First things first! This may be one of the most rewarding “non-human” relationships you’ve initiated… so just like starting any relationship, some basic principles are useful.
On this page:
- How to choose a bike that’s right for you
- Vintage and secondhand bikes
- New Bikes
- Local bike shops
How to choose a bike that’s right for you
Bikes, like shoes, come in several basic designs to suit different circumstances.
You wouldn’t go to a cocktail bar in tramping boots, nor to the beach in silky-soft Portugese leather slippers. But some bikes – like good shoes – can suit most occasions in your everyday life. So figure out what kind of riding you want to do, and what kinds of outfits you’ll be wearing most of the time (e.g. the work dress code), and pick your friendly bike type!
It’s a good idea to try different ones too – ask your bike shop or hire shop, or a bike loan scheme – see your local Flock’s page for info. Here’s a great page that shows you the different types of bikes that are available, including city bikes, hybrid bikes, mountain bikes and road bikes!
Fit = comfort. Comfort = happiness. Happiness = … … actually, that’s good!
Having a bike that fits you means hard work only happens when you choose (it’s a steep hill / gale force wind / 20kg of groceries on board – or none of the above, if you prefer!)
And it’s straightforward to get a bike that fits.
No matter how flash or beautiful your bike, if it doesn’t fit you it’ll make riding a pain. Even short trips can become aggravating – so why do it to yourself when it’s easy to get it right?!
Frame size is the main thing to get right, and from there the proportions can be tweaked with adjustments to other components.
As you ride more, you’ll find out what’s comfortable. Don’t be afraid to keep adjusting your bike’s bits until it feels good!
Use this handy guide to figuring out your frame size
Then use this handy guide to measure that bike you have your eye on.
If it’s basically right, go ride it and feel what’s good.
If the bike is a little too big or small for you, adjusting other components can help.
Handlebars & stem
There are lots of choices! Comfort is the main thing, and utility (e.g. drop bars are handy for riding into head-winds; ape-hangers are great for looking fly).
The stem is the source of great adjustments for you.
Saddle / seat
This an important and very personal thing to get right. Don’t be afraid to grill your bike shop staff on the best saddle choices; there’s really no substitute for sitting on them. (The saddle options, not the bike shop people.)
A “man’s bike” of the right size will probably be a great bike for you; a man’s saddle is generally a whole world of unpleasantness. Wider is important!
The whole birth canal thing means our sit-bones are wider than men’s. Measure yours and ensure you’re buying a wide enough saddle. Get your bike shop to use their measuring cushion to be sure.
Watch out – soft doesn’t always mean comfortable. Soft saddles can squish up when sat on, putting pressure where you don’t want it.
There’ll be an inevitable period of a sore bum while your sit-bones get accustomed to riding. Don’t freak out; it will go away and stay away as you ride regularly. If you get real hip pain or a sore back, change something quick! That’s not good.
You + your vintage or secondhand bike
Secondhand bikes are phenomenal value, and a great way to get a stylish bike for cheap (our stylish bike supply market is still catching up to those overseas). A well-maintained bike will go for decades with only minor updates.
As when getting a second-hand car, scooter, flat, boyfriend, or girlfriend, a secondhand bike can sometimes turn out to be a lemon despite all the due diligence. Here are a few helpful hints for when buying a bike: knowing what’s good to get, and what’s yellow and smells a little bit citrus.
Hooray for progress
Progress… it’s great sometimes. Technical progress in the cycling world has given us the carbon fibre bottle cage, but it’s also given us thoroughly awesome inventions.
If you’re looking at an old bike – anything before the 2000s – it’s worth checking for a few things. These can be the difference between largely hassle-free riding and spending twice the bike’s price on modernising parts every three weeks. (Of course, you may find like that sortta thing!)
Helpful new things (check for them when scoping a pre-2000s bike):
- Cartridge bottom brackets
- Better brakes
- Headsets that last
- Common frame diameters
- Handlebar-mounted gear shifters
- Weight – steel frames
Ask for some photos of the bike to show these bits in detail, and feel free to take the picture into a bike shop and ask. Also ask the seller outright if the bike has these things.
And… check the bike out in person! Never buy a bike without a test ride. If they won’t give you one, don’t touch it with a barge-pole.
You + your new bike
You can spend as much on a bike as on a car, but you can also get a great new bike for $1000 and it will be about a bajillion times more reliable than a $1000 very used car. And will cost you a gazillion times less every month. [Disclaimer: results may vary from figures cited.]
It’s still important to get the right bike for your needs, but there are some great things it’s now possible to get on newer bikes. These make your riding more enjoyable and convenient, and can enable bike types to cross over – like the best kind of shoes – into different conditions.
Cool new stuff
Head in to a bike shop and they will regale you with the cool new things on offer. You’ll not get many of these on the one bike for $1000, so suss out on the web first to get a feel.
Cool new things:
- alloy frames
- belt drives
- new-retro combinations [e.g. Brooks saddles on new bikes]
- good brakes
- funky frame designs
Maintenance – a little goes a long way
You want someone to be doing basic maintenance on your bike, as this will mean it lasts for way longer, and it’s way cheaper to maintain than to repair.
It’s dead easy – that someone can be you!
- Oiled chain
- Thickness in brake pads
- Lubricated gears, healthy friction points
- Little rust
- Healthy tyres
There are great guides on the web, and talk to your local bike shop about a basic maintenance course.
Many towns have courses for women done with the local Frocks On Bikes flock (the info is the same, but there’s drinks and nibbles). Check out your local Flock’s page or contact them to find out about maintenance courses for women.
Local bike shops
There’s nothing to beat in-person advice, especially if you aren’t a bike connoisseuse. So do your internet research, sure, but we’d recommend local shops as the best way to buy. Build up a relationship and you’ll find there are heaps of benefits to choosing a shop over the internet – including for your pocket.
Frocking and the bike shop
More and more women – including non-cyclist women – are frequenting bike shops these days, so the ones who’re onto it are tailoring their service offerings. And about time too! Many shops now also provide hire bikes which are a great way to test common types.
If in a bike shop you start feeling ignored, overwhelmed with hard-sell, or talked down to, that’s poor sales technique and you should take your custom elsewhere!
Check out your local Flock’s page or contact them to get some recommended shops and hire places in your ‘hood. If you have no options to go to, give your shop some helpful advice on being more customer-friendly (or ask us to tell them).