Cycling has taken off during the pandemic. Here’s how to choose the right bike

Australians are taking up cycling in huge numbers. Here's how to find the right bike for you.

Australians are taking up cycling in huge numbers. Here's how to find the right bike for you. Photo: Getty

The great pandemic-inspired bicycle boom has continued into 2021.

When the pandemic began, many Australians turned to two wheels to help them avoid public transport and keep fit when gyms were closed.

Some said this boom would plateau after the huge spike in 2020, but the numbers show otherwise.

Last financial year Australia set a new all-time record of 1.75 million bikes imported into the country in a single 12-month period, according to Bicycle Industries Australia, the peak body representing Australia’s bicycle industry.

Executive officer at We Ride Australia, Peter Bourke, said the interest was still high.

“We’ve seen the demand is still there,” he said.

Choosing the right bike

But choosing the right bike can be difficult and the options are daunting.

Door bars or straight? Fixed gear or 21 of them? Commuter? Basket? The choices are almost endless.

Mr Bourke said the most important thing is to work out what sort of rides you’ll be going on.

“The first question is what are you looking for? How far? Five kilometres or 50?” he said.

“If you’re just going to ride to the park with your child on the weekend, for instance, don’t get a drop bike road bike.”

Are you riding to work? Or with others on the weekend? Will you be taking the kids? On gravel? The riding you’re going to do will determine which model of bike you should choose.

Once you’ve worked out how far you are cycling, it’s good to think about what type of terrain you’ll be riding on, how comfortable you want to be versus how fast, if you’re going up hills, and if you want to install racks to hold bags.

How much should you pay for a bike?

Anyone who has been excited by the idea of cycling and jumped online has seen a huge difference in the price points – from $300 to $3000 it can be hard to know how much you need to spend on a bike.

Mr Bourke said those wanting a quality bike should fork out at least $500.

“For some people that is a challenging price point, but like everything, you get what you pay for,” he said.

“New bikes under $500 tend not to last because of the quality. There are reasons why they’re in the cheaper price point.”

One other critical thing is getting a bike that is the right size for you, he said.

For people starting out it is better to go to a local bike shop and talk through the models and styles with an expert.

“You can get a good deal buying a second-hand bike, but the challenge is you don’t know the history,” Mr Bourke said.

“You can get great ones, but you need to know, has it been repaired? Has it been serviced? How has it been treated?”

A little research can help those looking for their first bike make the right choice.

“It can be intimidating. It’s like walking into an unknown world,” he said.

“But it comes back to, what do you want it for?”

Popular models

Road bikes

A road bike is all about speed. They’re lightweight and they have handlebars that curl back to the rider – so you can go faster. They often have thin tyres which cannot go off sealed roads. They’re good for social or fitness-based road cycling.

Flat bar road bikes

Flat bar road bikes are a popular choice for those wanting a speedy bike, that is safer to ride in traffic.

Because they have flat handlebars, the rider is in a more upright position which offers greater viability. Some of these bikes come with thicker tyres so riders can go on light-gravel tracks.

City or commuter bikes

These are often called ‘urban bikes’ and there are many styles that fall under this umbrella.

Essentially, they’re designed for comfort in mind, with the rider in a moderately upright position, but are still fast.

Fixie and single-speed bikes

Fixie is short for ‘fixed wheel’, meaning the rear cog and rear wheel are directly connected – so you can’t coast along. A single-speed bike is fixed with a rear cog, so riders will be able to coast.

They’re both cheap and lightweight but won’t be helpful if your commute has a lot of hills.

Cruiser or step-through bikes

These bikes are comfortable as the rider sits upright but are only good for short rides.

They have a low top bar, so you can “step-through” and often come with a padded seat so it’s like cycling in your lounge chair.

Electric bikes

Electric bikes are good for riders who have hills or are travelling long distances. They are fitted with either a pedal-assist option or are throttle powered.

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