the best city bicycle

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I’ve got wheels on my mind at the moment. Two of them actually. I want to get a bike and the whole research into exactly which one to get is BENDING MY MIND.

Having not owned a bicycle for the past twenty years, I’m a little bit out of the loop. I have sweet images of me tra la laaaing along with my basket laden retro looking ladies bicycle.

Ting, ting goes my bell…excuse me, coming by.

I refuse to think about the horror stories that friends keep sharing with me of how unbike friendly Sydney actually is. I’m also trying not to think of the seemingly vast amount of hills I’m suddenly very aware of in my immediate area. It’s now I start thinking, moving to Canberra might not be such a bad idea. Flat, tree lined cycle ways everywhere I needed to go. Melbourne I think would also be good, Amsterdam (for obvious bikey reasons) also fantastic. Byron Bay was also very bike friendly.

Alloy, inches, step through, speeds are all things that I wasn’t thinking of a couple of weeks ago. One helpful young bike enthusiast showed me a lovely looking bike with 21 gears. I know I sound like a big girly girl, but what on earth do I do with 21 gears? Last time I was confidently riding the streets with the wind in my hair, my bike had a back pedal break and that was it. If I wanted to get up a hill, I pedaled harder. (For the record I did, briefly have a three speed bike after this one, but by that time I had become a ‘cool’ teen and cool teens most certainly didn’t ride three speeds, so it didn’t quite get the mileage that I think my parents had hoped for.)

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Oh just get on there and ride, someone helpfully tells me. Half of me says, what’s the worse that could happen? The other half of me, tells me in great detail all the horrific worse things that could happen.

And so I sit, in biking limbo. Unsure of which way to venture. With twenty tabs open on my computer, all with a different view on the best city bicycle to own . I know one thing is for sure though, it looks like there is going to be two wheels on my horizon.

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Does anyone have any biking tips for me? Brands they have been happy with, biking stories- horror or happy (I’m brave, I can take the horror ones) or just some general biking tips for riding in the city?

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33 thoughts on “the best city bicycle

  1. There are some great hybrid bikes out there – bigger tires, more of a comfort seat and some gears. I have a Specialized hybrid bike and love it. I would recommend a helmet and good shoes (not clip-ins) for city biking. You may need to add an additional rear view mirror and proper reflection accessories to make you visible. Check out a few bike shops and ask lots of questions. Good Luck!

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  2. I’m sorry I can’t help with any tips because I’m one of those that believes Sydney is so un-bike friendly that I haven’t bothered to buy one. Yes, Canberra is the place to go if you want to ride a bike – I always hire a bike when I’m in the ACT. And I didn’t have a bike with gears either – like you, I just pedaled harder xx

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  3. I’ve been eyeing off a bike for a while- it has two wheels at the back for extra stability,a big basket on the front for shopping, just a couple of gears for hilly bits, and it’s a great retro look as well. The only problem is that my hubby and daughter both have super flash mountain bikes and say I will embarrass them:(
    Here in Canberra we certainly do have wonderful bike paths and tracks- I just wish bikes would stay on them and not ride on the damn road! It always masks me cringe to see a bike dodging through traffic while an empty bike path is running alongside the road.

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    • Now that sounds like the bees knees kind of bike, especially for riding around Canberra. Your husband and daughter will come around when you get lots of positive comments on your lovely shiny new (three!) wheels.

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  4. I have a bike in Chincoteague- the one Intolerant Chef described with two rear wheels and a big basket. I love it- but then Chincoteague doesn’t have much traffic or hills and even during the season when it does have traffic- the speed limit is only 25 miles an hour.
    My son rides his bike wherever he is- including NYC and in Chicago- where there are no bike lanes – he also has scars from numerous accidents the last one where a woman through her car door open right in front of him. He loves riding his bike in spite of the danger. I’ll ask him what kind of a bike would be good for you in a city of hills.

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    • “scars from numerous accidents…” this is where I breathe deep and try to think of something pretty Heidi.
      I do like the looks of the three wheeler, for carrying things it would be perfect.. just not enough space here for me to store it when not in use.

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  5. I recently bought a bike – a ladies 8 speed with a pretty basket on front. It’s fine for FLAT areas, but I really wish that I’d got one with more gears (the 24 speed with “two gear change thingys {one on each handle} is what I wish I had as it would make getting up hills easier). I went for a pretty bike…I am an idiot. YOU NEED THE GEARS TO HELP YOU GET UP THE HILLS! I’m shouting at you here as I CANNOT stress that enough. A “few” gears, like 3 or 6 or 8 isn’t enough…especially if you have jelly legs like moi.

