My new bike

Friday, 24 August 2018

I absolutely love cycling, it is the perfect exercise for me - especially as I have a dodgy knee from a horse riding accident when I was eighteen, I can't do anything involving impact, like running. I love being outdoors and there are some great places to ride close to where we live, including the Camel Trail and Tarka Trail.

Once upon a moon, before Little Bear was born and it was just Tom and myself, we would go mountain biking together. We even planned our holidays so that we stayed close to mountain biking centres, like the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia in Wales. The uphill climbs often had me in tears, but the adrenaline rush of the downhills made the effort completely worth it. At that time I was still working and bought a Trek women's mountain bike, which was built to take the hammering those sort of rides threw at us.

Of course, once Little Bear was born I wasn't going to stop cycling, we had to find a way for our new baby to join us. We bought a bike trailer, which Tom attached to his bike, and we started going for rides along the level trails built on old railway routes. These rides could be as long or as short as we wished, but even though they are sedate rides I was finding parts of my body complaining after 10k or so. It had nothing to do with my fitness, a mountain bike just isn't made for sitting down on for lengths of time in one position.

So, after suffering particularly badly after a 24k ride with an aching lower back and shoulders, and numb, tingling hands, I decided I really had to find a bike made for leisure riding.

Now, since giving up work we don't have the money to throw at expensive luxury items like bikes, so it took me quite some time to find an affordable one that I liked. Even when I thought I knew what I wanted I dithered for months, feeling guilty about spending the money on myself. When I did finally decide I was going to go for it and buy the model I'd chosen, I found all stock in my size had sold out.

It was now halfway through August and after we got back from our summer holiday in the New Forest, I got straight back on the internet and began my search all over again. After weighing up all the options in my price bracket from different companies I settled on one of the Pendleton classic ladies bikes from Halfords.

My first choice was the Pendleton Ashwell in sage green, I really liked the enclosed hub gears and full chain guard. I thought it would be less maintenance and looked neat and entirely retro. Tom had his doubts, he was concerned that if I had a rear wheel puncture while we were out there would be no easy way to repair it there and then. Well, I went ahead and bought the bike anyway and I was thrilled to find the bike had just gone down in price. However, Tom was proved right straight away. The hub gears required setting up after purchase, they were only 2mm out but getting at the screw to adjust them was impossible, so back to Halfords we went.

The technician, Dan, couldn't get into the chain guard either and damaged it trying to remove it. He was very apologetic and admitted they'd had problems with the design of the Ashwell. Dan looked to see if he could get a replacement bike for me but the ones in my size had all gone. I was so disappointed but it was hard to be annoyed with Dan, it wasn't his fault and Tom had already told me the full chain guard would be a nightmare to remove.

Dan suggested I consider the Pendleton Somerby instead. Essentially it was the same bike as the Ashwell except it had derailleur gears instead of hub gears which were much easier to access for maintenance, and the rear wheel was a drop-out one that could be removed easily should I get a puncture. He also sweetened the whole deal by offering me a significant discount for all the trouble I'd had. Tom was happier too, as he's the one who'd be maintaining the bike for me.

So, finally happy to go ahead I bought the Somerby in mint green and Dan assembled it for me, putting on a kickstand and the 'ding-dong' bell from my Ashwell as they aren't included on that model. There was just time for a quick ride along the Camel Trail for a few miles before having to go home.

My opinion? I wish I'd just listened to Tom and bought the Somerby in the first place. The reviews on the Halfords website that say the bike is noisy, uncomfortable over bumps, is slow and doesn't have enough gears are all wrong. As an experienced cyclist who is used to a much more expensive bike, I have to say the Pendleton Somerby is beautiful - not just to look at but to ride. As for the staff at our local Halfords - in Bodmin and Exeter - I have nothing but the highest praise for them, they all went out of their way to make sure I got the best deal and went away with a product that will allow me to enjoy my cycling experience.

By the way, it's supposed to be sunny tomorrow and we plan to ride the Tarka Trail in North Devon. We'll be going near another branch of Halfords and I've already checked that they have the lovely Pendleton wicker style basket in stock...

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