Journal

All George’s bikes!

The collection of an old man or a 21-year-old lad?

I think you can tell a lot about a man from his bike collection, and in my case, you can certainly tell I’m a middle-class boy with very few overheads… or an old man that’s got overly excited about his retirement.

With all this time at home, I thought I would run you through the collection and get nerdy for a little bit. I wish I could say “ oh yeah I just have the one bike for everything really”… but I don’t, I’ve probably got too many bikes for very little reason. So here we go…

The commuter: ‘Bromhilda’ (Brompton B75)

I’ll come clean guys: I drive. OK, I know it’s bad but I live out in the sticks and it is my only option. The Brompton, however, has meant I don’t go anywhere without a bike. It lives in the boot and means I can cut the miles down and cycle lots of my journeys. Also, my car (a very sexy 1 litre Kia Picanto) is only small and a folded Brompton is about all I can fit in it.

Not much more to say on this one, it’s got three gears. The brakes work and it gets me from A to B with a smile on my face. When I purchased Bromhilda I was told I may be the youngest person in Bristol to own one… it’s not a huge accolade but I’ll take it. The few bits of personalisation have been a lovely leather saddle from Ruperts in London, front and rear mudguards, new brake levers and a huge front bag to carry cameras and my laptop in (also often beer) on the way home.

The mountain bike: Genesis Latitude

After saying I don’t need a mountain bike I can just ride my drop bar bike around the Mendips, I quickly ate my words after purchasing a home build Genesis latitude a few months back. It became a new love and I feel like I’m 50 years late to the mountain bike party. Living at the foot of the Mendip hills, within minutes I can be in the woods and bombing around local singletrack, fire roads and sweating it up to trig points. Obviously, this one is having a bit of a rest at the moment with the lockdown. No getting “Rad” for me at the moment.

The bike itself I bought second hand from a “home mechanic”… and its a beaut. A steel genesis hardtail frame and a selection of Shimano parts. Nobby Nic tyres to shred the local trails and 150mm Rock Shox Sector forks to take up every bump. I’m no downhiller, nor am I going to be hitting the biggest jumps (or many of the small ones for that matter), so a full sus would be lost on me. Looking forward to strapping some bags on this one when the lockdown is over and getting lost in the woods for a weekend.

The racing whippet: Trek Domane

Forget “steel is real”… carbon is light! And it’s fast! (I take that back, I love steel really!). When the sun comes out so does the Trek. I never fully believed that light bikes made much difference and I’m not the smallest chap so I could do with losing the weight myself, not the bike. Yet… this one makes it feel like you’re gliding up hills (rather than the retrospective chugging I normally do).

Nothing too unusual on this one really, it’s 10spd Tiagra all round and comes in at around 8-9kg, so light enough for me. It’s not a super sporty geometry and comes under Trek’s “endurance” range, meaning I can go on long summer rides and still feel comfy. It currently lives between the Mendip climbs and the turbo trainer. It’s fair to say it’s getting a lot of use through the lockdown. It will be due a full strip down and a new set of summer tyres when this all blows over I think (28mm of course, the fatter the better)

Old faithful: Brother Kepler Disc

The bike of many faces. My beloved Kepler disc has done me well, from French tours to all-day gravel rides (both detailed in my previous blog posts). This is not far off being my dream bike really; a possible groupset change to swap the 105 road gearing for something a bit more versatile and it will be complete.

This bike has been on our social media and my blogs a fair bit and it constantly changes its guises from full tour mode to gravel grinder and currently long-distance mile smasher. With its new set of 32mm smooth Gravel King tyres, new 100 lux dynamo light, brooks cambium c15 saddle and Restrap frame bag it’s set up for a summer of long rides (fingers crossed) and the trans-Devon ride (more info on the turbo trainer blog).



So there we go, the tour of my collection! I know what you’re thinking: NO BRISTOL BIKE!!! As yet I’ve not needed a Bristol bike, but with the creation of our new Randonneur model (details to follow shortly) I’ve got plans in the pipeline. Sticking true to my style something gravelly, a little bit classic but a lot of fun. Keep your eyes peeled for that blog!

