Getting Started With Biking

Things have changed quite a bit from 7 years ago when one had to wait at least 3-4 months before they could get a high end bike of their choice and we are not even talking size and color yet. I have had to choose a different bike for the bike I loved was not available in the right size.  But today one is spoilt for choice.  You walk into a bike store, oh wait! which store? There are over half a dozen stores for every store that existed then. When you do find a good store there is a plethora of brands to pick from. If do you figure that out then there are different kinds bikes to choose from. So why this article? Just so that you know you are in good hands when you are at a store and the suggestions given don’t sound vague. Hopefully this helps you decide on a good store, brand, type of bike, bike fit, gear, etc.

You might want to check this article on bikeszone on buying a bike.


What LBS(Local Bike Store) should I go to?

There are several stores to go to and that’s not such a bad thing as you can find a store very close to where you live or where you work. But your choice of store should depend more on what you are looking for. If you are looking for a local brand and not planning to spend much then any of the regular stores would do but if you are looking at high end bikes, entry level or otherwise, it is always a great idea to visit a store where you can get some sound advice. Several of the stores are run by people who bike themselves and they know bikes like the back of their hands. If you are at one of these stores you know you are in good hands. Why is this important? The rest of the questions that follow can be taken care of by the people at bike store. How would you find such a store? Check on the forums – BangaloreBikersClub.com is one of the finest communities for any advice in Bangalore. Please bear in mind that a store giving huge discounts is not necessarily the best place to pick a bike. A lot goes into tuning and assembling a good bike and it better be done by some experienced people. You might end up spending later on a bike that is not tuned right.

Here is a list of some of the popular stores in the city –

Bums On The Saddle
WheelSports
ProCycle
Cyclists For Life
Pedals And Wheels
RR International

Note that the above list not exhaustive by any means. You might find a review on most of these stores handy – Look up “The Bicycle Porn Co. Bangalore

Which bike is good starter bike?

This varies depending on your usage.

At the entry level the bikes are broadly classified as mountain bikes, hybrids and road bikes. There are many other types of bikes like cyclocross bikes, cruiser bikes, folding bikes, BMX bikes, downhill bikes, cross country bikes, recumbent bikes, trikes, etc. “Yikes!” that is a indeed a long list and would need a note of its own. Thankfully for the beginners the following should suffice –

Mountain bikes: These are bikes with sturdy frames typically with suspension in the front and knobby tires for better grip and control. The bikes with a rear suspension are usually very expensive upwards of 40K. The ones available at lower prices are usually unwanted weight and discouraged. These bikes can be ridden on a rough terrain.

Road bikes: These are extremely light weight bikes designed for speed trading off control. The tires are extremely slick and take a lot of pressure usually meant for good roads. They have drop bars for multiple positions to hold as against the wide handle bars on MTBs. Good road bikes are again expensive upwards of 40K and are not really safe for city use due to the lack of control.

Hybrid bikes:  These are the bikes that lie in the middle of the spectrum and sway towards either the road bikes with a rigid fork (no suspension) or mountain bikes with a suspension.

If you intend to ride only within the city limits and are sure to be on good roads all the time then a hybrid closer to a road bike would be a good idea. If on the other hand you foresee yourself venturing into adventure riding off the road you might want to pick a mountain bike. The road bike is usually meant for long distance riding or speed or both on good roads.

A good generic bike would be one that you could use in the city and also do trails on the weekends. A MTB fitted with tires that take higher pressure (say upto 80 PSI) or slick tires might be a good idea. Please note that if you choose to replace stock tires with slick tires the height of the bike gets reduced. This may leave very little room under the pedal at deadpost (lowest point) making it difficult to negotiate curves. A hybrid with suspension might also be a good option but you need to compare the features see what best suits your need. Do not assume one way or the other – try the various bikes at the stores or by borrowing/renting. Look up “Marketplace Bums On The saddle” – this is also a good source for second hand bikes.

What to look for in a bike?

Comparing one bike with another is no easy task for newbies but here is a rules of thumb – it is usually a good idea to compare the frame, wheels, suspension (if any) and then look at the other components. This order is important as a lot of newbies end up comparing bikes in the exact opposite order. Be wary of stores that compare the bikes this way also. The net and forums can help you when comparing bikes.

Which is the best brand?

That is a frequently asked question and not really a good question as you can’t really say one brand is better than the other. What one needs to do is decide on the budget and check all possible options in that budget and compare the bikes. You can pick on the bike that is closest to the list of features you are looking at and the comfort of riding. Looks are not really important but things like a brighter bike will be make you visible in the night help make a saner choice.

What should be my budget?

Most entry level bikes of a reputed brand start between 20-25K. There are bikes available at prices lower than this but you should be probably looking at an all alloy bike which is light and efficient. Another interesting way to look at this initial investment is to calculate the savings you might make in the first year of commute. You might recover fully the amount spent depending on your current mode of commute. If you are looking at stepping out of a very comfortable mode of transport, an air conditioned cab/car with a driver say, then you might want to buy a cool and efficient bike so you end up using it more often.

What are the reputed brands?

An article is not the best source of deciding on what brand is good. You could perhaps look for the collective opinion on a froum like BangaloreBikersClub.com. If you notice a particular brand XYZ has a lot of problems on the forum may be you should stay away from it.

