Thursday, 21 August 2014

Announcing: A Viking Invasion

Yes, I did it:  I ordered a Viking Bromley singlespeed mixte from Parkers of Bolton, taking my chances with buying via mail order. 

Opening the box.
(Is there anything else as exciting as taking
delivery of a big cardboard box
that by its shape and size screams NEW BIKE?!)

If you are thinking of doing the same, here are a few points to consider. 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

WOMEN'S CYCLING Giveaway: And The Winner Is ...

... Sarah L. of Somerville, Massachusetts, USA!

Congratulations, Sarah, your copy of Women's Cycling is winging its way to you now. I do hope you enjoy reading it and pick up some tips to help you with your next cycling challenge, which I understand is a 50 mile charity ride next month. Good luck!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Combined Ops

What a busy weekend! Hard on the heels of a Friday Night Ride to the Coast (Whitstable edition - one of the nicest ever - dry, not too cold, light tailwind), Adam and his son and I headed off on Sunday to the Headcorn Aerodrome in Kent, for The Military Show & Vintage Aircraft Weekend. 

The main draw for us was the scheduled appearance of the only two airworthy Lancaster bombers (one kept by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and the other by the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum), reunited here in the UK this summer to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I. They were to be based at Biggin Hill airfield for the weekend but scheduled to do fly-bys and aerial displays over airfields all over the South East, including Headcorn. Adam and Sam went down to Eastbourne last Friday for the airshow there, and saw the Lancasters along with a number of other WWII-era aircraft. But Sunday would be my chance to finally see them, too. 

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The London Town Bike Challenge: A Look at the Modern Viking

Just a few days ago, I wrote about the dilemma of finding a suitable bike for commuting in London with minimal risk of being stolen.

Recently I spied a new-ish Viking step-through framed bicycle locked up in the West End, one street away from my office.

I recognised the Viking name, partly because of a recent discussion on the Lovely Bicycle! blog about the Viking company, its English and Irish history and the "competent but un-inspired" reputation of its bicycles, but partly also because I run regular searches on Ebay for mixtes (as you do) and the Viking name comes up regularly as the main modern alternative to all the vintage Raleighs and Peugeots out there. From the Ebay listings, I knew the current owners of the Viking brand offer a 7-speed mixte called 'The Continental' and a singlespeed called 'The Bromley'. I also knew they are incredibly cheap! The Continental runs £160-£180 and the Bromley is often well under £150. Most are offered for sale by Parkers of Bolton, a well-established online retailer in the north of England. And if you visit Parkers' website, you'll find both models at even lower prices than those on Ebay. 

Frankly, I had assumed that the Vikings on Ebay were "Bike Shaped Objects" on a par with what you can expect to buy from the likes of Halfords. True, the Viking name has more 'heritage' behind it than Apollo but these days it's difficult to know who owns the Viking brand or where exactly the bikes are made. It certainly is not Wolverhampton or Derry anymore! 

But to be honest, I was really impressed by the bike I saw in person. It was obviously quite new so it's hard to say what it will look after the coming winter, but the welds were tidy and the build looked really quite nice. 

So at this kind of price point, is Viking worth considering?  I'm going to take a closer look at the two models of mixte.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The London Town Bike Challenge

A common sight in central London.  Basket optional.
Image courtesy Watch My Wallet 

For the past 5 weeks, I have been without a commuting bike that I could leave locked up in London overnight. As explained in previous posts, when I started a new job in central London last April, I had assumed that I would resume using Lucy the Brompton for round-trip commuting duties (especially with her more hill-friendly 8-speed upgrade), but found in reality that she's too heavy for lugging up and down stairs at Luton rail station (where there are no lifts to the platforms). I then thought that the solution would be to eliminate the need to carry a bike on the train at all -- simply have one bike that I ride back and forth between home and Luton station and a second bike that I ride in London between St Pancras station and my office in the West End. Obviously, however, the Brompton would not be ideal for either role: not really hill-friendly even with those 8 gears and far too valuable to leave locked up anywhere out of my sight, whether at Luton or St Pancras or my office. 

The Surly Cross Check is perfect for the Bedfordshire end of my commute -- it's tough as old boots with touring gears, full mudguards and a sturdy rack. The question was, what to use on the London end? 

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