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The bicycle expert’s top tips for buying a new bike

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Updated April 29, 2020

Are you planning to spend the summer cycling round from one park to another? Maybe you're going to start cycling to work? Or is it the thought of cycling along country roads in the spring that makes you want to feel the wind in your hair (through your helmet, of course)?

Regardless of why you want to buy a new bike, you’ll quickly realise that it can be a tough decision to make. We spoke to Jonas Forss from Cykloteket, and asked him for his top tips on what you should think about before this often quite expensive purchase. Here are his top tips:

What should you think about when you’re buying a new bike?

Think about how you’re going to use your bike – what for, and on what kinds of terrain. Think through your needs and how you intend to use it. There’s a big difference between a bicycle intended for intensive exercise and a model that’s more intended as a means of transport (for shorter distances during the summer months). You also need to think of the functions that are important to you – speed, comfort, a foot brake, mudguards and a luggage carrier, whether it will stand up to year-round cycling, if it has good suspension, how heavy it is, whether you can transport children… The list is endless! And that’s before we even get to price and appearance.

How do you know the bike is the right size?

Bicycles come in several sizes (called the frame size), so it’s important to make sure you buy one that’s the right size. The bike shouldn’t feel too big or too small, and it should be easy to manoeuvre.

How much maintenance does a bicycle require?

A bicycle requires regular service, particularly if it has an external gear system. And a new bike usually needs to be serviced after three months. This is because the wires that control the gears stretch, which means your lovely new bike suddenly doesn’t change gear properly. But a quick gear adjustment usually fixes the issue. Other than that, you generally only need an annual service as long as you keep the tyres inflated and oil the chain yourself.

What type of bike should you choose if you want to...

...cycle for exercise?

You actually get exercise on all types of bicycle. But if your main focus is exercise, of course it’s more fun and more efficient if you use a bike that was built for the purpose. For example, you can run in any old trainers, but it’s much nicer and better in all sorts of ways to use a pair of real running shoes.

So you should be looking at a racer if you want to cycle on asphalt. If you want to cycle in the forest, you should instead be considering a mountain bike (MTB). And if you want to ride on both types of terrain, you should look at what are known as gravel or cyclo-cross bikes.

...commute by bike?

If you check out cycle lanes during the rush hour, the most common type of bike is a hybrid. There are lots of different hybrid bicycles you can choose from. They differ in terms of quality, riding position, performance and equipment level. But if you buy a “naked” hybrid (in other words, one without mudguards, a luggage carrier and so on), they always come with screw holes so you can add these things later if necessary.

If you want to use your commuting bike for exercise as well, you should choose a more sporty bicycle with a more angled riding position, which means you can use larger muscle groups to achieve greater speed. Consider a bike with drop handlebars. In recent years, it’s become very popular to commute using a gravel bike – which are both sporty and fast, while simultaneously being able to cope with poor quality terrain and kerbstones.

If it’s a long way to work, you’re out of condition or you don’t want to get sweaty, an electric bike can be a good choice. With an electric bike the motor helps you reach speeds of up to 25 km/h. You do have to pedal for the electric motor to help you out, though and you choose how much assistance you want using a button on the handlebars. So on the way home after a long day at work, you can turn it up to max!

How much should you spend on a bike?

A bicycle can cost everything from £50 to over £10,000. But if you're looking for a quality bike intended for its purpose and which will provide you with a reliable companion for many years, you can expect to pay the following amounts:

  • Standard bike: from £600
  • Hybrid bike: £8-900
  • Racer: £1200*
  • MTB: £1200*
  • Gravel bike: £1200*
  • Electric bike: £1800

*Starting price for beginners, where the bike does the job and is suitable for riding for exercise. More experienced cyclists who perhaps place high demands in terms of function or performance should probably count on spending a further £500. And a connoisseur or competitive cyclist much more than that.

The bicycle expert's top tips on...

...size

The size is clearly printed on the frame, and you can use an online size guide to help you.

...gears

There’s a lot of variation in the number of gears on bikes today, and how many gears there are doesn’t really have any relationship to bicycle quality. The idea with gears is for you to be able to keep up a constant pedalling speed and to be able to move faster by choosing a higher gear. More gears are useful if you’re using the bicycle for exercise, cycling longer distances (especially if the route is undulating) or cycling on varying terrain.

...brakes

If you’re used to a foot brake, it may be sensible to continue with one. The disadvantage of a foot brake is that it applies friction to the hub and consequently is braking slightly the entire time. And if your pedals are vertical, it’s more difficult to brake, which gives you low brake force.

In general, hand brakes are preferable, and they are also much more common. The disadvantage of hand brakes is that they wear out much more quickly than foot brakes. There are also poor hand brakes. A foot brake is a foot brake regardless of the bike – they feel and work in the same way, unlike hand brakes which can differ very significantly between types. The best type today is the hydraulic disc brake, where you get great brake force and a brake that will work no matter what.

So you should ideally choose a bike with disc brakes. Disc brakes work in all weathers and even if the rims are warped. They're very reliable and don't wear out the brake pads or rims as quickly as a rim brake. Hydraulic disc brakes also provide really good brake force.

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