Melbourne sans car #2: Getting some wheels… bicycle wheels
Melbourne’s ever growing bicycle culture means there are lots of people out there to help you get on a bike. What are some of the things you want to keep in mind before you find a bicycle just right for you?
The first thing to think about is what you plan to use the bike for? Commuting to work? Quick rides down to the shops, the movies, the pub or to your friends place? Weekend recreational rides? Off-road mountain assaults? Going everywhere and doing everything?
It’s fairly important to buy a bicycle that matches what the majority of your rides are likely to be, rather than what you think you want to use it for every now and again. If you’re heavy into off-road assaults, jumping things and muddy slippery rides, you will appreciate a mountain style bike with nobbly tires. But if you’re unlikely to need the fancy suspension and grippy tires in your urban travels, you’ll be glad to have a lighter bicycle with thinner, smoother tires, giving less rolling resistance.
Bicycles come in a variety of types, and I’ll just name a few here:
- Road bikes – made for speed, typically thin tyres
- Mountain bikes – flat bar, suspension, disc brakes, tyres made for gripping soft surfaces
- Hybrid or comfort bikes – sacrifice slick a little for general urban use. Smooth but ‘fat’ tyres, flat bar, upright sitting position.
- BMX – single speed tricksters for all ages. Usually 20″ and 24″ wheels.
- Folding bikes – for public-transport-and-ride combination trips, easy storage, and take-it-with-you security.
- Town bikes – ‘European style’ bikes designed especially for urban use – often with fender over wheels to keep the rain away and racks and baskets for trips to the shop. A more upright ride.
- Choppers – pimp-my-bicycle style rides, more for show than ease of riding necessarily
- Trikes – three wheelers, especially great for those who have balance or mobility problems. Often these come with great baskets or carriers as standard.
Another decision is whether you want to shell out for a shiny new bike or look for a pre-loved one?. Bicycle Victoria has a list of bicycle shops if you’re wanting to look to buy a new bike. Don’t feel pressured into buying something the first shop you visit. Its a good idea to have a good look around at your options, and you can do some of this online.
But new isn’t everything, and there are many options for finding a pre-loved bike. Your friends or family might have a bike lying around they don’t use, e-bay auctions can be good for finding bargain pre-loved bikes available for pickup in your local area, and if you have a few hours spare the CERES bike shed in Brunswick has donated/recycled bikes and parts and tools to build up a bike where you might pay somewhere between $50 and $100 to build a bike, including the small membership fee that gives you onsite use the quality tools anytime the shed is open and advice you need on bike maintenance from the bike shed volunteers. Make sure you check the website for when the CERES bike shed is open. Other groups that can help you find a bike or keep it in shape are Human Powered Cycles in Brunswick (soon to be Northcote) and the Free Bike Fix at Carlton Gardens most Sundays. Bicycle Victoria has an article on second hand bikes here.
What size bike do you need? Well some bikes you don’t really have to buy a particular size as it might be one size or they are designed to be adjustable, but your majority of bikes will come in different sizes. If you’re not familiar with how to size yourself for a bike, there are plenty of online resources to guide you including Sheldon Brown or Bicycle Victoria’s bike fit guide for women. Dropping into a bicycle store and talking to staff as well as standing over any potential bikes to ensure you have a couple of inches over the top tube are both ways I would recommend to get a good idea of what bikes fit you. You can also get bikes custom made for your particular needs – called ‘custom frames’, and bike shops like Cecil Walker in the city can do this kind of custom fitting.
You should always try to give the bike a spin or at least hop on it with it adjusted to your size to ensure you like the riding style and feel of the bike before you decide to take it home with you. It’s a good idea to not rush yourself, and have some time up your sleeve to pick up accessories for the bike. Make sure you get yourself a good helmet and a bright set of front and rear lights very close to the time when you get your bicycle so you won’t be tempted to ride around in an unsafe way. If you are buying a new bike, you can look to buy other accessories (such as a lock for security and a basket or rack for carrying items) at the same time to see if you can get the whole package at a cheaper price. You can look to customize your bike with a seat just right for you and fenders for keeping the rain off.
If you have any other tips, or stories to share about Melbourne sans car, please add to the comments.
This post is the second of a series of posts about Melbourne sans car.
1. Benefits of not owning a motor vehicle
2. Getting some wheels… Bicycle wheels
3. Bicycling Melbourne safely
4. Keeping your bicycle yours (anti-theft)
5. Shopping by bicycle
6. Commuting by bicycle
7. Maintaining your bicycle
8. Exploring Melbourne by bicycle