There’s an old adage that in life, you get what you pay for. Us cycling enthusiasts know that better than most. It only takes a couple of major breakdowns due to poor quality parts for you to realise that it’s always worth paying for quality.
But while planning and purchasing equipment for a major upcoming bike trip, this lesson has been hammered home in even more emphatic fashion.
Around this time last year, I set off from Brno in the Czech Republic on a cycling trip heading down to Vienna to join the mighty Danube. Following its course, I made it as far as the Romanian border before time constraints forced me to turn back.
And along the way I learned a thing or two about panniers:
Long gone are the days of the old torpedo-style bike lights working off a dynamo (apart from the odd retro hipster type you see on their rusting old Dutch bikes). In one way it’s a shame because try buying cheap bike lights and you’ll soon find massess of brittle plastic and boring designs.
Those old chrome lights did have a lot of charm. The charm usually lasted about three weeks before the rust set in.
Then there was the fact the light they cast was about as bright as the combined casts of TOWIE and Made in Chelsea. And if it rained, you could forget all about it working at all.
So, what is there that will light your way and fit in your pocket without emptying your wallet? Hello Knog Frog Strobe, time you got reviewed!
With a little over a month of the Evolving Cyclist Project gone there’s been much learned, lots eaten, no weight lost but a great start made. Last month I made a plan: Ignore training plans – and so far it’s worked well! For March, I decided all I needed to do was get out more, get the miles going and enjoy every minute.
It’s an approach I’d strongly recommend to anyone buying a road bike or starting to take their cycling more seriously.
But at some point if you’re aiming to get fit, you’ve got to get on it and get riding further and faster – and that’s what’s happening this month.
So here’s 10 things I’ve learned that should help cyclists who are thinking about buying their first road bike.
If you are out buying bike lights you’ll soon spot Knog products. Having reviewed the Knog Blinder, I’d liken a pair of Knog lights to a Mac: A PC might be cheaper and do the job just as well, but you’ll want to own the Mac.
So far, design and innovation have set Knog apart in a field of very ‘samey’ bike lights. Out went cheap plastic clips; in came gummi bear silicone wraparounds.
Earlier products have inspired, yet the company’s new Blinder is still a rare sight – and may remain so if its styling is not to cyclists’ liking.
A lighter bike climbs better as you don’t have as much of it to drag up a hill. But if you’re deciding between buying a road bike or a hybrid, beware: road bikes can hurt you on the hills.
Why? Because you can wave goodbye to low gears, and say hello to burning thighs.
Hybrid bikes are fantastic do-it-all rides: Strong, comfortable and adaptable they are often spec’ed out with mountain bike gearing. Switch to a road bike you swap low gears for high and wave bye, bye to the beloved Megarange that served you so well.
So what does this mean in real terms? And what can you do when you’re buying a road bike to pick one that’ll give you a chance on those climbs?
There’s no easy way to say this, but riding a Carrera Virago for the first time was far from a happy experience. On regular commuter roads it was skittish, and after just 15 minutes I was feeling every divot and granule of road gravel through my wrists. And I nearly crashed it!
Reaching to squeeze the brakes, I couldn’t get them to bite and ended up in the back wheel of a scooter. Upshifts to the big ring took too long and I couldn’t tell if I’d gone up or down a gear on the range at the rear.
Well, the issues weren’t with the bike, but with me. Going from a comfy hybrid to a £1,000 carbon fibre road bike is not straightforward, and I just needed to get the bike set up properly and revise my riding.
My wife got me into cycling. Just over 5 years ago I sold my car and have rarely missed it. Living in a city it makes so much sense to cycle – and riding safely in traffic is rewarding, despite the dangers.
But why take the step up into road cycling? What’s it all about? And is it true you’re better off going on a diet than spending lots of money on a lighter road bike?
With 6/7 months of training ahead, I thought the only way to get The Evolving Cyclist Project started was with a good old-fashioned weigh-in.
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