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.
|Mountain bikes (MTB)||Hybrid Bikes||Road 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
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
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
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
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
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.
Immediate set of Accessories
Recommended along with your bicycle purchase.
|Stand||As usual, to support the bike when you are not riding.||₹ 300 onwards|
|Mud guards||Otherwise passing over rain/stagnant water will immediately spoil your clothes||₹ 400 onwards|
|Helmet||Always good to have. Trivia: In India, a cyclist with a helmet, immediately earns more respect from other motorists.||₹ 900 onwards|
|Bell||To warn other pedestrians, cyclists.||₹ 100 onwards|
|Lights, front/rear||Must, if you ride late evening or early morning. There are battery & rechargeable variants.||₹ 300 onwards|
|Lock/chain||To secure your cycle. For quick-release wheels, consider another lock for the wheel.||₹ 200 onwards|
|Padded Gloves||For 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.
|Mobile Mount||To keep your mobile visible (mount on the handle) for live speed, route, time, and other stats.||₹ 400 onwards|
|Cycling shorts||Available in foam-based or gel-based. Highly recommended for 15+ km rides. (better than padded seats).||₹ 800 onwards|
|Water bottle holder||You may need one or two, depending on how long you ride.||₹ 200 onwards|
|Goggles||To keep the dust and insects out.||₹ 300 onwards|
|Puncture repair kit||Set 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
|Hydration sipper backpack||For very long rides in dry conditions.||₹ 800 onwards|
|Speedometer / odometer||Although use is fading away, as mobiles / smart-watch do almost all the job||₹ 400 onwards|
|Puncture repair kit||Set of tube, repair-kit, portable-pump for longer rides. Must for off-road rides.||₹ 900 onwards|
|Multi Tool kit||For quick repair or tuning the cycle e.g. brake tight, seat adjustment etc.||₹ 300 onwards|
|Accessory bag / saddle bag||To 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.
|Atlas||Origin India. Manufactured in India.|
|Avon||Origin India. Manufactured in India.|
|Bergamont||German origin. Manufactured in China and Taiwan|
|Bianchi||Origin Italy. Majority production in Taiwan.|
|BSA||Part of TI cycles India (Murugappa Group)|
|BTWIN||Decathlon (French) cycles. Many models manufactured in India.|
|Cannondale||US division of Canadian Dorel Industries. Most manufacturing in Taiwan.|
|Firefox||Owned by Hero cycles. Maintains its exclusive showrooms.|
|Fuji||Japanese company (Founded 1899,). Manufacturing in Taiwan.|
|Giant||Giant Manufacturing Co. Ltd. is a Taiwanese bicycle manufacturer.|
|Hercules||Part of TI cycles India (Murugappa Group).|
|Hero cycles||Indian company with Guinness Books of World Records for the largest bicycle manufacturer|
|Kross||From Hero Eco-tech (Not related to Hero Cycles Ltd. or the Polish brand Kross)|
|Mach City||Part of TI cycles India (Murugappa Group). Focus on urban budget bikes.|
|Merida||Taiwan company. Designed and Engineered in Germany, Made in Taiwan.|
|Montra||Part of TI cycles India (Murugappa Group). Focus on premium bikes.|
|Raleigh||British bicycle manufacturer founded in 1885|
|Ridley||Ridley is based in Flanders, Belgium|
|Suncross||Promoted by Naren International, ,India, to cater to the needs of the MTB segment|
|Specialized||Specialized Bicycle Components, Inc., US. Mostly manufactured in Taiwan.|
|Trek||US 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.
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.