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Europe Active’s guide to choosing the right bicycle

17 May 2016 - Anthony Laplagne

Bikes and cycling holidays are our life at Europe Active, so we’ve a picked up a lot of experience on how to choose the right bike over the years. 

So, if you are thinking about buying a bicycle, whether it’s for your daily commute, your new biking hobby or for a cycling holiday in the sunshine, then we are sure you will find this Europe Active guide a useful read. 

What will you use your bicycle for?
There’s a fantastic level of choice available for those of us who are choosing a new bicycle. But this can make buying the right bike more of a challenge. So, to help make sure you make the best purchase, then you must be clear on what you will use your bike for. What type of riding will you do?

  • Long distance cycling on your cycling holiday?
  • And are your holiday cycling routes on road or mountain terrain?
  • Or will you be using your bike for commuting and leisure?
  • Or will you be using your bike for racing?

Think about the future
Answering the question on what you will use your bike for means you’ll be better placed to choose the best type of bike for your needs. And if this is your first bike, it will pay to think about the future. For instance, if you are a beginner you may get bitten by the ‘cycling bug’ and your needs may change in the future. You could soon move from cycling to work to taking on a long distance cycling holiday.

This is perhaps the most important aspect of buying a bike. The correct size of bike is critical for bike safety.  And the wrong size of bike will be of little use and very uncomfortable – for instance, if you buy a jacket that is either too big or too small for your body then it is useless. The same is true of your bike.

You’ll see a range of frame sizes available. But remember that a 55cm frame will still differ from brand to brand so take on the advice of your vendor to make sure you are buying a bike that’s right for you.

Choosing the right bicycle

Size is about more than just the frame size
After you’ve chosen the frame size, the vendor should help you make the bike fit the unique elements of your body. They should offer to set and adjust the following points so they work best for your body:

  1. Seat height
  2. Seat angle
  3. Handle bar width
  4. Handle bar height
  5. Top tube length
  6. Stem length and height
  7. Knee to pedal axle
  8. Ball of your foot to pedal axle
  9. Crank length

Type of frame
The type of frame you buy is another important element in choosing the right bicycle. The frame is the centre of the bike and what it’s made of and its quality will really impact the experience you have on the saddle.
Aluminium – the better quality aluminium frames are stiff but still light.
Carbon Fibre – once the domain of performance cyclists are now widely available. Good quality carbon fibre frames will be light, stiff but comfortable.
A top tip is to look for a frame which boasts a good warranty as this shows the manufacturer is confident in its product. And test the bike out on a cycling route similar to what you’ll be using your bike for – so you can really experience the difference.

Guide for choosing a bike

Components, Groupsets and wheels
Components - you’ll be able to choose the brakes, shifters and front chain wheels on your bike. The main options are Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo.

And for groupsets - you are best to choose based on what type of cyclist you are and what type of cycling you’ll be doing. Ask your vendor for the options based on whether you’re a beginner who wants to make the hills easier, whether you’re moving into racing or whether you’re a mountain biker doing lots of climbing on your cycling routes.

Wheels will affect the feel and speed of your bike. Lighter wheels will give you a faster ride and lighter tyres will be more responsive to you as the rider.

Essential kit
As well as choosing the right bike, you need to make sure you have the following essential items for hitting the road or the hills with it:

  1. Helmet
  2. Lights
  3. Lock
  4. Pumps – floor and mini
  5. C02 inflator
  6. Saddle bag
  7. Spare tube
  8. Repair kit
  9. Lubricant
  10. Water bottle and cage
  11. Clothing
  12. Mini tools and starter kit.

And finally
Hopefully this Europe Active guide to choosing the right bicycle has been a useful read.  As and adventure cycling holiday specialist, we know our bikes and our experience has taught us that the more time you put into researching your choice of bike, then the more fun you will have on the saddle. 

You can visit our blog too for more cycling tips – including everything from what to pack for a bicycle holiday through to bike safety guidance. We’re a font of knowledge of bikes and holidays.

If you want to find out more about Europe Active or about cycling in Europe in general, visit for more information.

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