After eight years trundling the capital's streets on a hybrid bike, I've finally taken the plunge and bought myself a road bike.
It's something I've been contemplating ever since I completed London Revolution last year (it still astounds me that I cycled 180 miles in two days on a heavy, cumbersome, entry-level hybrid and lived to tell the tale), but it was successfully completing London Nightrider in June that made my mind up. I loved that event and felt I could have done it so much quicker on a better bike.
So, ever since then, I've been looking at what's on the market in my price range, and last week, with a few spare days up my sleeve, I set about organising a couple of test rides.
My first test (at Evans) on a Specialized Elite was a bit of a shock to the system: not just the riding position, but the location of the brakes and the fact my (very weak) wrists had to support most of my weight on the drop down handlebars whenever I changed gears. To be honest, I thought the whole let's-buy-a-road-bike idea was over before it had even really started.
But the next day, plucking up my courage, I ventured to another store (Cycle Surgery) and asked to test ride the Giant Avail 3. As soon as I got on the bike I knew it was for me. The riding position was less dramatic, shall we say, and I loved that it had two sets of brake levers: one near the drop down handlebars and another running along the top bar, which meant I didn't have to suddenly change position to apply them. The gear changes were smooth and the bike was super light and quick. I felt confident riding it, whereas I simply felt scared on the Specialized the day before.
As an added bonus, the bike was 20% off the recommended price, so I parted with my cash and cycled home — feeling like I'd won the lottery.
Later that afternoon I took her for a quick spin to Richmond Park and marvelled at how quick she felt on the road.
It took me a little while to get the hang of the gears, and I suspect I need to go on a few more rides before it all feels like second nature, but for a first go I was impressed.
For the time being I am sticking with the flat pedals and will look at switching them over to a clipless system once I've become more familiar with the bike. It's bad enough learning new brakes, gears and riding position, without throwing pedals into the mix as well.
My plan is to use the bike purely for leisure/charity-type rides, rather than day-to-day commuting (mainly because I don't fancy leaving it out on the street, even with all the locks I use). I'm really looking forward to going on lots of little adventures together... and writing about them here.