Women riding bicycle by the sea

How To Choose A Bicycle – Beginner’s Guide

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Selecting the wrong bicycle is probably the #1 reason, why the initial enthusiasm of most beginners fizzles out after a few months. So choose your bicycle with the following tips.

I have seen this happen with a lot of my friends and colleagues. This blog is an effort towards ensuring that the readers are aware of things to keep in mind while planning to buy a bicycle – whether it’s the first or an upgrade.

Bicycle, or cycle or bike is a perfect companion and works well as a

  • Eco-friendly transport
  • A quick trip to the market.
  • Healthy habit
  • Recreation & exercise
  • And now travel with Social distancing in the COVID19 era.

The bicycle price in India starts from about ₹ 3000 for a basic ride. Average-cost for Indian brands vary around ₹ 6,000 to ₹ 25,000 and for foreign brands around 10,000 to ₹ 50,000 (exception is Decathlon with options starting as low as ₹ 5,000). However, the cost goes past ₹ 1,00,000 depending on build quality, frame type, brand, etc.

I will help you with a crash course on how to choose a bicycle, whether online or in a physical store. The choice of your next bicycle will be driven by these key factors –

Types of bicycle | Frame material | Gears | Brakes | Rims | Wheel | Accessories

Let’s crack on!

1.  Types of bicycle

Well, is that even a point to consider? Yes, the most basic and most missed item.

MTB CycleHybrid bicycleRoad bike
Mountain bikes (MTB)Hybrid BikesRoad Bikes
MTB’s are the SUVs of bicycles. But an SUV drinks more fuel, which in case of a bicycle is you!Hybrid’s are in between the two categories mentioned here.Road bikes are the Ferrari of cycling world. But, not very happy on bad roads.
Suitable for mountain or rough terrains. Must for off-road and hill rides.Most suitable for city rides, pavements etc. Quick market trips, recreation, to few hour rides in urban areas.Excellent for very long and fast rides on nice roads. Must for 100+ km rides.
Tires are wide, thick and more tread for stability.Tires, thinner & lighter than an MTB, thicker than a road bike.Tires are Smooth and thin for speed.

However, all these variants are available across all price points, with Road-bikes reaching the most expensive points due to the need for lighter material.

There are other variants, but not very popular with beginners

  • Folding bicycle: has a folding frame, to store in a small space or carry like a luggage e.g. taking till your office cubicle.
  • Touring bicycle: Similar to road bikes, but tougher, with a more relaxed riding position, mounts for panniers and luggage holding.
  • Electric bicycle: Comes with a rechargeable battery to help with pedalling and extend the range.

2.  Frame material

Bicycle Frames
Various types of cycle frames can confuse any buyer.

This is mostly driven by the cost of the bicycle.

  • Steel frame & rims is the most common material, and generally suitable for most users. You can feel the weight of Steel vs other materials when you lift the cycle by hand. But for rides under 6-8 km, you may not notice any difference.
    Prices start around ₹ 4,000 – ₹ 6,000 but try to look for good quality, instead of fancy features.
  • Aluminum/ Alloy frame & rims offer lighter frames compared to steel (for the same price range). This weight gain can be considerable for longer rides. They are more expensive than steel, for similar quality/brand/features.
    Prices start around ₹ 10,000 – ₹ 12,000. But a good build quality will be much higher.
  • Steel frame with alloy rims offer a great mix of price and weight. This is also nowadays offered by most Indian companies and a good start. Reducing the weight of the rims, mean less rotational mass, hence less energy is necessary to accelerate the wheel.
    Prices start around ₹ 7,000 – ₹ 8,000. Again, highly recommended to increase the budget and go for a better quality.

There are other materials like carbon fiber frame, titanium frame, etc, But not covering them, as that is unlikely to be a beginner’s choice due to high cost.

3.  Gears or no gears

Bicycle gear with derailleurs
Bicycle gear with derailleurs

It may sound surprising, to hear a cycle having 18-gears or 21-gears or 28-gears or similar numbers. (compared to a car or motorcycle having 5-6 gears only).

It is a multiplication of rear gears x front (pedal) gears. There are more technical terms, but sticking to a simpler language for easy understanding, to help you choose the correct bicycle.

  • 6 rear gears (steps) x 4 front gears (steps) = 24 gear cycle.
  • 7 rear gears (steps) x 3 front gears (steps) = 21 gear cycle.
  • 8 rear gears (steps) x 1 front gears (steps) = 8 gear cycle
  • 1 rear gears (steps) x 1 front gears (steps) = 1 gear (no-gear) cycle.

Above all, the max and min range are similar (well in most cases), only the granularity/steps between them increase.

