Do not worry if you think your bike is not good enough. As long as it is mechanically sound and is the correct size, then it does not matter what bike you ride. Remember bikes can be upgraded or changed at a later date.
The following section will give you a guide as to what equipment is necessary or advisable to have and to give a rough guide on what to look for when buying a bike.
These are a MUST when riding after dark. The range of lights available now is bewildering and you should think carefully about what kind of riding you will be doing before choosing a light.
Firstly consider where you will be riding, i.e. in town where there are street lights where the main purpose of the lights will be to be seen; or around unlit lanes where the primary purpose is to see where you are going.
Secondly consider how long your regular journey is.
Lastly consider whether you want them to be removable or permanently attached to your bike.
If you are cycling on street lit roads, the main purpose of your lights is to be seen and so it is probably not necessary to have a very bright beam (say a 2.5 watt bulb). For unlit roads where you need to see, a lamp with a 6w bulb should be sufficient to avoid those pot holes. You can buy lamps with much higher wattages (say 10 or even 20w) but bear in mind that the higher the output, the shorter the battery life. The very high power systems are good for off road riding at night but can be impractical for commuting due to their short burn time. Many of the newer systems are rechargeable or have separate battery packs.
It is illegal to cycle at night without a BSI approved lamp and there are many rear lights that do not currently have the kite mark. This includes most of the LED lamps available now, however they can act as a good backup to your main lamp and have a very long battery life.
The equipment listed above are the essential extras you will need. In the following section, we will describe the bikes and the actual components.
This is essential when you go out for ride as you may have a long walk home if you happen to puncture.
As a minimum take at least one spare inner tube and tyre levers with you. Ideally two would be better plus patches and glue to repair the tube if necessary. A small square of thick cloth or canvas (or a piece of an old tyre) is useful if the tyre gets split or damaged. Changing the tube instead of repairing it saves time and helps prevent you getting chilled when stopped. A rag or rubber surgical gloves are also useful as you are more likely to puncture when the roads are at their dirtiest. This will save getting your hands and therefore the inside of your gloves from getting dirty.
Assuming that your bike is well maintained then you should not need to take many tools with you when cycling on the road. When mountain biking however, mishaps do occur and a few well chosen tools can get you out of tricky situations, e.g:-
When maintaining your bike, having the correct tools for the job makes life infinitely easier and you should aim to build up your tool set gradually. Remember that other members of the club will probably have tools you can borrow.
Most systems nowadays are Indexed or ‘click shift’ gears. One click of the gear lever will change the gear by one sprocket. The two main systems of indexing are manufactured by Shimano and Campagnolo (Campag for short) and each have two different types of gear lever. Neither system is totally compatible with the other and so having decided on one system, you should try to keep that system on all your future bikes to ensure compatibility.
The original gear levers were called either SIS (Shimano Index System) or Syncro (Campag) and were available for either road bikes or mountain bikes. Since then the trend has been to produce combined gear and brake levers. Shimano were the first with their STI (Shimano Total Integration) followed by Campag’s Ergopower (Ergo for short). Shimano produce road and mountain bike versions whereas Campag tend to stick to the road.
The other trend in recent years has been to increase the numbers of gears available, with both manufacturers now producing gear sets with 8, 9 or even 10 sprockets on the back wheel. Our advice is to choose 9 or 10 speed as the older 7 and 8 speed systems gradually become obsolete.
When buying road handlebars, choose a pair that are the same width as your shoulders. Many mass produced bikes have handlebars that too narrow and a handlebar stem that is too short and you will end up feeling cramped. Ask the cycle shop if they will change them if they are not the correct size. Remember, the taller you are, the longer the handlebar stem you will need.
If you are buying a complete bike, check the wheels are true and round. If they are not, ask the cycle shop to do this before taking delivery. The spokes should be tight and of an even tension all the way round.
For general road riding, we would recommend a wheel with a 700c HP (high pressure) rim with either 32 or 36 spokes (36 for the heavier rider). This type of rim uses a tyre that has a separate inner tube and comes in many widths and tread patterns, some of which will be suitable for racing, some for training, and some for touring.
For racing you may consider a sprint rim where the tubular tyre is actually glued to the rim. These are not particularly suitable for general riding however as you will need to carry spare 'tubs' (tubular tyres) with you and care needs to be taken after a tub has been changed until it has been re-glued.
Many specialist cycle shops will build up wheels to your specification and will generally be of a higher standard than those supplied with cheaper mass produced bikes, although you will pay more for them.
The other trend in recent years is for good quality ready manufactured wheels. These tend to have a deeper rim than normal with an 'aero' section which allow the wheel to be built with fewer spokes (say 12-24). The rim may be either aluminium or carbon fibre. These tend to be used for racing rather than general riding.
For general riding and training, choose a tyre with a width of about 23mm, for racing say 19-21mm and for touring 28-35mm. Many tyres are available with a puncture resistant (kevlar) belt, although they tend to be a little bit more sluggish than those without. We would suggest these for training and touring.
Most pedals sold nowadays are of the ‘clipless’ variety which have a quick release mechanism similar to a ski binding. Riders push their foot down on the pedal to engage the locking mechanism with a shoe plate (or cleat) attached to the bottom of the cycling shoe. A simple twist of the heel releases the shoe from the pedal.
The first of these systems were made by Look in the early 80’s, followed by Time and then a number of other, less popular makes. Both Look and Time are suitable for road riding and both allow a degree of ‘float’ - a certain amount of twisting before the shoe plate disengages from the pedal.
This 'float' helps to prevent knee problems by allowing the foot to turn.
Most racing shoes sold will be compatible with Look pedals, however Time will require an adapter if you are using Time shoes (Time shoes will also require an adapter if you are using any other pedals but Time).
In 1990, Shimano brought out their SPD (Shimano Pedalling Dynamics) mountain bike pedals. These are double sided for easy entry (i.e. they have a quick release mechanism on both sides of the pedal) and the shoe plate is recessed into the sole of the shoes. They have since brought out single sided road versions and road racing shoes. These pedals are also suitable for touring due to the recessed shoe plate which allows you to walk normally. Please note however that there are now other makes of pedal that call themselves ‘SPD’ (eg Ritchey, Wellgo, and VP) but the shoe plates may not be compatible with Shimano or other makes. If you are going to buy these pedals, we suggest keeping to one make for all your bikes.