Cycling is enjoying a boom in popularity. Ever since lockdown, getting on your bike has become one of the most convenient ways to get around the city while social distancing. But with the popularity has come a rush on stock. Finding a good, reasonably priced bike is no mean feat, while booking in a service at your local bike shop now comes with a lengthy waiting time.
“Cycling is super fun and the most efficient way to get around London,” says Georgina Taylor of Brixton Cycles, who like many bike shops across the capital have been inundated with customers.
What should you look for when buying a bike?
“I think there’s a misconception at the moment, where people just want a ‘bicycle for now’ and that’s not really the right way to look at it,” she says. “I always ask them what kind of cycling they intend to do, what they want the bike for essentially, and if they’ve ridden a bicycle with drop handlebars before”. Although Taylor says she would never tell anyone how much to spend on a bike, she does recommend setting aside around £350 to make sure you get a bike you enjoy riding that will serve you well into the future. “If something seems too good to be true, it usually is,” she warns. “I think that’s what a lot of people also don’t really consider: you will be riding on the road so you need to have a reliable bicycle.” Although you don’t need to spend thousands on a racing bike – unless you are a competitive rider and that’s your bag – do consider that some elements, such as brakes, gear shifters and tyres do generally come to a higher specification the more money you spend.
Where should I start?
As Taylor says, the first step is to consider what you want to do with the bike. Will you be using it to commute? How far do you envisage going on it? Will you be going on trails or mainly roads? A lot of what will make a bike a perfect fit for you lies with your personal preferences, not to mention budget. Many are seeing for the first time the eye-watering sums that can be spent on bikes.
There are some main categories: mountain bike, road bike, hybrid, touring bikes and e-bikes. There are of course other options such as gravel bikes, cyclocross, track, single speed, BMX and time trial bikes but let’s not overcomplicate things.
If you’re unsure seek advice from your local bike shop – they may well be busy but see if they can spare a few moments to chat through your options, or seek out a keen cyclist friend (they will love talking about bikes and dishing out advice, trust me).
Taylor stresses the importance of finding a bike which is the right size for you, this is usually dictated by your height and sizing charts can be find on most retailers or brand websites (Halfords have guides here).
Also check out whether your employer is signed up to the Green Commute Initiative or the Cycle to Work schemes. These have been hugely popular and there’s been a recent spike in applications so it’s definitely something worth enquiring about. Some bike retailers also offer fixed-term interest free plans (as always, check the small print to see what you’re signing up to).
While seeking out a pair of wheels may not be easy right now, there are some decent options still available. Here’s a round up of the best options we could find.
Specialized Allez Road Bike 2020
A bestseller on Sigma Sports, the Specialized Allez Road Bike 2020 is a great buy if you’re looking for a good quality entry-level road bike. It’ll easily take you from commuting to joining in on club rides and sportives. It’s also a great example of the kind of bike Taylor advocates: great for getting around on but with the craftsmanship and technical specifications to stand up to more adventure if you do decide to up your cycling miles.
£649 | Sigma Sports
Cycle around London and at some point you’re sure to come across a Brompton bicycle. Its iconic design of a foldable set of two wheels means it’s particularly handy for the city and tight living spaces. You can easily fold it up and pop it in the car or take it on a train, ready to hop on it at the other end. Brompton have been building 1,000 bikes a week, with a view to ramping up to 1,600 soon as demand grows. It’s currently available for pre-order on Evans Cycles with a stock due date of the 21st July.
£780 | Evans Cycles
The Bike Project
With an aim to get refugees cycling, the Bike Project is an inspiring charity that takes second hand bikes, fixes them up and donates them to those on just £37.75 a week as they go through the complex asylum process. You can support their work by purchasing one of the many restored second hand children’s or adult bikes they have for sale (there are also a number of brand new cycles for sale too). One £300 bike sale gives the charity enough funds to supply three refugees with a bike, lock, lights and helmet. This hip new model from Brick Lane Bikes (BLB) has the looks of a single speed but actually features a top-quality Shimano Nexus hub gear offering you three gears.
