Choosing the right bike for you

Finding a bike that fits you. Whether you are borrowing or buying a bike, the most important thing is to find one that fits you. Just as you would choose well-fitting shoes for walking, you want a bike that is comfortable and safe for you.

This guide covers: 

  • different kinds of bike – deciding what’s important for you 
  • features of different bikes 
  • buying a bike 
  • carrying children and things – what are the options? 

This guide is part of a series of Adult Bike Ed guides. The guides help make riding safe and easy. Find links to the other guides in the series at the end of this page. 

Which kind of bike? Deciding what’s important

Any type of bike will get you to the shops and back or out for a family ride. But each style has its own features and benefits. 

When choosing a bike, think about what you want to use it for. This will help you work out the right kind of bike for your needs. 

Things to consider when choosing a bike

Where and why are you riding?  Are you riding for fun (perhaps with family or friends) or for transport (e.g. to get to work or the shops)? It might be a bit of both. 
Do you ride more on roads and paths or on bike trails? 
Is where you ride hilly or flat? 
Do you prefer speed or comfort?  
How far and how often?  If you will ride longer distances or travel regularly by bike, comfort and quality are more important.  
Performance versus versatility  If you are interested in a specific style of riding (e.g. mountain biking or longer distance road riding) look for a bike designed for that purpose. 
If you want more options, consider a hybrid bike. Switching from smooth road tyres to chunkier gravel tyres can make it more stable off-road. 

Some bikes are designed for comfort rather than speed. Some designs encourage an upright riding position. Some frames are designed for long hours on the seat. 

Power-assisted bikes or a wide range of gears can make your ride easier. 

This may be more important if you: 

  • are travelling longer distances
  • are riding up hills
  • have a child on the back 
  • ride in your everyday clothes. 
Carrying things  Do you want to be able to carry things? Perhaps it is young children, groceries, your work clothes or just a snack. Do you want a bike to be able to carry small or large loads? 
Lower gears or power-assisted bikes (e-bikes) make it easier to pedal with heavy loads. You may also consider fitting racks, or even buying a cargo bike, designed specifically for carrying loads.  
Budget   Price usually decides the quality of materials, strength and weight. (Lighter bikes cost more but are easier to pedal.) More expensive bikes usually last longer. They are usually easier to use too. For example, they might have quick release levers to make it easier to adjust the seat or take a wheel off. A second-hand bike may be a good option if you want to spend less. 
Easy to alter  Is the bike designed so you can attach a basket or back rack? Or perhaps a child seat, mudguards or wider tyres? It is not possible to add these extras to all bikes. If these features are important for you, check with the bike shop before you buy.   

Features of different bikes

Features of different bikes

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Buying a bike

When you buy from a bike shop, you can be confident your bike has been put together by a qualified mechanic. Retailers can help you choose the most suitable bike for your needs and budget. Most important, they can make sure it is the right size for you. 

  • Test ride a bike outside before you buy it. Try a few different ones so you can compare.
  • Make sure you buy the correct frame size. Ask the retailer for help.
  • Ask the retailer to adjust the bike to fit you. This might include moving the handlebars, brake levers and seat.
  • If you want a rack or basket, make sure the one you want can be attached to the bike you choose. 
  • Buy everything you need when you buy your bike. Be sure to get a helmet, front and rear lights, bell, lock and bike pump.

If you buy from a department store, you may need to put the bike together yourself. At a department store, there is often no support to help you choose the right size or style of bike for your needs. If you can, take a friend who knows about bike riding to help. 

If your budget is limited, buying second-hand may be a better option. Make sure you buy a bike that is a good size for you. If you can, take a friend who knows about bikes with you. 

Leasing bikes to try before you buy

Some e-bikes and cargo bikes can be hired from suppliers or local councils for a test period. This is a great option to work out whether it is the right bike for you. Ask the bike retailer or your council if they offer lease options to try before you buy.

