I change my bikes more often than I change my trousers, and I’m embarrassed about both those facts. The trouble is, you need more than a single test ride to know if a bike is right for you or not, and I’ve given the Boardman CX over four months now, and decided I needed to change it.
Backpedalling at bit to last September: With winter approaching, I’d been thinking about assembling my ideal commuting/winter/all round bike. Something practical and versatile, that would not only be suitable on roads, but capable of a bit of off-road too. My direct commute is only a mile, and while I normally add a bit more, there are some longer routes that I can do that involve potholey/rocky towpaths. They can be done on a road bike, but can be a little nerve-wracking.
So, I wrote a list of what I wanted for a go-anywhere, do-anything bike, but still with drop bars:
- Clearance for large tyres, for more comfort and grip.
- Ability to fit proper mudguards, not matter how much I hate the sight of them. On the commute they make all the difference, and anyone riding behind me (unlikely, but might happen) can get the benefit of no spray in their face. The previous winter I used my Canyon AL with Crud Road Racer clip on mudguards, but they drove me insane. I couldn’t use a tyre larger than 23mm, and they constantly rubbed and bent. I burnt them in a ritual sacrifice as soon as Spring looked likely, along with all the other clip-on style mudguards I’d tried. I’ve bought SKS Bluemels in Matt Black which at least makes them a little less distracting.
- Disc Brakes. Even with decent quality rim brakes they took a while to stop in the wet, so I wanted to give mechanical disk brakes a go.
- Didn’t have to be steel, and as I would be carrying my bike upstairs at the office, aluminium would mean a lighter bike.
- It also had to be something I’d want to ride. If it was overly heavy and ugly, I would just ride something else.
That list meant a Cyclocross (CX) bike, and after a lot of research, there was one that really fitted the bill, the Boardman CX. Unlike ‘pure’ cyclocross bikes it still had things like bottle cage mounts. To top it off, the colour scheme (subtle dark metallic grey and yellow) and graphics looks fantastic. So, I kept an eye on ebay, and before long a brand new frameset turned up! This gave me the opportunity to build it up with own components.
It worked OK for a while, but the more I used it, I realised it wasn’t the best decision…
- Mechanical Disc brakes were a pain in the bum from day one. Mainly the loud ‘honk’ like screech it made, especially in the wet. I tried everything to stop the noise, but I only succeeded in making it slightly quieter for a while. Changing to hydraulics would’ve been an answer but by this point I’d had enough! I’m sure disc brakes will be the future, but I’m not a fan at this point.
- I didn’t enjoy off-road as much as on-road. It was slower and required more bike handling skills, and I felt a big difference going back to road – it was such a big relief to be able to speed up again. I’m not disregarding off-road completely, as the lack of traffic is very appealing, I just think next time I’ll do it on a Mountain Bike instead.
- I wasn’t aware of the differences of a CX frame, like the higher bottom bracket for mud clearance. In general, the geometry/fit just wasn’t as comfortable as my Colnago.
- It was still fairly heavy. Now winter bikes are supposed to be heavy, but I need all the help I can get up hills, and couldn’t help thinking of the penalty I was paying for a CX bike with disc brakes.
Back to now…That’s all a very long-winded way of explaining that I’ve changed the frame and wheels for a Genesis Equilibrium. I’ve been eyeing these up ever since I started cycling, and love their mix of modern and classic/retro steel looks. Plus they fit the bill with geometry and mudguard clearance, and are available to buy as just a frameset. So I’ve taken the plunge and had one built up (by PushPedal again) using components from the Boardman build and my singlespeed project. While I would’ve preferred black (and almost went with a Kinesis T2 for that reason) but I liked the cream (with black groupset and brown saddle/tape) for a change. It will show up mud more, but unlike my water-collecting internal-cabled Colnago, I can at least hose it down easily.
So far the ride has the lovely ‘springiness’ that the steel frame is famed for, and the geometry feels spot on. Will report back!