Inspired by the London to Brighton bike ride? Upcoming Tour de France? The good weather?
Whatever the reason you’ve decided to start cycling. If you’ve not ridden a bike since you were a kid, be warned - things have changed.
Let's start with the good old bicycle. It's still got a saddle and 2 wheels. The difference? Mostly the price. And cycling itself. It's not just about getting from A to B anymore; it's become a lifestyle choice. All of which can make your new hobby intimidating. But follow these suggestions and I can guarantee that grin you wore on your face as a kid racing your mates home from the park will be back.
1. First choice – what kind of cyclist are you going to be? That's a whole article in itself so I’m going to assume that Bradley Wiggins's exploits have got your attention. So it's Road Cycling we’re talking. There's an argument as to whether it really is all about the bike but it's a good place to start.
2. Before we charge off to Halfords we need to set a budget. Yes you can get a new road bike for £130 but realistically you need to spend a bit more, not necessarily a lot more (although you can). Set a budget of £600 if possible – look at it as an investment. If you can’t stretch to that then there are some great or second hand deals on Gumtree or eBay (NB. If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is and it’s probably a stolen bike!)
3. If you have one, head to your local bike shop (“LBS”). Although Halfords and the other national chains such as Evans Cycles and Cycle Surgery are great, establishing a good relationship with your LBS will pay dividends - like when you need a quick repair or a gear tune. Before you venture through their doors, do some research first, browse in the window. What brands do they carry? Do they get good customer service reviews? And check their pricing versus online retailers.
If it's a good LBS then they should be welcoming and helpful and not make you feel like you should be buying a bike with stabilisers and tassels on the handlebars. If they do, take any advice you can get then walk out, this might not be the right LBS for you - it's going to be an important relationship so it should feel right from the off.
What you should be getting is a listening ear and some good advice to steer you towards the right bike at the right size for you. You don’t get that help and advice online. LBS don’t make big mark ups on bikes so don’t expect a big discount – unless you try them at the end of the season. As a general rule you’re more likely to get discounts on kit like helmet, pump and gloves rather than the bike – so push for deals on these.
4. For your first bike, be conservative with your choice. This is the bike to experiment with and see if cycling is for you, not make an expensive mistake. Go for an aluminium frame with the best wheels and components you can afford rather than a carbon frame with entry level components. When choosing between brands at the same price-point, a big well-known brand will generally build a bike with a good quality frame but lower spec components versus a less well known or new brand that will throw higher-spec components on a frame that might not have an established pedigree to get your attention.
5. Now it’s up to you. Make that investment and hit the road. Start exploring your local area in a way you just can’t do in a car. Turn down quiet lanes, pause at the top of a climb to check the view, before rediscovering your inner thrill-seeker by letting loose on the descent.
Be prepared to get addicted to the feeling of freedom and the sense of adventure that you may not have experienced since you were thirteen!
by Jessica Ward
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