So you want to start cycling! Hooray to you! The new year is a great time to be thinking about new activities that are both healthy and fun. I've been asked about new bikes by three women this week so I thought I'd offer some top tips on buying a new bike
1 - What will you be using it for? Commuting? Getting around the neighbourhood? Long distance rides? Each of these activities are easier on a bike that is built for the job. For instance, I recently met a woman who keeps a folding bike in the back of her car so that she can cycle alongside the grandchildren as they run in the park. For her, the convenience of a folding bike afforded her great mobility and seamless play with her grandchildren. So, think about what you will be using this particular bike for and that will guide your decision.
2 - How hilly is the landscape you plan to cycle in? This is important because particularly when you first start cycling or when you return to cycling, your fitness isn't always as good as it will be. Therefore, while you may pine after a Pashley Princess Sovereign, where you see these words "Traditionally lugged and brazed hand-crafted steel frame" you can bet that it isn't a particularly light bike, all of which is fine if you are cycling on the flat, but it takes a fair bit of fitness and strength to enjoy a heavier bike on hills. So, whilst weight is contentious in all bike categories, consider this your entry into cycling and make it as enjoyable as possible knowing that you can always upgrade to a fancier model!
3 - To e or not to e (electric bikes that is!) If you are in a hilly area or just needing a gentle introduction to cycling, you may want to consider an ebike. Recent reviews include this one at RideOn Magazine and this one at CHOICE magazine. You may find that an ebike works best for you as you become more confident and get used to the riding conditions. These bikes are more expensive than entry level bikes so keep that in mind too.
4 - How many gears is too many?! If you haven't been following cycling trends then you might be confused by the ubiquity of single speed bikes. Again, depending on your use patterns, this type of bike might be fine for you but consider your terrain and how you are planning to cycle. 3 gears are great when you're on the flat but not so good when you're starting to climb hills. I'd start at 6 gears and above and work out what is best for you! Importantly, make sure you stick to your first principles as bike shop attendants are often very dismissive of multiple gears on leisure bikes. Know what you want and make sure you communicate it effectively!
5 - How much do you want to spend? Bikes in all categories can be as cheap or as expensive as you are prepared to pay. Having been through many of them I can offer a couple of words of advice. Spend the most you are able to and buy the highest quality bike that suits your needs. If that means a $250 bike, then so long as it suits your needs, that is the bike for you. If you're spending $5000 then you know what you're doing and don't really need this post. The most important thing you can do is make sure you know what you want BEFORE you get to the bike shop. I've seen so many women in bike shops being talked into bikes that are too big, too heavy and/or not fit for purpose. The wrong bike for your needs (at whatever price) will ensure that you don't enjoy your cycling so, go with a plan and stick to it! and on that note, if you're in Australia, I've been looking at these bikes as entry level women's bikes and while I don't own any of them, they seem to be a good place to start, particularly if you're looking for something stylish! Breezer Downtown @ Cheeky Transport I like the way they promote this bike "good value, comfortable, practical, well integrated city transport bikes – kitted out with simple drive-trains, nice paint-jobs, kickstands, racks, mudguards, comfortable handlebars and chainguards". I can also highly recommend their service to women. I went in looking for some spare parts and they were the friendliest bike shop reps I've ever dealt with. They treated me well and with respect - something that some other bike shops could learn when it comes to serving female customers. This store also sells Brompton Folding Bikes which I would recommend but they are quite expensive (around 2k) and the price might make them seem unattainable to begin with. Later on, when you're more confident and you're looking for a truly convenient, beautiful and reliable folder, this is the only one to buy! Reid Ladies Vintage and Retro Bikes Reid have prepared a range of very reasonably priced women's retro and vintage style bikes. They are around 15kg so while not particularly light, they aren't the 25kg types they are modelled on. Reid have bike stores in most capital cities and you can buy online. I'd suggest that if you buy online, you take it into their store or your local to have everything checked after you've done the assembly. A nice range starting at around $250, these are stylish, elegant bikes that will allow you to get used to the experience Onipax L3Britz Folding Bike @ Pushys Online At around $250 this is possibly the least expensive stylish folding bike you'll find. I have yet to try it and can't find an excuse for buying it given that I have three other folding bikes...but I am really quite intrigued by this model. It look like very good value though with 20 inch wheels, aluminium frame and simple folding mechanism. Coming in at 12.5kg it is ideal for commuters and those who have a drive and cycle routine ahead of them.
I have managed to find a video of the assembly out of the box and, as with any other bike bought online, I'd highly recommend that you take it to a bike shop post assembly for a check up and service. Good luck and enjoy your cycle!