Thursday, May 14, 2009

Getting A New Bike

Inspired by having the Ride2Work scheme at my present job, I've decided to invest in a new bike. Having ridden both my hybrid and flashy-road bike over the last few years, it's focussed my mind on what exactly I want a bike to do, namely:
  • be usable for the daily commute
  • be able to do light touring (maybe a week in Scotland, rather than a month round Africa)
  • *maybe* be comfortable/practical doing something like a 100-200k
To me, these requirements make perfect sense, but it does seem as if they fall between a number of stools. Road bikes are built for speed and generally spurn the need for mudguard-clearance or anywhere to attach panniers. Tourers do well on those points, but are generally built for serious touring, with an associated weight and lack of whizzing-in-and-out-of-the-traffic-ability. Hybrids too, are slower, and generally don't have drop-handlebars, leaving your wrists craving new riding positions once you do much more than 50k.

The remaining options (at least in Evans - who we can only use for Ride2Work) are:
  1. cyclocross bikes
  2. audax bikes.
Cyclocross bikes look like mummy racer had a one-night stand with daddy mountain bike, with a road frame but knobbly tyres (which I'd swap for road tyres) and enough room to stick guards and panniers. Of these I ordered the Specialized Tri-cross, Genesis Croix De Fer and Kona Jake to try. The Specialized looked great and had carbon forks, but just felt sluggish to me. No doubt some of it was due to it's chunky tyres and it's more relaxed geometry, but it just didn't seem right.

The Genesis felt much better, with disc breaks and a steel frame, but Evans have run out of them now, which conveniently solves that dilemma. I'm still waiting of the Jake as Evans only seem to have one in my size, which is trapped in some limbo between London and their Gatwick warehouse never to materialise into a test-rideable form.

An Audax bike, is a bike designed for riding Audax events :-) These are essentially long-distance, non-races of any where between 100 and 600k, the more hardcore of which feature people cycling for days on end with a few hours kip grabbed here and there. The best bikes for this kind of lunacy are fast touring bikes i.e. perfect for what I want. Unfortunately, the one such bike Evans stock has a slight Granny vibe about it, but otherwise had the best feel of all the bikes I've tested so far and again was steel so should be comfortable on those longer rides.

So which will I go for? Evans have just phoned to say that the Kona *should* be in London tomorrow, so hopefully I'll be able to final make my choice (if only so I don't have to put up with anymore of their indifferent customer-service)


PurpleTraveller said...

Both bikes you are left with are good for your purpose. I will be interested to see which one you finally choose. The one thing I would do for ultra long distances is fit a 'Brooks'.

matt said...

Thanks very much for that. The Kona Jake hasn't turned up, so it looks like it will be the Dawes (which I'm happy with)

I've looked at Brooks saddles in the past, just because they look so nice :-) Are there any particular models you'd recommend?

PurpleTraveller said...

The accepted Brooks touring saddle is the B17, however I have a Brooks Team Professional on my tourer and it is the most comfortable saddle I've ever used(now it is broken in).I used it on Lands End to John O'Groats last year and will be using it next month when I cycle down through France into Spain. It really is a great saddle for a fast tourer-I find the B17 a bit frumpy!!

matt said...

Thanks for that. As you may see in a newer post, I've bought one. Now time to start breaking it in :-)