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    • Ok, I hear you shouting and it was a nice reminder that there do seem to be a lot of hills in Sydney, that are better with more speed options…so thank you.
      I hadn’t looked at the Giant’s before so will see if I can test a few out over the weekend.

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  6. Good luck with finding a bike to love – I had quite a break between my home made bike with pedal brakes and no gears before getting a city bike. Gears are a marvel but you really need to have someone show you have to use them and then you fly past people who you know aren’t using their gears properly.

    I like my mountain bike – amazing how many bike shops tried to sell me a hybrid (which I got for my first city bike) and some people say that it seems heavy but it suits me – after all the wheels are great for the gutters and potholes! I just don’t get to ride it that often but am constantly hoping to use it more these days – used to ride it every day and loved it. Most people I know have had an accident – watch out for car doors, wear your helmet and stay on bike paths where possible is my advice. And despite the accident risk, I still find being on my bike so much more less stress than driving my car. And I highly recommend paniers – they are great for carrying a load.

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    • This definitely: “watch out for car doors” my friends brother was killed when someone’s opening car door knocked him into the path of a truck! Google “crossy’s” for details of the benefit they now organise in his honor to raise awareness of this.

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  7. Adelaide city council lends them to your for free to explore the very flat city…Great idea, if only they had front & side carts for 3 children to come along for the ride…But then it gets heavy & takes all the joy out of the one pedalling!

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  8. Do it! You won’t regret it..biking is sooo much fun, and I think we appreciate it more as we get older. Said from she, with a crappy old mountain bike that doesn’t see any off road track action at all..ridden on the bitumen from one friend’s house to the next or a little trip with the tweens for an icecream on a warm summer’s day!

    No tips on bikes but I totally hear you with the vintage cruiser image. LOVE! I went bike shopping with my mum recently, (yes, she bought a vintage style one, Jenny I think it was called), just be sure to hop on as many seats as you can to test ..they may look comfy online but can be a whole different story once your behind makes contact with the saddle. Especially after three kids πŸ˜‰

    We just took our bikes on holiday to Bright..there is over a 100kms of bike track winding through the country u[ there..weaving in and out of market gardens and produce/farm gate stands, wineries and even the odd pub! Glorious!!

    Best of luck, Brydie!!

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    • Christine that sounds lovely. Tell me again why I don’t live in Victoria?
      I just had a look at the Jenny bike…nice, very nice. Wonderful, so now I’ve whittled my bike list down to 15 or so…oh eek.

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  9. I won’t add to your confusion with unfounded recommendations, but I will say that I am sure you’ll enjoy whatever you get πŸ™‚ I have a hybrid bike (basic model, a bike shop’s own brand) and it’s great. It didn’t come with a basket but that was easily added, and except when I try to carry too much produce in it, that is great too. Mr B has a racer that I can’t ride (handlebars too low!), and my Dad actually has an electric bike which is very fun and fancy but needs quite a lot of riding to justify. I figure if you test a few, you’ll find one that feels comfortable, and if you’re ordering online, test some similar ones before ordering!

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  10. I used to ride my pushy every day as a teenager. Then the day came where I bought a car, and that was the last day I rode for at least 8 years. I was interested in getting back onto the bike, but it all seemed too hard. Then I tried out an electric bike and that sorted me right out – wow – those things are a lot of fun. I scooted around Canberra on the electric bike for 2 years but then decided it was time to do it properly and my wife got me a non-electric bike for Christmas (2011). That was a Giant Seek 3 – http://www.giant-bicycles.com/en-au/bikes/model/seek.3/9684/52847/ I love it – mountain bike with road tyres, basically. It really moves, a little more effort than the electric, but much faster. I think I like it so much because I feel familiar and stable with the mountain bike posture so that would be my recommendation – try a bunch of bikes out and go with the one that feels best. Everyone is different though, my wife likes a more upright posture and has a step-through frame that feels right for her. If you’re planning on commuting, consider something with big skinny road tyres, they really help minimise the rolling resistance. Also with regards to seats – all bike seats will give you pain for the first month or two of riding, but after then your body will get used to it – you’ve just got to persist. Good luck!

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    • Interesting that you’ve gone from an electric to a regular bike- (I’m definitely seeing a lot more of the electric ones around now.) Actually bikes in general- there seem to be so many to choose from, so that must mean more people are riding…so Sydney NEEDS more bike lanes…(musing here.)

      I’ll have a look at the Giant brand this weekend, Miss Piggy also pointed me towards that brand.

