Jot down notes so that you can compare. If the staff aren’t helpful or patronising there are plenty of other bike shops. You need to feel confident and comfortable that you are going to be looked after.
Many bike shops will let you take a bike out for a trial ride. Take every opportunity to ride the bikes you’re interested in. Really give yourself a chance to feel what the bike is like to ride, take it up a hill, test the gears.
Size does matter
Bike frames come in different sizes and your bike can be adjusted in many ways to make it fit you. A bike that is the right size and fitted correctly will be comfortable, handle well and be efficient to ride.
Your bike shop can advise which frame size is best for you and can adjust the cranks, seat height and angle, stem length and height, and handlebar width and rise. You can also choose a different seat (or saddle) – this can make a huge difference to your comfort.
It’s not just the bike
If this is your first bike…or first bike in a long time…you will probably need to buy some accessories.
You must have a bell, a rear red reflector and a white front reflector. Most bikes are sold with these accessories.
You must wear a helmet – it’s the law. Make sure it has an Australian Standards sticker inside. Ask the shop to help you choose the correct size and then fit it to your head.
A good lock is essential for most trips.
Lights are a good investment for all sorts of riding. They will make you visible to other road users in low light and bad weather.
You need to keep yourself well hydrated while riding. This is particularly important in Sydney’s hot humid summer. A water bottle carrier will let you store water on your bike in easy reach.
To keep your bike well maintained, a small tool kit and puncture repair kit is handy. So is a pump and a spare tube. You will also need lubricant for your chain.
If you want to shop by bike you’ll need something to carry your purchases home. Panniers and baskets are a popular choice. A rack is useful if you want to carry stuff on the back of your bike.
If you want to commute by bike, mudguards or fenders will keep your dry and comfortable in wet weather.