Cycling is good for your health, the planet and your hip pocket. For advice on choosing the right bike Nicole Lutze spoke to Brisbane bike shop owner Mark Victor of Planet Cycle.
Here’s a thought: over a year, cycling 10km to and from work each day would prevent 1,500kg of greenhouse gas emissions from a petrol-powered car.
Adding extra incentive, bicycles are significantly cheaper to purchase and maintain compared to cars. The average family car costs about 55 cents per kilometre to run, while a bike will cost about 1% per cent of that amount.
For the amateur cyclist, taking the plunge into the world of bike riding can be daunting. There are so many different types of bikes and considerable discrepancies in prices. Then there are the physical concerns. Am I fit enough? Will I be safe? The good news is there is a type of bike to suit every need and physical ability.
How and where
How will you use your bike and where will you be riding? Identifying what sort of bike riding you want to do is crucial to choosing.
Many cyclists want to join a social riding group, requiring a road bike with a drop handlebar. Adventure seekers might prefer to go off-road, while some parents need a bicycle suitable for transporting children as a car replacement.
Woolloongabba’s Planet Cycle owner, Mark Victor, says, “You need to ask where you are going to ride. Will the distance vary, or is it a straight commute? If you intend on cruising along Brisbane’s bike paths, a hybrid or urban bike is best.” Mark assures me that while these bikes aren’t as fast as a road bike, they’re much easier on the rider’s back and arms because of the cross handlebars.
Electric bikes are also becoming increasingly popular as technology improves, enhancing battery capacity and decreasing the weight of these once clunky bikes.
“Some people think electric bikes are cheating,” says Mark. “It isn’t. It’s just a different experience. I’m 55 years old, and while I can ride up most mountains on my normal road bike, I want to continue riding when I’m 70 or 80. An electric road bike offers me longevity in cycling. These bikes help commuters get to work quickly while wearing work attire. They can also help parents who might struggle with the extra weight of a child.”
Electric bikes are not a throttle bike, but instead, provide pedal assistance when going up hills. For safety reasons, Australian law restricts powered assistance to 25 km/h. If you want to go faster than that, you’ll need to use your muscle power.
Adult tricycles are an option for the elderly or those who might otherwise struggle to ride a two-wheel bike. They’re also an excellent option for people who want a bike they can transport groceries in, as the sturdy frame allows for a large cargo area at the rear of the bike.
What accessories do you need to buy?
Once you’ve settled on the type of bike, you’ll need to purchase a few additional extras.
A helmet that meets Australian standards, reflectors and a bell is required by law. A small repair kit with some tools, a spare tube and pump are also advised so you don’t get stranded with a flat tyre.
“If you are a commuter, I would recommend buying mudguards and some wet weather gear, so you aren’t surprised by afternoon storms on the way home,” Mark says. “A different type of seat, gloves or shoes can also make your trip more comfortable.”
Should I buy second hand?
According to Mark, there is money to be saved buying second hand. However, in the less expensive end of the market, the savings can be minimal, and you might end up inheriting someone else’s problems.
Mark explains, “You will save more money if you’re shopping secondhand for a bike in the mid to high end of the market. Though, I would advise getting a qualified bike store to check your intended purchase for hidden problems before handing over the cash. If you wouldn’t buy a car without a mechanical check, don’t buy a bike without doing the same.”
Mark also advises being professionally measured for a bike before buying anything second hand.
How do I maintain my bike?
Many bike stores offer free beginners classes on bicycle mechanics. Taking the time to learn how your bike works can save you hundreds of dollars down the track.
The simplest and best way to look after your bike is to keep it clean. “Parts generally wear out more quickly when they are dirty and full of grime and grease, particularly on the chain, cogs and other moving parts,” says Mark. “These parts are expensive to replace, so prevention is advised.”
Rent a bike instead!
For those who want to test out their commitment to cycling before buying a bike, or who want to avoid ongoing maintenance, Brisbane City Council’s CityCycle scheme offers bike rental.
The service has 150 stations throughout Brisbane’s city centre, and between Newstead, West End and Toowong.
Move for Less at the Green Heart Fair
Brisbane City Council’s upcoming Green Heart Fair on Sunday 2 June includes the Move for Less zone, where you can test ride and drive alternative transport options, from ebikes and skateboards to electric cars.
Exhibitors will include:
- UT Electric Bikes
- Evolve Skateboards
- Bicycle Queensland
- Mitsubishi Motors Australia
- Brisbane BMW
- Electron Vehicles
- STAR 8 Australia
- Riverlife Brisbane
More at greenheartfair.com.au