Guide to buying a bicycle

Buying a bicycle requires homework – especially if it's your first!

Take your time to research, read reviews, visit as many bike shops as you can to “kick some tires” and test-ride as many bikes as you can. The payoff for all your hard work and patience will be a trusty companion that will deliver years of fun, help you stay healthy and possibly, even save you money.

But before you run out the door with cash in your hot little hands, you’ll need to narrow down your choices, or your hunt will be like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Here are some questions you should ask yourself.

What type of riding will I do?
Start your search by asking yourself: what type of surfaces do I expect to ride on, what distances do I intend to ride, and at what speed do I want to ride at? With so many categories of bicycles (I’ll just list a few major ones: Road, Hybrid, City, Mountain, BMX, Tandem, Foldable) you should easily be able to find one to suit your needs.

What type of surfaces do I expect to ride on?
Paved roads, Park Connectors, Bike Paths – Road, Touring, Comfort, City, Cruisers and Hybrid bikes with slick tires work best on these hard, smooth surfaces. You can also ride Mountain bikes with larger, knobby tires, but be aware that you’ll require more effort to travel at the same speed.
Gravel roads, dirt roads and off-road trails – Mountain bikes with their straight handlebars and wide knobby tires make it easy to ride on almost any surface, with the exception of quicksand. Mountain bike lessons will give you the confidence and skills to tackle wild terrain.

What distances do I intend to ride?
Short distances up to 2-4km – City, Hybrid, Foldable and Mountain bikes are great for short trips. Some foldables have the advantage of being able to fold so small that you can take them into shops with you.
Moderate distances from 4-10km – City, Hybrid, Road, Touring and Mountain bikes can easily go the distance!
Long distances beyond 10km – Comfort, Road and Touring bikes can make long distances more comfortable. If you plan on commuting, one great option is to ride a foldable bike so you can hop into a cab or train to link several short trips.

What speed do I want to ride at?
Relaxed – Cruisers, Comfort, Hybrid and Foldable bikes.
Quick but not racing – Road, Touring, Mountain bikes. If you fit slicks on mountain bikes, they can be quite zippy too.
High-speed and racing – Road, BMX bikes.

Sure, it's cheap, but can you get spare parts later on?

Sure, it’s cheap, but can you get spare parts later on?

New or used?
Whether you buy your bicycle from a store or some guy from the bike forums, test it. Pay attention to how it handles. Everything should work perfectly – no skipping, screeching, squeaking or rubbing. If in doubt, bring along someone who knows their headset from their derailleur.

Might be a bit too small for you, buddy.

Might be a tad bit too small for you, buddy.

What size bike?
Swing a leg over the bike, sit down and grab the handlebars. Are you too stretched out or too cramped? A simple test will determine the ‘reach': Sit straight up on the saddle. Raise your hands above your head. Let them fall straight down in-front of you. Your palm should rest on the grips between your knuckles and first bend in your fingers. Slight deviations are okay. Anything else means the bike is either too short or too long for you. If you are fitting for a child, be sure to get them to close their eyes when their hands come down; some kids are wily and will ‘auto-adjust’ in order to get or reject a bike.

Talking about kids… I can’t stress this next point enough. Bikes are not T-shirts. If you’re buying for a child, don’t buy a bike that’s too big and expect him or her to be safe while “growing into it”. It should fit now, not later. If it is too small or too big, he or she will have trouble controlling it. A good quality kid’s bike has excellent resale value and ‘hand-me-down’ potential – a cheap bike has none. Look for aluminum frames, forks and rims and v-brakes. Avoid gimmicky suspension systems (those on most kid’s bikes are nothing more than simple pogo-sticks, not real suspension), mud-guards, fenders, bolt-on fuel tanks and other plasticky bits that add weight without enhancing functionality.

A ‘true’ kid’s bike will also have shorter crank arms. Typically, the crank arm length should correspond to the height of the intended rider. For example, I’m 1.71m tall, so my bike has a 170mm crank arm length. Our 16″ Kuwahara Gertie is meant for the average 5-7 year old child of approximately 1.2  to 1.3m tall (or short) and thus has a 125mm crank arm length. You get the idea. Unfortunately, for most manufacturers, simply slapping on adult-length crank arms on a kid’s bike saves them money. If you notice that your child’s knee comes up rather high (and close to the chest) when he or she pedals, go check the crank arm length. If you can’t replace the cranks, raise the seat to a comfortable and safe maximum.

Where to buy?
These days, you can buy bicycles online, at department stores (Takashimaya, Bugis Junction) and of course, in bike shops. If it’s your first time buying a bike, your best bet is the bike shop. Ask around and you’ll soon have a list of shops. The good ones will probably be mentioned more than a few times. I like bike shops where they dispense advice freely, answer questions, explain things well and are happy to help me find what I want instead of pushing me to buy whatever they want to sell. They should be knowledgable about bike fit and be willing to set-up a test/demo bike so I can ride around in the car park – anything less is poor customer service. Lastly, try to find a shop you like that’s within riding distance, because it will be your new favorite place to hang-out!

If you’ve learnt to ride on our school bikes, you can find out more about them at the following shops.

Doppelgänger

Velocentric LLP
50 Serangoon North Ave 4, #09-03 First Centre, Singapore 555856. Tel: 6323 2398

Java X-1, Focus, Jango, Carryme
LifeCycle
204 Rangoon Road, Singapore 218451. Tel: 6299 4308
986 Upper Serangoon Road, Singapore 534732. Tel: 6289 0176

Focus Road & Mountain Bikes
Entrocycles
1 Kaki Bukit Road 1, Singapore 415934. Tel: 6749 4060

Trek Bicycles
Treknology 3
14 Jalan Kilang Barat, Singapore 159356. Tel: 6273 8616
91 Tanglin Place, #01-02, Singapore 247918. Tel: 6732 7119
1026 Sembawang Road, Singapore 758500. Tel: 6852 0989