Whose collection do you want to see next? Jase the E-bike man? Colin and his new child-friendly Bristol Bicycle? Or perhaps you want to go straight to the top and see what oddball gems Jake is hiding away and perhaps what inspired the first-ever Bristol Bicycle?

What bike should I buy?

This post is designed to give genuinely helpful advice, wherever you buy a bike. Our mission is to do whatever it takes to get more people cycling, so this is not a sales pitch to persuade you to buy a bike from Bristol Bicycles! It is simply impartial advice on both new and used bikes, no matter where you choose to buy yours.
For normal everyday cycling, commuting, city riding, and even light cycle touring we recommend hybrid bikes. They are an ideal balance between the ruggedness of a mountain bike and the efficiency of a road bike. As long as it’s of reasonable quality, a hybrid is a very good all-rounder thanks to the wide range of gears, good brakes and ability to carry luggage.

There are various different flavours of hybrid available: some are lighter and faster but maybe less practical (sometimes called flat-bar road bikes or fitness bikes), some are heavier with fatter tyres and suspension forks (trekking bikes), some are based on mountain bike dimensions but are fitted with slick tyres for road use (urban mountain bikes or comfort bikes).

A typical hybrid bike with basic but good quality components

How much to spend?

Once you’ve decided roughly what type of bike would suit you, the price is generally a pretty good indication of whether you’re getting a model of suitable quality or not.

Nowadays most big manufacturers offer many different categories of bike, so it’s not really possible to say “Brand A make good bikes” or “Brand B are low quality”: in truth both offer everything from very cheap to very expensive models. See the price guide below for advice on how much to spend on a bike that will best suit your purposes.

But first a warning: please, please, please do not buy a bike from a supermarket, mail order website, or department store for £99.99 or £149.99 or even £199.99. It will be heavy and uncomfortable, will start rusting in a few months, and if used regularly many parts will be broken and dangerous after only a year or two. At this price, your money is much better spent on a good second-hand bike. Don’t just take our word for it, see e.g. http://www.whycycle.co.uk, http://bicycleshapedobject.wordpress.com or http://tinyurl.com/actbso2

New hybrid bike price guide

  • £400 new bike: Decent commuter and hybrid bikes start at this price, but avoid extras like suspension or disc brakes: far better to get an honest, no-frills bike with basic but good components. We suggest you should not spend less than £400 on a new bike (plus the cost of any accessories). Anything cheaper is likely to be a false economy because soon you’ll end up spending more on repairs.
  • £600 new bike: Spending around £600 on a new hybrid bike usually means the components and specification will be better than on a £400 model. This can make the bike lighter or nicer to ride, or it can mean upgrades like good quality disc brakes. The higher price can also help to ensure the bike lasts longer, for example because of stronger wheels and hubs, better bearings, or puncture-resistant tyres.
  • £600+ new bike: Don’t assume that more expensive always means more reliable: for example, above say £800 or £900 some hybrids will be lighter and faster, but possibly more fragile, more expensive to repair, and more of a theft-risk than e.g. a £500 model. (If, on the other hand, you’re buying a new mountain bike, tourer or road bike we recommend you should not spend less than £600; anything cheaper is likely a false economy because you’ll spend more on servicing or upgrades. But for hybrid bikes, above a certain threshold a higher price can actually mean less longevity and practicality).
If you are buying a new bike for commuting purposes, see our “5 questions to ask” blog post for some tips on what to look out for, and what questions to ask the retailer.

Used bike price guide

On a budget of less than £400, we suggest buying a reconditioned bike instead. But beware buying stolen, worn out or damaged used bikes – avoid private sellers unless you really know what to look our for, and buy from a reputable shop or charity project.

