spaceman came travelling

 

There are certain perks in having an addiction to bikes, chief amongst which is also the simplest.

1441436_10152198917554863_2044853909_nOn a crisp, clear Sunday morning you can hop on your bike, head into the hills with good friends and just while away the hours.

This happened. And it was good.

Excused from my usual weekend cake selling duties, I abandoned Karen at the market and with the bike on the roof of the car, I picked up Spanner Monkey and novice fat bike rider Sylwia along with her super-shiny, almost-never-been-ridden Salsa Mukluk and together we headed for Hollingworth Lake where we met up with Rich & Shona before setting off in search of adventure on t’ Pennine Bridleway.

As is often the way with such things, the deceptively flat trail began rising and rising and rising. Soon enough I was in the granny ring, grinding out the relentless climb as Sylwia suffered with her mahoosive tyres and Rich & Shona made an utter mockery of us both by storming up the hill on their single speeds like it was nothing at all.

1472910_10152198917169863_51681481_nThe fleet was certainly turning heads. I was riding my Surly Troll in its usual off-road setup with suspension fork and less than ideal tyres. Sylwia was tearing up the trail with her brand spangley new burnt orange Salsa Mukluk, Shona was rocking a beautiful titanium something-or-other with flat bars, hydraulic disc brakes and well, not a lot else. And Rich? Well, despite striking a rather camp pose, Rich had brought along a steel Jeff Jones Spaceframe & Truss fork.

Jeff Jones Spaceframe half fatSet up ‘half fat’, the Jones was running a 29″ wheel in the rear wrapped in (I think) a Surly Knard tyre and up front was a true fat bike wheel & tyre. The awesome stopping power was delivered by Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes and minimalist Paul brake levers. The drivetrain couldn’t have been simpler: one ring up front and one at the back with a chain inbetween. And the bars? Jones Loop Bars of course.

And then it happened. As a red faced Sylwia got her breath back and I cursed my lousy tyres, Rich came over and nicked my Troll. Git.

As I watched him pedal away, tyres hopelessly skidding in the deep slimy mud, I threw my leg over the Jones and pointed it towards the horizon.

It took me a while to get used to the relatively tall front end and what I thought was a bizarre saddle angle, but a few hundred metres later and I was settling in. Maybe it wasn’t the right size frame for me but I did find the whole thing a little bit short in the top tube and for my taste, I would’ve liked a couple less spacers under the stem. That said, the Loop Bars have never made more sense; on the Troll they still feel super wide but they fit the Jones perfectly. On a short road section I could even get down into the elusive beard-resting-on-the-bars aero position.

Jeff says: A Jones is a high-performance non-suspended bicycle. The ride is both efficient and comfortable and the handling is immediate and assured. With the default choice for off-road cycling nowadays seemingly suspension before anything else it might seem odd to ride rigid but that is the last thing my bicycles are – the geometry and construction provide an extremely satisfying and direct connection between the rider, the trail and the bike. It’s pure cycling and a lot of fun.”

I tend to agree. The bike felt responsive, sharp and direct but not harsh or jarring, even on the really rough stuff. The full effort my puny thigh muscles put into the pedals was instantly delivered to the rear wheel and, even with that gigantic tyre, the front end felt precise and controllable.

Before long and we turned onto a steep gravel climb. Once again Shona & Rich took off and monstered their way to the top as Sylwia and I took turns losing traction, losing balance, running out of strength and running out of talent.

I couldn’t tell you what the gear ratio was on the Jones but for me in that moment on that climb it was just that little bit too tall. Getting out of the saddle and giving it everything I had, I managed to lumber the bike up to speed and get enough momentum together to keep going until I hit the next patch of gravel or fell into the next rut or was forced to stop for breath. Eventually Sylwia gave up and started pushing but not before singing ‘The Final Countdown’ by Europe to me as I nommed half an emergency banana and gave it every little bit I had left to crest the hill.

