Looking back on this strange summer, the long balmy days suddenly feel a lifetime ago. Making the best of a pretty rubbish situation led us to some gorgeous spots on home turf this year, mostly only reachable thanks to being firmly in the saddle – sometimes for a few too many hours! Our favourite adventure was a trip to Bude, our longest ride ever with the best weather we could have hoped for. This was a bit of a trial by fire for our newly loved-up duo of Bristol Bicycles (the boy finally took the plunge and invested in a partner for my already well spun Expedition). As expected, the bikes were flipping brilliant: 250 miles and not a peep from either of them, although a fair amount of sighs and groans from me at the sight of some of those hills! Bristol to Bude is not a route for any lovers of flat cycling.
Now, before you get some idea of us being more competent than we actually are, let’s get some bits straight. We actually cheated at the start and got the train to Taunton; stopped halfway for a sleep and mega feed at Barnstaple; and at a little village, Twitchen, on the way back. We probably ate about twice as many bags of Haribo as were necessary on day one and only got to grips with drip feeding the glucose tabs on the final leg of the journey home. It’s an art, we discovered.
Arriving for our first night in Bude after two days of solid cycling was the biggest buzz. It’s hard to describe the feeling of arriving somewhere by bike. It’s a mix of endorphins, relief, excitement (mostly for all the food you’re about to inhale to satisfy the cycling appetite!) and the simple satisfaction of having reached your destination independently. We’d made up for the lack of easy journey by treating ourselves to a pre-pitched canvas bell tent a mile or so from the coast. This was the best decision ever. I’m definitely not knocking the usual camping situation of the awesome Red Fox Cycling rides to Boomtown and Shambala – those were sorely missed this year – but arriving knowing we could almost instantly lie down, on a mattress was a bit dreamy.
With the bikes resting up in the tent with us, the beach not far away and the sun streaming in through the canvas, we definitely made the most of not needing to cycle for a few days. If you’re near Bude, you’ve got to make a trip to Boscastle for stunning scenic walks and waterfalls. You will also find pebbled beaches galore and pasties the size of your forearm in Bude itself, not to mention massive waves to catch at Crooklets beach.
Cycling back to Bristol felt like a slow motion version of the end of a movie – there’s this weird sense of nostalgia that hits when you suddenly realise your adventure is coming to an end. We soaked up every last bit of sunshine over the final two days in the saddle, pausing to genuinely admire the views, not just as an excuse for a sugar boost!
Exmoor boasts not only some savage climbs, but also vistas out onto what looks like never-ending open space. Tailing an Exmoor pony and her foal for over a mile, not wanting to speed past and spook them, was one of those moments that makes you just sit back and feel totally blessed. The discord between that and the frantic city scene is quite striking. It makes you almost want to up sticks and escape the city for good – until you get back to Bristol and remember the incredible green spaces we have here too, the strength of community and opportunities to explore, learn, create and support within this vibrant city.
Bristol to Bude was a beautiful ride – one we could not have done without the most reliable of bicycles. Taking a little bit of Bristol’s sense of adventure with us wherever we go, I’m looking forward to our next excuse to get out on two wheels for a couple of hundred miles, wherever they may take us!
Written by Ella Foreman ( @runningdancingella )
This year Kate and Dave took two of our full spec touring bikes across the country. They decided that, with 2020 being a bit of a write-off and all previous travel plans ruined, they would make the most of this mess and do something new. After a bit of persuasion from our mutual friends In Tandem (Oli and Ruth) a deal was struck and they left to cycle Land’s End to John O’Groats. Here is a run down of their favorite photos and stories.
We met Julie, a wonderful Canadian PhD student, on our trip whilst crossing the Forth Bridge, and she stayed with us for a few days whilst we explored the east coast of Scotland and beyond. We wild camped next to the Sow of Atholl, an immense hill rising out of the mist near the Pass of Drumochter, which is the highest point of the railway network in the UK. Camping in tall grass, we cooked salmon and rice, and drank beers as the sun set behind the ominous hills.
