Categories
Miscellaneous

Why You Shouldn’t Buy a Cheap Bike

One of the things that frustrates me most as a cycling enthusiast is when people buy cheap, junk bikes because they think bikes are overpriced or they can’t afford one.

So I decided to do a little calculation to compare riding the bus for short journeys (5 miles or less) around town over a year to buying a bicycle, to see which comes out ahead on price (not to mention fun, health benefits etc).

I looked on the Stagecoach bus website for Worthing and found that a Worthing 52 Week Megarider season ticket costs £603 per year. Compared to buying a ticket on the bus or via the app per ride (or even compared to monthly season tickets), it goes without saying that it’s a bargain and I would get it if I was a daily bus passenger.

So if I was to ride a bicycle for all of these short trips around town instead, I could spend about £600 on it. Except you tend to keep a bike for several years at least. So I think it’s fair to say that I could spend around £1800 on bikes and equipment. And after 3 years I could keep it and continue saving, or buy another one if I felt like it.

The money adds up, but why not just buy a cheap new or used bike and save even more? Cheap new bikes generally use worse components which will end up lasting far less time than more expensive ones (up to a point where it becomes mainly about weight). This will mean more maintenance costs for you, higher likelihood of the bike letting you down during a ride, for example with a dropped chain during your commute, which no one wants. When you buy a more expensive bike, the components are more reliable, work better and are longer lasting. And that’s before you get into things like belt drives and internal hub gearing which take the benefits to a whole new level.

Buying second hand can be a good idea if you get lucky, but in my experience, I think you’ll struggle to find a bike in a good enough condition at a low enough price. You often find people selling bikes in the hundreds of pounds when they need a lot of work. To the point where it makes more sense to just buy new. I hope that as cycling matures and more people buy better quality bikes, and actually look after the bikes they own, it will become better. But for now, I would recommend to buy a good quality new one. It’ll pay for itself in the long run. And perhaps even in the short run. If you replace an Oyster season ticket in London with a Brompton you could save thousands every year.

Categories
Miscellaneous

Docked Bike Sharing Works. What About People Who Don’t Want to Ride?

As much as we cyclists would rather not accept it, the fact is that some people will never want to ride a bike. So for them, I propose the solution for last mile transport could be large wheel, bicycle style stand up electric scooters. We’ve seen small wheel eScooters, but the dockless system doesn’t work in my view, and the small wheels and narrow bars make for a vehicle that’s hard to handle for new riders. This can cause crashes and injuries.

Larger wheeled, wider handlebar eScooters operating in a docked system would go a long way towards making eScooters as widely successful as bike share schemes such as the Santander Cycles in London.

I can imagine docks of these things next to bike share docks, and people just go with whichever vehicle they want, or which one suits that particular journey. I think a lot of people will choose the scooters, but we will have to embrace it as cyclists because it’s a hell of a lot better than the status quo. And it will give a massive boost to the pressure on councils and the government to fully back Dutch style infrastructure.

I could certainly see myself owning a stand up scooter and alternating between cycling and scooting. And then also using the share schemes when I’m visiting other towns and cities.

I realised at a meeting about cycle infrastructure in Worthing that basically nothing has happened due to the Tories. They’ve tried every trick in the book not to do something. So in that case, what do you do? I think the best way is civil disobedience. XR has shown it works, and I think it will work for micromobility too. I think if it remains illegal to ride scooters on local roads in the same way we cycle, then people will be forced to act. Taking my backroad, almost car free commute on a big wheel scooter isn’t exactly going to attract a lot of attention, but I think every little will help. I could see myself resorting to that in a year or so if we don’t see movement on the ridiculous law that currently exists.

Categories
Miscellaneous

Why Are There So Many Bike Brands? And Why Are None of Them Selling The Bikes We Need?

