Often customers who are new to cycling ask us for advice on what bike they should buy, and the answer is always the same… it depends.
Those who are new to cycling or haven’t cycled in many years and are ready to ditch the car, leave the boredom and insanity of sitting in a stationary vehicle during morning rush hour all behind and embrace the true freedom of the open road are, in fact, real heros and we salute you (slow hand clap guys, well done!)
But finding out what bike to use, what accessories are needed and having extra info on the best security, road safety, weather and apparel, often opens up an encyclopedic amount of info on ‘what is best’ and can be extremely intimidating for anyone who is trying to get the most for their hard earned buck. For a new cyclist who is unsure which road to go down (sorry) in our humble experience, it is best to start simple. Ask yourself, do I need a two thousand euro bike to cycle a few kilometers into work along with full matching lycra and top end raingear? Probably not. So in order to save you from the endless conflicting information you’ll receive in a desperate attempt to get answers, we’ve made a list for our top tips on what bike to buy for your cycle commute…
A budget is every bike buyers number one guide. A good quality bike that has decent parts and is certain to survive through the toughest winter day is a good start for every buyer. There are many, many brands offering reasonable bikes for low to medium end budgets and most are tried and tested machines that will have good reviews online and from owners and sellers alike. There tons out there, and often many come with similar parts, styles and dimensions, but for a novice buyer it’s difficult to tell each one apart.
Bikes that are too cheap to be true (stolen) or generic brands sold in large outlets tend to be rubbish and will most likely develop problems early on. A good quality bike right now in the year 2015 in Dublin, in Ireland, begins at around €400 euro. It’s a lot of cash but think about it; you’re saving money on fuel, bus fares and you can be confident in the engineering you have to rely on to get you to and from work everyday. Remember, with everything in life, you get what you pay for. There’s no real ‘discount bike’ or magic formula to getting something cheaper but still good quality. Essentially, bike buying is simple, spend more and you’ll get a better bike.
*Bike2work – Remember all workers who pay prsi/paye are entitled to bike2work scheme which give you huge discounts so make sure to factor this into your cost.
No.2 Distance and Terrain
Ask yourself: What will I mostly be using the bike for an what distance will I be covering?
If you are reading this we are under the impression you want a nice bike to commute to work safely and swiftly and don’t want something that will be stolen or fall apart. Fair enough, nobody wants to be let down by a new bike and have to walk home after a long day pushing pencils. Most commuter bikes such as hybrids, or single speeds, are great for short to medium distances with mixed terrain. If your daily commute involves mostly flat smooth tarmac (where do you live!?) or like the rest of us mortals involves going over potholes, broken glass, wet leaves, dirty rubbish-filled cycles tracks, and down a gravel driveways, you might want to consider something a bit more robust. (We’ll get to which bike in a sec.)
If you are using multi modes of transport to get to work such as car, bus, train but also need a bike, consider a folding bike for shorter distances that you can pack away easily – see our article on why choosing a folding bike for more.
A new fancy expensive bike badly locked or parked in a vulnerable area is a every bike-thief’s dream. Bikes can be ‘relatively’ easy to steal and easy to sell on, so you can’t leave it up to magic fairies to protect your bike from the big bad world. Make sure you have a secure location to store your bike in work and at home, or at the very least, secure on the street. If your job comes with a bike bay in secure carpark with security cameras and a burly security guard watching over them then you can pretty much chill.
However, if you must lock your bike on the street or in a public bike bay then you have to consider whether it is worth buying a expensive and ridiculously fancy bike that will be tested by the elements (rain eating away at your metal joints) and sticky handed bike thieves lurking about every day. Buying the right lock really matters, but also locking it right and in the right location. If your work has an infamous history of bikes being stolen outside its doors then park it somewhere safer and buy a few different locks too. For more on bike security see our amazing video we did.
4. Size Matters
Yes, really, the right size matters. A bike that is either too small or too large will stretch and bend your riding position and riding will quickly become uncomfortable and may cause you injury in the long run. If you have chosen a specific bike take a look at the brand’s specifications on sizing, but if doing this is enough to to put you off altogether then just ask your local bike shop to measure you up.
So which bike should I buy? Here’s a little on each of the different types:
Hybrids are flat bar bikes that are a cross between a road bike and a city bike. They have skinny tyres for speed but have a less aggressive seating position so you can cruise down the street with ease. Not as fast as a road bike but generally more comfortable and probably the most common commuter bike on the road these days. They can come with discs brakes, panniers, baskets and are pretty versatile for all conditions.
Road bikes come with drop bars and are built for speed. For commuting, they are great for those who are covering longer distances and will double up as your weekend lycra warrior bike for Sunday morning climbs. They are very light and built for for travelling on nice smooth-as-a-baby’s-bum tarmac, so can be slippery on wet roads and are fairly fragile against potholes and glass.
RARR! A mountain bike is built for, well, mountain biking and can take serious abuse along rocky trails. But that doesn’t mean you can’t stick some road tyres on them and use it for commuting ( with a guarantee you getting to work without fear of any salacious terrain.) Extremely sturdy and the upright position makes them fun to ride, however, with cheaper models, this also makes them slow and heavy.
Single Speed Or Fixed Wheel Bikes
Single speeds and fixed wheel track bikes are soooo mainstream now ( I remember when they were cool) that you don’t have to worry about looking like a twat anymore. In fact, for an all rounder city, leisure and commuter bike these are perfect. They are really fun, light, low maintenance and budget friendly. They are the ideal bike for commuting as long as you don’t have any serious hills or climbs ( there’s only one gear.)
Lastly, cycling for the first time can be a little scary and a lot of bike shops out there may be intimidating for a novice buyer. But don’t fear, most of us who work in the industry are happy to share our enthusiasm for cycling and will dispense advice liberally – whether you need it or not. Remember a bike is a personal thing, and we all have our particular individual wants from each lump of metal we buy (I simply must have a comfy saddle!). In the end, buy the bike that fits you, your budget and feels comfortable. Don’t buy unnecessary accessories if you don’t want or need them. But don’t be afraid to adjust or add the bits that make it work better for you, because as someone probably great once said, ‘you can’t buy happiness but you can buy a bike, and that’s pretty close.’
*BTW Ireland’s Cycle to Work scheme only allows for purchases of new bikes and accessories. Here at TBI we’ve got bikes for all budgets and offer 3 years servicing on all new sales! Wowser!