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Buying Advice


At Saddle Safari we feel strongly about giving our customers the best cycling experience possible, at the same time we understand that not everyone wants to spend the earth on a new bike and not everyone will be riding down mountains or entering the Tour de France! We also understand what it takes to make a good or bad bike.

Unfortunately there seems to be a growing number of low quality bikes flooding the UK market, with the majority coming from mail order catalogues and car accessory retailers. At first glance many of these bikes may look like a bargain, with beefy looking frames, low price tags and all the latest gizmos. But as with everything in life there is always a catch.

The reality of it is that the large majority of these bikes are extremely heavy and very quickly find themselves in and out of the workshop on a regular basis, or just rusting away at the back of a shed. This is usually down to the budget parts and components used to add WOW factor in the show room. If it looks to good to be true then it usually is!

There is a saying in the cycle industry, STRONG / CHEAP / LIGHT, Chose two, lose one! This basically implies that due to material and production costs, you can’t have all three factors together in one bike.

Below are some guide lines that should hopefully help you make the right choice when choosing your next bike whether it’s for you or your family.


1: QUALITY FRAME, SIMPLE DESIGN i.e. Avoid cheap rear suspension as it is heavy and problematic, you will quickly regret your purchase. Look for light weight well made frames with a good solid construction, ideally made from aluminium, good quality steel or carbon fiber on high-end bikes.

On the left we have a well thought out £250 hardtail mountain bike using mostly aluminium parts, a strong rigid aluminum frame with a lifetime warranty and a simple yet good quality set of suspension forks, making it a light, reliable bike giving the rider peace of mind and little to go wrong.

On the left is a £99, budget, full suspension catalogue bike,this time relying on poorly designed steel parts with fussy pivots and weighty, uncontrollable coil sprung suspension. This makes the bike hard work to ride and feel like a pogo stick on wheels!

2: SUSPENSION: Always try to look for reputable suspension brands such as Fox, Rockshox, ect. Avoid front suspension Bikes under £200 and rear suspension bikes under £700. Although they may look like good value the cheaper equipment tends to be poorly designed and has a very short life span.

Aside from being weak, low quality moving parts and pivots will increase the weight dramatically and function poorly whilst giving endless trouble (with scarcely available replacement parts) also the other components can suffer as a result.

These cheaper bikes will give you false understanding of the benefits of suspension and how it can improve you riding. It’s a sure fire way of putting you off cycling.

Above is a quality full suspension mountain bike using a mix of aluminium, stainless steel and magnesium parts. It has strong pivot points with a lifetime warranted frame and air controlled suspension, making it a light, reliable bike with plenty of rider adjustment. It will instill confidence and help you build upon your riding skills.


For a good reliable gear system expect to see names like Shimano and Sram. They are reliable and easily maintained. Both companies will have a range of components which will increase in quality and performance as the bikes value increase. High-end hybrid and mountain bikes can have up to 27 gears where as road bikes can have up to 30. As a rough rule of thumb try to steer clear of adults bikes with fewer than 21 gears (unless it is a specialists bike or uses a hub gear). The further up the ranges you go the more durable and lighter the gears will be which in turn will prolong the life of you bike.

Below is a great example of the contrast between a poor quality, non branded rear derailleur and a well designed, high end, Shimano rear derailleur. The Shimano (XTR) derailleur uses strong, light weight materials with powerful springs and precision bearings for a smooth, fast and positive indexed gear change even in the mud. On the other hand, the cheap derailleur consists of week springs with a heavy steel body and no bearings at all. These have a tendency to rust rapidly, offer a sluggish unpredictable gear shift and can fail mid ride with little warning. They also suffer heavily in bad conditions.


4: COMPONENTS: Look for branded components e.g. Rockshox,Bontrager, Avid, Shimano, ect. Branded parts ensure quality design and correct function.


Ensure brake levers and calipers are made of metal and not plastic. Plastic brakes are poor quality and will not provide an easy action or strong braking. If you’re considering using disc brakes then you have the choice of Hydraulic (using oil) or cable operated brakes. Both offer better braking in poor weather conditions compared to a standard rim brake. The hydraulics tend to have a lot more power and are self adjusting where as cable discs need a bit more maintenance and adjustment.In terms of other parts such as handle bars, cranks, saddles and similar components then you have a whole world of choice. Once again, the higher your budget, the stronger, lighter and ultimately better performing the parts will become.



On the left we have a cheap and heavy, plastic covered chainset. On the right is a better quality, lighter aluminium version. This will easily out perform the cheaper setup in every way possible.

5: BRANDS: Try to avoid brands associated with large multipurpose mail order companies, car manufacturers and general sports wear brands. Most of these bikes will have been made as promotional items or money spinners rather than designed for proper cycling.


Reputable cycling brands such as Trek, Ridgeback, Specialized, Giant, Dawes and Gary Fisher spend a lot of time researching and developing bikes specifically for there intended purpose. They take into account the comfort, style, biomechanics and size of many different riders to gauge what is required in the bikes that they produce.

6: LOOK FOR CORRECT SIZE: Don’t just assume that the first bike you see is going to be ok. Even if you’re not intend to do a lot of cycling it’s still worth looking for the size of bike that best fits.


Taking height and reach into account is essential not just for comfort but also for handling. Buying a bike that is too big or too small will make it harder to control and can create future problems with your back, neck and knees as well as causing numb arms and hands. This can knock your confidence, increase the chances of crashing and ultimately put you off cycling all together.

It helps to be fitted correctly when buying a new bike. Our experienced sales staff will be able to guide you through the fitting process quickly and easily taking in to account your arm length, leg length, height, body position and weight distribution. These factors may vary depending on age (I.e. growing teenagers) and the style of bike you’re looking at. If you are unsure and intend to purchase from us online please don’t hesitate to call along with any other queries on 01628 477020.