A few of the respected brands are Specialized, Merida, Bergamont, Trek, Giant, Canondale, KHS, Fuji, Kona, etc. BTwin and Schwinn come in the value for money cateogry perhaps. Indian bikes are currently picking up. Might be a good idea to wait for reviews. Please stay away from BSOs(Bicyle Shaped Objects) – look up “Don’t Buy a Cheap Bike“.

Please note that it is usually difficult to resell a bad bike as people are usually informed. You might want to pick a bike which might have a good resale value for obvious reasons.

What bike size is right for me?

It is critical when you are picking a bike you pick the right size and get the bike fit done. A bike like clothes needs to be tailored as per the rider. The LBS can help you with the same. The rule of thumb is to pick a bike where you have at least an inch of clearance on the top tube. The rest of the bike can be set during the bike fit. There is a lot of help available on the net so read up and don’t end up buying a bike that doesn’t fit you. Again the choice of a good store comes in handy here. Look up “Bicycle Frame Size Calculator – ebicycles“.

Do Women need a different bike?

Not really as most bikes are unisex and are fit to the rider depending on their build. But there are Women’s Specific Design(WSB) bikes that are better suited to women who generally have a shorter torso. Some of these bikes might have a larger saddle with a lower bottom bracket for higher stability. Unless you are very particular, going with regular unisex bike is generally a good option as it is easier to share the bike or resell it.

What if I have a back problem?

Biking is next best exercise to swimming for the back. It helps strengthen the back muscles and a lot of bikers have noted a remarkable improvement in their condition. It is important however to take a bike that fits you right and to maintain a good posture.

What’s a good posture?

When riding a bike it is important you maintain the right posture so as to avoid any long term injuries – a slouched posture with drooping shoulders and an badly arched back is inviting trouble. Keeping your core engaged and keeping the back in the natural way as you would while doing yoga helps greatly. Look up “Good Bike Posture slideshare

What is the minimum about of Bike Gear I need?

Helmet: It is not an accessory it is an essential. Please do not step out without a helmet on a ride. You can look up for enough testimonials on the importance of helmets on the various fora.

Lock: The high end bikes get stolen easily. A strong lock which is long and can secure the saddle and both the wheels to a pole is ideal. If not you can secure the front wheel and the frame to a pole or a tree. Not securing it to a pole or such is an invitation for the bike to be stolen. Bikes are usually stolen at a place where there is a pattern. For example tying the bike outside the house every night easily accessible to thieves. Keeping the bike inside your house is ideal as the bike is saved from the weather as well.

Lights: If you intend to ride after dark you have two concerns – to make the road visible to you and make yourself visible to the others – both are very important. Buy lights that are bright enough for both the purposes.

Reflective Wear: Again if you are riding in the dark good to have almost all your gear with reflective material – helmets, gloves, trouser bands/clips, hydration bags, etc.

A list of good to haves includes –

Toolkit: This is a set of Allen keys need to fine tune any part of a bike. A basic toolkit is a good to have if you know the basics of bike maintenance.

Puncture Kit: If you don’t want to be stranded in the middle of a ride it is good to learn how to fix a puncture and carry the puncture kit at all times.

Tire Liners: These help avoid punctures by adding an extra lining in the tire. Please note that these need to be installed carefully else they result in punctures themselves.

Saddle Bag and the likes: To carry much of the stuff mentioned above you can put various types of bags onto your bike. Saddle bags are the most common. You also get bags that fit to the handle bar and go into the middle of the frame.

Hydration Bag: A bag designed to carry water and a bunch of accessories and snack. Comes in pretty handy if you don’t want to get off the bike to hydrate yourself on a long ride.

Degreaser & Lube: It is important to keep the chain clean and optimally lubricated. You might also want to get a cleaning kit for the chain with brushes and equipment to clean the chain.

Pollution Mask: It is good to get your body used to the allergens, dust & smoke but if you feel the need to protect yourself from the pollution there are several options in the market. Lookup “Bikeszone Pollution Masks Review“.

How do I maintain the bike?

It is minimally required that you keep your bike clean specifically the drive train (the chain, the cogs and the dérailleurs). You need to clean them with a degreaser ideally but kerosene, WD40, etc are used often. You need to wipe all the parts dry after washing them thoroughly and then apply the lube to each link drop by drop. It is recommended that you use wet lube during the rains and dry lube otherwise. It is important to wipe the chain clean after you apply the lube as it attracts dust and the lube has already reached the place that really needs to be friction free.

What are some of the cool things I could do when I get a bike?

There are several rides both on the weekends and weekdays. You can find the details on BangaloreBikersClub.com. There are several getaway options with groups such as Cycling and More and Tandem Trails. These are excellent for the newbies or those wanting to buy a bike as you are taken away from the city to beautiful locales and you get to ride there. Critical Mass end of every is also an interesting ride for new riders. If you like to help organize workshops at your office related to biking you can write to mayank@ngopost.org. Look up “slideshare Byke Workshop with Bangalore Bykers Club mynk

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Mayank Rungta

About the Author – Volunteer with RideACycle Foundation and Bums On The Saddle. Actively evangelizing biking in Bangalore. Has been part of workshops encouraging bike commute to work and otherwise across over 50 corporates, colleges and apartments. Has personally helped a lot of newbies pick bikes.

 

NOTE: This article was to be used for a Magazine but that never saw the light of day so here it is :))