The first thing you must ask yourself is - what are you going to use the bike for?
The kind of bike you will need will depend on the environment you are riding in, is it going to be a bike only used in prestine conditions or is it going to be a work horse used for commuting during the week and long rides in all weather conditions at weekends? If you're riding in all kinds of weather then the best all-round road bikes are the disc brake version, as they’re better than normal calliper wheel rim brakes and will result in less wear and maintenance.
Once the type of bike has been decided it is time to set yourself a budget, this is important as it’s easy to overspend! The normal budget for a first bike is £1000 or under, but don’t worry, there are some good ones in this price bracket. Here are some examples from 2018
When looking for bikes it’s always good to look at reviews as this can help steer you in the right direction for choosing the correct bike. The time of year is also a good factor to consider as you may be able to get a bargain in the shops as the new models are coming out.
1. Disc Brakes
You have two types of disc brakes, cable and hydraulic. Hydraulic is the more expensive option, but you won’t get cable drag caused by corroding cables and dirt, as Hydraulic brakes are designed to use brake fluid. So, it’s a good option to select especially if you will be using it day-to-day in all kinds of weather, as there is no need to worry about keeping those cables lubricated. You will also have a much more responsive feel as opposed to the cable disc version.
Cable disc brakes are cheaper in price, but this comes with some drawbacks. As they usually make use of just a cable in order to brake, their performance can be affected by dirt, so if you are commuting everyday then cable disc brakes probably won’t be the right choice for you.
There is not a big price difference between disc brakes and callipers. The disc brakes version can come up a bit more expensive, but not a massive amount, all depending on what level of group set you have and it can be around the same when buying a complete bike, just surf the net and compare the two.
Kit you need to get yourself up and running:
2. Crash Helmet
It’s very important you get the right size! If you haven’t worn one before then just ask for help in the shop. There are a lot of helmets out there, some designed to be more aerodynamic, with more air flow. There are so many to choose from, but they all look and feel different when you try them on - It’s all about it being comfortable. Heads are all different shapes and sizes so, until you try it on, you don’t know if it’s going to be correct.
Never buy a second-hand helmet, unless you know it hasn’t been dropped or abused, as it may have been weakened, age can weaken crash helmets too. The best option is to buy new, as a lot of helmet supplier’s do a crash replacement which is normally half the price of purchase and includes a warranty. Cheaper helmets tend not to fit so well, so it’s worth spending at least £90 or more, or pick yourself a bargain in the sale. You can also look at what the riders are wearing in the cycling on TV as this gives you an idea of what they look like and they are mostly all available to buy. At the end of the day a helmet is there to protect your head!
It’s said you should change your helmet between 3 and 5 years if it’s been well looked after. It’s worth checking every now and then that it’s in good order.
3. Cycle shoes and pedals
Shimano and Look are the main brands of clipless pedals. It is the most efficient way to pedal and it doesn’t even take that long to get used to.
Cycle shoes tend to vary in price. The cheaper shoes seem to be heaver and when riding in the heat they can get hot. It’s like buying a pair of shoes – if you’re on your feet all day then you need something comfortable and suitable for the environment you’re in. So, once again, it’s very important to go to a shop to try these on because the different brands (like with running shoes) can vary in the shape of the shoe, for example wide fit and slimmer fit. Your cycle shoes must not be too tight fitting as when climbing and it’s warm, your feet swell, and you get what is commonly called “hot foot”. So, look for a shoe that has a good system to release the pressure of the shoe.
4. Clothing – winter/summer
It is very important to have the right clothing for all weathers so I have put a small list below of the essentials, obviously there are some kit suited for warmer, drier weather and then there are those suited to some of the worst weather winter can throw at it.
- Padded cycle shorts and longs
- Fingerless mitts and gloves
- Cycle jersey and winter jersey
- Rain mac
- Glasses to protect your eyes from UV rays and objects
- Arm warmers, leg warmers and gilet
5. Maintenance kits
There are some great cycle tool kits out there, with all the tools you need to do your own maintenance, and not at silly prices. In the long run it will save you a fortune as opposed to taking it to your local bike shop.
The best way to get instructions for that is from YouTube where there are loads of videos on bike maintenance. It’s surprising how easy some things are to fix on a bike, once you have seen how it’s done, and you can keep playing it back or pausing it. A bike stand is a great tool to have as it stops you from damaging your bike when working/cleaning and just general maintenance, you can also get fold-away versions as well.
I get asked this question sometimes: Is it a good idea to buy a frame, then build the bike yourself?
Unless you have some parts already it’s very hard to beat the prices of an already manufactured/built bike, when you add it up. Also, you have the warranty of the complete bike to fall back on if there is a problem. But if you have bought a complete bike and, in the future, you want to upgrade parts, i.e. wheels, then this would be the best way to upgrade.
How to get fit before getting your bike
There are a few great ways to adapt your fitness to riding a bike and getting used to the clip in pedals, before embarking on some epic rides. A great one, which now is at most fitness centres, is spin classes and a lot of spin bikes have clip in pedals, so you can take them along. Another is a turbo trainer, which is a static bike trainer. You have basic turbo trainers at a nice basic price (around £100), moving up to the high-end turbo trainers (around £1300). Turbo trainers are great as you can use them in your home when time is limited. Also, if you get a smart trainer you can use your Swift or Tacx virtual training on your bike.