Reluctant Cyclist

The Reluctant Cyclist: Adventures in shopping

In which the Reluctant Cyclist considers the merest possibility of purchasing a new bicycle, but is thwarted by the Even More Reluctant Sales-Teen

In search of the perfect bicycle.

In my pursuit of the perfect bike (comfy, reliable, light, quirky, probably powered by hamsters hidden within the frame) I went into a shop that boasted it was ‘the area’s largest bike store’.

There were a lot of bikes: so many that it took me quite a while to locate which bikes were for girls due to the complete lack of signage. It was rather a case of look for something pink and look at the bikes which radiate out from there.

I duly looked at the bikes (yup, all bike shaped) and waited for an adviser to arrive. One would think that this being a bike shop, someone might actually be quite keen to sell me a bike. Not so.

After quite a few minutes of standing and staring at (pretty jolly similar) bikes in various hues (this season it’s all about brown saddles and blue tones, apparently) I ventured round the shop to see if they actually employed any staff.

It appeared that they did, that they were all teenagers and that they had no inclination to help me at all. After specifically requesting assistance, one of the bored teenagers schlepped down to the ladies’ bikes and stood looking at me. The concept of ‘sales’ and the fact that I was a ‘customer’ who he was there to ‘serve’ with the aim of ‘actually selling a bike’ had obviously never occurred to this lad.

Clearly I was going to have to take charge of this interaction.

“I’d like to look at these two blue ones please,” I said, indicating two in particularly fetching combinations of blue hues and brown saddles. The sales-teen said that I could get one out, but as this involved trying to extricate someone else’s expensive brand new bike from amongst other expensive brand new bikes I declined and told him to get it out (fnar).

Asking the searching question, ‘so what’s the difference between the two’, I was expecting some technobabble and jargon about vertical compliance and horizontal stiffness but instead the answer I received was certainly to the point:

“Well one’s a Bobbin and one’s a Pashley.”

Gosh, if I’d have known that choosing a bike was simply about identifying the brand, then I could have just read the little badges on the front and made my decision based on whether I preferred the one that sounds like a sewing machine or the one with the same name as a child I once taught. My trusty biking companion/slave-driver felt the time had come to step in.

“Look mate, she’s a total beginner, can you be a bit more helpful please?”

Further information elicited that the Pashley had a Brooks seat worth £100 (which looked like the most uncomfortable thing on the bike, although I am assured otherwise), and no, I couldn’t have the handlebars from one model in the colour of another model. This was a pity as I was rather taken with the blue of the ‘Poppy’ but the handlebars of the ‘Princess’.

As my mix and match approach to bike-buying clearly wasn’t within the understanding of the sales-teen, I decided to try hopping on them for a ‘real-life’ test experience. This involved my friend holding on very tightly to the bike whilst I tried to get on the super-high-set saddle. Sales-teen responded to me asking for it to be made lower by telling me it was exactly the right height for me. This was clearly contradicted by the fact my feet didn’t touch the ground, which made getting on and off the bike rather less graceful than the elegant frame deserved.

Any remaining grace rapidly disappeared when my wobbling personage caused my companion to take a step backwards, directly into the pint-size bikes in the central aisle, bringing several of them crashing to the floor.

It was at this point that I decided I wasn’t ready to buy a bike. In fact, I probably needed stabilisers to even test ride one properly although they didn’t seem to offer this as an upgrade on bikes with a 21in frame size.

We fled the store, leaving the teenagers to replace the fallen cycles we left in our wake and spent the afternoon riding horses instead.

There are fewer colour variations to horses, I admit, and the saddles cost more than £100 but at least you don’t have to deal with apathetic teenage boys when you are trying to buy one.

If you have any suggestions about what to buy or where to shop, please comment below, bearing in mind that I won’t ride anything yellow, that I can’t step through easily or that has more than one lever to change the gears.

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