For a city ride (which is mostly flat), even no-gears are good enough for a start. But in the market, if you select a cycle with better quality/price you may not get a cycle without gears. In that case, settle with the minimum possible number for simplicity. The combination with only rear gears (and no front gear), is the best balance of gears and simplicity. But not widely available, as a high gear-count sound better from an advertising and show-off point of view.

For MTB or road-bike, more numbers (and more details like cogs/sprockets/shifters etc. ) can be useful, although it can take years of long rides to appreciate the difference between an 18-gear bike and a 24-gear bike.

4.  Brakes to choose in your bicycle

Disc brake vs Rim brake
Disc brake (Left) vs Rim brake (Right)

Two main categories are Disc brake vs Rim Brakes

For City rides, rim brakes are enough (which are mostly V-brakes and sometimes caliper brakes). Hence, recommended for all types of bicycle, MTB or Hybrid or Road bike, go for Rim-brakes (V-brakes).

Disc brakes are mandatory, in case you plan to do a lot of off-roading or riding on hill slopes, wet muddy patches on the MTB, or significantly fast speeds on a road bike (say 25+ km/hr).

Normally for beginners, 99% time, you will not need a disc brake.

5. Rims to choose

Double wall rim vs single wall rim
Double wall rim vs single wall rim

Double wall rim vs single wall rim

Firstly, I am sure, most of you don’t even know about its existence. The double-wall rim gives significantly more strength than the single one and definitely worth even for beginners.

Secondly, the single-wall rims can get minor bends easily on bad roads or bumps. You may not notice at first glance, but they will keep on touching the rim-brakes, increasing resistance, or add vibration to the ride.

So, in short, go for double-wall rim if budget permits.

6.  Quick-release wheels

Quick release Front wheel
Quick release Front wheel

This is mainly relevant if you intend to carry your bicycle to a distant place in your car. Hence, removing the front wheel helps you to place your bicycle in your car (hatchback/SUV, by folding the back seat . Difficult in a sedan). Also, only front-wheel quick-release is sufficient for this. However, another option is an external bicycle rack.

Another advantage is to quickly remove the wheel to repair a puncture.

7.  Accessories

Bicycle accessories in a shop
Bicycle accessories in a shop

Immediate set of Accessories

Recommended along with your bicycle purchase.

ItemDetailsApproximate cost
StandAs usual, to support the bike when you are not riding.₹ 300 onwards
Mud guardsOtherwise passing over rain/stagnant water will immediately spoil your clothes₹ 400 onwards
HelmetAlways good to have. Trivia: In India, a cyclist with a helmet, immediately earns more respect from other motorists.₹ 900 onwards
BellTo warn other pedestrians, cyclists.₹ 100 onwards
Lights, front/rearMust, if you ride late evening or early morning. There are battery & rechargeable variants.₹ 300 onwards
Lock/chainTo secure your cycle. For quick-release wheels, consider another lock for the wheel.₹ 200 onwards
Padded GlovesFor a comfortable hand grip with some padding for long rides.₹ 300 onwards

Start riding for a month, then purchase as per your needs.

Not recommended when you purchase the cycle, as you will not be able to decide on the best item at that time.

ItemDetailsApproximate cost
Mobile MountTo keep your mobile visible (mount on the handle) for live speed, route, time, and other stats.₹ 400 onwards
Cycling shortsAvailable in foam-based or gel-based. Highly recommended for 15+ km rides. (better than padded seats).₹ 800 onwards
Water bottle holderYou may need one or two, depending on how long you ride.₹ 200 onwards
GogglesTo keep the dust and insects out.₹ 300 onwards
Puncture repair kitSet of tube, repair-kit, portable pump for longer rides. Top priority of off-road rides.₹ 600 onwards

More accessories as you ride more and understand your needs

ItemDetailsApproximate cost
Hydration sipper backpackFor very long rides in dry conditions.₹ 800 onwards
Speedometer / odometerAlthough use is fading away, as mobiles / smart-watch do almost all the job₹ 400 onwards
Puncture repair kitSet of tube, repair-kit, portable-pump for longer rides. Must for off-road rides.₹ 900 onwards
Multi Tool kitFor quick repair or tuning the cycle e.g. brake tight, seat adjustment etc.₹ 300 onwards
Accessory bag / saddle bagTo keep small stuff tied securely with the seat / handle. As you ride longer, you will understand the necessity to keep stuff securely stored.₹ 300 onwards

Why I am listing these ‘advanced’ accessories in a beginner’s guide?
So that you don’t end up buying all these on your first trip to the bicycle store.

8.  Major bicycle brands

Listing major brands (available in India), so you remain aware when you talk to the salesman/ search online.
However, I do not intend to provide any bias for any brand, I am not associated with any of these. brands.
Recommend to chose any good quality bike that suits your need.

