Having been a CTC member for more than a year, I’ve recently also joined London’s Cycling campaign (LCC) which boasts to be “largest urban cycling organisation in the world”. I hugely admire their work.
A few days ago, my first issue of the LCC magazine “London Cyclist” arrived (issue February/March 2011 – not to be confused with the great “London Cyclist” blog) In general, it’s really an impressive, professionally made product.
However, the bike review on page 42/43 really is a shame. My dear colleagues are discussing “‘urban cross’ bikes”. I don’t have a clue what “urban cross” stands for and “London Cyclist” doesn’t bother to explain it to me.
The teaser of the article says:
“Taking elements from both cyclocross and mountain biking, the new breed of ‘urban cross’ bikes are ideal for commuting, touring, and light off-roading”
Basically, “London Cyclist” seems to talk about bikes for urban use. Commuting, shopping, going to the pub. They’re featuring four different bikes:
When I was searching for the bikes on the internet, I was a little bit surprised. For the first three bikes, the Evans bike online shop is among the top search results on Google, and for “Marin Toscana cycle” Cycle Surgery is ranked very high. Pure chance, certainly. Important advertisers like leading national bike retailers don’t have any influence on the contents of a non for profit magazine run by a cyclists organisation, do they?
But let’s look at the bikes themselves. All of them have drop bars. Two (the Bosanova and the Honky) come with very small tyres (28 mm). The tyres of the Toscana are 4mm wider, while the Day01 has 35mm. Only one of the bikes comes with mudgards. None has rack or a hub-dynamo and lights.
Apparently, “urban cross” bikes are road bikes with disk brakes.
So according to “London Cyclist”, what kind of bikes do you need for getting around in London? Apparently you need a bike that
- rides very fast (drop bar)
- needs very good roads without potholes (small tyres)
- isn’t prepared for rainy days (no mudguards)
- isn’t prepared for carrying any luggage on their bike (no rack)
- doesn’t need a reliable, always ready-to-use lighting (no hub dynamo)
From my everyday experiences on London roads, No. 1 probably is appropriate. Most members of the lycra brigade really go fast. (However, I’ve never seen a rider in London really using the lower part of the dropbar, but I don’t want to be overly nit-picky.)
What about aspects 2 to 5?
- Many roads in London are in a horrendous shape. I’ve recently been on a group ride where so many people constantly shouting “Hole!” that a rider joked: “But i s there also a road anywhere?”)
- London is famous for its rain
- Many cyclists, especially commuters, are carrying huge rucksacks. Shopping backs dangerously dangling at handlebars is also a frequently seen.
- Occasionally, the sun sets even in London. Courtesy to the proud British habit of having their own time zone, in the fall and winter days are shorter than in continental Europe (at least that’s my gut feeling). An an awful lot of cyclists is either riding without any light or with lights that are woefully inadequate (almost dead batteries, lights covers by clothes, et cetera).
Luckily we in Britain are blessed with a climate famous for its near-absence of rain, which is why most Londoners ride bikes without mudguards. Here in London we are also faced with a savage cycling terrain, which is why the mountain bike is de rigueur for negotiating potholes, broken glass, kerbs, mountains etc. Rather oddly, the Danes tend to carry things on their bicycles, whereas in London a bike is just there to get you somewhere and has no other real function. This is why British bikes are sold without pannier frames, panniers or baskets.
Seen from this perspective, do the bikes discussed in the “London Cyclist” magazine really have “allround rideability credentials” (as they say about Day01)? Are they really “well judged products”, “aimed at urban touring riders” (on the Bosanova)?
I don’t think so. Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against road bikes.
I’m the proud owner of a 1989 or so Nishiki steel racer which is utterly beautiful and amazingly fast. However, this bike is not at all the perfect tool for getting around in town on a daily basis, in my humble opinion. “London Cyclist” views on the perfect commuting bike comes close to recommend a Porsche as the perfect family car.
It’s true that a hell of a lot of cyclists in London are using road bikes for their daily commute. Fair enough, that’s everybody’s personal decision. But I think it’s not very sensible to endorse those rather inadequate choices.
Unfortunately, the bike review is disappointingly superficial in some other aspects.
- one bike comes with a hub gear while the other three have derailleur gear. What’s the pro and cons of both concepts? Well, “London Cyclist” won’t tell you. They rather rave about
“set-up Coix de Fer on which Vin Cox set his round the world record”.
- “London Cyclist” also doesn’t bother to discuss an oddity of the Kona Honky. This bike apparently comes with a steel frame and a carbon fork. I’ve never heard about such a strange combination and I think it does not make sense at all. Steel frames are great because they are very durable but usually they are heavier than aluminium and carbon frames. Carbon forks are very light, but compared to steel forks they are rather sensible. Hence the spec of the Honky is highly contradictory, in my humble opinion. Maybe there are hidden advantages, but “London Cyclist” won’ tell me.
- Additionally, the pros and cons the authors are discussing are not consistent at all. With regard to the Jamis Bosanova, for example, they claim that the mudgards “could be better”. Fair enough, guys, but did you notice that the three other bikes you are reviewing don’t have any mudgards at all?
Guys, with regard to your bike reviews, you really have to do better.