Despite being so high, that was the low point.

After the climb came the flat. And with the flat came a narrow track on a ridge, mossy drystone wall to my left and jeebus-that’d-hurt-if-I-fell-down-it drop to my right.

“Don’t you have any proper mud tyres???” Rich complained from behind me as the Troll refused to grip anything. “I’ve got some mud tyres. I’ll give you the damn things if you promise never to lend me this bike with these tyres on again!!!”. Then, as some kind of sick punishment, I finished sniggering about the awesome mud-shedding ability of the tyres on the Jones and the front wheel snatched in a rut, throwing me and the bike towards the perilous drop.

Somehow, some way, the thick tufts of grass managed to catch the bike and break the worst of my fall. Clinging on for dear life and listening to Rich laughing at me I realised just how close I came to a really horrible accident.

Salsa Mukluk 2With that unpleasantness out of the way, we stopped for some emergency chocolate, a photo opportunity and some downright childish jumping over a mound of earth.

Seeing just how much fun Sylwia was having, I simply couldn’t resist taking her up on her offer to swap bikes. So, I handed over the Jones, watched Rich skid all over the trail and embarked on my first true fat bike ride ever.

Salsa Mukluk 1Obviously, it was a million sizes too small for me so I had to stay out of the saddle and just pedal like I was riding a kid’s BMX. In fact, that’s exactly what it felt like, the best, most fun BMX in the world. In fact, I yelled “THIS IS LIKE RIDING THE MOST FUN BMX IN THE WOR…”

…and then it happened.

Like finding a worm in your half eaten apple. Like realising there’s a spider creeping up your arm. Like a rodeo bull throwing a cowboy across the arena. For reasons that escape me, Sylwia’s Mukluk suddenly realised some big hairy guy was riding her and she threw me to the ground in spectacular style. Gracefully, the Mukluk executed a perfect landing next to me and just sat there laughing at my misfortune along with my so-called friends and the walkers on the trail.

Oddly enough, Sylwia came and rescued the Mukluk, Rich rescued the Jones and I was reunited with my Troll for the final stretch of the ride.

Bruised and battered, I gingerly made my way down the trail only to find Shona stopped and off her bike (this almost never happens); turns out the Mukluk had struck again and thrown Sylwia into some rocks. Luckily she escaped with only minor cuts and bruises but it was a healthy reminder of just how careful you need to be on unpredictable trails (no matter how big your tyres are).

We all struggled with the last section, even Rich had to put a foot down as the Jones sunk into a bog but we all made it safely back to Hollingworth Lake, heralded down the final super fast descent by Sylwia crowing like a demented cockerel. Bless.

You know when your face hurts from smiling and laughing so much? Yep, it was one of those days.

Jeff Jones Spaceframe half fat 2

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nothing else matters

 

I don’t think I’ve ever blogged about this before (although it will probably come as little surprise to regular readers) but I don’t place a lot of importance on acceptance; in fact, I have been known to shun it, favouring a simple, quiet life instead.

Having said that, and I think this is true for all cyclists, there is something quite special about the feeling you get when a fellow cyclist compliments you on your bike. When said fellow cyclist happens to work in (or even owns) a bike shop, the kudos steps up another level.

Many bike shops actually host organised rides every weekend (normally just for roadies) and, if you’re a member of the club and you ride the right bike and you can keep up, you can turn up and head out for a group ride.

I suppose being part of such a group ride means you have been accepted. You are part of the clan. You have been deemed worthy of wearing the colours. You are fast enough not to get dropped off the ‘peloton’. I suppose this also means you can no longer acknowledge other cyclists on the road because they are members of some rival clan or, shock horror, don’t belong to any clan.

I should say at this point I’ve never been part of one of these groups and I know some of you reading this either have been or currently are. It’s really not my intention to cause insult but the ones I’ve seen out on the road have always been arrogant, superior and often dangerous. I’m sure not all groups and certainly not all members are like this but that’s just my experience.