  • £100 used bike: If you’re on a very tight budget, around £100 might buy a basic bike from a bike recycling project – and could easily prove more reliable and cost-effective than spending £100 on a brand new mail order or supermarket bike! But if used daily, plan on having to upgrade within a year or two.
  • £150 used bike: Bike recycling projects and some used bike shops offer serviced or reconditioned bikes for this price – typically older hybrid bikes or very basic mountain bikes. In this price bracket, the bikes may have quite some wear-and-tear, but could offer a few years of use if well maintained.
  • £250 used bike: this price should buy a fully reconditioned hybrid bike from a reputable bike recycling project or used bike shop, that was £400 or £500 when new. A bike of this type would probably be ideal for regular commuting, with only normal maintenance required.

What if I don’t want a hybrid bike?

Hybrid bikes really do suit most people, most of the time. The only potential practical disadvantages of a hybrid are: wheel rims which wear out in a few years or a few thousand miles (unless you have disc brakes), a chain which wears more quickly than on a Dutch bike (see our “Lifetime cost of bike ownership” blog), and the inability to fit a chaincase. But in a hilly city like Bristol the low weight and wide range of gears mean a hybrid is ideal, even with these potential drawbacks.

But sometimes a hybrid just won’t fit the bill. What if you have very limited storage space, need more off-road ability, or just want a speed machine without worrying about luggage or mudguards?

Alternatives to a hybrid bike include:

  • Mountain bikes: normally heavier and slower on-road, but if fitted with slick tyres and no suspension many can be as used as a hybrid. Some mountain bikes do not have the option to fit mudguards or luggage racks. Can also be more expensive to maintain.
  • Folding bikes: easier to store in small places and ideal for taking on the train, but more expensive than an equivalent non-folding bike, and able to carry less luggage. Fewer gears, and the small wheels and tyres will wear out more quickly with frequent use.
  • Touring/gravel/adventure bikes: more expensive than a hybrid, but just as versatile and practical; good if you prefer drop handlebars.
  • Road bikes/racers: lighter and quicker, but often with limited options for mudguards and luggage racks, and generally not as comfortable or practical for everyday city riding in traffic, wet weather, bumpy roads etc. Can also be more expensive to maintain.
  • Dutch/City bikes: normally already equipped with mudguards, rack, lights & chainguard, Dutch bikes are even more practical than a hybrid. They can also be very reliable and long-lived thanks to their hub brakes and gears, and full chaincase. But Dutch bikes are normally very heavy, have a smaller range of gears, and are pricier to buy.


100 miles from the comfort of your home

I’m sure many of you like myself winced at the idea of spending the foreseeable future locked up inside. I’ve never been one to sit still for long, I lose focus on video games, have to be in the right mood to read a book and can’t stand day time TV. When the lockdown reared its ugly face it seemed that my worst nightmare had come true.

Luckily I had recently acquired an indoor turbo trainer. For some it’s the worst thing in the world, the idea of sweating indoors for the sake of spinning your legs just doesn’t appeal… well, I would normally agree and to some extent, I still do. But don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

Earlier in the year, I had booked a place on the Trans Devon, a 300ish km ride across the south of the UK. The ride is set up much like the longer ultra-endurance events such as the Transcontinental but at a much more accessible distance for those seeking a mini weekend adventure. With checkpoints dotted across Devon (hence the 300ish) you have to match them up and get your brevet card stamped, much like the popular Audax discipline. To me, this seemed to be a gentle way into a summer of big miles and wide smiles.

This is where the turbo trainer comes into play: 300km is not to be sniffed at and I quickly realised I would need to do some training to be in with a chance of completing this event. The indoor trainer has meant I can do fast structured rides and fit them in with day-to-day life. This means an hour or so on weekday evenings paired with longer rides over the weekend. With lockdown it has become a much more indoor affair and the turbo trainer has become a vital part of the daily routine.