£595 | The Bike Project
Challenge Plus CLR 0.1
Given the current bike frenzy, you’ll be hard pressed to find a new road bike at such a price (even those on second hand sites are going for a pretty penny). Not only that, Argos’ unisex Challenge Plus CLR 0.1 is praised by Road.cc as one of the five best road bikes to buy in 2020 for under £300. There is a catch though, it needs some self-assembly to get it on the road so you might want someone qualified or with some mechanical know-how to look over it if you’re not confident doing it yourself. Argos don’t seem to be delivering to some addresses but this model is still available for click and collect at various locations.
£229.99 | Argos
As well as bikes in general seeing increased interest, e-bikes are also benefiting from the boom in cycling. Long gone are the days of the uncool, bulky e-bike designs. There’s a wide array of sleek and stylish offerings on the market now as bike manufacturers up their game. This option from Belgian brand Cowboy gets a lot of praise for its minimalist aesthetic and clever tech. It has some great security features , including GPS tracking of its location and its 2.4kg battery is easily removed for charging. It also has integrated lights. If you’re thinking of investing in an e-bike for commuting, then this option is worth looking into. You’ll have to wait six weeks for delivery though, but in the current climate, that doesn’t seem too awful.
£1,790 | Cowboy
Pendleton Ashwell Hybrid Bike
A road bike isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and some people will much prefer the sit up style of this hybrid bike from former Olympian cyclist Victoria Pendleton’s range. It’s a little heavy but has a comfortable looking saddle and a chain guard to protect your clothing. All of the bikes in Pendleton’s range, which now includes e-bikes, have a vintage style vibe, and this version in a pale sage green sets that off beautifully. As expected they are selling fast but Halfords say that more stock is arriving in mid-June.
£380 | Halfords
Raleigh Pioneer GT 700 2020 Leisure Hybrid Bike
The well-loved British bike manufacturer Raleigh has long been a popular choice and its Pioneer GT 700 is a great investment. Sturdy and practical, the hybrid comes with a luggage rack, mudguards and a kickstand. It’s a classic style and has some neat details, such as reflective strips on the tyres and a generous saddle for comfort. It’s currently available in all sizes at Rutland Cycling and can be dispatched in eight days.
£484.99 | Rutland Cycling
Rockrider St 520 Mountain Bike
This bestselling mountain bike on Decathalon is not only currently still in stock, but priced at £279.99 it’s a pretty good deal too. It has a sturdy aluminum frame, front suspension forks, disc brakes, double-walled rims and 24 speeds. It doesn’t feature rear suspension which might be an issue for some, but Decathlon claim this allows for a lightweight mountain bike. It’s a unisex bike but the team suggest replacing the saddle with a women’s specific saddle, the Women’s 500 Sport saddle, which is adapted to female bodies.
£279.99 | Decathlon
Vitus Mach E Urban E-bike
A popular choice on Wiggle, the Vitus Mach E Urban e-bike has a flat handlebar, Shimano hydraulic disk brakes and offers supported travel of up to 100km on a single charge.The 2.6kg battery takes a couple of hours to charge to 80% and five hours to hit 100%. E-bikes are not cheap but they are an investment. This model priced at just over £2,000 is available at Wiggle on a 12-month interest free finance plan.
£2,099.99 | Wiggle
Cannondale CAAD13 105 Disc
Okay, so this is not a budget option but if you’re buying a bike through the Cycle to Work scheme and fancy making the most of the tax-free opportunity, you might be looking to splurge a little more. This swish number from leading bike manufacturer and aluminium experts Cannondale was named ‘road bike of the year’ by road.cc and has the versatility to get you to work as well as keeping you competitive on weekend rides or even racing crits. The trendy olive green paint job is understated but will still get you a fair share of admiring glances.
£1,899 | Sigma Sports
Of course, it all depends on your budget and what you’re looking for in a bike, but the Specialized Allez Road Bike would be our pick for a real enjoyable set of wheels that will serve you well into the future. The Challenge Plus CLR 0.1 is a good budget-friendly choice, while the Cowboy is a sleek, smart e-bike offering that we like for both its aesthetic and innovation.
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