15th May 2018
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Day 88 – 20 July 2017
Road cycling is not the cheapest sport if you want to ride to a decent standard. Even a basic road bike set up with some kit and shoes can set you back over £1,000. Over the past ten years I’ve spent somewhere in the region of £5,000 on cycling but I see it as an investment that keeps me fit and happy. It’s also my primary means of commuting so I reckon I’ve saved 2-3 times what I’ve spent in terms of train fares and fuel.
All the gear, no idea!
I’ve often found pleasure in watching someone new to cycling spend loads of money getting set up only to be either useless at cycling or give up in a matter of weeks. There are some less than affectionate terms for someone who overspends on kit and equipment to try and look the part. “All the gear, no idea” is the nice version and my dad and brother have often shouted that in my direction as I accumulate more bikes and kit than I could possibly need.
All the gear, no idea also refers to cyclists that don’t actually know what they are doing. The most comical scenario is when someone is new to wearing cycling shoes with cleats which click in to the bike’s pedals. They can take a bit of practice to clip in and out… I’m sad to say that this was me once upon a time – I remember falling off very embarrassingly at some traffic lights near Regents Park and having some impatient drivers toot their horn at me.
Road bike gear levers can also be tricky when you first ride, particularly as each brand (Shimano, SRAM, Campagnolo) has a different mechanism for changing gears. I’m sad to say that when cycling my first road bike home from the shop I had no idea how to gear down. So I ended up cycling 4 miles through London in 18th gear… quite tough when you’re not used to a road bike.
The other less pleasant cycling term is “full kit wanker” which is typically used for someone sporting full team kit with matching bike. This can cost serious money and whilst it can look impressive, doing so with a full beer belly and sub 20mph can also look ridiculous. I’m pleased to say that I haven’t drifted in to FKW territory just yet.
I got my dead bike back about a month after the accident and as expected it was a total write off. This was sad because I loved that bike but at least it meant I got to buy a shiny new one…
Buying my bike
So where to start, as I wasn’t flush with cash after my expensive stint off work I knew it was going to have to be another cycle to work bike. This would be my 4th bought on the scheme which is an income tax free salary sacrifice initiative which allows you to buy a bike and pay it off over 12 months, amazing! The max voucher is £1,000 and I was keen to get another carbon fibre bike so I would have to go full whack.
You can now pick up entry level carbon bikes for £700-1,000 but going cheap is not advised because components (groupset, gears, brakes etc) will also be cheap and basic and will likely cost more to maintain and replace in the long run.
I had just lost an awesome full shimano ultegra set up so downgrading to sora/tiagra was going to be too painful. I decided to focus on the mid range shimano 105 groupset which was typically being used on bikes around £1,500. I didn’t really have the extra 500 so I did what any good Whitlam does and went bargain shopping. After checking out most independent shops In a 20 mile radius I settled on this little beauty…
Giant TCR Advanced 105
I was chuffed when I found this bike at Woodrups Cycle just outside of Leeds city centre. It was last year’s model so was reduced from £1,395 to £1,100 which was a bargain given the specification. It also had a sleek semi aero look to the frame and seatpost.
I was chuffed with my new bike. All there was left to do was tweak gears/brakes, swap to my own saddle and pedals and finally hit the road.
There’s nothing quite like taking a brand new bike for a spin. The gears and brakes so slick and efficient, the drivetrain running smoothly with no click and crunches.
My knee still wasn’t that strong but I’d done a few miles on an exercise bike and I had to get out on the road. So 88 days after my accident I was back on the road.
Lots of people have asked me if I was scared getting back on a bike or hitting the road again but I honestly felt nothing of the sort. The overriding feeling was being gutted I had lost out on most of the summer’s cycling. That being said I did go a little steadier down hills and round corners.
Now I was back on two wheels I had to name the new beast…. I’ve learnt this from my little brother, who is currently in the process of travelling around the world. He has named all of his bikes for luck and it seems to have worked so far. I hadn’t done this before but had to this time round, so I decided on Geri, the Giant. Named after my favourite spice girl (showing my age!) thanks to it’s streaks of red throughout.
Helmet & other bits
Having bought a new bike the other big investment I had to make was a new helmet, my last now be cracked and bashed. I probably spent even more time researching this because I found it fascinating.
One thing I definitely wasn’t aware of is that you should replace your helmet at least every 5 years (I’d had my last for a good 10) and that a small crack or nasty drop can write off the structural integrity and safety of the entire helmet. Some manufacturers even allow a free replacement for a cracked helmet in the first 1-3 years.
My number one priority for a new helmet was going to be safety where previously it would have most likely been price and perhaps a recognisable brand. I read up a lot on various safety features and ended up focusing on multi-directional impact protection system (MIPS) based helmets.
MIPS technology is relatively new and does lead to a premium in price, they start at around £80. MIPS has some sort of slip-plane which allows it to absorb rotational as well as linear force.
I felt loyal to the brand that quite possibly saved my life or at least severe injuries – Giro. They had recently released a new helmet called the Synthe. The MIPS version was a tad expensive at £250 but thanks to a wiggle sale and voucher I picked one up for just over £100 which seemed ok as it is one of the safest on the market. And worn by a lot of the pro cycling teams.
Another couple of things I have treated myself to since getting back on the bike are my first pair of Oakley cycling glasses – Jawbreaker Prizms to be precise and they are stunning, I’ve always wanted a pair.
I’ve also just bought a pair of NorthWave waterproof thermal winter shoes/boots. Both of these were heavily discounted to a little over £100 each. As I said cycling can be a pricey hobby!
So it’s fair to say that I now have “all the gear and no idea!” Well I have some idea about cycling but like most I have probably spent far more than my standard of cycling deserves.
Training & Fund-raising
I’m currently in 2 months training for the tour de yorkshire which my company are now sponsoring. I’m very excited about this because it means that I will also be volunteering near the finish line on two of the days the pros are riding.
The TdY sportive on Sunday 6th May looks a gruelling 129km of climbing through the Yorkshire Dales including the long slog up Greenhow Hill which I have struggled up twice before in sportives.
Check out the route here:
As part of the TdY challenge I’m going to be fundraising for the 3 children’s charities and I’m really hoping to raise over £400 so that our total raised would be over £2,000.
I was also chuffed that SB&G have teamed up with one of my other chosen charities this year – Candlelighters, making it their third charity of the year, following an amazing £65,000 raised for Give a Duck last year.
Over the next few weeks I will be sharing more stories of the recovery from the accident and training towards the TdY.