image description

BUYING A BIKE

Buying a bike is a decision warranting some thought. Especially if you’re considering buying a bike for the first time, it can seem as if your options are nearly endless. There are many types and styles to choose from, as well as various price points to consider.

Hybrid Bikes

Use

So you’ve heard people talk about “hybrids.” But what exactly is a hybrid bike, and why would you want to ride one?

A hybrid bike is one that blends the best characteristics of both road and mountain bikes into a bike that is sturdy, comfortable and fast, and ideal for riding on streets and bike paths.

Features of a hybrid that come from mountain bikes:

  • a more upright frame, offering a more comfortable riding position
  • a stouter frame that can handle more weight — in rider and/or cargo — as well as absorb the day-in, day-out punishment of potholes, etc., that you might encounter in a commute
  • often they have a flat bar handlebar (rather than curved handlebars like a road bike)
  • slightly wider tyres for better traction and stability

Features that come from road bikes:

  • lighter rims for faster riding
  • lighter components and taller gearing for going faster

There are a few different hybrid designs out there, each suited to a different purpose. If you tend to do shorter kilometres with an emphasis on comfort, you might want to check out the Classic Hybrids or Hybrid Comfort. The suspension fork, large saddle and upright riding position provide the most comfortable ride possible.

If your rides are longer and more fitness-oriented, the Commuter Hybrid is lighter weight and more efficient. It’s built with a rigid aluminum fork to save weight and energy (suspension forks tend to bob on climbs, especially if the rider is out of the saddle), and the body position is more forward for aerodynamics and pedaling power.

Price guide

A wide range exists in Hybrid price tags but generally most Hybrids will retail from about $300 up to $1,500. Whilst you can buy a Hybrid outside of this range, you’ll find most reputable Sydney Bike stores will have a selection of good quality Hybrids within this range.

The absolute rule of thumb when it comes to forking out for your Hybrid is pay the most you can afford plus a little more. It will last longer and you’ll need less repairs in the long run. So good, entry-level hybrid bike with quality components will cost at least $400+.

Paying for a cheaper Hybrid, you’ll find this bike will not be as sturdy, as safe or as long-lasting as more expensive ones.

Spending a little more on your Hybrid will reward you with:

  • Lighter weight
  • More precise gear shifting, braking and handling
  • A more lively, responsive frame
  • Comfort features such as suspension

Setup

Wheels The wheels on a hybrid bike are a true combination of what you find on road and mountain bikes. Wider, like a mountain bike for greater stability and durability, but with a slightly higher air pressure. The higher air pressure allows them to go faster by reducing rolling resistance. Think about how a properly inflated basketball bounces compared to one that is even slightly flat. Same concept.

The rims and spokes on hybrids are lighter like a road bike, since the assumption is that you won’t be doing the rougher off-road riding that mountain biking entails.

Frame Most hybrid bike frames are made of lightweight aluminum or steel (also called “cro-moly”), due to the strength and durability the materials offers and their (relatively) low price.

Handlebars The handlebars on a hybrid are typically flat like a mountain bike, and go straight out from the stem. With a wider grip, usually about shoulder width, these handlebars allow you to sit upright and offer a better position for vision and control of the bike than the handlebars on a road bike.

Riding position Like a mountain bike, a hybrid’s design allows you to sit upright in a position offering the best control of the bike with well-placed center of gravity and in a posture that reduces strain on the neck and back.

Gears Hybrids have a wide range of gearing to allow the you to both climb hills and go reasonably fast on flats and downhills. Not usually equipped with gears in as low range as a mountain bike, the hybrid’s gearing set-up is more similar to road bikes.

Typically a hybrid bike will have either two or three chain rings in the front as part of the crank assembly (the circular part of the bike which the pedals attach to), again along the lines of what you’d find on a road bike. In the back you’ll find eight or nine gears in the cassette on the rear wheel, a combination that allows for anywhere from 16 to 27 possible gear combinations, which will account for virtually every need a hybrid rider will have in Sydney.

