Thursday, 6 June 2013

Reflecting on my Cycle to Work purchase.

It four years since I purchased my Dawes Super Galaxy using the Cycle-to-Work scheme. It was an expensive purchase for a commuter bike, but I wanted to own a quality bike for the first time in my life and dreamed of doing some cycle touring. A self-justifying cycle buyer once told me that you would ride a quality bike more. They were right.

Never before have I worn a bike out so quickly. I'm on my second set of tyres; I've just installed a third set of brake pads; whilst doing that I noticed the back wheel rim is down to the wear-limit; I checked the chain and she needs her third; and now the bottom bracket has just stiffened and I shall replace it.

I've probably ridden the Galaxy about 3000km a year, mostly to work and back, sometimes taking the long way in summer as extra fitness training, and usually direct through winter.

The Galaxy has only been on two cycle camping tours so far, but they were epic, Wales bottom to top over three mountain ranges, and another week long trip through Normandy. I only ever had rear panniers and all that static weight was on the back wheel. Being able to take that weight, she's also done me proud on many supermarket shopping trips.  Throughout, the wheels have never broken a spoke and stayed true. Whoever built that wheel I salute you.

She came with 32mm Schwalbe Marathon tyres (not the 'plus' model) and punctures are extremely rare. I can only recall fixing a flat at the side of the road once.  Out near Lode I was riding with headphones when I noticed the beat of the music I was listening to had gone out of time. Removing headphones I realised I'd been cycling with an arrow-head flint stuck in the tyre and with every revolution it was being hammered into the tyre, for how long I don't know.  Every other deflation was slow and only noticed after I'd parked up at my destination.

This was my first bike with 'drops'.  At first I couldn't use those damn things, being far too low for comfort but after about a year of stretching and being incentivised by seeming endless Fenland headwinds and I cracked it.

I am often reminded in pub conversations that my Dawes Super Galaxy came with a pipe and slippers as mandatory accessories. Aye, she has that image, but she is no slouch.  I'll give any carbon road biker a crack on the commute home, I've got nothing to loose, and if I do, I get fitter.  I've since discovered Strava and set many of my personal bests on the tourer, even though I now own a road bike. It's about being out there, just riding, and making the most of an opportunistic tail wind.

Since last summer, I've been putting 25mm slicks on instead of the puncture proof 32mm tyres and the have made her slightly faster, not quite as quick as a road bike, but maybe that's because I'm always riding with a pannier causing extra wind resistance.  I've since bought a cheap second hand alu-frame-carbon-forked road bike that's measurably faster but somewhere after 3 hours of riding my back aches and I'm read to chuck it in a hedge and walk home.  I can and have ridden the Dawes for 8 hours without trouble.  One day I'll try a lightweight carbon road bike, but for now I shall resist. I have a plan to attempt a 100 mile road ride, and I'll go for it on the comfy Dawes.

Many carbon enthusiasts own a winter-hack bike. I just keep riding the Dawes all year round. I love mudguards, keeping all that winter crud away from you, and besides, it rains in summer too. Even if the roads are just wet, the road bike stays in, and out comes the Dawes. No day is a brown stripe day for me.

Off-road the Dawes can take the punishment a bumpy track can dish out.  To be honest, I wouldn't swap my full suspension mountain bike in these conditions, modern suspension is just so comfy, but if you ride Sustrans routes, you'll know that there are plenty of smoothish gravel tracks and sometimes worse, surfaces bad enough that I would not risk my tender road bike spokes on.  The ability to ride the Dawes pretty much anywhere is a bonus, even if I wouldn't plan it.

To be honest, I ride the Dawes like it was an audax bike most of the time. It's slightly heavy but with so few local hills it doesn't normally matter.

The Dawes Super Galaxy is quite an all-rounder. I still love riding it and that's why she'll be getting a whole load of new parts. There's plenty of life left in the ol' Super-Gal yet.

1 comment:

  1. Paul Verbinnen13 June 2013 at 13:40

    Excellent love story! There's something about a bike that really gets under your skin. I still ride my Geoff Wiles, bought in 1986 and handbuilt for me (although I was taller in those days). Or, I ride my utility bike, basket & panniers and just about every accessory that can add unnecessary weight!! Look forward to seeing you around Cambridge.