What to look for?
I have decided to take the plunge and buy a bike with a view to entering a tri once I've got the biking good enough. I really need some advice on what to look for when chosing one.
I have a limited budget (£500 ish) so I need something that will be suitable for both commuting on roads and tri. My choice of shops will also be limited as I'll be buying it through the cycle to work scheme. What sort of bike should I go for - road, hybrid, other?
What are the key features that I should be looking for a bike to have? I know from reading other stuff that I need to get it properly fitted but other than that I don't really have a clue.
What are the most important accessories for starting out - I know I'll need a helmet, gloves and a lock but other than that?
A normal road bike - what some people call a racer - drop handlebars etc.
£500 used to be the entry level for a decent bike - something that is 99% as good as a bike costing much more - things have changed a bit in the last year or two as prices have gone up but you should still be able to get something good for that if you shop around. Shops sometimes start selling their current bikes off around Sept time ready for the 2011 stock so that's something to think about - right now at the height of Summer and the Tour de France just finishing there are likely to be fewer deals.
If you want to compete in triathlon you need a helmet- whether you wear one for training/commuting is up to you. Say mabe £20 upwards - most probably pay more like £50. Price difference tends to be more about weight, ventilation and style than protection. I think the highest standard of protection is Snell certified but not many helmets are these days.
You'll need gloves in Winter - fingerless gloves (track mitts) are a good idea in Summer if you plan on falling off on tarmac. Mitts might cost a tenner upwards, gloves can cost anything - a tip is that they don't need to be cycling specific and will probably be a lot cheaper if they aren't.
Track pump at home is useful - and a good mini pump like a Lezyne road drive medium to carry with you. You can get by with a single decent frame fit pump for home and bike IF you can fit one to your bike. Track pump might be £20 upwards - good ones probably more like £30. Mini pump £20 up for one that will work - and most don't. Frame fit pump maybe £20 but only get one if you know it fits the bike.
Not sure what clothing you'd want as I'm not a triathlete but you probably want some bib shorts for training and some long legged tights for winter - if these don't have a chamois then you'll need some undershorts or more likely some cheap non-bib shorts to go underneath. Cycling tops for hot and cold weather - you can wear running tops underneath as base layers - if it's very cold you can stick an old woolen jumper underneath.
If you plan to leave it locked up anywhere public then I'd suggest you need a very very good lock - most people would commute on a hack bike if they don't have somewhere very secure to leave it.
There are probably other things.
Thanks Popsider, with the pump, I have a pump at home with various nozzles that I use for my gymball and can I think be used for car tyres, would this also do for a bike? Then I could just get a portable one to carry with me.
Thanks for the tip on sales, I can easily wait until September to get one, so may look then.
i would also go with a road bike. if you plan to do many commutes on it then you will need to think about mudguards. many frames don't have room for proper full mudguards but you can use 'race blades.' they are light weight mudguards which are not permanently fixed to the bike - they're about 30quid. that's what I use on my commuting bike - i get wetter than i would with full guards but not too bad.
it's worth having a few basic tools (tyre levers, allen keys, wd40/gt85, lube, a pair of latex gloves) and keeping spares (tubes and a chain). you do not need to be an ace mechanic or carry a lot but it's a good idea to be able to change a tube or get your chain back on if you don't want the journey to be a longer than expected walk!
stick to your budget - you can definitely get a decent bike for 500quid and the extras soon add up. also, if you enjoy cycling then you'll almost certainly want a different bike in a couple of years no matter how much you spend in the first year.
Your pump may not be able to get to the high pressures required by road bike tyres. You need at least 90psi. The pump also needs a pressure gauge.
If you're commuting then you need decent clothing for wet and cold days. None of my commuting clothing is cycling specific. It's whatever works and isn't too expensive. A really warm pair of gloves are essential. Mine are cheap skiing gloves. I also have a pair of army surplus waterproof trousers. They're not high tech breathable material but they're completely waterproof. Then a good waterproof jacket. I use my ski jacket. If you have showers at work then you have a bit more choice on clothing. Leggings work well on wet days when it isn't too cold and sealskin socks will keep your feet dry even if your shoes are soaking wet.
For training get some cycling shorts but if the budget is tight use whatever other clothing you have. On cold days you'll find me wrapped up in all sorts of clothing. Running leggings, an old waterproof, a woolly hat.
If you are looking at road bikes, some of them (particularly the entry level ones) have space to fit full length mudguards, which are very, very useful for commuting.
Thanks for the tips on mud guards, I'm hoping to commute in cycling clothes and change when I get there but I do think some kind of mud guard would be useful.
In terms of clothing I have lots of running stuff and I would layer up but I would think I need a waterproof as well as the cycling shorts, I don't use one for running in the rain but assume you get much colder on a bike so would need it.
I know everyone's pace is different but for the commuting but how quickly as a female can I realistically hope to travel 10 miles?
I cycle 10 miles to work on a hybrid - heavier than a road bike - along tracks and trails and do it without any effort in 45 minutes. I can be a bit faster if I bother trying! I always get home quicker than I get to work - maybe the motivation is stronger!!
I carry a spare tube and one of those nifty little compression cylinder things rather than a pump. More expensive but a lot less effort and has saved me from arriving at work knackered and stressed!
If you're buying cycle specific clothing can you PLEASE get a reflective jacket / bib thingy. I suggest this as a cyclist and request it as a driver.
Enjoy your pedalling
Thanks limper, my 10 miles would be totally on road, so I should be able to do it in about the same time as it takes me to drive there in traffic, park and get to the station! Excellent!
I do have several reflective vests for running and would get one of those bright jackets with reflective bits on them - as a driver too I know how easy it is not to see a cyclist/runner who is not reflective, especially in dull weather or at dusk.
Most importantly, make sure that the bike fits, and is comfortable.
I'd also suggest budgeting £50 to replace the tyres, as most stock tyres aren't very good, and a decent set can make a lot of difference to comfort, rolling resistance and puncture resistance.
I have both a hybrid, and a roadie, and if I could only choose one, I'd pick the roadie, the hybrid is more relaxed, but the roadie is so much faster, and not any less comfortable.
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