Buying a new bike is always an adventure and a joy.
No matter whether you are spending £200 or £4000 on a new bike and you are a cycling enthusiast, you will probably invest as much time researching, comparing and selecting the best bike you can get for the money you are spending. You will aim to squeeze the absolute best value possible and get the best bike for the buck that you can. Perhaps even more if you budget is tight, because we all know the Velominati is right:
// It’s all about the bike.
It is, absolutely, without question, unequivocally, about the bike. Anyone who says otherwise is obviously a twatwaffle.
Talk to the sales person about your riding style.
So what do you do?
You talk to friends, club mates, read the latest product reviews, match this up to your preferred bike kit, are you a Shimano, Campagnolo SRAM fan or do you want to emulate your favourite pro (to be honest the last is never a good buying decision). Do you have a favourite brand or is there a dream bike, your Porsche, Ferrari or Aston Martin out there. We can all dream and dreams cost nothing.
But bringing things back down to earth, sadly we are all limited by the amount we can afford. Yes the there are ways to stretch your budget and make your money go further, bike to work schemes being a prime example, helped in many cases by a store that is willing to allow you to put more money in at the start so you can get closer to your Holy Grail.
Now the rub is where do you shop and to be honest this is the core of this article. The biggest question out there is where is the best place to buy a new bike?
Perhaps the easiest way to answer this question is to share my most recent bike buying experience and mingle that in with over 30 years bike component and full bike buying experiences. Obviously when I started buying parts and bikes the internet and world wide web did not exist so the driver was what your friends rode and what the local bike shop had in stock or could order. In fact Shimano had not even entered the market in the UK, gosh can you imagine a time BS (that’s Before Shimano!) but the abbreviation has got me thinking!
Back in the day when steel was king and the choice was between Reynolds or Columbus tubing, the dream bike had to be hand built and had to have the most intricate lug work, hand crafted from standard castings. For me, my Ferrari was a hand crafted, red, Colnago with full Campagnolo Record groupset and handbuilt wheels with Mavic rims, who knows maybe one day!
To get close to your dream you had to visit your Local Bike Shop (LBS) search through their brochures of Peugeots, MBK, Raleigh and Vindec to find something that might just allow you to live the dream at your price point. But in your heart of hearts you knew it was going to be a Ford Escort L and not a Ferrari Dino.
Today however the story is very different. Every bike company has a website and the number of bike supermarkets has gone through the roof, offering last years models at amazing discounts and in some cases very attractive deals on the latest models. But where do you go to get the biggest bang for you bucks and the best advice?
I can hear you screaming online! online! buy online! or one of the big stores. Maybe you are right, but I urge you to read on and remember the motto ‘buyer beware’.
I would be lying if I said I did not use the internet and the world wide web, I do and I gain a lot of useful information using this method. I have a lot of bike and product knowledge stored away too. I have a very good BS (no not Before Shimano) filter to sift out the marketing hype from the real facts. I should know I used to walk the talk when I was in technical products sales and marketing!
My most recent buying experience was very illuminating and really backs up my gut instinct for where you should also go to get your best advice and bike deal. Actually its not really a gut instinct but rather a rule.
The Velominati has it in a nutshell:
// Support your local bike shop.
Never buy bikes, parts or accessories online. Going into your local shop, asking myriad inane questions, tying up the staff’s time, then going online to buy is akin to sleeping with your best friend’s wife, then having a beer with him after. If you do purchase parts online, be prepared to mount and maintain them yourself. If you enter a shop with parts you have bought online and expect them to fit them, be prepared to be told to see your online seller for fitting and warranty help.
Perhaps rule 58 is a little harsh but the sentiment is true, but what is your Local Bike Shop? Halfords, Evans and Decathlon are all on my doorstep, are these my Local Bike Shop or are they bike super markets, we all know how well Tesco’s et al are doing at the moment! For me a LBS is the shop that is an independent one, run by enthusiasts for enthusiasts and potential enthusiasts. It’s the place where you can get great advice, irrespective of whether you are buying a bike for your 5 year old or spending £4000 on yourself. It’s staffed by knowledgeable people, who never look down their noses at you and have ‘the customer is king’ tattooed on their brain.
