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  • Writer's pictureDavid Wadsworth

6 Things You Need to Know When Buying a New Bike

Updated: Jan 18, 2021

If it’s time for a new bike, then how do you know exactly what to get? Get it wrong, and your new wheels won't live up to expectation, or worse your bike is completely the wrong size and causes injury.

Understanding how component choices and sizing work together to create a great position individualised to your own unique body is complex. If your familiarity with your own dimensions and that of bicycles hasn't been honed by years of owning multiple bikes and having multiple bike fits in the past, or if you are contemplating a new style of bike you haven’t owned before like a time trial bike or a gravel bike, then it’s time for a pre-purchase bike fit. The aim of a pre-purchase fit it to educate yourself about exactly what type of bike, size, and components will assist you in achieving a comfortable and powerful position on the bike.

Read on and I’ll outline 6 things you need to know before buying a new bike.

Handlebar width
We're all different shapes and sizes. Here handlebar size is dramatically different as the riders are very different sizes.

Why do I offer a pre-purchase fit? Lots of reasons, which could be summed up simply as “to save you a lot of money by avoiding bad choices”.

What are the 6 things you must know before buying? If you don’t know the exact answers to the list below, then you need a pre-purchase bike fit:

1. Frame style and size

2. Crank length

3. Handlebar style and size

4. Saddle type and size

5. Pedal selection

6. Shoe selection – width, size, style, features

These are the things you need to know in order to get a good position on your bike. There are other considerations such as what tyres, brake system and groupset is best suited to your personal goals and budget.

Comparison of 155mm and 172.5mm cranks. Note different gears (chain ring sizes) were chosen for each rider.

Let’s examine why a pre-purchase bike fit BEFORE YOU BUY a bike is worthwhile:

1. Get expert, independent advice (meaning I don’t sell bikes and have no vested interest in what brand you buy): ensure the correct frame, component sizes and a range of other options based on your personal goals.

2. Correct sizing depends on many factors, not just your height (some of the pitfalls of using just one or two measurements for selecting frame size and discussed in my blog here*). Here are just a few considerations:

  • Your body proportions (eg short legs with long torso). Would you be able to measure this yourself and select a suitable frame from a suitable manufacturer to match?

  • You musculoskeletal abilities: is your body functional enough to achieve the position you require on a given bike? How flexible would your hamstrings need to be to ride a track bike? How strong do you need to be to get into a race position on a road bike or time trial bike?

  • Can you measure these attributes and work out what position you can and cannot safely and comfortably get on a bike? Can you alter equipment choices to facilitate a more competitive position (if this is a goal for you)?

3. Manufacturers all offer a large range of bike and the geometry / sizing varies considerably from one to the next. Do you know how to navigate through this often bewildering range of choices?

4. Save money - spending thousands on a bad choice that leaves you uncomfortable or worse (in physical pain) can be prevented by a simple 30min pre-purchase bike fit.

In a pre-purchase fit, once we have taken a range of key measurements, I teach you how to navigate geometry charts for the style of bike that will meet your goals. I can advise on a range of related choices for your new bike such as tyres, disc v rim brakes, groupsets and so on. You then receive an emailed report outlining exactly what to look for when shopping for your new bike. I coach juniors and can advise on junior bikes including gearing, junior crank sizes and frame choices, and where to source them.

Perhaps a good way to sum up a pre-purchase bike fit, which is always followed by a full bike fit once you have purchased your bike, came recently from one of my clients. She came in with an injury unrelated to cycling, and when I asked her how her road bike was going (for which I did a pre-purchase and then complete fit 5 years ago), she said “I love it so much that although I could upgrade it, I’d really rather keep this one. It’s been fantastic”.

Want to understand more about your body, bike fitting for performance and injury management? Start with this article by David Wadsworth:

Role of a Bicycle Fit in Cyclists with H
Download • 3.73MB


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