SevenStreets Surgery: Cycling
Every week, we'll bring you a bona fide expert from the city to share their wisdom. This week, it's a crash-course in all things cycling, from the good people at Parliament Street's Giant bikes.
Cycling in Liverpool is more popular than ever. And, with Bradley Wiggins, Sir Chris Hoy, and Victoria Pendleton (to name just a few) putting in fantastic performances in the Olympics and Wiggins becoming the first Brit to ever win the Tour de France, the sport is enjoying its highest profile since Hoylake’s Chris Boardman raised the game twenty years ago (really? That long?).
And Merseyside’s not a bad place to get the habit – with miles of cycle routes, plenty of downloadable cycle maps, and bike hire options, now’s the time to get back in the saddle. And if it’s been a while, the Liverpool Loop Line is a brilliant re-introduction to the joys of two wheels.
Your guide, Giant Bikes manager, cyclo-cross racer, and all round cycling advocate, Jon Trigg (pic r).
Why do you want a bike?
First off you have to spend a little bit of time figuring out exactly what you want from your bike. And consequently where you will be riding it, how far, who with, and what your future goals or ambitions are. What are the advantages of drop bars over flat bars? How does the geometry differ from a sportif bike, a more traditional road bike, or a time trial bicycle? Once you know if the bike is for fitness, commuting, competing, touring etc we can help you find the right bike.
Choosing the right frame
Now you know what style of bike is right for your cycling, it’s time to look at your frame options. If you were wanting a bike for sportive riding (mass participation long distance events) for example, within the Giant range you would be looking at the Defy series. However knowing this still leaves you with a choice of eighteen bikes in four different frame options; AlluxSL alluminium, Toray 600 Composite carbon, Toray 700 Advanced carbon, and Toray 800 Advanced SL carbon…
Choosing your frame is not as simple as aluminium or carbon. There are numerous grades of aluminium and carbon used in the bike industry.
Aluminium is a popular material due to its good strength-to-weight ratio. Carbon is phenomenally lighter and comes with a much higher price tag. However, the main benefit easily overlooked is that carbon is much more comfortable. Vibrations and buzz from the road are dissipated and barely felt by your hands and backside when riding carbon. A good carbon bike feels like you’re riding a cloud. Worth every penny if you’re serious about cycling.
If you can find out exactly what carbon a brand is using, it’s a good bet that it’s a good quality carbon. Some brands will simply not divulge the carbon used, or use their own marketing spiel, such as carbon red or carbon black.
Shimano, Sram, Campag, Ultegra, 105, Tiagra… Sometimes it seems like cycling has its own language, so it’s always worth calling into your local bike shop to find out exactly what these products and specifications mean, and how they’ll affect your cycling.
Obviously, as with everything else in life, you get what you pay for, but spend a little time finding out exactly what you get by upgrading on a bike’s specification. Remember that these parts will wear out in time, and the better the original kit you buy on the bike, the more expensive it will cost to replace (as downgrading isn’t an option). Specification is important, but the frame is much more so. Your parts will wear out in time, but a decent frame will last you at least ten years. Cheaper frames will often seduce you with a better specification, but they can only afford to do so by cutting costs on the frame itself – so they’re often a false economy.
The right clothing
Lycra isn’t flattering, but padded shorts are a necessity! It doesn’t matter how comfortable your saddle is (and most of them aren’t) padded shorts will allow you to ride for longer. Fact. From working in the bike industry for six years and trying to persuade customers to give lycra a go, I have realised that most people avoid it so as not to feel like they have ‘all the gear, no idea’.
But the benefits of using the right kit from your very first ride will make you more likely to reach your potential in the first place. Instead of riding in pain for a good year before believing yourself enough of a cyclist to wear lycra, I strongly recommend you spend that little more on top of the cost of the bike to maximise your comfort and enjoyment.
Although you could wear the same t-shirt you do to go to the gym, a cycling jersey will be lighter and more breathable with stash pockets for energy foods and spare tubes etc. As well as this the better fit will hug the body and let you cut through the air instead of channeling the wind resistance, creating a sail pulling you in the wrong direction.
Oh, and learn to love the clip-in shoes – they’re something to be embraced instead of feared.
There are many cycling clubs across the North West for road and off road cycling. One of the longest running in the Liverpool area is Liverpool Century that has been running for… well, nearly a century! You can find contact informaion on their website.
Try before you buy
This is a must. Find out when the brands you’re interested in are running demo days, or if your local stores can get a demo bike in store for you to try. You can’t get a feel for a bike by riding it around a car park. You need it for a weekend to put it through its paces, and take it to the places you intend to take your own bike once you’ve made your decision.
A little about us…
We began as a family run bicycle hire company based on the Wirral, Liverpool Bicycle, with Giant being our main supplier. We delivered individual and group hires, as well as guided tours. After three years of this we began looking for a property to move into retail and approached Giant to see if they would supply us again.
At the same time Giant UK were looking to open their first brand-specific store and shared a lot of our ideas regarding retail and honest, committed customer service. Another three years on and we now have twice the unit space in our store on Parliament Street, and a smaller city centre store near the Albert Dock (underneath One Park West).
29 Parliament Street
Tel: (44) 151 707 6116
Opening hours: Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat 10am-6pm, Thur 10am-7pm, Sun 10am-5pm.
Photograph of Jonathan Trigg after a cyclo cross race at Otterspool Prom Liverpool by Philip Dawson