Bicycle User Guide

Getting started

Choosing a bike

Before buying a bike you need to consider:

  • how often you are likely to ride
  • what sort of riding you will be doing (recreation, shopping, commuting, touring, racing)
  • where you will be riding (suburban streets, country roads, gravel roads, bike paths, off road, race tracks)
  • how much you would like to spend.

Choosing a Bike

Then consider what sort of bike you would like to purchase. Examples of the most common used bicycles:

City bikesGreat bicycles for getting around the local area. They put you in a great position so you  can see and be seen.  These bikes are fun, relaxing and safe and will probably be cheaper than more specialised bikes.

HybridsCombine good features of racing bikes and mountain bikes. The bikes are designed to be easier to ride on roads than mountain bikes and more robust than racers. These bikes are easy to adjust to suit the rider's needs.

Touring bikes
Designed to be comfortable to ride over long distances with heavy loads but also make great bikes for commuting. 

Mountain bikesPerform well on rough tracks and also on paved roads.Mountain bikes usually have suspension for a smoother and faster ride on rough tracks. These bikes are suited to all surface conditions and are increasingly popular   for being fun to ride in all weather conditions. Mountain bikes are good for commuting and are available in a wide range of prices.

Mountain bikes or hybrids are also useful for touring, especially if travel includes off-road tracks or gravel roads. There is a trade-off between the greater speed and comfort of a standard tourer and the off-road handling on a mountain bike.

Racing bikes
Designed to give their riders a competitive edge and are often customised.  Racing bikes are designed for speed but are not generally used for commuting because these bikes are vulnerable to potholes or gravel.

Choosing accessories

Helmet - helps save lives and you must wear one under NSW law.

  • Fit and comfort
    A helmet needs to sit firmly on your head and be comfortable to wear. The helmet should sit 10 to 15 mm above your eyebrows and be firm enough that you cannot move it forwards and backwards or side to side. Make sure the helmet doesn't obscure your vision. Buy a helmet from a bike shop or other retailer who can provide expert advice and assistance in fitting. Don't buy a helmet as a surprise present-the person who is to wear the helmet needs to be there to ensure a correct fit.
  • Australian Standards
    For helmets to be sold in NSW they must meet Australian and New Zealand Standard (AS/NZS 2063) and should have a sticker on the inside indicating this. If your helmet meets the standard you can be sure it will give good protection in a crash.
  • Style
    Once you have found a selection of helmets that fit well and comply with the standard, other features to consider include: 
    - ventilation-the helmet should have enough ventilation to allow you to remain cool on hot days 
    - visibility-you can add to your visibility and safety on the roads by having a brightly coloured Helmet, it could also have reflective strips for visibility at night
    - sun visor-a well designed visor can protect your eyes against sun and help protect your upper face from sunburn.
  • Quality
    You must replace your helmet if you have a crash, even if the damage is not visible. In a crash the foam in your helmet provides protection by absorbing the impact. After a crash or other mistreatment (such as falling on to a hard surface) the foam remains compressed so will no longer be effective.  Some manufacturers have an accident replacement warranty, so check if this applies to your helmet.

Don't buy a second-hand helmet in case it has damage that is not visible.

Clothing

The main things you need from cycling clothes are for them to be comfortable and visible to other road users. You can cycle in work or casual clothes, but if your work requires a high dress standard or if you build up a sweat commuting you might prefer to cycle in casual clothes or cycling gear and change at work.

Tips for comfort and visibility:

  • Avoid shorts or skirts with thick seams in the seat.
  • Long sleeve shirts and blouses reduce sun exposure; tight fits reduce flapping in the breeze and natural fibres like cotton are cool and comfortable against the skin.
  • Lycra is worn for comfort, stretch, aesthetics and low wind resistance. Bright or fluorescent colours are most visible during the day. White or light colours are most visible at night.
  • Reflector strips are good for extra visibility at night. Backpacks and shoes are readily available with reflective strips attached.
  • Vests and ankle and wrist straps are also available.
  • Gloves give your hands extra padding from road shocks and can reduce grazing in a fall. They are available without fingers for summer and with fingers for warmth in winter.
  • Normal shoes or sneakers work fairly well for most people, though stiffer soled shoes are better at transferring power to the pedal and can be less fatiguing.

Other

There are many accessories you can add to your bike to make riding more comfortable and to make  yourself more visible including:

  • lights - a legal requirement for riding at night
  • a bell- another legal requirement that will warn pedestrians of your approach
  • mirrors- can alert you to traffic behind you without straining you neck
  • flags-make you more visible  a
  • pump-essential for flat tyres
  • water bottles-to keep you hydrated
  • cycle computers-great to measure the distance you have ridden and your speed
  • racks and panniers-a great way to carry things
  • bright coloured or reflective clothing-to make you more visible

Where to buy a bike

Bike shops - have experienced, professional staff who can help you select a bike of the right size that will meet your needs and budget. They will also provide:

  • bikes that are properly assembled, safe and roadworthy
  • after-sales service
  • staff who can teach you to maintain your own bike.

On-line shops - electronic commerce means companies operate with few overheads so prices can be low. The reputation of the company may protect you if you are dealing with a major manufacturer or well-known dealer. Be aware that you will be buying the bike unseen and that you will have to ensure fit, correct assembly, safety and roadworthiness.

Second-hand shops - often have a small range of bikes for sale. They can be good places to scout around for your first bike, although bikes may be sold 'as is' and may need significant work to ensure they are safe and roadworthy. After-sales service is rarely provided, although some dealers may offer an after-sales warranty.

Second-hand bikes for sale privately - you may be able to find the bike you need through a friend,  through advertisements in local papers, the Trading Post. Ebay and other avenues. Many excellent bikes are sold this way. Be sure to check size, suitability and roadworthiness.