We are not currently recruiting, but we are always happy to receive CVs which we will keep on file in case of future vacancies. Please send your CV and covering letter to [email protected]
If you are anything like me you will find that driving in a city is a stressful affair. Too many lanes, too many cars, and let’s not even think about the parking nightmare. I’m sure many of you are leasing or hiring vans to do run around jobs, be that contract cleaning, handy work, or door-to-door sales.
Now imagine doing your job without having to drive an overly big van around, imagine cheaper running costs, imagine a more enjoyable commuting experience. This is exactly what an electric bike can offer. Bristol Bicycles E-bikes have all the options you could ever need to carry panniers and racks for all your equipment.
The cost of running a car is massive compared to just having a bike. From a quick google search I’ve found that leasing a basic Citroen Berlingo will cost you around £130 a month, and that’s excluding the running costs and insurance. Buying a E-bike on the other hand comes at a cost as low as £80 per month, with the added bonus that after a year you will own the bike outright!
OK fine… a bike does have a few extra costs such as servicing (at a cost of £60… nothing compared to servicing a car). We would also recommend (especially if you’re riding in the city a lot) some sort of cycling insurance, but this can start from as little as £20 per year.
As well as the obvious cost benefits of riding a bike, the health benefits are huge – both physically and mentally. The E-bike is a great way to get fit whilst also not giving you strenuous activity before arriving at your job. The electric motor will assist you with hills and carrying a heavy load, yet you still get a good level of exercise. Cycling has been proven in many studies to help with mental health, whereas sitting in your car with bumper to bumper traffic can often put a downer on even the most jolly of us. Cycling also allows you more freedom to take the scenic route through your city. We are lucky here in Bristol to have so many parks to cycle through. You will never beat the feeling of casually cruising past traffic whilst others are stuck in their cars.
Don’t take my word for it, The Guardian have written an article about the health benefits to us and the world of not having cars and looking at other forms of transport e.g. cycling.
Or this article from Road cc about business owner Jimmy Cregan from Jimmy’s Coffee, who has swapped his dream car for the E-bike.
With the roads getting busier and the air quality getting worse, I think it’s about time we found a new way to get around. E-bikes just seem to make sense, especially if you are driving an almost-empty car when you don’t really need to. Much kinder on the pocket and a lot nicer to the environment.
Pop into Bristol Bicycles to try one out. Even if you don’t think its for you… I guarantee your first go on hill will put a smile on your face!
Well, that went quick. A month in already, met a few of you but I’m sure there are lots out there I’m yet to chat to. What have I been up to? Month one has been information overload so sorry if your booking took slightly longer than normal.
You may have noticed a few new snaps of the Bristol Bicycles. I hope you have enjoyed them, please do let us know what you think. If you see me out getting photos don’t be afraid to say hello.
Working in a bike shop is 20% dealing with you the customer and then the other 80% taking photos of nice bikes. Ok, there might be a bit more to it, but a nice chunk of my time so far has been spent taking the bikes out and finding good locations to take photos. I’m not pretending to be an expert, I’m not even pretending to be a novice… but I thought I would share some ideas of what works for me.
A quick scroll through Instagram and you will see the trends and styles most used. You don’t have to stick by them, by any means, break the rules but there is a tried and tested way of taking a nice bike photo.
George’s Bike Photo Checklist
- Drive side (the side with all the gears on) facing the camera
- Pedals and cranks straight (parallel with the ground)
- Good background (not too much going on)
- Pick a good time (golden hour)
- Get photos of the key parts (branded bits and bike graphics)
Taking your photos at the right time can be key. I tend to avoid the busy times of day as I know I will have to stop-start and there may be too many people in the background. Time also effects the light. Avoid midday as it will be very strong light especially on the rare sunny days we get. My favourite time is known as the golden hour. This happens for about an hour every day before the sun sets or if you’re up early enough just after the sun rises.
If you’re showing off all the swanky new parts make sure you get some close-ups. If you’re taking your photos on a nice camera, bomb the aperture right down (also known as the F-number) and get a nice blurry effect behind the component.
