A good bike is crucial, but not necessarily expensive

I wonder how many adults revisit cycling but give up after only one attempt because they went out on a substandard bike. Perhaps they pumped up the tyres and tightened the brakes on an old clunker in the shed, then, after the ride, felt as knackered as the bike.

I don’t want to sound like a member of the Lycra brigade, but a decent bicycle really is a must if you want to get the most out of taking up cycling again.

You’re bound to feel tired after that first go, but with a good bicycle your fitness will rapidly improve to the point when you’re full of energy each time you ride. On a poor quality-bike (“a bicycle-shaped object”, as a shop assistant once dryly put it to me) you’ll feel like you’re treading water, or running uphill, every time.

That doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot of money. You might be surprised to hear that I’ve never spent more than £300 on a bike (being the editor of Cycle Lifestyle is not the most remunerative job in the world). I bought a new bike a few years ago but it got nicked, so I decided, from then on, I would economise by buying secondhand bikes instead.

The first I bought (for £100) was sadly inferior to my previous bike, to the point when it took me much longer to get anywhere, and some of my enjoyment was sucked out of cycling. I assumed this was just the way it goes when you buy a used bike, but out of curiosity, I tried out another secondhand bike for the same price. The difference was unbelievable, like riding with the wind behind me rather than in front. Same price, totally different experience. It makes me sad to think of all the newbie cyclists who would have given up, disillusioned, after riding that first used bike I bought.

So how are you supposed to know if a secondhand bike is decent or not? Try out a few, so you can compare them. Even better, ask an experienced cycling friend to come along to the shop with you. If they’re like any of the cyclists I know, they’ll be delighted to help.

Get the right bike and you’ll feel like you’re flying. 


This is SO TRUE! From age 18

This is SO TRUE! From age 18-29 I was riding around on the bike I inherited from my big sister, which she'd got new when she was 12. It had five gears officially, though only two in reality, and was perfectly adequate for 10-minute journeys (to lectures, into town, etc) - with no fear of it being stolen being an added bonus - but not so good on the knees (which should never be at ear-level when cycling). This year, about to turn 30 and financially solvent (for a limited period!), I invested in a brand new bike - worth £450 but I got it online for £330 and paid £40 to have it assembled by the professionals in a local bike shop. It's a Dawes Mojave, a town/hybrid bike - upright-looking in style and riding position, but goes like a racing car. Definitely the best investment I've ever made (and not exactly one to break the bank)! As well as feeling like a grown-up, I now seem to be able to overtake loads of other cyclists without putting in any effort at all. It's as though the world slows down when I'm on the bike, and I just sail through it. I've got two D-locks, which I keep in a pannier while I'm riding, and I just make sure I lock it in a sensible (light, busy) place. Now I recommend to everyone to get the right size bike - the benefits are immeasurable!

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