Choosing the right bike for you

23 August 2012

To the uninitiated, the world of cycling can be an overwhelming jumble of jargon and foreign equipment.  However, armed with some information, anybody can find the bike that is right for them.

To begin with, think about what you will mainly use the bike for.  If you intend to use your bike to meander to the shops in theCruiser bike weekend or do a gentle commute to work, consider a lifestyle bike such as a cruiser or fitness bike.  These are typically built with comfort in mind with a few gears to handle slight gradients and the saddle and handlebars are designed so you are riding in an upright position.  You won’t win any races but cycling will be a joy and with a few simple additions, such as a basket or pannier bags, you can generally use your bike for shopping too!

Mountain bikeFancy getting a bit dirty? A mountain bike may be your bicycle of choice.  Mountain bikes are created for off-road cycling, which can include traversing dirt trails and steep hills.  These bikes are designed to withstand the stress of hard work and the tyres are usually wide with a knobbly tread for good traction on uneven surfaces.  Similarly, most modern bikes are fitted with front and rear suspension so when you are riding over difficult terrain, your body doesn’t cop most of the jarring. Mountain bikes can also be ridden on the road so they make an excellent choice for most situations.

Considering giving road cycling a go or perhaps getting involved in triathlons or events that involve road cycling?  You  may want toRoad bike think about investing in a road bike to make the ride easier.  There are race and endurance bikes that fall under the road bike banner.  Race bikes are designed to win races and therefore, they are made so that the rider is in a streamlined position, the frame is light and the tyres are narrow with little tread for less resistance on the road.  Endurance bikes are more comfortable and stable than race bikes with a longer wheelbase and taller handlebars so the rider is in a more natural position. There are also multisport and triathlon varieties with slight differences to offer reduced wind resistance.

You may have seen teenagers zooming around on bikes with small wheels, especially around inner-city skate parks.BMX  These are
typically BMX bikes, which were designed to combine dirt biking and motocross during the 1970s in the United States.  BMX is a standalone sport but the bikes can also be used for casual cycling to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’.

Electric bikeElectric bikes, also known as ‘e-bikes’ have surged in popularity over the last decade.  An e-bike is a normal bicycle with an electric motor that is powered by rechargeable batteries that can be switched on when the cyclist needs some help.  In New Zealand, these bikes are legally classed as an ordinary bicycle rather than a motorcycle and therefore, it is not necessary to register them.  Users of electric bikes love that they have all the usual advantages of an ordinary bike in terms of fuel and parking savings, no CO2 emissions and exercise benefits, but the motor can be kicked in to gear to help when there are more difficult hills to climb or heavy loads to carry.

If your commute means a combination of cycling and maybe some form of public transport, consider looking at a folding bikeFolding bike These are bicycles that are designed to fold into a compact form and then can be carried easily by the cyclist.  They are also great for storing in small living spaces such as apartment, or taking in a car, boat or plane.  Depending on what other factors may affect your decision, there are many different styles of folding bikes to choose from – for example, you may want one that will fold quickly, or speed may be more important to you.  Either way, a folding bike could revolutionise your travels and make for some interesting conversations!

If you are looking for a bike for a child, here are some tips to help make sure their cycling experience is more fun (and safer!):

  • buy a bike that suits the child’s height, skills and riding experience Children's bike

  • the child’s toes should be able to touch the ground when they are sitting on the saddle

  • the handlebars should be at seat level or above

  • make sure the brakes are appropriate – back pedal brakes may be better than hand brakes for very young children with small hands

  • consider buying a bike with training wheels, as this will help them learn to balance

  • start very young children on a balance bike, which has no pedals and allows them to move forward using their feet.  This is an excellent way to develop their balancing skills.

A guide to children's bike sizes:

AgeChild's heightBike wheel size
2 - 5 years66 - 86 cms12 inches
4 - 8 years86 - 106 cms16 inches
6 - 9 years106 - 122 cms18 inches
8 - 12 years122 - 142 cms20 inches
Youth142 - 158 cms24 inches

If you are interested in any of the above options, we recommend you pop down and talk to your local cycle shop.  The people who work there should have a wealth of knowledge and also be able to measure you to advise which size bike would suit you best, no matter which design you end up choosing.  While you are there, ask them to either check your helmet or recommend a new one to make sure it fits properly.  This way you will be safe and secure in the knowledge that your bike and helmet are just right for you. 

Happy pedalling!