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Choosing the Right Bike

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 9 Dec 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Choosing A Bike Road Bikes Off-road

Making sure that you choose the right bike can make all the difference between you enjoying lots of pleasurable cycling experiences and being put off cycling for life and with so many choices out there it isn’t easy.

Many people enjoy the freedom that comes with mountain biking and other forms of ‘off-road’ cycling, and providing your bike is comfortable, safe and is well maintained, you’ll get a lot of mileage out of it.

What Type of Bike Should I Choose?

Bikes are similar to cars in that some perform better than others over different types of terrain so it’s important to determine the kind of cycling you think you’re going to enjoy best and/or be doing the most of before you decide to buy. Some people will require a frame that needs to carry a heavy load, for example, if you’re going to be using it for road camping expeditions and others will be more suited to mountain biking and other forms of off-road cycling where you’ll need larger tyres and more gears to cope with the often rocky and undulating terrain.

Contrary to popular belief, you’ll encounter many road bikes even in mountainous areas. Wherever a road winds through a series of hills or mountains, road cycling is just as equally popular an activity as mountain biking up in the hills.

What are the Specifications and Differences Between Road Bikes and Off-Road Bikes?

If you’re using your bike predominantly on a smooth, even road, you’ll tend to buy ones with more streamlined tyres as you don’t need the heavy duty treaded variety to bite into soft, muddy ground. Often with road bikes, the ultimate objective is to get from point A to point B in the quickest possible time but because the wheels are thinner, the lack of cushioning means that they are not quite as comfortable to ride in general as other types of bike and are built more for speed.

Many companies have developed a bike which features aspects of both mountain bikes and road bikes. These are not designed for rugged cross country terrain but are ideal if you want to combine road cycling with cycling in the countryside, perhaps along canal towpaths or on forest cycle trails, for example.

Mountain bikes come with the highest suspension levels, thicker, deep tread tyres and highest quality of braking and steering performance to cover all types of terrain. Whilst they won’t perform as fast on the road as a dedicated road bike, they make a good all-round choice for the cyclist who’s not too sure what type of cycling they’d prefer as they are pretty adaptable to all types of surfaces generally.

Where Should I Buy a Bike?

So many places sell bikes these days, even some local supermarkets. However, although you may be able to pick up a bargain in a general department store or even buy one off the internet, it’s wiser to buy from a reputable, specialist cycle dealership if you’re serious about road cycling or mountain biking. You may end up paying a bit more but you’ll reap the benefit of the staff’s knowledge and expertise. They’ll ask you what kind of cycling you intend doing the most and offer you some suggestions based around your needs and, of course, your budget. They’ll also ensure that the size of your bike is correct to suit you specifically and will be able to answer most of your questions and offer you good advice. Their bikes will also tend to come from the better manufacturers who specialise in cycling.

How Much Will I Pay?

You’ll no doubt have seen newspaper advertisements offering brand new mountain bikes for under £50 and they might be all you need for the kind of cycling you’re doing. However, at the top end of the scale, competitors can pay anything up to a couple of thousand pounds for a high-performance bike. Usually, however, a good, solid mountain bike can be bought from around £200 and up and a good road bike from about £300. It’s worth paying a little extra to get a bike that’s comfortable and suited to your own comforts and needs.

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