We keep getting requests in Facebook and in person about one particular question - that is about I am new to cycling - how to choose a bicycle and how to buy a bicycle? What is suitable for me? Etc., Here is an answer for all such requests.
Basically - we don't want to give a fish, but educating people on how to fish! Hence you won't find a statement like - Go to this store and buy this brand :-) We will help you by explaining steps on how to buy!
We first of all congratulate you for thinking to buy a Bicycle, for whatever reason it could be, be it health, fitness, commute, cost savings, avoiding public transport due to corona, cardiofitness, cross training, stress relief, taking care of all your nearby errands/groceries - all for good!
Disclaimer: This is only for basic Cycle buyer and if you are looking for advanced bicyle purchase advice, then it is not this article.
Coming back to the topic - How to buy your first Bicycle?
1) Start with Why? Always if we know why we do what we do? We will get commitment to what we are planning to do and I believe this applies to any project or activity. In that perspective, why are you buying a Bicycle - that will help us choose a bicycle? This point will help you choose what type you will need - MTB or Hybrid or Road Bike Type.
(a) Fitness? (i) Are you already fit and trying to do cross fit? In this case, you can go for either Hybrid or Road bike. (ii) If trying to start from scratch or you want to reduce weight, because you think you are overweight, then you will have to go for MTB type. (iii) If you want more resistance and you want to loose lot of calories, buy an MTB and ride long distance.
(b) For Errands/Groceries? If this is your purpose and you are not planning to use it for other fitness purposes, then you can go for very basic stuff. Like Single Speed (without gear). You could finish this with just <10K budget. Point (e) applies here.
(c) For Mountain Biking or if you are in a place where roads are not good? Your easy choice here is MTB bicycle. You need to choose geared cycle, to take care of elevations.
(d) Commute: If for commute, best option is Hybrid type. Point (e) applies here.
(e) Ups and Downs: If you are living in a hilly area, with more ups and downs, then you definitely have to go with Gear cycle - it could be either Road Bike or Hybrid type.
(f) For any cardio fitness activity, you can choose Hybrid or Road bike.
Now, we are almost clear what type of cycle - MTB or Hybrid or Road Bike.
2) Budget: Second most important parameter is Budget. this will help you narrow down the choices easily. Define your budget range. Is it INR 10K to 20K or is it 30K to 40K? etc.,
3) First Time visiting the Stores: Till second point it was all your mind work only, now you can come out and start doing research by talking to people. With your Budget and Type of Bike you are looking for you, search for your nearby Bicycle stores and make a visit. Do not make a purchase in just one visit. Visit multiple stores and do some shopping and do trial rides there in the shops itself. You can directly check for the options based on the narrow down you have done in 1st and 2nd steps.
4) Online Research: Come back home and do a search of the model and understand more about the cycle option you are planning to buy.
5) Do a second round of visit: This time you are much clear on what you want to buy. In this visit, you have to see couple of parameters -
(a) Basic Ride Convenience: When you ride, you should feel, this is your cycle? This feeling you might get with all bikes :-) But, try to ride and get that connect/touch with the cycle.
(b) Basic Notice of Pain or Stretches: When you ride, see if you are having any discomfort or pain in any part of the body - like back of your Neck (over bending), Handle bars are too away for you to reach, Pain in the tip of your spinal chord, pain in the shoulders etc., If so, it is either wrong frame or wrong cycle. Sometimes some Seat adjustments or handle bar adjustments on your favourite cycle can correct this.
(c) Right Frame: If you are choosing the cycle for Endurance (long comfortable rides - like 50+ kms more often - 3+ times a week or more than that), then ask for Endurance Frames. If you are choosing for Speed/Performance needs, then go for Speed based Frames, which will have very low handle (drops) bars. If you are tall, you need to go for L Frame etc., There is a possibility that Cycle store sales rep could sell you a M Frame saying it will work out for you, while you are 6 feet tall, just because only M size frame is in stock. You need to be careful here. As for right frame for you. If you are short in height, get the appropriate one and ask drilling questions to the sales representative.
(d) Configurations: I would not bother much about Group sets or brands when I am buying for first time. But, if you are going more than INR 40+K, then I would be concerned about group sets and do little bit more research on the configuration and do a comparison on which one is better before I buy the cycle.
(e) Basic no-brainer checks:
(a) When you stand near the cycle, your waist line should be equal height to that of the seat height.
(b) When you sit on the cycle, full foot should not touch the ground in both the side. Only your toes should touch the ground in both the side.
(c) When you hold the handle bar, you should be able to easily do angles with your hand by bending elbow and not take the hand from the bar.
Overall, do not get pressurized by anyone while buying. Take it easy, talk to people from the groups, who already do lot of cycling. Do not get fancied by brands.
(f) Look and Feel: In other words, Aesthetics. You have to feel that it is looking good and will be durable for long time (based on the cycle type). You have to love it :-) love at first sight sometimes, though you will do some evaluation.
It is a relationship you are choosing. Choose it appropriately and he/she will come with you for long time. In the bicycle case, there is no restriction of number of cycles you buy, so you can buy your SUV (MTB), while you still have Audi (Road Bike) and Maruti Esteem/800 (your old first cycle) parked in your garage. You can use every cycle based on the need.
Given that Bicycle is the future and solution to lot of problems, it is great if you have 2 or 3 bicycles :-)
Article written by Santhana Selvan, Core member of WCCG-Chennai Cyclists