Cycling has established itself as a popular sport. In the United Kingdom, for example, there are more than two million people cycling at least once a week. And it’s not a surprising fact, considering the health benefits that come with cycling.
Even though it’s a low impact sport, it still provides a great opportunity for muscle growth and cardio fitness. Also, it’s a super easy sport to get into if you want to start working on your fitness, as long as you know how to ride a bike, of course.
Now, once you actually get into the sport and start taking it more seriously, you’re going to want to look out for certain qualities in your bicycle’s components to get the most out of them.
Head over handlebars
We’ll start at the front of the bike with the handlebars and work our way around from there. Your handlebar design will differ based on whether you are more interested in road cycling or mountain biking.
- Width: The conversations around “handlebar width” have recently taken a turn and changed the way cyclists experience a ride. There used to be a thing of measuring your handlebar to be your shoulder width, but this led to long-term issues with shoulder, neck and jaw tension. The new way to set the width of your handlebar required for you to do a push-up (not exactly, just to be in that position) and measure the distance from the outside of your hands and voilà.
- Shape: Handlebar shape is discussed in terms of “rise” and “sweep”. Rise being the amount of height of the ends in comparison to the centre, and sweep being the preferred angle of the ends to the centre.
The different types of common handlebars that are out there for you to choose from are flat bars, riser bars, bullhorns, drop bars, aero bars, cruiser bars and butterfly bars.
Seated on the saddle
This is quite an important component of your bike as it’s probably where you’ll experience the most discomfort – save your legs that are working overtime. The secret to a great saddle seating is to fit it to your sitting bones. Take note of the grooves and “holes” in the saddle design because that’s where you’re meant to find relief and some sort of comfort. And, of course, the type of padding helps as well.
The shape of your saddle will depend on your riding style and is also something to consider before buying. Narrow saddles work best for cyclists that stretch their bodies forward and focus on speed, and wider saddles will suit cyclists that assume a more upright position on the bike.
Just remember that the saddle is for your sitting bones. It’s not designed to cater for your entire gluteus maximus.
Fitting a bicycle frame
Your bicycle frame is the main component of your bike and determines the overall size of your bicycle. There is a whole calculation process to determine what size your bike must be based on the type of bicycle you’re looking for, your height and bicycling inseam.
Bicycle frames will determine the position you have when you ride, the ease and power in your pedalling and your ability to distribute your centre of gravity during single tracks and technical routes. So, in other words, make sure it’s the right size.
Tyres and wheels
“The wheels on the bike go round and round all through the town,” well that’s the idea, anyway. Your tyres will give you grip on the road and allow you to roll over objects, the essentials of moving, basically. But again, it all comes down to road bike or mountain bike.
- Road bike: Your wheel options are between climbing wheels, mid or deep-section aerodynamic wheels, training wheels (not like the children’s ones, don’t worry) or adventure wheels. Now the tyres for your wheels can be between tubular, tubeless and clincher tyres.
- Mountain bike: Your mountain bike wheels just need tyres that fit. Then you have the choice of having an inner tube or riding tubeless. You can also look into wheels that have engagement speed which refers to how easy it will be for you to continue pedalling after moments of cruising.
Decoding the derailleur
Your derailleur is quite a handy component – you know, gears and things (how would we be getting up those hills without them?). And they in themselves have different components that you would prefer be compatible.
You need to consider cage length, number of gears and clutch derailleurs (especially for you mountain bikers) to make sure everything works well together and there are no hiccups in the cog section. It’s never a fun day when you need to get your fingers dirty and play mechanic on the gears.
So, to sum it all up, depending on what type of cyclist you are and what your riding style is, your best option is to design your own bike and work with specialists to specialise each component to suit you. Only if you’re wanting to have the best possible riding experience every time that is…