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Bicycle Buying Guide

So you are looking to buy a bicycle, let's work out how to get that bicycle you are so desperate for!


What sort of bicycle?

The first thing to consider when buying a bicycle is what do you want to use it for? There are a lot of types of bicycles, all with different benefits.


The main types of bicycles are:

  • Road (designed to take you as far and as fast as your legs can manage on paved surfaces)

  • Hybrid (a mix of a road bike and a mountain bike)

  • Mountain (designed for off-road/uneven surfaces cycling)

  • Traditional (an upright position, usually with carrying space, for paved surfaces) 

  • Folding (designed to fold away small, ideal for city living)

  • Cargo (designed to carry large loads e.g. shopping, children)

  • Or Electric versions of all of the above


 Other types of bicycle exist but are mainly used by specialists rather than the average rider.


Also consider what frame type will work for you:


These are the most common frame types but there are many more out there. The lower the frame the easier it is to get on and off the bicycle. Loop frames are particularly useful if you have mobility issues or wear skirts or dresses.

How much does a new bicycle cost?

Now you know what type of bicycle you want, you need to work out what you can afford. 


If you are looking to buy a new bicycle a minimum of £300 is required to get something of such quality that it is actually worth the money. Spending less than this often leads to:


  • Sloppy gear shifting, chain falling off

  • Noisy, ineffective brakes

  • Slow tyres with negligible puncture resistance

  • Premature failure of components such as bottom bracket, wheels, brake levers and pedals


This leads to more frequent maintenance at relatively high costs just to keep the bicycle functioning reliably. Unfortunately we see a lot of cheap bicycles in our workshop that within a year of life require repairs of £80 or more. This doesn't make sense to the owner who brought a cheap bicycle with the aim of saving money. 


Spending a minimum of £300 should provide you with more reliable parts on the bicycle that require less maintenance. However price is not always the best indicator of quality so be sure to check for certain things:


  • Bicycle shouldn’t be too heavy or hard to lift (Avoid full suspension for daily use)

  • Brake Levers should be metal not plastic

  • Tyres should have some level of puncture guard and ideally be branded (Schwalbe, Maxxis & Continental are good)

  • Gear Systems should be branded Shimano, Sunrace or Sram

Where to buy a new bicycle?


We strongly encourage you to buy a bicycle in person from a shop rather than online. Buying a bicycle in a shop means you always have somewhere to take it back to if necessary. Buying online complicates the process of returning the bicycle if you experience any problems with it.


We always advise going to specialist bicycle shops rather than general stores that also sell bicycles. If bikes are all they sell then they should have strong product knowledge and be able to advise you on the best option to suit your needs.. 


It is also completely valid to go to multiple shops and find a bicycle you like then buy it online for a more competitive price. The one thing to remember is the bicycle will not come fully assembled. If you are not mechanically minded we advise you to have a repair shop set up the bicycle for you. We have personally seen brand new bikes with over £50 worth of damage because the owner tried to put it together themselves without the correct tools or sufficient knowledge. 

We charge between £30-40 for a Box Bicycle Set Up, less if you remove all of the packaging.

Brand new bicycle too expensive? Try Secondhand

For those looking to spend less than £300 on a bicycle but still wanting something that will last, secondhand is the way to go.

Secondhand bicycles can be picked up from lots of different places but most commonly are found at car boot sales, garage sales or Facebook marketplace and Ebay. Some bicycle repair shops also sell secondhand bicycles (we are one of them).


When looking for a secondhand bicycle there is more to consider than when buying new. As the history of the bicycle is unknown it can be hard to tell if the asking price is fair or not.


So here are some things to check before buying:

  • Check the tyres, are they cracked or heavily worn? If there is a lot of cracking on the sides in one spot it may imply the bicycle has been unused for a while.

  • Do the wheels spin straight? Do they spin at all? If they make a lot of noise when they spin something may be badly wrong.

  • Use the brakes, do they work? Are they noisy or do you have to pull really hard to make the bicycle stop?

