Buying Guides

  • Road Bikes fall into a category that includes many different styles. A Road bike is a bike designed to cover long distances in short times. You often see this type of bike in well known Elite cycle races such as the Tour de France and the Tour of Britain. Typically, the saddle is at the same height as the handlebar, if not higher, and the frame is quite long; this causes riders to sit high, almost reaching forward, thus creating a more aerodynamic profile for cycling at speed. It features a 700c wheelset, with narrow, smooth tyres. The handlebars are downwardly curved, allowing riders to stoop even lower, if needed. The bikes themselves are a lot more lightweight, compared to other categories.

    Some of the various styles of Road bike available are as follows:

    Road Race - This style of bike is designed to be light and fast. Its appearance is that of the typical road bike. The frame may be made from light alloy or carbon fibre, because of the lightness of these materials. Very few extras are usually fitted to this bike, except a water bottle in its cage.

    Time Trials - These bikes are intended to ride over either a set track or road in the fastest time possible. The bikes themselves are extremely light and usually made from carbon fibre. The frame tubes usually have an aerodynamic profile and look fairly space age. On indoor track bikes, the rear wheel is typically a carbon fibre disc, as opposed to a normal spoked wheel.

  • Mountain Bikes are by far the most popular on the market today. They are designed with muddy tracks, logs and rocks in mind. We are talking chunky, knobby tyres, suspension and lots of gears. There is such a large range to choose from that you will be spoilt for choice.

    Nowadays, a Mountain bike is no longer a 26” wheel one featuring a flat handlebar and built strong enough for off road use. Today, a Mountain bike can take on many shapes and forms; the setup of the bike depends on what style of mountain biking you want to take part in.

    It is typical of a standard Mountain bike to feature three chainrings on the pedal axle and anywhere between 7 to 10 cogs on the rear wheel one. Depending on the style of bike you desire, the material from which frame is built can vary. Light alloy is probably the most common material to find, being lightweight and strong. However, frames are also available in Chromoly, Titanium and Carbon Fibre.

    The most popular categories are as follows:

    Cross Country, (XC) – This style of bike is more for the endurance racers. It is a minimalist bike, made to be as quick as possible by being equipped with lightweight components, slightly skinnier knobby tyres, between 21 and 30 gears, and with a fairly tall frame.

    This bike is suited for racing around muddy trails at speed; no large jumps, just fast, winding trails.

    Enduro/All-Mountain (AM) – These bikes are purchased by most everyday trail riders. This category is designed to deal with anything a mountain trail can throw at a rider. These bikes are equipped with a dual suspension system, i.e. both a front and rear suspension. The majority of Enduro/All-Mountain bikes feature between 4” and 6” of suspension travel, to absorb those nasty bumps.

    Downhill, (DH) – Downhill mountain biking takes place on a steep mountain face, with the rider speeding through a set course that typically takes anywhere between 2 to 5 minutes to complete. The bikes used feature a dual suspension frame, with a larger amount of suspension travel than the All-Mountain ones, usually around 8”, but sometimes as much as 12” for more aggressive riders. The wheelbase of these bikes is fairly long and has a slack headtube angle. This style of riding requires the wearing of body armour and a full face helmet as, in competitions, accidents are more likely to happen.

    Freeride, (FR) – Downhill and Freeride bikes are very similar in appearance. Both have a lot of travel in the suspension department, they are aggressive in appearance and are built with strength in mind.

    This style involves riders jumping over large gaps, riding off high drops whilst performing tricks and stunts in the air.

    The main difference between these bikes is that the frame of the Freeride bike features a shorter wheelbase and a steeper headtube angle. Once again, protective clothing for the entire body is a necessity.

    Trials – Trials mountain biking is a discipline of riding that involves riders making their way through a technical course without ever putting a foot down. Trials riders are often seen balancing on the rear wheel (or even the front one, in some cases). This style of riding requires a lot of skill and balance.

    You can get both 20” and 26” wheel size versions of the bike, which features a very small frame with a lot of ground clearance and usually no saddle; this affords the rider with increased clearance when hopping on and off large obstacles. Handlebars are typically long and fairly flat.

