How will the 2012 summer be remembered in the UK? Could be the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations, perhaps the Tour de France (with our victory at long last) or maybe the Olympics in which Team GB did so well? The truth is, the Summer of 2012 can be remembered for a number of different reasons and cycling is one of them.
More and more people seem to be getting the bug, which I think is fantastic. Equally I know some are still pondering what kind of bike to get. It is so easy to go into a bike shop and ride out with the wrong bike – worse still is for those people who buy flat packed bikes from mail order catalogues and struggle to get them working properly.
Here’s a few thoughts on some options (other types will be covered in forthcoming posts):
Town, city bikes
These are often practical bikes designed for short undemanding journeys. They will be easy to ride and own and can be bought fairly economically, although some can be jolly expensive with designer labels. These bikes have straightish handlebars and have a fairly upright riding position which makes them easy to ride.
Often equipped with mudguards, pannier racks, wicker baskets, hub gears and a chain guard, you can get a useful bike “off the peg”. Generally available in either a man’s frame or a lady’s step-through frame. At the bottom end of the scale, you could get a single speed bike with a few bits on, rolling on either 700c or 26″ wheels. This is fine if you live in a reasonably flat area without hills, slopes or heavy loads to transport. Some single speed bikes have a gear ratio which, frankly, is plain daft and too high. This means your legs might feel fine spinning away at 18mph with the wind behind you but at slower speeds you’ll struggle even if you are an accomplished cyclist. Some other town or city bikes are available with more gears – even 7 or 8 from a simple looking rear hub. These have a lot going for them (very reliable, simple to use, wide range of ratios) and could be worth a longer term investment as an all-purpose bike. A downside is these bikes are often made from heavy duty gas pipes which have been welded together and have some heavy components bolted on.
These bikes can be cool and trendy but naturally this is completely lost on me. Variants could include minimalist fixies (fixed single speed, no freewheel or rear brake) through to very ornate, feminine and retro offerings from the likes of Pashley or even Victoria Pendleton. There can be, however, a timeless elegance to these. They are probably named by their owners who themselves maybe Annabel, Emily or Hector. Perriwinkle is the nicest name I have come across for a town bike.
There are probably hundreds, thousands collecting dust in sheds and garages around the country – each one worth very little money and yet with some TLC could be good enough for a few more decades of use.
These bikes started to emerge in the late 1980s with the Raleigh Pioneer being one of the first. Those early attempts were often a complete disaster with steel rims and feeble brakes; not to mention gearing that was annoyingly high – enough to put anyone off cycling for good. Thankfully things have moved on quite a bit.
They generally use 700c wheels with fairly wide tyres (35 to 40 in width) on a tweaked roadster or road frames. Some have 26″ wheels for a softer ride, possibly with suspension forks and these are fine for cycling frequently on trails. Their design has developed briskly to include some decent MTB groupsets with disc brakes and some superbly exotic frames. Hybrids are fast versions of town bikes and bridging the gap towards mountain bikes. Hybrids, with their wide gear range, are ideal for town use, trails and gentle off-road riding. Getting one with decent hollow section rims will take a fair battering from rough surfaces – but remember, no matter how expensive, they are still not indestructible. Naturally mudguards, pannier racks etc can be fitted but some might find this takes away some of their style. Like town bikes they are a good all-round machine.
To give you an example of the price range, the current Evans range goes from a Trek T10 at under £250 (this is good value for money) right up to a new 2013 model Trek 7.7 for £1300 (and that’s with a carbon fibre frame with Shimano Tiagra components). Other outlets will undoubtedly have even more exotic bikes and prices.
If you are thinking of a hybrid, remember there is a wide range of types within this genre. As mentioned, some are more suited to light off road use, others with slick tyres, lighter frames and higher gearing lends itself to fast commuting on roads.