Posts Tagged ‘london’

Brixton Cycles – my new favourite bike shop

I’m really impressed with the folks at Brixton Cycles. They did a great job on installing my Centaur chainset, and I would have no hesitation entrusting a bike of any value to them again. I like their relaxed vibe and friendly early-morning workshop sessions.

True, the shop floor is a tad cluttered, they don’t have the Giro playing live on a plasma screen, and I can’t pick up a BC-blend latte while I wait for my wheel to be fixed – but there will always be Condor. To be honest, the secret of a good bike shop is patient staff who are knowledgeable – and who wear their knowledge lightly.

January redux

With the snow and ice washed away by rain and milder weather, I’ve spent the weekend pulling January’s shoddy training schedule back into line.

Despite waking up on Saturday morning vowing to spend two days at my laptop, I braved the drizzle for an hour on Regent’s Park. As ever, the hardest part about going for a ride in bad weather was pulling on the lycra in the first place. I rode the hack, and got soaked.

Today I rode the Finchley – Knebworth ‘cheat the week’ route – for one last time before the move south. To be honest, it’s not one of the classic routes (no hills to speak of, plenty of A-road) but from North London, without taking a train, it’s about as good as it gets. I’ve never Google mapped it before, so here it is for posterity:


View Cheat the Week in a larger map

It was 3hr 30 – the majority in the small front chainring. Conserving le jus at this stage. Joe once told me one of his club mates didn’t go into the big ring before March – excessive or the best way to build an early-season base?

Commuting: dawn of a new era

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Box fresh: the Edinburgh Bicycle Revolution Courier Race.

I have a new hack. Soak it up.

For the last 5 or so years of living in London, I’ve got by on a motley crew of unreliable commute bikes, piecing together old broken frames with hand-me-down componentry and bottom-dollar bits. I’ve only ever ridden nice, smooth bikes on the weekend. No longer.

I bought the Edinburgh Bicycle Revolution Courier Race in a hurry following the sudden demise of the Ballistic. Slightly gutting was today’s realisation that had I waited 2 days I could have cashed in on the EB sale, saving £50 (15% off). F@*K.

Anyhow, I’ve now ridden the bike home. First impressions:

  • it’s heavy (frankly)
  • pretty wishy-washy steering BUT
  • it’s sturdy
  • it’s fast
  • the brakes are solid
  • it fits

The steering issue is probably more to do with my having ridden a bike with bent forks for 18 months, and I’ll get used to it over time. I’ve now fitted mudguards, SPDs and light mounts – bring on the autumn!

Kona Lava Dome wanted

If this is your bike, we need to talk.

If this is your bike, we need to talk.

I passed this bike chained to a railing on Mortimer Street today. It was a near-mint condition 1995 Kona Lava Dome in midnight blue, the exact same bike I received for Christmas in 1995. This was the rig that truly launched my lifelong love of bikes and biking.

I’m just going to pause a moment to remember this bike, and how great it was (for me, and probably a generation of others):

  • the Lava Dome was – up until 2007, when it was mysteriously retired – the classic entry-level MTB in the Kona stable, RRP £500.
  • the 1995 version had stunning understated good looks (IMHO Kona’s paint jobs have just got gaudier – check out the offensive 2006 version, perhaps the reason why it didn’t sell and Kona withdrew it?).
  • the Tange Infinity cromoly double butted frame, with its signature sloping top tube and tight rear triangle, rode like a dream – it climbed well, it loved singletrack.

I had this bike for 11 years. A few highlights from its rise and fall:

  • 1996: upgrade to Pace RC35 suspension forks
  • 1996: 6 days bike touring in the Scottish highlands
  • 1997: flew with me to Vancouver, Canada for a year of north shore trail-riding
  • 1998: 24 hours of Adrenalin, Whistler, B.C.
  • 1998: big bike tour down the west coast of the US, hitting some classic singletrack in Washington and Oregon
Riding Mount St Helens in 1998 - has there ever been a better advert for this bike?

Riding Mount St Helens in 1998 - has there ever been a better advert for this bike?

  • 1998: frame bent on the flight back to UK, cannibalised for bits
  • 1998-2001: frame hangs in my shed in Stoke
  • 2002: the Lava Dome returns as a singlespeed hack for the streets of Edinburgh
  • 2003-06: the hack moves to London
  • 2006: after weeks of cracking, the frame snaps at the rear drive-side drop-out. The broken frame is deposited in a skip near Brick Lane.
Surveying the damage up close in 2006.

Surveying the damage up close in 2006.

You can imagine the rollercoaster of emotions I experienced on seeing this bike in the street. Frankly, I was on the phone to somebody and had to hang up. I realised that I would pay over the odds to ride this bike again. If it’s yours, leave a comment!

Update @24-8-09

Andy Booth has alerted me to this retro bikes site, and in particular to this beautifully restored 1993 Lava Dome. Sweet.

Bike shops

Coolest bike shop sign in the world?

Coolest bike shop sign in the world? Photo: RAPHA on Flickr

I’d like to visit Mellow Johnny’s one day. I like bike shops that try to be original, and that raise the bar in terms of design and customer experience. I like walking into a bike shop and being seduced by the stock on display. I like the atmosphere in there to feel like a club of initiates who aren’t snooty towards newcomers or those less knowledgeable.

Best bike shop in London? Possibly Condor. But I haven’t been to all of them. I’m probably not going to. What I may well do, from the comfort of my armchair, is try to find the world’s best bike shop website. I’ve reviewed some before: here’s a review of Condor’s old site – to be honest they still haven’t got it right; and of course there’s this one, the less said about the better.

So what about the criteria?

  • Attractive, coherent visual design
  • Easy navigation, product organisation etc.
  • Features – does the site aspire to be something other than an online flyer saying ‘we sell bikes’?
  • Seduction quality – I want to hit the home page and feel my debit card start to slip out of my wallet

The search begins… suggestions below!

London Phoenix

I joined London Phoenix Cycle Club just before the Japan trip. The Phoenix has an (I believe) 80-strong membership spread around London, has regular socials, an AGM, and a great website with a very active members’ forum. Because the club’s members are scattered around the city, it can’t organise regular local rides – so if you want to head out, you just scan the forum posts and hook up with a group in an area that suits you. My big club debut is yet to come – and judging by yesterday’s performance, it may be a while… 

The forum is probably worth the £20 membership fee alone. It’s got a firmly competitive slant, so it’s great for picking up tips about training, kit and events.