So you’re ready to take up biking outdoors. But when it comes to picking the right equipment, you’re not quite sure where to start.
But fret not! Help is at hand thanks to the experts. Here, Alex Silva, category manager of cycling, water, consumables and action sports at UAE-based store Adventure HQ gives us his top tips on how to choose the perfect bike.
1. ESTABLISH A BUDGET, BUT BE PREPARED TO REVISE IT
Most of the time, beginners find it difficult to estimate how much a bike will cost. You might have a value in mind – and granted, you may be able to buy a bike on that budget – but sometimes [that value] won’t be enough for your riding requirements.
So set up a realistic budget for a decent quality bike and allow that budget to go up (or down) slightly to make sure you get what you need.
Just don’t go too overboard – don’t let an eager salesman to make you spend twice as much if you don’t need it at this stage.
And don’t forget to include in your budget accessories like spare tubes, mini pump, small tool, helmet, gloves, lights, shorts and jersey. Depending on your riding these will be more or less important.
2. WHAT IS YOUR BIKE’S PURPOSE?
What do you want to do with your bike? Do you want to just have some fun and get fitter or do you want to race or ride with friends who are fitter and more experienced? And where will you be riding? Around the community – on paved roads or gravel – or hard and technical off-road? If you know these answers, then you can get good advice from a bike shop or make your own educated choice.
For fitness and commuting, a hybrid or a city bike are the best. For gravel and smooth off-road you’ll be fine with a hardtail mountain bike (front suspension only).
For technical and hard or rocky off-road biking, you will benefit from a full-suspension mountain bike with decent specifications.
Remember that hard terrain and fast descents require good quality gears, suspension and braking, so that you don’t lose control in adverse conditions.
If you plan to ride on smooth tarmac, opt for a road bike. They vary; some are more comfortable – for beginners and long rides – called ‘endurance’. Others are ‘aero’, suitable for fast riding, shorter distances. Then there’s the traditional all-rounder bike, which offers a good compromise between comfort, speed and climbing ability.
3. DETERMINE WHERE YOU WILL BUY FROM
You could buy online, but I don’t recommend this for a beginner, as you will not get any advice or after-sales support, plus the logistics can be quite a challenge. You will also need some accessories, and buying online could mean selecting parts that may not be compatible with the bike.
Large outlets can be a good choice as staff have knowledge, and the prices are competitive. There are hundreds of brands in the market, some without proper quality control, so stay away from brands that don’t have a proper website as they could be just a generic brand made with very cheap parts.
The best place to get a good bike and good advice, of course, are the specialist bike shops. Staff will help you choose the right bike if you provide your requirements, and the price range is normally very broad so you will find what you need to start. All purchases come with a warranty, after-sales service, maintenance and some advice on the riding position (saddle height, bar reach... etc.). Bikes have sizes, so it’s very important you get the right size for you.
You could buy second hand. Sometimes it’s better to buy a good second hand bike than an average new bike. If properly maintained, bikes with good components will always perform better than newer bikes with cheaper components. Just make sure you buy from someone you know and try to get some history on the bike. A crash – especially on carbon frames and parts – may cause a structural failure in the future.
4. THINK OF UPGRADES
So you have purchased an entry-level bike, you definitely enjoy the sport and now you want to make your riding better and faster. If you bought a reasonable bike you will be able to upgrade some key components separately. If, on the other hand, you went for a cheap one, chances are you can’t upgrade some parts and will end up having to buy a new one. From experience, the majority of people that purchased a beginner’s bike will soon upgrade it, so better to spend a bit more now than a lot more in a few months.
5. CONSIDER YOUR FRAME MATERIAL
When it comes to road and mountain bikes, you will often be tempted to choose carbon frame over alloy. In most cases they are lighter and more comfortable. Plus, they will be a good base for future upgrades. Nowadays, carbon road and mountain bikes can be found close to $1,000 (although compromising on the level of the other components, but not enough to result in a bad package).
So you can make a choice: either go for an alloy bike with good components, and stick with it for long time, or go for a carbon bike at similar price with lower quality components that you will upgrade as you need/can.
6. PRICE GUIDELINES
Need help with prices? Here are the starting prices for bikes that have enough quality and durability to provide you with good and safe riding without breaking the bank.
You can go lower, but don’t expect the same performance and reliability or serviceability.
- Hybrids: $400
- Road bike, alloy: $600
- Road bike, carbon: $1,500
- MTB, hardtail: $450
- MTB, full suspension: $1,400