There is no such thing as a ‘proper’ bike that you need to take part in our rides. All we expect is that it should be legal and roadworthy for your own safety and the safety of those riding with you.
There are a few things you should think about:
Type of bike
We see a variety of cycles on our rides: bikes with dropped handlebars; bikes with straight bars; ‘hybrid’ bikes; bikes with suspension; tandems; tricycles; tandem trikes; recumbents; folding bikes; bikes with electric motors. So you see, nobody is excluded because their bike doesn’t fit in.
However, you might find after a few outings that a few changes to your bike (or even a different bike) would make riding a lot more comfortable. Ask any of the other riders for advice.
A ride along the coast is not going to be very challenging (and we do have members who will come out on a single-gear bike), but even locally there are some hills without even venturing into the Downs. So a wide range of gears, including low gears, is going to make your ride a lot easier.
Make sure your tyres are not worn and that they are inflated to the correct pressure. Pump them up to at least the minimum pressure shown on the side of the tyre. Most people will inflate them to near the maximum, it might make the ride a bit harsher but the tyres will roll better.
Most of our riding is on the road, but some parts might be on tracks. Fat, knobbly tyres are better on rough tracks but tend to be slower on tarmac. Narrower tyres are faster on the road but can still be used on tracks.
Brakes are probably the most important part of the bike. Make sure your brake pads are not worn down and the brakes are well adjusted and efficient. See here for how to adjust brakes or give the job to a bike shop.
Make sure your chain is lubricated cycling will be less work and gear changing will be smoother. Some people use dry lube (but it gets washed away in the rain), others use wet lube or even a normal oil (but it is less effective than oil designed for bike chains).
Every now and again the chain should be cleaned (I remove the chain, shake it vigorously in a well sealed jar half full of white spirit, thoroughly wash the white spirit away with water, hang it to dry, then lubricate it. The jar of white spirit lasts for several chain cleanings. For a more esoteric explanation of chain care look here.)
Chains stretch over time and will have worn the teeth of the rear sprockets making gear changing difficult, or you might find the gears are slipping. This is the time for a new chain and new sprockets.
Assuming the bike is the right size for you (if not, consider a replacement), make sure the saddle is at the right height. When you’re pedalling the leg should stretch to almost, but not, straight. If your knees are too bent or your leg is completely straight, you will know about it next day.
We don’t insist on mudguards, they're not necessary on a fine day, but if you ride in the rain without them you’ll get a dirty wet stripe up your back and the rider behind you won’t be too pleased at being sprayed with water.
Most of the year we don’t need lights on our rides. But be aware that in the winter months it starts to get dark around the middle of the afternoon so you should make sure you have lights with you just in case.
You will want to carry something with you: inner tube, tools, sandwiches perhaps, waterproof top, map, wallet. If you can’t get these into the pockets of your jersey you will need something else to carry them in.
A rucksack is not a very good idea; it can be sweaty and uncomfortable if it’s heavy. Other options are: a saddle bag; a rack pack; panniers.
For some useful information about how to maintain your bike look at this.