I’ll be honest: I’ve grown to love it. Even just an hour can burn enough energy to tie me over, also it keeps me from feeling lazy… or tricks me into thinking I’m not lazy, it’s one or the other. A smart turbo trainer allows you to use apps such as ZWIFT, that way I have something to look at on the screen and at least pretend I’m outside. (It really does amaze me what they can make Smart these days… I saw a smart toothbrush the other day, what makes it smart? Do I need an app for my dental hygiene?)
 
ZWIFT, an app for a smart turbo trainer
If I’m riding my turbo most days then I can quickly rack up the miles and before you know it you’ve done 100 miles a week without leaving your house… what’s not to love? I get bored pretty easily (I shaved my head within 24 hours of lockdown!) so I hate to think what would have happened if I didn’t have my turbo trainer. Do you guys use turbo trainers? Let us know what you think of them. They cant replace outdoor cycling but mine has been a great asset for my physical and mental health during these strange times. And if you also use a turbo trainer and ZWIFT, who’s up for a group ride?

The Important Things In Life

It’s all too easy to get swept up in a busy life in the city. Bristol is vibrant, exciting and full of opportunities. Cycling around our parks and green spaces, meeting people who are doing great things to improve them in their free time leaves me feeling pretty grateful. Whatever unfolds, being able to use my Expedition to visit and support those doing positive work feels like a blessing.

These past few weeks, miles have averaged anything from 15 to 30 per day, often leaving my Expedition wet, my legs tired and pannier rack weighed down. But the rides keep me smiling. Visiting some of our amazing spaces; Ashton Court, Greville Smyth, Montpelier Park and Blaise Estate has reminded me of the beauty we are surrounded by and the people who make our communities strong. I couldn’t get around without such a solid set of wheels.

Given the current situation, these wheels are more important than ever as I try to support local people who might need things collecting or dropping off if they’re staying inside. This weekend, we made a conscious effort to cycle for pleasure, something I rarely get to do these days. A visit from two of the siblings meant a good excuse for a daytrip – so we descended on Jake and the team first thing Saturday morning to collect three more Bristol Bicycles. We decided to take a leisurely spin along the Bristol and Bath Railway Path, 13.5 miles of traffic free fun whilst the media spun itself in circles. The escapism of being both alone and in good company whilst cycling has never been more valuable.


The ride took us on a day long adventure of drinking coffee, eating biscuits and remembering how much fun having a big family is. It also reminded me how important spending time outdoors with said family is. Big thanks to Jake and co. for giving us the chance to revert to our teenage sibling silliness. We’re inspired to get together for more rides out in the open countryside once we’ve all gotten through this strange time and used it remember to look out for, love and laugh with one another again.

Coronavirus Update

Bike Sales by Appointment

We have now reopened the shop for bike test-rides and purchases by prior appointment only. This will allow us to meet you individually at the shop, without any other customers present, and keep a 2m distance for your safety and ours. Please book your appointment online.

Bike Repairs

Due to childcare commitments and pre-existing health conditions we only have a limited number of staff available so we are unable to offer servicing and repairs or cycle hire for the time being, sorry.

The following bike workshops are currently open:

Website Orders

We are taking website orders for new bikes, and these are available to collect by appointment, or for van delivery within Bristol for £25. Please place your bike order online in the usual way and we will then be in touch to arrange a delivery date for your new bike. Delivery to the rest of the UK is currently unavailable, sorry.

Full Reopening

We are keeping abreast of PHE guidelines and government policy, and we will reopen for servicing and repairs as soon as it it safe to do so. Please keep an eye on www.bristolbicycles.co.uk for updates.

Thank you for your support and understanding.



Creative Riders Wanted!

Are you a budding blog writer, keen photographer or creative video editor?

Bristol Bicycles is on the lookout for people who share our ethos to help spread the word. Whatever your style of cycling, we want to hear from you if you’d like to become a contributor. From the biggest adventure to the smallest commutes, if you are committed to using your bike and able to create engaging content then we’d love to chat.

Ruth and Oli @intandemstories (Instagram) rode halfway around the world from Bristol to Bangkok on two fully kitted out Bristol Bicycles. They produced some truly amazing content, and lots of word-of-mouth recommendations for our brand. We want to build on their inspirational story and get more people involved in sharing tales of how you are using your own Bristol Bicycles.