So you have your nice photos… what’s next? Maybe you suffer from a certain bike based vanity like me and you crave the attention of other bike fans online (no judgment here). My go-to social media platform for cycling is Instagram. It’s crawling with fellow bike geeks all eager to show off their trusty steed. When uploading to a platform like Instagram I will lead with the main bike photo, and then on the same posting add edition photos showing off the parts. Then to optimise your likes and interactions do some research into what other people tag and hashtag with similar photos, and just copy what seems to be popular. DON’T FORGET TO TAG bristol_bicycles IN YOUR PHOTOS!!!! That way we can repost your images on our own account. This goes for branded products too: tagging the brand into your photo will allow them to see the parts and they might use your photos on their own accounts ( crediting you of course).
I hope this helps you take some good photos! We look forward to seeing what you can come up with.
I’m George the new fresh face at Bristol bicycles, well mainly fresh… depends on what time you catch me in the morning. I’m a fan of fat tyres and casual riding. I’ll often be found riding an unsuitable bike in off-road situations, be that walking it down precarious descents or getting funny looks from mountain bikers as I pass them on the hills (not that I’m particularly good up hill). With a background in film I’m hoping I can capture some pretty images and stories here at Bristol Bicycles.
I currently ride a Brothers Kepler Disc frame set, with a few choice parts on it. Big fat tubeless tyres, wide flared bars and all the bosses for touring the world ( not that I am touring the world but I like the idea of it ).Previous photos from traveling all over the world, on and off the bike (including, Iceland, Morocco and Holland)
I’m all about the pizza! If you had to make me pick a type I’ll take anchovies and capers any day of the week. Ok, don’t push me, I’ll tell you the best place to get one. Bertha’s Pizza right here in sunny old Bristol. They do the best anchovy pizza this side of Naples.
Favourite place to ride?
Don’t get me wrong I love a good hill but I think Holland takes the top prize when it comes to cycling. It’s flat, the people are friendly and the bike paths are remarkable. After recently touring through Holland and Belgium whilst carrying my camping gear and drinking fine Belgian beer (their equivalent of a coffee stop). It’s amazing to see how friendly people are to those traveling by bike, so my favourite place to ride has to be just that.
What I’m hoping to do ?
I’m hoping to help grow the Bristol Bicycles brand and interact with many of you (the loyal customers). If you’re in store please do say hello! In the words of Billy Bragg “if you stick around I’m sure we can find some common ground”… especially if that ground is bike or pizza based. I think that’s the quote anyway. Please send in photos and stories about your Bristol Bicycles, or even just interesting bikes we have serviced here at Jake’s. I want to re-post and work with our customers as much as possible and continue to grow the Bristol Bicycles Family.
Best cycling accessory?
My new safety Pizza. What’s not to love…? Safety and pizza! For those not in the loop, a safety pizza is a hand-stitched luminous little pizza. It dangles off the back of your bike keeping you safe and highly visible whilst also showing your love for the humble dough.
Watch this space! I’ll be uploading regular blogs and updating Instagram and all other social media platforms daily (if all goes to plan).
My personal Instagram (for my all my previous work), instagram.com/georgedibbs/
The safety Pizza, www.safetypizza.com
Bertha’s Pizza, www.berthas.co.uk
On a bike that’s used every day for commuting a certain amount of wear and tear is inevitable, but there’s a lot you can do to slow down the process – and most of these tips will not only save on maintenance costs, they’ll make the bike more efficient and pleasurable to ride too.
1. Keep your tyres inflated
Riding on soft tyres will cause the sidewalls to crack and split, and also makes punctures more likely. All inner tubes are slightly porous and go flat over time, so check your tyre pressures every week, and expect to pump them up at least monthly. Having a good full-size track pump at home or work really helps!
2. Wipe and lube the chain regularly
Every week or two, check to see if the chain seems dry or dirty. If so, lean the bike against a wall and give the chain a wipe with a rag whilst backpedalling, and then apply chain oil sparingly. Then once the oil has had a chance to soak down into all the cracks in the chain, give it a wipe again with a clean bit of rag to remove any surface oil. This way the chain will always be lubricated, but never too dirty or oily. Little and often is the key.
3. Lube your cables
On almost all modern bikes, there are slots in the cable guides on the frame to allow the cables to be removed for cleaning and oiling without having to fully disconnect them or use any tools at all. I suggest you pop the gear and brake cables out every few months and lube them with a little normal chain oil. This not only stops them rusting, it also prevents the plastic liners from getting worn out, and makes the brakes and gears feel nice and slick to use!
