Thoughts and tales from the saddle - on my own in Europe.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Decisions Decisions

Who said buying a bike would be easy?

Well, maybe no one did, but I never thought it would be this much hassle! Hassle is possibly the wrong word, and it was only complicated because I made it so, but I think it was all worth it.

You may remember from my last post that I had whittled the competition down to three candidates and that I was visiting two of them during my week off. The first visit was to Hewitt cycles which is 'up North'. Leyland, if you want to be precise. Anyway, I went there, got measured up (see the photos section) and had a chat with Mr Hewitt about the bike. He priced one up for me and that was it. I must admit that I was very impressed with his approach to it and the overall feel of the place. I was pretty much sold, and even considered flexing my flexible friend right there and then, but I knew I should look at all the options.

So, via a wet week in Wales, I ended up on the doorstep of the infamous St John Street Cycles (SJS), home of Thorn. You would be forgiven for thinking, when entering their shop, that you were in the wrong place. Hewitt cycles is a small shop crammed with frames, wheels and tools, and smelt of rubber, oil and grease. It was a bike shop. SJS was more like a travel agents. A large room, with clean carpet, had a long desk on the right, a water cooler, waiting area and people behind the desk on phones. Had it not been for the four bikes on a display rack to my left I would have turned around and walked out. After a chat with one of the 'agents' a man from out back was sent for who lead me through spacious workshops, parts stores, more workshops, a courtyard, more parts, then up a ramp to a showroom. The place is massive!

Anyway - I feel like I'm going on a bit more than I should really. Basically SJS recommended a bike with different size wheels than those ojn the bike Hewitt recommended. The prices were about the same, although the Hewitt bike was made with higher specification components, but basically that was the choice. Do I buy the Thorn with 26" wheels or the Hewitt with 700c wheels?

I appreciate that this may mean absolutely nothing to you and, to be honest, I would try and keep it that way. I would have liked to, but I had to find out which bike I should go for, so I left SJS with a choice to make. Incidentally, I also left SJS with a full set of panniers, a bar bag and a pair of cycling shoes. My first proper purchases for the trip!

Research into the wheel size issue was a confusing and sometimes frustrating affair. Whoever you talk to and whatever you read you will always find some arguments for and against each size, as with anything, I suppose. 26" are stronger, 700c roll better and are better for distance, 26" are better for rough tracks and off road, if you're spending most of your time on road 700c is best - they can handle some rough stuff, there's more choice of tyre for 26" and they're available all over the world, people have toured with 700c for years all over the world etcetera etcetera.

In the end I took two pieces of advice:

1. Don't choose your bike by it's wheel size
2. Go with what your instincts tell you.

I've gone with the Hewitt, with the 700c wheels and I don't want to hear another word on bloody wheel sizes!


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