There are lots of reasons to cycle: it’s fun, it provides you with plenty of exercise, and it makes an easy and efficient way to get around without the added costs that come with driving a car.
Whether you want to commute to work by bike, do your grocery shopping on two wheels, or head out at the weekend for some fun with the family, there are lots of different types of bikes out there, and if you’re new to buying them then it can feel overwhelming. That’s why we’ve put together this helpful guide for what to look for when buying a bike, along with our list of recommendations.
What to look for in a bike
While cycling is fun, when it boils down to it, a bike is essentially a tool, and the best tool for the job is one that was built for the task. Here are some questions you should ask yourself before you choose a bike, to make sure it’s actually going to do what you need it to.
What will you use it for?
This is the ultimate question, and it will impact the type of bike you buy. For example, if you’re planning to commute on it every day, then you’ll need a hybrid bike that’s comfortable and efficient, and with long-lasting components that can withstand wear and tear.
If you want to head out onto the trails or into the woods, consider a mountain bike with front (and sometimes rear) suspension, and knobbly tires to give you traction in the mud.
Whereas if you want to ride fast on tarmac, or race, then you should look for a lightweight drop-bar road bike with thin, smooth tires.
If you don’t have a lot of storage space, or you need to combine cycling with getting the train or bus, then a folding bike would suit your needs.
Finally if you have mobility issues, some really tough hills to climb, or just don’t feel you have the energy for regular cycling, then maybe opt for an electric bike to take some of the pressure off.
Depending on what you’re using your bike for, you might also need to find one that comes with, or is compatible with, certain accessories to make your life easier. For example, if you’re commuting or shopping, then you’ll need racks to attach your bags to. If your bike doesn’t come with the rack already installed, then you should make sure it has the necessary mounts for one. The same goes for fenders: if you’re going to be riding in wet weather, then these are a must. Another important accessory to consider is a kickstand: if you’re likely to be carrying heavy loads, a kickstand can make it much easier to stop your bike from falling over while dismounting and running into the store.
Brakes and gearing
The best brakes and gearing for you will depend on the type of riding you’ll do, and the type of terrain you’ll be riding on.
If where you live and ride is relatively hilly, you’ll need a good range of gears to help you spin your way to the top of each climb. The lower your gearing, the easier climbing will be. You should also consider disc brakes (ideally hydraulic) if you’re likely to be shooting down steep hills as fast as you can, because they offer the best stopping power around.
You may think that living in a flat area, it couldn’t hurt to have these things anyway, and to some degree that’s right. However there are drawbacks to having a complex drivetrain with lots of gears: for one thing it requires more maintenance, and there’s more that can go wrong. If you’re not using all your gears then they’re just dead weight on your bike, plus if you’re riding on flat ground most of the time with low gearing, you’re not going to get anywhere fast. For flat areas, consider bikes with either a single gear (single speed bikes), or very few, to keep things nice and simple. You could also get away with cheaper braking systems, like cantilever or V-brakes.
Great for urban riding, commuting, and storing
When it comes to commuter bikes, one of the most practical and convenient options is a folding bike. You can take it on public transport, store it neatly under your desk, and you don't need to carry a hefty and unwieldy lock around because you can take it with you.
This folding bike from American icon Schwinn does all that and more. You can easily move through its 7 gears with the twist shifter, while the front and rear linear pull brakes offer effective stopping power and provide easy maintenance.
For ultra convenience when commuting, the Schwinn Hinge folding bike comes with a rear carrier rack, and the whole thing can be stored in the included heavy duty bag when folded, so you can store it away.
Affordable entry-level road bike built for speed
This affordable entry-level aluminum road bike comes with 21 gears to help you tackle all the gradients that the landscape can throw at you. Mechanical disc brakes provide precision stopping power, enabling you to gradually and smoothly reduce your speed and brake with confidence.
This road bike is built for speed, with deep set rims, which offer aerodynamic advantage, and narrow, slick tires to reduce rolling resistance and keep you moving quickly along the tarmac.
Steel hardtail mountain bike with multiple gearing options
This carbon steel hardtail mountain bike is built to be rugged and strong, with old-school 26-inch wheels that deliver a playful ride experience on the trails. The front suspension fork soaks up the rough stuff so you can roll with confidence over your favourite trail features without feeling it too much in your wrists, elbows or shoulders.
There are 5 color options available, so you can pick a bike that you really like the look of, as well as choosing between 21, 24, 27 or 30-speed drivetrains. With each drivetrain option, the build varies slightly, so it’s best to read the detailed description so you know exactly what you’re getting. For example, the tires will vary between options, and the 30-speed model comes with hydraulic disc brakes, whereas the other three have mechanical brakes.
Magnetic folding bike with adjustable height
A folding bike is a great option for anyone who wants to combine cycling with public transport, or who commutes to a workplace without secure cycle parking. This EuroMini folding bike weighs 27lbs, making it relatively easy to pick up while folded. Magnetic clasps help to keep the whole folded piece together, so you don’t have to wrestle with any unwieldy parts swinging from the frame.
The Shimano 7-speed gearing should suit most urban bikers and commuters, taking on the tamer hills and allowing you to hit a good speed on the flat. A folding bike is all about convenience, and this extends to its accessories. The Zizzo Via comes with front and rear fenders already installed, adjustable stem and seatpost to accommodate riders of all sizes, Kenda multi-terrain tires to help you maintain grip in the wet while also reducing rolling resistance, and a kickstand for when you just need to run into a store and can’t be bothered to fold everything up.
Cruise in style and enjoy the simplicity of this bike
If you live in a predominantly flat area, you really don’t need to concern yourself with multiple gears, or expensive disc brakes. This single-speed beach cruiser has one gear to rule them all, and a completely clutter-free cockpit thanks to the coaster brakes which don’t require you to squeeze any levers: simply pedal backwards to slow down.
The 19-inch frame is constructed from durable steel, so it’s made to last a long time. Meanwhile the geometry places you in a super comfortable and relaxed riding position. There’s a rear rack already installed, so you can attach your bags and keep your body unladen, and while it doesn’t come with fenders, there are mounts to accommodate them, should you wish to add them yourself.
Load up your groceries and go
This is the ultimate carrying machine, whether you're loading up on groceries, making deliveries, or simply moving stuff around. The Mongoose Envoy Cargo Bike has two large cargo bags that are weather-resistant and sealed with large Velcro flaps.
The bike itself is a small/medium size and can accommodate riders between 5'5" and 5'10" tall. The aluminum frame comes with mechanical disc brakes that offer excellent stopping power in all weather conditions, while the 26x2.35" tires will cushion uneven road surfaces for an incredibly comfortable ride.
The 3x8 drivetrain offers a plethora of gears to help you get up any hill that gets in your way. Meanwhile there's internal cable routing for a neat finish, and a kickstand keeps the whole thing upright so you can easily load and unload.
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