4. Lube your mechs
Even easier than lubing the cables – simply put a drip of oil on each pivot of the front and rear derailleurs (mechs). What we’re aiming for is to lube every moving part of both mechs, so if in doubt just watch what moves when you change gear and then oil it. Change gear a few times afterwards to allow the oil to soak in, then wipe down the mech with a rag to clean off any excess oil. This will prevent the mechs from corroding, and will slow the rate of wear right down.
5. Check and adjust your brakes
Brake blocks wear out with use. They are cheap to replace, so no problems there. But if, as they wear, they come into contact with the tyres, very quickly a hole will be worn into the tyre sidewall, meaning that the tyre and probably the tube will have to be replaced. And if the brake blocks completely wear out, or pick up some gravel or debris, they can wear out the rim requiring a whole new wheel. So if you have normal rim brakes and they start making a funny noise, check it immediately (a squeak or squeal doesn’t matter, but a scraping or grinding noise definitely does!)
6. Fit mudguards
How does this effect the longevity of the bike? As well as protecting you from mud and water, mudguards will prevent the chain, gears and brakes from getting so dirty too. Less grit and water means less wear and corrosion, which the chain will definitely appreciate in the long term.
7. Get your hubs and headset serviced
Every year or two on more expensive bikes it makes sense to have your bike’s main bearing systems disassembled and re-greased instead of having to replace them when they rust or dry out, potentially at a cost of a couple of hundred pounds. Just give us a call if you’d like to book your bike in for a bearings service.
8. Don’t store your bike outside
Even the most expensive bikes have a steel chain and bearings which will rust if exposed to rain or moisture. Keeping your bike indoors if at all possible is ideal; if not then a shed or bike store is sufficient, or get a good quality bike cover as a bare minimum.
9. Don’t stomp on the pedals
Getting into a high gear and standing up on the pedals is not only a good way to wear our your knees, it also wears your chain much more quickly too. Much better to get used to shifting into a lower gear and then spinning the pedals faster but with less force. This is biomechanically more efficient, and is also kinder on the bike’s gear system too.
10. Change into a larger rear sprocket
As above, it’s better to spin the pedals fast than stomp on them slowly. To achieve this you could change into the smallest chainring on the front. But this would mean a higher chain tension, and could easily lead to over-use of the smaller sprockets on the rear. A much better way of achieving exactly the same gear ratio is to change into a larger sprocket on the rear. This means lower chain tension, less wear on the chain and teeth, and more efficient power transfer.
“The best frame material really depends on what you’re going to use the bike for, and what you want to prioritise” says Jake Voelcker, designer of Bristol Bicycles’ frames and forks. “Is it low weight? Or is it strength and durability? Or is it the appearance of the bike?”
Is steel real?
“A lot of people talk about steel frames being comfortable. They say there’s an inherent springiness or suspension in a steel frame, and that aluminium frames are too harsh or too rigid.”
Perhaps controversially, Jake disagrees: “That’s completely not true” he says. “It’s a bit of a myth that’s built up around the whole ‘steel is real’ and ‘steel is better’ and ‘steel bikes are much more comfortable’ thing, but it’s not true and I’ll show you exactly why.”
For a frame to be comfortable or to have any degree of suspension, it has to be able to flex in a vertical direction, and the only way that a frame can actually do this is if it’s broken.
“That sounds surprising, but because the front and the rear triangles of the bike frame are completely triangulated, there’s no way that they can flex. There’s no way that they can absorb a vertical bump from the road unless the frame is actually broken.”
Jake goes on to explain that the supposed comfort of a steel frame is actually entirely in the fork. Because the fork is only attached at the top, it’s effectively a long lever and so there’s a lot of flex possible (in both the fork and the steerer tube).
“That gives a high degree of vertical flex exactly where you want it for suspension” says Jake.
“So a steel frame isn’t any more comfortable. What you want from the frame is stiffness and strength to be able to carry luggage and to resist pedalling forces particularly when you’re accelerating or going uphill.”
Why do Bristol Bicycles use aluminium frames?
The advantages of an aluminium frame are twofold. The first is that aluminium is a much lighter material. The second advantage of an aluminium frame is that when it’s correctly designed it’s a lot stiffer than a steel frame.
Are there any disadvantages?
“I’ve heard people say that for a expedition bike or for a touring bike there’s going to be used for a round-the-world trip they would always choose steel because at least if the worst comes to the worst, steel can be repaired” says Jake.
“Aluminium, because it needs expensive industrial heat-treating after it’s been welded, basically can’t be repaired if it ever breaks.”
