Every cyclists reaches a point where there is a need to upgrade the bike they began their cycling journey on, but what do you look for? Where do you go and whom do you ask? As part of the NC500 crew, Jess started to think about her new whip back in August and by December she had made her decision. Here is Jess to tell you more – Sarah
I’m going on a big adventure. I am cycling Scotland’s North Coast 500 in September 2021. I already have a nice hybrid bike but it isn’t a bike I would like to cycle 500 mountainous miles on. I need to buy a new bike.
I have two places that I call home, my little flat in Bognor and my partner’s house in Kent; so I will have a bike in each location and be able to ride without having to transport my bike backwards and forwards. Yay: total justification!
I am an inexperienced cyclist. I have a vague idea of what sort of bicycle I may need. Opening up my laptop, I Google ‘best bike for cycling up big hills’. As I scroll down the screen, words fly off the page: hybrid, adventure, gravel, tourer, geometry, wheel size. I have a reasonable idea of their meaning but really no clue as to how it all applies to bikes. When I start reading words like slack, chromoly, head tube, bottom bracket, dropper post, SRAM, GTX, Clincher, sprocket and then all the terms associated with the different group sets my mind is blown. I have zero idea about anything!
How will I choose? How will I know?
I start with what I have. I take photos of all the fiddly bits of my bike so I can see the numbers and weird letters. I know how my bike feels and I know I need easier gears. I know my brakes are disc brakes, but I discovered there are 2 types, a bit more Googling and I found a spec for my bike. My brakes are manual discs not hydraulic. My tyres are thin, the number on the side says 700 x 32c so I figure if I want to go on some rougher paths I need something a bit wider and maybe knobblier? Then I find out some wheels can take a few different tyre widths. I am still so confused.
Take a breath Jess: bikes are meant to be fun! Take a step back, focus on the basics. I enjoy drooling over expensive and totally unsuitable two wheeled machines. I need to put Google down and go to a bike shop, have a chat with a nice person that actually knows what they are talking about. I’ve been into 4 bike shops recently and all were totally different experiences. Two were independent and two were chain shops.
I want to say the independents offered the best service and were most welcoming but, if I’m honest, I found one to be somewhat condescending and the other didn’t really seem interested in my modest budget. The two chain shops, I couldn’t have wished for a friendlier and less intimidating environment.
After searching around, chatting to various real people, sending a million Whatsapps to one of my besties saying ooh what about this one, I like the blue one or OMG I could never afford this one: I have come to the conclusion that I am not ready for a new bike just yet.
I need to spend more time actually riding the bike I have and developing my skills. I will carry on drooling over bikes and learning stuff, like the importance of gear ratios but for now I’ve put my wallet away; at least a few months, no… weeks. No…days. No….oooh shiny……. I want that one!
December 2020 Update
I had put my wallet away and began trying to learn more instead of jumping in. It is now cold, damp and grumpy outside and my bike is in the spare room. It’s not what you think though, I haven’t given up, not by any stretch.
Although my bike is in the spare room I’m still using it. On a turbo trainer with a lovely red tyre (turbo rollers melt ordinary rubber tyres) that I’ve grown rather fond of. I don’t have all the whizzy gear (yet), it’s not a smart trainer. I have an old laptop which I put in front and I watch cycling videos from all sorts of lovely locations. If I just want to chill, I stick a movie on and pedal away.
After much toing and froing between steel tourers with a gazillion gears to gravel bikes with all the mounts including one for the kitchen sink, I finally decided that what I needed was a person who didn’t want to just sell me a bike, but rather someone who was an expert that could talk to me, guide me through the jargon and help me land on the right bike.
Yesterday I had the great pleasure of meeting such a person, his name is Steve and he runs The Canterbury Bike Project
WHAT IS THE CANTERBURY BIKE PROJECT?
Our mission is to provide a community resource that actively improves the life chances of young people by engaging students through bicycle mechanics to provide them with valuable skills.
It is also to support safe mobility in the local community through free* bicycle repairs, learning workshops, and low-cost bicycle sales.
I popped in. We sat down and started talking. It was amazing to be able to talk about my total lack of knowledge and have Steve; firstly not think less of me for it, but also suggest I join one of his girls only maintenance classes (when it’s safe again of course).
The Canterbury Bike Project is doing brilliant work in the community with young people helping them to develop all sorts of cycling skills as well as working with the wider community, empowering people to be confident on their bikes.
Steve is going to help me build my bike by doing the cycling equivalent of nipping down the Woolworths pick ‘n’ mix!
Having test rode a Womens Pinacle Arkose and found the size comfortable; Steve suggested we could build my new bike around the Arkose Womens 2020 Gravel frameset. It also comes in a wonderful sparkly purple paintjob! I’m looking at 650b wheels, a GRX groupset, with a double chainset and an 11 speed rear cassette.
I still have time to decide on the exact setup. I have saved about half of what I will need but feel good that things are moving and I’m really looking forward to working with the Bike Project to build my new bike.
I’m so excited about the idea and can’t wait to finalise my choices.
I’d better get saving.
Thanks for reading
A cup of Tea for Me – Jessie
If you have enjoyed reading this please consider buying me a cup of tea. I will put it in my new bike fund and you will help towards my huge challenge of riding the NC500.