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  11. We love riding our bikes together as a family. You don’t have to have a fancy one, just one with pedals, 2 wheels and a seat to start with . It’s all about getting out there and enjoying fresh air and fun together πŸ™‚ I’d check out ebay for a bargin first, then if you find you use it as much as you hope you can upgrade and spend the money on one you like more (papillionaire is one I can highly recommmend) Happy pushing πŸ™‚

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  12. As I didn’t have a car I did a fair bit of cycling round Sydney. I didn’t find Sydney too bad a city for cycling, but I have used the expression not ‘too bad’ rather than good or great. My main grumble is that as a cyclist you just want to take the shortest route, but the CBD is full of no right / left turns that prevent you from doing it.

    For city cruising a hybrid is definitely the way to do. I have a Specialized bike and love it. When choosing a bike in Australia I thought all the international brands were very expensive compared to the UK so went for one of the Aussie brands. I chose Cell, but Reid would also be worth a look.

    If you are thinking it will be a serious shopping bike or something with child seats it is probably worth going for something quite robust rather than flashy.

    Sydney does have some hills. Probably worth considering what your routes are going to be to the shops, school, market etc… and then consider how many gears you need. The lowest gear on the modern internal hub (the modern equivalent of your three speed) is usually pretty easy.

    I doubt you’ll find one in Australia, but the Trek Belleville truly is a beauty:

    A similar style of bikes (but less beautiful) are the Specialized Globe series:
    http://www.specializedconceptstore.co.uk/Detaig/13daily/daily/Globe%20Daily%201%20Step%20Through

    Best of luck!

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    • …and they ARE nice looking bikes Richard.
      It seems there are a lot to choose from, and far more than I ever first thought when I said… yep, I think I’ll get a bike. Cell, is on my ‘list’….now to get the list down to say, three???

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  13. Everybody should have big girl bike Brydie (well except for big boys and they should have a truck) so good luck with your hunt! Your bike will find you I’m sure! In the meantime, I really love that bottom image of the tricycle and hope it lives on in your family for a long long time!!

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  14. I’ve got a Trek Allant urban bike and have been super pleased with it. I call it my Mary Poppins bike – because I can sit upright and ride comfortably wearing work clothes.

    and you’ll find routes that you feel safe riding. Over time I worked out where to avoid. Have fun πŸ™‚

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  15. So I might be a little late to the game, but after working in two different shops that sold bicycles I would likely recommend a trek bike. http://www.trekbikes.com/au/en/
    My husband and I have both own trek bikes and loved them. Quality, comfort, affordable and they have lots of options.
    A hybrid bike would be great for getting around quickly, but there are town bikes that might provide a much more comfortable ride.
    The other nice thing about trek is they have a complete women’s line: http://www.trekbikes.com/au/en/collections/womens Designed specifically to fit a women’s anatomy – not just a guy’s bike with a girly colour. I have a trek WSD road bike, and I love it! πŸ™‚

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  16. I am not usually a commenter on anything and I haven’t read the comments here so sorry if I’m repeating what someone else has said but I thought my experience would be useful for you.

    Like you became interested in biking recently after my last bike was a bmx with backpedal brakes as a teenager. My first bike was given to me by my SIL. It had 21 speeds and when I started riding it I was like what do I need all this for? I should also mention I live on an incredibly steep hill and my driveway is even steeper (the first thing people say when they reach my front door is “oh my god your driveway is so steep!). I found that even with all those gears I couldn’t ride up it so why bother. My second bike had 10 speeds. My partner found it on hard rubbish for me and I fixed it up even though I had no idea what I was doing and learned heaps doing so (actually quite easy and worthwhile learning). Even the ten speed I am not enough of a cyclist to ride up the hill so why bother but I concede that a couple of gears are useful and worthwhile. My most recent bike I found on hard rubbish and needs some love, a vintage malvern star step through road bike (the other two were mountain bikes) with 5 speeds which I am still fixing up though it is rideable but after doing the last bike I have confidence fixing it . I try ride up the hill as much as I can but I will be off the bike and pushing at some point before I reach the top so I think that 5 speeds is just right for me and the sort of cycling I do.

    Once you start riding somehthing you will work out what works for you best. I just want to enjoy it, be kinder to the environment and myself, have fun with my kids, know what I’m doing, but not be too serious about it and admit that a hill has defeated me and I have to walk, so what I can ride down the otherside (or collapse on the couch) anyway! I am really enjoying it but trying to only invest as much in it that is proportional to what I’m getting out of it.

    Just do something and start loving it for what you want it to be for you!

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  17. Pingback: the best city bicycle- part two | Cityhippyfarmgirl

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