Pedals Basic hybrids bikes come equipped with flat pedals. This is useful if you’re the type of rider who frequently puts your feet down. Other more advanced riders may prefer cleats that allow you to secure your shoes to the pedals, but people have different levels of comfort when it comes to being fully attached to the bike given the frequent stops you might encounter riding in Sydney traffic.

Fit Using the sizing chart below you can find the right sized hybrid bike for you. You’ll need to measure your inseam measurement (inside leg from bottom of your crotch to the floor), and this will easily determine what size frame will be most comfortable for you.

Hybrid bikes are generally measured in frame size using inches, and is the distance from the center of the crank (the circular part of the bike the pedals attach to) to the top of the frame at the seat tube. The sizing chart will run a couple inches smaller than the road bike you may ride.

 

Inside leg measurement
(floor to crotch)
Approx. 77cm X Small 14 – 15inch frame
Approx. 81cm Small 16 – 17inch frame
Approx. 84cm Medium 19inch frame
Approx. 87cm Large 20 – 21inch frame
Approx. 90cm X Large 22 – 23inch frame

 

Road Bikes

Use

When thinking about the type of bike riding you’re most likely to do, if you’re going to be riding exclusively on pavement and want to go pretty fast and/or ride long distances, a road bike is probably what you want.

Designed for racing, road bikes typically have a lightweight frame designed to allow the upright rider to maintain the most aerodynamic position possible.

Price guide

If you are buying a new road bike and are reasonably certain you’re going to stick with it for a while, buy the best frame you can afford, and if you have to cut corners to save some money, do it on the components. You can always upgrade them later.

Buying a bike with a junky, heavy frame to save a few dollars will usually prove unsatisfactory, and you’ll end up buying a whole new bike later, rather than being able to improve it piece-by-piece as your desires and purse allow.

In terms of budget if we can define “entry level” as a bike that you’ll look forward to riding, will allow you to stay comfortably with a group of serious recreational cyclists on rides of say up to 60km, then such a bike will cost around $1,500 – $2,000 and weigh about 9kg. For this amount, you can expect to be well fitted to a good-value bike with which you will be happy for three or four years.

It will last much longer but typically shows most cyclists will be looking at an upgrade after about 3 years.  If you’d like something a little better, around $3,500 should buy a bike with upgraded components and weighing in at less than 8.5kg. If you’re really serious about your road cycling then the sky’s the limit with hard core riders easily spending around the $6,000 mark for a bike between 7.5kg and 8kg, and all the way up to $20,000.

Note – if you are just starting out, probably don’t start with a road bike. Until you are used to cycling and doing it regularly, you may end up (as someone I know did) buying an expensive road bike, riding it twice and never using it again. Too sad.

Setup

Wheels A road bike typically has narrow, smooth high pressure tyres that minimize contact with the road to provide the least rolling resistance possible. As these types of tyres allow you to feel each bump and pebble in the road, it’s not necessarily the most comfortable ride, but that’s not the intent.

Frame The material used in road bike frames, like most other bikes will vary depending on their cost. In general terms, the more expensive a frame is, the lighter it will be. Having a lighter bike is most important in climbing, though it also factors into downhills and riding in the flats. A heavier bike usually translates into somewhat slower times for competitive riders, though that may not be important to you.

Most entry level bikes have either steel (“cro-moly”) or aluminum frames these days, though aluminum is becoming the predominant material for basic road bike frames. There is certainly nothing wrong with either choice, but there are trade-offs. For instance, for aluminum to be strong enough to be durable over the long haul, the frame must be pretty stiff, which may translates into a slightly rougher ride. Steel may be heavier, but can flex more at the same weight, which can cushion the bumps a bit. The best way to find out which is right for you is to see if you can ride several different bikes and determine if you can tell a difference.

As the price of the road bike goes up, you’ll start to see components (such as the front fork) switching from aluminum to carbon. Finally the whole frame on higher end bikes will be made of carbon fiber, which is very strong and yet light weight at the same time. The frames on the most sophisticated and high performance road bikes are made from space age materials like titanium, which is both amazingly strong and light. Because of the expense of these materials, these bikes are probably more for the serious and competitive cyclists.