Bleary eyed in the morning, Dave realised whilst packing up that his drone was missing. Uh-oh. This photo is of Dave calling the cafe we stopped at the day before. We talked about the last place we had seen it, which was 30 miles back in Perth. Ruth and Oli had stayed back in Perth to recover from an injury, and immediately sprang into action, calling B&Bs and cafes we had visited, and Ruth even got a lift from her B&B owner to go to the last known location on a layby deep in the forest back along our route, but to no avail.
Enter Peter, a railway worker, who happened to be working that day on The Pass of Drumochter. He noticed a small grey bag by the railway, near the flattened grass left by some wild campers the night before. He saw a drone inside, and posted on his local Facebook group about finding the owner. Someone on the group used to live in Perth, and noticed Oli’s post looking for a drone, and you can guess the rest.
We had just finished our second day of cycling after losing it, 65 miles north in Inverness, when Oli called Dave to tell him the good news. We were put in touch with Peter, and asked him where he lived so we could arrange a pickup/postage. He lived in…Inverness, a mile away from where we were sitting in our B&B! We went to go and see Dave’s new favourite person that evening, handing Peter a box of chocolates and a case of beer, and were dumbstruck for the rest of the evening, holding an item we had resigned ourselves to losing forever! It goes to show the power of social media in connecting people, and just how kind strangers really are.
We were lucky enough to be the guests of several Warm Showers hosts, which is a network of cyclists around the world that want to pay back the incredible hospitality they have received on biking trips in the past. COVID meant that we were only able to camp in their gardens and eat separately, however the warmth and generosity we were shown throughout the trip was amazing.
One couple who hosted us on the border of Scotland had cycled “Wall to Wall” – Hadrian’s Wall to The Great Wall of China – several years ago, and then returned on a container ship, sailing back across the whole world with their bikes in the cargo hold. They were in their fifties when they embarked on this amazing journey over the course of a year, and the lasting impression of everywhere they went was the depth of hospitality and generosity they received on their trip. Their way of paying it forward was to host us, cooking a huge carb-heavy meal to refill our fuel tanks, doing some bike maintenance with us, and telling amazing stories in the garden before bed of their travels.
Staying with people like this was the perfect way to re-energise and keep our spirits up, and we will pay it forward too, when things are a bit more normal!
We went wild swimming several times during this trip, usually a bracing early morning swim to wake us up before setting off for the day. Whilst the average time for doing LEJOG hovers around two weeks, we wanted this to be an adventure off the bikes as well as on them, so we decided to spread it out over a month, to allow us to take in the sights and stop as we pleased. We are so happy that we chose this way of exploring the country, as it gave us plenty of time to choose the more scenic (and usually more hilly!) routes across places like Dartmoor, the Lake District and the Shropshire hills; as well as more time to park up and explore beautiful hidden gems on foot.
We did a combination of camping, B&Bs and friends/family hosting us throughout this trip, and the wild camping produced the most exciting and the most stressful moments. Dave is not a natural camper, so he took a little persuasion when deciding to spend the night on the shores of lochs or by the sea in Scotland.
Wild camping gives you an incredible sense of freedom and self-sufficiency, and the views that you get when you unzip your tent in a truly wild spot make all of the hassle worth it! This photo is from our camping spot on Skerray Bay, at the very top of the country, where we had to hoist our laden bikes across a pebble beach, then up a sandy ridge, and down to our very own private beach. We thought we were alone, save for the single fishing boat chugging along that evening, until the other residents of that beach descended – the dreaded midges. Both of us had a full head net and tons of repellent, but the little buggers shrugged all that off and we got covered in bites – Dave had several biting his eyelids!
That was a tough evening, and as we stripped off in the tent and watched an army of slugs climb up the inner membrane of our flysheet, Dave vowed never to wild camp in Scotland again.
No imagery can accurately convey the steep and relentless relief of Cornwall and Devon. Widely regarded as the hardest part of the trip (not least because your fitness hasn’t caught up with your optimism), it was both a physical and a mental challenge for us. Just as we thought we had reached the top of a hill there would be a turn, and another brutal climb awaited us – and, as most of the routes we took had tall hedgerows, we weren’t even treated to a view for our efforts.
