The sheer variety in terms of types and brands of cycles in India mirrors the auto industry. From two brands and as many models, we now have so many brands and each have multiple models from which to choose. So it is not surprising that someone who wants to start cycling starts with the question, “Which cycle should I buy?”
Not surprisingly, there is no straightforward answer to this question. It really depends on what you want to do with the cycle (apart from cycle) that is. Quite frankly, asking someone is a bad idea. Basically, everyone pushes you to buy the kind of cycle they need, not the one that you need.
Essentially, the decision on which cycle you buy should be made based on how you intend to use the cycle. So here are a few questions you should be asking yourself when you set out to buy your first cycle.
Where am I going to ride it?
When you start with this question, it narrows the field down considerably. Basically, there are three types of cycles you would choose from – Road, Mountain, Hybrid. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that you would use road cycles if you will be riding primarily on tarmac or well paved roads; mountain bikes are for off-roading; hybrids are a compromise between the two. A hybrid will have thicker tires than road cycles which allow you to take on tougher terrain, however they cannot really be used for off-roading.
What size cycle should I buy?
So once you have decided on the type of cycle, the next thing to look at is riding comfort. No, this is not decided by the number of shock absorbers on the cycle. Let’s get this out of the way, while shock absorbers do improve ride quality it is not their primary role on a cycle. Shock absorbers are there to maintain contact with the road and help you have better control over the cycle. It is the size of the cycle that helps you maintain riding comfort. When you are riding, you want your legs to straighten out when you are at the bottom of the pedaling stroke. This way, your legs are extended with each stroke and the pain in your knees won’t kill you at the end of the ride. When choosing your cycle, straddle the main bar of the cycle (the one between the seat and the handlebar). There should be at least an inch between the bar and your crotch.
Where can I get it serviced?
There are a myriad of cycle bands available in India today. However, you may not be able to find spare parts for all the brands. So it is important that you look for a brand that has a company store in your city or town. That way, you are assured of finding spares as you need them.
When I started cycling, I made every mistake in the book. For starters I picked up a short, mountain bike. At that time I did not know that the leg needs to extend all the way when I am cycling. To get the proper extension, I pulled the seat up all the way. This meant that the seat stem was taking all my weight. Within a month, the stem bent backwards and I had to replace the stem. That didn’t help much since the second stem bent too. So then I got the local welder to straighten the stem and weld an iron bar behind it for support.
The next part to go was the pedal stem. Every few days I would need to have it tightened since it would come off. Later I learnt that I was pedaling all wrong. Once I sorted out my pedal stroke, the problem has gone away. However, that does not change the fact that I am forced to live with a mild wobble since I can’t get the spare part.
Finally, the decision on which cycle you will eventually buy will depend on your budget. I can understand the hesitation one might feel over spending a large sum on something one may not stick with. That was precisely the reason I got the bike I did. However, I feel that I might have made a better decision with the information I have now.