    29′er – The 29 in the name is a reference to the wheel size on this style of bike. Featuring a larger wheel than a conventional Mountain bike, or even a Road bike for that matter, the 29’er gives a bigger rolling surface, resulting in a greater distance covered with each pedal stroke.

    These bikes have become extremely popular in the U.S.A. because of the abundance of long, slowly winding trails. In Britain, it has taken longer for their popularity to take off; this is mainly because our trails have the tendency to be shorter, with many tight, winding bends. But, this notwithstanding, these bikes do offer riders a fun and challenging experience.

  • Most people use the term Hybrid to describe those bikes featuring the larger 700c wheelset, to cover more ground with each pedal stroke, combined with a traditional style mountain bike frame for strength. But there are many different variations of what are classed as ‘Hybrid’ bikes.

    In essence, Hybrid bikes encompass a mixture of different styles of bike optimised for a specific goal; i.e. City, Trekking or Cyclo-Cross.

    For instance, if you are after a bike that is as light and as fast as a road bike but affords the comfort of a mountain bike, then you should be looking for a setup featuring a larger lightweight frame, the larger 700c wheels, narrow tyres for speed and a flat handlebar – all combined with the gearing of a road bike.

  • The BMX first made its appearance back in 1970, but its popularity did not peak until the early eighties.

    Usually, this style of bicycle comes in a 20” wheel size, but the slightly less popular 24” wheel size is also available. The frame is very small, yet the handlebar sits fairly high. BMX bikes are also available, for children, in smaller wheel sizes, such as 12”, 14” and 16”.

    Originally, the BMX was designed for racing events but, due to its strong and robust design, it then evolved to cater for a larger range of riding styles, which include: Street, Ramp (half pipe, quarter pipe), Park, Dirt Jump and Flatland (specifically designed to be ridden in a skate park).

    The types of BMX bikes available are as follows:

    Race – This type of BMX is designed to be ridden at speed around a dirt circuit, there will be no fancy extras, such as stunt pegs or gyro headsets, and it is specifically made light for speed. A racing BMX does not need to be too strong, as it will not be required to execute big jumps or tricks.

    Freestyle – The first evolution of the BMX. A freestyle BMX is probably the strongest variation of this style of bike, it will have a more durable frame because, unlike some of the other types, the tricks it will be expected to perform will be more aggressive in nature and will usually involve landing on flat, hard surfaces. The tyres on this type will be smooth, as opposed to knobby.

    Depending on the rider’s preference, this type may be ridden with stunt pegs and/or a device known as a ‘Gyro’ headset. The latter is a device designed to allow the rider to rotate the handlebars through 360° whilst still being able to operate the rear brake. Due to the design of the ‘Gyro’, the brake cables will not get entangled. The rider may choose to run with both brakes, one brake or even, in some cases, no brakes at all.

    Freestyle is divided into three sub categories, which are:

    Street – This is a popular type, designed for performing tricks and stunts, normally around man made obstacles, such as ledges, railings and steps. The rider aims at carrying out as many tricks and stunts as possible without putting a foot down.

    Ramp (half pipe, quarter pipe) – The frame for this type of BMX is longer than that of the Street type, allowing the rider to enjoy performing various tricks on ramps known as ‘Half Pipes’ and ‘Quarter Pipes’.

    Park – Due to local councils setting up more bike/skate parks around the country, the Park type of BMX bike has become very popular. This riding style takes place in a park, exclusively designed for bikes, skateboards and skates, which features a variety of obstacles designed to enable riders to perform a multitude of tricks.

    Dirt Jump – This style involves riding over a series of jumps dug out of the track. These are made up of series of take off ramps and landing ramps. When ridden over with confidence, these create a smooth flowing set of jumps. Once again, as with most BMX styles, tricks and stunts can be performed whilst in the air.

    Flatland – Unlike other BMX riders, who are likely to perform other styles besides their own, Flatland ones are be more likely to keep to their style only.

