Bike buying guide

If you want to avoid packed commuter trains and find a greener mode of transport, buying a bicycle could be the answer. Our bike-buying guide explains what you need to know to help you choose the right two wheels for you.  

If you want to avoid packed commuter trains and find a greener mode of transport, buying a bicycle could be the answer. Our bike-buying guide explains what you need to know to help you choose the right two wheels for you.  

Chris King
From the Home team
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Posted 19 JUNE 2020

What type of bike do I need?

The type of bike you need depends on what kind of cycling you’ll be doing. 
Hybrid bikes are a cross between road and mountain bikes – they’re a good allrounder if you want something comfortable for general out-and-about leisure cycling on different terrains. If you want to be able to carry a picnic or grocery shopping on your bike, you’ll need to look for one that can fit a luggage rack or basket – not all bikes can accommodate this. 
Folding bikes are great if you’re riding your bike to work and need to take it on a bus or train, or have limited storage space – either at work or home. They generally have smaller wheels and a lightweight frame that make them easy to carry.  

Road bikes are designed for speed, with low handlebars, a stiff frame and narrow wheels made for smooth road surfaces. They’re best suited to competitive or serious cyclists and have fast gearing to keep up with the rider’s speed.  
Mountain bikes are heavier and chunkier to cope with off-road terrains. They usually have great suspension systems and differ slightly for uphill and downhill riding. Trail bikes are a good off-road all-rounder. 
Electric bikes, or e-bikes, have a battery pack and an electric motor to add power to your pedalling. Because they don’t need as much effort, they can be a good option for commuters. 

Find out more about electric bikes

How do I know what bike frame size I need? 

Adult bikes come in all shapes and sizes, but you need to get one that’s right for you so you’ll be comfortable riding it. Just like clothes, bike sizing varies slightly with type and brand – mountain bikes tend to be smaller and more manoeuvrable, while road bikes are usually slightly longer and higher for better aerodynamics.    
You can get a rough idea of the correct frame size for you by using your height and inside leg measurement. If you’re in between sizes, your arm reach to the handlebars is a good deciding factor. Getting on a bike is the best way to find the size that suits you.  

Is there a difference between men’s and women’s bikes?

There are minor differences between men’s and women’s bikes to account for differences in height, arm, torso and leg length, and pelvis size.  
Frame – The most noticeable and traditional difference is that men’s bike frames typically have a straight horizonal crossbar, while for women the crossbar is diagonally slanted – this was originally to make it more dignified for women to get on and off. Women’s bike frames generally also tend to be shorter as, on average, women are shorter than men. 
Handlebars – The handlebar width and stem length directly relate to height and shoulder width, so men’s handlebars are often wider with a longer stem; the opposite is true for women.  
Seat – Many bikes will have a unisex seat, while the more expensive options may have different seat designs for men and women. Men’s seats are usually longer and narrower, while women’s are wider. 
There’s no absolute about men’s and women’s bikes. It’s all about how well the size suits your body type. As long as you can comfortably sit, reach the handlebars, and pedal, the bike is the right size and fit for you.  

Which children’s bike is best?

When buying a bike for your child, it should be one that’s comfortable for them to sit on and that they can be in control of steering. Kid’s bike sizes are measured on wheel diameter to suit their height.  
Here’s a general guide to kids’ bike sizes. 

Age  Bike size 
18 months-3 years  balance bikes (no pedals) 
3-5 years  14-inch wheel bikes 
4-6 years  16-inch wheel bikes 
5-8 years  20-inch wheel bikes 
7-11 years  24-inch wheel bikes 
11+ years  small adult bikes 

How much should I spend on a bike?

The more money you spend on a bike, the better quality components and build you’ll get. If you’re intending to use your bike a lot and want it to last, you might want to spend as much as you can afford.  
Generally, anything less than £200 to £250 is unlikely to last and will probably need a lot of upkeep.  
Between £250 and £600 will get you a good-quality hybrid bike or a basic (entry level) road or mountain bike. 
In the £600 to £1,000 range, you’ll find top hybrid bikes for leisure, reliable electric bikes and low to mid-range mountain and road bikes – decent enough, but without bells and whistles. 
Above £1,000 and you’ll be looking at top-quality bikes of all types – full suspension mountain bikes, lightweight road bikes and state-of-the-art electric bikes.  

What bike accessories do I need?

Again, this depends on what kind of cycling you’ll be doing – although every cyclist should wear a helmet - as well as where you’ll keep your bike. Consider the following bike equipment: 
For safety, you’ll need: 

  • lights and/or reflectors for visibility at night or in the dark 
  • mirrors and bells if you’ll be cycling on the road 
  • a bike lock to make sure that your bicycle is secure, wherever you leave it 

Find out more about bike safety.
General cycle accessories include: 

  • a bike pump to keep your tyres at the right pressure 
  • mudguards that stop mud and water flicking up from your tyres 
  • child seats for children too young to have their own bike 
  • bike computer for cycling enthusiasts/competitors, to monitor performance  
    Storage accessories for bicycles include: 
  • bags and baskets to attach to your bike – front or back 
  • pannier rack – a type of luggage rack for the back of your bike 
  • water bottle and bottle cage, which sits in the frame 
  • bike rack for storing your bike when not in use – these can be standing, floor, wall or ceiling mounted 
  • covers, to protect your bike from the elements if kept outdoors. 

Insuring your bike

Once you’ve invested in your bike and the necessary accessories, make sure you have the right bicycle insurance to protect it from theft or damage. And don’t forget cover for your accessories – their value can soon add up. 

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