Guide to buying a bike

Bikes on the shop floor, image courtesy of Bike for Good

If you know what kind of bike you want then find out where to buy one in bike sales. Otherwise read on…

We’ve all been into a bike shop, and there, on a pedestal, gleaming like nothing else you have ever seen, is the bike of your dreams! Hold that thought for a moment and consider if that bike suits your needs.

Buying a downhill mountain bike to commute to work or going for a super lightweight road bike for off-road cycling is not going to end well.

Before you buy, consider what do you want to use the bike for? Knowing this, plus when you will use it and how often, will assist you to consider the type of bike you want and it’s specification.

Ask yourself the ‘Choosing a bike’ questions from Cycling Scotland’s Essential Cycling Skills Quick Guide:

  • What sort of journeys will you be making?
  • How long are those journeys?
  • What type of surfaces will you be riding on?
  • Will you need to carry things?
  • Will you be using other forms of transport as part of your journey
  • For commuting, look at bikes that are rigid (without suspension) such as a hybrid or relaxed and comfortable like a city / Dutch bike. Consider a folding bike if you need to store it easily or take mixed modes of transport. These bikes offer you the best efficiency for regular commuting on tarmac.
  • For road cycling, seek a road bike, which is lighter and built for speed and performance. Road bikes will have a range of gears for hilly routes.
  • For off road cycling, it’s a mountain bike (MTB) that you will need. Strong, robust and with chunky tyres they are suitable for multiple terrains, including forest trails and single track.
  • For children, can they cycle yet? If not, perhaps better to go for a balance bike. These are usually aimed at children aged between 2 and 5, but sometimes kids older find these bikes necessary to start their cycling adventure. If they can cycle, so looking for their first pedal bike, look for a bike with an upright sitting position, a low standover height and low cranks. Gearing will be single-speed, which is fine and the brakes should be easy to operate. As your child grows older, they will then have an interest as to what their next bike should be. There are a number of great bikes available which will suit everyone’s budget.

Also consider, what is your budget?

Setting yourself a rough budget (and don’t be afraid to repeat it to yourself so it sticks!) is useful to have in mind when purchasing a new or a used bike. It can be easy to get carried away with a bike purchase, but you shouldn’t need to re-mortgage your house to buy a bike. Good quality modern hybrids, recommended for cycling in the city, can be bought for about £400. If you are looking at the used market, then you can halve this price.

It is also wise to build into your budget the cost of a few good quality, practical essentials, such as:

  • Helmet – although use in the UK is not mandatory
  • Gloves – preferably wind and waterproof to keep your hands warm and dry when it is dreich
  • Lights – essential in the winter when the days are short
  • Lock – read our guide to safety and security for more information about buying and using an appropriate lock

Read more about what to wear to be safe and how to secure your bike in our guide to safety and security. Avoid the cheapest essentials if you can, as they are a false economy, as you may need to buy multiples if they break due to poor quality.

What about a refurbished bike?

Operating as charities, many of Glasgow’s cycling organisations sell refurbished bikes, built from bike donations. Built by qualified bike mechanics they will be condition checked before leaving the workshop for the shop floor.

Some cycling organisations are accredited by Revolve, Scotland’s national accreditation for organisations that sell quality refurbished and reconditioned goods. Look for the Revolve logo.

The price of a refurbished adult bike typically starts at £80, with children’s bikes starting at £30. This is a great option if you are getting back into cycling and want to see how it goes, are a student looking for something low cost but good quality, or have a limited budget. Refurbished bikes are also great for kids as you can donate them back to the charity once your child has grown out of it.

By buying a refurbished bike you are preventing landfill and supporting a charity who is reinvesting profits into supporting more people to get cycling. It’s a win-win scenario!

What about an electric bike?

eBikes are a great way to break down some of the barriers to cycling. They are very versatile and come in all shapes and sizes. eBikes can help you cycle further and faster for longer – and they can even help you transport children or goods!

Can I test a bike before I buy?

It is important to test a bike before you buy to get a feel for how it rides, fits and suits your needs and circumstances. Most shops will allow you to test a bike in the local area. It is best to call in advance to ask if you need to take anything with you to take the bike out of the shop for a test ride.

There is the option to hire a bike, whether for a day, a week or longer, to get a feel for it.