BrandCompany Details
Atlas Origin India. Manufactured in India.
AvonOrigin India. Manufactured in India.
BergamontGerman origin. Manufactured in China and Taiwan
BianchiOrigin Italy. Majority production in Taiwan.
BSAPart of TI cycles India (Murugappa Group)
BTWINDecathlon (French) cycles. Many models manufactured in India.
CannondaleUS division of Canadian Dorel Industries. Most manufacturing in Taiwan.
FirefoxOwned by Hero cycles. Maintains its exclusive showrooms.
FujiJapanese company (Founded 1899,). Manufacturing in Taiwan.
GiantGiant Manufacturing Co. Ltd. is a Taiwanese bicycle manufacturer.
HerculesPart of TI cycles India (Murugappa Group).
Hero cyclesIndian company with Guinness Books of World Records for the largest bicycle manufacturer
KrossFrom Hero Eco-tech (Not related to Hero Cycles Ltd. or the Polish brand Kross)
Mach CityPart of TI cycles India (Murugappa Group). Focus on urban budget bikes.
MeridaTaiwan company. Designed and Engineered in Germany, Made in Taiwan.
MontraPart of TI cycles India (Murugappa Group). Focus on premium bikes.
RaleighBritish bicycle manufacturer founded in 1885
RidleyRidley is based in Flanders, Belgium
SuncrossPromoted by Naren International, ,India, to cater to the needs of the MTB segment
SpecializedSpecialized Bicycle Components, Inc., US. Mostly manufactured in Taiwan.
TrekUS company, mostly manufactured in Taiwan, China. Lance Armstrong used Trek bikes on most tours.

I hope this helps you choose the right bicycle for you!

For any questions or guidance, please post a line in the comments below. I will try to respond to it.

Happy Cycling !!

Happy cycling

Logos of different brands in the pictures are owned/copyrights of respective brands.
In addition, brand ownership as per publicly available data at the time of writing this article.

Check out some exciting travel articles in the travel category with some excellent travelogues on Vietnam, Croatia, China, and a Delhi to Kolkata Road trip

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Sukumar Dey
Sukumar Dey
4 years ago

Thank you for posting such a detailed article. I live in Siliguri which is definitely a city, in the foothills of Darjeeling. But we often go to nearby forest areas like Gorumara and a few tea gardens, which have some elevations. Which bicycle or model would you suggest?

4 years ago

Awesome research. Really comprehensive. Agree with the comments below.

Thank you for sharing.

4 years ago

What an amazingly detailed article on bicycle!!! Got to know so much. Thank you Arindam for sharing this meticulous article with us!! 🙂

4 years ago

Really a very informative article . I have been planning to buy a bike for quite sometime , this is absolutely going to help me .

4 years ago

Nice and detailed article on cycling?

4 years ago

Should we consider riders weight and height while choosing the bike…..the frame size, wheel size details need to be considered ?

Chetan Bhardwaj
Chetan Bhardwaj
4 years ago

Superb article, well researched and a must read for anyone looking to develop cycling as a hobby

4 years ago

This is a smashing post, and very useful. Bought my Trek FX2 hybrid yesterday and the shortlisting wouldn’t have been possible without this post. Have got the bottle holder and stand from the bike shop (negotiated to include these in the price) but for the rest, I might try online ordering or go to decathlon.
Another really interesting thing that Gaurav, the owner of the bike shop mentioned – try going for padded/ gel shorts instead of padded seats as you need to “connect with your bike” – well said! 🙂

Tarun Singh
Tarun Singh
4 years ago

This is just amazing … I have been thinking so long and was always stuck due to so many options. This is very informative and you made it easy for, great article … thanks

Shikari Shambu
Shikari Shambu
4 years ago

Very helpful article, with nice tips to start cycling. I am sure this will inspire and help many to start cycling.

Shikari Shambu
Shikari Shambu
4 years ago

Very helpful article, with nice tips to start cycling. I am sure this will inspire and help many to start cycling.

Suggestion: You can add links of some popular websites that are good yo compare/buy cycles.

4 years ago

Superb. Thanks for sharing this

Suresh Chand
Suresh Chand
4 years ago

Hi it’s such a nice article / helpful guidance for ppl like me who r planing to buy bicycle. I’m planning to buy hybrid , confuse with Which brand to buy ! Budget 30-35k .. plz help me out . Mostly I wl peddle 20 km daily nd on weekends 50km … looking for your valuable suggestions! Thank u

3 years ago

Thanks for such detailed info. I bought two Specialized bikes after reading this.

Dr Manish Kansal
Dr Manish Kansal
2 years ago

Excellent piece of information sir, for the beginners, your article shared by pankaj arora ji in our cycling group