Choosing a safe bicycle and equipment
Tips on choosing a bicycle and equipment that suits your purpose, safety requirements and NSW road rules. A bicycle is a road vehicle by law.
Choosing the right bicycle
There are four main categories of bicycles:
- Road bike
- Hybrid bike
- Mountain bike
- BMX bike
A road bike is suitable for riding on the road, while a hybrid bike is good for multipurpose use. Mountain bikes are best for off-road use, and BMX bikes are designed for off-road courses and stunts.
Bicycles sold in Australia are required to meet the requirements of Australian Standard AS/NZS 1927:1998 Pedal bicycles – Safety requirements.
Choosing the right size
To choose the best-size bicycle, stand over the bicycle with your feet firmly on the ground and measure the distance between the bicycle frame and your crotch.
There should be a clearance of about 3cm for a road or hybrid bike, and 10cm for a BMX or mountain bike. If you're unable to put both heels on the ground when doing this test, the bike is too big for you. The bike will be unsafe and uncomfortable.
If you decide to make your own bicycle using specialised or modified parts, or you modify your bicycle with better parts, you should consult a qualified bicycle mechanic to ensure your bicycle is safe before you ride.
Aim for quality parts that have been manufactured to Australian Standards identified by an Australian Standards sticker.
Some bicycle parts including brakes, gears, handlebars and forks may need to be calibrated by a qualified bicycle mechanic. Check with your local bicycle store for further advice.
Adjust your seat
- Seat positioning is important for both stability and comfort. If the seat height is too low, you could experience sore knees.
- Position your seat at a height that allows you to bend your knee slightly when your leg is in its most extended position.
- Always check your seat is properly secure before going out on a ride, particularly after making any changes.
Adjust your handlebars
Well-adjusted handlebars will allow you to confidently mount, start off, steer, pedal, balance, ring the bell and stop.
Handlebars can be adjusted on most bicycles and should be adjusted so that your arms are slightly bent and your body leans forward between the handlebars and the seat.
The handlebars should be far enough forward so you can balance your body weight between the handlebars and the seat. Too much pressure on the seat can cause back pain, while too much pressure on the handlebars can cause neck, shoulder and wrist pain.
After any adjustments, and before you go out riding, always check that your handlebars are secure.
Using the pedals
For maximum comfort, wear shoes with flexible soles and ensure the widest part of your foot is over the pedal axle. Stiff soled shoes can make your feet sore.
Wearing cycling shoes with cleats will also ensure centralised pressure on the pedals.
Essentials for your bicycle
Lights and reflectors
Good quality lights and reflectors will increase your visibility on the road. Light emitting diode (LED) lights are extremely bright and require less energy to power, making your batteries last longer.
Traditional incandescent lights require regular bulb changes and may not be as bright as LED lights. Human powered bicycle lights do not require batteries, but most will not operate without you physically pedalling. This means that when you're stopped, you could be difficult to see.
It's best to seek expert advice on lights and reflectors to suit your needs. Pedal and wheel reflectors increase your visibility to other road users. By law, you must have your lights on between sunset and sunrise and in bad weather.
Front and rear working brakes will increase your ability to stop your bicycle suddenly and safely.
By law, your bicycle is required to have at least one working brake.
Bell or horn
A bell or horn enables you to let pedestrians and other cyclists know you're around - this is particularly useful when overtaking.
Under the NSW Road Rules, your bicycle must be fitted with at least one working bell or horn, or a similar warning device.
Tyres should be appropriate to the size of your bicycle and inflated to the pressure as listed on the tyre wall.
If you need to replace your tyre or tyre tube, you should purchase a replacement that matches the original. If you're unsure of which tyre or tube to choose, consult your local bicycle shop.
Optional extras for your bicycle
A bicycle pump fixed to your bicycle frame will be very useful. Pumps with a collapsible handle are quick, easy to use and handy if you need to inflate a tube mid-ride.
Foot and electric bicycle pumps are also good to keep at home to inflate tyre tubes quickly and easily. You may find carrying a pressure gauge in your tool kit worthwhile so that you can ensure your tyres are filled to the correct air pressure.
A rear-view mirror may help you to identify hazards as they approach.
First aid kit
You should consider carrying a good first aid kit when cycling that contains:
- a bandage
- antiseptic cream or fluid
- sun cream
- lip balm.
A bicycle computer is helpful if you are interested in calculating your speed, distance travelled or kilojoules burnt off during your exercise.
Bicycle computers vary in price, ranging from simple models that calculate basic information, to more expensive models that calculate kilojoules burnt and other advanced statistics.
Bike rack plate
While a rear car bicycle rack makes it quick and easy to transport your bike by car, racks can obscure your car rear number plate. If this happens, you'll need to purchase a special bike rack plate for your car (called an 'auxiliary plate') and fix it to the number plate holder on the bicycle rack.
Penalties apply for obscuring the number plate. For safety, and to protect your bike, always check that your bicycle is correctly fitted to the bike rack and firmly fixed in place before you start driving. For more information on ordering bike rack plates see Auxiliary plates.
Child carrying devices
There are a number of child carrying devices available for bicycles, including a rear seat child carrier and a behind bicycle child trailer. It is recommended that child seats attached to bicycles comply with AS 4287 'Child seats for cycles', and any child trailers towed behind bicycles comply with AS 15918 'Child trailers for cycles'.
It's important to check that buckles and clips are correctly fastened and straps adjusted to comfortably restrain the child in the rear seat carrier.
When using a behind bicycle child trailer, ensure that restraints are used and the trailer is correctly fitted to the main bicycle frame.
Young children must wear a helmet whenever riding - whether sitting in a child carrier or a cycle trailer. Please consider the stage of development of your child before placing a helmet on the child's head for long periods.
Do not ride with children in heavy traffic or along motorways or freeways. If possible, keep to quiet roads and use cycleways or off-road bicycle paths.