Bicycle Buying Guide

For keeping fit, family fun or a low-cost method of transport, you can't beat two wheels! Bikes can be as simple or as sophisticated as you wish, depending on your budget. Before you invest, discover how to choose your perfect bike with the features that are best for you.

Children's Bikes

When buying bicycles for children, much of the same advice applies as for adult bikes. The main difference is that of course, children grow quickly and so any bicycle will probably only last 2 or 3 years.

For small children, look for models with stabilisers which will help the child to learn to ride without fear of falling over. Stabilisers can be removed whenever the child is ready to learn to ride a bike properly.

When buying a bicycle for a child, you will probably need to consider wheel and frame height first - then check that your selected size option is suitable when at its lowest height. Ideally choose a bicycle that fits the child when the seat and handle are set low, then you can always adjust the heights upwards to fit their growing frame.

It still makes sense to buy the best you can afford - although the child is likely to outgrow their bike before any wear and tear takes effect, it is possible that a younger child in your family could make good use of it.

Baby & Toddler Bikes And Trikes

For babies and toddlers, a first bike or trike can give a first taste of the freedom and fun of cycling.

There are a number of styles and options, including bikes and trikes with parent push-handles, which allow the bike or trike to be pushed along while the little one is learning. These bikes usually feature a secure safety harness, and often have a removable outer frame to stop them from tipping over to one side or the other. This provides extra re-assurance for parents of very small toddlers. Often, the pedals on toddler bikes with handles can be set so that they do not rotate, allowing the child to be simply strapped into the bike or trike seat and pushed along.

As the child grows and becomes more confident, the outer frame can be removed, the pedals activated, and the parent handle can be detached, allowing greater independence.

Another alternative, balance bikes are a simple style of bicycle for small children, without pedals, designed to be pushed along by the toddler using their legs - this helps them to understand balance, and can provide a good starting point for learning to ride a 'big bike' later on.

Adult Bikes

You have plenty to consider when buying a bicycle for an adult. As with many things, it is better to buy a bicycle at the top end of your budget: for a bike that lasts, get the best you can afford. Size matters, so when buying, consider the height and frame of the main user. Wheel and frame sizes vary across different models, so there are plenty to choose from, whatever your size and shape.

Your main consideration when buying is the type of use the bike is going to be used for. There are different types of bicycle designed for different types of use - for example, mountain bikes are designed for rough terrain, whereas road bikes are designed for reaching higher speeds, on smoother road surfaces or tracks. Other types of bike have very specific purposes, such as BMX bikes, designed primarily for stunts. Depending on the type of bike you are looking at, there are a few other things to consider before buying:

  • Adjustable seats and handlebars - for finely tuning the bike set-up to match your frame, most bikes have seats and handles which can be height adjusted. For road cycling, if you wish to travel at high speeds, you may wish to set the seat a little lower in order to improve aerodynamics.
  • Drop handlebars are a feature available on road bicycles, which allow you to vary the handlebar position for a comfortable ride at varying speeds.
  • Weight - a light weight frame is usually found on road bikes, helping the bicycle to travel smoothly at high speeds. Mountain bikes tend to be heavier and more robust, this makes them better able to deal with rough terrain, bumps and jumps.
  • Gears - a bike with more gear ratios enables you to control the precise pace, allowing you to smoothly change from one pedalling pace to another and reach top speed with less hard labour.
  • Suspension - this can be an important factor, especially on mountain bikes. Good suspension helps maintain stability and balance, and protects you from the impact of lumps and bumps. More shock absorption also means you need to pedal harder, so on mountain bikes, you can choose between full suspension (front and rear) or a bike with suspension only at the front (hard tail) for improved performance.

Electric Bikes

An environmentally friendly electric bike is an affordable option if you are considering buying a bike as a method of transport. An electric bike has batter power to give you extra power when pedalling, helpful if you need to travel long distances. Electric bikes can also give you a boost of power whenever you need it, great for uphill stretches and for setting off at junctions without causing delays to the traffic around you.

Exercise Bikes

If you love cycling, or enjoy the fitness levels that regular cycling can sustain, but you do not have the time or the opportunity to get out on your bike you could consider an exercise bike - all the fun of cycling in front of the TV!