What’s not to love about cycling? It’s good for the environment, your wallet and, of course, your health. But before you rush out and spend hundreds on a state-of-the-art bike, or even just a cheap second-hand one, here are a few things you should consider.
Before you begin…
The big questions to ask yourself are: Why do I want a bike? What will I be using it for? Where do I want to go with it? Whether you’re an urban city biker commuting to work or a weekend mountaineer will make a big difference to the type of bike you need.
Then comes the price, as bicycles can cost anything from £50 to £10,000, so carefully think about what you can afford. The best bike you can afford should prove a good investment, but don’t panic – a budget of around £200 can still get you a good-quality adult bike. Alternatively, you can try second-hand websites and shops to pick up a bargain for under £50.
You wouldn’t buy a car without thinking about which one you want and carefully deciding what suits your needs and budget so why would you with a bike? Do your homework; talk to bicycle experts and tell them your budget – they can find you the perfect bike in your price range. It’s also a good idea to road-test the bike you decide on before you buy it, to make sure it’s right for you.
A bike that fits you properly is the only safe one as one that’s too big can be difficult to control. How far you have to reach to grab the handle bars, how far apart they are and how high you’re sitting on the bike are all important to get the right fit.
The style of bike will depend on what you want it for. You could get anything from a classic road bike, perfect for city riding, to a mountain bike for weekend all-terrain outings, or a next-generation bike called a hybrid – a bicycle adapted for business in the city and leisure in the country.
If you want something unique, think about getting a tandem bike (for two or more people), recumbents (those that let you ride in a low, reclining position), or foldable ones for commuters.
The right fit
Once you know what style of bike you need, you can choose the right one according to its size and shape, including the frame, wheels, and gears.
The price of a bike is hugely affected by the material from which it’s made, so bear this in mind before you make your decision.
- Steel is: Traditional, affordable, durable and strong, plus it absorbs shock well. But it’s also heavy and vulnerable to rust. Good brands: Dahon, Marin, Giant, Kona and Raleigh.
- Aluminium is: Very popular, light, strong, rust-resistant and has good shock absorbency. The best alloy is 6061 and 7005. Good brands: Trek, Giant, Kona, Marin, Orange, Specialized and Ridgeback.
- Titanium is: The most expensive bike material, has superior handling, is as light and rust-proof as aluminium and as strong and durable as steel. Good brands: Litespeed, Specialized, Giant, Bianchi and Kona.
- Carbon fibre is: the latest must-have, allows radical new designs and is often used for components rather than entire frames.
Adult bikes begin at 26″ (suitable for 11-year-olds and above) and also come in 27″ and 28″ sizes. If the bike doesn’t come with spare parts, ask the seller where they can be bought. To avoid this problem, ensure your bike’s hubs feature steel and not plastic.
The average number of gears is 18, but a bike can have as few as three and as many as 33. A larger number of gears is an advantage when you need to climb a lot of hills – but not everybody needs them.
Now you know the right bike for you, you’ve road-tested it and asked all the important questions. So how do you get value for money?
The most obvious place to buy your bicycle is at various specialty or independently run bike shops around the country such as Evans Cycle or Halfords. It also doesn’t hurt to have a look at your local supermarket stock to identify what you’re really after. Check out the national database of specialist bike shops on The Cycling Experts website to find some stores near you.
However, don’t undermine a good bargain hunt on second hand bike platforms. It’s always a good idea to look at Amazon and eBay for some cheap deals.
Always look out for a second hand deal. There’s always someone who has a fantastic bike that they just don’t have the need for anymore.
You could also try a police auction site such as Bumblebee, where you can get a good bargain bike but will have to collect it. However, be careful you understand who you’re buying from, what condition the bike is in and how you’ll receive it. Check out eBay’s guide to buying a bicycle for more info.
Bicycle Buying tips
- Don’t buy from catalogues, as you really don’t know what you’re getting. Bikes arrive disassembled and packed in a box, and if you’re not a cyclist you may not have the knowledge to put it together correctly and safely. This could prove tricky for your warranty.
- The best online suppliers send out bikes where you only have to adjust the saddle height, fit the pedals, tighten the stem and turn the handlebars.
- Find out about customisation, servicing, maintenance and repairs. A good bike takes a few weeks to get used to, and if you need to make changes a decent shop will make the adjustments for free.
- Look out for shops that are members of the Association of Cycle Traders (ACT), the Consortium of Bicycle Retailers (COBR), Cytech and those that are authorised dealers of particular brands.
The most important thing to remember when buying a bike, is that safety should be on the top of your list. Here are a few guidelines on what to think about when buying your bike.
Although it’s still not a legal requirement to wear a helmet on the streets, numerous studies have concluded that proper-fitting helmets reduce the number and severity of head injuries. The most basic helmets begin at about £8, but a more sophisticated one can cost £50 or even more. You wouldn’t drive your car without a seatbelt, so why cycle without a helmet?
If you’re out after dusk, you’re required to have lights fitted to your bike, so ensure you add these to your budget. A fluorescent vest and fluorescent stickers for your helmet could be worth looking into as well.
The last thing you want is to splash out on a new bike only to have it stolen so make sure you invest in a good lock. If you want to make sure your bike stays put, invest in a good D-Lock. Make sure you lock both the wheel and the frame to the bike for extra security.
Women’s saddles are slightly wider and shorter to men’s, and can add comfort when riding long distances. Bear in mind that any new saddle will take getting used to, so if you’re new to cycling this may take a bit of time.
With a bike stolen every 65 seconds in the UK it’s definitely worth taking out a policy. Your bicycle may be automatically insured under your existing home contents policy so check before taking it out. Read all about the benefits of bicycle insurance. The best place for comparing bicycle insurance is right here at MoneyMagpie.
Cycle to work Scheme
This tax incentive – which operates via your employer – allows you to benefit from the long-term loan of a bike and its equipment, completely tax free. This means the average taxpayer can save up to 42% on the price of the bike.
An online calculator like this one from Cyclescheme allows you to enter the details to work out what you might save.
How it works
The scheme operates using a voucher system. Once your employer has entered into a contract with Cyclescheme, you need to sign an employee hire agreement that Cyclescheme supplies.
- You visit a bike shop for a quote on a bike and accessories, which you enter into the Cyclescheme website. Cyclescheme will then invoice your company and provide you with a secure voucher which you then take back to the shop to collect the bike.
- The employer will reclaim any VAT, and the balance of the bike is deducted via salary sacrifice. In other words, you’ll get paid less for borrowing the bike and its accessories.
- The bike and goods that you choose remain the property of your employer until the hire period finishes. It should be used for work journeys at least 50% of the time, and you cannot claim expenses for business trips made using the bike.
- You’re responsible for maintaining the bike and insuring it. At the end of the loan period you’re able to pay fair market value to purchase the bike from your company.
Claiming tax expenses
Another great benefit that the goverment offers, is claiming tax expenses through your cycle to work. You can even claim mileage expenses from HMRC. Cyclists are allowed to claim 20p per mile each tax year (the tax office will want proof of your usage).
Whether you’re looking for an easier way to get to work, a day trip to the countryside, or a cross-country trek, there is a map out there to help you. Check out some of these sites for ideas: