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Cycling buying guide

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Cycling Guide - An Introduction

Who can forget their first successful solo bike ride when they were a child? Most of us
remember feeling as if we were flying while a wind of our own making ruffled our hair. Most of us will also remember a feeling of independence, freedom, and adventure as our new means of transportation allowed us greater distance from our home base.

It remains great fun and it is still one of the most enjoyable ways of staying fit and enjoying adventures. Research studies have found that cycling increases strength, stamina, and coordination, and even improves mood. It is not only a pollution free and energy efficient way of commuting to and from work; it eliminates the frustrating need of having to find a place to park.

As the saying goes, once learned, bike riding is a lifetime skill that one never forgets how to do. However, if it has been some time since you have owned a bike, and you are looking forward to purchasing a new bike for yourself or child, you may be in for a surprise as bicycles have evolved a great deal.

There are bicycles for every type of riding. In addition, being properly fitted to your bike by your height and weight has a great impact on your riding comfort and safety.

This can make purchasing a new bicycle seem an overwhelming endeavour at first, but with a bit of basic information, which this guide will provide, you will be well on your way to discovering the ideal bicycle for you or your loved one.

Finally, there is much more to consider than just the purchase of a new bike, although that will likely be the primary step and the largest cycling investment that you make. The second most important investment will be the protective gear that you select beginning with the most important which is selecting a proper helmet.

The advancements that have been made with regard to cycling have not been limited to improvements on the bicycle. Evolution has taken place with regard to bicycle maintenance as well as cycling safety gear such as helmets, clothing, gloves, and bike led lights. All of these help to provide maximum comfort and safety during the riding experience.

Special bicycle gear such as pumps, tools, seats, clip less pedals, and even computers are included among the advancements that have been made over the years. In the Brands section of this guide, you will find a short list of the most respected and trusted brand names for cycles, helmets, and gear.

You will find valuable information for selecting the correct type of bicycle for yourself by reading the Types section of this guide.

To learn how to achieve a proper fit with your bike based on your height and weight as well as bike type, read the Buyer’s Tips section.

Selecting the correct bicycle type, being properly fitted to your bicycle, and purchasing all essential safety will make all the difference toward realising a safe and enjoyable cycling experience every time you ride.

Types of Cycling Bikes

One of the most important decisions you will make when shopping for a bicycle is with regard to its type. This list and brief explanation of the major bicycle types should assist you.
BMX bike

BMX stands for Bicycle Moto Cross, which is an extreme racing sport on a track with
extensive obstacles.

The BMX bike is extremely popular among pre-teens and teenagers. These bikes are used both casually and for competing in BMX sports.

The bike is smaller, typically with 508 mm wheels. Its smaller size makes it a stronger and more durable frame capable of enduring the rough riding style typically enjoyed by BMX enthusiasts. These bikes are made to handle jumping and other tricks typically executed by young BMX riders.

There are specific models of BMX bikes for racing, freestyle, which include centre, park or street riding, dirt jumping, and flatland riding. The freestyle BMX bike is the most popular choice.

The Mongoose bike line and specifically the Mongoose BMX are the most popular brand of BMX bikes. Mongoose specializes in the BMX bike and has one of the largest selections of this bike type available.

Children and youth bikes

These bicycles are designed to suit the body of a child or youth. They generally have handlebars that are raised and small frames. They also have features such as coaster brakes, which enable the child to stop simply by pedalling backwards.

This bike group includes specific accommodations for both the boys bike and the girls bike.

City bike

The City bike has points in common with the racing bike. They are both thin framed bikes with multiple gears and slim tyres. However, the city bike is built for greater comfort than the racing bike. A City bike’s design allows a rider to sit in the upright position rather than bent over to meet the more aerodynamically correct demands of the racing bike’s lowered handlebars. Unlike the Hybrid bike or the Mountain bike, the City bike is unsuitable for rough roads. It is designed specifically for asphalt road surfaces.

The City bike differs from the Comfort bike or Comfort cruiser in that its thin frame and more lightweight design allows for greater speeds than the Comfort bike.

Comfort cruiser

Comfort cruisers are also known as the Comfort bike or Traditional bike. They are true to their name as they are made for comfort over speed like the Hybrid bike or rough roads like the Mountain bike.

This bike type typically features padded saddles, front suspension forks for absorbing the impact of road bumps, and raised handlebars so that riders can remain in the upright position. They usually have only minimal gears and are weighty.

The Comfort bike is a great choice for leisure riders or beginning riders.

Folding bike

The Folding bike is lighter than the Comfort bike but still relatively heavy. This is because the folding bike has a smaller tyre size, which means that the handlebar stem and seat post must be longer and therefore, the frame sturdier. It typically uses a 508 mm tyre, which is smaller than the standard tyre size of 660.4 mm.

The folding bike employs hinges and clamps that enable it to fold to about half its size. This is ideal for the commuter who needs easy transport ability for their bike, so they can carry on to public transport.

The focus of this design is placed on transport convenience rather than speed.

Hybrid bike

This type of bike is relatively new, having emerged in the 1980s. It is often called the light off-road bike because it can handle some off-roads such as dirt or gravel roads.

It is built for riding in the more comfortable upright position. Many consider the Hybrid bike the best all-around bike because possesses some of the best features of both the road bike and the mountain bike.

Hybrid bikes are sturdier than road bikes but not quite as tough as the mountain bikes. They provide a great, stable ride on both tarmac and light trails that are not excessively rough.

They typically have between 21 and 27 gears and are generally a lighter bike made of either aluminium alloy or carbon fibre. This means greater speed possibilities on a stable bike built for multiple road surface types. However, this type of bike is neither as sturdy as the mountain bike, which can handle the roughest of trails nor is it as fast on tarmac as a road bike would be.

Mountain bike

The Mountain bike was designed specifically for riding off-road in unpaved areas. They are a heavier type bike and employ tyres that are typically more than 44.4 mm wide. They also typically feature toe-clips as well to help keep your feet on the pedals while navigating rough terrain as well as dense saddle padding with non-slip stitching for comfort.

Most mountain bikes feature front air, gas shock, or coiled spring suspension systems for greater bike control and to absorb shocks but some do not. Be sure that you are extremely adept at steering through rough terrain and hard jolts if you chose to select a mountain bike that does not have this feature.

Mountain bikes also have wider tyres, and cross-wise handlebars, which make steering easier on rough terrain. The actual width of the tyre varies depending upon specific bike use such as trail riding or jumping. They come with between 21 to 30 gears that include both very low and high gears.

This bike can handle it all from rain and snow to rocks. Frames are typically made of composite materials for strength and durability without adding any excessive weight that might reduce speed capability.

Racing and road bike

Two words are synonymous with the racing bike. Those words are lightest and fastest. This is the bike designed for maximum speed. There are several specific types of racing such as the time trial, track and road bike.

In order to achieve ultimate speeds several things differ on a racing bike from other bike types. They include the lightweight materials for frames, the absolute minimum accessories, high-pressure narrow tyres, and dropped handlebars, which require the rider to ride in the aerodynamic bent forward position. The road or racing bike typically features multiple gears that are narrower in their range and spaced closer to allow for the most expert pedalling cadence.

These bikes are intended for only the most experienced cyclists as they are not easy to handle and can be uncomfortable as well for the less experienced.

Recumbent Bikes

The recumbent bike is a great choice for older adults with back or neck problems. This bike type allows the rider to ride in a sitting position much like that of a chair. The recumbent bike is lower to the ground and has its pedals in front of the rider’s body.

The ergonomically correct seating design makes for the most comfortable ride of all. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. As we might expect, this bike type is slower on the uphill, but it can achieve some surprising speeds on the downhill and flats. The recumbent bike typically has a long wheelbase as well as a wide gear range including great low gears for climbing.

Something to be aware of regarding a recumbent bike is the fact that they manoeuvre less quickly and easily than a traditional bike, and they are harder for car drivers to see on the road, since they are lower to the ground.

Twin or Tandem Bikes

A twin bike is a bike designed for two riders who share the pedalling while the front rider handles control, steering, shifting, and braking. Some models of twin or tandem bikes offer some braking access to the back rider but most do not.

There are twin bikes designed for various road types such as the twin mountain bike or the twin road bike. There are even hybrids and recumbent designed twin bikes available.

Touring Bike


The touring bike also is true to its name as it is designed for long distance travelling or touring. This is a perfect sightseeing bike that is lighter than mountain or hybrid bikes but not as light as racing bikes.

What is special about a touring bike is that the handlebars can be adjusted to either the upright position for comfort or the dropped position for better aerodynamics and optimal speed. Twenty-one gears make getting up steep hills easy even with a full load in this bike type’s optional front and rear panniers. Panniers are convenient baggage carriers that add to this bike type’s effectiveness as the best for long-journey and sightseeing.


Most popular Bicycle Brands

Claud Butler

Claud Butler was and is a British cycle company that today is owned and manufactured by the Holdsworth Cycle Company. The Holdsworth Cycle Company also owns the Falcon label.

Claud Butler Bicycle Company began in the early 1920s when the famous pro cyclist, Claud Butler retired from pro cycling. At that time, Claud Butler began building road bike frames out of his shed in London. Soon he would open what would become the first of many nationwide bike shops in Battersea, London.

Then and now, the Claud Butler bicycles have maintained and enjoyed a reputation for innovation and strength of construction. This is why the Holdsworth Cycle Company allows only its top end bike models to wear the Claud Butler badge.


Dawes is also a British company founded in 1906 in Birmingham. More than 100 years later, it is still operating from the Birmingham area.

In the beginning, Dawes was, in the main, a manufacturer of racing bicycles, but today it has become the name to trust for touring bicycles. Its years of history and experience are apparent in the design and quality of these bikes. Dawes is most famous for its Dawes Galaxy model.

Dawes also produces excellent quality twin bikes.


Mongoose is the renowned brand name for performance bikes, which were originally designed, made, and sold by BMX products. This began as a small company launched by a man named Skip Hess, who worked out of his garage in Simi Valley, California. Mongoose was sold to Pacific Cycles in 2001 that now has all rights to the brand name.

Under Pacific Cycle, based in Madison, Wisconsin, the Mongoose name has continued to be synonymous with high quality and great performance. Today, the trusted Mongoose logos can be found on BMX bikes and youth bikes as well as a variety of quality mountain and pavement bikes such as hybrids and commuters.

Raleigh Bicycle Company

Raleigh is one of the oldest and most recognised names in cycling. The company was founded in Nottingham, UK in 1887. During its long history, it has produced a number of road and racing bike models as well as given sponsorship to and founded many pro cycling teams. Most recently, in 2009 it founded the British cycling team called Team Raleigh.

At one time, the Raleigh bike was the largest selling bike in the world. Given their superior quality, and dedication to the cycling industry, they may well become the best selling bike in the world again. Raleigh innovatively designs and manufacturers a full line of bicycle types. There is bound to be one you will love.


Schwinn is an American bicycle company that was founded in 1895 by Ignaz Schwinn in Chicago. While Schwinn has had many sales rises and falls over its 114-year history, none of the falls was due to the quality of its bikes but rather to the changes that this industry has seen during its existence over more than a century. It is a stable and reliable company when it comes to any type of bicycle including cruisers, urban, hybrid, electric, road, mountain, BMX, children’s bikes, and even indoor cycles.

Most popular cycle helmet and gear brands

• Giro

The Giro brand name was established in 1985. A Giro helmet many world-cycling champions including Lance Armstrong, the world famous, seven-time winner of Tour de France.

The Giro brand is synonymous with high quality, lightweight helmets.

• Bell

The Bell brand is synonymous with high quality, lightweight helmets.

The commitment was to stay close to the cycle racing and racing competitors in order to know what challenges to meet in order to provide the best safety equipment.

It was by staying true to this philosophy that Bell could establish and hold it position as a leader in innovative, quality cycling safety equipment.

• Limar


Limar is best known for its stylish helmets, but it also retains a deep commitment to safety and performance for both adult and children’s helmets. Each of its helmets complies with three of the toughest safety standards in the world.

Do you want to look great while you protect your head? Limar produces helmets for every taste and personality.

Some additional brand names choices for cycling gear

These additional brand names are popular choices for cycling shoes, jerseys, jackets, and short: Adidas, Shimano, Sixsixone, Time, Northwave, Sidi, and Pearl Izumi.


Tips to consider before you buy a Bike

  • Select the type of bike that is right for you
  •  Get a proper fitting for the bike type you select by going into a professional bike shop or by using the ‘Formula for adult bike fitting’ and ‘Children and youth bike measurement guide’ below in this Tips section.
  •  Purchase all essential safety gear such as bike reflectors and lights, helmets, proper clothing and footwear for your protection while riding.
  • Formula for adult bike fitting

    The typical adult bike has a frame that measures 31 to 65 cm from the centre of the bottom bracket to the top of the seat. There are variations to those measurements to handle the very tall as well as the shorter person. Also, note that some bicycle types provide measurements in inches and others provide them in centimetres. Here is the formula for fitting a bike to an adult regardless of whether inches or centimetres are given.

  • Measure the inside of the leg from the crotch to the ground with yours shoes on.
  • Road bike frames are typically measured in centimetres. The formula for attaining your proper fit is to take the inseam measurement and multiply by .65. Now, take that number and round it to the nearest whole number, and you will have your ideal road bike frame size.
  • In the main, Hybrid bike and mountain bike frames are measured in inches. So, either take your inseam measurement in inches or convert your centimetre measurement to inches. Then multiply by .59, round to the nearest whole number and you will have your ideal mountain or hybrid frame size.
  •  Comfort cruisers are usually measured in inches as well so again, measure your inseam in inches or convert it from centimetres to inches. Then, multiply the inseam measurement by .65, round to the nearest whole number and you will know your ideal comfort cruiser frame measurement.
  • Children and youth bike measurement guide. Measuring for an ideal fit for a child or youth bicycle is based on a comparison of the wheel rim size to the height of the child as follows:

    • If the child is 71 cm to 96 cm tall, select a wheel rim that is 31 cm.

