Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Buying a new bike

One of the advantages of an old-fashioned bike shop over the big shed variety of bike supermarket that are springing up in Germany is that if you visit the shop at the right time the owner has time to talk to you and gives advice to help you rather than just improve his sales figures at any cost. I was very impressed last week when we wandered in to our local bike shop to say hello to the owner. I have been thinking about buying two new touring bikes, because I would like slightly faster bikes than the 20" wheel Dahon TRs we use at present.  I had already noticed that the ancient diamond framed Peugeot tourer I have used in the past seems to have grown and swinging my leg over the saddle, especially when the bike is carrying two panniers, is getting more difficult with the passing years. I think it is time I bought a step through unisex or ladies' bike, rather like our beloved Bromptons.

We checked out the bike brands on offer at our local bike shop on the internet and defined a number of parameters. We often follow sandy, unsealed tracks and we are not big on cleaning the bikes, so a hub gear is better idea than a derailleur. I have used a Mountain Drive on my Brompton for some years to extend the range on offer, but it does suffer from the disadvantage that changing gear from the lowest gear in the top range into the bottom means rapidly changing both gears. This can be difficult. Unfortunately we also need to climb hills, so the wider the range of gears the better. This points at a Rolhoff or an Alfine 11 hubgear. That seemed to be the problem solved: We needed two unisex/ladies' tourers with hubgears.

We arrived at the bike shop. It was a quiet afternoon. We looked around and discovered another problem: Aesthetics. I could quite fancy a bike from the Riese and Müller Avenue/Culture/Hommage range. Judith was not impressed. She does not like the design. We prefer to tour with both of us riding the same model. It makes for easier maintenance. So that was that. We will not buy those. Andreas, the shop owner, appeared and I explained the problem to him. He defined our choices: a mixte frame, a swan neck ladies' model (the bike not the lady) and a 'Y' frame.

  • Mixte frames, he suggested were almost tall enough so that it is easier to swing the leg over the saddle. In which case we could buy a diamond frame.
  • Swan neck ladies' models are a bit too much wicker basket and to quote George Orwell, 'Old maids bicycling to holy communion through the morning mist'. They were out.
  • We ended up agreeing the Y frame Campus Bike would be the one. (
Another problem then arose, weight. Not so much the weight of the bike when we are trying to pedal them, what about getting them on trains? Fortunately the Alfine 11 hub gear is not the heaviest hub gear made by Shimano, but as Andreas said we will need to make sure the other components are as light as possible. We are researching the weight at present.

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