Tuesday, 25 November 2014

My name is Richard and I am a recovering Bikeaholic....

So I just got a new bike... Another one, yes. But I'm not a bike-a-holic. It's under control. The financial controller said that I didn't have 'sign off' for the purchase... But to a biker on the edge of a dangerous addiction it seemed obvious... £500 off, it was obviously a sign from a higher power; "buy, buy!"
All of Ridley's bikes are tested on the cobbles to make sure they meet the brand's own durability standards
Of course, it's not like I don't have an all purpose go anywhere road bike. It's not as if I don't have an aero bike, ideal for time trialling. And of course, in the stable at Adventure Cafe we have endless hybrids, and back up Genesis machines when we need them. And then, gathering dust in the dark recesses of the garage are the poor, almost fore gotten mountain bikes, both fully rigid and front sus.
So the obvious question is "why did I need another bike?" And the answer comes in many forms. In my mind it is because I didn't have an out and out hill climbing machine. But in reality, the reason I splashed out on another new bike is probably because the bike industry is so clever at reinventing itself. For a machine that purports to be so simple, it really is something to behold the way the humble bicycle has evolved, metamorphosised and regenerated more times than Doctor Who or Madonna. Kids street bikes, BMX's, folding bikes, touring bikes, recumbents, mountain bikes, DH, XC, TT, Aero, Triathlon, Cyclocross, Fixed Gear, it is just bonkers how the bike has splintered into a million subspecies.
But the question is how to select the right bike for you. Which breed are you going to pick. We'll assume for arguments sake that you are one of the legion of road bikers now multiplying on our roads, looking for a machine that will go anywhere as long as it is good quality tarmac, and looking to cover the miles with ease. But within the gamut of road bikes, we need to consider the range of types on offer, and of course for that, we need to know what the bike is to be used for. The first way to weed out a whole chunk of bikes is to confirm that the rider is not partaking in TIme Trialling or Triathlon. This being the case, forget anything with the words aero featuring. These machines are amazing, lightning fast,  pieces of engineering wizardry, but their geometry is designed for one off shorter spurts of effort and certainly not for climbing hills or mountains or all day enjoyment.
Next there are the cyclocross, and old school touring machines. If you are bound for some serious multi week tours, or travel on suspect roads or even semi off road, then these machines with their design to accommodate wider gauge tyres and hi durability could be just the thing you are looking for. But be careful, and consider who you're going to be riding with, as these bikes will sacrifice a lot in terms of extra weight, and acceleration won't be startling! If you want to keep up with friends on road bikes, then a cyclo-X machine won't be the one for you.
So now we're getting to the nitty gritty of things and we have a range of road bikes still to choose from, still with varying geometries and frame materials, at a dizzying array if price points from around £600 up to around £10k. And here I think comes the next key question. Which is the most important item for you, out and out acceleration / hill climbing ability / or price. If you are on a budget (£1200 or less) then you are now narrowed down to an aluminium entry level road bike - potential candidates that we see often on the road would be Giant Defy range, Specialised Allez or similar, or Genesis Volant. These will all be available at around £600- £900 and will feature good quality Shimano groupsets that will offer an entry into the world of roadbiking.
If however, you have more extravagant plans, then the world of Carbon, the material of choice for the whole of the Pro Peleton, is open to you. These frames can blend lightness, stiffness and comfort in incredible ways, defying traditional logic in certain instances (yes frames can be stiff in some areas and shock absorbing in others!)... So now it is a question of homing in on your frame of choice by reading, speaking with vendors, and checking size very very carefully. Clearly all the above discussions will become completely pointless if you end up with an incorrectly sized frame. Especially if you are about to embark upon an expensive purchase... get measured accurately... get a bike fit. For a small percentage of the price of the bike, you can ensure it works optimally for you, maximising your physiological and mechanical attributes.

Each type of frame will lean slightly further to one of the above qualities mentioned (price, stiffness, comfort, and weight)** ...
Me personally, being as I happened to have winter riding, and time trial riding sewn up, I was looking towards a machine that would help me on mountain / hill climb stages, ie a superstiff, superlight carbon machine. It probably is time to mention that another key factor in bike selection is the rider's personality. Traditionalist , leading edge early adopter of technology, easy going, ultra competitive, understated; whichever describes the rider, will also dictate the nature of the bike purchase. It just happens that I am painfully competitive, and hence I opted for a machine that was the closest I could manage to the wonder bike I ride last year in Mallorca; the beautiful Cannondale Supersix Evo. This machine had changed dramatically the complexion of my climb on Sa Calobra, allowing me to zip past a fleet of other riders all on the mountain that day.
The Ridley Helium is a stiff, fast and lightweight bike designed for climbing
My final choice, significantly influenced by a £500 extra special discount for last years model, was the Ridley Helium. At first sight it seems to be exactly what I was hoping, light, fast, zippy, and beautiful. Equipped with Ultegra, and Fulcrum F4 wheels and a dream frame, it gives a great ride on flat and undulating, but adds real sparkle to the hills, positively itching to be let loose on short sharp hits. I am happy again on the road, and I have another motivation to get out and train (to live up to the potential of my new wheels). And finally it seems my stable is complete. For the time being :-)

www.grandtourcycling.co.uk - Let your bike loose on the best roads in Europe...