The problem is that a steel bike frame of any quality is going to be very thin walled tubing and a pretty specialised alloy of steel which is very difficult to weld.
“Anybody who’s used to working on farmyard equipment (or welding car chassis, or that sort of place where you would take the bike to be repaired if you were stuck in the middle of nowhere) isn’t going to have any more luck welding steel than they are welding aluminium because the type of steel that quality bike frames are made from needs very skilled, pretty low temperature brazing rather than agricultural welding technologies.”
For Bristol Bicycles we’ve gone for the best of both worlds. On the one hand we use an aluminium frame which is both lighter and stiffer, but on the other hand we use a steel fork which gives a nice degree of built-in suspension through its inherent flexibility.
Customers sometimes express surprise that their everyday commuting bike needs two new wheels or a whole new drivetrain after only a couple of years of regular use – often at a cost approaching the current value of the bike. We normally explain that it should be viewed as a running cost, and point out that it’s pretty cheap compared to the cost of e.g. bus fares or owning a car. But what is the total running cost of a bike spread over several years? Are some bikes cheaper to own than others in the long term?
An average urban commuter who lives say 3 miles from their workplace, and mostly travels to work by bike as well as using it semi-regularly on the weekends, might clock up 1,500 to 2,000 cycling miles a year. The most common type of bike for this kind of use in the UK is a hybrid. Assuming a new mid-range model with mudguards and luggage rack, puncture-resistant tyres, and the addition of aftermarket LED lights, then:
|Hybrid bike||Initial purchase||£515|
|TOTAL||(including purchase cost)||£1,305|
|year 1||annual service + brake blocks||£70|
|year 2||annual service + brake blocks; chain & cassette||£110|
|year 3||annual service + brake blocks; all cables; tyres||£130|
|year 4||annual service + brake blocks; chain, cassette & crankset; new wheels||£240|
|year 5||annual service + brake blocks||£70|
|year 6||annual service + brake blocks; all cables; chain & cassette; tyres||£170|
The trend amongst hybrids (as well as most other types of bikes) over the last couple of decades has been towards lower weight and better performance, but to the detriment of longevity. Put simply, high-power brakes wear down the lightweight but soft aluminium wheel rims over a few thousand miles; and slick, easy-changing, 9-, 10- and 11-speed gear systems wear out even faster.
So are there any real alternatives?
Some are tempted to buy the cheapest bike they can find, pointing out that if it will wear out anyway, then why pay more? The example budget bike below is a bottom-of-the-range mountain-bike-style model bought from a mail order website or department store for under £200. There are no lights, mudguards or luggage rack so these are added to the purchase price.
|Budget bike||Initial purchase||£300|
|TOTAL||(including purchase cost)||£1,305|
|year 1||annual service + brake blocks||£90|
|year 2||annual service + brake blocks, chain & cassette; tyres||£150|
|year 3||annual service + brake blocks; wheels; bottom bracket; pedals||£180|
|year 4||annual service + brake blocks; chain, cassette & crankset; all cables; rear mech||£215|
|year 5||annual service + brake blocks; headset; tyres||£150|
|year 6||annual service + brake blocks; chain & cassette; wheels; shifters||£220|
Another option is a Dutch bike of the type not commonly seen in the UK, but they are available from a few retailers. The one in the example below is assumed to have 7-speed hub gears and hub brakes, and a fully enclosed chain, so the wear-and-tear to these should be minimal. It has mudguards, luggage rack, puncture-resistant tyres, and integrated dynamo lighting included in the price.
|Dutch bike||Initial purchase||£750|
|TOTAL||(including purchase cost)||£1,295|
|year 1||basic service, no parts required||£35|
|year 2||annual service, gear hub rebuild & lube, no parts required||£90|
|year 3||annual service + all cables; tyres||£140|
|year 4||annual service + chain & sprocket, gear hub rebuild & lube||£115|
|year 5||basic service, no parts required||£35|
|year 6||annual service + all cables; tyres||£130|
For comparison, a typical new mid-range road bike would cost at least £650 to get components of a similar quality to the mid-range hybrid above. Again assuming the addition of lights, mudguards and luggage rack (assuming they can even be fitted, which is not always true on road bikes):
|Road bike||Initial purchase||£750|
|TOTAL||(including purchase cost)||£1,850|
|year 1||annual service + brake blocks||£70|
|year 2||annual service + brake blocks; chain & cassette; tyres||£170|
|year 3||annual service + brake blocks; all cables; chain, cassette & crankset||£210|
|year 4||annual service + brake blocks; chain & cassette; new wheels; tyres||£280|
|year 5||annual service + brake blocks; chain & cassette||£110|
|year 6||annual service + brake blocks; all cables; chain, cassette & crankset; tyres||£260|
Over the 6 year period the first three bikes have an almost identical cost of ownership. Perhaps cost is not, therefore, a significant factor in deciding what type of bike to purchase, if the choice is between these three at any rate. Much more important is the question of what style of bike you want and need.
