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Research required in picking a bike
Mountain, road, hybrid, townie, comfort, cyclocross, cruiser, chopper – there’s a bewildering array of bikes to choose from, but if you plan to bike to work, your choice of the most suitable steed to purchase narrows down quickly.
If you have a bike in your garage you might get away without buying one. Pry it loose from under the stuff stacked around it and check it over. If it’s a mountain, hybrid or road bike of decent quality and in reasonable shape, get it tuned up at a bike shop and hop on it.
Purchasing a bike doesn’t have to be a huge investment, though. A bike, chosen wisely with help from a specialty bike store, will last for years with regular maintenance.
A used bike can offer good value, but like any vehicle, have it checked over carefully before you buy. No matter what you buy, make sure it’s of good quality.
“Basically you’re buying a tool, not a toy,” said Phil Head, general manager of B.C.-based bike manufacturer Brodie. “A lot of bicycles seem really fancy and seem like a bargain, but if you’re buying a bike that you’re going to lock outside your office and ride three days a week, say, and with our weather, you want it to be serviceable.”
Year-round commuting in Nanaimo’s climate is tougher on the bike than on its rider.
Parts exposed to water, salt, dust and road grime will fail, so make sure the bike you purchase is equipped with components from major manufacturers such as Shimano or SRAM that are readily available and can be easily rebuilt or replaced.
What kind of bike you choose depends on how you will use it. Will it be strictly for commuting or do you want to do some recreational off-road riding too? Can you lock it securely at work? How far is your commute? Are there hills along way? Dirt trails? Rough roads?
If it’s just a short pedal to work, a standard mountain bike with 26-inch wheels will do fine. Their design seats the rider in a more comfortable upright riding position.
Mountain bikes are durable and have gearing systems designed to surmount most hills. Their knobby all-terrain tires can be easily swapped for road tires designed for pavement and gravel paths that provide a smoother, more energy-efficient ride.
Cyclists who commute farther than several kilometres may want to consider a hybrid or road bike with taller, thinner 700C wheels and high pressure tires with low rolling resistance. These bikes are lighter and designed to help you go farther faster.
How many gears do you need? Current bike designs on the market have up to 30 gears or ‘speeds’.
The advantage of having many speeds lies in how smoothly they shift between gears, but they won’t necessarily allow you to climb steeper hills or go faster than bikes with fewer gears.
They also require more maintenance and adjustment to keep them shifting optimally and require the use of thinner chains which can break more easily, especially under the demands put on them by heavier riders and loads.
Bruce Spicer, Brodie product manager, recommends 24 speeds as the best overall compromise between reliability, maintenance and cost.
Most major quality bike manufacturers offer bikes suitable for commuting and general recreation starting at prices ranging between $400 to $550.
But spending a little more money buys better quality drive train components and adds beneficial features, such as disc brake systems that last longer and will stop you faster in wet weather.
Brodie offers an urban commuter model for $750, a price point Head said brings together best overall mix of features and quality the money, making it one of the company’s best sellers.
“It has everything you need without going overboard,” Head said.
Most major manufacturers, such as Norco, Giant, Rocky Mountain, and others offer similar models in the price range.
Keep following the News Bulletin’s six-part series (part 1 was published April 21) on what it takes to try bicycle commuting in the weeks leading up to Bike to Work Week, which takes place May 30 to June 5.
Tune-ups and maintenance
Overall, bicycles are cheap to maintain, but just like a car, regular tune-ups and maintenance are crucial to keep a bike running properly while extending its life.
Most riders can do the basics by keeping their bikes clean, lubricating the chain and maintaining proper tire pressure.
An annual tune-up costs about $50 to $60 and will include a thorough cleaning of gears, chain, brakes and wheel rims plus cable tension adjustments to brake and gear shifting systems.
Dorothy Simpson of Pacific Rim Bicycles recommends hard core year-round commuters regularly replace cables and brake pads and keep a close eye on tire and rim condition.
“You need to change cables because the shifting gets crappy, and so does the braking, because the road grit gets inside the cables,” Simpson said. “So, a lot of times to make it work perfectly, it’s worth spending the extra amount of money.”
Budget for necessary accessories
When budgeting for a bike be sure to factor in costs for extra accessories you will need that your bike will likely not come equipped with.
Helmet - Sooner or later you will need it. $30 and up.
Lights - Be safe. Be seen. Buy lights. Front/rear safety light sets cost as little as $20. Higher power headlights that provide adequate light on poorly lighted paths and roads cost upwards of $30.
Rear view mirror - With wind and traffic noise you won’t hear the car coming up behind you. They’re as important on a bike as on a car. $10 and up.
Fenders - It rains in Nanaimo, so it’s well worth buying full coverage fenders. $25 - $35
Bike lock - Lock it or lose it. Count on paying $15 or more for a decent quality lock.
Water bottle cage - Buy a metal one. Some even come with a bottle. Expect to pay $15 for good quality.
Bike rack - Bike racks let you to carry heavy packs, briefcases and other items on the bike instead of your back. Good quality rear bike racks start at $15.
Seat bags and frame bags - For carrying spare tubes, tools, wallets, cell phones, energy bars and other small items. Prices range from $15 and up.
Spare tubes - You’re guaranteed to need them and probably sooner than later. $5 to $10 each.
Tire levers (for changing tubes) - $5 to $10 per set.
Tools for basic repairs on the road - a small set of metric allen keys and a small phillips screwdriver will handle most basic repairs and adjustments on the road. Expect to pay about $10 for both. Or you can buy a multi-tool for bike repairs. Prices for quality units start around $20 upwards of $30 for advanced models.
Toe clips - Toe clips are a good option help you pedal more efficiently and keep your feet secure on the pedals. $20. Or you can buy clip-in pedals and specialty cycling shoes. Prices vary from about $150 and for pedal and shoe combinations.