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Choosing the Right Bike for You

Choosing the Right Bike for You

– Tour de France mania is sweeping the nation. In fact, as I’m writing this – Chris Froome is flying the flag for Team Sky in the yellow jersey for the thirty-eighth day in a row. Now I’ll go out on a limb and say that most of us aren’t professional cyclists, although we’d quite like the calves that go along with it. Cycling is a great way to get your cardio in and an even better way to get to work. In fact, the number of London commuters cycling to work has doubled in the last ten years.

It might come as a surprise to some of you that Chris isn’t pedalling along, dominating the Tour de France on your everyday BMX. Chris’ Pinarello Dogma F8 will set you back a hefty 10k.

So what sets Froome’s bike apart from other bikes, and how do you pick the right one for you?

Carbon Fibre Bikes

Before you go off on a nutrition based rant, this isn’t more oatmeal propaganda to get more fibre in your diet, we’re talking about the composite woven material that the majority of today’s bikes are made of. Carbon fibre is the material of choice for many cyclists for a number of reasons. It’s light, really light. Carbon fibre road bikes also have a strength to weight ratio two and a half times that of aluminium.

You would have to go back to 1998 to find the last bike to win the Tour de France that wasn’t made of carbon fibre. Across the board, carbon fibre bikes are also widely recognised as being more comfortable to ride. It differs from person to person, but most of the carbon fibre bikes on the market transfer the vibrations from the road to the frame, instead of to the rider. This allows for a comparatively smoother experience.

There’s a widely perceived myth that “you can’t repair a carbon fibre bike”. It’s a common misconception. As we said before, carbon fibre has tightly woven threads which give it an enormously strong holding shape. It’s exactly why it’s used in making planes, alongside countless other scientific reasons to do with electro conductivity and thermal conductivity, which I won’t bore you with. But, when carbon fibre is forced under large amounts of pressure it becomes brittle and is far more likely to snap or splinter and the breaks aren’t exactly clean. That’s what has led to the stigma around them being irreparable.

However, they’re repaired in exactly the same as you would repair a steel or aluminium frame. It’s a more difficult repair and likely to be more expensive than a similar repair to a non-carbon fibre bike – simply because they cost more to begin with!

Pros:

  • Incredibly light
  • Smooth riding
  • Very strong

Cons:

  • On average, more expensive than aluminium and steel bikes
  • Susceptible to splintering (at pressures far higher than other frames could ever reach)
  • More difficult to repair

Great for:

  • Serious cyclists
  • Regular cyclists
  • Health and fitness fanatics
  • Cyclists in countryside or mountainous areas

Aluminium Bikes

Yes, aluminium bikes are cheaper on average than your other frames. But that doesn’t mean aluminium bikes are a complete no go, you could get yourself one from anywhere between £300 and £8000. Which means they’re far better suited to the casual cyclist who won’t mind dropping a significantly smaller amount of money on a bike that they simply won’t use as much.

Aluminium bikes won’t win you any races anytime soon, but if you’re looking to buy a aluminium bike then likelihood is you’re not the sort to compete in regular cycling races anyway! Maybe a quick drag race between mates in the park, but certainly not the Olympic Velodrome.

You can still find yourself a really smooth riding experience, it doesn’t have to be carbon fibre. Aluminium is a heavier material which some cyclists find far more comfortable as they don’t feel like they’re going to fall over on particularly stormy commutes. Aluminium bikes aren’t made from individual threads of woven carbon, so when you crash – your bike is more likely to bend or buckle than snap outright. It’s an easier repair and will no doubt cost you less. If it’s a completely write off, then you probably won’t have to worry so much about dropping an enormous amount on what you would have to for a carbon fibre bike!

This video shows exactly how much punishment both bike frames can take, with some pretty crazy results.

If you’re looking for a cost effective alternative to a carbon fibre bike but still want some of the features that would come with it, then you could always opt for a carbon fibre fork for your aluminium frame. It’s probably the best compromise you could make.

Pros:

  • Cheaper
  • Less brittle
  • Easier to repair
  • Likely to last you longer!

Cons:

  • Heavier
  • Not as strong as a carbon fibre frame
  • Harder to ride long distance
  • Potential difficulty going up hills

Great for:

  • Casual Cyclists
  • Shorter distance commuters
  • Amateur or once in a blue moon cyclist
  • Students

Ultimately it comes down to what you’re looking for in a bike. If you have the money to spend on a carbon fibre bike, I’d say do it. It’s not something you’ll regret and the difference in feel alone is substantial. But if you’re one to pick up a new hobby, drop a sizeable amount of money and then leave your equipment in the shed to fester – then don’t.

We haven’t covered it here, but we even wrote a post on How to Use an Electric Bike to Get Back into Fitness if you’re concerned with recurring knee injuries!

Regardless of what you go for now, there’s no excuse for not getting your cardio in before a weights session! Less time on the treadmills, and more time pedalling away. We’ll let you off on leg day though…

 

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