What kind of bike do you need? And where should you buy it?
What kind of bike do you need?
Here are some of your options as far as type of bike goes. Experts reading this may quibble over the exact categorisations, but the aim is to keep things simple…
Everyday cycling or hybrid bikes
This is the best kind of bike for most people who want to use a bike as a means of everyday local transport. This is the main focus of this website, initially at least. A hybrid bike takes the best bits of road bike and mountain bikes and results in something that can do a bit of anything, as long as ‘anything’ is cycling in town, or on surfaced bike paths. We’re including ‘traditional’ bikes and dutch bikes in this category in order to keep things simple.
Guide: Buying an everyday bike
Bikes that fold up to store easily, to go on the train, or fit in the boot of your car. They are incredibly versatile, and make all kinds of journeys possible by bike. A folding bike which you can keep under your desk at work can save you having to store a bike outside, and risk it being stolen. The downsides: folding bikes tend not to be so good on rough terrain, and many folding bikes have smaller wheels, which means some people don’t find them as pleasant to ride.
Guide: Buy a folding bike
If you live somewhere where the routes you will be using aren’t in brilliant condition, then a mountain bike might be your best bet. A lot of bikes sold in the UK are mountain bikes. Features: sturdy frame, chunky tyres. At best they are able to take you off road into wild places. At worst the look like they could take you off road and into wild places, but are actually cheap rubbish. For the ultimate in chunky tyres a fat bike might be what you’re looking for.
Guide: Buy a mountain bike
Bikes that can be used to transport goods, children, and even move house.
Road, fixies, cross, gravel, touring
One heading to cover a multitude of bikes. As the site develops we intend to focus more on these, but initially we’re concentrating on bikes to get you around town in your usual clothing carrying the things you need. In summary:
- Road bikes: Brilliant for riding fast on good roads. Not good for carrying things. What might have been called a ‘racer’ back in the day.
- A ‘fixie’ is a variant of road bike with one gear and a track-bike-style fixed wheel.
- Cyclocross and gravel bikes: Similar to road bikes, but suitable for slightly rougher terrain.
- Touring bikes: Built to take you on tour with luggage. Trekking bikes are similar.
There are now electric bikes that fit in most of the categories above – everyday bikes, folding bikes, mountain bikes, and more. They are a great way to get around if hills are a problem and/or you need or would like to go further than a conventional bike allows. They will be more expensive than most other bikes we talk about on this site, but can be an excellent moneysaving option if they make cycling possible for you, particularly when compared to driving or a season ticket. Beware of buying cheaper options though – the range and battery life might turn out to be disappointing. We’d recommend reading reviews carefully.
Where to buy your bike
Your options are new or secondhand. Both have their place.
Buying new. There’s nothing quite like a new bike, shiny and (assuming it has been set up properly) everything working perfectly. There are options to suit a wide range of budgets. However, during the current time many new bikes are proving difficult to get hold of, particularly entry-level budget bikes. And a new bike might be at risk of getting stolen, depending on where you will need to store it. For our recommendations see the guide to the type of bike you’re interested in: everyday bike , folding bike, mountain bike (road bike and other guides coming soon).
Buying secondhand gets you more bike for your money, but it can be trickier to find exactly what you’re looking for. For those on a budget buying secondhand can be an excellent option, particularly at a time when some new bikes aren’t available. Read our guide here: Buying a secondhand bike.
How much to spend
The million-dollar* (*ideally a bit less) question. As in most areas of life, when buying a bike you tend to get what you pay for. Whist this is a ‘budget cycling’ website, a more expensive bike can still represent excellent value for money if it means you will use it, and therefore don’t need to own a car, or can use your car far less. If you use a bus or train every day a bike can save you spending a lot of money on a season ticket. So a non-budget bike can still be a great budget option, if that makes sense. Cycling is in itself a moneysaving activity, compared with owning a car or spending a lot on public transport.
Experts could (and probably will) debate these prices. But in very broad terms, bikes under, say, £150 might look great on a website, but the likelihood is that a new bike at this price will be heavy, liable to break down, and not much fun to ride. If you can afford £300, it is perfectly possible to buy a bike that will do much better in the long run. If you can afford £500 you’ll get something lighter and with better-quality components that you’ll really enjoy riding and want to use. Spending more than that will bring further improvements in ride quality and components. Some might consider such bikes beyond the scope of a budget cycling website, but they can still save you a lot of money.
Cycle-to-work schemes can also make a bike significantly more affordable, if you work for an employer who operates such a scheme.
If these amounts sound more than you can afford at the moment then secondhand might be your best bet.
Men and Women’s bikes
Does a man have to ride a men’s bike and a woman a women’s bike? In summary: no. The main difference is usually the design of the frame, with ‘women’s bikes’ having a low step-over frame, and ‘men’s bikes’ a crossbar. Our advice would be to ride whatever bike you have, or whatever bike is most comfortable. In the Netherlands, for instance, it is very common to see both men and women riding an Omafiets bike with a step-over frame.
Having said this: there may be aspects of some women’s bikes, such as particular saddles, that are more suitable for women. But it is always possible change a saddle. In addition, women’s bikes tend to come in smaller sizes, so shorter women might need a women’s bike.
Advantages of a budget bike
Whist we’d recommend spending as much as you can afford for the best riding experience, the big advantage of a budget bike is that it is far less likely to be stolen. An expensive bike is, sadly, likely to attract the attention of thieves if left in a public place, particularly overnight, so it is important to think about where you will need to store your bike before deciding what to buy. Certain bikes are, in our experience, more likely targets than others. A new mountain bike is fairly easy for someone to sell on, even if it’s an entry-level model.
Inexpensive bikes have the advantage of being far less attractive to bike thieves, so if you’re going to have to leave your bike in public for any length of time this is something to consider. There’s something to be said for worry-free cycling on a budget bike that you can be fairly sure will still be there when you come back to it.