    • If the child is 96.5 cm to 122 cm tall, select a wheel rim that is 41 cm.

    • If the child is 122.5 cm to 152 cm tall, select a wheel rim that is 51 cm.

Jargon Explained

AerodynamicIn cycling, this term generally refers to the frame design such as handlebar position or position of the rider. It means to cut down on wind resistance. The more dropped the handlebar design, the more the rider’s body will be bent forward, which lessens wind resistance.
AlloyA blending of different metals to achieve varying degrees of strength and lightness based on the specific purpose of the bike. The racing bike is made with the lightest materials for maximum speed while the hybrids use a mixture that provides added strength as well as allows for best speeds.
Bar EndsAn addition to flat handlebars that allows additional hand positions to be achieved.
Cage pedalsCage pedals are also known as toe-clip pedals. They have a clip or a strap and a cage so that the rider’s foot does not slip off the pedal. They also enable upstroke pedalling as well as down stroke. You can release your foot from the cage by pulling your foot backward.
Carbon fibreThis is a lightweight yet strong material used for bicycle frames. It is also known as graphite.
Chromium molybdenumThis term is often shortened to Chrome moly. A metal alloy that is more flexible yet stronger and heavier than aluminium alone.
CleatThis is a hardware piece that is used on the cycling shoe bottoms that allow the shoe to be secured to the bike pedal. It can be released quickly by twisting the foot.
Clipless pedalsThis term refers to a type of clip that is found on certain bike pedals and, which allows a specific type of cycling shoe with a cleat to be secured on to the pedal. It is called clipless to differentiate it from toe-clip or cage type pedals. This type of clip enables both upstroke and down stroke pedalling.
Coaster BrakeThis type of brake is typically found on a child or youth bike. It enables the rider to brake by pedalling backward.
Cycling shoeThis type of shoe is made with a cleat, which can be secured into a clipless bike pedal allowing for both upstroke and down stroke pedalling as well as a quick release with a twist of the foot. The cycle shoe is also known as the road shoe.
Diamond frameThe diamond frame is the traditional, stable men’s bike that required the rider to swing his leg over the bike to mount it. The diamond shape frame was due to a higher top tube.
DerailleurThis device derails or moves the bike chain from sprocket to sprocket allowing gear changes.
Disc brakesDisc brakes are a type of brake that employs applied pressure to both sides of a disc that spins and is mounted on the wheel hub. The two types of disc brakes are the hydraulic or mechanical disc brakes.
Drop handlebarDrop handlebars are curved down and forward. This makes for an aerodynamic ride, as it requires the rider to lean forward rather than remain in the upright position, which increases wind resistance.
ForkThe fork is what allows steering. This bicycle part is a shaped like a fork and serves to hold the wheel.
HubThe hub is the centre part of the wheel that houses the axle to which the spokes are fastened.
Knobby tyreThis tyre is great for achieving maximum traction on rough trails. It has knob eruptions on the tyre that grip the terrain.
PanniersPanniers are bags that can be secured to the front and/or rear of the bike. They are used for storage of everything from clothes, sleeping bags, and needed travelling items to the commuter essentials such as laptops.
Platform pedalPlatform pedals usually refer to the standard type of pedal that have a flat surface and are made of hard rubber, plastic, or metal.
ReachThe term reach in cycling refers to the amount of space between the handlebars and the seat.
Rim brakeRim brakes are a type of brake that uses small rubber pads to clamp down on the metal ring or rim of the tyre.
Road shoePlease see the term ‘cycle shoe’ above.
SaddleThe seat of the bike is called the saddle.
ShiftersShifters are located on the handlebars and control the derailleur, which facilitate gear shifting
Single speedsSingle speed bikes have one speed requiring the rider to employ maximum effort and get a great workout.
Stand-over heightThis term is used in bike fittings. It is the distance from the top tube to the ground, which is compared to the inseam measurement of the rider. It provides the clearing distance available when the rider is standing over the bike.
Step-through frameThis is the type of frame found on the traditional Ladies bike, where the top tube cross bar is lower and angled downward in contrast to the crossbar on the traditional diamond frame mens bike. Step through frames are not as stable as diamond designs but in decades past, when women wore skirts only, it was a necessity. Some women still prefer the ease of mounting this type of bike.
TrueThis term refers to how round and straight the wheel is.

Buying Guide to Cycling
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