. Honestly, it’s life changing is a regular series where we talk about the weird and wonderful possessions we can’t imagine life without. Think of it as an ode to the mundane, bizarre and, sometimes, wholly unnecessary products in our lives.
I’ve never really liked people with Fancy Bikes™. The sort of bloke (almost always a ‘bloke’) who will spend his weekend ignoring his kids and squeezing into one-size-too-small lycra to pelt around country lanes on a £5k road bike.
The ignoring the kids bit, I’ve got down to a tee. The lycra remains hugely undignified (and therefore unworn). But the main difference between myself and these MAMILS is that my own bike remains a workhorse, bought from the sort of retail chain that makes the cycling purists fall off their fixies.
But it gets me there. Eventually. The ride to work and back is my only exercise, so it seems fitting to not make it too easy, to ride a bike that makes the legs work. The chain and gears squeak, the frame creaks when I go uphill and when I flick the gears the bike seems to think its a negotiation rather than an instruction. But it’s fine. This is how cycling should be, I tell myself. Above all, I’m not a man for a Fancy Bike™.
At least I wasn’t. But I have been tempted from my path of self-righteousness.
For the past month I’ve been trialling a Canyon fitness bike on loan. It’s a hybrid between an off-road bike (for a robust approach to London’s potholes) and a road bike (for a robust approach to overtaking its buses). And it can be pricey at up to £2,700 for the top of the range version, but the lowest spec is a ‘mere’ £680, and it’s actually pretty good.
And, I am ashamed to say, it has been transformational.
For one thing, it’s light. You can lift it with one finger, which I now use as a unit of bike measurement. It’s a one-finger, carbon fibre frame. My own bike was made out of melted down battleships. The seat is high and the handlebars low, which means that, from some angles, I look like I know what I’m doing.
It’s smooth and it’s quick – ‘I-might-download-Strava’ quick. It takes at least ten minutes off a 50 minute commute. I overtake people who wear lyrca. I have even overtaken people who wear lycra while riding uphill. And I expend less effort doing so. Now, perversely, this may mean that I get less fit from riding the commute, but it also means I have used the bike to ride for fun. For the sheer pleasure of going somewhere nice and doing so pretty quickly and easily.
It’s not perfect, the back wheel makes a ‘this is a proper bike’ loud noise when you’re freewheeling as if to say, ‘put some effort in’, and its sheer fanciness makes me worry when I lock it up somewhere public. The joy of a prosaic bike is that no-one will nick it.
But it’s changed me. It’s changed the way I look at riding, and it’s changed the way I ride. It’s more of a joy, less of a chore and that gives me a real problem. I have to give this back. Going back to Old Faithful will be like going back to a Penny Farthing. So what will I do when I have to give it back?