I had forgotten about Road.cc’s Bike of the Year compilation and I saw it again on Twitter today. I felt the same slight rise of anger that the Commuting Bike of the Year is a £2150 Whyte. What does this make people think of cyclists and how many commuters does it put off?
When I was working in the trade most people who were thinking about commuting were using a Cycle 2 Work voucher, as such many of them were using £1000 voucher for a bike and the needed accessories. This is what many people thought would get them a great bike and it would. This is also where Road.cc are wrong. We can all accept that the Whyte is a great bike at £2150, it had better be but the deciding factor on what makes a good commuting bike is value.
In their list they do have more reasonably priced bikes, the problem is most people drop straight down the list to the number one bike. If you are thinking about a £500 hybrid to commute on and searched “best commute bike” and arrive at a £2k+ bike you will start to think that cycling is beyond your means. If in my old job I took a bus instead of cycling a year of passes would have cost me £1000, a £500 bike looks good compared to this but a £2k bike, nope.
This is another case of cycling shooting itself in the foot, how can we bring people into cycling if we all look aloof and feel you have to ride a £2k bike for a 3-mile commute. Bike shops do this as well, they put expensive, exotica in the window and wonder why they do not get the trade that goes to Halfords. They are immediately making themselves seem inaccessible, the cliche model of the surly niche shop worker who just sneers at people and will offer no help or advice.
Whyte themselves do not even suggest the Wessex is part of their commuter range. It may sit on the same page as some commute bikes but there is a differentiation on the page as to what is a commute bike and which one is your performance sportive bike. Sure you can ride a sportive bike to work, there is nothing wrong in that. I used to ride an aero road bike to work, I had it so why not? It is also nice to show aspirational bikes but there is a point where you are just putting people off and I think that is where Road.cc have gone wrong.
The number 2 bike for many people is an aspirational bike for commuting on, the B’Twin costs £650 and is more than what many people believe what a good bike costs. Having this one would show people that bikes can go up in price and for many, they may even be able to raise to the price and have a great bike and eventually work their way up to having a £2k bike or realize that is not what they need. What we do not need is scaring people off before they have even begun to look properly at bikes.
There is also the question of why does the Commute Bike of the Year cost £2k, especially when in a race category, the Cyclocross Bike of the Year was won by a bike costing £1k, now when people are looking at a race bike they expect the cost to rise and a £2k bike would not have been as much of an issue. The best bit though is that they have decided that the Vitus won as it was great value for money and not only could you race on it but it would work as a great commute bike. Why then did they not use the value for money consideration in a class where value for money is the most important metric of working out which bike people will buy?
As such, a question you often get from people who want to commute by bike is “I have £500, what is the best value bike I can get?” Why then did an online magazine not give any credence to this type of question and completely ignore the target market of both the bike that won and of the people searching for the best value commuter bike would be looking for? I have no idea and Road.cc’s own blurb seems a bit iffy on that account as well.
Looking beyond the price how much is it going to cost someone to look after a bike equipped with 105 compared to Claris, Altus or even a single speed? So not only do we start pricing the customer out on one big ticket item but we then sell them something that if they blow their money on, they can not afford to service. An 11-speed chain will wear out a lot faster than a single speed or 7-speed chain. The gears need a little more fine-tuning and riding in bad weather, which I am led to believe happens in the UK, means that more expensive parts are going to wear down faster.
Generally, a chain is expected to last 1500 miles, that is in good conditions and with great care. Two things a commute bike is hardly likely to ever see. Who after a day at work and then a ride home in the rain wants to clean and maintain their bike, from working in the trade I think that figure stands at about nobody.
This shortens the life of a chain, many chains in Scotland are doing well to get to 1000 miles. This means some people can be looking at a new chain every 10 weeks. We could be doing this 5 times a year (at RRP the cost of 105 chains for a year would be £150 alone) but if we rode single speed we would pretty much be able to make a single chain last a year or longer.
What about at the end of its life? The Wessex frame is made of carbon which, unlike steel or aluminum, has significant barriers to recycling. Generally, carbon fiber degrades as it is recycled so it becomes less useful and as such very few companies around the world actually try to recycle it. That is why we should all ride steel bikes, they are just better and if you do not like your steel bike you can make a nice cutlery set. This a shoe horned in opinion.
We still have not even discussed the fact it does not even have pannier rack mounts. This is because the bike was not designed as a commuter bike. Racks are one of the big questions for commuters and for most commuters, a bike without the mounts is a big no no. Again Road.cc are missing both what the commuter market want and the use that this bike was designed for.
We could also wonder about who would you feel safe leaving a £2k+ bike locked on a bike rack outside on a UK Street? It would be nice for someone to walk away with your Easton wheels or the whole bike. A windy day (again something that sometimes happens in the U.K.) and you can have some nice damage done to your frame by a secure lock because you will be using a big heavy secure lock on your £2k bike. Do you also want to leave your £2k bike sitting outside all day with people knocking other bikes off it on a bike rack?
The bike did also win their Sportive Bike of the Year, which is a much more fitting category for this bike and the one it was designed for. It may also have been nice to have seen a few sub-£1k bike in that top ten list, though, they do exist and make up the majority of road bike purchases but I guess they do not look as cool.
On this note, I went out on my steel stead to enjoy the world.
Whilst out on this ride, I realized that despite not trying to be, I have still been a bike snob. I may have been unduly unfair on the Promax Render R disc brakes. I came to this conclusion when I stopped to sort a squeaky disc out.
I may have allowed other people’s opinions to shade my view of the brakes. Whilst working in a shop I was shown and then used the “best way” to set these brakes up. This actually differs from the instructions in one way. The ‘best way’ saves a few seconds setting up over the instructions way. This probably saved a minute in total a day. The ‘best way’ now I look at it is very probably the reason that people have a bad experience with these brakes and coupled with a bad bedding in of the pads is why people are negative about them.
I had forgotten that my brakes were ‘bad’ until they had a little squeak today, I then stopped, adjusted, took a photo, dropped my phone, picked my phone up, swore at myself and was on my way again in 30 seconds. I then realized the brakes had just been quietly doing their job, just as I want brakes to do. The adjustment was simple as well. As such I issue an apology to these brakes, as provided they are set up properly they work.