How to choose a new bike
Buying a new bike is a major decision – and making the right choice can be the difference between years of happy riding, and purchasing a little used, very expensive clothes hanger or dust gatherer. Careful consideration and following a few simple steps could help ensure you enjoy your new steed – here’s our advice.
1) Choose the bike with purpose in mind
There are endless styles of bike available, and they each excel at different tasks.
Mountain bikes are broken into 26”, 650b, 29” wheel sizes – larger wheels for fast rolling, smaller wheels for light weight, then there are full suspension options for technical trails, and hardtails for fast, light speed focused rides over simpler terrain.
Road bikes can be sportive focused, often with disc brakes and fantastic for all year riding, or racey machines with integrated brakes and aero wheels for a little added speed and a lot of extra money. Singlespeeds are great for low maintenance riding, if you live somewhere flat.
For an all purpose, on and off road ride, a cyclocross bike could be for you, though if speed and drop handlebars aren’t high on your list, the humble hybrid may be the perfect match.
Begin the search by establishing what you want the bike for – commuting, sportives, off-roading, or a bit of both – and then look for a machine that ticks the most boxes.
2) Pick your moment
The bike industry had a strange approach to production. ‘Next year’s’ model bikes tend to arrive in autumn/winter before the year begins – for example 2015 bikes will begin to land in September 2014. In some cases, the new model will be drastically different, and bike magazines and websites often announce this with detailed reviews and exciting headlines about new technology.
In many cases, however, the bike is very similar, with a new paint job and some slightly different spec. If nothing strikes you as hugely different about the new model, you’ll probably be better saving a few quid on ‘last years bike’, which will no doubt be reduced.
Autumn really is the smart shoppers time to buy a bike. Reductions continue until the warehouses are free of all of ‘last year’s’ bikes, but sizes will become sparse if you wait too long.
The average bike buyer takes three months to ‘think about’ buying a new bike – reading magazine reviews, customer reviews, and comparing spec. Don’t feel you’re delaying purchase by taking the time to research.
Magazine reviews are helpful, but remember if the bike has been reduced in a sale the review may read more favorably at the new price.
Customer reviews are helpful, but remember the reviewer may not be an expert – ‘clunking gears’ may simply mean they don’t know how to adjust them, and ‘frequent punctures’ could mean they aren’t repairing them properly.
Reviews are a useful source of information, but add a pinch of salt, and form your own opinion based on spec for the price, and a test ride.
4) Choose a retailer
Buying online is an option, but it means a test ride involves taking advantage of a store you don’t plan to buy from, and advice after sale is harder to obtain. Bear in mind buying from a retailer with shops gives you access to mechanical advice, and many will match online prices if you ask.
Should anything go wrong, you’re going to have to come back to this company, so choose a shop that you expect to have good aftersales. Though manufacturers usually deal with warranty issues, it will be the shop that gets in touch, so choose a team you trust.
A free 6-week check up is a good additional service to look for. After 6 weeks, a new bike tends to need the hand of a mechanic – new cables begin to stretch and wheel spokes can need tensioning. Unless you can do these jobs at home, pick a shop that offers this.
5) Test ride and get set up
Never buy a bike without a test ride, unless you’re absolutely sure, for example you are replacing an existing bike like for like or have ridden a friends identical model.
Sizing charts only give you part of the truth – geometry makes a few difference, so one bike may have a short top tube that makes you feel scrunched up, whilst a rival brand you’d never considered could be perfect. Also remember that one brands “54” is not the same as another’s “54” – as they measure from different parts of the bike.
A test ride is also a perfect time to have an experienced fitter look at you on the bike and get the saddle height and fore/aft adjustment correct. Being comfortable on a bike is key to getting the miles in, and a few alterations can make all the difference.
At this point, ask someone in the shop to take a photo of you on the bike, or ideally a video of you riding it on a turbo trainer – that way you can show any experienced friends you have the footage and ask their unbiased opinion on how the bike fits.
After the test ride, reserve the bike if you like it, but leave it in the store and don’t make a sudden decision.
6) Think about it
With all your research done, a quality retailer chosen, and the bike test ridden, give yourself a couple of days to think. Don’t feel pressured into a quick decision.
If you’re not sure, try another bike – there are endless options available, so there is no reason to limit yourself. If after all this, you’ve got no nagging concerns, go back and buy the bike – and roll away knowing you’ve made a decision that will keep you rolling for many happy miles.