real life cycling

How to buy a bike (part 2)


Will I still be able to afford to get a round in at the Café?

To spend more money than you can afford on a bike is not, as far as I can tell, unusual.

Whether you, the humble cyclist, are prepared to prioritise the acquisition of a new bike over the wife and kids’ Christmas presents, next year’s summer holiday, or the security of bricks and mortar via a regular mortgage payment, is a very personal choice.

There does, however, come a point when the folly of spending slightly too much on a bike which is a marginal improvement on the one you currently own becomes very public.

Mid-ride coffee (Photo: GoToVan - Flickr)
Mid-ride coffee
(Photo: GoToVan – Flickr)

If you find it’s your turn to get a round of flap-jacks in at your regular mid-ride café and you can’t quite rustle up the required pocket change, to begin with you can simply laugh this off; tell your cycling companions that you’re short of cash due to the small fortune spent on your new bike. They will see the funny side of this, congratulate you on your priorities, and let you off the hook.

You’ll get: “good lad, spending your money on that beauty rather than wasting it on us lot…fair play!”

But goodwill will only get you so far, and you can only get away with this once.

Good-natured generosity will quickly become: “bloody cheapskate free-loader, can’t even get the brews in. That new bike’s a piece of crap too!”

Taking financial risks in the acquisition of a new bike is all well and good – in fact it’s commendable – but make sure you don’t cross the line. Teetering on the brink of personal financial ruin is one thing, but don’t ruin the mid-ride café stop.

Am I fast enough to buy that?

There’s nothing wrong with being a bit off the pace – we can’t all spend as much time working on our fitness levels as we’d like – but there’s plenty wrong with being a bit off the pace when riding the kind of two-wheeled masterpiece that wouldn’t look out of place in the pro-peloton.

To put it another way: you might well be able to afford a £5,000 bike, but you can afford to be seen riding the thing.

Mind you, I can only talk for the north of England here; I’m led to believe that London is awash with Pinarello Dogma’s and Specialized S-Works piloted by executives, bankers, and various other high-rollers who’ve apparently swapped the Pringle sweaters of the golf course for the entire contents of the Rapha website. Talking the talk, but not necessarily walking the walk.

I’m just telling you what I’ve heard.

Perhaps this kind of behaviour is OK in other parts of the country, but where I come from there are lots and lots of very good bike riders who can do a £5,000 bike justice. There’s nothing wrong with aspiring to owning a fancy bike, but tread carefully.

If you’re going to look that fast, you’d better be that fast.

Apart from anything the performance gains to be had from riding a £5,000 bike should serve to up your pace somewhat, and the very fact that you own such a thing should have you out riding it every minute you can spare.

If after the performance boost, and the extra training, you are still a bit sluggish, you have confirmed beyond doubt that you are a fundamentally untalented bike rider.

But look on the bright side: you own a £5,000 bike. Things could be worse.

Cycling for high-rollers (Photo: Brent Backhouse - Flickr)
Cycling for high-rollers
(Photo: Brent Backhouse – Flickr)

Have I got my story straight?

Or is there a chink in my armour?

It goes something like this:

If I sell the good bike, and save the money I expect to make from putting that spare set of wheels on e-bay, and add that to the back-pay I get from work when they finally dish out my long awaited pay rise, and reduce the family food bill by £100 a month by making all our own bread and eating lots of minced beef, and stop spending money in coffee shops for 6 months…

…then actually, miraculously, the new bike practically pays for itself.

Except that there’s a few ifs and buts in there.

Don’t get me wrong, any deception taking place here is self-deception; I’ve concocted a narrative in my head that is plausible and convincing, and has freed me from the financial shackles for long enough that I feel happy about splashing out on my new steed of choice. It works fine as long as I don’t think about it too much.

If I sat down and did the figures, in black and white, the whole ruse might come tumbling down like a house of cards. At some point I managed to reach the conclusion that if I do x, y and z, I will end up with a new bike for very little net expenditure. I suspect this leap of faith took place on a friday night and with the aid of a decent bottle of red wine. But the important thing is that the conclusion was reached; no point raking over the why’s and wherefore’s.

Just get the story straight, stick to it, and hold my nerve.

That’s the plan.

2 comments on “How to buy a bike (part 2)

  1. Whether you are fast enough for the bike is a question that matters only to those who ride bikes that are not as nice as yours and have a jealous disposition. As a famous poet once said, Never mind the bollocks. 🙂


  2. Reblogged this on ezpcgoescycling and commented:
    Aha…the whiff of self deception and the alluring aroma of improvement from acquisition (a marketeers wet dream)are very familiar to the techy cyclist, who just wants to be able to rationlise the urge to acquire the NBT (the Next Big Thing) without being shot down by people being more grounded than them (You spent HOW much?…on that bloody thing? What for?)
    Sadly…..oh so familiar…. the yearning….the researching…..the acquiring….
    Of course REAL cyclists know better ….they know its not about the toys …it’s about getting the miles in, putting in the time on the bike , not caring whether it hot / cold / rain / sun / snow. Not caring whether its carbon or steel, leather or latex. It’s about the moving, the pushing, the shoving, the breath in the air in clouds, the sweat dripping off the nose, the back hunch dover as your legs nip and tighten with lactic acid as you push through pain…Its not what you have ……it who you are…..
    Do you know your limits ? ….And do you push beyond them?
    Cyclists tend to ….that’s just the way they are…..


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