With our early Spring weather this year, many people will be looking for a new bike, or maybe restoring an old one. Buying a new bike is an exciting thing and everyone wants to get it right the first time while spending the least amount of money. It does not always work out that way, for a variety of reasons. Your biking needs may change or were different from what you originally thought they were, you may have been lured by a pretty bike or a good price or been influenced by friends.
I used a picture of my vintage bike here as it has become just what I like in a bike and suits most of my biking needs perfectly, but I did not set out to buy it, I just restored it because it was available and luckily it turned out to be the perfect bike for me. If I were starting from scratch buying a new bike I may not have been so lucky.
So the things you need to think about are:
1. Style or genre of bike: if you want to commute you will need a different type of bike than if you intend to road race or mountain bike or than if you just intend to take it for recreational rides with friends. A hybrid bike can be good for several types of riding but it won’t do any of those things as well as a specific style of bike would. If I were working and using multi modal commuting with a bike I would seriously consider a folding bike.
2. Colour: this is important (and not just for fashion reasons). I found that red is naturally hi viz without looking like you are a construction worker. Though I would not have chosen red for myself, I am very happy with it. Similarly, if you want your bike to blend in so it is less eye catching to thieves, you may prefer a matt black. Some colours are classic if you want that look: silver or chrome, black, green, red or blue. Paler colours make a fashion statement if that is what you want, or want to match your wardrobe. I chose black for my Bennett restoration as I wanted a classic look. Also remember that parts such as saddle, grips and even tyres can add colour.
3. Gears (if any): Do you need many gears? If you have hills to ride you will need a few, but I have never found a need for more than about 5 gears for normal around town riding. If a hill is really steep I cannot ride up it no matter how many gears I have. If you are fit and like simplicity, a single speed may be for you. I rode my Speedwell as a single speed for a few months and it was fine for me, riding mostly on flat ground. Remember that with gearing you lose power too.
4. Brakes: two brakes are the safest option, but remember that if they are both cabled lever brakes, you will have a lot of cables around the handlebars. The above shot of an Abici has rod brakes which look very neat. I find that combination of a back pedal brake and a front cable brake to work well on my Speedwell.
5. Carrying capacity: rack or basket? I find that this bag shown above on my Bennett needs to be removed when I get to my destination so I don’t use it often as that involves two buckles being undone, while throwing things into a basket is very useful. But this small bag is handy for longer rides when I’m not stopping often. I can also throw panniers over the rack on this bike and that is very handy if I’m carrying a lot of stuff.
I am assuming that if you need to read this post you are looking for your first bike, or you have your first one that you are not happy with and want to try another. It may also be possible to adapt your current bike to suit your needs, bikes can be made to fit better and different saddles can make a huge difference. Sometimes you just need more than one bike for the different types of riding you do, and remember that it is always good to have a backup in case of breakdown.