Tips and Advice

101 of Buying Your First Bicycle

· By Bike Hub Features · 0 comments

We all started somewhere on our cycling journey, and choosing your first bicycle can be daunting. In a series of upcoming articles we aim to guide new cyclists through the journey of buying and owning a bicycle. In this article we look at what to consider when buying your first bike.

If you’ve got questions or your own advice for a first time-buyer let us know in the comments below.

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There are three critical considerations which will inform your decision:

  1. Budget
  2. What type of bike you need
  3. What size bike you need

Budget

The first and most limiting factor in your decision will be your budget. This may inform your decision to buy new or second-hand depending on your requirements.

Matching the type of riding you are doing to a realistic and affordable budget is the first task in your bike buying journey. You will need a helmet and at least one pair of cycling shorts, complete with a chamois, so set aside money for those items too.

Pricing is changing constantly due to the exchange rate, so there is no real hard and fast rule on pricing. A very rough guide is:

Entry level
R5000 – R15 000 gets you the very basics, and performance may be impacted, particularly if you are looking to ride faster or cover big distances. If you’re riding around the neighbourhood, or taking the kids to the park you don’t need to spend more. On the other hand you will probably see supermarket cheapies for less, but honestly it’s not worth it. You’ll have an unpleasant first experience of cycling, and inevitably need to upgrade.

Mid range 
R15 000 – R45 000 will see you comfortable on your bike and participating in local races. Over time if the cycling bug bites, you can upgrade components to improve performance.

The pointy end
Over R45 000 will start to get you a high performance setup for everyday use and racing. Unfortunately the scope creep is endless and for a World Cup mountain bike race winning model you’ll be looking at upwards of R200k.

Generally speaking mountain bikes are more expensive to buy and maintain than road bikes because of the additional moving parts in the suspension and pivot bearings, and the drivetrain wear caused by dust and mud.

Buying second-hand is a good way to get bang for buck, but you need to know what you are looking for. We’ll be diving into this in a future article.

What kind of bike do I need?

Broadly speaking, when starting out cycling for fun and fitness, you will need one of four types of bikes. A dedicated road bike, a gravel bike, a hardtail mountain bike, or a full suspension mountain bike depending on where you are planning to do most of your riding.

Road Bike
If you are keen on riding exclusively on the road and perhaps taking part in a few road races – you are looking for a road bike. Designed to go fast on smooth surfaces, road bikes are characterised by their skinny, smooth tyres (low rolling resistance = more speed), curled drop handlebars (for a more aerodynamic position on the bike at high speeds), and slim light-weight frame design.

image.jpegRoad bikes are characterised by their skinny, smooth tyres, curled drop handlebars, and slim light-weight frame design.

Your biggest decision will be rim (on the wheel) brakes versus disc brakes. Disc brake equipped bikes are currently slightly more expensive than rim brakes but if your budget can stretch to disc brakes, then we recommend them. The benefit of disc over rim brakes is their superior stopping power, especially in wet weather. For novice riders, not used to feathering the brakes, a more robust stopping system is a safe bet. Disc brake equipped bikes are also becoming the accepted standard, meaning there are more options should you wish to ever replace or upgrade parts on your bike. 

The most commonly cited disadvantage of disc brakes is a slight weight penalty, but it’s widely accepted as a worthwhile sacrifice for the improved stopping power. 

image.jpegDisc brakes offer superior stopping power for a very slight weight penalty

image.jpegRim brakes are a cheaper option, but disc brakes are rapidly becoming the norm.

A road bike is the right choice for you if:

  • You only want to ride on the road
  • Performance on the road matters to you

Search Second Hand Road Bikes in our Classifieds:

Gravel Bike

A gravel bike is a drop bar bike, like a road bike with increased tyre clearance to accommodate wider tyres which can be run at lower pressures to make riding on gravel and rough roads more comfortable. Many gravel-specific frames have compliance or suspension built in to help reduce vibration and improve rider comfort on rough roads. It offers many of the benefits of a road bike, with a bit more capability on rough terrain, allowing for a more versatile riding experience. 

Because they accommodate bike packing bags easily they are a popular choice for adventure-seekers looking to explore, and cover long distances, without riding anything technical.

image.jpegGravel bikes are a popular choice for adventure-seekers looking to explore, and cover long distances, such as the Cross Cape Route

ccs-62657-0-79311800-1535718332.jpgGravel tyres are wider than road tyres and offer more grip for riding off-road.

ccs-62657-0-46942200-1535718313.jpgThis does mean they are heavier, and the rolling resistance is higher, so they are not as quick on the tar.

 The drop bars put you in a more aerodynamic position for riding long distances at higher speeds than a mountain bike but do not give the same level of control on technical trails that flats bars do.

A gravel bike is the right choice for you if:

  • You will be riding tar and gravel roads
  • You don’t plan on venturing onto mountain bike trails
  • You are looking for more affordable maintenance
  • You want a light bike

Search Second Hand Gravel Bikes in our Classifieds:

Hardtail Mountain Bike

A hardtail mountain bike is a versatile all-terrain bike that has a one-piece frame with no rear shock (suspension). Mountain bikes have flat handlebars which put the rider in a more stable position for navigating rough and twisty trails.

