All you need to know when buying a city bike

Moving around the city is becoming more difficult and complicated every day: people drive starry, traffic lights, traffic jams, parking problems, pollution causes them to restrict access and parking to vehicles … That is why cycling has become an alternative to private transport in recent years.

But what do we have to take into account when buying a city bike? Buying a bicycle is not a decision we can make by arriving at the shop, looking for five minutes and buying the bike we like best. There are certain things that we must take into account in order not to regret after our new acquisition.

Aspects to be taken into account when buying our tour bike
The purchase of a bicycle can be an excellent alternative to transport within a large city such as Madrid or Barcelona, especially in recent months in which due to pollution are activating protocols restricting traffic and even prohibiting parking in the most central areas to vehicles. In addition, of course, there is the advantage of doing physical activity and being able to pray it at any age (this is not something exclusive to young people).

In addition to moving to our workplace, we can use the bicycle to transport small packages that we can carry in baskets or baskets that can be coupled for it, so we can even make a small purchase on the way home. But what aspects should we take into account before buying our bicycle?

The price

Obviously, we must make a budget according to our possibilities, since it will not only be the economic investment in the bicycle, but we must also take into account that later we will have to buy a series of accessories (some of them as the mandatory helmet), so the cost will increase.

Putting the initial budget only for the bicycle between 200 and 500 euros may be a good option, as this way we can consider different alternatives depending on the brand we are looking for.


Bicycles, as well as clothes, are sold by size, so make sure that the one you are going to buy is our size. Although from one brand to another the measures can suffer some slight variation, in general the measures are standard in all. In this way we will find the following table of sizes to take into account

The saddle: why is a good saddle so important?

Being the displacement by city something that is subject to the numerous potholes and ups and downs of the pavement, having a saddle of a comfortable and ergonomic material seems to be fundamental (a hard and rigid saddle is going to cause us more than one pain “there” and that we end up parking the bicycle in a storage room).

Not only road cyclists should have a good saddle. Just as when we walk, our feet are the element that supports all our weight, in the case of the bicycle our buttocks (and our coccyx) are the ones that will support our weight, so it is important to be as comfortable as possible and, therefore, have a support surface as ergonomic as possible.

One advantage of saddles is that they can be dismantled, giving us the option of replacing them with another that is more comfortable or that we like more.

Braking system

There are basically five types of brakes on city bikes: rod brakes, cantilever brakes, v-brakes, backpedal brakes and drum brakes.

Rod brakes: these are a type of brake currently in disuse, although in some cities you can still see a bicycle with this braking system by which the brake pad was operated by rods rather than cables.

Cantilever brakes: it was the most used brake for all types of bicycles until the arrival of the V-Brakes.

V-Brakes: they were created by the Shimano brand in the 90s, and they are the most used system because of their value for money. In addition, one of their advantages is that we should not exert too much pressure on the way to achieve good braking power. They are typical “shoe” brakes.

Backpedal brakes: as you can imagine, these are brakes that are activated when pedalling in the opposite direction. However, since the braking is not sudden, we have to “anticipate” the braking so as not to get frightened.

Drum brakes: these are shoe brakes, but unlike v-brakes, in drum brakes their movement is expansion, rubbing against a cylinder (drum) that rotates between the wheel and the hub.

Single and double chaining bikes: which one to choose

Until a few years ago, it was common to see bicycles that had up to three chain rings, which gave more options for change and development to pedal. However, when circulating through the city, it was common to hit the largest plate with the curb of the sidewalks, so they began to market single-plane and double-plane bicycles.

Double chainring bikes: with only two chainrings we are going to gain some space between our gearbox and the ground or the elements that could cause knocks on the largest chainring, we are going to reduce the weight slightly (with one less chainring) and we are going to have a more fluid pedalling by gearing the speed changes much better and producing a better use of all speeds. On the other hand, we are going to lose efficiency if we have to climb steep streets, as the triple plate offered us greater versatility.