Handlebars Road bike handlebars go out straight from the stem and then curl under, allowing riders who want to go really fast to hunch over when riding at that point, in order to reduce wind resistance. This is known as going into the drops.

Riders can also sit in a more upright position, with their hands on the flat, top part of the handlebars. Typically, you’ll find both the brake levers and the gear shift levers mounted on the handlebars of a road bike for easy control.

Riding position The way a road bike is designed allows riders to bend far forward, reducing their profile and cutting down on wind resistance, along with putting them in a position to drive maximum power from their legs and hips through the pedals.

While aerodynamic, being hunched over like this for any length of time may not be the most comfortable position for some riders as it requires you to support a substantial portion of your body weight with the upper body. This can cause strain and soreness in the hands, wrists, shoulders and neck if a rider is not used to it, or is riding a bike for which they might not be properly fitted or sized.

Gears Road bikes have a wide range of gearing, with low gears that allow a rider to more easily climb steep hills up through rather high gear choices that a rider uses to go really fast.

Typically a road bike will have either two or three chain rings as part of the crank assembly (the central circular part of the bike the pedals attach to) in the front along with eight or nine gears in the cassette on the rear wheel. This combination allows for anywhere from 16 to 27 possible gear combinations.

Pedals Basic road bikes may come equipped with flat pedals. If this is the case, toe clips are usually a standard accompaniment, or may be added quite cheaply. However, cleats are frequently/usually used on road bikes, which allow the rider to clip her shoes to the pedals, providing the ability to drive the pedals through the full rotation of the circle, pulling up on the pedals during the upstroke as well as pushing them down.

Components You’ll find the components added to your road bike are pretty critical.  Components used on your bike include items such as the wheels, brakes, derailleurs (gearing system), etc and these contribute significantly to your bike’s ride quality.

Higher quality components are made from better materials, machined to closer tolerances, and have finer finishes. That means they work better and last longer. The shifting feels crisper, more precise; the braking faster and more controlled.

Fit Fit for a men’s road bike starts with standing over the bike and a good fit being one where the top tube is cleared by approximately 2.5cm to around 3.5cm. However women’s road bikes typically have sloping top tubes, so this form of measurement may not be as accurate.

For a good fit with your new road bike look at your top tube clearance as well as the additional measurements below:

Adjust the bike seat to the proper height You want to have the bicycle seat set to a height that allows your leg to extend until it is almost completely straight when you are sitting on the seat. There should be only a slight bend to the knee when your foot is on the pedal in the bottom position. The idea being this will maximise power and minimise fatigue.

A common mistake for beginners is thinking they should be able to sit on their seat and still plant their feet firmly on the ground. Riders should come off their saddles and straddle the bar when stopping the bike. If you can sit on the seat and touch your feet to the ground other than on tippy-toes, your seat is too low.

Adjust the level of the bike seat For maximum comfort and pedaling efficiency, you want your seat to be pretty much level, so that you can sit on it and pedal without having to consciously monitor where you are on the seat. Too much forward tilt, and you’ll feel like you’re sliding forward. Too much backward angle, and you won’t be able to get any power and you’ll have the sensation that you’re slipping off the back. Both of these situations are distracting and uncomfortable.

When on a road bike seat, your weight should be borne by the same spots on your rear that you feel underneath you when you sit upright on a hard firm surface. In addition to adjusting the tilt angle, you can also move the seat forward and backward in relation to the seat post. This will help make sure you’re comfortably centering your weight in the right places.

Proper handle bar adjustment The goal of handlebar height adjustment is to find the position where you can ride comfortably without putting strain on your back, shoulders or wrists. There’s a lot of personal preference here, and a fair amount of variation between body types, so don’t be afraid to experiment until you find the setting that is best for you.

With your road bike the top of the bike’s handlebars should be a bit lower than the top of the saddle, in the range of about 2.5cm to 5cm. This allows for a definite forwarding-leaning, more aerodynamic ride.