I’m reminded here of a fellow blogger who was recently told “We don’t crash” when he slipped on the ice…

Anyway, it will also come as no surprise to regular readers that I don’t frequent the kinds of shops that host group rides because, again, my experiences of the guys who work in them aren’t good.

I remember mooching all around Manchester when I first moved here, looking for a decent bike shop. I went to the likes of Evans Cycles, Harry Hall Cycles, Bicycle Boutique, Ridelow and the now sadly closed GBH Custom Hacks to mention but a few. Each of these caters to very different needs and I still pop into Ridelow and Bicycle Boutique from time to time but the others just don’t provide what I’m looking for in a bike shop.

And then, one day as I was mooching around on my lunch break, I saw a simple sign above a window saying “bike shop”. Posing unabashedly in another window was a Surly Moonlander. I climbed the stairs and was greeted with a line of bikes from the likes of Surly, Salsa, Soma, Civia (amongst others) and a cheerful “Hello!” from what turned out to be the owner.

From that moment on, whenever I’ve needed anything for any of my bikes, be it an emergency repair, a replacement brake cable, a complete frameset or just some advice, my first port of call has been the independently owned and rather excellent Keep Pedalling, Manchester.

Owned and run by Rich & Shona (two of the nicest people I’ve had the pleasure to meet in my lifetime) and home to Shop Mutt Olive (one of the cutest dogs I’ve had the pleasure to cuddle in my lifetime), you’re always guaranteed a friendly greeting, heaps of knowledgeable advice and only the finest bike porn. I also happen to know nothing comes out of the workshop without being checked over by at least 2 people; you can’t say fairer than that.

644084_10151452375969863_1347449314_nIf you tuned in for this week’s instalment of ‘Random stuff people were searching for when they landed here trivia!’, you’ll know I was forced (very much against my will) into the bike shop for a chat, a cuddle with the dog and a sneak preview of the Surly Krampus a few days ago. So, I popped in, I had a chat, I had a cuddle and then the Krampus appeared and basically stopped me completely in my tracks.

I’ve been following the progress of this bike for a while now and I’ve seen heaps of pictures and even a few videos online; the slightly unhinged guys over at Surly have been riding various early prototypes around in the US and generally making me green with envy. I think this is probably why I put on my very best puppy dog eyes (rivalling even Olive’s) and asked blatantly loaded questions like “What size is that frame?”, “You say you’re out riding with it on Sunday?”, “Where are you going riding?” and “What kind of cake do you guys like best?” (my girlfriend makes cakes, incidentally).

Being the lovely people they are and having a weakness for my girfriend’s apple & cinnamon cake as they do, Rich & Shona invited me along for a ride in t’ Pennines on t’ Sunday.

That. That, dear readers, is what I call acceptance.

I’m supposed to be moving house in a couple of weeks; I was supposed to be packing. I’m exhausted this week, I was supposed to be relaxing. I’m [allegedly] getting older and wiser, I’m not supposed to be hurtling around t’ hills on t’ mountain bikes.

Bah. I’ve never been one to conform and I’m not about to start now!

45866_10151454569499863_85699737_nSo, I stripped as much superflous weight as possible (racks, lights, mudguards etc.) from the Troll, fitted my Fox F100 suspension fork and jumped on the Rochdale canal towpath heading north which just happens to be part of NCN Route 66. A little over 10 miles later and I was rolling into Littleborough, heading for Hollingworth Lake and the Pennine Bridleway.

On an unseasonably warm February day, I sat in the sun eating a banana, watched a buzzard hunt and just enjoyed the peace and quiet. The peace and quiet which was shortly to be shattered by the unmistakable sound of tyres on gravel. Large tyres. Larger than normal tyres. 29 x 3″ tyres.

“Get yourself sized up then!” Rich said as he yoinked my Troll away.

