I was on the 10 past train from Yate to Temple Meads, waiting for the doors to close again, my lightweight coat and hair sodden by the sudden downpour from the journey to the station, i’m trying to make my own bicycle small and inconspicuous to the folk coming and going around me, rain and puddle water glistening on its panniers and mudguards, the guard skipping around it, trying to keep his staypress stacks clean. Each time the door open i see bicycles chained to solid things, i like to look, i like seeing these workhorses, locked and resting after transporting their rider to the station to begin another day of work. So there am i, gazing idly at these bikes, then from the blue. it struck me!!, that the majority of the bicycles i am looking at had no protection from the weather.
Now i am no stranger to a mudguard, i think they can look incongruous and its a skill to make them look sexy but i specialise in Useful Bikes and a big part of a bikes usefulness is their practicality, getting a wet arse or sodden shoes before a shopping session or a meeting is not cool, hence the bikes i sell generally have mudguards…
This is what shocked me! I reckon 70% of these daily commuter bikes did not have weather protection..no mudguards, no mudflaps, nothing, So there am i with a cheap sodden jacket (note to self, buy waterproof coat) but with dry arse and pristine brogues.
Had i not been riding a bicycle designed for the everyday, ( a Gazelle Esprit) i would have been drinking coffee in a business meeting with half of Yate common decorating my lower half.
Most of the bikes i saw were Mountain bikes, some exotic homegrown racer types and some pricey serious machines too. Sports bikes in the main, but people know they can fit mudguards don’t they? Surely after one sodden commute you would realise the need to protect your best workday threads from the mucky road spray?
Perhaps the riders opt for wet weather clothes, plastic trousers perhaps, over shoes…but then they would look like a cyclist, and the majority of the resting chained up bikes didn’t look like they would be ridden by cyclists, no disrespect to the owners but most of the bikes looked like beast of burden.
So why do these commuting bicycles not have weather protection? is it ignorance that mudguards exist? the thought that they’re not fashionable? perhaps they bought some and couldn’t fit them. Perhaps a reluctance to spend on a bicycle that might get stolen? The fact remains that many bikes used for the commute are not really fit for purpose, if you get wet feet on the way to work, they are staying wet all day, and then perhaps you might have cold feet (see what i did there!) about using that form of transport again.
Bicycles used for transport are different beasts from the sports machines we tend to be shown in our UK media and our UK bicycle stores. What struck me, as i stood on the train with my Gazelle Bicycle, was the difference in culture and attitude we have from the Rest of Europe.
My bicycle was not the prettiest ( there are other Gazelles that are delightful to look at) but the function was the thing i needed for the journey, i didn’t want to be wet, i wanted to carry some stuff, i wanted to wear my own normal clothes and if it got dark before i got home (e.g. missing that 3.40 train back) i needed good lights.
Are my requirements different from the riders of the naked, unfendered bicycles i see chained up at the station? I can’t see that my basic requirements can be so different! It’s akin to people visiting a car showroom and being shown a roofless convertible car as the standard offering! “you want a roof sir/madam?! we have a model over there with a roof, but we can fit a one size fits all roof to this car!, and you want lights on your car too?” and your gearbox on the inside rather than hanging down in the dirt and rain??” and so we can go on…., car drivers wouldn’t stand for it, yet bicycle buyers seem to know no different. Bikes can be cheap, but there’s a reason for that..everything can be cheap if you keep it bare bones..
If you want to commute by bike you need to ride a bike that’s been designed to cope with everyday conditions, have the features fitted that you need to keep you comfortable. It doesn’t have to be heavy, it will be heavier for sure than something without a rack, lights mudguards etc but these days with clever design and modern materials it doesn’t have to be noticeably heavier.
So to conclude..i was glad that day i rode my Gazelle Dutch bike, i appreciated the fact that it got me to my meeting with dry feet. I suspect that many riders that day did not. If you get wet feet on a rainy day, you need a good pair of mudguards…or a new ride. Think about what you as a rider need from a bike for transport, and don’t limit yourself to what’s in the shop down the road, look about and take time to chose, be prepared to pay a little more but a quality fully equipped bicycle will save you money in servicing (if it has hub gears and brakes) and there will be no add on spending needed. A good Useful bicycle will keep you comfortable for many years to come.
Perhaps when folk appreciate riding a bicycle with dry feet, we will see more bicycles at the stations.