Requirements

  • Be able to show a strong interest in cycling
  • Solid plans in place for a bigger trip (if applicable)
  • The ability to create content (photos, videos, blogs)
  • Committed to creating content on a regular basis and ability to work with us to promote the brand.

In return, we will give you a Bristol Bicycles CITY bike of your own (or equivalent discount off any other model)!

We would love to know what you are planning or what you could bring to our brand in a way that only ambassadors can. Here are some ideas:

  • Touring cyclists
  • Everyday commuters that use their bikes in interesting or unusual ways for work (possibly small business owners)
  • People using their bike for fitness (especially if you are committed to starting an everyday bike commute to help your fitness, and you are happy to share your progress)
  • Electric bike riders (especially if an E-bike has helped you to start cycling or return to cycling)
  • Online influencers or accounts with a large following (bonus points if it’s based around cycling)

Please send email to [email protected] with the subject of Brand Ambassadors. Explain why you would be a great fit for Bristol Bicycles and what you can bring to the brand. If you have a specific trip or event planned let us know. And if there is a bike in our range that fits your needs get in contact and we can begin to match up the perfect bike and the perfect ambassador!

Bristol to Boomtown on a Bristol Bicycle

Cycling to Boomtown from Bristol has become an important feature of my summer – something I now look forward to just as much as the festival itself.

Over the past few years I’ve led rides with RedFox Cycling along the Bristol Bath Railway Path, by the Kennet and Avon Canal and over some of the more challenging Wessex Downs hills. Summer 2019 was the first time my ‘Expedition’ Bristol Bicycle joined me for the adventure. Some of the riders rode hybrids, others were on old tourers, speedy roadies, even a tandem! The somewhat eclectic mix of people on bikes made the journey all the more enjoyable and, at times, entertaining.

Led on my classic black Expedition, the route was a fairly easy undertaking. Day one especially is generally flat, and we glided along the BBRP and canal path. The highlight of our day was the final gentle descent to Totteridge Farm, where we spent an evening eating pie, drinking home-made cider and getting to know each other beyond the saddle!


Day two started bright and early, although less “bright” and more “early”. A bit of rain didn’t dampen too many spirits though, as we continued on our journey with Boomtown on our minds. Only 45 miles to go! The Expedition didn’t let me down; keeping up with my legs as I cycled up and down the hills, making sure the group stuck together and supported each other. Leading a ride sometimes involves cycling the same hill several times in a bid to encourage those on their heavy old tourers. This of course means earning extra tasty snacks, always a good thing.


Arriving at Boomtown with the satisfied feeling that we’d pedalled all the way from Bristol was once again unbeatable. We’d hoped for a slicker entrance to the festival site, but we’re in close contact with Boomtown to make sure that the 2020 ride has a Boomtown Ch:12 fairytale ending; nothing less than our dedicated group of riders deserves!


All in all, I can’t wait to cycle to Boomtown again in August; the bonus of having a sturdy but speedy Bristol Bicycle made the 95 miles a pleasure. The Expedition and I are now a pretty inseparable team, even when it’s cold and festival season seems a million miles away.

Ella Foreman

Summer lovin’, happened so fast…


…thanks to taking the leap and buying my nippy new Bristol Bicycle, back in May this year.


I’ve always commuted by bike or on foot in Bristol. After several years of gliding around on my comfy but weighty Dutch-style tank of a bike, I switched to a custom built ‘Expedition’ model from Jake and the team. Since May, I haven’t looked back (apart from all the times I should do as a sensible cyclist(!).


I chose a soft saddle, a sporty drop bar and heavy duty panniers – knowing well the heavy loads I carry around the city and further afield. Much of my working week is spent cycling between Bristol’s Parks and Green Spaces as the Volunteer Coordinator for Bristol’s Parks Service. The Expedition model has made this a total joy and I’ve built a fairly strong reputation now for always arriving at volunteer activities with bike in tow. As well as the bike, I’m usually able to arrive with a smile on my face, as spinning up any of Bristol’s hills (even St Michael’s Hill!) is now satisfying and fun – a lot easier than on my old Dutchy.