Within seconds I was tearing up the trail on the Krampus, trying to make sense of the hugely wide bars and the surprisingly nimble ride. Sure, I nearly dropped it when I leaned into a corner too quickly but I was soon throwing it around like I’d been riding it for years.

574703_10151459004474863_662423197_nWe headed for the hills. I pointed the Krampus at gravel, wet rocks, hardpack dirt, deep wet mud, up-to-the-axles flooded sections and everything in between; with a mere 10psi in the Knards, it just rolled over and through absolutely everything, smoothing out every mistake my rusty mountain biking skills caused. Eventually, reluctantly, I gave it back and hopped back on my Troll.

Whilst the Krampus had been epic, making impossible climbs seem simple and fast descents an incredible experience, my Troll felt small, sketchy and my On One Midge bars seemed narrower than ever. What’s more, my already heavily worn brake pads were fast running out of what little friction material was left. On the penultimate descent, I pulled both brake levers and… nothing happened. Sensing my impending death, I had to throw the Troll head first into the wall just to stop it from running away with me. Somehow, I managed to mince my way safely up and down the one remaining climb and rode the remaining 15 miles, feathering what was left of my front brake until finally I reached the safety of home.

It was one of those rare days… Awesome bikes to ride, awesome weather bathing awesome scenery and awesome company to enjoy it with.

Perfect.

563530_10151458835669863_576432359_n

are we the waiting

 

If you’re anything like me, you really don’t need an excuse to go to the bike shop; I find myself in there at least once a week whether I actually need anything or not. Very often I find myself buying things I didn’t know I wanted or needed… Most often though, I just find myself hanging out with the guys who run the place, playing with Shop Mutt Olive and drooling over bikes I can neither afford or (if I could afford them) justify buying.

So, when I heard a lot of crazy talk about there being something a little bit rare and a little bit special in the shop… well, it was a no-brainer! I was going in!

Despite many, many gems such as the following, we’re going to skip this week’s ‘Random stuff people were searching for when they landed here trivia!’:

  • Bruising for Marzocchi
  • porno sportwomen
  • How do I shift gears on a Surly Troll?

Sigh.

482411_10151452376954863_1180841035_nSo, instead, let me tease you with this shot of one of Surly’s new Rabbit Hole rims wrapped in a 29 x 3″ Surly Knard tyre.

Now, as you may or may not know, such things are something or a rarity in the UK just at the minute as they’re normally only found attached to Surly’s new is-it-an-MTB-is-it-a-fat-bike 29er, the Krampus.

So, what’s a Knard doing in a small, independent bike shop in Manchester’s Northern Quarter? And, more importantly, what’s it attached to?

644084_10151452375969863_1347449314_nWell, dear reader, everything you’ve hoped for is true! There is indeed a Surly Krampus in my favourite bike shop! Don’t ask me how they got, but they got it, know what I mean? Luckily for me, it’s not for sale which, considering it’s the only one in the UK at the moment that we know of, probably means it wouldn’t come cheap!

I didn’t get to ride it but I did get a good look at it and I’ve gotta say, what a machine! 29″ wheels, 3″ wide tyres, a 1 x 10 drivetrain and disc brakes give it a really simple, clean look and probably all the gearing you’ll ever need. I suspect those tyres are going to be awesome off road and will give you enough confidence and suspension effect to ride over just about anything.

The paintwork is a kind of deep green metalflake which really isn’t Surly’s normal style but it isn’t in the least bit garish and I think it works perfectly with the bike.

Want.

I’m told framesets will be available over here a little later this year and full bikes next year (I think).

somebody that I used to know

 

If I had my way, I’d have a huge barn out in the countryside. Inside, I’d have a couple of old leather couches, an antique fridge full of excellent beer and one of those funky old jukeboxes with lots of chrome and big chunky buttons.

The walls would be adorned with old tin advertising plates and maybe even the odd picture of a scantily clad girl or two. In the corner, there would be my Park Tool workstand, a nice long wooden workbench and my beloved old Snap On tool chest with all my tools carefully organised into their respective drawers.

