Man peddles uphill on bike, framed by sunset

Pedal power: Your essential guide to buying a bike

Published 20th January 2023
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Are you looking for a way to get around that's eco-friendly, good for your physical and mental health, and just plain fun? Look no further than owning a bicycle!

Bikes are awesome, but they're also a complicated subject, with a lot to think about before you make your first purchase. In this article, we'll discuss why you should own a bike and the various types of bikes available. We'll also cover bike sizes and essential accessories you should consider investing in for safety and comfort. So grab your helmet and we can begin!

Why you should own a bike

Owning a bicycle can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Not only is it a great way to get around, but it also offers many physical and mental health benefits.

One of the most obvious benefits of owning a bicycle is that it’s an eco-friendly form of transportation. Bicycles don’t produce any emissions, so they don’t contribute to air pollution or global warming. Plus, they require no fuel or electricity, so you can save money on gas and electricity bills.

From a physical health perspective, cycling is an excellent form of exercise. It helps build strength and endurance while burning calories and improving cardiovascular health. Cycling also helps strengthen your bones and muscles while improving coordination and balance. And because it’s low impact, it puts less strain on your joints than running or other high-impact activities. If you're purely interested in cycling for its health benefits, then you might want to consider buying an exercise bike instead.

Mentally speaking, cycling can help reduce stress levels by providing an outlet for pent up energy and frustration. It can also help improve focus by allowing you to clear your mind as you ride along. Additionally, cycling can help boost creativity as you take in new sights and sounds while out on the road or trail.

Finally, owning a bicycle is just plain fun! Whether you’re riding around town with friends or exploring nature alone, there are countless ways to enjoy your bike – from leisurely rides to intense workouts – making it one of the most versatile forms of transportation available today!

Types of bikes

After over a century of design time, bike manufacturers have broken the original bicycle into several types. Each one has their own strengths and weaknesses. They are:

  • Mountain bikes:  Mountain bikes are ideal for off road adventures but less suited to riding on tarmac.
  • Drop bar bikes: AKA road bikes or racing bikes, drop bar bikes are really fast and light but expensive and limited to roads only.
  • Hybrid bikes: Hybrid bikes combine the features of mountain bikes and road bikes into a versatile bike that's great for riding around towns or villages.
  • Gravel bike: A sportier version of the mountain bike with slimmer wheels that's better for riding on streets.
  • Kids bikes: Children's bikes are shrunk down bikes to fit a kid's frame. They tend to be either hybrid or mountain bike designs.
  • Folding bikes: Folding bikes are small bikes that can be folded in half. You can take these on the train, so they're great for long distance commutes. Not so great for long journeys though, thanks to their size.
  • E-bikes: Short for electric bikes, e-bikes have an electric motor attached to the frame that helps you pedal up tough hills or long stretches.
  • Tandem bikes: Tandem bikes have extra long frames with two seats and two sets of pedals so that two people can ride on one bike. They're mostly designed for commuting couples and going for romantic bicycling dates.

For more information on which bike type is best for you, read our blog on the subject.

Bike sizes

Like clothing or a pair of shoes, you need to make sure that you fit your bike well, otherwise you won't be able to comfortably reach the pedals and handlebars. Thankfully, bike manufacturers know this and build their bicycles in different sizes.

Bicycle sizes are determined by the length of the frame, measured from the centre of the bottom bracket to the top of the seat tube. Generally, this measurement is given in inches or centimetres. The size you choose will depend on your height and leg length.

To find a bike that fits well, start by measuring your inseam (the distance from your crotch to the floor) with a tape measure. Once you have that measurement, you can use it to determine which size frame will work best for you.

Which frame size you want depends on which type of bike you're buying. For road bikes, the typical frame sizes are:

  • XS: 48cm
  • Small: 51cm
  • Medium: 54cm
  • Large: 56cm
  • XL: 57cm
  • XXL: 60cm
  • XXXL: 63cm
While for mountain bikes, the typical frame sizes are:
  • XS: 38cm
  • Small: 40.6cm
  • Medium: 43.1cm
  • Medium-large: 45.7cm
  • Large: 48.3cm
  • XXL: 50.8cm
  • XXXL: 53.3cm

It's important to remember that different brands may have slightly different measurements for each size. To ensure a perfect fit, make sure to read the product description, which should provide an exact frame height. Remember also that nearly every bike has an adjustable saddle, letting you change the height a little if you fall in between sizes.

Bike accessories

To make sure your bike is safe and comfortable for your ride, there are some essential accessories you should consider investing in.

How to buy a bike helmet

First and foremost, safety is key. A cycling helmet is an absolute must-have for any cyclist, no matter how experienced or inexperienced you may be. It’s important to find one that fits comfortably and securely on your head.

Any good helmet will have a tough, hard plastic shell surrounding a layer of thick foam padding and have passed rigorous safety standard checks. If you want extra protection, look for helmets with a Multidirectional Impact Protection System, or MIPS.

There are a few different helmet designs for specific cycling activities and routes. For example, mountain biking helmets tend to have extra protection at the back of the helmet and a visor at the front, while racing bike helmets are extremely lightweight and have ventilation holes to stop your head from getting sweaty. Some riders, like e-bike riders or cyclists who participate in downhill racing, might need full face protection, in which case they might want to consider a motorcycle helmet.

Other bike accessories

When it comes to other safety-first bike accessories, it’s a good idea to invest in a high-visibility vest or jacket so that drivers can easily spot you on the road. This is particularly important at night when visibility is low. For night time riding, make sure to buy some bike lights as well - that includes bike headlights, taillights and bike reflectors for your wheels. A bike lock is also essential for keeping your bike safe when you’re not riding it. Invest in a good quality U-lock or chain lock to deter thieves.

Other useful accessories include mudguards to keep splashes of mud and water off you, a kickstand for parking your bike without having to lean it against something and a bell or horn so that pedestrians know when you’re approaching. If you plan on carrying items with you while cycling, panniers or baskets can come in handy as well.

Finally, don’t forget about comfort! Investing in padded shorts and gloves can make long rides much more enjoyable. There are other kinds of cycling clothing you should invest in as well, like waterproof trousers, compression cycling tops and more.

We hope you've enjoyed reading this beginner's guide to bikes! Now you know about all of the benefits owning a bike provides, have a strong introduction to all the different types of bikes and know how to buy the right one, plus what accessories to buy. All that's left is to get out there and enjoy the freedom of cycling!

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