The Bicycle Upgrade & Accident

The last time I blogged about anything cycle related, I was riding a cheap Raleigh Pioneer. I had upgraded the tyres to Puncture resistant ones (Schwalbe Marathon Plus) but that was about it. I had covered an awful lot of miles on the £200 starter bicycle and it had begun to feel very clunky. As I couldn’t seem to fathom out why by myself, I decided it was time to pay someone to service it. You expect to need maybe bearings replace or a new chain however, the phone call I got went like this:

Bicycle Man: “Hi there, I’m just calling about your bicycle. Unfortunately the rear forks are bent out of shape and the wheel isn’t sitting in place correctly. It’s unservicable and unsafe to ride.”

Me: “Oh crud, well that’s not great is it!”

Bicycle Man: “No not really, you’re going to need a new bicycle”

Me: “I’ll get on that then….thanks, I think….”

So yes, a little more than a few parts here and there. A whole new bicycle. My first reaction was panic, and then sadness and then back to panic at how I would afford to replace the bicycle. My riding has come on a long way since I bought the Raleigh so I knew I wanted to upgrade but I didn’t have upgrade kind of cash just knocking around in my bank account. Fortunately one of my colleagues mentioned to me that our Company is part of the Cycle Scheme.

The Cycle Scheme allows you to buy a bicycle & accessories (e.g. helmet, lock, back rack, panniers, lights etc) with no initial outlay as your employer pays the upfront costs. You then ‘rent’ the bicycle from your employer for a monthly fee. This monthly fee is deducted from your pay before tax so you save Tax and NI on however much you repay. At the end of your ‘hire’ period (normally 12 months) your employer can transfer ownership of the bicycle over to you for what they deem to be the bicycle’s market value. It almost works like an interest and tax free loan. It’s really very cool. Please do see their website for more details though as I am not an authority on the Cycle Scheme.

Anyway, my Raleigh happened to be broken roughly a month before I was due to ride the British Heart Foundation London to Brighton sponsored cycle ride. The process of Cycle Scheme is obviously slower than going to a shop and taking a bicycle away the same day as there is paperwork and Royal Mail involved. I was pretty desperate to get the bicycle sorted so I opted to do the cheeky thing (with the agreement of the cycle shop and my employer) which was to pay for the bicycle on my credit card and then have the balance of the refunded onto the card once the Cycle Scheme paper work was complete. It was a little risky as if I wasn’t eligible for the Cycle Scheme for any reason, I would have a bicycle I couldn’t afford but it was a risk I weighed up and took.

The Cycle Scheme only utilises local bicycle shops (no big chain brands) so I went off to Bike Trax in Wanstead. I have to say, it’s lovely going into a local bike shop where the mechanics and sales people recognise you and ask you how this clunk and that click has been doing since they looked at it for you. You just don’t get that level of service from a big chain. Now don’t get me wrong, I can’t fault the big chains customer service overall (I am particularly fond of Evans Cycles online for amazing deals and customer service) but it juts doesn’t compare to the personal touch.

I deviate away from the point which is that I chose to purchase myself a Trek 7.3 FX  17″ ladies Hybrid bicycle. I almost had heart palpitations at the thought of a bicycle being £500 but I can proclaim that after riding her for a few months, she is worth every penny!

While I was spending so much money, I also opted to get myself a back rack, clip on pannier and a new lock. Let’s face it, with a £500 bicycle you don’t want to be securing it with a £15 coil lock from Argos do you? I also took out bicycle insurance. I was all sorted and set off to fall completely in love with my new machine and to name her Daisy.

Fortunately for me, my Cycle Scheme paper work all came through in time for the due date on my credit card bill and everything was refunded and sorted. I also had plenty of time (about 3 weeks) to get used to Daisy before we rode the London to Brighton.

We completed the 54 mile ride in a good time of 4 hours 45 minutes and I managed to cycle all the way up The Beacon (also known as killer hill at mile number 50). I will admit that miles 32 to 40 were really tough, I think that was my ‘wall’ when my bum hurt and I generally felt like I was running out of steam. I raised a grand total of £384.00 for the British Heart Foundation. Here’s a snap of Daisy and Me after the finish with our medal.

Recently however, fortune has not smiled on Daisy and me. Mainly because we got hit by a car. It was the driver of the car’s fault. I was on the correct side of the road cycling along and he pulled a U-turn (heading onto my side) and completely took me out. The worst part of it was that for the last 2 seconds, I was pulling on my breaks as hard as I could but just knew there was nothing more I could do to try and stop or get out the way. It was the most horiffic feeling to just know you’re going to be hit by a car and it is inevitably going to be painful.

I came completely off the bike and hit the ground. I did clonk my head against the road but thanks to the good old skid lid (a.k.a. helmet), I escaped pretty much unscathed (graze to my arm being the worst injury). Poor Daisy got a clobbering. Here’s a snap of the damage to just 1 pedal:

You can see on the image there just how mangled the metal is and how the pedal has been wrenched almost completely away from the crank arm of the chain set. There was a lot of other damage too. The entire list equated to:

  • Bent Handlebars
  • Bent Handlebar Stem
  • Ruined Handlebar Grips
  • Bent Saddle
  • Bent Seat Post
  • Chain Set Ruined
  • Pedals Mangled
  • Bottom Bracket Wrecked
In total a repair cost of £225. There is also cosmetic damage to the back rack and pannier as well as my watch and helmet camera. The guy who hit me was incredibly apologetic so I decided to only claim for getting my bicycle back on the road. I can live with a few scratches to the other items because they are still working. I have now been without my bicycle for 2 weeks but the bill has been paid and we’re just waiting for the new chain set to be delivered so I can get back on the road.
Being knocked off was terrifying but ultimately has not put me off cycling one tiny bit. I also feel validated by the free cycle training session I had (courtesy of my local London borough, check if you are eligible at TFL’s website) as the instructor basically said the only thing he could pick at was my use of gears which was probably the fact I was riding a 12 geared mountain bike rather than a 21 geared hybrid.
In summary, new bicycle is excellent. Being knocked off new bicycle, not so much fun.
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