Having my new set of wheels opened up some hugely exciting doors this summer too. She’s become more than just the trusty commuter. Built for the long slog, the Expedition has taken me to Glasto and back, as well as allowing me to lead rides to Boomtown and Shambala, partnering with Red Fox Cycling over the summer. Setting off from Bristol for each festival, we’ve totalled over 300 miles of festival riding together alone, with not so much as a glitch or niggle.


Leading the Boomtown and Shambala rides on the Expedition, I guided a bunch of eco-conscious and fitness-focused festival goers for the Red Fox rides through some gorgeous parts of the English countryside. Arriving at the festivals under our own steam, we cycled across all types of terrain with barely a peep from my hardy Expedition. Admittedly, she’s most suited to the roads or canal surfaces, but still fared well over gravel and the occasional field (even the Boomtown hill, which those of you who know will appreciate).


I’ve been repeatedly impressed by the understated Bristol Bicycle Expedition. Its offering is a robust, speedy ride with just the right balance between weight and responsiveness. If you’re looking for something that will carry your weary legs back from next year’s festivals (plus a lot of post-festival luggage!), look no further. If you need to blast up Bristol’s hills before the rush hour traffic each morning, again, you’re sorted. The best thing for me about biting the bullet back in May has been that I can now do even more of what I love; visit communities and volunteers working in Parks, explore the green spaces our city has to offer and get to festivals sustainably.


The Bristol Bicycle’s Expedition is as reliable as it is sleek. Here’s to another summer of pedal-powered adventures. Bring on 2020 ☺

By Ella Foreman

The land of Pastries, Bikes and the Ten Pound Pint

I’ve started to spot a recurring theme: whenever I end up on holiday, it’s always centred around bikes. Some would argue that I do it on purpose, but I think it’s more of a natural attraction. A week in Copenhagen; I can tell myself it was for the Scandi architecture or the “modern art”… but really it was all about bikes and pastries and, you know what, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The land of pastries, bikes and the ten pound pint (yep, I know, THE TEN POUND PINT ). Now I’m a big fan of all three. Well, maybe I prefer my pints towards the three to four pound mark, but when in Rome… It only ever hits home just how hilly Bristol is after you visit a place like Copenhagen. Not a hill in sight, there was barely a derailleur visible too, but then again why would you bother with gears when the biggest hill is the odd bridge here and there? The first thing that struck me was that, although there are loads of bikes, hardly any of them are any good. It’s not like Bristol in the way that if your bike’s not up to it the roads will eat it up and the hills will destroy your legs. In Copenhagen the cycling infrastructure is so well thought out that you don’t need a brand-new shiny bike. The second thing I noticed is that brands are almost irrelevant. No one cares if you have the new flashy on-trend road bike or a five-year-old banger; even bike shops are in on it. Almost every shop I peered into or went in to peruse the shelves was selling bikes by the gear number. It might be £200 for a single speed and then £250 for a double and so on and so forth. It was like a set menu for bikes, what’s not to love?

Another popular sight on the streets of Copenhagen was the humble cargo bike. I have a weird soft spot for the cargo bike, although I have no practical need for one – I just think they are the coolest. I can see why in a city like that they would be so popular; why pay to insure and service a car when most of your needs can be met by a cargo bike, be that kids in the basket or a week’s shopping loading you down? If it all gets a bit much, just get an electric version and you’ll be laughing. After a quick Google I found that the cargo bike was actually invented in Denmark. Lurpak and cargo bikes: is there anything these Danes can’t throw their minds at?