    As the name suggests, Flatland riding is performed on a flat area. The riders perform a series of tricks and stunts, usually while balancing on one wheel. The area ridden is very small, so not much space is required. It is an extremely skill intensive style and one of the few in which the bike has four stunt pegs fitted, one to each end of both axles.

  • As the name suggests, a Comfort bike is one where the comfort of the ride is paramount. These bikes are fast becoming very popular; they also go under the name of cruisers, commuters, city bikes, utility bikes, sit-up-and-beg bikes and granny bikes.

    This type of bike will usually feature big wheel sizes, to increase the distance covered with each pedal stroke, allowing riders to use their energy more efficiently.

    This bike features a more laid back handlebar that sits fairly high, allowing the cyclist to sit in a more comfortable position.

    This type is not necessarily restricted to tarmac and concrete surfaces, it is also capable of taking on a bit of mud.

    Comfort bikes are not built for speed; they are all about having a comfortable ride and taking your time.

  • Commuting bikes have no specific style; they could be Touring bikes, Mountain bikes or any others that riders may find comfortable for commuting between home and work or place of study. It all depends on the route taken to reach the destination and also on how long it takes to get there.

    If the route is entirely road related, a bike with a large wheelset, equipped with either slick or semi-slick tyres, would be ideal. If, on the other hand, the route involves lots of mud and rough terrain, a Mountain style bike would be required.

    Bear in mind that, whatever bike you decide to use, it will probably be used for most of the year; being able to mount accessories such as mudguards, racks and lights is very important.

  • Bear in mind that, whatever bike you decide to use, it will probably be used for most of the year; being able to mount accessories such as mudguards, racks and lights is very important.

    If, on the other hand, a bit of off roading is on the cards, then it is common for riders to wear clothes that are baggier.

    Whatever your choice, it is still important to dress for to the climate you will be riding in. For example, if the weather is cold, you will need to wear clothing that will keep you warm whilst allowing your skin to breathe. On the other hand, in hot weather, you will require lightweight, cool clothing that still retains the capability to allow your skin to breathe.

    Cycling clothing is specifically designed to satisfy the needs of the cyclist. Unlike standard t-shirts, upper body clothing features a longer back so that, when cyclists are is in the bent over cycling position, the back can ride up a little without exposing the riders flesh.

  • It is good to introduce children to cycling at a young age. If the experience is fun, they will learn to enjoy riding and will continue to do so into their later life.

    Safety is paramount; the first thing you need to do is ensure that the children are learning to ride in a safe environment. It would be dangerous for children to learn to ride on the side of a busy road, so you should take them to a park or on a cycle track.

    Next, you need to introduce safety gear. Firstly, a helmet, which is very important, and then some knee and elbow pads. This way, if they take a fall, they should not hurt themselves too much.

    If your children are too young for a bike of their own, a few variations of trailer bikes and buggies are available for you to attach to your bike. This way, they will get a feel for cycling and may not find the experience too daunting when they are old enough for a bike of their own.

  • Folding bikes have been around for a fair while – since 1888, to be precise – but have only recently become increasingly popular. The higher demand for this type of bike has prompted more companies to design and develop models of them.

    A folding bike is one that features some sort of mechanism that allows it to be folded up into a smaller package. Originally, the folding bike was designed for ease of storage when not in use; however, nowadays, the number of its uses has increased, especially with the increase in sensitivity towards the preservation of the environment.

    Nowadays, the Government is encouraging us to leave our cars at home and use public transport more. Commuters have found that the best way to get to the public transport is by cycling. Most train, bus and underground services allow commuters to carry their bikes onboard, as long as they are foldable.

    Bike companies are continuously designing new models of folding bikes to fit into smaller packages and to weigh less. Also, current folding mechanisms are much more advanced than those available a few years ago, making packing and unpacking the bike very simple and stress free.

    So, if you live in a busy town or city and find yourself using public transport a lot, this is the bike type for you.

  • A Jump bike is one designed exclusively for dirt jumping. The frame is usually long but of limited height. This allows the rider more clearance when airborne. These bikes are available in both 24” and 26” wheel sizes and, because Jump bikes can be expected to take a lot of abuse during their lifetime, their frame and components are strong and robust.

