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Beginners guide to finding your first bike...

Updated: Sep 17, 2023



So all your friends have got their own first 'road' bike and now you're feeling that little bit jealous and the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) has started creeping in.


After countless hours of searching online through Google and cycling related websites you still left with the ultimate question of.... what do I actually need to start cycling and what am I supposed to be looking for in my first bike?


''Believe it or not, this is a common question that we often get asked in the workshop and unfortunately there's no one response to fits all.''

Although most tradesmen can give you a steer in the right direction becoming a cyclist or even purchasing your very first bike is a unique thing and ultimately can't be rushed. I started almost 20-years ago with a Halfords own Carrera branded heavy mountain bike made of Steel and although it doesn't cost the earth at the time, I did take about 2 months of research before I was willing to part ways with my hard-earned cash.


In this blog, we'll go over some of the essential things that you need to decide before making those all important decisions. Ultimately there is no wrong way about going about this however, using these tried and tested methods will ensure the you not only get the right bike for you but avoid those desperate retailer and sellers trying to flog you something that you don't actually need.


WHAT KIND OF RIDER ARE YOU?


First and foremost you need to find out what kind of cyclist you are and more importantly what you going to use the bike for? If you work in a condensed city centre environment then may be hybrid commuter bike might be more suited to your lifestyle or if you're a businessman at heart and still like to get from point a to b as quickly as possible in city centres that maybe a folding bike might be your next best option?


Those that like to get down and dirty might consider a new mountain bike with flat handlebars or in recent times we've seen the emergence of gravel road bikes that are built in the same way as a mountain bike fitted with drop bars and an aggressive posture that allows you to both go on and off road.



Lastly we have the speed freaks (that includes me), those that are worried about saving every gram possible in the pursuit of an aerodynamic position for the ultimate thrill. These are usually classed as carbon aero frames or both TT (time trial) or triathlon bikes.


HOW MUCH SHOULD I BE SPENDING?


Once you have an idea what kind of cyclist you intend on being, it's important at the very start to set yourself a realistic budget. What you need to understand about the cycle trade is that although it is relatively inexpensive to jump on a bike once you start getting into cycling you quickly find costs for your credit card can quickly escalate. With materials such as carbon fibre resin, titanium frames and and aero clothing on offer to mainstream customers you really do have to balance the...


'What do you need vs what you would I like to have' mentality.




So as a rule a thumb, anything up to £500 we usually give you a good solid commuter bike those with a more mountain bike and road enthusiast domain should aim for around £900 - £1500 Mark and those that are serious about becoming the weekend warriors should consider anything upwards from £2,000.


One thing to note is that the more expensive your ride or equipment is on the bike the gains that you make on the road become fast smaller than you think. The trade has undergone a significant modernisation in the past decade with both titanium and carbon fibre materials reaching the lower levels of the cycling industry and for those chasing every gram available on their Sunday sessions, sometimes it's better to focus on individual fitness rather than an expensive wheelset that may set you back 1500 to £2,000.


TRY BEFORE YOU BUY


Next is the fun part, online research about brands and bike manufacturers that you not only like the look of but also have a solid reputation for build quality. Better still where possible always aim to visit your local bike shop / showroom and ask the questions of those already in the trade. NO QUESTIONS IS TOO STUPID TO ASK AND I'M CERTAIN ITS BEEN ASKED BEFORE...more often than not most mechanics or shop managers will have an in-depth knowledge of certain brands depending on what they sell but they will also have an in-depth awareness of the current trends and where your money may be best placed. As with anything you hear nowadays take everything with a pinch of salt but take the time to have a look at the bikes themselves as ultimately if you don't like or love the look of the bike you're going to ride then it will simply end up gathering dust on a garage floor in the coming months.


WHAT SIZE AM I?


One thing you will know most notably come across during this time is bike sizing. For want of a better word bike sizing across the cycling industry has been and forever will be flawed on the basis that every rider is unique and that a large in a Giant frame doesn't necessarily mean a large in a Specialised frame. Therefore the only way to get around this reoccurring issue is to find a fellow rider who is riding the bike you're expecting to buy or indeed contact the manufacturer directly.


