Buy direct and the savings can be as big as the pitfalls, so we’ve developed a guide to picking the best bike, the right size, and the ultimate options
Step 1 – Bike chooser
OK, so you want a 140mm trail bike with 650b wheels and a Pike fork… but do you want XO1 or XX1 with that? And what about the brakes, Formula T1 or Shimano XT? These decisions and many more are both agonising and enjoyable but as long as you’ve got the general attitude of the bike right you can’t go far wrong. Look on mbr.co.uk for reviews to help you — we’ve tested the YT Capra, Canyon Nerve and Vitus Escarpe, to name just three of the hottest 2015 bikes.
Step 2 – Demo it
Riding a bike is the best way to find your size and some direct-sales brands do run demo days. Rose, Canyon, YT Industries and Vitus through Chain Reaction all have, or are working on, dates for 2015. If you can’t get to a riding spot also check out the bike shows — Canyon will be at thelondonbikeshow.co.uk from February 12-15 at the Excel, London, where you can at least sit on a bike if not ride it in anger.
3 Find your fit
This is the tricky one — assuming you can’t act on step 2, you’ve got to take careful measurements of your body (get a friend to help) and feed that into the brand’s modelling system to recommend you a bike. Some brands like Vitus have sophisticated modelling that takes into account torso length and even arm length. Others rely on outdated inside leg length to try to match you up.
Do your own measurements to double-check the size. Top tube length is a poor indicator of whether a bike will fit you because it’s affected by seat tube angle and head angle. Instead, look for the bike’s reach measurement, buried in the website’s geometry page and compare that with your current bike (providing that it fits!). To get the reach on your old bike measure between the centre of the BB to where it intersects with a virtual line dropped from the top of the head tube (it’s tough to measure so use a homemade plumb line).
4 Pick up the phone
Just like a bike shop, the sales people are there to make you happy. Tell them the bike size you’ve worked out, what kind of riding you want to do and whether you’ve got one leg longer than the other. Ask lots of daft questions, they won’t mind and you’ll come to understand the bike more. You could ask for things like a decent length stem and wide bar, better grips, and for the tyres to come tubeless ready with the proper valves in.
5 Unbox and admire
One of the most exciting moments in life is unboxing a new bike but first make sure the packaging looks undamaged. Inside the bike will be set up and pre-assembled, although you’ll probably have to fit the wheels, turn the bars, set the sag and possibly drop in the seatpost. But first check the bolts and axles are tight.
Next, jump on the bike and see if it feels right. How does it feel compared with your old bike? Does the cockpit feel roomy enough? Is the standover height good enough to lean the bike over in a corner? Is the seatpost and saddle in the right place? If something doesn’t feel right you can send the bike back unused and get a full refund, or swap it for the
First-class packages – Our favourite mail order bikes
With a massive 170mm of travel, the Capra descends like a gazelle, but amazingly it also climbs like a mountain goat too. It’s the new benchmark enduro bike against which all others will be measured. Read our review of the YT Capra Pro.
Canyon Strive Al 7.0 Race £2,599
Flip a switch on the Strive and the bike’s geometry changes, toggling between climb and descend modes. There’s a sensitivity at work that’s equalled by few bikes we’ve ridden in this category. Read our first ride on the Canyon Strive CF 9.0 Race.
Vitus Escarpe £1,499
With a brand new suspension platform and a dazzling spec package Vitus has produced a chic and desirable bike in the Escarpe. Set the sag right and the bike is a blast to ride. Read our review on the Vitus Escarpe 275 VRS.