Queen once famously said “I want to ride my bicycle, bicycle, bicycle.” Every morning this song plays on loop in our heads as we stare out of the window looking at what appears to be one of the earliest summers we have ever had. As irritating as this song may be, it is in fact very profound, not for its irony or Mercury’s lyrical skills. Rather that it suggests we all must ride a bicycle, a move that mankind itself needs to follow.
But which bicycle? Nowadays picking up a decent two-wheeler is more complicated than buying a car. What frame size? Suspension or not? Road or off-road? These are all big questions that will govern the enjoyment you get from your riding experience. Fear not, however, as Pocket-lint has put together a handy guide to alleviate some of the complexities of a cycle purchase. Read on to find out.
Just because they have the word mountain in the name does not mean you need to be cycling up Everest in order to justify a purchase. A mountain bike can be brilliant for the commuter who wants to avoid a bone-shaking ride to work. They might not be as quick on road as a conventional thin-tyred bike, but they are a darn sight more comfortable.
Luxury - Specialized Epic FSR S-Works Carbon 29'er 2012, £7200
As is the case with anything you are going to be powering with your legs, the lighter the better. In the case of mountain bikes, that also means more expensive as things like suspension and disc brakes add quite a bit of cost to the package. If money is no object then there can be only one victor: the Specialized Epic FSR S-Works Carbon 29’er 2012. Quite a name we know, but then this is quite a bike.
For the paltry sum of £7200 you get, well just about everything. The entire bike is carbon fibre right down to things like the chain stays and crank arms. What are these? Parts so minor that it would be like having a carbon fibre bathtub, near pointless. Top of the line RockShox SID World Cup 29 suspension and Shimano XTR M980R gears complete the package.
A set of Roval Control carbon disc rims is also thrown in for good measure. Unlike normal bicycle brakes, they behave like the things you get on a motorbike and will stop you on a sixpence.
The bike is top of the line all round and has already won itself a prestigious mountain biking World Cup event. This is the sort of cycle you would be able to throw yourself down any mountainside on and it would still be all right at the bottom. The king of trails by quite a way.
Affordable - Specialized Rockhopper Comp, £749
Just because your mountain bike doesn’t have more suspension than the lunar rover doesn’t make it a bad piece of kit. Keep things below the £1000 mark and you are still getting a nice ride. From what we have played with, the Specialized Rockhopper Comp is an affordable classic.
One of the most popular mountain bikes currently on sale, its success is well deserved. A nice Specialized M4SL alloy frame is complemented with RockShox Recon Silver SL forks. No carbon fibre, but it is a light enough frame to not break your back as you climb up hills. The front suspension will also hoover up nasty bumps. Shimano SLX 9 speed gears keep the bike ticking over and quality DT Swiss wheels should hold up to plenty of knocks, on road or off.
The Rockhopper is a bike that is great for those thinking about getting into serious mountain biking. It is light enough not to pose too many issues going uphill and will give you a comfy ride to work if you use it during the week. The £749 price tag isn’t bad either.
This is an extremely difficult category to decide on best buys. There are plenty of road bikes used for all different purporses; racing, time trials, endurance or just getting from A to B.
Luxury - BMC SLR01 Teammachine Dura-Ace Di2 2012 Cadel Evans Special Edition, £8799
If you go on cost, with road bikes there are plenty of experiments put together by manufacturers that can top the £10k mark. These don’t necessarily ride best, they just boast the most technology. We figured the way to do this then was go on the bike that won the Tour De France last year.
Riding a BMC Teammachine SLR01 with very few custom parts, Evans became the first Australian to win the race. To celebrate the win, BMC made a SLR01 Dura-Ace Di2 2012 special edition Cadel Evans model. There is only a 141 in the world and it features an unparalleled set of parts with all the frame expertise a tour-winning team like BMC can muster. So what do you get for £8799? A custom-built iSC carbon frame, specially made SLR01 forks, Easton rims and a full Dura Ace Di2 chainset. What does all this jargon mean? That the gears will shift quicker than an F1 car, weigh less than a marshmallow and go faster than anything else with pedals. In fact the forks alone probably cost more than most bikes, more impressive still, the frame weighs under 1Kg.
If this is all seeming a bit like tech speak to you and not making much sense, in short, it is the best possible parts money can buy on a frame put together by the masters. A championship-winning road bike capable of taking on just about anything.
Affordable - Cube Attempt, £999
There is an absurd number of road bikes priced in at around the £1000 mark. Spurred on by things like the ride to work scheme, it has become the go-to price point for a decent road bike. So which to go for? In this price territory, a lot of it is to do with opinion.
We are big fans of a decent set of rims at Pocket-lint. Apart from the frame, they are what will make the biggest difference to your ride. For the money, the Cube Attempt comes up trumps in the wheels and tyres department.
A set of Schwalbe Ultremos is backed up with Fulcrum Racing 7 rims, quite a tasty combination. On top of this you get a Dedaccai carbon fork, to absorb nasty road surfaces, and a sub-9kg aluminium frame. A 105 groupset (the gears, pedals and brakes) completes the package. All this for £999 and you have one of the best value bicycles you can get. Something that can be ridden on the roads for years and it wont let you down.
The fixie, the preserve of hipsters the world over and rapidly becoming the commuters choice for those after something simple to cycle to work on. But what makes a fixie so great, other than that it makes you look really cool(ish)? On the most basic level, the lack of any gears means it is very easy to maintain. Short of the odd chain snapping, you will rarely have to do much to a fixie other than clean it and oil its parts.
The lack of gears and in some cases brakes, although we advise against this, also saves a lot on weight. The result is a bike that is as light as possible without breaking the bank. This all translates into raw speed and manoeuverability, great for commuting. Just don’t take on any hills.
Luxury - Cinelli Mash Histogram, £1849
So which fixie to go for? We have had to explore off-the-peg options here as custom builds are entirely up to their designers. One of the best has to be the Cinelli Mash Histogram, which at £1849 sits up at the top of the single-speed price spectrum. It has a very aggressive frame shape which makes for great sprinting and comes with some of the best possible single-speed parts you can get. This means a Miche Pista groupset, special Mash bullhorn bars and Campagnolo Pista rims, quite a combination.
The design of the Mash is what single speeds are all about. By having a slight drop on the frame top tube, it makes sprinting very easy. The bike is for pulling away at traffic lights and getting in front of the crowd. It does mean, however, that it’s not an easy ride and something only experience fixed-gear riders should consider. All this aside, the paint job on the Mash is easily one of our favourites. It takes all of Cinelli’s usual design flair and incorporates it into every little detail of the bike. A beauty.
Affordable - Charge Plug Racer, £389
An affordable fixie is a good thing. It is a road bike that can be battered and bruised but won't break the bank should it get damaged. The fixie is also very quick, regardless of how much you spend, as it simply depends a lot more on how strong your legs are.
There is a lot to choose from around the £400 mark but a safe bet has to be the Charge Plug, in particular the Charge Plug Racer variant, which is rock solid, looks great and has parts designed to last. Charge is a bike company that has risen to the fore recently with its reliable and high-quality single-speed bikes and the Plug is one of the best. For £389 you get quite a lot of bicycle, including a nice Sugino RD2 messenger chainring (the bit the pedals are attached to) and a comfy Charge Spoon saddle.
Our favourite part of the Plug Racer however has to be the Cromoly front fork and Silver frame combo, it just looks the business and will make sure you keep up in the style department with the rest of the hipster crowds.
What's your dream bike? Let us know in the comments below ...
Lead photo: Porro