Children’s bikes

It is important to choose a bike that fits the child [PDF 1.09Mb]. A bike that is too big is not safe because it is difficult to control. Riding a bike that is too small is uncomfortable and slow. 

As children grow, they will need different sized bikes every few years. Adjusting the seat height will give growing room in between. 

Although bikes for young children often come with training wheels, many experts recommend learning to ride without them. People typically learn to balance more quickly without training wheels. Our Learning to ride section explains how to learn or teach someone to ride without training wheels.

That said, training wheels can help children to get riding, especially if they are nervous. They also allow kids to focus on pedalling without having to worry about balancing. 

Training wheels can be adjusted to allow for more or less support. Start with them at the lowest setting. Gradually raise them as your child gains confidence so they begin to find balance themselves. Eventually you can remove them altogether.

For more about children’s bikes, visit Ride Nation’s Buying a kids bike. It is an excellent guide to what is available and how to choose. 

Carrying children and things 

Whether you are going for a trail ride, to work or the shops, or out for a coffee, you will often want to carry things. You may also need to carry a child or two. 

There are various options for carrying large and small amounts on your bike. Talk to your bike retailer about what is most suitable for your needs. 

  • Panniers – these are bags that attach to a rack and sit either side of the rear wheel. They can carry a lot, are often waterproof and take the load off your back. Panniers are more stable than baskets for heavy loads because the weight is lower.
  • Basket (front or rear) – these are handy if you want to store a handbag or other items in easy reach.
  • Seat-post bags – these small to medium-sized storage bags attach under your seat and are good for small items.
  • Backpack – although a backpack doesn’t need to be fitted to a bike and is easy to take with you, it can get a bit sweaty and is uncomfortable to ride with if it is heavy.

Carrying children

To be carried on a bike or in a bike trailer, young children must be strong enough to support their head while wearing a helmet. They must be able to support themselves when going around corners, over bumps and when braking. Typically, children are at least 12 months old before they have the strength to do this. 

You can legally carry people, including children, on a bike. But they must sit on a seat designed for passengers. 

A bike rider aged 16 years or older can tow a trailer attached to the back of their bike. Passengers must be under 10 years old and must be wearing a securely fitted helmet. 

There are various options for carrying young children. When choosing what will work best for you, consider: 

  • Weight limits – Check the weight and size limits of different child carriers. 
  • Convenience – How easy is it to get a child in and out (with seatbelts and clips)?
  • Flexibility – Is the child carrier fixed to the bike or can you take it off? Does it affect storage?
  • Controlling your bike – Does the way you carry the child affect your riding position or how easy it is to control the bike? Child carriers that attach lower down tend to be more stable. 
  • Visibility – How visible are you when you are riding with a child on streets? 
  • Carrying other things – Can you carry bags, shopping or other items along with your child?
  • Protection from weather – Can you keep your child protected from sun, cold, rain and wind? 

Child seats 

  • Front bike seat – a younger or smaller child sits on a seat between the rider and handlebars.
  • Rear bike seat – Toddlers and pre-schoolers can ride in a seat on the back of a bike (attached to a rack or seat post).


  • Trailers usually fit two children from toddlers to around school age. Many have extra storage room for bags or shopping. 

Tag-along bikes 

  • Children can be towed by an adult bike and pedal themselves with a tag-along. Tag-alongs are child-sized bikes without a front wheel. They attach to the rear of an adult’s bike. These are great for younger children who are building confidence or when you want to travel further than they could ride on their own.

Cargo bikes 

  • Cargo bikes are designed for pedalling with heavy loads. They have a wide range of gears and are often power-assisted. They come in a variety of designs: 
    • standard-looking bikes with longer frames that can fit child seats on the back
    • bikes or trikes with a large front or rear container that can carry people or large heavy items like a weekly load of groceries. 
  • Cargo bikes are larger and require more parking and storage space.

Maintaining your bike

Whatever kind of bike you ride, it is important to keep it well maintained for easy and safe riding. Check out our Basic bike maintenance section to learn the basics for checking and maintaining your bike.

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