My bike fit was undertaken at the Cyclefit studio at Pearson Cycles, 232 Upper Richmond Road West, London SW14 8AG. For more information visit their website.
The Man-Machine: one half is a complex mechanism of joints and moving parts, the other is a bicycle. One is endlessly adjustable and adaptable, the other is a cyclist. The ideal is a perfect union of the two separate entities, working in harmony and efficiency – except the reality is usually much different, involving wonky knees, sore backs, and cricked necks.
I’ve come to the new Cyclefit studio at the new Pearson Cycles shop in Sheen to iron out a few glitches and doubts I’ve had about my own riding setup. And it’s very early into the session that I become aware of just how little thought I’d previously put into getting my bike set up correctly and to how my body sits and moves when it’s on it. My first surprise was really just how much discomfort I was willing to accept as part of trying to ride a bike quickly – and that these discomforts could so easily be eliminated without compromising on speed.
The bike fit, perhaps unfairly, has garnered a reputation of advocating comfort over speed, practicality over style. Stuart Jeffreys of Cyclefit who will be doing my bike fitting, admits this perception has been reinforced by the type of customers they often see – many returning to sport after years of a sedentary lifestyle, backs hunched in front of computer screens. It’s these cyclists, and others who encounter obvious problems – perhaps caused by poor flexibility, or by previous injuries – can most easily see the significant benefits of having a bike that fits their body properly. But almost everyone – including experienced cyclists – can benefit from one too.
Heritage, authenticity, history – what most bike brands wouldn’t give for just a fraction of Pearson Cycle’s.
A lot has changed since their first shop set up for business 150 years ago, and no more has this been evident than in the most recent of those years. Fads and fashions have come and gone, technology has progressed, and the bicycle industry has matured. But amongst it all has been a prevailing trend to look backwards.
Steel frames continue to survive in the face of carbon, and bike brands new and old continue to plunder the history books for inspiration. You’d forgive Pearson for sharing the same nostalgic outlook, but for Britain’s oldest bike shop the future isn’t boxed-in by its past – their new 2012 range reveals a brave break from tradition.
Soigneur legend Shelley Verses hands up a musette to Andy Hampsten during the 1988 Giro d’Italia.
You can fit a lot in your jersey pockets. With careful cramming it’s possible to carry all the essentials for a day’s ride. But at times a little extra porterage wouldn’t go amiss. Perhaps it’s on your way to a mid-week crit when you need to stash keys-wallet-mobile phone at the start line while you race. Or perhaps you just need something stylish to take with you down the shops. And nothing shouts ‘racing cyclists’ chic’ like a musette slung over your shoulder. Cheap (well, mostly), handy and easy to roll up and carry when not in use – these are my picks of the best musettes…
1. Guiseppe’s father was the first in Campagnolo’s small Vicenza factory to perfect the shape of this precise component on a manual lathe. When he retired after spending forty years working for the company, Guiseppe took over where his father left off. His sister Silvia also works in the factory, delicately knitting carbon fibre for the construction of seatposts, and his aunt Gabriella owns the local cafe where the factory workers stop en route in the morning for their daily espressos. Guiseppe’s son is called Tullio after company founder Tullio Campagnolo.
“We’re all in this together, and some more than others,” is I think what George Osborne said when he announced last week he was cutting the deficit, or the economy, or society, or whatever it is these politicians like going on about. So while I don’t understand the ins and outs of such goings on – I’ll leave that to the very clever clever people who kindly run our country for us – I do know that some tough choices are just around the corner. During the years of prosperity my body has become used to the pamperings of luxury products; only the finest of organic fairtrade energy bars passes my lips, and only the silkiest and most exclusive of creams and lotions come into contact with my delicate skin.
But, alas, no more. Some poor folk out there (you know, up north somewhere), will be forced into patching up their tubes by gas light, and running low end Shimano groupsets in order to make ends meet. So it’s only right that I also make sacrifices – after all, how am I supposed to upgrade the Zip 404s on my Cervelo S2 next season if I’m throwing money away on designer skin care? Below is how I’m getting on after making some of my very own ‘tough choices’:
Earlier this week, The Telegraph published a report that showed that, not only was cycling on the increase, but that sales of high-end bikes in particular were on the up. To investigate further, the newspaper made the most of their journalistic talents and ‘bulging contacts book’, and approached a leading retailer of expensive racing bicycles – Halfords.
A spokesmen for the retailer confirmed the trend: “Its limited edition Carrera TDF bike, featuring a lightweight compact aluminium frame and 16 gears, sold out during the Tour De France tournament.” Aluminium frames, 16 gears, tournaments – our sport has an exciting future. I, for one, can’t wait to ditch my archaic carbon steed for something a bit more ‘high-tech’.
So just who are all the people buying these ‘premium’ bicycles? I ran the numbers from the Mintel research through the super computer I keep in my spare room and its sophisticated profiling software. After a couple of days of disgruntled whirring and reams of magnetic tape, this is the analysis it reluctantly churned out:
I think that just about sums things up.
A cyclist without a bike is a strange sight; waddling around in their impractical shoes, sheepishly conscious of the indignity of wearing lycra. Even in that designer Rapha jersey – and especially if you’re all togged up in Assos – you will look like a prize pillock to the general non-cycling population. And no, they’re not even impressed by the size of your calves.
So I suppose we can agree that to complete the look, no cyclist should leave home without accessorising their outfit with an actual bicycle. Which is a shame, because I hate them. They’re temperamental, highly strung, require constant pampering, demand to be adorned with expensive bits and bobs. Neglect your bike and it whines at you, it creaks and moans. It drags it’s heels, mangles gear shifts. The little bastards think this sport is all about THEM.
Well, I can assure them, it is certainly not. Those glossy centre fold spreads of whizzy carbon steeds in cycling magazines leave me cold. I fail to get aroused by talk of ’46-ton carbon’, ‘beefy bottom brackets’ and ‘asymmetric chainstays’. Much like in life, it’s the pretty ones that require all the fawning pampering and attention (The Damien Hirst-designed bike for Lance Armstrong is a prime example. As delicate as the butterflies squished into its frame, I bet even Lance doesn’t get much use out of it) – ugly brutish bikes will just plough on without complaint, suffering the mud and wet of winter, wanting only a squirt of oil and a hose down now and again in return for its efforts.
Admittedly however, my criteria of assessing a bike is based almost entirely on aesthetics (I’m shallow and superficial like that). Yes, Sky’s new Pinnerallo Dogmas have had the attention of more engineers and scientists than the Hadron Collider, but it looks like it’s made of jelly. In contrast, slickly engineered Cervelos look sharp and mean, ready to cut through the air like a hot knife through butter.
With so many team kits looking practically identical bikes are a useful way of identifying riders during a race. Obviously remembering their race numbers would be better, but I’m not that smart (yes, stupid as well as shallow and superficial. I’ve got a lot going for me).
Equally, a quick survey of the bikes lined up outside race HQ can you give you strong clues as to their owners identity. For example, a pristine vanity-machine with whizz-bang gizmos and deep section carbon wheels may suggest a rider with more money than time to train. Conversely, something plain and black with inexpensive components and a dirty chain will no doubt be owned by a dedicated natural athelete, gifted with cycling flair and majestic style, concerned with hard graft rather than showy bling. So watch out for him in the race – he’s very likely to be awesome. *Cough*