    Although light alloy jump bikes are available, chromoly tubing frames should be preferred; although chromoly is heavier than alloy, it is less bulky in appearance and a lot stronger, so it will last longer.

  • Because we all have to start somewhere, there is a vast range of bicycles available which is designed for children. If you are looking for your child’s first bike, a number of variations are available to choose from, which will allow your child to learn to ride.

    Here are some of the styles available:

    Trikes (Tricycles) – Having three wheels, Trikes are perfect for teaching your children how to ride whilst limiting the risk of falling off. When your children become more comfortable and skilled, you can upgrade them to two-wheelers.

    Scooters – Scooters, as such, are not classed as bikes; they have two wheels, but no pedals nor saddle. Instead, they have a tall steering column and a footplate; there is a wheel at the back and one at the front. Riders stand with one foot on the footplate while pushing themselves along with the other.

    Scooters are great to teach balance to a child.

    Stabilisers – Stabilisers are not a type of bike, but an accessory. They are very useful when teaching your child to ride a bike. They consist of two supporting arms, each of which ends with a wheel. The arms are attached to the bike, one to each side, on the rear of the frame.

    They stabilize bikes to stop them falling over and fit most children’s bikes.

    Once your child is comfortable balancing a bicycle, you can buy a two wheeled one without supports. Children’s bikes are available with various wheel sizes, to suit kids of all ages.

    Children from 5 to 8 years old should be looking to ride 16” or 18” wheel size bikes, depending on how tall they are.

    If your child is between the ages of 10 and 12, you should probably be looking at a 20” or 24” wheel size bike.

    Remember: when purchasing the first bike for your children, it is important that they like the bike you get for them. In order for children to grow up with a love for cycling, they need to perceive learning to ride as being an enjoyable experience; that way, it will keep them interested later in life.

  • A woman’s cycling needs are different to a man’s; thankfully, today’s market recognises this fact.

    Women can choose between two variations of ladies’ specific styles.

    The first features the typical sloping top tube frame. This is ideal if the bike is being used for everyday commuting or leisurely outings. The sloping top tube was originally designed so that women wearing skirts and dresses could mount and un-mount the bike without showing off their undergarments and thus preserving their modesty. Nowadays, the sloping top tube more commonly allows the rider to jump on and off the bike with ease.

    The second variation available goes by a few different names but, in essence, is called ‘Women’s Specific Design’. This bike looks very much like the male version, although it is far from it. The bike industry has realised that women also want professional bikes designed for specific categories.

    The most noticeable differences are the colour and the design. The women’s bike, as a whole, is intended to appeal more to the female population. The most important difference between male and female versions, however, is the frame itself. This is designed with women in mind. The top tube is a lot shorter than the male version and, sometimes, the geometry of the other tubes will also be slightly different. This makes the bike more comfortable for a woman to ride, allowing her to own a bike made specifically for her riding style.

  • This style of bike looks as if someone had taken a traditional bike and stretched it lengthwise to accommodate two people. Tandem bikes feature two sets of cranks, two handlebars and two saddles. The person riding at the front ‘Captains’ the bike by controlling the steering, gears and braking system. The person at the rear acts as a ‘Stoker’, aiding with the pedalling of the cycle and helping the ‘Captain’ to achieve the desired speed.

    Because there are two people pedalling, this style of bike makes it possible to achieve high speeds, reaching them more quickly that with a conventional single rider bike.

    Tandem bikes are available in different styles, such as Road, Mountain and Touring. Frames are normally made of light alloy or steel; these bikes need to be strong because of the extra weight they carry.

  • If you are looking for a bike that will allow you to pack a tent, a sleeping bag and other camping equipment for a long distance cycling holiday, this is the one for you.

    Touring bikes usually feature a strong chromoly frame, designed to carry weight. They are designed to enable riders to fit all the accessories they need with this style of riding in mind. Accessories traditionally required are front and rear pannier racks (to load up all the equipment), lights (to enable both night and daytime cycling), water bottles (to allow riders to keep hydrated) and, finally, mudguards (to prevent riders from getting covered in water and mud picked up from the road. Most Touring bikes come with these accessories as standard.

