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How to choose the right bike

Hugh Bowring

21st January, 2010

There is a greater variety of bikes available now than ever before, ranging from as little as £100 up to over £1000. Here is some basic information on the six main varieties

Racing bikeracer

Also known as a racer, this is designed for road cycling and is therefore lightweight and aerodynamic. It is chiefly characterised by its thin wheels and drop handlebars, which are positioned lower than the saddle to maximise the aerodynamic posture of the rider. Due to their design they are inappropriate for off-road cycling and are generally less popular than mountain bikes for recreational use.

Mountain bike 

This is designed for off-road use, either on dirt trails or other unpaved terrain. They are characterised by their wide, knobbly tyres, which offer superior traction and shock absorption, a sturdy frame, robust brakes and lots of gears. To suit their use, most mountain bikes are now built with front suspension and an increasing number also include rear suspension. Mountain bikes can be used on-road, though their robust design makes them sluggish compared with more slender alternatives. Mountain bikes are very popular and widely available.

Touring bike Touring bike

This has been designed for, or modified to handle, extended cycling trips or tours. To cater for all the equipment required for such a trip, the bikes include numerous pannier racks mounted on the front and rear of the frame, and sometimes on the forks of the wheels as well. Bikes typically have a longer wheelbase for stability and heel clearance, additional water bottle mounts, front and rear mudguards and wide, puncture-resistant tyres.

Electric powered bike Electric bike

These take the physical edge off riding a conventional bike by providing a motorised boost when you need it. The bikes are powered by an on-board battery charged from the mains. Some will also recharge while you are pedalling. Although they generally cost more to buy (expect to pay £400 to £1,200) and run than standard bicycles, electric bikes are great for commuters who don't want to sweat on their way to the office. Electric bikes use very little energy to run, working out at between 800 to 2,000mpg. And being electric, they can be made carbon-neutral by using electricity from a green tariff or creating your own electricity domestically. For advice, reviews and information on stockists and prices visit A to B magazine's website.

Hybrid bike Hybrid bicycle

This is a mix between a mountain bike and a racer. Like a racer, the centre of a hybrid's tyres is smooth to make cycling on roads easier and faster. However, the outer edges of the tyre are roughened, making it suitable for cornering on less stable surfaces. Although hybrids generally retain the basic features of a mountain bike in terms of frame, seat and gears, there can be a wide variation between different models, with some tending to favour off-road cycling and others favouring on-road.

Folding bike Folding bike

These have come a very long way over recent years. Gone are the chunky, hard-to-ride and slow-to-fold models, and in their place are an inviting range of streamlined and lightweight varieties. You can fold them up and store them in a cupboard or take them onto a train, bus, ferry and even plane usually at no extra cost and without having to book in advance. Folded size is important to consider when buying, as is folding speed. The smaller it folds the greater flexibility you have to take it places, while the quicker it folds makes it better for regular use. Heavier models (14kg or more) cost in the region of £200 or less, whereas for the lightest bikes (10kg or so) you are looking at £1,000 or more.

GOOD GREEN BUYS

Brompton M3L folding bike

The classic Brompton (pictured above), features Sturmey Archer's reliable 3-speed hub and all the fundamental advantages of Brompton's folding bike design. The British-made bicycle weighs a mere 11.5kg and is as much at home in the city as on a country lane. There is also plenty of room for luggage at the front. Bikes are made to order and are available from Brompton directly, costing around £630. Visit www.brompton.co.uk for more information.

Cytronex electric bike

Designed and assembled in England, the Cytronex range offers a completely new concept to electric powered biking. At first glance the bike looks like any other bicycle (see image, top right), but a closer inspection will reveal their water bottle-shaped battery and a hub motor about the same size as a dynamo. A and B magazine called the bike a 'superb sports electric bike - economical, fast, silent and fun to ride' which should be top of the shortlist for anyone looking for a sports commuter bike. Prices start at £1,195. Visit www.cytronex.com for more information.

Green Living Guide

 

This is an extract from Hugh Bowring's Green Living Guide, available now from WHSmith, magbooks.com and Amazon for £7.99

 

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