Mountain bike

Use

In thinking about the type of cycling that you want to do, if you plan to ride “off road” a lot, like using your bike to traverse through Sydney’s Royal National park or zip through uneven rocky trails, a mountain bike is probably what you want. Mountain bikes are designed for riding under more rugged conditions and typically:

  • have a stouter, more upright frame
  • have suspension
  • offer higher clearance to get over rocks, logs and through ruts, etc.
  • can take a lot of stress and abuse and still allow the rider to comfortably navigate rugged terrain and go over or through obstacles that she may encounter on the trail.

Price guide

Be sure you’ll be doing plenty of off-roading before you buy a mountain bike. If you are just going to be riding in town or on paved or hard-packed smooth, flat trails, there are better choices of bikes that will be more comfortable and serve you better, such as hybrids.

Also, beware of cheap, heavy mountain bikes sold by mass-retailers. Though they may offer snazzy-looking front and rear shock set-ups, generally these add a lot of weight to the frame, and being made from cheap components, will not last very long under any type of rugged riding conditions.

Prices for mountain bikes can start as low as $250 and easily go up to over $5,000 so there’s a significant range involved. As a general rule you should be able to pick up a good quality mountain bike for between $500 – $800.

With virtually no limit on how much money you can spend on a new mountain bike try to keep your spending under control, by figuring out what price range you’re willing to pay for your new bike and try to only look at bikes within that price range.

Setup

Wheels A mountain bike usually has wide knobby tyres offering more substantial grip and traction on a variety of surfaces, including gravel, dirt, rock and sand. Tyre pressure on mountain bikes is less than on road bikes, due to their greater volume and the better traction offered by a softer tyre. The rims and spokes on mountain bike wheels are stronger and more durable, again to handle the rougher riding that true mountain biking entails.

Frame Most entry-level mountain bike frames are steel (also called “cro-moly”), due to the strength and durability the material offers and the (relatively) low price of steel. Disadvantages of steel are its weight and that it can be prone to rusting.

As the materials get more advanced, the price increases.

Next on the ladder is aluminum, which is light and rust-proof and relatively strong, but not immune to breakage over time when subjected to repeated stress.

Carbon fiber frames, the next higher level of material, are similar to aluminum in being light, rust-proof and very strong, but also prone to breakage, but when they go it happens suddenly, and usually at the worst possible time.

Top-of-the-line mountain bike frames are made from titanium, which is super light and incredibly strong. In contrast to aluminum and carbon fiber, both of which can eventually fail over time, a titanium frame on a mountain bike will be a great choice because of its strength but comes at a high cost.

Handlebars Mountain bike handlebars are typically flat, and go straight out from the stem. With a wider grip, usually about shoulder width, these handlebars allow riders to sit upright and offer a better position for vision and control of the bike on up and down terrain.

Riding position The way a mountain bike is designed allows you to sit upright in a position that gives better control of the bike, with well-placed center of gravity and the ability to shift weight forward or back to provide balance and adjust to varying terrain.

Gears Mountain bikes have a wide range of gearing to allow them to handle a broad range of terrain. With low gears that go well below that of most road bikes, riders are more easily able to conquer steep hills. On the high end of the gear range (needed to go fast), mountain bikes have less than a road bike as rarely is there the need for fast speed. The mountain bike’s over-sized, knobby tyres are not really conducive for going lightning fast anyway.

Typically a mountain bike will have either two or three chain rings in the front as part of the crank assembly, again smaller than what you’d find on a road bike, along with eight or nine gears in the cassette on the rear wheel, many times featuring one odd-sized gear called a granny gear to help with the particularly steep climbs.

This combination allows for anywhere from 16 to 27 possible gear combinations, a range that accounts for virtually every type of terrain that a mountain bike will encounter.

