My advice to newbies.


New Member
Wondering what sort of bike to buy? Start here.

pretty much everyday there is a post on this forum saying,

'hi newbie, which bike?'

This is good, the people on this forum are passionate about helping people begin cycling.

Unfortunately there are so many, that the responses can be somewhat sporadic. It's not that people dont want to help but it really does get asked an awful lot. These are my views, there are a lot of people with more experience than me on here, but i have been in the same position as most people asking this question as i only got back into cycling over the last couple of years. i have included a lot of generalisaton but these tend to be comonly expressed views on this forum.

So what have you got?
First things first, i'm fairly sure that most people on here have, in a deep dark corner of the garage 'an old bike'. Well thats good, drag it out hose it off and assess the beast. Put some air in the tyres (i KNOW that theyre flat!). My guess is that this bike will do 90% of people who are getting back into cycling, at least for the first couple of months. If it has been in there, unused for a good while, say 4 years plus treat it to a service at your local bike shop (LBS). This should cost you about £60. Use it, enjoy it and if you are lucky you will have no need of new bikes.
If however there is no 'old bike' in the garage or it is completely inappropriate or unsafe then read on.

Firstly a bit of background
You can buy bikes EVERYWHERE nowadays. so lets have a look at the options.

Internet - Great deals - Little service, problems with sizing, not for the uninitiated
Discount suppliers - Motorworld and the like - Very Cheap, Bikes from about £80. The reason theyre cheap is because they're crap. Avoid at all costs.
Specialist bike chains - Buy a bike mag, the big swanky adds will be bike chains, Evans, Edinburgh Cycle co-op. and the like. They offer great choice, decent service and keen pricing. - A bit too corporate for some tastes (not edinburgh cycle co-op which i beleive is a proper co-operative)
Local Bike Shop-Every town has at least one, they dont always have the greatest choice but they do have almost without exception a passion for cycling, and a desire to see you leave on the right bike for you. Fnd a good one and you will treasure it like your firstborn child. These men and women know their stuff.

All things being equal - use your LBS, you wont regret it.

Halfords-One of britains biggest bike retailers, tens of thousands ride happiy on bikes from halfords. They are selling some pretty nice looking Chris Boardman bikes right now. But it is fair to say that they have earned a poor reputation on cycling forums like this. So use with trepidation.

You want a bike? WHAT FOR?
What sort of journeys do you have in mind? This is THE crucial question to deciding what bike you chould buy. I reckon the easiest way to adress this is to look generally at what each type of bike does, then match it to your needs.

ROAD BIKE - A racer as most of us used to call them when we were kids. If you are of a certain vintage then you will find things have changed... A LOT! They are as light as a feather and very quick. But by far the biggest change is that there are no more levers to change gear any more, they are incorporated into the brake levers and it was an invention bordering on genuis!! Dropped handle bars, thin wheels and tyres, anywhere between 10 and 27 gears. These are light fast, used for commuting where your journey is by road (or very good quality cycle tow path). Used for keeping fit, club and sportive (long timed rides). Not great for hooking up child seats trailers etc. If it was a car it would be a Ferrari.

HYBRID - pretty much designed to be fast commuters. They have 'flat' handlebars, (more comfortable/better view) Good brakes and bits that commuters need such as screws for mudgaurds and panniers etc, Use on road and good quality cycle paths. not ideal for the 'sportier' side of cycling. If it was a car it would be a Golf GTI


TOURER - a sort of relaxed road bike, will do everything that the bikes above will and a hole lot more, if a tad slower. Comes with holes and screws for lots of panniers and racks in case you fancy going to Bolivia. A comfortable ride. If it was a car it would be a Volvo Estate.



Heavyier and sturdier than the bikes listed above. They have different gearing too, which means it's much easier to get up hills on them but not quite so easy to tear along on the flat. Not my area of expertise but they generally fall into three catagories

Rigid - Similar to a Hybrid but a bit slower. Big fat tyres = comfy ride. great for tarmac and rougher trails and cycle ways. Ideal for fitting kids seats to it. A great all rounder used by lots of commuters. If it was a car it would be a Ford Mondeo.


Frount suspension - Great for rough x country rides and a little tarmac based riding. Quite slow as theyre heavy and 'bouncing up and down is an in efficient use of energy. If it was a car it would be a RAV 4.


Full Suspension - usually identified by a metal spring or similar connected to the back of the bike - these are really specialist sports bikes for full on mountain biking. If it was a car it would be a Land Rover.