If you require lots of gears and good brakes for hilly terrain and you want a relatively lightweight bike, the £515 hybrid is a good option. It will need more replacement components over the years, but you may consider this a price well worth paying.
If you prefer a very upright riding position, can live with a smaller range of gears and a heavyweight bike, and minimal maintenance is a priority, the Dutch bike is better. At £700 it’s more expensive to purchase, but repays the difference over a few years of ownership.
If, on the other hand, you want a heavy bike which is unpleasant and inefficient to ride, has lots of annoying maintenance issues, but still costs no less to own and run, then the budget bike is the one for you!
The road bike works out more expensive overall, because despite costing more than the hybrid or the budget bike to purchase, it cost no less to service and maintain. Road bikes can also have additional problems for commuting such as a lack of tyre clearance for fitting mudguards, and the difficulty of fitting a pannier rack.
Do you always get what you pay for?
The road bike could equally have been a similarly priced mountain bike, and the calculations and potential problems would remain the same. Interestingly, it could also have been a £750 hybrid bike: evidence that a higher purchase price does not necessarily mean lower running costs. Whereas if you spend too little and buy a budget bike your running costs will be higher, conversely if you spend too much and buy a £650 hybrid bike instead of a £400 one your running costs will also be higher. This is partly because the components are more expensive (assuming you replace like-for-like components as they wear out and don’t want to “downgrade” the bike with each service), but it’s also because some components (e.g. wheel rims, aluminium chainrings, 9- or 10-speed drivetrain) will wear our more frequently thanks to being optimised for low weight, performance, or simply marketing hype rather than long life.
(All of the above assumes that you are in the position of having to buy a new bike. However, if you’re fortunate enough to already own a thirty or forty year old racer or tourer in working condition, I suggest you hang onto it for as long as possible! Provided you’re content to have only 10 or 12 non-indexed gears and less powerful brakes, you can avoid most of the durability problems associated with modern components. However, such bikes are becoming increasingly rare, especially in good condition, and new sprockets and chains of comparable durability are simply unobtainable, so when they do finally wear out you’ll be in the same position as the owner of a modern bike. There are also very good reasons why bikes of this type went out of fashion: not everyone gets on with friction shift gears and drop handlebars, and having a narrow range of gears can be a real drawback to many cyclists, especially in a hilly city like Bristol. Perhaps worst of all, the braking power afforded by chromed steel wheel rims is woeful in wet weather, to the point of being dangerous in modern traffic.)
Use beyond 6 years
After the 6-year period, the differences in running costs become more pronounced. The budget bike will probably be very broken and, as if it hasn’t had enough money thrown at it already, its repair will certainly not be financially viable for much longer.
The hybrid bike may now need components such as derailleurs, bottom bracket, new wheels again etc. but assuming it’s maintained in this fashion there’s no reason why it couldn’t go on for another few years, costing an average of a little over £100 per year or not much more to maintain. There are plenty of 15 or 20 year old hybrid bikes still on the road today.
After 6 years the Dutch bike is barely middle aged. It too may need a new bottom bracket, headset or wheel bearing rebuild but these are all very worthwhile on a good quality bike of this value. Unless crash-damaged or abused it ordinarily should never need new wheel rims, brakes or gear hub, and rarely a new sprocket or chain. It’s not unusual to see hub-geared, hub-braked bikes of this type still in use after 20, 30 or even 40 years. And they hold their value well, so if it does ever need to be sold it should easily fetch £200 or more.
For higher mileage users the trends are accelerated: if you commute 10 or 20 miles a day all year round, the Dutch bike will repay its higher purchase cost after only 3 years or so, and will work out comparatively cheaper and cheaper thereafter. However, arguably a high-mileage commuter is more likely to want a fast hybrid or road bike for greater efficiency and speed over the longer distance. It would cost more to maintain, but some may well consider this worthwhile.