We each had very different cadences for these hills – Dave was slow and steady, consistently pedalling at the lowest gears, whilst Kate was a sprinter, pushing herself hard for a minute and then stopping to catch her breath. Amazingly, we were always moving at the same pace, getting to the tops of these hills at the same time.
People always ask us how hard it must have been, and perhaps we have a rose-tinted view of what that week was like (we certainly got our arguing out of the way before Ruth & Oli joined us in Bristol!), but we say that LEJOG was an amazing experience that was not overshadowed by intense physical exertion – the pace we chose was leisurely, but we would recommend this trip to anyone who can comfortably ride a bike for an afternoon.
Written by Kate and Dave (@kavetrip)
Summer holidays… wide-open beaches… beating sun… ice cream… factor 50. I didn’t get any of this, but that’s what you get for bike touring in September. Over the last few years I’ve been on some sort of cycling holiday with my dad, it’s become something of a Dibble tradition. After the lock-down and the closing of any travel corridors, we were left with no option but to ride in the UK. The location had to be flat and easy going with plenty of pit stops (a small Holland if you like).
We landed in Norfolk: somewhere I knew very little about but, with the prospect of a week out on the bike, I didn’t care where we went. We planned the trip for around 5 fairly easy days, with manageable mileage.
Before we get into the day-to-day, let’s talk bikes. I’ve finally committed to my Bristol Bicycle, and I love it. It’s not stock, but mechanically it’s not far off. Built up as a party pace touring bike with fat tyre capabilities, it became my go-to bike for relaxed rides, errands and shopping. My dad was on his trusty Temple Cycles adventure disc, with some big changes. Out with the classic drop bars with bar-end shifters and cable discs; in with the flat bars and hydraulics. In the week leading up to the ride I switched the old set up with some shiny new Velo Orange Crazy bars, a modern take on butterfly touring bars. He managed the trip with minimal back pain or hand issues, something which were a common occurrence with the drops. Dad had the standard full Ortlieb touring rig: rear double panniers, and a handlebar bag. I went for a lighter classic setup: Carradice super C saddlebag and front basket with Carradice bag sitting inside with bits and bobs fixed to the basket. Also, a little Restrap stem bag attached to the rear of the basket for those mid ride snacks.
We left the warmth of home on Thursday night to stay in a friend’s very nice air BnB just outside Ely. On Friday morning the ride started in much the same vein as the rest of the trip: we left the cosy accommodation, rode one mile up the road, and tucked into a full (veggie) English breakfast. This was not a trip from which we would come back two stone lighter and match fit; it’s a holiday after all, and coffee stops and guilt-free eating are what cycle touring is all about. The first section of the day took us through flat back roads which slowly meandered their way through Thetford and into Thetford Forest. Once at the forest we had to turn on the charm to secure two coffees and cheesy chips thirteen minutes before the cafe was officially open. After chomping through the chips we were ready to get ‘Rad’ in the woods. We had made good time and were probably now halfway through the day’s ride. The next section of the route took us on forest tracks and bridleways, a fun excursion from the long sections of road. With my 42mm supple tyres I floated over the bumps and sand that covered the forest. A mix of upright riding position and off-road riding never fails to bring a smile to my face. We then rejoined the road and slowly ambled our way to Norwich.
By the time we were heading to the hotel it was dark and wet, so that warm, welcoming bed couldn’t come quickly enough. We stuffed our faces with Indian food, had multiple warm showers and, after a night’s sleep, we were ready to hit the road again. This time our planned route would take us to the coast, first to Cromer and then along the seafront towards Sheringham. Day two was wet from the word go, and about 10 miles in we were already sitting under cover drinking tea and escaping the rain. We decided to take an ever-so-slightly shorter route along the start of the Marriott’s Way. The begining of the route consisted of a long section of single track alongside a miniature steam train line. This might have been the best part of the trip: muddy tracks, loose autumnal leaves, and laden-down touring bikes are a recipe for fun. I love how my bike floated across the uneven ground with its upright position keeping me planted throughout.
