Cycling in London is an excellent way to make a small change which has a big effect on your quality of life. It’s a door to door service like a taxi whilst being cheaper and often faster than a bus. The exercise is better for your health and the lack of emissions is better for everyone else. On top of all that it’s a lot of fun and when was your last ethical decision that rewarding? Before you can tap into all of these benefits though, you’ll need to get a bike. We’re happy to guide you through the process.
Types of Bicycle
- - Upright riding posture is comfortable for new cyclists.
- -Suspension will soak up any and all road surfaces.
- -High gear range means hills are no problem.
- -They are often fairly bulky and their large tyres slow you down.
- - Many of their features, such as suspension, are designed for off road tracks, so may be wasted on London’s tarmac.
Road bikes come in several variations and can be more easily adapted to the task in hand.
- - Lighter frame makes for extra speed.
- - Gear range allows for comfortable riding anywhere from the flat of Hackney to Highgate hill.
- -Drop handlebars take some getting used to and can reduce visibility when using the lower part of the drops.
- - Thinner tyres are more vulnerable to punctures.
Track, fixed gear and single-speed bikes have light road frames but use only one gear. This makes them lighter, faster and simpler to maintain and repair. However they don’t have the gear variation, meaning they can be difficult if you hit the hills. Bear in mind that track and fixed gear bicycles don’t allow you to freewheel, so can be tiring and difficult for first timers.
- - Combine the weight of a road bike with the upright positioning of a mountain bike.
- - Often they have lower gear ranges or use 3-5 speed hub
- - Their combination of characteristics leads to some compromise; they’re not as fast as road bikes nor as indestructible as mountain bikes.
- -They fold up! This means you can take them on public transport and allows for easy storage at home or at work. It also makes them less likely to be stolen.
- -Smaller size makes for smaller wheels, meaning they can be a bit more work on rougher road surfaces or on longer rides.
- - Can carry incredible amounts of stuff, from the weekly shopping to a couple of kids! For journeys around the city they can make an excellent alternative to a car.
- - Heavy
Whilst these are then main kinds of bicycle you’ll encounter there is a whole world of bikes out there to suit all kinds of riders. These range from recumbent bicycles where the rider is in a “lying back” position, allowing for full leg extension and relieving pressure on knees and wrists, through to sturdy tricycles which can take heavy loads and also provide access to cycling, through organisations such as Wheels for Wellbeing, to those who feel unsteady on two wheeled bikes. There is a bike out there for you!
Buying a Bike
Luckily for us, London has hundreds of bike shops where you can browse, test, and buy any bike you desire. Here there will be people on hand to guide you through the process and help you get a bike that really suits your needs. If you choose to buy a new bike online or second hand from somewhere like EBay or Gumtree you’ll have to make sure that it fits you. Detailed sizing information and charts can be found with retailers such as Wiggle and Evans Cycles.
Online auction sites can be used by thieves as a way to fence stolen bikes, so be wary of second hand bike adverts that seem too good to be true. You’re well within your rights to ask for several pictures of the bike, frame registration numbers, original retail receipts or identification and addresses from the seller. If you are given a frame number then check it against stolen bike registers such as BikeRegister, Check That Bike and Immobilise. If it comes up clean and you decide to go ahead, try and go and collect the bike in person so you can check it over for rust, bent frames or worn components. Make sure to get a receipt for the transaction with the seller’s address and signature on it as you may need it for insurance purposes. It’s best that you give any second hand bike you buy to a qualified mechanic to check over; bikes that haven’t been used for a long time often need a bit of a tune up!
Other Necessary Accessories
The bike is obviously the key piece of kit for cycling, but you will need a few other things to be truly ready to ride.
If you’re going to ride at night then you are legally required a white front light and red rear light in order for you to be seen by other vehicles.
You’re not required to wear a helmet when cycling; if you do then make sure it fits properly and replace it if it takes a heavy knock.
If you’re planning to stop anywhere you’re going to need a good lock to make sure your bike is still there when you get back. Official advice is that you should spend at least 10% of your bike’s worth on a lock but realistically you should spend whatever you can afford. A good bike lock can be bought from about £25 but can go up to £80 and, whilst this seems expensive, it is almost definitely cheaper than buying a new bike. If possible avoid cable locks which can be cut in seconds and opt instead for a good D-Lock or chain. Information on all kinds of locks can be found here.