A Proper Bike

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When my friend suggested that we might do a few bike rides in China my response was simple.  “Don’t be silly.” 

Me and bikes have never got on - maybe it was the fact that I never had a bike as a kid (sniff sniff).  Maybe it was the fact that I managed to fall off my ex-boyfriend’s bike three times in one night - and only twice after I’d got drunk. 

Anyway I finally gave in and decided to try and learn to ride a bike properly for China.   When in Rome...

I didn’t realise how much fun it would be.  First in Wimbledon and then in China, and how I would fall in love with the freedom of cycling.  Being able to toddle off without worrying about petrol, being able to park it anywhere, being able to throw it on the back of a bamboo raft... (Not so much in Wimbledon.)

But then I gave my friend her bike back, and my car went to the scrap heap... it was time.

Much like bikinis, my resolve to go for it as far as a bike was concerned was actually hampered by trying to buy one!  I found myself saying over and over again - “I don’t know anything about bikes”, “that’s a lot of money” and, worst of all, there seemed to be two choices of ladies bikes; ugly or purple with butterflies (come on, it’s not a hair grip!)  I’m actually situated in one of the best areas for bike shops - my local Evans Cycles is apparently the biggest bike shop in the UK, but, no matter how nice the shop assistants were, I always left with the same feeling; depressed that I was a bit out of my depth and not very excited about spending any money on the bikes I’d seen - let alone lots of money!

The problem with buying an expensive bike is that then you have to buy an expensive lock, put some lights on it, maybe some mudguards, a few other bits and bobs and you can easily add another £100 to the original cost of the bike.

So I looked online - at Halfords, Evans, JJB Sports even, and they do offer cheaper bikes, and will even put them together for you so you can pick them up in store, but the only one I liked the look of; the Reebok Freedom - was sold out.  (Probably because it’s the only decent looking ladies bike online!)  And thanks, by the way, to Halfords for keeping it live so I could do all the comparisons and discuss with my friend before finding it was sold out!

Anyway after trundling around Evans (where they told me that the cheaper bikes they do are probably not worth it anyway - harumph!) one of their assistants asked me a very sensible question: “Do you actually like bikes?”

I was starting to worry that I didn’t.  Until I used the very handy website on the right here to check out all the “proper bike shops” in Wimbledon.  So I hit AW Cycles; a small original quirky little shop (not the one you’ll find in Reading!) where I turned down a decent but worn looking £85 second hand bike, and test drove a £250ish purple bike which was okay, but not my cup of tea.

I popped into Tri And Run - this is a triathlon shop - a bit out of my league, but they did point me in the right direction for my next stop...

...Smith Brothers in Wimbledon Village. I didn’t have to say “I don’t know anything about bikes”, and I didn’t have to say much at all...

It was wonderful, like the magic shopkeeper in Mr Ben, or a designer shop assistant who knows just what to pick out for you.  There were gorgeous new bikes, second hand bikes, and the very first one I test drove was so much better than the rest (maybe I just had it in the right gear?!)  Before I went out on any of them he’d look at me, tweak the height of the saddle, the handle bars...  and it was fun!!

In the end I had it down to two - one which was a great ride but only six gears (there’s a lot of hills around here) and another which was lovely but the handlebars made my shoulders a little sore.  He offered to switch the handlebars so I could try it the next day.  And... I bought it.

I let him decide on which locks, lights, gloves I needed - just because I trusted that he would give me the most suitable thing - such a relief after wandering cluelessly through so many shops.

All in, with the mudguards, that carry thing on the back, lights, lock and (rather expensive!) gloves it was about £360... not that cheap perhaps, but a lot cheaper than the £500 I’d have been looking at in Putney Cycles or Action Bikes just to get going.

And it flies.  I can’t tell you how much easier a “made to measure” bike is than riding a rental or someone else’s bike.  Like wearing shoes that have been sized to fit.  I can’t believe how much I love it.

And the best thing is that I feel so confident - not just on the bike, where my confidence grows pedal by pedal - but about buying it.  I know they are there to help me if anything goes wrong.  I still don’t know anything about bikes, but it doesn’t matter - because Smith Brothers know everything!

My first ever bike - and it fits me!


Click here to visit the cycling experts, for lots of information about cycling and the contact details for Smith Brothers on Church Road, Wimbledon Village - my bike shop!

£279 for the bike with reflectors, mudgards and pannier rack

£360 with front and back lights, heavy duty lock and cycling gloves

as at November 2010

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