Once off this track and over a few more lumps and bumps, we cruised down into Cromer. Cromer can probably be best described as fine, not terrible, but also not top of my list. Think Weston-super-Mare with less mud. After a short tea break it was back onto the bikes and a quick nip down the coast to our hostel.
Hostel living… can’t say I don’t live a life of luxury! The bed was a bed and the shower was warm, that’s about all we needed after a wet day on the bikes. After forgetting to bring shower gel we were forced to use the tools we had and take apart the soap dispenser. “We found it like that,” was what we told the receptionist, while I slowly hid the multi tool.
The previous day’s off-road jaunt gave us our first mechanical. After a full brake clean and reset we realised that the pad had somehow completely worn away on my dad’s brand new disc brakes, impressive work for flat Norfolk! We are putting it down to a small fault with the the manufacturing – no pad or residue was left, and it looked as if the whole pad had fallen away from the metal plate. Luckily a very friendly man in Wells-next-the-sea had a spare set of pads left over from that season’s hire bikes!
The ride into Wells-next-the-sea was one of my favorite sections of the route, the sweeping lanes and rollercoasteresqe hills were a nice change from pancake-flat roads. The blue sky was just poking through (the first and last we would see of it on this trip). The rest of the day was much the same as the days before: food stops, photo opportunities and slowly pottering through country lanes. We were taking a beating from the heavens as the day grew shorter, so the warm and welcoming accommodation was even sweeter. The room for the night was above a pub, and there’s nothing better than a pint and hot meal after a day of wet and windy riding. One disappointing lasagna and a catch-up on the Giro Italia later and I was sound asleep.
Day four… you guessed it, was slow. We had decided to go for a slightly longer day and get back a bit ahead of schedule. We loved the trip, but another day of being rained on and getting cold didn’t sound like much fun. We had to cover 50+ miles to get from the Norfolk coast back down to where the car was parked in a village just outside Ely. The route took us past Big Liz’s house in Sandringham, into Kings Lynn, and then to our first pit stop in Downham Market for tomato soup from a greasy spoon. Once refreshed and re-energised, we had to slog across the flat levels near Ely and back into Chippenham. About 8 miles from the finish our route took us across an old farm track and through a thick grassed bank. Although this was really fun and felt like we were channeling our inner rough stuff fellowship. being so close to the end and against nasty crosswinds felt like a slight kick in the teeth.
Four days of cycling were over; a slightly different experience compared to previous trips on the continent, but no less enjoyable. The novelty of using accommodation rather than camping was something that might stay on some (NOT ALL!!) future rides. Not having to put up tents or find places to stay in the wet is always a plus. The bike was a dream! I had one puncture, but other than that it kept me comfy and smiling all week. I can see me and my new Bristol Bicycle embarking on many trips in the future. It’s already replacing the car for small trips. Back to normal life now… Oh well! I’ll be back out on the bike in no time.
Beep beep… beep beep: the alarm went off nice and early last Sunday. After a busy week of work, it was finally time to head out on the bike. 7:30am rolled through and I was out the door and heading into Bristol to meet up with David and Kate of @katedavetrip, as well as Oli and Ruth from @intandemmemories.
David and Kate had approached Bristol Bicycles for a bit of help when planning their LEJOG (Land’s End to John o’Groats) trip. Of course we were more than happy to oblige, and hearing good words about them from Oli and Ruth ( who previously cycled halfway around the world on their Bristol Bicycles) we struck a deal to sponsor the trip.
This was day seven for the guys, and the route took us from Bristol’s best coffee spot, ka:fei, up the River Severn ending in Gloucester, taking in country lanes, canal towpaths, and the odd “hill”, on what was a relatively flat day. This was much to the delight of Kate and Dave who had already come through Devon and Cornwall (possibly the most challenging section of the tour).
I had set out to ride with Kate, Dave, Oli, Ruth, and their friend Louie for the day, and join a short leg of their much longer journey. Oli, Ruth, and Louie had also joined from Bristol with all but Louie undertaking the whole rest of the trip; Louie is planning to peel off at Manchester, which in itself is a big effort, especially when you take into account the boneshaker bike he’s chosen ( if it works it works – you do you!).