I was in the market for a new CX bike so I thought I would do a little bit of undercover research as a secret shopper, ‘the name’s Bond James Bond!‘. The first port of call was the world wide web to research the brand and model I would go for (but that’s for another time). After a lot of looking I decided to go for a Cannonade Super X, now to find a supplier.
My choice obviously ruled out some of the big players, gone was Decathlon and Halfords. To be fair to both of these companies they do, in general, have some good bikes on offer. Decathlon brands get some good write ups for value for money and my experience of the in store staff has always been pretty positive, both in the UK and France. Halfords also have some good product range now, Boardman and Cinelli, but from feedback from others you would need to know what you want and be prepared to rebuild post purchase to ensure all was safely put together. It did leave Leisure Lakes and Evans in the frame, both of whom have stores close to where I live.
Leisure Lakes has been a good store for me in the past. The founders having a great vision for the enthusiast, with good product range. But as the market developed into cycle to work bikes, they seem to have reduced the range available and targeted the ride to work buyers, which is great for core business but has left the specialist side behind a little. So I thought I’d give Evans a go.
A well stocked, knowledgeable Local Bike Shop is a great place to shop.
I took a few key measurements off my current CX and road bike and armed with these and my height and inside leg, off I went to the local Evans store at the Trafford Centre. I knew what I was after apart from sizing, on which I need some advice, so what could be easier. Oh how wrong can one be!
The shop was fairly busy but not to the level where sales staff would be overwhelmed with work. I took a quick look round to see if they had what I was after in store (was not really expecting they would), the only CX bikes they had where own brand and all below the magic £1000 bike to work price point. Never mind I can always ask them to order in a bike for me to have a look at.
It took me a while but I eventually tracked down a sales person. Quick chat and asked to have some guidance about the Cannonade. “Yes sir what would you like Small, Medium or Large?” a very interesting question I thought, considering the frames are sized in cm from 44cm to 58 cm. This was not inspiring confidence in me. I pointed out to the sales guy that the bikes are sized in cm and to be fair, he said he was not sure about sizing. He said he would look on the Evans system, oh but wait there’s no information. ‘Sorry I can’t help’ came the reply. What you have a customer in front of you who is probably going to spend at least £1500 and you can’t help?!!
Trying to help things along I suggested he look at the bike company website for details of the product. To be fair the the sales guy he did exactly that, not that it really helped as it was clear by now he was well out of his depth. My desire to support the super market round the corner was waning and waning fast.
After a bit of discussion and a review of my road bike sizing we plumped for a 54cm frame. I was a little uneasy as I was really not sure this was the best way to go. But I parted with my £50 refundable deposit (not that he told me that) to bring a bike to the store for testing. Away I went looking forward to getting the call to come in and try to bike for size.
If I said all was well with the world when I left the store I would be a bit like a politician telling you that all is well with the world and you will be much better off after the next budget. I was stewing over the whole experience and after an hour or so at home, cooling off time (rather bubbling and boiling time) I decided to change my mind and cancel the order and, at the same time, vent my frustration about the poor level of service.
To be fair to Evans they refunded the money very quickly and within days a store manager was on the phone to discuss the issue, offering nearly the world for me to come back as a customer. Did you know they had a full bike fitting service? Well that was news to me, no body mentioned that and it is not even mentioned on their website. Hmm do they really have a full on bike fitting service. I really feel that although they may dress themselves up as an amazing bike store and that they are a LBS I’m sorry your not, you are just another Halfords but at least Halfords do not try to be anything better!
Its good to talk to someone who knows.
