Bicycles – to me – were a way of covering vast distances before I was old enough to ride a motorbike. That transition from pedal to powered two wheelers took place an eye-watering 30 years ago.
Despite having ridden motorbikes professionally for over 20 years, most of my body still functions correctly but breaking my left ankle three times has left it with precious little cartilage, so running or walking big distances just causes me massive pain. I used to play squash twice a week to keep fit but it started to cause me so much ankle pain I had to stop.
Cycling, however, does not cause my wobbly ankle grief. So, at 46, I’ve just decided to take it up again in a (possibly futile) bid to get a bit fitter.
There seem to be all sorts of strange sub-sects going on in cycling at the moment and I’m not sure I entirely understand. [You really don’t want to – ed.] In London I encounter their members in the bus lanes on my ride to work. I was quite clear that I didn’t want to be part of any of these ‘movements’ or fashions so, when I saw the immaculate Giant SEEK O with its Shimano Alfine hub and hydraulic brakes in the RCUK office, I knew I’d found my thing.
There now follows a list of even more personal hates. Like Victor Meldrew with PMT, I have clearly become a bigotted, grumpy old man. [Become? – ed.]
Number 1: I hate derailleurs. It’s irrational, I know, but I hate them nonetheless. It seems an amazingly crude and troublesome way to swap ratios. I mean, any system that means the chain is half-off one gear and half-on another can’t be logical, can it?
Every bike my (now) 14 year-old son has owned has had derailleur gears and all I seem to do is fix them. Maybe it’s not such an irrational hatred after all.
I didn’t want a mountain bike either. In the South East, mountains are very sparse and at best just hillocks, so it all seems a bit pointless.
Number two: Lycra. Mountain bikes, like most serious road bikes also seem to necessitate the wearing of man-made fibres with a hint of Lycra about them. Now here, I definitely draw a line. 46 year-old men, no matter how toned and agile, should not be wearing Lycra in public. It’s just not considerate or fair. Besides, if I’m going to be hurling myself at Tarmac then I’d prefer to do it in jeans and a leather jacket.
Number three: rim brakes. Borrow my son’s bike (any one of them) for the reason I dislike rim brakes. A straight wheel lasts about 10 metres before he’s dinged a rim or knocked it out of true. The first thing to suffer? Rim brakes. It’s why motorbikes stopped using them in about 1918. It’s got to be a disc.
Number four: cycle helmets. I know it’s a massive industry but – jeez – how flawed are cycle helmets? Most of them are so piss poor at coping with deflected impacts that you might as well hollow out a gourd and use that instead. And they all look shit. Like the sort of thing David ‘Dave’ Cameron and his dribbly chinned mates would wear. With cycle clips. Cycle helmets are the buck teeth of the cycle clothing world.
This latter point has got absolutely nothing to do with the Giant whatsoever. I was just on a roll.
Put simply, it’s the only bike I’ve seen so far that ticks all my boxes. It has the simple lines of a fixie (oh, that’s another hate but I’ll ignore it), microscopic but immensely powerful hydraulic disc brakes, super-understated paint, beautiful welding and that nicely engineered Shimano hub with eight gears (which is all I need, really), low resistance skinny tyres and flat bars. Perfect.
Now, when these three broken ribs have healed I’ll get some helmet-less, Lycra-less miles in. Bear with me, it takes a while to fix in your forties…
Giant SEEK 0 City Bike £895
Sizes – S (17″), M (19″), L (21″), XL (23″)
Colour – Gunmetal Grey
Frame and fork – Giant AluxX aluminium
Gearing – Shimano Alfine 8-speed
Brakes/levers – Shimano 445 Hydraulic Disc
Tyre size – 700x32mm