About three years ago, I cycled the 75 miles (120km) over to Hunstanton on the north Norfolk coast, pitched my tent in a small campsite, and headed over to a bike shop with the unusual name of Fat Birds don’t Fly. Believed to be the largest retailer of titanium bikes in Europe, it’s the premier place to spend a day trialling a variety of different models.
At the time, I was merely toying with the idea of acquiring a titanium bike, but I spent the best part of a whole day trialling at least five different models, all of which were carefully set up to my requirements. Although I hadn’t firmly resolved to pitch in for a new bike at the time, I certainly came away with a clear idea of what to expect from titanium, and like many important purchases, I put the idea on the back burner…….until three years later…….
My habitual road bike had done about 40,000 miles of faithful service, and bits were wearing out on a regular basis, so I re-visited the idea of replacing it with a titanium model, but wasn’t ready to shell out about £3000 for a new bike. My subsequent foray into the second hand market took me down to Royston, and I found myself a more-than-decent Litespeed Siena, kitted out with some reasonable accessories, including Ultegra brakes and gears, and the first ride turned out to be ‘love at first flight’. Though a smaller frame than I am used to, with steeper angles and a shorter wheelbase, the feel is light (2kg lighter than the old bike) and springy…..and I find my average speed has increased by at least 2kph.
The additional benefit was that it came with a spare set of wheels, just what I needed to replace the disintegrating wheels on my old bike. So it looks like following the usual tradition of roadies and having a ‘best bike’ for the summer months, and an ‘old hack’ for the winter. Not sure I approve of this unbridled multiplication of bikes in the garage……
A major reason for going to any major product exhibition is usually to view the width and breadth of the product range, and to update yourself on the latest developments.
Our visit to the N.E.C. Cycle Show today saw us walk into a huge arena of hundreds of exhibitors, displaying everything from bicycle hubs and bearings to complete custom-builds costing £thousands.
Absorbing and distracting? Yes, absolutely………but we only spent imaginary money as we hovered around the stands, especially as I found my attention locking onto some of the titanium offerings from Kinesis and Van Nicholas. All very tempting…..
But behind the scenes, there were stories to listen to. On a stage in the corner of the hall, we heard first hand of the experiences of some of the riders in the recent Tour of Britain, both old hands and young ‘rookies’.
There was a technical session on how women can make the cycling experience more comfortable for themselves……but astonishingly, about a third of the audience were men (including me!…….but then I was only accompanying my wife….).
The most absorbing session, for me personally, was to listen to the inspiring story of James Golding. At the age of 28, he was diagnosed with cancer and, at one stage of his treatment, was given only a 5% chance of survival. His weight plummeted from 14 stones to 6 stones, and his treatment was long and painful. I won’t try to tell the story of the cycling endurance records he has attempted to break (and will break in the future) because you can read about them for yourself here, but he is a truly remarkable character. Not only is he a survivor of cancer (twice), but he has risen above his fear of death to push his body to the limits of endurance in pursuit of huge goals, and has raised in excess of £2m for cancer research.
In 2015, he hopes to set a new 7 day record, cycling in excess of 1,547 miles. And then to tackle the Round-the-World record of 108 days, riding in excess of 18,000 miles. As an endurance cyclist with much humbler goals, I was delighted to meet this man and listen to his story.