Suffolk expert’s top tips for buying a bike this summer
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With beautiful weather forecast for the next few weeks, there’s no better time than now to head out on your bike and explore Suffolk. But what if you don’t have a bike, or you need a new one?
Buying a new bike can be daunting, but local expert Steve Grimwood is here to answer all of your questions, ensuring you can make the most of the beautiful scenery this summer while on two wheels.
Which is the right bike for me?
Ahead of buying your bike, you should have a rough idea of where you plan to ride it, and how often you’ll be using it. But with so many choices out there, it can seem confusing at first.
"There’s never been a bigger variety of bikes out there on the market than right now,” explains Steve Grimwood, owner of Ipswich’s Elmy Cycles.
“Think of it like footwear. A pair of wellies is fantastic for walking across a muddy field, and trainers are perfect for going on a run – but give someone trainers to walk across a field in, or tell someone to run in wellies, and they’ll have a terrible time. It’s the same with bikes – if you give someone a heavy mountain bike for a road ride, they’ll find it hard work, so getting yourself a bike fit for purpose is crucial.”
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Common bicycle types include road bikes, mountain bikes, commuter bikes, and gravel bikes to name but a few. “Some people will want to commute to work, some might just want to ride on the weekends, some might want to go off-road on the tracks and trails, while others might just want to go on the country lanes. Ask yourself what you’ll be using your bike before investing.”
Recently, Steve has noticed that off-road hybrid bikes in particular have been flying off the shelves thanks to their versatility – and recommends these for anyone looking to explore a variety of terrain this summer.
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“This is the sort of bicycle you would want to ride around Alton Water or maybe on country lanes, but also through the forest on gravel tracks.”
Hybrid bikes are a cross between a mountain and road bike, and feature flat handlebars and tyres narrower than those on mountain bikes. They also tend to have a wider gear range than road bikes, meaning they’re easier to pedal up hill.
Regardless of what bike you opt for, the average price of a new one is around £300 - but this can vary by make and model according to Steve. “The most expensive bike though is one that doesn’t get used, and just sits in the shed. Irrespective of what you pay for it, if it’s not the right bike for you, that’s the worst kind of bicycle you can buy.”
Not only should the bike be fit for purpose, it needs to be comfortable for the rider. “You’ll know you’ve found the right bike as soon as you sit on it, as you won’t feel stretched or uncomfortable.”
How do I take care of my bike?
Once you’ve found the bike for you, knowing how to look after it properly is essential in helping it last as long as possible.
“One interesting fact about biking in Suffolk is that we see a real difference between riders who live in the east of the county and those in the west. Anybody in Ipswich and further east, their biggest problem will be sand. Sand is everywhere – it's on the roads, it’s on the tracks and it’s on the trails.
“When sand sticks to oil, it creates a very abrasive substance, so if you put oil on top of sand it will wear all of your bike parts away quickly. People who live west of Ipswich and towards Bury however don’t have as much sand to deal with – it's more mud and peat.”
Regardless of where you live though, the best way to clean your bike is to wash it with a bucket of hot soapy water, and wipe it clean with a rag or cloth before applying oil to prevent rusting.
Regularly checking your tyres and ensuring they’re inflated correctly will also help your bike last longer, as well as make for a more comfortable ride.
“The correct pressure will be written on the side of the tyre, but it’s worth remembering you don’t need to pump your tyres up all the way as it will make them bumpy. Always think of the weight of the rider – if you’re much lighter, you can have a lower pressure which will give you more comfort. If you’re heavier, you can have a higher pressure to give you more protection.”
In addition, Steve also recommends checking your brakes each side of winter. However, if there’s anything you’re unsure of, it’s always best to get it checked out at your local bike shop.
How do I choose a children’s bike?
If you’re looking to get the whole family biking this summer, ensuring the children are on suitable bicycles is equally as important.
“The most crucial thing when it comes to buying for children is the weight of the bike. Go for the lightest weight possible - children don’t need all the features that an adult bike would have such as suspension or lots of gears. A lot of these things make the bike heavier, and too difficult for the child to manage,” Steve says.
What sort of helmet do I need?
No responsible rider would ever set off without a helmet - and choosing the right helmet for you is just as crucial as the bike itself. With a variety of helmets out there, Steve recommends opting for a commuter helmet.
“These are much lighter to wear and have more ventilation than say a BMX helmet, meaning they are more comfortable to wear. The most important thing is it needs to fit you to be comfortable. If it fits you, you’re more likely to wear it, and like with bikes, the worst helmet you can have is one that doesn’t get used.”
Before setting off, ensure your helmet fits as tightly and snuggly as possible without nipping you. A helmet that doesn’t fit properly won’t be as effective in protecting you from impact and injury.
With your new bike and helmet at the ready, it's nearly time to set off – but Steve has some final advice before you begin your journey.
“Be sure to start off small. Don’t go on a three-hour ride if you’ve not cycled much before. We’ve got lots of lovely cafes around Suffolk, so why not pick a route that’s got a halfway stop at a café - especially if you’ve got children with you. That way, you can stop somewhere and break up the journey. It makes for a much nicer day out - we see a lot of people who try biking without any breaks and they find it hard so they never cycle again.”