Saturday, 22 August 2009

Thoughts, trials and tribulations of a BAP

22nd August 2009

Yesterday I bought a Kona Dew Deluxe bike from Tredz in Swansea. It is my first ever 'proper', or even 'posh' bike that I've ever had. Before this it's always been mountain bikes of, dare I say, Halfords quality.

Before I go any further I should explain that a BAP stands for Born Again Pedaler.

That's definitely me, not having ridden in years. Always used to thoroughly enjoy it though, but, I suppose, Life has a funny ol' way of messing you about and, before you know it, you are 56 years old, really unfit, sporting a peculiar rubber ring around your waist and, mentally, have, I'm afraid, become something of a sad old git. The truth hurts but this is me, down to a tee.

After many years of making granite worktops and various other stuff, the dreaded redundancy monster looked me in the eye and gave his evil wink. Thought I was a tough cookie, but was not prepared for all the financial, personal and, probably, in my case, mental, anguish that this would bring. Find another job? You must be effing joking! (although, as it happens, I have just been offered a job, the day before I got my 'Koney'.) Strange how it's gone from doom n' gloom to wow!wow!wow! in the turn of a day. Message to Similar; always keep hoping, even tho' it may be buried under two tons of poo.

Anyhow, to lift myself from this despair, the idea of getting back into cycling was born. Started looking at bikes on t'internet. Mind boggling, the amount and variety of bikes out there. Oh, my goodness, what machine will it be, for me? Let's face it, old boy, your days of off-roading are behind you. A road bike?. If you saw the state of the roads 'round my way.......besides, never really felt comfortable with drop bars. I know, one of these new fangled Hybrid thingys?. They all look so good on the web pages, don't they? Mmm, getting a bit confused by now, I think it's time to have a looksey at the beasts, in the flesh as it were.

Bike shops. Not too many in my neck of the woods (rural West Wales) but go hunting I did. Cos they're mainly pretty small shops, they did'nt really have the choice for me to try out, at least not the bikes I had earmarked. It was enough, however, for me to discount certain types, and it was interesting to learn about gear ratios, especially important for me, as I live in 'hill city'. Seemed to be quite a lot of flash 'fashion' bikes out there, too. Not my style, give me classy understated, any day. So, and to cut out all the hooings and haaings, I found myself down in Swansea ('bout an hours drive) to the Tredz shop. Wow! it was bike city! Loads of 'em. Had a good 'ol chat with a guy there (Joe) and I did'nt feel he was trying to flog me anything unsuitable for my needs. Had a good ganders at various steeds, including, Specialized Crosstrail Elite,(gear ratio ok low, not hi) Cannondale,(N/A my size), Trek Sirrus,(above my budget), FX3,(really nice bike, very smooth, perhaps too fine for the roads here) and then went on to the Kona Dewdrop,(fell in love at first sight but the frame was too big so did'nt feel comfortable with drops and the gear changing system). The gear ratios were perfect for me though, hi like a road bike but with good lows for my vertical hills. Discovered Kona do an identical version with straight bars, The Dew Deluxe. My bike was born!

Apart from a couple of 'around the block' spins yesterday evening (oh wow! drool drool, new toy euphoria), I kitted up this morning, donning my hi-viz jacket, not too uncool helmet, wind deflecting shades and a pair of shorts, with cool max undertights which, as I've never worn this type of gear before, felt like I was wearing some sort of nappy or even that I'd had an 'accident', I was ready for the off. I don't think I looked too much of a plonker, although my wife is now calling me Hans and, after catching a reflection of myself in the conservatory window, I suppose I did look a bit Germanic or, as I'd prefer, a tad European!

I've got to be sensible here, I'm pretty unfit, so no heroics. Did a 12k (7.5miles?) stint and, like I've said, very, very hilly. The Dew Deluxe performed beyond my expectations, with an effortless ease. On the little flat there was on my route, the high gears just propelled me on like a train, whilst, I noticed, my wee legs seemed to be hardly turning at all! Infact, I bottled out of going too fast, the road being very worn and my cycling confidence rusty. The descent hills were tackled really well, with the hydraulic brakes an absolute joy in their control, nice gentle sqeezing, knowing that there's plenty more left before any panic sets in.
The ascents, which, I must admit, I had some trepidation about, were a lot easier than I could ever hope to imagine. Yes, ok, I was panting, and my legs were aching but the lo ratios were so smooth in their gear changing, I was up them thar hills in no time. Even the big rear cog was put into action and, remembering my off-roading days, did'nt feel like I was some kind of demented hamster wheel!

Ok, I know it's very early days but, this is one fantastic bike for my needs and, I suppose, that's the key; my needs. Anyone reading this and, looking for a bike, should be thinking about where are you going to be riding and what condition are your routes in. As I've mentioned, it's incredibly hilly around here, I'm using mainly single track roads, in bad nick, but I want a bit of speed and, also, hill killing gearing and so, I'm pretty sure I've made a good choice.
My only slight niggle is that the front wheel can touch your toes when turning sharply and that the ride quality is a bit stiff, with its aluminium frame, on these roads, ( gell pad gloves a 'must buy').

My other bit of advice is to have a look at sites like Roadcc (excellent) and bikeradar for all sorts of tips n' tricks and ask, ask, ask, all the bikers/bikeshops you can, before you buy and, unless you really know what you're doing and your correct size, don't rely on the online shops for bike buying. Try before you buy.

I shall endeavour to keep this blog up and, hopefully, in a couple of years time, I shall be the proud owner of a six pack, with the lungs a whale and legs of a cheetah!!!

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