So back to the drawing board, where was I going to buy from, I needed a truly independent shop, that had the product I was after and had some top flight levels of service. After a bit more research I found Bikechain Ricci in Redruth Cornwall. What a different experience with Richard Pascoe and staff. A quick call with Ricci and it was clear he and his staff are passionate about bikes and that they know their stuff. I sent Ricci my current bike measurements and my key body measurement. He was back within a day with the advice that for the CX I should really be riding a size down from my road bike. This would allow me to move my weight around the bike more easily to deal with a range of surfaces and terrain. This all made perfect sense and matched with the additional research I had done since my Evans experience. Ricci’s product knowledge and riding experience really shone through the whole process, so their it was decision made, deposit paid and estimated delivery date provided, mid November (a bit disappointing but never mind it will be worth the wait).
Time to sit back and reflect on the whole process. I think an online review of Evans I have just found whilst writing this maybe sums up the experience better then I can “Evans cycles – the McDonalds of bicycles?” (http://road.cc/content/forum/92017-evans-cycles-macdonalds-bicycles) I am not sure I would call them the McDonalds but they are a bike supermarket with supermarket service. If its in stock and cheap great, otherwise give them a wide birth.
For me it has to be a local independent bike shop, yes I know Bikechain Ricci is not on my doorstep, but the point is they gave service above and beyond. No other local store to me could provide the product I wanted. Over the phone the guys at Bikechain went the extra mile, talked, listened and discussed needs and really knew their product. That really is what counts and that only comes with passion and experience. I have always had excellent service from the smaller independent guys over the years and sadly a few no longer exist as they get swamped by the big chains.
Stop shopping at the big chains and get yourself down to the local bike shop and talk to them, you might just find you get much better advice and if they can they will give you a bigger bang for your bucks.
If you are looking for an excellent local bike shop I can recommend the following, all based on excellent personal experience.
Bikechain Ricci Redruth Cornwall
Eddie McGrath Cycles Urmston, Manchester
Geoff Smith Bolton
Wallis Cycles Higher Walton, Lancs
Broadgate Cycles Penwortham, Preston
Cycles Laurent Avrilla Sion sur L’Ocean Vendee France
M Steels Gosforth Tyne and Wear
Cookson Cycles Whitefield, Manchester
Explore the World, One Ride at a Time
Cycling around the world is a feat that many cyclists aspire to, but the time that such challenges require away from work and family make them impossible for most ordinary riders.
Ride25 is changing all that with a new flexible approach which allows riders to complete a round the world trip in 25 stages, completed months apart, one tour at a time. Individuals, groups, charities and companies are all invited to take part in however many stages they like, starting wherever they please, whether that be one stage through continental Europe or all 25 from the UK to Australia.
The concept has been set up by Rob Hamilton and John Readman – friends, cyclists and travel enthusiasts. The idea came after Hamilton organised a UK to Australia ride for the African children’s charity 1morechild. He experienced an incredible response to it, which sparked a curiosity between the pair as to how many more people would want to ride across the world if the challenge was made more accessible and flexible for them – the idea for Ride 25 was born.
“Ride25 is all about ordinary people who love to ride, being able to see the world from their bikes, and not having to put their life on hold to do it,”
All the legs have been carefully planned to accommodate seasoned riders through to new starters taking on their first very first cycling challenge, with support along the way for everyone. Every tour along the way comprises 4 days’ cycling, with each day involving between 70-100 miles in the saddle.
However – Ride25 isn’t just about cycling, it’s about the whole travelling adventure. Hamilton and Readman have handpicked the routes to take in the most interesting
landscapes, sights and experiences across every country that Ride25 travels – it might not always make for the shortest routes from A to B, but they’re certainly the most exciting.
After each day’s sight-seeing in the saddle, there’s a relaxing environment at every base hotel to share the day’s experiences over a few drinks and an evening meal. It’s not a contest or a training camp, so riders can enjoy themselves – so much so that Ride25 even buys every rider’s first drink at the end of each day’s riding.
While all entrants are invited to use Ride25 as a platform to fundraise for charities close to their hearts, unlike many extreme cycling challenges, there’s no obligation to do so in order to take part – it’s all just about having fun.
Ride25 is donating a bike to an African community for every person that takes part in one of the 25 stages, through its corporate charity partner Re-Cycle, and the brand also raises up to £100,000 each year for the African children’s charity 1moreChild.
