16 December 2006

My bikes

I got my 1st bike from the tip. I went to sling some garden debris and there it was, propped up against the wall.

I had been thinking about getting a 2nd hand bike, one I could leave outside the tram station without feeling I risked a cherished asset. One I could keep out in the patio overnight, rusting away.

This bike met all the criteria. It was rusty indeed, but looked otherwise OK - brakepads needed changing, sure, but everything else was in place. It was a cheap mountain bike with nobbly tyres and all. I took it home, cleaned it, oiled it, bought new pads and a lock. I started riding it to the tram station. The first day, the leather of the saddle was ripped off - and left by the side, just for fun. I didn't bother then with a new saddle - just put an Asda bag over the exposed foam of the seat. The 10' journey to/from the tram didn't seem worth the bother. When, in June 2005, I started cycling to work, I bought a new saddle.

At work, I had the option of leaving the bike in the building yard... but believe it or not, to save myself a 50-yard walk, I chose to leave it out on Whitworth Street. I was convinced that nobody would want to nick my rusty old bike.

Wrong. One night, only two weeks into my new life, I found they had taken... the rear wheel. I should have known. When I tried to find a 2nd hand rear wheel, I discovered that it was all a lot more complicated than I had ever thought. And expensive. So, old bike went back to tip, and I went to eBay to look for another cheap, expendable bike.

What I found was advertised as a hybrid - but turned out to be a mongrel of a bike. On a sunny July evening, I paid £46 cash to a taciturn, almost unfriendly bloke somewhere in the middle of the Cheshire countryside. He seemed to earn a living out of eBay, if ever anyone did - his patio and garage were full of stuff (I later checked and he had 400+ items on sale on eBay at that time - shame I didn't keep the details!). The bike was just big enough for me, blue with a purple handlebar that seemed slightly out of place. It had 10 gears, needed new brakes (again!) and new tyres - which I was slow to get, to my cost.

Things were OK during the summer, but in the rather wet autumn of 2005 things began to go wrong. Nothing that would have been beyond repair, but psychologically I began to lose confidence in my bike. One snowy evening in February 2006 my front tyre blew up, loudly. I had pumped up the tyre in the morning, and the old thing had given up, the inner tube eventually pushing its way out of the rim. I was left to chain the bike and, in the coldest night of the year, wait for the bus in defeat. But I still tried to give it a go. In the end, it was the rear wheel that did it. It seemed always to be off centre - eventually I realised it was slightly bent, and it just got worse. I gave up.

Disillusioned with my ability to get a decent bike 2nd hand off eBay, I resolved to take a loan from my employer (interest free, 1 year payback!) to buy a new bike. I cleared enough stuff from the garden shed to ensure I'd be able to store the bike. Then I went out looking.

What I got is a Dawes Tourismo 20Four . I bought it from the Biking Factory Shop in Prestwich (424, Bury New Rd). It's a cheaper hybrid/commuting bike. It sells on some websites for £160, I paid £136 incl. the rack. It's comfortable, though initially the gears were prone to jam and on one occasion the derailer, as a result of a jam, got entagled into the spokes of the rear wheel and caused severe damage. The chap in the shop dealt with it satisfactorily and at no cost to me, and I have not had any problems since (but I wonder if this is because I now keep to a reduced, 'safe' range of gears, which is probably no good for my knees in the long run).

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