The rest of the barn would be laid out with row after row of bike stands, displaying all the bikes I’ve ever owned and, because I’m uber rich in my fantasy barn, I would’ve owned an awful lot more bikes by now than I actually have.

There’s just one minor snag… I’m not rich.

Harumph.

Oh well. For now, I’ll just have to do without the beer fridge and jukebox and settle for putting the couple of old advertising signs I have up in the Man Cave. On the plus side, I do own a beautiful old Snap On tool chest but I must confess it’s not nearly as carefully organised as it should be.

Now, as much as it pains me to admit that Karen’s always right… well, she is always right. In this particular instance, she’s been at me recently telling me I just can’t keep my entire collection of bikes; and so, the time has come to clear a few out which has got me all nostalgic about some of my favourite rides:

Way back when, I was the proud owner of a Raleigh Pioneer Trial hybrid which was my first ‘proper’ bike. With flat bars and bar ends, 700c wheels, 21 gears and an all steel frameset with plenty of rake on the fork (Tim will no doubt like this one), this remains one of my all time favourite bikes.

As I started doing more and more miles, I started learning about bikes and bike parts and my faithful old Raleigh was more than happy to go along with my experimentation. Here she is with American Classic wheels, Shimano Deore 27 speed drivetrain, the first of many Charge Spoon saddles I’ve owned and my friend’s Bumper Transporter twin wheel trailer in tow. Eventually, I ended selling the Raleigh to a nice Lithuanian guy who is hopefully still commuting around the Midlands on it.

Before long, I’d built up enough knowledge to have a go at building my own bike and, following a rather steep learning curve, I put together my first mountain bike with my first set of Halo Twin Rail tyres, disc brakes and Marzocchi suspension forks. Man, I loved that bike! And man, was I fat in this picture! I still have some of these parts knocking around but the frame ended up getting sold once I realised it was actually a couple of sizes too small for me (more of that learning curve business).

A short while and quite a lot of saving up later and I put together my beloved Graham Weigh cyclocross bike which taught me so much about road riding, touring and the importance of having the right gearing on your bike. Starting out life with Shimano Tiagra STIs (that’s the flappy paddle style brake / gear levers you see on many road bikes with drop bars – it stands for Shimano Total Integration, by the way), this bike went through various incarnations including aero bars, pannier racks and my introduction to bar end shifters. Here you see it in my favourite setup with full wrap mudguards and matching brown saddle and bar tape. Once I’d built the Troll, there just wasn’t any place for it anymore so again, the frameset got sold off but many of the parts are still knocking around in various boxes that Karen thinks are empty…

In preparation for moving to Manchester, I had to part with my mountain bike. This was another of my all time favourites; the keen eyed observers will recognise the Marzocchi forks and handlebars etc. from my previous MTB and the Race Face chainset from the current Troll build.

The most recent eBay casualty of my collection is my faithful of old Merida. Another much experimented upon bike, I’ve used drop, flat and even butterfly bars on this bike and it really broke my heart to sell it. But, taking the money off the guy certainly helped to numb the pain!

Anyway, with only the Troll in current active service, I am officially a one bike man again… *shudder*

the sign

 

A little over 2€ will buy you a bottle of Cava; a little over 1€ will buy you a bottle of wine. The island is all of about 20 miles long from one end to the other and, in that little space, they speak 3 different languages.

A departure from the norm today, dear reader. The Troll still isn’t finished (for a number of different reasons) so I thought I’d share a little of my much needed holiday in Menorca with you while we’re waiting for yet more parts to arrive…

As much as I’d have liked to, I didn’t take a bike with me (because it would’ve cost a fortune) and didn’t hire one when I was there (because they were all rubbish like these) so it was very much just Karen and I mooching around, enjoying the beautiful architecture, history, food and drink and wishing we’d learnt a little more Spanish than “Err… dos cervezas por favor”. Interestingly enough, by the way, Spanish isn’t the main language in Menorca; Catalan tends to reign supreme (particularly in the Catalan capital of Cuitadella) but Menorquian is also spoken almost everywhere. A good grasp of Spanish will get you by, however.

