Which bike?

Many types of bike left by travellers at Oxford Railway Station

We have speculated in past columns about what happens to people who have started riding bikes during the present pandemic, but surveys find that a majority do not wish to go back to how the world was before the Virus. One of the big changes we have seen is in an improvement in air quality. Government in the UK has made it easier and cheaper for Councils to remove cars from streets by making Traffic Regulation Orders unnecessary.  A move towards riding bikes is already helping to improve air quality. This will enable councils to allocate more road space to bicycles. 

Perhaps that old dusted off bike from the shed is not really good for longer term regular use? There is a bewildering number of differing models of bicycle in bike shops. If you are  new to bike riding and you want to continue to ride a bike more suitable to your needs, how do you decide which bike to buy?

First of all decide where you want to ride and what is the main use for the bike. There are bikes for all different uses and for different abilities. If the bike is mainly for getting to work in Oxford, an urban bike will be best; an upright model easy to get on and off, with few gears. Comfort is an important aspect for commuting. A simple “sit-up and beg” bike, like those used in the Netherlands will suffice. 

If the intention is to ride longer distances taking in a few hills, then more gears will be needed and possibly a “hybrid” bike will be better. Hybrids are usually straight handlebar bikes, but you will need a low gear to get up hills. These bikes are robust and cover most uses, ideal for shopping or carrying work papers or a laptop in the detachable panniers. The riding position is comfortable and if you want to use the bike for touring it will be suitable. These bikes are usually made of aluminium or steel. Folding bikes are good if you are travelling long distances on public transport. The Brompton folder is probably the best known.

In cities, where air quality is important, Cargo Bikes are becoming more popular for deliveries and if the habit of ordering goods and getting them delivered during “lock down” continues after Covid19, there will be even more deliveries needed by bike. 

Of course if you wish to use a bike for fitness or competitive cycling in a cycling club, you will need a road bike, which will be lighter than a hybrid, have dropped handlebars and be built more for speed than for comfort. A road bike will hinder and lighter wheels. It is also possible to use it for commuting, but this is not ideal. 

There is an old saying “the number of bikes you need is always one more than you have”. So perhaps the old bike in the shed is only the start. 

 Published in On Yer Bike, the Cyclox column in the Oxford Mail                                                                           


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