Specialized, Trek, Giant, Scott, Cannondale, BMC, Cervelo, Bianchi and hundreds of others I could list. What’s the difference? Well, if you’re looking for any kind of road or mountain bike, honestly not much. There are differences, but they’re so subtle that no normal person would notice. Put it this way, even professionals who basically live on their bikes have to ride whatever their team’s bike sponsor provides. Mark Cavendish has won on all sorts of bikes for example on road and track.

If you walk into your local bike shop, they are likely to carry one or more brands. If you’re looking for a road, hybrid style or mountain bike then you’ll find one to suit without going to another store. They all use the same components, generally either SRAM or Shimano. The only differences will be in geometry and any number of gimmicks, for example the Lefty fork from Cannondale, or the specialized Future Shock suspended handlebar design. They’re not things that will make huge differences. The frame and rear suspension linkage designs on mountain bikes do differ, but again, unless you’re a very serious rider, it won’t matter.

I don’t like agreeing with Lance Armstrong particularly, but he was right when he said that when buying a bike, just go with whatever brand you like, and which colour you like. Because they’re all basically the same.

While this is true for road and mountain bikes, it isn’t the case if you want something else. If you want a folding bike, there is an enormous variance in folding mechanisms for example. Brompton being by far the best in my opinion.

If you want a bike for commuting, I’d personally recommend a Dutch style upright bike and for those, you’ll have to go to a specialist retailer or online if you’re in the U.K. As we’ve lost our minds and sold mountain bikes as commuters for some reason I can’t fathom.

When you get to e-Bikes, it gets more complicated as the different motor systems actually do make enough of a difference to the point that you might want to do your research, and then figure out which dealer you need to visit. And if you want something really special, such as a belt driven, full suspension urban e-Bike with full fenders and wider tyres, then Riese & Muller are there for you.

Simply put, the mainstream bicycle industry has lost its way completely and the only way to buy the types of bikes that in my opinion, most people would benefit from, you have to go to niche brands. That cannot be right.

The types of bikes that are popular in the Netherlands, where cycling is a normal, daily activity that almost everyone does are upright bikes with chain cases and heavy duty luggage racks, and cargo bikes which are incredibly useful and will be indispensable tools in fighting air pollution and congestion in our towns and cities.

We’re not going to solve all of the transport related issues we have in the U.K. with road bikes and mountain bikes. It’s not going to happen. Things need to change, and quickly. We need the infrastructure to be built first and foremost, but we also need to be seeing huge numbers of Dutch and cargo bike shops opening up.

Categories
Miscellaneous

The Quirks of Dutch Bikes, and Don’t Ride without Fenders

Yesterday I was fitting a new saddle to my Batavus Personal Bike, and because it was the second one I’d bought for this bike (had to take it to bike shop that time because it was so tight from the factory), I had a spare Ergon model. I’ll get back to that later.

Fitting the new seat, you have to deal with the Dutch style seatpost clamp, which allows the seat to slide side to side. This makes lining it up straight unnecessarily difficult. It’s the same thing I found with the Dunlop / Woods valves. The Dutch have a way of making everything so practical, but at the same time have this little quirks which contradict the overall Dutch cycling experience in the country.

Perhaps the reason they get away with it is because everyone in the Netherlands takes their bikes to the shop for maintenance and to inflate the tyres, but I can’t imagine that’s really the case. It’s something I think they really need to address.

As far as the spare Ergon saddle, I thought it would be a good idea to fit it to my brother’s single speed commuter bike. There were two lessons learned from this. Firstly, the seat clamp on that bike was so much simpler. You just have two bolts underneath the clamp, and the way it’s designed forces the saddle into a straight line. There’s no chance of it being off to the side, which makes it so much easier.

The second thing I noticed was that the clamp was really dirty. The bike hasn’t really been cleaned thoroughly ever, so all those days commuting in the rain, the tyres flicked up the dirt into the area. Something that would not happen if you run with fenders. Yes, on a road bike it maybe doesn’t look so cool but on an urban bike, the hassle just isn’t worth it. At least not for me. And fenders just look cool anyway. It’s a no brainer.