How to buy the best bike for you. This little guide is here to provide the basic help needed in buying the correct bike for you.
So, you have decided that you want a new bike. The first thing to do is to consider what type of riding you are into, and for who you are buying the bike for, regarding age, height, weight, etc.
1 What type of riding do you do.
The type of riding you do greatly effects the type of bike you should buy. For instance, if you do alot of riding around town, without any large bumps or off roading, a rigid bike [thats one without any suspension] with a single speed front and a few gears at the rear are perfectly adequate. If possible, look for bikes with a sturmey archer [epicyclic/internal] gear mech, as they aren't going to get damaged, they are going to work more efficiently, and need less work put into them to keep them running. The same can be said for the brakes. Look for roller brakes [drum brakes] or V brakes. Drum brakes are great for urban riding as they are, like the sturmey archer gears, completely sealed and as such will not fall apart, or need any repairing. The main thing to remember here is that you just want a reliable bike that will run day in, day out without any hitches! Another thing to look out for are slick tyres, or tyres with reduced tread. these tyres are great on tarmac as they have a lower rolling resistance compared to tyres with more tread, thus the slicks will enable you to ride faster and more efficently. By far the best urban bike I have personally seen and used is the Giant NRS 3. It is not cheap, but will keep running forever!
Another example, taking riding to the other extreme, is freeriding or downhilling. This style of riding puts a lot of stress through a bike as large jumps and hard landings are frequent, along with having to brave all types of conditions. As such a very strong bike frame is a must, with a long travel suspension fork, and almost definitely a rear suspension unit. Suspension manufacturers to look out for are Fox, Marzocchi, Manitou, Whyte, Rockshox and Pace.
Rear suspension isn't essential and riding with a rigid rear end [hardtail] will enable you to learn how to manage your bike and get to know how to ride effieciently, howver the more you progress, the larger the jumps will be, as such rear suspension will definately be needed when you progress.
Brakes on these more extreme bikes should indefinately be disk brakes, as they will work in near on all conditions, and have a phenomenal amount of braking power.
Hydraulic disk brakes are much better than cable operated ones, as they have opposing pistons which both clamp the disk brake rotor, whereas the mechanical brakes only have one piston, which bends the rotor onto the other brake pad, causing uneven disk pad and rotor wear.
Disk brakes are alot easier to damage than rim brakes, however the increased stopping power renders them imperitive to have on your bike when doing more extreme riding.
Brakes to look out for are made by Hayes, Hope, Avid, and Shimano. Some other companies such as Diatech and Formula also make some budget brakes of a more high quality.
When doing more aggresive riding the chain will have a tendancy to come off, unless a suitable chain device is used. Chain devices will prevent the chain from coming off and usually have a system of rollers [jockey wheels] and plates on either side of the chain wheel, to keep the chain from slipping off. Good manufacturers of these are MRP, DMR, Truvativ, and E-Thirteen.
For non- aggressive, off road riding an all round XC bike would be perfectly adequate. Things to look for are a short travel suspension fork, (80-100mm), 3x9 speed drivetrain, narrower tyres with a medium tread, (1.8"-2.1") and lightweight disc brakes- again, hydraulic are better but for non aggressive applications cable actuated discs are fine if made by a respectable manufacturer such as Avid or Shimano. A lot of the time, rim brakes are actually fine, either V brakes or Magura HS33s, which are a super powerful hydraulic brake. While a rigid frame is lighter and again will teach you proper riding techniques, a full suspension set up will make for a more comfortable ride and make you smoother. Other features such as dropper seat posts and cleated pedals are a bonus.
There are some features that are desirable on pretty much all bikes, regardless of type. These include lock on handlebar grips, external bottom bracket bearing cups, rapid fire gear shifters etc.
2. Intended user
The bike bought should definitely suit the rider. If the bike is too big, too heavy, or too much effort to ride it won't be fun any more.
For urban bikes and cross country [xc] bikes the rider should be able to sit on the seat, and just about be able to touch the ground with their feet with their toes. This is to get the most efficient ride with the least wasted energy. It is also important as if a bike is too small the rider will feel squashed and be able to move properly. Similarly if a bike is too large for the rider they will feel stretched and uncomfortable, and not be able to make necessary movement.
More extreme bikes where tricks and stunts are done must be smaller, so that they don't get in the way of the rider.
Age is also a factor to be taken into consideration. If the rider is young, they will find it harder to use a heavier bike. Also younger riders should start off on a bike with only a rear brake and no gears- we don't want to be confusing the little tykes now! The single rear brake is sensible as, during the inevitable ''ahh must stop'' moments when the brake is firmly grabbed, the rider is less likely to fly over the handlebars compared to if there is just a front brake. While the braking power is reduced with a rear brake rather than a front brake, the likelihood of the rider going fast enough for this to be an issue is unlikely. A final note, make sure the brake lever is located on the correct side of the handlebars- when eventually upgrading to a bigger bike with more than one gear, this will avoid confusion and a potential over the handlebars moment.
.......................................A brief roundup.......................................
So things to consider:
The type of riding you are doing, remember, less bumps, less bounce, [less suspension needed], also the more aggressive the riding, the smaller the frame.
The type of person riding- younger riders need bikes they can easily pedal with, and not break [theres going to be alot of falling off...] also they shouldnt have too many controls- no gears, also just a rear brake- a single brake is all that is needed, and make sure it is a rear brake, as the kids may panic and slam on the brakes, as such if the only brake they have is a front one, they will go flying and you'll never hear the end of it!
Manufacturers to look out for.................................................................................
Complete bikes- giant, trek, kona, cannondale, DMR, merlin, to name but a few.
Brakes- Hope, Hayes, Shimano, Avid, etc.
Suspension- Marzocchi, Manitou, Rockshox, Pace, Whyte, Fox
Wheels- Mavic, DMR, Halo, Atomlab, Sun Rhino
Drivetrain- shimano and SRAM [you're unlikely to get anything other than that anyway]
Things to AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE......................................................
Frames- Apollo, Unknown frames, Older saracens, any bike which is sub-200 pounds.
Forks- RST, Shockworks, Chilliworks, SR Suntours [however some more expensive ones are ok]. If it has less than 30mm travel it not really worth buying.
Brakes- mechanical disk brakes, centre pull brakes, spoon brakes.
Wheels- no name wheels.
Thats about it!
Have fun, and good luck with finding the bike for you.