The rest of the group were all on Bristol Bicycle touring models. Ruth’s and Oli’s had been to Bangkok, but were still going strong with original kickstands and even a bag of unused spare spokes. Kate and Dave were showing off their flashy new up-to-date touring bikes with hydraulic disc brakes, dynamo lighting and full rack setup. I had been informed that they were almost fault-free since they had set out. A bit of minor gear adjustment and double-wrapped bar tape and these bikes aren’t going to hold them back from any adventure. I’d often find one of the group staring longingly at their bikes as the bond between rider and bike grew day by day, tour by tour.
Even on a small section of the ride we met people along the way that wanted to share their own LEJOG stories or local tips: most notably a couple just outside Berkeley who took us to a local cafe called Perfect Blend, highly recommended… seeing all the cyclists there you might already know it.
Heading out of Berkeley a little bit heavier from a coffee and lunch, we (or rather I) had the first mechanical mishap. My oh-so-supple tyres had come back to bite me, sure enough, the front was flat. A quick change of tube and I thought I had it… Nope: pop went my pump as I stared down at what now amounted to a couple of metal tubes and a few valves. My pump had given up and, with no luck putting it back together, I had to plead with local cyclists to see if I could find someone better equipped than I was. Sure enough, we got it back up and running and the trip continued. With a little top-up 20 minutes later as we met up with Oli and his old faithful pump from India, I was set for the rest of the trip.
The rest of the day was much the same: a steady progress along sweeping country lanes and gravel canal paths fuelled by a potent mix of jelly babies, cashew nuts and coffee. The social aspect of the day meant we ate through the miles and I didn’t think too much about the distance. Whether it was Dave’s plan to become the Elon Musk of bug farming or Oli waxing lyrical about F1, the chat is all part of the experience. This was far being from everyone’s first rodeo with Ruth and Oli and their epic around the world trip, or Louie and his forays touring in Japan, I felt like a mere mortal hearing about the trips these guys have done. Nonetheless, with cycling stories being shared and snacks handed out, we quickly caught up with our destination.
My arrival in Gloucester that evening was greeted by yet another puncture, which put the final nail in the coffin of any remaining ideas about cycling home that night; so I shacked up with the rest of them in their hotel, and enjoyed a well-deserved meal from a local Thai restaurant. The next day it was a bright and early start and farewell to the group. They left me to funnel my breakfast in and make a dash to the local bike shop. Cheers Eastgate Cycles for sorting me out!
The ride home was a bit quicker, but no more enjoyable. It followed a nasty section of the A38 that quickly became closed swooping A roads, that led me straight back into Bristol for lunch. Even a small weekend out on the bike felt like a mini holiday. The bug is back ,and within a few hours of being home I was already planning my next adventure. Thanks to the gang for having me along and good luck with the rest of the trip!
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.
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.
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:
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!
…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 ☺
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:
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):
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!
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!
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:
annual service + brake blocks
annual service + brake blocks; chain & cassette
annual service + brake blocks; all cables; tyres
annual service + brake blocks; chain, cassette & crankset; new wheels
annual service + brake blocks
annual service + brake blocks; all cables; chain & cassette; tyres
(including purchase cost)
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.
annual service + brake blocks
annual service + brake blocks, chain & cassette; tyres
annual service + brake blocks; wheels; bottom bracket; pedals
annual service + brake blocks; chain, cassette & crankset; all cables; rear mech
annual service + brake blocks; headset; tyres
annual service + brake blocks; chain & cassette; wheels; shifters
(including purchase cost)
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.
basic service, no parts required
annual service, gear hub rebuild & lube, no parts required
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):
annual service + brake blocks
annual service + brake blocks; chain & cassette; tyres
annual service + brake blocks; all cables; chain, cassette & crankset
annual service + brake blocks; chain & cassette; new wheels; tyres
annual service + brake blocks; chain & cassette
annual service + brake blocks; all cables; chain, cassette & crankset; tyres
(including purchase cost)
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.
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