Now, a couple of myths need busting here:

1. “There’s really only one road on Menorca”

This is a lie. A dirty great big fat lie. Whilst there is the ‘Me-1’ which runs between the two rival capitals of Cuitadella and Mao, there are also many, many other small roads heading out to various slightly less well known but equally beautiful and fascinating little places.

The Me-1 is (mostly) a perfectly surfaced single carriageway carving its way through the wildflower scrubland with crash barriers, road signs and shops selling tat to passing tourists. As you head away from the main road, the lanes become narrower, the surfaces less well maintained and the maps… well, the maps become less useful. Eventually (and this after a good 3 or 4 miles), the roads give out all together and make way for ‘Cami de whatever‘ which translates extremely roughly to ‘Whatever footpath’; almost all of which are just rocky trails snaking through the hills, often criss-crossing the roads and by now, any map you may be carrying is purely for decorative purposes only.

2. “Everybody speaks really good English in Menorca”

This too is a dirty great lie. Now, I am ashamed to admit that I simply didn’t put enough effort into learning the local language for which I apologise; I think it’s incredibly rude to travel to a foreign country and not even attempt to learn the lingo and have a go at speaking it… By the end of the week, we’d managed to teach ourselves enough to get around and order things in shops and restaurants but I still feel bad about how many times I asked “Parla Anglais?”. Lo siento, Menorca.

In fact, with the exception of the girl in the ice cream parlour sandwiched between the ‘English Bar’ and the ‘Irish Pub’ opposite the ‘Chinese Restaurant’ in the awful, awful tourist trap that is Son Bou, most people spoke a maximum of a few words of English, if any. I actually quite liked that; it forced me out of my comfort zone and more than once was responsible for me ordering “Dos caffe con leche, s’il vous plait”.

* slow, sad headshake *

Anyway, I digress; this is supposed to be a cycling blog, after all. So, here’s a picture of a bicycle. I snapped this in a field whilst exploring the Cami de Middle-of-nowhere and it’s fairly typical of the kind of thing people ride in Menorca. Sure, the occasional shiny full suspension Specialized would pass me on a cami but most people ride around on rusty old frames with filthy drivetrains, poorly fitted mudguards and somewhere between 1 and 3 gears (if they were working at all).

Some people had even gone so far as to commit the serious offence of strapping a plastic crate to the pannier rack for carting around… well, I have no idea! What on earth do people cart around in plastic crates and, more importantly, how on earth do they keep it from falling out???

 

Despite the distinct lack of decent quality bikes, however, the island does seem to be surprisingly well set up for cycling; where they exist, cycle lanes on the roads are really wide and are generally quite separate from the main flow of traffic. Unlike those I find myself on all too often in the UK, Menorcian cycle lanes aren’t full of rubbish, collapsed drain covers or buses!

What’s more, the signs even seem to suggest the type of bike you need for whichever route you happen to be taking; Mao, it seems, is best explored by road bike whereas those wishing to travel to Es Mercadal will most certainly need a mountain bike:

 

 

 

 

Road users everywhere are warned about people riding cruisers… sage advice.

fire

 

A new feature for you this week; something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while now… Random bike porn!

I was out cycling with my girlfriend a few weeks ago when she remarked: “God, it’s just like girls’ arses!” to which I responded: “Eh?”. She was referring to the two mountain bikers we’d just passed coming in the opposite direction who slowed down just enough to take a good long look at my ride and hers just as I’d slowed down just enough to take a good long look at theirs.

Bike envy, we all have it.

