Mental Bike Shopping

I’ve been doing a bit of mental bike shopping recently.

What I mean is, I’m in the market for a new bike. Or, more accurately, I’m in the market for a new bike frame to fit some beautiful Campagnolo components to. This is a perfectly reasonable position for a mildly obsessed cyclist to find themselves in, but I’m not sure how I reached this point.

Making the leap from owning two bikes that I’m perfectly happy with – a winter bike and a good bike – is not straightforward. At the risk of over analysing this, there must have been a point where I went from being happy with my lot and reluctant to part with a significant amount of cash on an upgrade, to where I am now…

…mental bike shopping.

Ridley Fenix (Image: piair - Flickr CC)

Ridley Fenix
(Image: piair – Flickr CC)

I’m not sure how others make these kind of decisions, but me? I resist, and resist, and resist, and then something – a financial windfall, some barely noticeable tacit approval from the wife, a couple of glasses of wine too many – trips a little switch in my head. Once I’m convinced that a new bike frame is the ideal use for my hard-earned cash the decision is signed, sealed and set in stone.

But then comes the real indecision.

Ironically the thought of mental bike shopping is actually, surprisingly, better than the reality of mental bike shopping. Although I suppose, to be accurate, both the thought of it and the reality of it are, well…the thought of it.

Are you still with me?

The point I’m rather clumsily trying to get at is that once you’ve committed yourself to a new bike and you start to trawl the Internet with budget in mind, the world is suddenly your oyster. Give me two or three options on any subject and I’ll make a decision as quickly as the next man. Give me a whole Internet full of bike frames to peruse and before you can say Specialized S-Works I’m confused and wracked with indecision.

Buying a really good bike is a once-in-a-decade decision – get this wrong and I’ll find myself riding the wrong bike for the best years of my life.

No pressure then.

A big part of me wants a sleek and stylish piece of Italian art – a Colnago, a Pinarello, or a DeRosa, for example – but I have nagging doubts about the wisdom of this. I’m no slouch but neither am I a sprightly twenty-something with energy (and flexibility) to burn. Buy something too racy and I might end up self-conscious and conspicuous on a bike that’s too quick for me.

And with chronic back trouble. DeRosa Glorycycles - Flickr

The sensible move might be to go for something a little less racy and more suited to long days in the saddle over bumpy roads (but still a quick bike, by anyone’s standards). In this department the Ridley Fenix C is a current favourite. Built by a Belgian bike company with cobbled roads in mind the Fenix would surely be a good option.

But if someone rode past on a DeRosa Merak I know I would suffer pangs of jealousy.

Can I live with that? Should I live with that? Am I being over-dramatic?

Maybe, probably, and yes.

Now that winter is almost upon us I have some time to mull this over of course – whatever bike I end up building won’t see the tarmac until the first sunny day of next spring. I’ll try not to bore you all with the months of mental anguish I’m about to put myself through about the simple purchase of a simple bike.

Having said that, if anyone out there has any pearls of wisdom in this department, feel free to share.

Posted in cycling kit, real life cycling | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

High stakes, dodgy metaphors and Oleg Tinkoff

If you’re a fan of pro-cycling you will have become increasingly aware of Oleg Tinkoff, the wealthy Russian financier and boss of Alberto Contador’s Tinkoff-Saxo team. He is, shall we say, no shrinking violet (see my previous piece, ‘The World According to Tinkov’ for examples of his rent-a-quote behaviour with the media.)

In recent weeks, much of the talk around Tinkoff (and trust me, there is always talk around Tinkoff…he makes sure of that) involves his offer to stump up 1 million Euros to be shared between the big four Grand Tour contenders – Alberto Contador, Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali – should they take up his challenge of the treble next year, and go head to head (or should that be head to head to head to head?) in consecutive Grand Tours: the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta Espana. Continue reading

Posted in pro cycling | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bike Envy and Wiggo Worship

As you may have gathered by now, I quite like cycling, and it seem this may be starting to rub off on my two boys.

As it stands, the one year old has decided to focus on mastering walking before he takes on the challenge of cycling unaided; a wise move, I suppose. Practically speaking walking, at this stage, is of far more use to him.

As it happens, a quick comparison between my youngest boy’s early walking style (small, wobbly steps, and an intermittent lack of balance) and that of your average cyclist mincing around your local café on cleats shows that he is clearly developing the early habits of a bike rider. His upper body certainly bears an uncanny resemblance to the fat and muscle free torso of your average Tour de France contender and to complete the picture, as a committed nappy wearer he can appear, at times, as if he’s sporting a pair of cheap bib-shorts with ill-fitting padding. Continue reading

Posted in real life cycling | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Bike Maintenance: a pleasure or a chore?

I have a theory: my mechanical limitations when it comes to bike maintenance are directly linked to the amount of space available.

I have friends who have enormous garages at their disposal that are laid out like a shrine to common sense and elbow grease. There are bike stands on which to hang the thing as you work on it, rows of neatly ordered tools, a well placed piece of foam to kneel on, and plenty of space for all manner of spares, replacements and other unidentifiable bits and bobs. Some people even have lights and heating.

Oh, the luxury. Carrying out bike maintenance in these conditions is surely a pleasure, not a chore. Continue reading

Posted in bike maintenance | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Art of Overtaking

Picture the scene.

You’re out riding alone, and it’s one of those head-down-focus-on-the-breathing-maintain-a-steady-power-output kind of rides. In other words you’re in your own world, and your mind is cleared of all extraneous nonsense involving work, money, or interior furnishings.
And then you look up briefly – a quick check of your surroundings – and you spot a fellow cyclist up ahead. Suddenly there is a decision to be made.

(Some of you may now be thinking what…eh? What decision? Read on my friends).
With innate cyclists brain engaged you start to process the data: How fast are they riding? How far down the road are they? How tired are your legs? How much fire do you have in your belly (great roaring forest fire, glowing embers, or the carbon remnants of a long forgotten camp-fire)? Continue reading

Posted in real life cycling | Tagged , , , , , | 17 Comments