The growing number of options can make it difficult choosing the right bike. Follow our advice to make sure you buy the bike that best suits your needs and budget.
Where will you be cycling?
The first question you need to answer is when do you want to use your bike and where do you want it to take you? Depending on whether you are mainly cycling for leisure, to commute to work, or to go to the shops, different bikes will be more suited.
Your bike should complement your lifestyle, so choose the type which reflects the majority of journeys you intend to make for a more comfortable and enjoyable ride.
What type of bike?
Each bike comes with its own set of benefits. Remember, you get what you pay for, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend more. Sometimes bikes come with lots of extra features that you might not need, so think about what’s essential for the journeys you make.
Also known as racers, these are lightweight and fast with skinny tyres. Most have drop handlebars and they’re designed to be aerodynamic and speedy. The hi-tech versions are perfect for road racing and lower spec models are great for nipping around town. Touring bikes are sturdier versions of racing bikes, suitable for long distance rides with panniers to carry your luggage.
Mountain bikes have sturdy frames, knobbly tyres and highly effective brakes, and they often have a wide selection of lower gears. Some have front suspension, some have rear suspension and some have both, helping to cushion the bumps. The suspension and thick tyres make this bike a great off-road option on rough ground such as forest trails. When you change to slick tyres and they’re also comfortable for road riding.
A cross between the speed of a road bike and the strength and gearing of a mountain bike, hybrids are lightweight but sturdy with smooth tyres. The upright riding position makes them ideal for cycling in traffic and commuting through town. A good everyday option.
These have smaller wheels and fewer gears than other bikes so they can fold down compactly and are easier and lighter to carry. They’re perfect for short hops to the bus or train station, and tuck easily under desks or into cupboards. Ideal for people who commute on public transport and use their bikes at either end of their trip.
Electrically assisted bikes
Depending on which model you choose, the power kicks in automatically or on demand. You can still get fit with one of these bikes, but remember that they do need to be charged up, so there will be some running costs and carbon emissions involved. They are great if you need to get up steep hills, and can make a big difference if you a have a longer commute.
On step-through bikes the crossbar is dropped in the frame so you can step easily over the frame to mount the bike. This makes it much more practical if you like a more hop-on-hop-off approach to cycling, if you have any mobility restrictions (particularly with hips), or if you cycle in a skirt or a dress. This style of bike also makes it easier to get on and off with a child seat on the back.
Dutch style bikes
These stylish options are fashionable on the continent and becoming increasingly popular here in the UK. Like hybrids, their upright sitting position makes them great for cycling through traffic, as you can easily see what's happening around you. The low crossbar makes it easy to mount and dismount gracefully, too. You can easily add a basket at the front to carry shopping, making them a practical solution for urban cycling.
Looking for something a bit different to get you around? Try one of these specialist bikes to inject some fun into your cycling.
Recumbents are low to the ground, so the rider sits in a reclining position. They can be beneficial to people with back or knee problems who experience discomfort with traditional upright riding positions.
These bikes are similar to road bikes in that they are lightweight, but they are much sturdier. Suitable for riding long distances, they are designed to accommodate panniers, making them perfect for cycling holidays.
Tricycles may have two wheels at the front and one at the back or vice versa, and are perfect for people who need more than two wheels for support. They’re useful for disabled and visually-impaired riders; people getting back into cycling after a long break; or those recovering from an illness.
Designed mainly for dirt and motocross cycling, BMX bikes have since moved into towns and cities where people use them to do tricks in skate parks and for shorter journeys. BMXing is great fun, super cool and a nippy way of getting round town.
Why stick to one person per bike when you can have two – or more? Contrary to public opinion, the word tandem refers to the seating arrangement behind one another, not to the number of riders. Jump aboard with a companion and you’ll have double the pedalling power, making this is a sociable and speedy alternative to riding alone.
When considering different types, there is nothing like the real thing. Look around bike shops and ask them for advice. Make sure you test drive a variety of models before you make a decision.
What bike size?
When you’re choosing a bike it is important to buy the right size frame for you. Having the right size bike means that your bike is much easier to control, keeping you safe.
There are no standard guidelines on different size frames for adults, so it pays to think about the type of bike you want, and the kind of riding you’ll be doing. Consider how much clearance you need from the cross bar - this is the main tube that runs from the saddle to the handlebars and how much reach from the saddle to the handlebars, to achieve a comfortable riding position.
Once you’re happy with your choice, the handlebars, saddle height and tilt are adjustable for comfort, pedal-power and control. Reputable bike shops will normally offer do all of this for you, or you can set up your bike yourself.
How much should I spend?
When deciding on your budget, think carefully about your needs and the features that will be useful to you. Try and get the best you can afford because it will ultimately be a better investment in terms of quality components, features, durability and ride.
If you are on a tight budget or simply giving cycling a try, a pre-owned bike can be much better value for money.