Spring is here, Howdy’s bike is out of the shed, and there’s even a few cycle tours in the diary. If you’re thinking of taking up cycling, either to work off a few pounds, reduce your carbon footprint, or to get nicely tanned knees and a calloused backside, then this guide is for you. It lists common bike types and the sort of people you can expect to find riding them*. If you’re after serious advice you’d be better off speaking to someone at Evans (Evans Cycles, not Evans Outsize). This hasn’t got much to do with graphic design either, although it does contain the words ‘logo’ and ‘Helvetica’.
1. The Hybrid
A sort of default bike, for people that aren’t really into cycling but feel they ought to own a bike. Found mostly in sheds. It’s called a hybrid because it’s poor at both going fast on roads and going up and down mountains. Most bike manufacturers produce hybrids, most bike shops are full of them.
What to wear: normal day wear, a high-vis tabard and trousers tucked in socks.
2. The Vintage
Traditionally associated with war-time vicars, the vintage, which is either a lady’s bike with a basket on the front, a Dutch bike, or a fifties ‘gentlemans’ racer’ converted to a fixie (see below), is now back in vogue thanks to beardy East London art students who use them as fashion accessories. Pashley will sell you a brand new vintage bike, or you can get a proper one from Ebay and renovate it yourself. Check out the gorgeous Hetchins with its famous curly chain stays and ornate lugs.
What to wear: brogues.
3. The Fixie
Started life on the track, became the cycle couriers’ favourite, then the graphic designers’ favourite. Called a fixie because it has a fixed wheel hub, which means you can’t stop pedalling. On a fixed wheel bike you only need a front brake as the back wheel can be slowed by reducing your pedalling speed. All the big bike manufacturers will now sell you a fixie, usually with fluorescent green wheel rims, a yellow chain and a bit of lower case helvetica somewhere on the frame. Riders of these bikes don’t stop at red lights or zebra crossings, mainly because they can’t. The Charge Plug is one of the most popular off-the-shelf fixies.
What to wear: neck brace and sling.
4. The Carbon Fibre Racer With Lots Of Numbers And Italian Words On It.
These are the Formula one cars of the bike world. Light and fast, these bikes can be seen tearing round Richmond Park on Sunday mornings ridden by Mamils (Google it). A carbon framed Colnago, Pinarello or Wilier can set you back anything up to £10,000, which is an absurd amount of money to spend on a bicycle. These bikes are generally owned by well paid corporates working off their business lunches.
What to wear: head to toe lycra printed with the logo of a French bank.
5. The Mountain Bike
A top end mountain bike such as a Turner Five Spot is a beautifully designed and engineered bit of kit and can cost £4000 plus. A Halfords’ full suspension Trax (see BSO below) isn’t, and will set you back £89.99. Buy something in between, in both quality and price, by Kona or Trek. A good mountain bike is designed specifically for riding off-road and going up and down mountains and is brilliant at it, provided you’ve got the lungs and the nerve. Just don’t try going down the shops on one, all that knobbly rubber means they’re as good as useless on tarmac.
What to wear: baggy shorts and an expression of terror.
6. The BSO
The Bike Shaped Object. It looks like a bike, but handles and rattles like a shopping trolley. Built in the far east with poor quality components and delivered flat-packed most bikes under £150 fall into this category. Buy one from Asda or Halfords if you want to be put off cycling for life.
What to wear: tattoos, no shirt.
7. The Folder
At my local railway station folding bikes are used exclusively by late middle-aged men (never women) in slightly shabby suits, cardigans and identity lanyards. (Ok, so there’s only one person at my local station with a folding bike). Who wouldn’t want a bike you could fold up and take on the train? Saves all that exhausting cycling nonsense. Buy a quirky British Brompton, or an American Dahon.
What to wear: bicycle clips.
8. The Recumbant
A sort of deckchair on wheels, often sporting a flag on a stick so that the rider can be seen by passing cement mixers. To be honest, if you’re thinking of buying a bike you probably won’t be considering one of these unless you enjoy people pointing and laughing at you in the street.
What to wear: Beard and thick skin.
* Note: these people are just convenient stereotypes.