Whichever of the bikes above we choose, the lifetime cost is much cheaper than owning and running a car or using public transport for the same period. Depending on what monetary value you place on your time, it may even be cheaper than walking!
Each bike was assumed to have had an annual £60 service. On top of this, additional parts and labour charges were differentially added for components which typically wear out on each type of bike. If you do your own bike maintenance the £60 cost can of course be omitted, in which case the higher maintenance bikes work out comparatively cheaper – although arguably you should place some value on your time spent doing so.
The hybrid bike was assumed to be a mid-range sensible, solid, reliable model with V-brakes, 24-speed derailleur gears, mudguards and luggage rack included, but no unnecessary extras such as suspension or disc brakes. The Bristol Bicycles sold by Jake’s Bikes are exactly this kind of bike. They have good quality puncture-resistant tyres as standard, but no lights, so aftermarket LED lights are added to the price. Other examples are the Ridgeback Anteron, Kona Dew, Claud Butler Urban 400 and Dawes Discovery 301. The advantage of this kind of bike is that it’s relatively light at 14kg (31lb), but still has a wide range of gears (approx a 450% range) and powerful brakes. The disadvantage is that the gears will wear out more quickly than on a Dutch bike, the chain is exposed to rain and dirt, and eventually the wheel rims will wear out from braking.
The Dutch bike in this example has 7-speed hub gears and hub brakes, a fully enclosed chain, and mudguards and luggage rack as standard. It too has puncture-resistant tyres, but unlike the hybrid it has integrated dynamo lighting included in the price. The Azor Jersey, Batavus Cambridge or Gazelle Primeur are examples of such a bike, all of which are available in the UK. The advantage of this kind of bike is that its gears, brakes and chain are all enclosed so are clean and low-maintenance. The disadvantages are that it’s significantly heavier at 18kg (40lb), has fewer gears (approx a 225% range), and somewhat less powerful brakes.
The budget bike was a bottom-of-the-range mountain-bike-style model from a mail order website or department store. It has basic 18-speed derailleur gears and no extras such as suspension or disc brakes. There are no lights, mudguards or luggage rack so these are added to the purchase price. The Falcon Storm, Dawes XC18, Integra Matrix or Claud Butler Trailridge 1.1 are examples of just such a bike. The tyres are cheap knobbly ones, so in the calculations above it is assumed that these are worn out after less than a couple of thousand miles and replaced with better puncture-resistant ones. The wheels are the cheaper single-walled, freewheel type so that they too are damaged more easily and need to be replaced every few thousand miles. Headset, bottom bracket, shifters and derailleur are also assumed to break and need replacement during the lifetime of the bike. In addition to the low purchase price, the advantage of a bike like this is that it has a pretty wide range of gears (approx 400%) despite their basic construction, and it is potentially less at risk of being stolen than the others. The disadvantages are that it’s heavy at around 18kg (40lb), unpleasant to ride thanks to the knobbly tyres, cheap saddle, plasticky brakes and gears etc., and maintenance will probably become a nuisance thanks to the low quality components.
The road bike was a mid-range model of the sort typically used for winter training or commuting rather than serious sport or competition. It has 18 derailleur gears, and no lights, mudguards or luggage rack so the cost of buying these separately has been added to the above calculations. Examples of road bikes in this price bracket are the Claud Butler Torino SR2, Dawes Giro 500, Giant Defy 3 or Specialized Allez Double. The main advantage of a road bike is that it’s fast and efficient and light, at perhaps 12kg (27lb). It has an intermediate range of gears (maybe 350%), at somewhat higher ratios than on a hybrid, so will be fast but not quite so easy uphill. The disadvantages can be that it’s less comfortable to ride on city roads thanks to the drop handlebars and hard, narrow tyres; and it may be necessary to fit compromised mudguards or pannier rack because of frame clearance issues and lack of frame eyelets.
Any other purchases and costs (e.g. pannier bags, helmet, repair after minor damage etc.) were assumed to be the same for all bikes, and so excluded from the calculations above.
This is a question we often get asked, and there are several considerations to take into account before making a decision.
The advantages of rim brakes (whether V-brakes or calipers) are:
- Lower overall weight
- Lower purchase price compared to discs
The disadvantages are:
- Lower power in wet weather
- The need for fairly frequent brake pad replacement
- Over time rim brakes will wear out your wheel rims
- There is also the danger with rim brakes that a worn or misaligned brake block can come into contact with the tyre, quickly wearing a hole in the sidewall.
