They say cycling is the new golf. Both are sociable, get you out in the fresh air and can be expensive! However, that's where the similarities stop. Unlike golf, cycling can take many forms - road, mountain, track and even triathlon. But which one is right for you?
Well, if you're unsure whether you might be a fat tyre, baggy clothes trail-muncher or a skinny tyre, lycra-clad roadie, get yourself to a bike shop, local rental company or trail centre, where you can demo or rent a bike for the day.
But don't worry if you find that after six months you should've chosen a different path, you can never have too many bikes. The perfect amount is n+1, n being the number of bikes in garage!
Here are some pointers on buying the right bike and what to do next:
1. Cash is king
You don't need to have the latest and greatest when starting off. At a minimum, expect to spend €650 for an entry-level road or mountain bike. When it comes to road bikes, what determines the price are the gear components (called groupsets), wheels and frame material. The same is true for mountain bikes, but with the added choice of hard tail (front) or full suspension. The bike to work scheme is worth looking into and can save you up to 52pc on the price.
2. Brand snobbery
If you are into your Ralph Lauren, you'll probably want the latest in vogue bicycle clothing to match. Check out which brands the pro teams use and pick one. They get a lot of feedback from the pros, which trickle down through the range.
3. If the shoe fits
Like shoes, a bad fitting bike will cause discomfort. There are two things to consider: size and geometry. You can adapt to the geometry of the bike, but you can't lengthen or shorten your legs! Depending on use (leisure or racing), or preference, changing geometry is a matter of adjusting the saddle height and/or stem length. Once done, it should feel a natural fit.
4. To shave or not to shave
Next come the clothes and accessories. First, a helmet. Helmets will range from €40 to €300. You'll also need a few essentials - a mini pump for the bike and a track or floor pump for the garage, a multi tool, spare inner tube, tyre level, a saddle pack to put all those items into and a water bottle and cage. All this should set you back €75 to €100.
Onto that burning question, do I need to shave my legs? Well if you've just bought a mountain bike and baggy shorts, the answer is no but if you've invested in a lightweight road bike and lycra shorts, well I'll leave it up to you. It doesn't make you any faster, but you'll look pretty pro when sipping your espresso outside your favourite coffee shop.
But don't be a cheap skate when buying shorts. A quality pair (circa €100) plus some chamois cream makes a big difference. And please, no underwear or GAA shorts! Not only does underwear look ridiculous under lycra, it will end up chaffing.
In winter, consider other extras, such as lights, mudguards and winter clothing. As Sean Kelly says, there's no such thing as bad weather just the wrong clothing.
5. Pedal power
We've all been there. Stopped at a red light and can't get the foot out in time and down you go. What I'm referring to is whether you should go with clip-in pedals. It's your preference. If you choose a clip-in pedal, you will need a corresponding shoe (both will start at €125 combined). It's daunting at first but becomes second nature after a couple of rides, and gives more power and efficiency in your pedal stroke.
6. It's go time
Now you've got the gear, it's time to hit the trails or tarmac. Practise clipping in an out, cornering, accelerating and braking. Once you feel more confident, the best way to improve fitness, handling and get the most enjoyment out of your bike is to ride with friends or a club.
You can find you nearest club from the Cycling Ireland or Triathlon Ireland websites. Many clubs have leisure or touring sections and split into groups with varying distances and speeds depending on your level or ability.
If racing is your aim, then you will need a competitive licence. Check out Cycling Ireland or Triathlon Ireland for details.