Now in the UK its probably fair to say we are going through a slight housing crisis. I’m no expert on Denmark’s socioeconomic problems, but they must not be suffering quite so badly as we are. After thinking many of the basement-level apartments seemed a bit empty and run down, I quickly realised that they were actually filled with bikes. It turns out that it’s fairly common to use the bottom floor in apartment buildings for bike storage. This must certainly cut down on bike theft! As I alluded to earlier, I’m not sure how popular it would be to turn perfectly liveable flats into bike storage in the UK but if you’ve got the space, why not?

Now I know you what you’re saying, “Oh George this is all great stuff but where is your obvious and tenuous link to Bristol Bicycles?” It’s coming up, don’t you worry.

Hire bikes… now a banned word within my family but I’m sorry Mum and Dad, I’m breaking the silence as we really do need to talk about how shoddy those bikes were. After one morning of failed Donkey bike hire (imagine if the Boris bikes had dropped out of school and gotten in with the wrong crowd… Bingo, you have Donkey bikes) we decided to cut our losses and hire bikes properly the next day. After traipsing around multiple hire bike places looking for that special Dibble price (cheap) we found what were to be our hire bikes for the day. Now these bikes were in no real shape to be on the road, but after having looked at multiple other places it seemed to be a recurring theme. We’re a friendly bunch but were not the most confrontational, so after we had picked up our bikes and found that one (Dad’s) was way too small we did the most British thing possible by keeping quiet and pretending it was all fine. Here’s a little check list of what you want to see in a hire bike (and what we pride ourselves at Bristol Bicycles).

What you want from a hire bike:

  • Healthy-looking tyres
  • no signs of rust
  • trued and straight wheels
  • brake pads with meat on
  • a good lock
  • gears that index.

Now here’s a check list of what you don’t want to see (and what I got):

  • worn-out tyres
  • not a spot left unrusted
  • a visibly wobbly front wheel
  • brake pads – what are they?
  • a lock attached by a zip tie
  • hub gears that can’t decide what gear they want to stay in.

In the shop every time we have hire bikes come back we do a good check over and test ride of every bike, even if it’s out for half a day. This really does help save the bike from getting any worse. This chap in Copenhagen was probably not checking his bikes very often. After we got back and explained the issues we found we were treated with a casual shrug and, “Well I wasn’t to know was I?” I’m not one to judge, but I think it may be his job to know. In all honesty we did manage to get a small refund, it seemed to change my dad’s mind and what was a terrible hire bike became a bargain day ride. At least one of us was happy.

I must admit I did enjoy my bike by the end of the day. The hub clicks became part of the charm, and I was starting to ease into the mix of upright ride position with a back pedal brake. I must come back to Denmark on my own bike though, maybe that’s the next tour. In conclusion, is Copenhagen the cycling city its cracked up to be? Well yes, of course. The bike paths are amazing, the flat roads are a breeze, and the general acceptance of bicycles makes it perfect. Not all bikes are built equal and Copenhagen seems to be full of some scary and cheap builds. I’m probably just being a bit of a snob, but it seemed that bikes had become so big in their culture that they really aren’t anything special, yet at the moment in the UK it can often feel like you’ve found a life hack when you start enjoying your bike commute. Also, sort your hire bikes out!

My Bristol Bicycle and me, a journey through Iran

Welcome to the first in a series of guest blogs. Michael bought a bike from us three years ago and has previously cycled in India . Here he describes his most recent adventure, a trip across Iran in the summer of 2019.

It’s now just over a week since I came back from my cycling trip in central Iran. When I would say I was planning a trip to Iran most people’s reaction would be ‘Are you mad?’, or ‘Wow! Persia – how amazing’. Well, my 3-week trip totally exceeded my expectations – the landscape, the people and the architecture – all just amazing. Visa requirements for UK passport holders meant that the trip had to be organised by an official Iranian travel company.  We decided on our route and the travel company provided a cycling guide, a minibus and all the accommodation.