As a prime example, my main ride is a Vitus Auro triathlon bike which is currently sized as an XL whereas if I switch to a road bike I'm a size L and again when I switch to a gravel bike I'm a size M..... the key takeaway here is that....


time spent doing your research is worth every penny!

WHAT ABOUT THE SECOND HAND MARKET?


During your search you will also consider second hand bikes. Bikes can be found on many online social media platforms from Facebook marketplace to Instagram to independent bike manufacturers all bidding for your trade. As a qualified mechanic, I would never shy away from a second-hand bike but this requires you to have a baseline understanding of how bikes work. At least with a brand new bike you can guarantee that warranty issues and repairs can be fixed fairly quick. Whereas second-hand bikes can have unforeseen problems with the reseller not being overly honest about the bikes history through to damage that can't be seen with the naked eye.


That said from previous experience and certainly here in the workshop you would never discount a second-hand bike certainly for the cost savings that you can achieve. As a general rule the thumb, much like brand new cars and vans you will ultimately lose 30% of the value of the car as soon as it's written out of the shop floor.


So if your budget can't stretch to a brand new bicycle, fear not use the expertise around you and scour the online platforms to see what's available. Any second-hand bike is definitely worth the look just make sure you can get a qualified mechanic to give you an overall estimate of how much a decent service will cost. Most gold level services packages hover around £100 which includes a deep clean and full dismantle and rebuild of key components such as the crankset and the rear derailleur.


WHAT ABOUT RESALE?


Buyers don't often think about this but consider how often you intend on using the bike. Are you expected to use the bike all year round or are you only going to use it during summer months for family jaunts? The reason why we say this it's because bikes in the winter often spend most of their time in garages or hung up in their bedrooms. People often buy expensive bikes during the height of the summer months and then as soon as the winter months kick in realise that they've overspent and sometimes attempt to shift their bike onto the next buyer to recuperate some of the cost at a reduced price. Again, here is an opportunity for you as the buyer to make some massive savings on your next ride.


WHAT COMPONENTS DO I NEED?


Next thing to think about is components. Now I know that most of you will walk into a showroom and look at the bike in all its glory and make a decision there and then. Here is where a bit of research online is needed in order to ensure that you get the best price.





There are three main dominators of the market over the past decade. SRAM, a US based in California company as well as Shimano a Malaysian and Taiwanese company and finally the infamiur Campagolo. Each of these brands have their own dedicated groupsets varying quality and durability (see attached images). Picture paints a thousand words so the higher the quality groupset, the more expensive the ride.





Now here is what the major brands don't actually tell you... up to around 80% of the research and development and cost of the bike are fed into the bike frame and design to entice customers into the latest trends on the market leaving some 20% for the manufacturer to generate a brand component that can be bolted onto any of their frames. So focus your efforts on the frame condition if considering the second hand option as 90% of the bike components can be swapped out if upgraded at a later stage.


POTENTIAL RESALE VALUE?


Whilst we are conveniently on to a topic, not everybody will consider this when buying their next pride and joy. However, it's always worth considering the future resale value. It may sound silly considering you haven't even bought the bike but buying a bike brand that no one has ever heard of or is painted in lime green or pink may not attract future buyers.... so beware.


Ultimately buyers will look to knock you down in terms of your expected price but if you've done your research and found similar products it in same condition as yours and stick to your guns and you can't go to far wrong.


Short and sweet but hopefully we've ticked off all the things you need to take into consideration when contemplating getting into cycling.


FINAL THOUGHTS


The key takeaways here are that you don't need to spend an extortion amount of money to get you on the road. Modern day bikes can be found for half the price within the second hand market but always make sure you get a qualified mechanic to service the bike before taking it out on the road.


Now that you've got an idea of what to do in order to find your next bike we'll be back again soon to talk about helmet, gloves and general cycle clothing with some tips and trips of how to make your days out around town that much more enjoyable.


Let us know in the comments below what things you considered when you purchased your very own first set of wheels so we can pay it forward.


Stay safe and keep rolling 🤘

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