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Ask Oli: How to pick the perfect bike for you

Tips for choosing the right bicycle from the fine folks at Fort St. Cycle in Victoria

Fort St. Cycle is my local(est) bike shop. They’re close enough for me to walk my bike to when I need a post-crash frame assessment or am too lazy to change a flat (I swear I don’t actually do this, but hypothetically). They take incredible care of their customers and are always keen to support young riders in Victoria. With the level of care they provide their customers, I thought I’d reach out to Arin, Fort St’s manager, to get an idea of what he considers when helping commuters or newer riders find their ideal bike.

Oli: Someone walks into your store and wants to get into riding. They hope to commute a little more by bike. Maybe they want to ride on the weekends with their family or start getting a little more active. They’ve ridden bikes before, but aren’t competitive whatsoever and consider themselves quite novice. Let’s walk through what you might suggest to them.

The Cannondale Quick 5 Disc

What are we looking for in a bike?

Something that is going to fit the rider’s needs. When someone mentions they will be using it for commuting, we will usually recommend something equipped with disc brakes, fender and rack mounts, and something that offers a more comfortable position.

What factors do you consider about the rider?

Their previous riding experience is a big part of it. Also, what their intended use for the bike is and of course, what they can afford. For example: if a rider has tons of previous road cycling experience they may want a more aggressive bike to enjoy their commutes, like a Cannondale CAAD X cyclocross bike. Or on the other end, someone with a more casual background may appreciate a hybrid bike.

What would you recommend to someone hoping to commute daily?

Disc brakes, fender mounts, and a comfortable fit, to ensure that they have all they need to get themselves and their work gear where they need to go while staying comfortable and dry year-round.

What about someone who wants to try out some entry-level group rides as well as commute on the same bike?

Bikes are becoming more and more versatile these days. Even some high-end road bikes have wider tire clearance and fender mounts. We have many options from endurance road bikes to cyclocross and gravel bikes. There are many potential routes to consider for the ‘do it all bike’, such as the Cannondale CAAD X or a Topstone.

What about e-bikes?

We are lucky to have brands that offer a wide range of well thought out and affordable electric bikes. They are great as they open up cycling to many different people. From someone who doesn’t want to get sweaty on their way to the office, to people who may have restrictions keeping them off a traditional bike. Many doors are opened with this option and I’m all for a bit of electrical assistance, especially when going uphill!

In what case would you recommend a bike with drop-bars over a bike with a flat bar or vise versa?

It’s usually down to what people feel comfortable with. Very often we send people out to try a few of each. However, if the price is an issue, the value of a flat-bar hybrid is unbeatable. Cannondale, for example, offers a hydraulic disc brake-equipped city bike for as low as $799, like the Cannondale Quick 5 Disc, whereas a comparable road bike may cost over double that.

What’s your personal favourite bike?

A drop bar commuter is always a good bet. The position is more natural for me given that I usually spend most of my time on the road. And with gravel bikes increasing in popularity, you can really find some sweet, versatile drop-bar commuters. I personally have a Cannondale Topstone gravel bike to get from A to B and it’s perfect. It has mounts for everything, and huge tire clearance, so it’s a very comfortable ride.

An allow Cannondale Topstone.

Thanks so much for the chat, Arin!

If you’re looking to get a new bike, start by closing the online store you might be browsing, and head down to your local shop to talk to one of the staff. Developing a relationship and spending some time at your shop is the best way to invest in your new bike. Plus, they may even have some group rides to get you going, like Fort St. does!

Oliver Evans 20-year-old cyclist from Winnipeg, currently living in Victoria. In 2019, he will race with Trek Red Truck Racing.