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Bike Testing

Today I spent the morning looking at various bikes to replace my aging cyclo-cross bike.

When I bought it, there wasn't much of a market in that area. I had actually wanted a fairly standard road bike, but the bike shop owner convinced me to go with the cyclo-cross if I wanted something more durable for commuting in the winter. He did put road tires on it and that suited me back then. But these days I do like to use unsurfaced or gravel paths, so a more hybrid tyre would do me well.

These days it looks like there is a pretty wide variety of gravel bikes which look to cover what I want nicely. I tried a three different shops, two chains and one independent shop. The two chains both showed me a range of bikes but after talking through my needs we zeroed in to one of them fairly quickly. I got to test them by taking them along the canal towpath which was a pretty good test of surfaces.

The first bike I tried was amazing on the cobbled surfaces compared to my old bike and it still had lots of oomph when I was on a flat straight section. The gears were definitely not set up quite right, but I knew that it would be a small tuning issue. Overall it was a nice bike but I definitely didn't fall in love with it.

The second bike from the other chin store was much rougher on the cobbled, very similar to my old bike. Again the gears went set up right and I just about fell off while crossing a road as a result this time.

Finally I went to the independent bike store. Here the shop owner had a very different attitude. While we did discuss my needs and wants, he was keen to get me to test multiple bikes. The first couple were more expensive than the ones from the chain stores and I couldn't really tell the difference. They might have been slightly lighter, but I couldn't really tell while riding them.

I was just about to give up when the owner encouraged me to try one more. This one was end of line clearance (so the frame size is fixed, I couldn't get a different size) but try it anyway. And that one was much nicer. It managed to provide both a comfortable ride over the rough surfaces and yet was still a joy when I went for it and cycled fast along the straight.

So I just need to get my cycle to work voucher sorted out and I will have a new bike, hopefully soon after the regen.

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