Monoplate bikes: the difference in weight is going to be noticeable, as we eliminate two chainrings and the chain will have fewer links (this also reduces the potential number of breakdowns we may suffer), the Q Factor will decrease (the distance between our legs when pedalling) so it will improve the efficiency of our pedalling and the chainrings will have longer teeth (in addition to alternating a wide and a narrow tooth). On the other hand, our bicycle will be less versatile and, although the system is simpler because it only has one chainring, it will be more expensive.

After-sales technical service

A factor to be taken into account in the event of possible defects in our bicycle that we have not seen in the test or in the event of future breakdowns. One of the things we must emphasize when evaluating bicycles is the guarantee they will give us (in the same way we do when buying a car).

User-bike weight ratio

Obviously, the weight ratio between our weight and that of the bicycle is also something to bear in mind, since if we buy a bicycle that is too heavy, we are going to have to make an extra effort when it comes to getting around. In addition, we must take into account if we are going to take some package in our bicycle, reason why it would be advisable that our bicycle was not excessively heavy.

Traveling in the city: bicycle with or without engine?

In recent months, Madrid has had to activate various measures to deal with the increase in pollution, such as restricting parking in central areas or limiting speed on certain roads. As a sustainable and ecological alternative to this scenario, electric bicycles are presented as a great advance and a magnificent option for travel within large cities. Unfortunately, within the MOVALT 2018 Plan the government has not contemplated the inclusion of aid or subsidies for anyone who wants to buy an electric bicycle.

In addition, electric bicycles will offer us the possibility of reducing the physical effort that pedalling in a city such as Madrid may entail, as well as saving us time on our journeys from one point to another in the city. More advantages of electric bicycles are, for example, having a lane reserved exclusively for us, saving on parking, economic savings compared to a car or motorbike (ITV’s, circulation taxes, gasoline expenses, workshops…) and, of course, the aforementioned benefit of reducing polluting emissions to zero.

Speaking in numerical terms, we can find models from 400 euros to about 3000 euros, depending on our pocket (although in Spain the newest models do not usually lower than 1000 euros).

Evidently, electric bicycles are going to suppose a higher initial payment than a conventional bicycle, but if we think about it, in the long run it will suppose a considerable saving with respect to a vehicle (either car or motorbike): we save the registration tax, the circulation tax, the ITV’s, the possible fines for speed or parking, we have no parking problems (cost of the parking meter ticket), we do not spend gasoline (yes, we have to charge it, but the cost is going to be much lower than the cost that a fuel vehicle generates). The initial investment, therefore, compensates.

Regarding the battery, there are two types of electric bicycles, depending on whether the battery is recharged by plug or “self-charging” when driving as some hybrid cars do. According to current regulations, the batteries of electric bicycles can not generate a power greater than 250 watts (and in speed can not exceed 25 km / h), because if exceeded, the law would treat them as mopeds. Currently almost all models of electric bicycles use Lithium battery and the recommendation is that after four years of battery life start thinking about changing it.

If we talk about the weight of these bicycles, it is obvious that they are going to be heavier bicycles than a conventional one due mainly to the presence of the battery. As a general rule, an electric bicycle can weigh between six and eight kilos more than one without a motor. This is an aspect to bear in mind if we buy a bicycle that does not allow the disassembly of the battery for recharging (since we will have to take it home to plug it in).

If I have a conventional bicycle, can I adapt it and turn it into an electric one? The answer is yes. To do this, we can buy a conversion kit (whose price can range from 200-300 euros to 800) that are easy to install. Having a lower initial cost (be careful with this, because “electrifying” our bicycle can mean having to change the wheels and even the brakes, so the outlay increases), this means a saving of economic resources in our pocket (since we have the bicycle and do not need to buy a new one), although for tastes the colors, and there are those who prefer to keep their conventional bike and buy a new electric one.