I have a very warm regard for my bike. As a Yorkshireman, that’s about as close a declaration of undying love you’re going to get. But it’s time to consider an upgrade (it’s always time to consider an upgrade!).
My bike has been with me for more than 8 years, since I snap-purchased it whilst my then-girlfriend (now wife) sought a heavy hybrid on which to commute (she still has it, but does not seem to have developed an emotional attachment).
Despite not knowing a thing about bikes (beyond what i had learnt as the proud owner of a Raleigh Mini Burner in the 1980s – red and black, since you ask), I made a
wise lucky choice.
There goes my first love
It turned out that my unassuming Dawes Giro 400, with its mishmash of Miche and Campagnolo components, would be a sturdy workhorse, carrying me safely (and sometimes quickly) across London’s potholed and white-van-stained streets. The wheels have had to be be trued countless times. The carbon front fork was replaced after an altercation with a bonnet on the Kilburn High Road. A misguided attempt to replace the rear cassette (which turned out to be a strange Campy/Shimano lovechild) has resulted in the Giro now possessing a proud set of new Campagnolo wheels.
We’ve ridden sportives together. We’ve completed London-to-Brighton. We’ve even done a couple of triathlons (he whispers). It has been a trooper.
You’re more than a number in my little red book
But times change. I am looking for a new amor (and a new bike). At this point I planned to list the reasons why I needed a new road bike. Given that I’m an adherent to the bike ownership formula (B = n +1, where B = bikes required and n = current number of bikes owned), you would think I’d simply rattle them off. But the fact is, I don’t NEED a new bike (sharp intake of breath from cyclists everywhere).
However, being now based in Derbyshire, with the Peak District starting just a couple of kilometers north from where I sit, the image in my mind’s eye of powering up (ha!) the region’s many sharp climbs does not feature the gallant Dawes.
It’s not her/him/it/you, it’s me.
I plan to keep my trusty Dawes. It will continue to do its duty as a winter bike. So my new
mistress bike will be my summer and events bike.
Which road bike to buy?
I believe my requirements (which I reserve the right to change, volte-face, disregard as and when the mood takes me) are as follows:
Yes, I know, I should be primarily focused on finding the bike that serves my particular needs. But since we have established that I don’t need a new bike at all, one of my particular needs is to satisfy my vanity (and, as we’re on the topic of deadly sins, avarice). But ‘looking cool’ isn’t just visual. Being able to do the job, in my mind, contributes to looking cool.
History and race credibility are also a part of my definition (though why I’m allowing myself to define cool I do not know). For some reason, I deem Canyon (probably due to the association with Purito) and Willier (probably not due to the association with Lampre) to be cool. This might be deemed heresy, but Pinarello don’t do it for me at all.
Steel or carbon
And possibly in that order. I refer the right honourable member to my earlier comments re: looking cool. A clean, thin-tubed steel frame can just look the business.
Whilst one of the attractions of steel is that you can claim some (moral?) superiority over the carbon brigade, I am not totally against going for a carbon frame. I’m sure I’ll appreciate the reduction in weight and some of the frame designs do look nice.
I would include titanium in the list of potential frame materials but when we move onto budget, it’ll be obvious that doing so would simply not be realistic.
Comfort and performance
The fact is, I’m unlikely ever to enter a formal bike race. For most events in which I participate, the priority will be getting to the finish. I want the bike to feel (and look) fast but the most important factor will be comfort.
I have not discussed this with my wife. In fact, until I sat down to write this post, I did not know I was in the market for a new bike.
I think we’re talking £1,500 – £2,000. As the owner of a £500 bike for so long, that’s the range that I’ve always thought I would step up to.
How about a curve ball?
As I admitted above, this is the first time in a while that I’ve thought in detail about getting a new bike. In part it was prompted by seeing an attractive Ritchey steel-framed bike in a recent Cycling Weekly. But then I read the comments below the linked article, talking about Mercian Cycles and Brian Rourke frames.
Thunder crack. Thor descends from thick clouds to strike me with his custom steel hammer.
Given all that I have written above (steel, credibility, history, comfort), surely I should at least investigate the possibility of having a custom steel bike. Surely I should be supporting British craftsmanship and buying local.
Surely… (echo, tumbleweed, the crushing silence of my wife’s displeasure).
Help me get my feet back on the ground
So dear readers (reader?), I seek your guidance. Can you recommend the perfect new road bike for me?
Or maybe you want to encourage me to pursue the custom route?
Does anyone have a feel for how much a fully-built custom steel frame road bike will cost? Will my stated budget just mean that I’ll have to make too many compromises on the component front?
Any and all advice gratefully received.