The advantages of disc brakes are:
- Higher power
- Reliability in all weathers,
- Low running costs (usually) thanks to long-lasting pads and the fact that they don’t wear out your wheels.
The disadvantages can include:
- Higher initial purchase cost
- Susceptibility to contamination by oil or dirt
- Many disc brakes are harder for the average user to repair if anything does go wrong
The conclusions we’ve come to at Bristol Bicycles are these:
Cheap disc brakes are awful, so for any bike with a purchase price below £500 or £600 we’d recommend a model with V-brakes or calipers instead. A £400 bike will be supplied with either cheap and nasty disc brakes, or good quality V-brakes or callipers – and I know which I’d prefer!
For an average-distance commute on a ‘normal’ bike, rim brakes are probably best. If you’re not doing a huge mileage the brakes probably won’t wear out your rims for several years, and although you will need new brake blocks more often than with disc brakes, these aren’t expensive. Rim brakes are also easier to adjust and maintain than discs for the average user.
For a high-mileage commuting bike, disc brakes make good sense. They should be cheaper to maintain in the long run, thanks mainly to not wearing out your wheels rims. The potential disadvantages are contaminated brake pads and the possibility of costly repairs if the brakes are ever damaged (especially for hydraulic models), but generally reasonable quality disc brakes should be ‘fit-and-forget’ apart from changing the pads every few thousand miles, and eventually replacing the disc rotors if they wear thin.
Disc Brakes on Touring Bikes
Disc brakes are also becoming an increasingly popular option for cycle touring. The greater power, all-weather performance, and lack of wheel rim wear are very beneficial on a high-mileage, heavily-laden touring bike. The major disadvantage can be serviceability in the field. On an expedition to remote locations, the simplicity and ease of maintenance of rim brakes can literally be a life-saver. Leaking hydraulic fluid or worn out brake discs with no spares available would be a serious problem in some parts of the world.
For a touring bike used in Europe, North America, and more developed areas of the rest of the world, disc brakes are usually a really good option. For a round-the-world trip which includes travel through some pretty remote and undeveloped areas, rim brakes are probably a more sensible and less risky choice.
Bristol Bicycles design and hand-build bikes aimed squarely at the commuting market. These are the the VW Golf of bikes: not pretending to be a racing bike; not trying to be a mountain bike. These are good, practical, reliable bikes pure and simple.
“I’ve always been a cyclist and I enjoyed messing about on BMXs when I was a kid” says founder Jake Voelcker. “Then I got into mountain biking a bit later as a teenager. I was repairing bikes for friends and I ended up with so many bikes in my bedroom and my shed and my attic that I either had to get rid of them, or find a small workshop.”
Having rented a workshop, very quickly the business grew and within the first year Jake had taken on an employee. That was ten years ago this month, when Bristol Bicycles started off as Jake’s Bikes, a workshop offering servicing and repairs and selling reconditioned used bikes.
“The business has grown every year since, and around five years ago we were having to turn away more people than we could serve with second-hand bikes so we decided to look into selling new bikes as well. We couldn’t find anything on the market that was the right mix of quality and not a ridiculously high price. That’s why we launched Bristol Bicycles: our own brand of bikes which we build here in the UK.”
By taking inspiration from Dutch and German bikes that are very practical and have a comfortable, upright riding position, Jake realised that Bristol Bicycles could offer something similar but lighter, and with more gears to suit hillier British terrain.
“And what is very exciting is the the new electric bikes that we’ve just launched”, Jake continues. “They can reach a much broader range of people – for example people who haven’t quite got the fitness to cycle a normal bike, or people who used to cycle but find it a bit more difficult now, especially the uphills. Electric bikes just completely solve those problems.”
Asked about the future of the business and what he looks forward to most, Jake said “We are hoping to expand the business to reach more people and make a difference in other cites. We’ve got big plans for either licensing or franchising in the future.”
“For me the real standout moments come when someone who wasn’t previously a cyclist or someone who maybe had an injury and thinks they can’t cycle any more actually then has a go on a Bristol Bicycle or maybe an electric bike and thinks ‘I can do this!’. I’m very grateful to be part of empowering that change in their life, it’s very humbling.”See the Bristol Bicycles range and design your own bike online
A video version of this interview is available on our Youtube channel