Women’s Road Series | Cheshire Classic ©CyclingShorts / www.chrismaher.co.uk
The Women’s Tour hits Britain for the first time this week, with some of the best international female riders racing for the first time in the UK since the 2012 Olympic Games.
There has been a large amount of media coverage in relation to this and for good reason.
However, anybody who believes that women’s domestic cycling has made a huge move forwards in the UK is sadly mistaken. Yes, there is a Women’s Tour, which offers parity on prize money and conditions with that of the Tour of Britain, but the reality is that, for the moment at least, any woman who races on the UK domestic scene and is not part of the Great Britain performance programme (which is a track-based programme), is highly unlikely to get the opportunity to ride in the likes of the Women’s Tour and La Course by the TDF.
Ultimately, women’s cycling in the UK is still a side show, an afterthought. Despite Brian Cookson setting up a women’s commission at the UCI, there is no such thing within the UK. Whilst some of the greatest female cyclists are arriving in the UK to take part in the inaugural Women’s Tour, the women who race on the domestic scene will quite often find themselves being put with the novice fourth category men, which is an experience that is unlikely to entice the women to come back the following week! There are a few committed people in the cycling scene who disproportionately hard to be inclusive towards women’s participation, however, these are few and far between, and lack key support.
Women’s Road Series | Cheshire Classic ©CyclingShorts / www.chrismaher.co.uk
Nobody can deny that the Breeze programme has been a success in so far as it encourages more women to ride bikes. But the Breeze programme is based on participation, not competition, and there is no real pathway to bridge between the two. The strategy as far as competition is concerned is practically non-existent, despite the numbers that British Cycling quote in relation to the increase in licences. Ultimately, women’s competitive cycling in the UK on the domestic scene is an amateur sport, which means that it is run by volunteers. There is no money for “competition” because despite what you read (which can seem like propaganda quite honestly), cycling is run by men ergo the sport will always be seen from a male perspective.
So, what is the way forward?
Well, it is true, there has been progress in the last 12 months, with many more road racing opportunities for women, but these forward-thinking organisers need our help and support. Domestic events are all run by volunteers and everybody who wants to race (whether they are male or female) has to understand that it costs money to put a race on – if a race can’t at a minimum break even, then why should an organiser make a loss?
One problem with the circuit races that seem to be prolific in the UK for women is that they cost very little to run – there is a levy per entry (approximately £4 per rider) and then you have the hire of the circuit (usually between £50 and £150 depending on how long you need the circuit for) and the expenses of the commissaires for attending (usually two at closed circuit) and the first aider, but nothing much besides. This means that you can have five riders in an event and potentially break even.
Road racing, on the other hand, can be expensive – not only do you have the levy per rider, but you then also have first aid, National Escort Group (motorbike marshals), petrol money for all officials who use their cars, for the lead car and neutral service (the cost of which increases the longer the race), as well as the hire of the headquarters. Before you know it, the cost of putting on an event is at £350 and that’s before you add in prize money. So that means that you need at least 25 to 30 riders before you even start to break even.
Women’s Road Series | Cheshire Classic ©CyclingShorts / www.chrismaher.co.uk
So please, ladies, if you want to have road races in your region, please give the organisers the support they deserve and enter in advance as often as you can afford to and don’t rely on the ability to turn up and enter on the day (the latter will hopefully become more difficult as racing gets more popular and races fill up in advance). There have been far too many races this season that have been cancelled or nearly cancelled due to lack of rider entries – you need to take some responsibility and enter in advance – our sport is run by volunteers who cannot afford to make a loss, so please enter in good time!
My final point reverts back to the fact that competitive cycling is run, for the most part, by men. Until such time that women start to volunteer in larger numbers, whether that be as race officials or race organisers, and start to make their voices heard by taking their place on the Regional British Cycling Boards, there will be no significant changes. I appreciate that for most people, offering to organise a race or becoming an official can be a daunting task, and I will have more news in the coming weeks for people who want to do just that.
Ultimately, women’s cycling is becoming more popular, we just need to ensure that it continues to grow in the correct way on a domestic level.