 

 

Before we left we watched the oil tanker hostage issues closely – deciding to go if the political situation looked stable. After a bit of admin, a trip to the Iranian consulate in London, the trip was on – flying with Qatar Airways meant the bikes could be carried free – well within out 30kg hold weight limit. Six of us decided to make the trip – all friends of mine. We arrived at Heathrow with our bikes packed in 2nd-hand cardboard bike boxes. This worked really well with none suffering any damage en route – we just took off the front wheels, pedals and handlebars.

 

 

 

 


After arriving in Tehran we drove to Qom – a very religious city. The girls were wearing black with their heads covered with scarves and tunics. We reassembled the bikes in the reception lobby, to the amusement of the locals. Not many cycle in Iran, although later in the trip we did meet a cycling club from the south – including some women. There is actually a fatwa against women riding bicycles – but this isn’t really enforced. In Qom we visited the main mosque and had an English-speaking Imam as our guide. He was quite open about the political difficulties.

 

 


We were always quite a novelty as not many English people seem to visit Iran. Lunch was had sitting on raised platforms covered with carpets in an upmarket restaurant. The next day we started our cycle ride to the next city on our list – Kashan. Our trip took us from Kashan to Isfahan, Shiraz, Persepolis and Yazd before we returned to Tehran to fly back home. They were all amazing cities with such welcoming people. Highlights included the amazing architecture of the mosques, the winding bazaars, an ancient settlement from 2,500 BCE, beautifully-presented food, the generous people and the adobe city of Yazd.


We spent each night either in hotels or home stays. Most were very good with fabulous Iranian food – breakfast was mostly fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, dates, figs, soft cheese and flat breads. The Iranians drink masses of tea (without milk) – and they have masses of sugar. For lunch we usually had a midday stop often in an official picnic area – usually covered concrete platforms near a children’s play area. The Iranians love picnics, so we were often joined by the locals, sitting on a carpet they had brought, brewing tea and cooking kebabs. A few of our other stops were near mosques where we could use the toilets.

 

 


Each day we usually tried to set off at about 9am and cover between 35 and 60 miles, depending on the terrain. Over the three weeks we covered about 500 miles on the bikes. The minibus had the capacity to take us all with the bikes if we ran behind schedule. Iran is a very modern country, but it is suffering badly from Trump’s sanctions. The roads were generally excellent – well paved with a good hard shoulder. The cars and trucks were very respectful and gave us plenty of room. As cyclists are not a common sight, drivers often waved and hooted at us. One stopped ahead of us and gave us a huge watermelon and bread. We were often offered tea at the road side, and wherever we stopped we usually drew a small, very friendly crowd. One guy on a motorbike led us out of his town to ensure we knew the route.  The sun set at about 5.30 so we usually aimed to finish riding at about 4.

 

 

 

 

 

 


My bike was a 3-year-old Bristol Bicycles touring cycle with Marathon Plus tyres. We did have rain at the start of the trip, so the only maintenance was cleaning the chain. I did carry spare spokes, inner tubes and cables – all rather unnecessary. The bike coped fantastically with the terrain – we were mostly on paved roads but did cycle along a few dirt tracks. Cycling was such a great way to see the Iranian landscape. As we cycled from city to city we crossed the Zargos mountains – we cycled up to about 2,300m with snowy peaks above us at 3,500m. Central Iran is generally very dry with extensive irrigation channels providing water to the extensive rice fields. As we cycled higher we travelled through pomegranate, walnut, pistachio, orange and apple orchards.


Iran is a country with a large young population. The women are very fashionable – their scarves only just cover some hair, and they wear ripped jeans under their stylish tunics and coats. Many Iranians want change in their country and we were told that women will be at the forefront of change. More women (70%) than men go to university. As I write this the government has just doubled the price of fuel and there have been widespread protests against this policy and against the country’s leaders. The internet in Iran has been shut down for the last four days by the government in order to try to quell the issues. Not much of this is being reported in the mainstream media. The Iranian people are some of the kindest and most generous I have ever met – I hope their troubles can be peacefully resolved. I’m planning to go back in the next couple of years as we saw only a tiny part of an amazing and misunderstood country.