I have received a few questions from Bikeable Jo followers about buying their first bike. This can be a potentially intimidating experience, especially if you don’t feel confident in your bike knowledge. It’s okay! The best way to learn is to put on the miles. There are some great bike shops in Edinburgh who are run by people who love cycling and are keen to make you more bikeable. However, I do recommend being equipped with a few bits of information before you start looking.
Being far from a bikeable expert, I called in the experts. For the price of a few beers, Neill from the lovely Edinburgh Cycle Company on Granton Road offered a few tips to get started. You guys should pop by (plus, he has an amazing dog Boomer who hangs around the shop!).
- Do your research. Know what kind of bike you want to ride. Depending on how you want to use it (commuting, hitting the trails, long cycles on the road) will shape the kind of bike you are looking for. For your first bike, I found it useful to get a commuter with fairly thick tires which made the cobblestone streets of Edinburgh less daunting. You can always upgrade once you are more comfortable cycling.
- Know your budget. Neill recommended £150 for used bikes and nothing below £300 for brand new bikes. In my opinion, second-hand bikes are a steal and they carry the best stories. There are some great places around town to buy used bikes and you can always look online. If you are looking online, do beware of stolen bikes. If the serial number is ground down (right below the bottom bracket) or if you have a bad feeling about it – just walk away.
- Eyeball it. You don’t have to be an expert on bikes to spot some warning signs. Cracks, rust, and any other signs will indicate that it might not be the bike for you. Neill recommends lifting the bike about 8 inches and dropping it. If the parts feel or sound loose, it could be indicative of something serious that might warrant further investigation. It could be just loose mudguards or a seriously cracked frame.
- Check the expensive bits. Check the drive train for wear. This is the most expensive part of the bike and if it’s worn, it could cost you at least £70 to replace. To check the bottom bracket, move the pedals side to side. If it’s loose, it means a replacement which can be costly. My Saracen had a loose bottom bracket and I had to get it replaced shortly after.
- How are the wheels? Some wheels have wear indications through grooves on their wheels. If these grooves are ground down, they will need to be replaced. If the wheels are cracked, they will need to be replaced as they are more susceptible to flats. Cracked tires are easy to see just by looking (but be sure to look!).
- Take that baby for a test drive! This is the stage when my Saracen stole my heart. But it’s also a good opportunity to see how it works on the road – put it in in highest gear and if it jumps, it could mean an expensive repair.
- Negotiate the price. Depending on all of these indications, negotiate your price. Know your budget and factor in various repairs and go from there.
To help you find your bikeable soulmate, Neill put together this amazing graphic. Print it off, mark it up, and put it in your back pocket on your way to getting your new bike!
Do offer any of your tips for those looking for a new bike!