Exorbitant fuel prices, parking shortages and unreliable public transport– it’s no wonder so many commuters are hopping on their bikes in a bid to beat the stress of rush hour traffic. Yet with such a selection of bikes on the market boasting an assortment of features, where do you even begin? We’ll give you the lowdown on what you really need to look for when buying a commuter bike.
Bike to Work Scheme
- This government scheme allows you to save up to 52% of the retail price of a bike and safety equipment up to the value of €1,000.
- Payments are made via a salary sacrifice arrangement with your employer whereby you can decide the frequency and time frame for repayment which cannot exceed 12 months.
- There are also the added perks of home delivery and expert staff available to advise you on a suitable bike.
Choosing a Bike
1. Bike Type
- Find a bike which is specifically for use on roads, such as a hybrid bike which has narrow wheels and a light frame.
- As the name may suggest, a mountain bike isn’t suitable for urban terrain, as they’re heavy and unwieldy on the road.
- While the lightweight and sturdy frame of a racing bike is an advantage, they are unsuitable for bumpy roads and lack mudguards and bike racks.
- Examples of perfect bikes for road use are; Trek 7100FX Hybrid bike, Campagnolo Record 10sp and the Specialised Allez 16
- This is the ‘torso’ of the bike.
- For use on roads and urban areas it is ideal to have a lightweight steel frame.
- Inspect the frame carefully for bending, flaking and cracking, as this is the foundation of the bicycle and defects are not easily rectified.
- These are curved strips over the wheels which protect both you and your bike from grit and road splash while cycling.
- These are a particularly worthwhile investment given Ireland’s rainy climate and also for the winter months when salty road water can play havoc on your bike’s components. Not to mention ruining your fancy workwear.
- If these are not already present they can be fitted cheaply and easily.
- Available for the front and rear of your bike, these implements minimise the impact of rough terrain for the rider.
- These are mainly for mountain bikes and unless you plan on taking a particularly adventurous route to work are unnecessary for your average commuter.
- Apart from adding cost, these also add weight and will slow you down.
- Usually controlled by a dial on the handlebar, gears basically allow you to change the rate at which the bike’s wheels turn in accordance with your pedalling speed.
- For commuting, one ring up front is more than sufficient. Complicated gears are simply one extra thing which can break and create issues.
- However, if you are considering using the same bike for carrying loads such as shopping or a weighty laptop, you may consider two rings.
1. Personal Safety
- Helmet – although not required by law, a helmet really is a must.
The ideal helmet for a commuter is:
- Snug but not overly tight: different head shapes are more suited to particular makes. Try on helmets from different manufacturers. Higher end helmets come in a range of sizes, but if you’re between sizes opt for the smaller one. A helmet should not tilt back or rise over 1 inch above your eyebrows
- Lightweight and reasonably well ventilated: generally the more vents, the most expensive the helmet, so unless you also intend on racing, it’s not necessary to get to have too many vents.
- Has been made to a national standard
- Doesn’t restrict your vision or hearing: A bike is not the place to listen to your iPod
- Light – it is required by law to have a white/yellow light to your front and a lamp with a red light to your rear.
- High-visibility reflective armband and belt or vest (not required by law, but highly recommended)
2. Bike Security
- Locks are not the place to skimp on costs. Invest in a u-lock (preferably Kryptonite) used in conjunction with a flex cable and/or a Pitlock locking skewer
- It may seem ridiculous to spend so much on locks, but they really are essential, especially in urban areas. Some even recommend spending 10% of the value of your bike on a lock.
3. Laptop carry bag
- If you plan on carrying a weighty item on your bike, you should invest in a bike with a rack.
- You may also consider buying a laptop pannier bag, preferably one which is waterproof (for those on a budget, wrapping a plastic bag around a cheap pannier will also suffice).
Worried about being presentable for work?
You may want to consider investing in an electric bike.
These assist in the pedalling process by means of a battery powered mechanism which can be easily and cheaply recharged.