  • Can you change gear? Do the gear shifters move easily and do the gear mechanisms move freely?

  • Can the saddle height and position be adjusted?

  • Give the bicycle a bit of a bump on the ground or a shake. If it makes a lot of noise it might indicate that parts are loose or broken.

  • Has the bicycle been poorly painted over, this can be a sign of a stolen bicycle. 

  • Have a look over the bicycle for significant scratches, dents, bends and rust patches.


Finally make sure you test ride it! Before you pay anything make sure it is rideable and comfortable for you. If it doesn’t feel nice to ride, it may not be worth buying.


If you do buy a secondhand bicycle we suggest having it checked over by a professional before you buy any accessories for the bicycle. Students and Staff at the UEA benefit from FREE health checks from us and if you don’t have a UEA campus card then health checks are £15. A health check will give you a thorough report on the condition of a bicycle.


It is very rare to buy a secondhand bicycle and not have to spend any money on repairs so always be prepared to spend a little more to get the bicycle running safely and efficiently.

The Importance of a Test Ride


When buying a bicycle the most important thing to do is test ride it. By test ride we mean a 5 to 10 minute ride, not just a lap around a flat car park. You need to know that the bicycle will suit your needs, be comfortable for you and that it works.


Things to think and do whilst test riding:


  • Do the brakes work and do they work at speed?

  • Do all the gears work, be sure to shift through all the gears carefully.

  • Is it quiet? Bicycles should be relatively silent when being ridden, any squeaks, bangs or rubbing noises indicate a problem.

  • Can you roll easily? When you stop pedalling does the bike keep going.

  • If you can ride with no hands already it is a good idea to try this. If you can’t ride with no hands try lightening your grip on the handlebar just to check the bicycle keeps going straight. If it pulls left or right then the bicycle is damaged.

  • Is this bicycle comfortable?

    • Can I get on and off the bicycle easily?

    • Are my legs straightening almost fully when I push down on the pedal?

    • Am I leaning forwards enough or too much?

    • Can I look behind me easily?

    • Am I sliding off the front or back of the saddle?

    • Do my feet stay on the pedals?

Test ride all done! If everything felt good and you feel good, you can now buy yourself that bicycle.


Never got to test ride the bicycle? Why not?

If a bicycle shop won’t allow you to test ride a bicycle you are interested in then something is seriously wrong. If an independent seller won't let you test ride a bicycle it may be worth offering them something to hold onto in case they are worried about theft. If they still won’t let you test ride it then don’t buy it. No Test Ride = No Sale 


Bought a bicycle, now what?


So you’ve got yourself a bicycle, fantastic! Time to get it checked over. Students and Staff at the UEA benefit from FREE health checks from us and if you don’t have a UEA campus card then health checks are £15. A health check will give you a thorough report on the condition of a bicycle.

If the bicycle is in good condition, brilliant. Time to get the basic essential accessories.


You’ll need a lock and lights as a minimum.

In the UK by law, you must have a red rear light and a white front light when it is dark, as well as a red rear reflector at all times.

In terms of locks, we suggest D Locks (also known as U locks and shackle locks). It is wise to spend no less than £20 on a good quality lock. To some this may be a lot of money but a good lock will deter theft and a cheap one will encourage it. By spending more money on a quality lock the chance of needing to replace a bicycle due to theft is greatly reduced. Even if the bicycle you owned wasn’t too expensive, replacing it may be more than expected.


By riding a bicycle you can pat yourself on the back for a number of reasons. Every journey you make will have a direct beneficial impact on the environment. A human on a bicycle is the most fuel-efficient system on the planet. By keeping yourself fit, you're reducing your demands on society as a whole and the health service in particular. People who cycle live longer, are happier and have more satisfied and fulfilled lives.


Here at Norwich Bicycle Repair Co-op we deeply believe that there is a bicycle out there for everyone and we hope this guide helps you find yours. If you’d like us to add anything to this guide feel free to message us through the Contact Us page.

Now get on that bicycle and RIDE!

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