How To Choose The Perfect City Bike For Cycling In Shanghai and Beijing

By That's Beijing, July 27, 2021

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Getting around Shanghai and Beijing isn’t always easy. However, as sunny summer weather is here, the choice for transportation is clear – cycling!

Say goodbye to traffic jams! Convenient, quick and environmentally friendly, it wraps exercise into your daily routine and is an excellent way to explore the town! City bicycles are the best choice for your daily routine. 

1. But, whichever bicycle I choose, I’m worried that it might get stolen… 

Of course, nobody is insured from bad luck. But with a few simple safety precautions you can reduce the chances of your bike being stolen. Be sure to do the following: 1) buy a good lock (it should be thick and strong); 2) always use your lock when you leave your bike, even if it’s just for five minutes; 3) if possible, attach your lock not only to the wheel, but also to a fixed object like a fence or street lamp; 4) bring your bicycle inside at night. 

2. Ok, what about city bicycles, how are they different from others? 

City bikes were created specifically for a comfortable and safe ride in an urban setting. They have all the necessary accessories including fenders, lights, a kickstand and also a cover for the chain to protect your clothing from dirt or getting stuck. City bicycles are suitable for riding in the park, commuting to work or school and cycling with a child (with a separate child-seat). Front baskets or back racks can be used to carry your everyday things. 

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Electra bicycle Loft model with added Electra basket 

3. But then, why do I often see people on mountain bikes with shock absorbers and chunky tires? 

Many people consider mountain bicycles to be universal. But a powerful suspension fork isn’t needed in the city, and it actually slows you down. It’s the same for tires with large tread. Lots of gears like on a mountain bike isn’t actually necessary for riding in the city. Those bikes were designed specifically for long rides uphill and don’t have any use in an urban setting. Moreover, the position of the rider on non-city bikes puts a lot of stress on the arms and neck. This can make it difficult to look around and enjoy the ride.

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Left - family on the city bicycles; right - family on mountain bicycles 

4. Okay, but surely city bikes should also have their drawbacks? 

They do. They have wide handlebars and large wheels which makes it harder to do certain maneuvers,but makes your control more accurate. Also, with the frame of a city bike, you need to ease off the sidewalk onto the street slowly, not jump. City bicycles can also be heavier than others, though there are some light options like Loft from Electra, which weighs 13.7 kg (whereas the average mountain bike is 18 kg.) 

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Electra bicycle Loft model with added Electra basket 

5. Are all city bikes the same? 

No, not at all. If you are going to use a bicycle instead of public transportation, take a look at commuters. They have narrow wheels that make it easier to travel long distances. If you plan to mainly ride in the park, then choose a cruiser. It has wide wheels and a comfortable seat, which are best suited for leisurely rides. There are also universal options – like bicycles from the Townie Electra series which are a cruiser and commuter hybrid. 

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Electra bicycle Townie model with step-over and step-thru frames 

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Electra bicycle Townie model with step-over frame

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Electra bicycle Townie model with step-thru frame

6.   What should I pay attention to first?

Let's start with the frame. You’ll need to choose a frame that is suited for your height, so make sure to look up the size compatibility first. And of course, before buying any bike, make sure to test ride it. Frames come in two configurations – a diamond frame and what’s known as a women’s, step-thru frame with a lower top tube (which makes riding in a skirt easier, though it’s actually good for anyone to ride.) 

In terms of frames, all Electra bicycles use a unique patented Flat Foot technology construction, which allows you to straighten your back when riding, relax your arms naturally, have a broad forward view, and affords the opportunity to put your feet flat on the ground to improve safety. 

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Electra Flat Foot Technology 

7. What materials are used to make bikes? 

The traditional steel frame is more rigid and provides better rolling power, but is also heavier. Although titanium alloys and synthetic materials are extremely light, they are expensive and require special maintenance. City bicycles generally don’t use such frames. The aluminum alloy, which is generally inexpensive and of moderate quality, has become the first choice for many city bikes. High-quality city bicycles use 6061-T6 aluminum alloy, which is mostly used in aerospace engineering. It is light, not easy to deform and has strong corrosion resistance. 

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Bicycle brands usually mark their frames with name of material

8. How do I choose the saddle? 

The comfort of the seat depends largely on the width of the cushion. Generally speaking, the wider the saddle, the more comfortable it is. With wider seat you won’t need to get used to it or buy any specialized clothes to feel comfortable while riding. On the other hand, road bikes and mountain bike saddles sacrifice comfort for functionality, which is why they are usually narrow and hard. Of course, in the end you’ll need to try it yourself to see which you find most comfortable and suited to your needs. 

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From left to right: mountain bike saddle; cruiser saddle; Electra Loft saddle 

9. Selecting gears and brakes 

A single-speed bicycle is sufficient for city riding, but a few more gears will make your riding more flexible and lighter. Bikes vary from as few as three gears to as many as 21 gears. With three speeds, you can start easily and gracefully or pedal with light force when you want to be lazy. If you have a seven-speed transmission, you can easily cope with occasional ups and downs. In addition to the number of speeds, the mechanism type also varies. When the hub mechanism is hidden inside the wheel and is protected from dirt and debris, this is internal HUB. It is difficult to break and barely needs any special maintenance. If you like to ride fast and climb hills, take a closer look at models with a lot of speeds. These are systems which consist of several sprockets, which make it easier to climb uphill. 

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From left to right: internal HUB system; derailleur system (with sprockets) 

It is also important to pay attention to the brakes. They consist of rim, roller, drum and disc. Rims, rollers and discs are manually controlled using levers on the handlebars. Meanwhile, drum brakes are operated by turning the pedals back with your feet. The roller and drum brakes work the smoothest and require less maintenance. The disc brakes are the most powerful. Meanwhile, rim brakes are effective enough, cheap and easy to maintain. 

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From left to right: disk brakes; roller brakes; rim brakes 

10. What else should I pay attention to? 

Once you’ve chosen the function, you can pick your favorite color, shape and accessories. Bicycles can be more than just transportation – they can be a style accessory and a way to express your personality. 

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Inside an Electra Bicycle store

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The exterior of an Electra Bicycle store

This article was written in collaboration with Electra Bicycle, a leading city bike brand. “Riding a bike should be fun!” is their mantra. Their range of bikes includes several stand-out urbanite bike collections as well as new innovative bicycle technology never before seen: the aforementioned Flat Foot Technology. The Electra bicycle store has more than 300 different bicycles to choose from. The variety of colors and specification combination is especially striking. The friendly staff will be glad to assist you in choosing the perfect city bike. Find an Electra store in your city.


[All images via Electra]

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