Advice on buying your first bike

Shaz offers guidance to those buying their own bike for the first time.

My experiences of buying my first bike

So you’ve now successfully learnt to ride a bike. You are very pleased with yourself and rightly so. The next step is to go and buy a bike. There are lots of different types of bikes out there and the one that is right for you depends on what you are looking to do with your new bicycle. Just after I learned how to ride a bike, I bought a cheap second-hand mountain bike for £50. It turns out that this was not the bike for me. I wanted a bicycle to get about Birmingham, not one for BMX trails. I quickly discovered that I needed a different bike.

Having learned my lesson, I went to Sprocket, a bike shop in Birmingham City Centre and sought advice. I was served by a man named Gordon, who had a fantastic well of knowledge about bikes. Unfortunately, I could just about ride a bike and that was just about it. Gordon spoke in detail about things that I’d never heard of. I was left bewildered. After much confusion I was eventually able to communicate that I wanted a bike to get me around Birmingham, including using the roads. Gordon found me a Dawes hybrid bike, which is still my main bike for getting around to this day. I spent £350 on this Dawes bike, which was worth every penny. Later on I would buy a Giant road bike for £150 second hand from Birmingham Bike Foundry. This bike was better for main roads and cycling quickly but had no suspension and because they have pedals for cycling cleats (clip on) they are a bit of a hassle for going to the shops.

As you can see from my experience; there are lots of different styles of bikes, designed for different purposes. You must think about what you are going to use your bicycle for. What kind of terrain are you going to cycle on? How far will you cycle? Do you want to carry your shopping on your bike?

We will go from the most comfortable bikes to the fastest bikes, broadly speaking.

Different types of bike

1)     Dutch style bikes.

These are not that common here but can be found at specialist shops. They are completely designed for comfort. They tend to be heavy but can carry a lot of weight and are easy to get on and off. If your cycling is going to be on flat and at a leisurely pace then a Dutch style bike could be for you.


2)      Mountain bikes

Mountain bikes are also heavy and slow, but they can be useful if you are going to cycle on rough terrain such as canals, where the tow path is not consistent. Mountain bikes will have thick tyres to cope with uneven surfaces.


3)      Hybrid Bikes

Hybrid bikes are a cross between road bikes and mountain bikes. They are a good compromise for city riding as they are comfortable to sit on but have thinner tyres than road bikes. They may also have suspension, which will make your ride more comfortable. My main bike for getting around Birmingham is a hybrid bike. They will have plenty of gears to cover a range of speeds.

4)     Cyclocross bike

A Cyclocross bike is designed like a road bike but will have thicker tyres for uneven surfaces and lower gears to help cope at lower speeds. They are good for if you want to go faster than a hybrid, but don’t have fast roads to cycle down.


5)     Road bike

A Road bike is designed for speed. You are hunched over on them when cycling, which will take some getting used to. Your back may be sore when your first start riding one. They are lighter than other types of bikes and will have thinner tyres. They will struggle with uneven surfaces. They tend to made out of more expensive materials like aluminium or carbon fibre. If you are covering decent distances, along main roads and want to get fitter, than a road bike could be good for you.


6)      Electric Bike

Hopefully Electric bikes will revolutionise how we as a society cycle. They have a battery which will kick in when you get to a certain speed, this makes cycling them easy to ride. If you are covering long distances, or have hilly surroundings, an electric bike could be ideal. They are also good if you want to cycle but don’t want to have to get sweaty.

There are many more types of bikes out there. The ones that I have mentioned are commonly seen types of bikes. If you have a lot to carry you could buy a cargo bike or if you want to be different you could get a unicycle.

General Advice

If you are going to buy a brand new bike, then one way of doing this is to go to a bike shop and ask for advice from someone working there. I’d be looking at spending £350 upwards on a new bike. If you spend less than that the quality of the bike may be questionable. Some types of bikes like road bikes and electric bikes will tend to me a lot more than that. Bike shop workers can help you out massively, from things like talking about frame size to what accessories you need. The cycle 2 work scheme could possibly help you get a significant discount on a new bike, if you buy it through your employer. You can buy new bikes cheaper online, but you’ll have to assemble it yourself.

In terms of frame size, the taller you are, the bigger frame size that you need. A rough guide is below

4’11” – 5’3″ = 13 – 15 inches

5’3″ – 5’7″  = 15 – 16 inches

5’7″ – 5’11” = 16 – 17 inches

6’0″ – 6’2″ = 17 – 19 inches

6’2″ – 6’4″  = 19 – 21 inches

6’4″ and taller  = 21+ inches


A bike shop worker can go through the details, including what saddle height you need. You will need to buy certain accessories. A decent bike shop will also sell their bikes with a free service The bike will come with a bell, but you will also need lights and a lock as a minimum. What lights you need will depend on what kind of cycling you do. If you are going to cycle through forests in the pitch black than you will need much more powerful lights than if you are cycling in well-lit areas. Some lights take standard AAA batteries, some can be USB recharged and some even have battery packs to be charged via plug socket. You will need a front light which will emit white light and a rear light which will emit red light. The red light is so you can be seen by others.

When buying a lock, I suggest that you spend good money on a lock otherwise you may not have your new love for very long. Cheap cable locks are easily cut through and are often targeted by bike thieves. Expensive D locks with their own cables are recommended or a very thick and heavy chain lock. I’ve had wheels, lights and other small things nicked from my Dawes Hybrid but never the bike itself.

If you are going to buy second hand from somewhere like Ebay or Gumtree. I’d definitely recommend having someone who knows a bit about bikes go with you, when you collect it. I’d also get a bike mechanic to service it before you ride it regularly.

You may also want to buy things to help maintain your bike, like cleaning materials, oil, puncture repair kits and inner tubes. These will help you keep your bike in good condition and allow you to keep riding when you get a puncture. At some point you should look at learning about basic maintenance, but for the time being, enjoy your new bike. Riding a bike is liberating and joyous. Whatever you buy, ride it as much as you can.

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2 Responses

  1. Another thing to consider is how your bike is insured. Is it covered under your house contents insurance, or do you want to consider dedicated bike insurance? Whilst the latter is not legally required, it can provide extras beyond theft and damage of your bike, such as third party cover and recovery if you have a bike breakdown a long way from home. Also consider registering your bike with the Bike Register:

    1. Also if you buy certain locks they can insured through them. If you register your lock on kryptonite’s website and you can prove that your bike was locked correctly. Kryptonite would replace your bike. This only applies for their high end bike locks.

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