After a couple years of saving, spending what I’d saved on something else and doing the same again, I finally got my act together this year and made sure I had enough money to buy something I’ve meant to for a long time; a bike! Nothing with a motor, a proper bicycle with no horsepower, just one adampower. I went through the usual process that I go through whenever I buy anything that costs more than a hundred pounds, which means lots of reading, researching, umming and ahhing until I finally make a decision and go for it.
The biggest decision I had to make was what kind of bike I wanted to get; should I get a Mountain Bike (MTB), a straight out road bike or something else. Once I’d looked at what I actually wanted to do with it I went with the third option, which turned out to be a hybrid. Hybrids can be a real mixed bag (as the name probably suggests) and range from the not-very-different-to-a-mountain-bike-at-all to the almost-a-road-bike, and I went for the latter. What I wanted it for from the outset is a mixture of commuting and fitness, and definitely nothing off-road, so I knew suspension of any kind was unnecessary and would just be slowing me down and adding weight to it, so anything MTB-ish went out the window straight away. With the likelihood of going for bags or packs of some kind at some point any advantage gained speed-wise by going for a pure road bike would probably have been negated, and until I get my confidence back up in heavy traffic I’d prefer the upright seating position a flat bar would give me. So I narrowed it down to a few different choices, including a really nice Trek and the new Specialized Sirrus, but in the end it had to be this…
It’s a Bianchi Cameleonte (Alu II) and I’m over the moon with it. I won’t bore you with the ins and outs of what’s on it, but in a nutshell it’s got disc brakes which are really only just coming through on Hybrids, and much thinner tyres than many, much closer to Road wheels. In fact Bianchi refer to them as Sports rather than Hybrids, and they’re much closer to a road bike than many. For now I’m sticking with the toe clips which came with the pedals already fitted for me, just until I can afford to get a half-decent set of clip-ins and a pair of cleated shoes, it’ll give me a chance to get a bit more fitness and leg strength.
The first time out on the road on the evening I took it home was pretty wobbly. Once I thought back I realised I hadn’t really ridden a bike (not counting a ride on the Camel Trail a few years back) for about 15 years, so it’s no great surprise that I wasn’t completely comfortable with being sat up very high on a much lighter frame than I’d ever been on, looking down on wheels that seemed far too thin to be carrying me. For the first half-mile every bump had me thinking ‘crap I’m going to crash’, and I wasn’t having much joy with getting my other foot into its toe clip (which I figured out much later was because I hadn’t secured the buckle in the side of the pedal). Three or four miles on a quick loop around the block was all I needed to confirm to me that I really needed to get some miles under me and get comfortable in the saddle again. So, with best intentions (and after buying a bracket and recommended bottle) I got up extra early on Saturday morning with a route in mind and was on the road by 8am.
I took myself on some small roads out past the woods, down to the beach and then along the North cliffs road all the way down to a local viewing spot (and end-it-all jumping off point…) called Hell’s Mouth for a quick drink stop. After a few minutes enjoying the view and quietness of a Saturday morning on the cliffs, I hopped back on and took a different route back past the house my Granddad used to own. Unfortunately, I don’t go that way very often and I’d forgotten just how many hills there were on the way home! An hour after I set out I was home, thirteen miles under my belt and a lot of sweat lost – most of which seemed to have soaked into the chinstrap and padding in my helmet. I absolutely loved it, it was exhilarating whizzing down hills, albeit with a bit of trepidation as my brakes haven’t quite bedded in yet. I also need to get the front gear shifter looked at as it was reluctant to jump up to the biggest chainring unless I held it just past the clicking point. I get a free service at eight weeks from the shop though, which will give the cables plenty of time to find their length and settle in.
Now all I have to do is keep going out, two or three times a week at least, until I get my stamina up where it needs to be. Ideally I’d love to be riding in to work in the mornings, which is thirteen miles each way, as it probably won’t take me much longer than it already does. I also need to plan out some routes for weekend rides, to get out and use some of the back roads and have a good look around the county. Great fun, although I’m not looking forward to making my first ‘I crashed’ post here .