In this post-Christmas period I found myself in receipt of a new mountain bike. It’s rather a long story but very basically, I’m a road cyclist and my husband who is not a cyclist, prefers something with a little more suspension and a lot less traffic. He has a road bike of the hand-me-down-but-bung-me-a-tenner or two variety from a friend, which he very much enjoys when we go to Europe. Brexit or no-Brexit, they cycle better than we do (well okay not if you look at the results of the last three grand tours) but you know exactly what I mean. When you can cycle off-road but on tarmac for 30km around a beautiful alpine lake and not get verbally abused once by a motorist, you know you’re in cycling heaven.
I am digressing from the short story into a very long one. Basically, my husband, who doesn’t cycle remember, has had his mountain bike of donkey’s years, stolen. That meant that, aside from dipping his big toe into the local swimming pool once or twice a week, he found himself incapable of doing any decent amount of exercise once he discovered the bike had gone. So now, with January sales and bargains to be had etc we have two mountain bikes. I have never had a new one of my own and it feels very self-indulgent but, as I told the bloke in the shop (we’re local bike retail supporters in case you were curious) if it gets the husband riding then so be it.
My road bike is entry level because I like to be thrifty and don’t need anything too flashy. My hybrid was an e-bay bargain, and the difference between the bikes is basically the gears and the weight. But crikey, getting my mountain bike in the car the first time was like wrestling a rhinoceros. And in that single adventure I realised that what I needed – have long needed but got away without – was a bike rack. Not least because it means that when said Husband is not around with his oh so handy truck, I can still go mountain biking without breaking my back!
I’ve had leaning towards Saris in the bike carrier regard for a while. The Saris products look robust, look neat and don’t look as though there’s too many ways to get yourself tied up in knots. So I went back to the sales and indulged myself. I like a January bargain but like also to restrict it to something I need. In this case it was avoiding a slipped disc.
Rack purchased. Husband away. Desire to go riding. And so began my Saturday afternoon.
I would consider myself borderline practical, which means I can do it but if there’s a chance someone else is better and faster then I’m happy to step back. I can happily hand you a screwdriver because I’m not a feminist. The instructions were typical of the ones you get in any box today – very lego-esk – all images with ticks and crosses and smiley faces if you get it right. Personally I like the occasional encouraging one-liner, such as (and this actually would have helped) ‘the straps are labelled top, middle, bottom.’ Had I realised this it would have saved me at least 5 minutes because, not wanting to unwrap and tangle six straps at once, I unwrapped one at time. That said, once I realised there was one horn for the top of the car and two horns for the bottom, three straps for each side, and the bike holding arms should arc upwards I was pretty much on my way to success.
I have no idea what other bike racks are like. We have borrowed one before now but I didn’t fit it. Getting all the ‘horns’ (arms if you prefer) in the right location for the height of the car is the tricky bit. This is only because of the neat way the Saris is designed, with cogs and smooth bits. The arms move on the smooth bits and fix to the cog bits. However, there are only two smooth bits so when you need to move one thing, you have to manoeuvre everything. Do you remember those little plastic things you used to get in your Christmas stocking with the picture on broken into a sequence of squares that you’d scramble and unscramble. Well it’s like that. Once I got that, I was well away.
Bearing in mind I was eating my lunch at one o’clock (pre-box opening), and I was on my bike at 3:30pm after a journey of approximately 30 minutes, the whole fixing it up episode took about an hour. That was with a couple of adjustments and putting the bike on the wrong way round. The absolute added bonus of the whole episode came after the ride. I got back to the car with a lump of dog poo stuck to my front tyre – that never happens on a road bike. I’ve flicked cow poo into my face once but that’s another story. Even though I picked most of it off with a stick you know how it clings and the thought of getting that all over the inside of the car, not to mention my jacket and hands, did not bear thinking about. So I smugly stuck the bike expertly to the back of the car, strapped it up, and made my way home.
I now feel I can go anywhere at any time because the Saris keeps its shape unless you want to pack it flat. It would pop into the back of the car if you wanted to keep it safe and is light enough to be carried with one hand, with bike in the other and dog in tow. I might bling it up for night driving with a reflective strip but I am super happy with my purchase. I am fairly sure my road bike will be pleased too. And I should finish by saying that I am really enjoying mountain biking. It’s the perfect way to cycle all year, bridging the gap between autumn and spring for fair-weather road cyclists like me.
I hope you’ve had as much fun starting something new, or restarting something old, in January as I have.