    There are various styles of Touring bike available; these include Road, Mountain and even Foldable bikes.

  • When the warm sunny days disappear and cold, wet weather starts to take over, most of us cannot help but feel that we should store the bike in the shed and start using the car or public transport instead; this, however, does not necessarily have to be so.

    Clothing

    By wearing the correct clothing in autumn and winter, your cycling days can extend to the whole year. Because wind, rain and cold are guaranteed features at this time of the year, it is important to dress up well; layered clothing is the way to go. Cycling clothing is made specifically for cyclists.

    For instance, jackets and other upper body clothes feature long backs, which allow them to ride up slightly when cycling in a bent over position whilst not causing any flesh to become uncovered and vulnerable to the elements, as would be the case with conventional t-shirts or jackets.

    Here is a guide to the recommended clothing to be worn in autumn and winter:

    Base layer – The base layer of clothing is the one that sits closest to the skin. It is thin yet warm and is sometimes referred to as a thermal layer. There are different grades of base layer available; the material, unlike that of a cotton t-shirt, draws moisture and sweat away from the skin, allowing the rider’s body to stay dry and warm. Base layers are available in many different styles. Both short- and long-sleeve versions of the upper body base layers are available and, for the short sleeve ones, arm warmers can be purchased, which can easily be applied and removed as and when required.

    For the lower body, base layers are available as leggings or leg warmers.

    Middle layer – A variety of jerseys are available in different thicknesses and types of materials. As with the base layer, their function is to remove any sweat and moisture from the skin. Middle layers also come in short- and long-sleeve varieties.

    Outer shell – This is your jacket. It is waterproof, lightweight and thin. Thick, heavy clothing should not be worn whilst cycling; it would just cause riders to wear themselves out and produce more sweat. The aim is to keep warm and dry in the lightest way possible. It can also be removed and easily packed away if it keeps the rider too warm.

    It is likely that you may find yourself riding in dark or dull lighting conditions; in these circumstances, it is important to remain well visible to other road users. Wearing a brightly coloured jacket, with reflective stripes or patches on it is advised.

    Head, hands & feet – It is paramount to protect your extremities.

    Firstly, most body heat is dissipated through the head; it is thus very important to wear a hat underneath the helmet. Skull caps are a fantastic solution, as they are thin yet warm and fit perfectly underneath the helmet. Skull caps are also designed to ensure that sweat and moisture are drawn away from the skin.

    The next things to look after are your hands. It is very important to wear a warm, waterproof pair of cycling gloves. Remember: your hands control the bike, you use them to change gears, steer and brake. If your hands and fingers are cold, your reaction time will be slower and this could result in an accident. Cycling gloves are available in many different varieties, but they all have one thing in common; they are specifically designed for cycling. Cycling gloves, unlike generic ones, are flexible enough to allow quick movement and also feature grip pads in those areas where grip is required, e.g. on the finger tips.

    Feet are also prone to getting wet and cold; this can be a cause of discomfort when riding. It is likely you will need to change back into the same shoes and socks when the time comes to head back home. Nowadays there are a lot to choose from on the market; they can come in the form of waterproof boots/shoes, waterproof socks and, finally, overshoes. Overshoes are essentially a waterproof skin that fits tightly over your cycling shoes/boots. It is not important which of these you choose, as long as they keep your feet dry and warm

    The Bike

    Clothing – is very important when cycling in bad weather, but the bike you ride will also benefit from a few winter upgrades.

    Lights – When cycling during autumn and winter, it is highly likely that, at some point, you will be cycling in poor visibility, whether it be at night or just on a dull day. It is very important to both see where you are going and to be visible to other traffic; you will need to get yourself a good quality set of lights on the front and the rear.

    Some cyclists complement their existing lights with front and rear LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes). Most of these will feature a flashing and a constant mode. The flashing mode makes you extremely visible to other road users as it easily catches their eye. Be aware that, if the LEDs are set to flashing mode, the law requires them to be backed up with a constant light.

    Mudguards – There is a large number of mudguards on the market; some of these are designed to be easily fitted and removed as and when required.