Pedals Basic mountain bikes come equipped with flat pedals. This is useful if you’re the type of rider who frequently puts your feet down. Other more advanced riders may prefer to use toe clips or even cleats that allow the rider to secure her cleated shoes to the pedals, but people have different levels of comfort when it comes to being fully attached to a mountain bike given the varieties of terrain encountered and the frequent need to drop ones feet to the ground.

Fit

Use the sizing chart below to find the right sized mountain bike for you. Knowing your height and inseam measurements, you should be able to determine what size frame will be most comfortable for you. Of the two measurements, height and inseam, inseam is more important.

Mountain bikes are generally measured in frame size (inches), which is the distance from the center of the crank to the top of the frame at the seat tube.

 

Height Inside of Leg Frame Size
148-152cm 66-71 13″
153-161cm 68-74 14″
162-171cm 71-76 16″
172-176cm 74-79 18″
177-181cm 76-81 19″
183-188cm 81-86 21″
189-200cm+ 84-89 22″

This framing chart assumes your mountain bike has front suspension as opposed to dual suspension (i.e. suspension front and back for more hard core mountain terrain).

Fixies

You may have heard of the term “Fixies”.  These bikes are simply a single speed bike without gears.

Fixed gear bikes or “Fixies” are becoming more popular, and for good reason.  There are a lot of advantages to owning and using a fixed gear bike, in comparison to a more complex road, mountain or hybrid bike.

Fixed gear riders are a passionate lot and will likely fill you in on dozens of reasons why they prefer to ride fixed gear, but two of the biggest advantages tend to be:

Low maintenance A fixed gear bike is inherently simpler than most bikes you’re probably used to.  Removing the gearing system greatly improves the simplicity of the bike, thereby reducing maintenance.  A lot of time and money can be spent either repairing, maintaining, or even replacing the complicated gears on current bikes. However with a Fixie this hassle is reduced.

Smoothness and efficiency A Fixie convert will say when you’re riding a fixed gear bike, pedaling is more effective and a smoother ride is maintained.  You can also feel more connected to the ride, as coasting is removed from the equation.

A Fixie is a unique purchase and offers some distinct advantages and disadvantages:

Advantages

  • A single-speed bicycle is generally cheaper, lighter, and mechanically simpler than its multi-geared equivalent
  • Without derailleurs or other gearing systems, there are fewer parts on the bicycle that require maintenance making this type of cycle useful for city commuting in all weather
  • The efficiency of a single-speed can be greater than today’s typical multi-geared bicycles. A straight chainline, lack of chain drag and lack of chainrings, ramps and pins all improve bike performance

Disadvantages:

  • As the single-speed bicycle lacks alternative gearing ratios, it is less versatile, as it cannot be pedaled efficiently outside of its single gearing range
  • Without lower gearing options, the single speed bicycle is generally more difficult to pedal uphill
  • Conversely, its dedicated gear ratio also limits top speed, and is slower than a multi-geared bicycle on flat or descending terrain

BMX

What is BMX?

BMX is one of the fastest growing sports in Australia and stands for Bicycle Moto Cross. It is a sport where adult and child riders can compete together in organised race meetings. BMX is not only a sport for boys. Girls race as well, and enjoy competition in their own age groups.

BMX bikes have been around for many years. Despite their smallish size, these compact two-wheelers are durable and highly maneuverable sports bikes — used and loved by adults and kids. BMX bicycles come with a variety of specifications catering to the numerous different BMX events from dirt track racing to the more artistic freestyle competitions.

Construction of the BMX bike

A BMX bicycle is a small, heavy-duty kind of bike, typically coming with 20-inch wheels and robust large-cleat tyres, 50 mm in diameter. BMX bikes featuring 24-inch wheels are called “cruisers.” The head tube is steep, the handlebars are upright and relatively low, and the slim seat is positioned lower as well as farther towards the rear wheel than on a conventional bike. The overall compact design of the frame creates a low center of gravity and allows the bike to endure stunts like jumps. Furthermore, BMX bikes are usually fixed in one gear.

