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Buying a bike for the first time? Here’s what you need to know

Our2Cents

Choosing your bike just got easier. Dive into our guide for tips on what to look out for when shopping.

They talk about the runner's high, but there’s a certain joy that comes with exploring your surroundings on a bicycle, a feeling you only understand once you’ve done it. If you’re keen on starting cycling but have no idea where to start with all the brands and types of bicycles out there, you’re in the right place! This guide is here to help you navigate the endless options, and help you to make an informed decision that caters to your lifestyle, aspirations, and budget.

Choosing your bike is all about imagining where you’ll ride

Want to mainly tackle tarred roads?

Then a road bike is probably your best bet. Road bikes offer aerodynamic design and lightweight frames for efficiency and pace.

Or are you into off-road thrills?

If you’re drawn to the trails, mountain bikes are your go-to. They’re tough, with wide tyres and suspension to handle rough terrains comfortably.

Or are you more into versatile adventures?

Gravel bikes are the Swiss army knives of cycling. They are great for those who don’t like to limit their rides to just pavement. They handle well on various surfaces, perfect for city streets or gravel paths (even the potholes we face in Joburg).

An infographic titled 'The complete guide to buying a bicycle'. It compares three types of bicycles: Road, Gravel, and Mountain. For each type, the infographic provides details under the categories of Geometry, Tyres, Suspension, Handlebars, Gearing, and Perfect for. Road bikes are described as aerodynamic and designed for speed, with narrow tyres for speed, no suspension, drop bars for aerodynamic positioning, high gears for speed on flat surfaces, and are perfect for racing, touring, and fitness. Gravel bikes are described as comfortable for long distances, slightly upright, with tyres wider than road bikes but narrower than mountain bikes with tread for grip, minimal suspension, drop bars with multiple positions wider than road bikes, wide range gearing suitable for various terrains, and are perfect for adventure riding, bikepacking, and commuting. Mountain bikes are described as robust with a focus on stability and handling, with wide tyres with deep tread for grip on rough terrain, front and/or full suspension to absorb shocks, flat or riser bars for better control on tough terrains, very wide gear range with low gears for climbing steep trails, and are perfect for trail riding, downhill, and cross-country.

Investing in a bike is not just about the purchase price. It’s about finding value

Decide on your budget

Think about how much you’re willing to spend. Consider how a bike will fit into your daily life.

Look for quality and value

It’s worth paying a bit more for a bike that lasts longer and performs better. Consider build quality, components, and brand reputation.

Consider pre-owned

You can find excellent bikes at lower prices second-hand. Just be cautious and inspect them carefully or get expert advice.

Remember the extras

Cycling involves more than just the bike. Gear like helmets and maintenance costs add up, so plan for those too.

Think about the future

Choose a bike that suits your needs now but also has room to grow with you.

Understanding the bike jargon

There’s a lot of jargon when it comes to cycling. To help minimise any misunderstanding, let’s go over the basics.

Frame

This is the core of your bike. The material affects weight and ride feel, with options like carbon fibre for lightness. Getting the right size is important for comfort – especially when you think about all the hours you’ll spend on the bike.

Wheels

They play a big role in how your bike handles. Larger wheels roll over obstacles more easily but can add weight. The choice between aluminium and carbon rims depends on your preference for durability versus lighter weight.

Suspension

This is so important for your hiney if you plan on doing off-road riding. Suspension absorbs impacts and smooths out the ride. Mountain bikes often have both front and rear suspension. Ask a bike shop for advice if you’re still unsure.

Gears

These help you navigate different terrains. Your choice will depend on your fitness level and riding plans.

Brakes

Essential for safety, the type of brakes (rim, disc, or coaster) affects stopping power and performance in different conditions. Disc brakes, which come standard on newer bicycles, offer consistent performance in wet and dry conditions.

Touchpoints

The parts of the bike you interact with most, like the saddle and handlebars. Comfort here is key. These are a personal choice but should be comfortable and suit your riding style.

Where to shop for a bicycle. It’s more important than you think.

Local bike shops

They usually offer a personalised service, and the opportunity to test the bicycle. They might be a bit more expensive, but the service is worth it.

Online retailers and direct-to-consumer brands

The big guys often have a wider selection of bicycles and often lower prices. The downside is you might miss out on personal service.

Second-hand markets

Places like Facebook Marketplace or BikeHub can offer great deals. But tread carefully, they come with risks such as potential scams or the absence of warranties. Always inspect the bike thoroughly before purchasing.

Some shopping tips

With a bit of prep, finding the right bike can be straightforward:

  1. Do your research: Start by figuring out what you need. Look at reviews and forums for insights.
  2. Take a test ride: If possible, trying a bike out is invaluable. It helps you feel if the bike is right for you.
  3. Ask questions: Whether buying in-store or online, getting clarity on things like warranties can save you hassle later.

Choosing a bike is a significant but manageable decision. With the right approach, you’ll find a bike that brings joy and adventure for years to come. Remember to get your bike insured – it's really important to have that peace of mind. Head to the following links to get a quick quote on home contents insurance or single item cover. It’s straightforward, and it makes your cycling adventures worry-free. Check out our easy-to-follow guide for all the details on insuring your bike and everything that goes with it. Enjoy the ride!

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