Spring. Everyone seems to be dusting off their bikes and others are thinking of joining them. Finding the right bike can be daunting, but with a little thought and research the process needn’t be painful. Start by thinking about what sort of riding you plan on doing and who with.
If dirt trails are the main attraction, a mountain bike is the go. Front or full suspension makes your ride much more comfortable in bumpy conditions. Swap knobbly tyres for slick ones and you’re ready for sealed roads. So you can also use it for commuting or long-distance touring. Mountain bikes are very versatile, but not the only option.
If you’re commuting, shopping or riding mainly on sealed trails a hybrid bike might suit better. This is a catch-all category – sort of a cross between a road bike and a mountain bike. With a more upright riding position, they’re often more attractive for first-time or returning riders. They’re also excellent for cycle touring. Fit wider tyres and you can take them off sealed roads, although riding on dirt on rigid forks can be tiring. Don’t expect to take your hybrid down the fire trail after your mountain-biking friends though.
If it’s speed or long-distance riding that appeals, a road bike looks attractive. They’re light and geared for speed. If you’re new to road riding, the low riding position might be uncomfortable at first. “Flat-bar” road bikes replace the drop handle bars with something more like mountain bike bars giving you a more upright ride.
Check Bicycle Victoria (www.bv.com.au), the Cycling Promotion Fund (www.cyclingpromotion.com.au) or Women’s Cycling (www.womenscycling.com.au) for down-to-earth advice about bike shopping.
Go talk to bike shops. Staff in a good bike shop are usually cyclists themselves and can give you good advice. Most importantly, they make sure you get the right frame size and set you up properly. Your bike will have been assembled by an experienced bike mechanic and if there are any problems with your bike, the shop will help you out. It’s all a much safer sense when you’re new to cycling.
How do you fit your needs to your budget? Costs vary with the quality of frame or components. Ask for advice on the best value. Many bike shops also stock traded-in second hand bikes, so you could pick up a well-serviced bargain that way, just by letting them know what you’re after.
Go enjoy the sunshine and see you on the road soon, God willing. Eddie Barkla
First published in the Bendigo Weekly Friday 22 September 2006