    Using mudguards is highly recommended when cycling in wet or muddy conditions, they prevent the spray from the tyres from hitting your clothes and face, making for a more comfortable ride.

  • When the weather is nice and sunny, it is not unusual to suddenly get the urge to ride out on the bike and make the most of the dry season. However, regardless of the urge, it still pays to be prepared before heading out.

    Clothing

    As with any outdoor activity, it is important to dress appropriately. During spring and summer, it is likely to be cycling in hot sunshine, but there is still a chance for the temperature to drop because of a gust of wind or even a rain shower.

    Here are our recommendations for this season:

    Base layer – Most of us equate base layers with winter cycling. However, base layers are not only designed to keep you warm; there are many on the market that are intended to keep you cool. Base layers are designed to keep sweat and moisture away from the rider’s body; this is just as important in hot weather as it is in cold.

    Upper body base layers are available in both long- and short-sleeve versions so, more than likely, you will require short-sleeve ones during warmer rides.

    As for your legs, it is down to personal preference whether or not to wear leggings under the shorts.

    Middle layer – Most of the time, during hot, summer cycling, this will actually be your outermost layer. Cyclists commonly wear short-sleeve jerseys but, if the weather turns a little cold, a long-sleeve version could be preferable or, if you are unsure, you can always pack arm and leg warmers and wear them as and when needed.

    Outer shell – Although an outer shell may not be required for most of the time, it is always advisable to pack a lightweight, waterproof jacket. Warmth is not usually an issue during these seasons, but staying dry during rain showers is.

    On you lower body, shorts are a good choice; most riders opt for the three quarter length version because they are cooler that trousers but still retain a little warmth in the evening chill.

    Head, hands and feet – Some cyclists chose to wear skull caps through the summer. This is simply because, once again, they are designed to draw sweat and moisture away from the skin.

    Wearing sunglasses is a good idea. These will prevent you from getting dazzled on sunny days, thus potentially not seeing any dangers ahead. There are a lot of cycling glasses on the market. Some of them come with a variety of interchangeable lenses that can be fitted depending of the type of riding you are doing.

    Wearing gloves is still a must, to prevent calluses from forming on your hands during long rides and also to protect them if you find yourself unintentionally dismounted. During the warmer season, you will be looking for cooler, lighter gloves; they are available in both long and short finger varieties.

    Depending on the style of riding you prefer, wearing waterproof socks or overshoes is optional. Overshoes may seem a little unnecessary in the warm weather, but they are available in both waterproof and thermal versions; some cyclists wear thermal ones for those slightly colder days out.

    Your bike

    In dry weather, you will probably be able to downgrade your bike and discard all those extra weight accessories, such as lights and mudguards. But keep that hydrating supply available when cycling, whether it is a water bottle or a hydration back pack. When the weather is hot, you need to keep your fluid levels up.

  • In 1790, a Frenchman, Count Mede de Sivrac, invented the ‘Celerifere’. It was the first concept of a bicycle, but it had neither steering nor pedalling systems; it was simply pushed along by the rider’s feet.

    In 1818, a German, Baron Karl Drais von Sauerbronn, invented the “Laufmaschine” or “Running Machine”; this design had a steering system but still no pedals or cranks.

    It was not until 1861 that the concept of a crank and pedal design was introduced to bicycles by another Frenchman, Ernest Michaux, who fitted them to his ‘Velocipede’, which was also known as ‘The Boneshaker’.

    Since then, the bicycle has come a long way, probably more than its original inventors could have ever imagined. It is no longer just an upper class toy; it has now become something that is found around most homes all over the world.

    Nowadays, there is a bicycle style out there to suit everyone; a brand new bike can be bought for under £100 and, depending on how enthusiastic you are about cycling and what your needs are, the ‘top-out’ price is unlimited.

    In today’s market, there are such a large number of bicycle styles available, depending on each individual’s riding preference, that it is very easy to find yourself confused or even put off by the mere thought of trying to decide which one is best for you. This is why Wheelies have compiled a list of the various styles of bikes available and have given an explanation behind each one to help you, the customer, decide on which is the most suited for you.