Buying a 2nd hand bike

Where to find second-hand bikes

As well as looking online, see if your local bike shop has trade-ins for sale. Police auctions of lost or stolen bikes can also be good sources. It helps if the bike comes from someone with some enthusiasm for cycling, or at least someone who has taken care of the bike.

Ask around and see if anyone you know is selling a second hand bike – put it on your facebook status!  Better to buy a bike off someone you know and trust who can honestly tell you about it and its history.

Feel free to buy online, but as with all things bought online it’s buyer beware…

Is it worth buying?

A bike that needs a lot of work can cost a considerable amount to get it road worthy. Worn tyres, bent cranks, buckled wheels: this all needs a considerable investment and you’re better off buying a new bike.

It pays to take care when selecting a second-hand bike.  Looked after properly, a well used older bike can be made to last for many more years.

Make sure you buy the right sized frame for you and your height – so if you are buying second hand, investigate what size bike you need first. Or buy off a cyclist who is the same height and gender as you.

Used bike checklist

When viewing a bike for sale, check its general condition: Is it looked after or rusty? Are the tyres bald and cracked or in good condition? Is the paint scuffed and the frame dented, or are there just the one or two honorable scars of a hard worked but looked after machine?

Tyres Are they well inflated? Are they bald? Are the sidewalls cracked and perished? Tyres should be inflated hard – they should barely give when you squeeze them.

Wheels Are the rims steel or alloy? Are steel rims rusty? Gripping the top of the wheel, can you wobble it from side to side?  If you can this may indicate possible bearing damage. Are any of the spokes broken? Check at the hub end. If two or more have gone, then more will be on the way out. Are any spokes slack.

Brakes Are the pads worn? Do they rub the rim? Are they scuffing the tyre? Do the pads bite on the rim almost as soon as you move the lever on the bars? Are the cables rusty and frayed, or looked after and lubed.

Headset, (where the forks and bars swivel in the frame) Do the forks revolve smoothly? When the front brake is applied, can the bike be rocked forward and backward, rocking the fork within the frame?

Chain Is it rusty? Taking the chain at the front most point of the chainring, (the cog by the pedals), can the chain be pulled nearly clear of the teeth? If so, then the chain is worn. It may have worn so badly that the sprockets are worn down also, and this is expensive to replace.

Chainwheel and sprockets If teeth have a sharks-fin appearance, reject the bike, as the whole drivetrain will be much too worn. A worn chain on a hub geared bike can often be replaced on its own. Check the derailleur chains, if it’s been left to wear out for too long you’ll need to change the whole drivetrain

Bottom bracket, (bearing in the frame between the pedals) Grip the cranks and try to rock the axle up and down and side to side. If you can hear a clicking noise, this means the bearing need adjustment or replacement. Check to see if the cranks rotate smoothly.

Pedals Do they spin smoothly? Are the ends battered? Do they rattle loosely on their spindles? When you ride the bike you may feel a rolling sensation in the ankles caused by either bent pedal spindles or bent cranks. Pedals can be replaced yet bent cranks are expensive to replace. Riding with misaligned pedals can also cause damage to the ankles and knees.

Frame and forks Looking carefully at the tubes (especially at the ends), are there dents or creases in the paint which may indicate crash damage? Reject any frame you suspect may have been bent. Similarly inspect from the front, squatting to get down to the same level as the bike, look to see if the frame twists between head tube and seat tube. While you’re there, check the forks are symmetrical, and not bent backward from a crash. Be very careful here, and if in doubt reject the bike.

Handlebars Are they bent? Rusty? Is everything attached to them firmly? Look at the stem – you do not want to see the minimum insert mark. Stand in front of the bike with your feet gripping the wheel. Try to turn the bars. They should not move easily.

Racks, mudguards, ancillaries Check everything is bolted on firmly. If not, use it as a bargaining point. Distorted or cracked plastic mudguards should be replaced for safety – they can break and jam into the tyre on the move. Racks should be firmly attached and rigid. If dynamo lights are fitted, check that they work. Does the bell work?

Saddle Is it attached firmly? Grip it and try to rock it forward and back. Is it torn or worn?