Specialist bikes - recumbent, trikes, folders, bmx...... the list is endless but most people returning to cycling pass these by. No matter what you are interested in someone on these forums will have one or have ridden one so ask away

Now consider the original question, what journeys will you be using the bike for? Once you have an idea of which bike is for you then get on the internet and get out to the shops. The staff will help you and when you have narrowed it down to two or three models post here and people will find it much easier to advise you on specific bikes. Your big limiting factor is budget but there is something out there for everyone, even if youre skint the second hand market can usually turn something suitable up.

There you go, thats my advice i hope you find it useful. This should with luck enable you to begin making sense of the bike market today. Any feedback welcome.



Excellent stuff, andyfromotley.

Admin - should this be a Sticky ?


New Member
Hi, guys, thanks for the feedback, i'm glad its been received in the spirit it was written.

once its been up a couple of weeks i will give it a bit of a rewrite based on comments posted here, so keep em coming.

Thanks Andy
I agree with most of your post AFO but am mildly concerned about your classifications. Don't get me wrong, you're definitions are right and I haven't yet formulated an alternative but I am coming to the conclusion that this whole field needs an even simpler approach. If the aim is to enable beginners to establish the right kind of bike for their needs perhaps we need a flow chart of some kind.
Or a matrixy thing.
I just think that the use of words like Hybrid are misleading for beginners. As manufacturers strive to fill every perceived gap in the market we end up with a range of bikes, from Roadbikes with flat bars at one end to chunky hub-geared 26" wheeled tanks at the other, all called hybrids. And what is a hybrid anyway? Historically, there were racers and tourers and town bikes. Then the mountain bike came along and nicked all the sales. As the mountain bike boom plateaued, and fearing a repeat of the eighties BMX nose-dive, manufacturers came up with the spiffy idea of putting flat bars and components on touring frames. For want of a better name they called them Hybrids. The name was appropriate for that particular point in time but what was a tiny sector of the market has moved on so much that the word has become meaningless. They're City bikes, Town bikes, Commuter bikes. Choice of wheel size and tyre cross-section is merely a trade off of speed over comfort. As is riding position. Trouble is, all the bike shops still call them Hybrids so maybe I'm fighting a losing battle.
My tuppence worth anyhoo.
South East
Great post Andy, I just have 1 concern...

andyfromotley said:
Halfords....././... So use with trepidation. surely much too strong, I think Halfords bikes are pretty good for the uninitiated, I have a racer (Carrera) and think it's perfectly good for my commutes, leisure rides, and prospective JoGLE next year.

I have no links with Halfords, nor any other party involved with their suplliers etc, I just feel that this should be watered down, or completely removed....


New Member
stoat, i will think about what you said but i did try to make my comments on halfords even handed. They do get an inordinate amount of criticism on here though and there must be a reason for that. The last thing i want is for new forummers to be sent somewhere that wont look after them. ..... i'll sleep on it.
ps i have never bought anything from halfords so its not a personal issue.


Cycling in Scotland
Auld Reekie
My advice to Beginners, keep asking questions and don't be afraid to ask, that's why we have a Beginners section...


California Correspondant
I think if we keep beginners away from Halfords and going to their LBS, that's only a good thing. I agree there are some good bikes in Halfords (we had a Carrera hybrid and really liked it) but surely the chances of them getting an awful bike and hating cycling are lower if they go to a bike shop?

Halfords is great for cheap accessories though...they definitely have their place.
Punkypossum is right, Halfords assembly standards are often very poor indeed. My mate runs a cycle shop which makes a lot of money from the inability of the local Halfords to assemble bikes correctly.
They are also guilty of providing poor advice on frame sizing and regularly give people wrong advice about the kinds of bikes folk actually need. £99 full-susser for commuting?

Perhaps it's a blittle unfair to single Halfords out for criticism, plenty of LBSs are guilty of the same crimes, but they do seem to be consistently awful.


Cycling in the sun
Someone could do with producing a similar thing for kids bikes... a friend was asking my advice about which bike to buy from Halfords for her kid, and I managed to steer her away from full suspension but it still looks as if its going to be heavy. Kids are really drawn to full suspension chunky wheels - their image of a perfect bike.

And you forgot 2nd hand ... though as a beginner you probably need someone to help you check a bike over I guess so maybe thats why its not in there.

And I agree on the Halfords comments about how competant their bike mechanics aren't.


New Member
Co Antrim
wow! that means I have got a 'golf GTi with a rav4 suspension then!! lol.

Seriously good advice though Andy... very helpful indeed.. for the uninitiated. Cheers.
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