Sunday, 24 February 2008

Quest for a commuter bike.

About a year ago I bought a Trek hard-tail mountain bike. The main purpose of this bike was to commute from home to the office. Why a mountain bike? Well, about 2/3rd of the distance is a dirt toe-path along the side of the union canal between Falkirk and Castlecary, with the rest being road. I also had the notion of trying the old mountain biking malarkey every now and again.

Unfortunately, reality did not match my ambitions and over the course of the year I’ve probably made the trip on the bike less than 10 times. There are several reasons for this (other than the overriding one, which is sheer bloody laziness), with the main one being that I don’t really like the mountain bike as much as I thought I would. Compared to my Trek 2000 road bike, it’s a tank. It’s a good bike, but on the road, it feels slow and the riding position awkward. On the toe-path, the ride feels bouncy. The funny thing is that I fully expected the riding position to be more comfortable than the road bike, not less. I also didn’t much like the handle bars: the grips seemed to far apart, and whereas on the road bike (with drop bars) you can move your hands around to various positions, with the mountain bike there was no possibility to move around like this.

So, in typical John fashion, I went out today any bought another bike to do the same job. You see, to my thinking, I needed a road bike that could stand a bit of abuse. I thought about getting a hybrid, it being closer to a racer than the mountain bike. But all the hybrids I looked at had straight handlebars like the mountain bike, seemed heavy and all together seemed somewhat upright and tame.

I was stuck, and because it’s winter, I didn’t really care. Until a week ago, that is. So what happened a week ago? I was reading a cycling magazine, that’s what, and in it was an article about a mad cycling variant called Cyclo-Cross (picture idiots covered in mud, riding, (or carrying) what is essentially a road bike through fields and forests) and there it was, the perfect bike for my purposes. A tough road bike with wider tyres (but not mountain bike wide), drop bars, more sensible gearing for the commute than an out an out speed machine, and a riding position which is pretty close to the road bike, but not so aggressive.

Well, the light went one last week, and as is typical with me, I own one this week. Today I bought a Pinnacle Expede 2007 Cyclo-Cross (the bottom picture is of the 2008, but looks the same to me...other than the colour) I swapped the knobbly tyres for a pair of Schwalbe Marathon Plus's (which are smoother and more puncture resistant) and added lights.

I had a wee go on it when I got it home this aftenoon and I must say I’m quite excited about it. The ride position is comfortable, it roles along very nicely, just like a road bike should, and the gearing is more suited to a commuter pace, so it should be comfortable on the road and the toe-path.

But, and it's a big but, none of this means squat if I don't use it for the purpose it is meant. So barring meeting I can't re-arrange, illness and severe weather, I’m committing to 2 commutes per week,and more once the weather improves. It so happens that this week I need the car 4 days out of 5 (sigh), but with a wee it of juggling I should be able to manage Monday and Thursday, or Wednesday and Thursday. We'll see.

Todays weight, 17 : 0.6 (238.6 lb)

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