Being part of Sustrans I have been regularly riding parts of our national routes. As much of this is off-road it could be uncomfortable using my cycle which is a 20+ old racing bike. Off-road in this case meaning off the roads, using cycle ways and mixed routes, rather than MTB style off-road. Some of these paths are quite gravelly and can be muddy, all conditions not best suited to my bike with its thin road wheels and drop handlebars. Indeed my bike is so old that it has the gear changes on the down tube, not on the brakes/handlebars. Finally on one ride the gears jammed yet again, so the walk home made me start thinking of a replacement
Having not bought a bike for years it’s a bit of shock how much they are. Fortunately for me our company is one of those that have a cycle scheme. There are different versions of the scheme, but all allow you to request a certificate via your employer, that you then take to the cycle shop to exchange for your cycle and equipment. You can add necessary cycle gear like helmets, racks, etc. You then pay for this monthly, deducted from your salary, so saving you having one big outlay at the start. You also save as you pay this off over 12 months deducted directly from your salary, saving tax and NI, so that you end up paying less for the bike than you would if you bought it for cash. Schemes differ but mine gave me a choice of all the major cycle shops, and worked quickly and well, from joining the scheme to collecting the bike and riding away all within a month.
The hard bit is choosing the bike. I wanted a flat handlebar one as its easier to ride than my racing style one, as well as more comfortable for the kind of riding I was doing. In my cycle enthusiast day the bikes were 5 and 10 speed, with two chain rings. Now they are all multi chain sets with a huge range of gears. After riding some I found these were mostly redundant gears that force you to change quickly from one to the other. It must be a fashion thing, or easier to just mass produce, as I’m pretty sure we don’t really need 27 gears to get from where we are to where we are going. In the end I settled on a hybrid cycle from Giant, as it was comfortable and easy to handle. Once I started to ask them to add mudguards and a cycle rack they asked if I wanted to order the ready prepared version, the escape city, which comes with this and a stand. I didn’t really want a stand but they can be easily removed so ordered that one. I also added some panniers, as its far easier to commute with a set of removable panniers, than slog around with a rucksack, which is what I tended to do.
Having had the new bike for a few weeks I’m still just getting used to it. It’s a lot more comfortable on the off-road bits and really handy with a set of new panniers. In the old days panniers were either thin nylon bags or heavy voluminous cotton carts, these new ones are smart, trendy, come with lots of easy open pockets and bags and a cover and carrying strap. Great stuff. Now all I have to do is go cycling and with the better weather forecast that is looking a possibility.