Hardtails typically have a front suspension fork but some can have a rigid front fork too. If you will be riding on the road, on gravel roads and on the mountain, a relatively inexpensive hardtail mountain bike will tick the boxes.

image.jpegA hardtail mountain bike does not have a rear shock, making it lighter and cheaper to buy and maintain. It does make for a rougher ride experience over rocks and corrugated roads.

The advantage of a hardtail over a full suspension is that they are generally cheaper to buy and maintain because of the lack of rear shock. They are also lighter without the added weight of the shock.

If you aren’t planning on doing a lot of technical singletrack riding you will be perfectly fine on a hardtail. You can also put slick tyres on to reduce rolling resistance if you plan on doing lots of road riding, or if you take part in a road race.

A hardtail mountain bike is the right choice for you if:

  • You want a mountain bike but are on a tight budget
  • You want a versatile bike that is useful on both road and mountain riding
  • You are riding smoother trails
  • You are looking for more affordable maintenance
  • You want a light bike

Search Second Hand Hardtail Mountain Bikes in our Classifieds:

Full Suspension Mountain Bike

A full suspension or dual suspension mountain bike features both front suspension (fork) and rear suspension (shock) travel and are designed to make tackling more rugged and technical terrain safer and more comfortable.

The addition of rear suspension helps improve traction for added control and comfort. This accelerates the learning curve for anyone looking to ride rocky, bumpy and more challenging trails.

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image.jpegFlat handlebars (as opposed to the drop handlebars seen on road and gravel bikes offer better control for riding technical terrain. 

image.jpegThe rear shock on a dual (full) -suspension bike improves grip and absorbs bumps giving the rider increased control and comfort.

Within dual suspension bikes the length of suspension of travel generally dictates the intended use. Shorter travel bikes with 100-120 mm of travel are intended for marathon and cross country use, on smoother trails. While longer travel bikes are designed for steeper, rougher tracks.

Long and mid- travel bikes, with more than 130mm of suspension travel generally provide a very upright riding position; and are optimised for going downhill and over big features such as rocks, drops and jumps, as fast as possible. They also tend to be heavier because of the added weight of suspension and bigger tyres for additional traction. 

For a novice rider anything more than 120mm of suspension travel is probably not necessary, and likely to prove more of a hindrance than a help, unless you are starting cycling with the aim of participating in “gravity” events such as Enduro, or Downhill, or intend to ride very technical trails with your mates.

A full suspension mountain bike is the right choice for you if:

  • You are coming to the party with a healthy budget
  • You want to ride technical terrain and challenging single track
  • You want control and speed
  • You enjoy being comfortable

Search Second Hand Dual Suspension Mountain Bikes in our Classifieds:

Let’s talk about wheel size

You’ve probably heard phrases like 26er, 29er and 650b bandied around. In short, this refers to wheel diameter. Here’s what you need to know:

  • 26 inch is an older standard, smaller diameter wheel, and will probably be a bit cheaper. Spare parts and upgrades will become an issue over time as this standard is phased out on all but the most entry-level bikes. Tyre options are also limited.
  • 29 inch is the commonly accepted modern standard. The larger diameter wheel helps you roll over obstacles and carry speed more easily. This is a safe bet in terms of being future-proofed.
  • The 650b size sits somewhere between the two, but is far less common than 29er.

Ebikes

In addition, you can get electric versions of the bikes discussed above. eBikes are the quickest growing segment within cycling globally and the speed they provide for reduced effort is addictive. If you can afford an eBike, which adds assistance via a battery powered electric motor, they are a fantastic way to get into cycling. Because you still need to pedal you get a good workout, but you can go further and keep up with your experienced cycling friends virtually straight off the bat. They do require skill to handle because of the added weight, and higher speeds they enable a novice to reach, so make sure you put time and effort into skills training if you do go this route.

Frame material

Probably a question for another day. But the two most common choices are aluminium and carbon frames. Carbon is lighter and stiffer and the preferred choice for those looking for high performance toys, but is more expensive. Aluminium is more robust, and affordable and is an ideal choice for someone getting into cycling for the first time.

Sizing

Getting the right bike size is essential for your future comfort, safety and overall enjoyment. The correct size is generally determined by your height and inseam length. Because each brand has different geometry we highly recommend you refer to the guidelines on the manufacturer website.

If you are buying from a shop make sure they include a basic setup in the purchase including saddle and handlebar adjustments, and suspension set up if it is a mountain bike so that you start off with a comfortable baseline. The correct frame size is the key starting point to ensure proper bike fit. We’ll dig into more of the details around positioning and setup in future articles.

Welcome to the wonderful (but confusing) world of bicycles

This is just the tip of the iceberg, and we will be digging into the details over the coming months. If you have any questions please feel free to ask them in the Bike Hub forums. We’ve created a New to Cycling section to help you along. 

Drop your questions there and our wonderfully diverse community of Bike Hubbers will be sure to help you out. 

If you have any advice of your own to share please let us know in the comments below.
 

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