I can’t walk anywhere without checking out whatever rolls past me or is chained to a lamppost or whatever and I’ve long thought about taking photographs of the good, bad, ugly and uber cool stuff I see out there. And so, to get us started, here are a couple of pics of some Electra cruiser types I saw up in Tynemouth this weekend whilst visiting a friend.

What you see here is a collection of bikes available for hire, all ready to be ridden up and down the seafront, looking all cool and sexy. Which, I suppose, is all well and good if you’re into that sort of thing. Incidentally, I am not.

You could be forgiven for being seduced by the swooping lines of the frame, the abundance of chrome plated shiny, the fat white wall tyres and the ridiculous handlebars with leather tassles. However, there is something I find unforgiveable about this bike and no, it isn’t the awful green paintjob.

The problem with these bikes is that, whilst they might look very cool, they are actually a bit rubbish. Made almost exclusively from leftover pig iron, these frames are obscenely heavy and with only 1 speed are actually not all that easy to ride. The enormous saddle and massively wide handlebars might make it feel like you’re sat on the couch but have you ever tried pedalling your couch up and down Tynemouth seafront? It’s not so much fun.

And the problems continue, I’m afraid; those brakes are just about the cheapest and nastiest you can get and, on the bike closest to us, the brake pads are set at a rather peculiar angle; I didn’t think much of it at first but now I look closer at the picture, that bike simply shouldn’t be on the road (or anywhere near it).

Take a look at that fork. Spot anything unusual? No? OK, now compare it to the exact same fork on the other green bike a couple of spaces down the rack… See it now? Yep, that fork is horribly bent which tells me that this bike has been involved in an equally horrible front end impact. Not only will that play all sorts of havoc with the handling of the bike but there’s also a very real chance of something letting go in spectacular fashion whilst some poor unfortunate soul is riding it resulting in some rather unpleasant face surfing which is neither cool or sexy.

Fear ye not though, dear reader; not all of these bikes are potential death traps. I was actually quite taken with these tandems, what with the flames painted on the mudguards and the tyres… Sure, they’re made from rubbish old parts, weigh a metric ton and are harder to ride than… well, something that’s particularly hard to ride, but if you’re looking for a slice of Southern California in Tyneside, you’d be hard pushed to find anything finer.

My plea to you is to get to know what’s dangerous… Check the thing over for any obvious signs of crash damage (compare the bike you’re looking at to the others if you’re not sure), beware of flat, worn or cracked tyres and make sure nothing is loose; the main offenders (and those most likely to cause injury) are handlebars, saddles, pedals and wheels. Ask the people in the shop to fix it and, if they can’t or won’t, WALK AWAY.

Considering actually purchasing a cruiser? Well, I can’t stop you… but they are just not practical. I don’t care if Miley Cyrus rides one; in fact, doesn’t that make them worse?

Check out my girlfriend’s bike here; it started out life just like any other Specialized Globe Sport but with the addition of some cruiser type handlebars (alloy, not steel), some nice comfortable grips, longer brake levers and the all important wicker basket and you’ve got yourself a proper headturner.  What’s more, this little beauty came in at about £350, is nice and light, has 24 gears and a carbon fibre fork!

Check out my tips about choosing the right handlebar, get some advice from your local friendly bike shop and I guarantee you can get something which is not only cool looking but also very capable and surprisingly cheap.

Oh, by the way, Tynemouth seafront happens to form part of the C2C (sea to sea) cycle route; more on that in a later post but (having ridden part of it by accident) it’s certainly on my list.

EDIT:

The owner of the shop that rents the bikes I took pictures of and commented on in this post has since been in touch and he informs me the bike with the damaged fork was simply being stored alongside the others whilst awaiting repairs and would not be rented out to anyone in its damaged state. In addition, he assures me that all of the bikes were fitted with quality brakes, weren’t overly heavy, some had more than one gear and the frames were made of quality materials.

The things I write in this blog are purely my own opinions and experiences are are not meant to cause offence.