A Grim North

Musings from a northerner living in the deep south…

PROPER CYCLISTS – Help required

Posted by Alan on May 4, 2011

Falcon - mountain bike

'The Falcon', back when it still had off road tyres

I’ve needed a new bike for a long time. Probably for years. I got this bike when I was around 15 or 16 and still doing a paper-round, because my Peugeot Racer wasn’t really designed to carry a full sack of Sunday papers. It’s gradually transformed from a mountain bike (never used off road) into a weird hybrid, with the addition of mudguards, rack, pannier, pound shop horn, a proper bell and finally road tyres. The government’s ‘cycle to work’ has just opened so it’s time to move on to something more in tune with the riding I actually do – some utility transport riding, some ‘pleasure/health’ related (i.e. losing the moobs and moving to a normal BMI) and I guess some a bit of both. It’s 11 miles-ish to work which I could probably do in around 1 hour, around the same time it takes going via the tube ironically!

So… this is where I need some advice.  The main provider is Halfords, but they partner with Action Bikes, Cycle Republic, Leisure Lake and Condor Cycles and can order things in. Theoretically, I can buy up to 1K of cycle equipment through the scheme, however our cycle ‘storage’ is a garage containing a heap of bikes so I’m not really looking for something at the top end of what is allowed.

So what I am looking for in a bike?

  • Probably a hybrid – something with ‘road’ tyres but not for racing.
  • Mudguards and chain guard – I don’t want to dress specially for riding
  • A rack for panniers – because this is how I bring home the bread
  • Some gears
  • Some brakes – hub nice due to low maintenance but don’t care too much, I’m getting there with maintenance
  • Sprung seat
  • Kickstand nice, but not essential – see picture above!

From my early searches the best I can find are this Raleigh from Halfords, a Trek from Action and this Globe Daily from Condor. Or maybe this Pashley Paramount.

The plan is to have the new bike ready and worn in slightly for the summer solstice by which time I will be tackling the c2c across the top of England so I will need to be comfortable in the new saddle. Any recommendations before the 14th of May would be great! – I’ll need to buy the bike really quite soon as cycle to work closes again at the end of the month!

3 Responses to “PROPER CYCLISTS – Help required”

  1. Rich said

    I’ve got the alfine version that is discontinued now but is a total jeep of a bike. Bombproof & pretty much maintenance free, goes up the steep hills and is fun down the other side and with my bedded in Brooks saddle, it is like riding an armchair.

  2. ian... said

    The Pashley is based on an old Paratrooper folding bike – minus the hinge o’course.

    That would be my choice if you could live with the gearhub on the hilly bits of your C2C ride – can you find one for a test ride? (You could always lower the gearing with a bigger sprocket)

    The Condor looks like a lot of style over substance to me – the Aheadset & caliper brakes are a bit of a fail.

  3. Action do Bromptons and the Pashley Roadster Soverign. I’ve routinely put away longer distances on my Brompton and DL-1 (equivalent to Pashley Roadster).

    Hybrid bikes have an unfortunate geometry which makes it difficult to put power down, which wears you out over longer distances. Racing bikes and mountain bikes put the rider in hunched forward positions to remedy this, with mountain bikes having a slacker seat tube to make up for the reduced degree of “hunching.” Hybrids tend to put you more upright than a mountain bike without further reducing the seat tube angle, and this is what makes them such agony for longer rides. A roadster slackens the seat tube further and puts you more upright, meaning you get a comfortable position, a good view of the traffic and the ability to really put some power down if needed. A big roadster like the Pashley Roadster Sovereign will have a long enough top tube so you can get out of the wind a bit or put even more power down if needed during climbs. The sport-focus on cycling has made a lot of people forget how capable this type of geometry is, but the majority of the bicycles ever manufactured in the history of the world conform roughly to the same design and there is a good reason for it. The Pashley Roadster Sovereign also comes with a hub dynamo driven front light which comes on automatically when it gets dark, a full chaincase, puncture resistant tyres, a rack with a stand built in, a rear wheel lock, coat guard and the B33 sprung leather saddle. The 5 gears will offer a good enough range for most purposes, in addition to being extremely durable, and the drum brakes offer reliable braking in all weather whilst needing almost zero maintenance.

    The Brompton may not meet your requirement for a chainguard (although I haven’t had any problems from mine) or a sprung saddle (although the Brompton Brooks B17 saddle is very comfortable despite this, probably down to the rear suspension), but it is a remarkably capable bike on both roads and trails. The advantage of the Brompton for me is that it makes me more ambitious with my trips, I am more likely to attempt a longer ride if I know I can sling it on a bus or train without hassle in the event of a mechanical problem or a sudden weather change. The ability to take the Brompton everywhere with you is a big money saver, over its lifespan it will save you loads of money in bus, tram and taxi fares when you are in and out of London. The Brompton luggage system is great too, a T bag and luggage block could be bought along something like the M6L, offering a wide gear range and a lot of luggage capacity (the T-bag expands to a huge capacity). It would be more challenging on the C2C if you encounter poor surfaces like cobbles, but a Brompton is definitely a good all round investment. And they’re bloody fast too.

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