How to choose and buy a bike

Bike use during the coronavirus lockdown has surged, with many of us going back to two wheels.  But how do you choose the right bike for you, with so many types now on the market.

The British Government has encouraged people to use bikes for commuting and travelling instead of public transport as virus transmission is much less prevalent in open spaces. The spare time people have due to the government furlough scheme and the closing of public gyms are other factors that have encouraged people to get out on their bikes during lockdown.

Halford’s, Britain’s largest bicycle retailer, has said that sales of some bike equipment have risen by a massive 500% since the lockdown. The UK transport secretary has consequently set out a £2 billion scheme to expand cycling and walking, including infrastructure improvements. In this article we will advise on choosing a bike, staying safe and maintenance.

Note: all prices correct at time of publication – but subject to change.

Types of Bike

Commuter Bike
This is an all-round bicycle that is relatively light, easy to maintain, and performs best on tarmac and cycle paths. This bike is ideal if you are commuting to work or taking regular rides around your local area but have a limited budget.

Typically these bikes cost between £400 and £800; however they can be upgraded with better quality, more puncture resistant tyres, such as the Schwalbe Marathon Plus Smart Guard. Also disc brakes are preferable to rim brakes as they have a shorter stopping distance and perform better in wet weather.

Things to remember when buying a commuter bike are the challenges you face on your ride. Do you regularly see broken glass or rough surfaces? How hilly is your area? Are you dealing with lots of traffic? Make sure your bike has sufficient gears if you are tackling the Calderdale hills. Even though commuter bikes are often simplified for easier maintenance, they still need to be checked and serviced regularly.

Some commuter bikes we like:

  • Boardman HYB 8.8 – £750 – ideal for a hilly commute, it is light and has a range of gears
  • Specialized Sirrus 1.0 – £450 – comfortable and comes with tough tyres: a good entry level bicycle.

Folding Bike
Handy if you are limited on space, if you live in a flat or include a train journey in your commute. It is a good idea to buy one of these from a shop rather than online so you can practice folding and unfolding it as some are trickier than others. The wheel size of a folding bike is typically very small which makes them light and storable, but this means they roll more slowly on the road. If you would like a one that rolls more quickly but doesn’t need to be carried far, larger wheels are a better option.

Folding bikes have a big range of price tags, from £200 to over £2000. And as lower priced ones are often heavier and less adjustable, this is an important factor to take into account before buying. Even the lightest models of folding bikes can be cumbersome to hoist on and off a train regularly.

Some folding bikes we like:

  • Brompton M6L folding bike – from £915 – 11kg and can have several different types of handlebar.
  • B’Twin Tilt 120 folding bike – £200 – has larger wheels than a Brompton and is quite heavy, can be bought from Decathlon.
  • Raleigh Stowaway 7 folding bike – £400 – larger wheels but heavier, has mudguards fitted with a pannier rack.

As most of Calderdale is hilly or have a long commute, the E-bike is a good option. An E-bike is motor assisted, so some effort is still required to pedal but you can adjust how much help you receive so that you don’t arrive at your destination covered in sweat.

They take 3-6 hours to be charged, depending on the make and model, and can have a range of 50 miles, but more likely 30 miles with relaxed pedalling. They are becoming less expensive but unsurprisingly still cost more than a man-powered bicycle, typically £1,500 to £4,000. E-bikes are generally mountain bikes, commuter bikes or road bikes, however folding E-bikes are beginning to appear on the market.

Hybrid/Commuter ebikes we like: 

  • Specialized Turbo Vado 3.0 electric bike – £2,400.
  • Giant FastRoad E+ Pro 2 electric bike – £2,749.

Road ebikes we like:

  • Focus Paralane2 9.8 e-bike – £4,600.
  • Giant Road E+ 1 Pro  – £3,800.

Mountain Bike ebikes we like: 

  • Canyon Neuron:ON 7.0 – £3,899
  • Cannondale Moterra SE – £6,199.

Road Bike

Perhaps the most famous and well known type of bicycle, road bikes are best for fitness and speed; however a short road ride on quiet lanes is a perfect outing for a beginner road bike rider as the bikes travel more quickly and smoothly on most roads than the bikes mentioned earlier.

Most road bikes are now equipped with disc brakes which are more effective than rim brakes, they have dropped handlebars and can be fitted with either flat pedals or road cleats which are secure clip pedals that connect to a special shoe. Thousands of different types of road bike are available so we will try to break down the different kinds for you as simply as possible.

Most road bikes are carbon fibre or aluminium, carbon is lighter and more expensive but aluminium is sturdier. Most can be put into a low racing position for aerodynamic efficiency but can also have the bars raised for comfort. Ideally in an area like Calderdale, a road bike is best with plenty of gears and some puncture resistant tyres like Schwalbe Durano for £23 per tyre.

For beginner road riders we like:

  • Boardman SLR 8.6 Alloy – £600 (there is a women’s version of this bike too)
  • Specialized Allez E5 2020 – £680.

For experienced road riders (carbon fibre) we like: 

  • Trek Emonda ALR Disc 5 – £1650
  • Giant TCR Advanced 1 – £1900.

Mountain Bike
A brilliant option if you want to escape the traffic and head out on to the moors around Calderdale. Mountain bikes are comfortable to ride, have straight handle bars, in-built suspension for more comfort and often flat or cleated pedals (pedals which fix to a special shoe).

They are a good option for beginners, because their larger tyres absorb potholes and bumps more readily than a road bike. They can be easily ridden on tarmac roads as well as the tracks and bridleways, though this will eventually wear down the tyres.

Mountain biking has been a good choice during lockdown as the tracks found locally tend to take you away from our towns and villages. There are two main types of mountain bike: cross country and downhill. Downhill bikes as the name suggests are faster downhill and tend to be bought by more experienced riders. Cross country mountain bikes are more versatile and popular.

Cross country mountain bikes we like:

  • Trek Roscoe 8 – £1,300
  • Specialized Fuse 27.5 – £1,000.

Downhill mountain bikes we like:

  • Giant Stance I – £1,500
  • Scott Spark 970 – £1,800.

Women’s Bikes
Women tend to have shorter arms, narrower shoulders and shorter torsos than men; and therefore bikes tailored towards them can be comfier and more efficient.  Women may also need a specific saddle. A lot of bikes are unisex and most of the ones we’ve listed above either have a women’s version or can be used by either sex.

However, for road bikes in particular, where the rider stays in the same position for a long time, comfort is very important and so we recommend that women choose or test a female specific bicycle. Often unisex bikes can be fitted with a female saddle and adjusted to have a different position that suits the rider, which can be a good compromise. If you experience discomfort riding your bike, it is worth investing in a professional “bike fit” to fine tune your riding position.

Some female bike brands we like:

  • Liv – the female version of bike retailer Giant, these bikes are all tailored to women and include mountain bikes, road racing bikes, E-bikes and commuter bikes.
  • Trek – they have a very good range of women’s bikes of different kinds and women’s frames too, as well as a large collection of gender neutral bicycles.

Some female saddles we like:

  • Selle Italia Diva Gelflow Racing Saddle – £50+ – although used for racing it is also a good, light and comfortable saddle for longer rides on all types of bike.
  • Fizick Luce – £30+ – a lower priced alternative.

For tips on riding safely and looking after your bike see our blog.

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