Round Up: Top 3 commuter bikes for beginners
If you haven't cycled for a long time, don't be swayed by fashion or sport: get a bike that's comfortable, practical and useful for you.
Getting your first new bike in years can be bewildering, due the choice available. To narrow things down, be honest with yourself – and your local Cyclescheme retailer - about the journeys you'll make on it. There is no single bike that's best for all new cycle commuters. But if you're looking for one for half-hour journeys across town, you probably want some kind of hybrid. Here's a checklist of things to look for – or at least consider – in your new bike.
Upright riding position. Leaning forward on a bike provides a sportier, more aerodynamic riding position. However, it can also strain your lower back, neck and shoulders, and make your hands go tingly or numb. Sitting more upright transfers your weight to your backside. For shorter journeys, this works well. It makes it easier to look around in traffic too.
Non-drop handlebar. If you plan to ride fast or far, a drop handlebar is great: it gives you the ability to duck down out of the wind, and to vary the position of your hands. But a flat handlebar puts the brakes in easier reach and improves steering leverage, so is a better option in traffic, especially for less confident cyclists. It also tends to give a more upright riding position.
Comfortable saddle and grips. Aches and pains aren't a normal part of cycling. If a saddle feels wrong, it is wrong. The more upright you sit, the wider and more padded (or sprung) you want the saddle to be. Grips need to be more ergonomic the more weight you have on your hands. Note that both grips and saddle can be easily changed, either when you get the bike or later.
Mudguards and a rear rack. Ideally, a commuter bike will come with these to prevent road spray when it's wet and to enable you to carry your luggage on the bike instead of your back. If they're not present, check that they can be fitted.
Low enough gears. It doesn't matter how many gears the bike has as long as they go low enough to suit your local terrain and your own fitness. Many bikes are over-geared, making it too hard to climb hills on them.
Wide enough tyres. Wider tyres provide more shock absorbency, so they're more comfortable. They're less likely to pinch-puncture on bad roads. Grip is better too, as a wider tyre can be run at a lower pressure, giving it a bigger 'footprint'. For commuting, look for tyres at least 28mm wide.
Easy to use brakes. Brake levers need to be in easy reach of your index and middle fingers and mustn't require more grip strength than you've got to stop the bike easily. V-brakes and disc brakes are invariably very good, particularly hydraulic discs. Sidepull calipers and cantilever brakes are usually good.
Here are three quite different beginner-friendly bikes.
Cube Travel RF
Like many northern European trekking bikes, the Cube Travel RF is fully equipped. As well as mudguards and a rear rack, it has always-available hub-dynamo lighting – with a 'standlight' that comes on when you stop. There's even a kickstand. The rest of the specification hasn't suffered: it has Shimano BR-M355 hydraulic disc brakes and 3x9 Shimano Acera/Altus/Deore gearing. The frame and fork are aluminium, making it lightweight for a fully-equipped bike. Its 700x40C tyres will cope comfortably with rough tarmac and gravel roads. A women's version is available.
Folding smaller and more neatly than any other rideable folding bike, the Brompton excels as a rail traveller's bike, going free as luggage. It's good for new commuters in general because it gives you options. If you're tired/it's too far/it's raining, you can take the tube/bus/taxi with your bike; you're not committed to riding all the way every day. You don't need to worry about theft, or even a lock, as the bike goes indoors with you. There are lots of design options, including colour, luggage, handlebar, gearing, and lighting. A 3-speed with mudguards and Shimano dyno-hub lighting (pictured) will suit many riders, but a 6-speed with reduced gearing ratios is better for steep hills.
Giant Twist Lite 2
If you're worried about your fitness, or if you commute is just too far or hilly, how about a bit of assistance? Giant's entry-level pedelec isn't a twist-and-go moped replacement: you have to pedal. The front wheel motor augments your efforts, according to the level of assistance you set with the handlebar control. The big rechargeable Li-ion battery, which locks in place in the rear rack, has a range of 20-25 miles. Unlike some budget e-bikes, the Twist Lite 2 is a decent quality hybrid underneath. It's perfectly rideable, though heavy, with a flat battery. A women's version is available.
You can find a wide range of locks from your local Cyclescheme Partner Bike Stores, please visit www.cyclescheme.ie/partners for a full list.
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