The bike-buyers guide – our two-wheeled tips

Goodbye bus fares, hello exercise-on-the-go. Bikes aren’t just an easy, eco-friendly way to get around, they can be money-saving wonders. But you’ve got to speculate to accumulate, so here’s our guide to buying the right bike, at the right price, from the right place. With bells on.

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Have a style of bike in mind

You wouldn’t try running a marathon in diving flippers, right? By the same logic, shop for a bike that’s right for the kinds of journeys you’ll be taking. If it’s for city commuting, you might go for a touring bike or a hybrid bike. But if your route includes longer, out-of-town roads you might opt for a road-racing bike.

Is part of your journey by train? Then have a look at folding bikes. Or if you’ll be mostly pottering around town at a leisurely pace, a roadster or vintage single-speed bike could be all you need. Of course, the shop staff can advise you, but if you have a rough idea before you go you’ll be more likely to ride home on the right bike.

This visual guide by Bikesoup is a great place to start researching what you might want.

Know what you want to spend

According to website The Cycling Experts, most new bikes that cost under £200 aren’t worth having. That may just be the enthusiast’s view, and of course it depends what you’re planning to use the bike for – a cheaper model might do for rare trips to the park. However much you’d like to spend (and top-end bikes can go up to the thousands), the most important thing is that you can afford it. If you can save the full cost in advance, great (B’s Saving Pots are handy for that), but if you can’t there are options.

If the company you work for is in the Workplace Bikes scheme, your employer could buy a bike for you, then recoup the cost from your salary over an agreed period of time – and you won’t pay any tax or National Insurance on it. The Cycling Experts site also supports the ‘Ride it Away’ cycling finance initiative, through which certain specialist bike shops offer a retail finance deal. It’s worth looking into, but make sure you scour the small print before you sign up!

“Good bike shops will be more than happy to let you test ride before you buy.”

Hang out in bike shops

Well, sort of. We’re not suggesting you make yourself at home in a busy bike shop on a Saturday afternoon, rather that you visit a few different shops before you choose where to buy your bike from. Some places will specialise in particular types of bikes for experienced riders, and therefore might not be the best people for a beginner to talk to.

The best thing to do is test the water with a few different shops – sound out the friendliness of the staff, how confident they are in answering your questions and if they offer any after-sales care. Once you have a feel for the right place, you can go back with your official customer head on.

Get in the saddle

Look for a bike shop that will let you test ride before you buy. You might have to leave ID or a credit card with them while you’re away (which is fair enough really), but it’s vital to make sure the bike is comfortable and suits your cycling style.

The staff should set up the bike for you before you head off (things like seat and handlebar height), and your first test should be to stand over the bike and check your ‘clearance’ from the frame. If it’s too high, it’s a no-no, but too low is no good either (make like Goldilocks and be sure it’s “just right”).

Once you’re on the move, test the bike on the different types of surfaces you might be riding on. Can it handle cobbled alleys? Dodgy, cracked pavements? Do the gears change smoothly? Do the brakes feel solid enough on downhills? You don’t want to bring the thing back in bits, but you do want to put it through all the paces before you commit to taking it home.

This blog is a bit of fun and not intended to influence your decisions in any way. The content of the blog is reliable at the time of publishing, but we can’t guarantee that it is neither error nor omission free, beyond our knowledge. The links are there for you to explore if you wish, but we don’t have any connection with the third party sites, nor responsibility for them or their content.