Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Buying a bike - part four

So, after evaluating the various options, we went down the "new 'beater' to carry shopping" route.

Let's look in more detail at how we made that decision.
Remember, although the questions will be the same (or similar), your answers may be equally valid and very different than ours. You are buying a bike for you, not for us!

1) Where to keep it?
First, and most importantly, where will the bike be stored at home?

In a hallway/landing, on a balcony, on a rack on the wall, in a garage/shed, outside, or anywhere else?
Will it be on the ground floor, or will you have to move it up stairs, or down to a basement?
If you are storing a bike in a hallway, etc. think about if it is a safety hazard (blocking a fire exit route, for example), and think about how wide the bike is (handlebars and pedals are the bits that stick out!)
If the bike is being stored on a wall rack (either in a room or a garage), think about the weight of the bike !!!
Similarly the weight is important if you are moving it up or down stairs - that lovely wide balcony/hallway outside your flat may be a good, safe, place to keep the bike, but you've got to get it up there!

If you are storing it indoors, or at the back of a house where the access is through the house, then think about how your carpets/floors will react to grubby bike wheels being rolled across them - it is surprising just how much dirt gets on bike tyres! If your plan is to carry the bike through the living areas, then think about the weight of the bike !!!

Storage also has an impact on other aspects of the bike as well as the weight and size - do you want to lock an expensive bike up at night, leant against the front of your house? In some areas, the answer can be "maybe", while in other areas, the answer is a definite "NO!!!"

For us the answer is easy. It will be in the garage, in the space where the "old" bike went, so it should fit. The "old" bike will either be stored outside, or dismantled and also stored in the garage. (We actually propped it up, standing on end, near the back of the garage, where it is not in the way of our daily life, and is out of the weather etc.) We are fortunate enough to have a modest rear garden as well, accessed by a side gate, so at a push we have additional storage there as well. We live in a quiet part of town, so, although reasonable anti-theft precautions are always a good idea, there is no particular risk to a bike in our garage or our rear garden.

But, remember, your circumstances can be much better or much worse than ours, so judge this criteria for yourself, using your location and facilities

2) What will it be used for?
Secondly, and as important as the assessment of storage, is what the intended use of the bike will be.
So, think about if the main use will be for commuting, for shopping, or for leisure.

If the bike is to be used for commuting, think about how far the journey will be, and whether the journey uses multi-modal transport (i.e. the bike gets carried on the bus or the train for part of the journey). If rail or bus stations are involved, do you have to carry the bike over any bridges in order to get to the right platform/stop etc.?

Think also about your route to work. Do you really want to cycle along an unlit main road after dak with trucks hammering past just a few inches from your elbow? I used to (almost 30 years ago) do this, but I'm not at all sure I would do it now! (much more traffic on the roads for a start, and with mobile phones etc. to distract the drivers, the standard of driving, in my opinion, has NOT improved!!!)

Will the bike be stored at work? I used to fold my little bike and tuck it in behind a filing cabinet. If you want to use that "handy little space" at work, then measure it up and see how big a bike (if any) will fit! In-office storage is great for security, but may contravene office policies, or be a safety risk, so find out BEFORE you buy the bike!

So again we are thinking about the size and weight of the bike.

Let's say you want to use the bike for shopping.
How much shopping are you intending to buy? A few bits on the way home from work, such as a pint of milk or a loaf of bread? Or will you be trying to do the bulk (or all!) of the shopping on the bike, saving a small fortune on the car parking charges in the meantime (this depends where you live - some areas have quite a bit of free parking for cars, and some don't!). Perhaps you live in a city centre, where you can't park near the facilities you want to reach for love OR money (try and park near the Royal Albert Hall in London at about 7 in the evening for an experience of this type!).

Our circumstances are as follows: I commute on my little bike, and lock it up in a cycle shed in the office car park - it is moderately secure, although thefts have occasionally occured there in the past. Anna uses her bike to get much of the shopping, carrying 10 to 20 kg on a regular basis, while I get some shopping, mostly less than 10 kg.
I only live a mile from work, and we are about a mile and a half from the town centre. The town centre has atwo areas of pedestrianisation, and cycling is permitted in them. The town where we live has a fairly decent set of joint-use cyclepaths/footpaths, which run radially from the town centre (good for getting to town, but can be a long way of going from one side of town to another, such as from the West to the North!). The cyclepaths are a bit segmented, with rather a lot of side turnings where traffic emerges without (usually) paying much attention to cyclists, so modest progress is the safest. The cycle paths are avoided by some cyclists, who use the roads instead, to maintain a much higher speed of travel.
We use the cyclepaths, so having a "fast" bike offers few advantages for us - although decent brakes do!!

For us, the answers are easy, but your answers may not be.
Think twice, buy once!

to be continued ...