Buyers’ guide to cycle types, cycle size, and accessories

Cycles

There are so many bicycles on sale that it can be difficult to know what’s best to buy.

Fortunately cycle retailers are keen to help you make decisions, and they have online guides to all the different types of bike, and types of cycling.

Try Halfords’ video guide: which cycle and Halfords’ buyer’s guides to different types of cycles with information on differences and features of mountain, road, hybrid, folding, electric, BMX, children’s and fixed gear (single speed ‘fixies’) types.

Evans’ Cycles’ buying guides include information about different types of bike too.

Wiggle Online Cycle Shop also gives some information about bike types.

You can double check retailers’ online advice with the non-commercial Bike Hub’s ‘Buying a Bike’ and ‘Buying Bikes for Children’. (Bike Hub is the successor to Bike for All).

Cycle size and fit

Frame size:

Electric-assisted, traditional, mountain bike or folder? Bicycle, tricycle, tandem or recumbent? Whatever you choose, it needs to fit. A good fit is essential for cycling safely and enjoyably. And the fit depends on the right sized frame for your body. The right frame size can be fine tuned for complete comfort, but the wrong frame size will cost you a lot in accessories that won’t completely solve the problem.

If you’re of average height, you’ll be able to find a comfy bike from most retailers, but if you’re tall or small, pay attention to detail.

For the right frame size for a conventional bike (ie not a recumbent), first check that you can stand over the bike without parts of your anatomy coming perilously close to solid metal. Then check reach – this is the distance between saddle and handlebars. Too far apart and you’ll be stretched out and suffer neck, shoulder and wrist problems. Too close and you’ll bang your knees on the bars. Handlebar design and height affect reach, as does the length of handlebar stem, and saddle position, but you should only be making these adjustments for fine tuning.

Halford’s guide to cycle fit gives a useful overview, with extra information on sizing for women/children and pointers about road, hybrid, mountain bikes.  

Wiggle’s bike size guide and Evans Cycles bike size guide also take you through the basics before going into considerable detail for different types of bike.

Crank length:

Crank length is another vital statistic often overlooked by cycle sellers. Cranks are the metal bars connecting the pedals to the chainwheel, and for seated cycling should be roughly 20% of your height, or 10% of your inside leg measurement, to avoid knee damage. The correct crank length is also essential for cycling effectiveness and enjoyment – you would not believe how much difference it makes. For off-roaders who spend most of their time standing on the pedals, the crank length is longer. However, this means fashionable mountain-bike style cycles, which will probably never be taken near a mountain, will also probably have longer cranks. So ask for them to be changed if you plan to sit on the saddle for most of the time.

Cycle accessories

There are plenty of guides to choosing and buying accessories eg lights, pumps, locks, saddles, pedals, bike bags, racks, tyres, tubes, cycle carriers for cars….

Evans Cycles buying guides include many cycling essentials.

Halfords’ buyer’s guide to cycle accessories includes lights, locks and pumps, and how to fit them, plus advice for triathlons.

Wheelies also gives some information on accessories.

Halfords’ buyer’s guide to car bike racks/cycle carriers/roof bars describes the main types. They are able to advise on suitability for your particular vehicle, and can also fit bike racks and so on, which is worth considering since you do need to be sure you are carrying this extra load correctly for your safety and others..

For information on accessories from a non-commercial quarter, also take a look at Bike Hub’s ‘Accessorise’ page.  (Bike Hub is the successor to Bike for All.)

This page includes Evans Cycles, Halfords, Wiggle Online Cycle Shop, Wheelies, Bike for All buyer’s guides to choosing and buying cycles, bikes, bike sizes, types of cycle and cycling, bike kit, accessories, cycle carriers/roof bars/racks for cars, incompatible car/carrier combinations.