I bought a solid walnut TV stand off some bloke on social media. I collected it from his house and he apologised for still being in his lycra. Within two minutes, we were contemplating the most difficult existential question a cyclist can ask themselves – does he need a new bike? Let’s simplify this for you.
Do you have children?
Your days of young, carefree carbon-fibre abuse are long gone. You barely glance at the Colnago hanging lightly from the garage rafters for fear it will mysteriously acquire yet another scratch. Forget rain bikes, you need to buy yourself a family-proof bike.
Your other half can’t complain if you’re granting them moments of peace when taking the sprogs out for a “family ride”. The earlier you teach your kids how to slipstream and observe peloton etiquette the better. Buy yourself a metal-framed bike that can take some punishment – but still ensure your kids respect it as much as they would if it were the Colnago. A new bike!
Do you own a car?
Cars are wonderful but don’t you find they get you everywhere a little too fast? One of the joys of cycling is that non-cyclists don’t really know how long it takes you to cycle everywhere. Many of my non-cycling friends assume a 20-mile journey will take you the best part of 4 hours – and I do nothing to dispel this assumption.
Owning a bike means you can go at your own pace – which is usually much faster than people assume. If you want to take your time on a journey, stop for a coffee and phone your mother for a chat, you can do this all on a bike and people won’t be upset at how much time it took. If you arrive late in a car, you have to pretend you broke down or drove into a tree. A new bike!
Do you want to go faster?
The trick to going faster is, of course, to buy a worse bike than the one you’ve currently got. Buy a badly-welded, heavy, metal-framed single speed with a high gear ratio. Your first four months of ownership will be hell but you’ll be able to impress your friends by flicking the tops off beer bottles with your steel-like tibialis anterior.
So, a new bike doesn’t have to be better than what you’ve got. Trading down from your current bike will mean trading up your fitness. After a year of torture on your new bad bike, treat yourself to a ride on your old good bike. Like magic, it will feel like a new bike again. A new bike!
Do you want to try riding on a slightly different surface?
Everyone knows it’s impossible to ride a hardtail mountain bike on gravel. If you’re intending to ride on any stone-aggregate type material, you’ll need a purpose-made gravel bike. Make sure you don’t accidentally purchase a cyclocross bike, which looks similar but is next to useless on gravel.
And don’t think twice about taking your vintage 50s Dawes on a pavé riding holiday in Roubaix. You’ll likely bend the frame in two. Make sure you opt for a surface-specific Roubaix frame that are designed to make cobbled streets as smooth as a freshly-tarmacked French autoroute. As my grandfather never told me, “You can never have enough bikes…”.