I’ve decided to retire my beloved Kinesis Crosslight FiveT. **sighs**
I’ve had it for over 5 years now and is arguably the most comfortable bike I’ve ever sat on and done more miles than any other bike I’ve ever owned. Originally it was setup when I had my shop as a decent spare bike for cross racing and saw some action occasionally when it got muddy. It then morphed into a commuting/gravel/adventure/winter bike. I was ahead of the game on this one as I loved the occasional ride to the shop and back home mixing up the tarmac with some trails down the canal, over the Lickeys and Clent. More recently though it has stayed on the road more as my regular commuting bike and even saw a tour of duty in Wales, this year, as a touring bike, coping excellently with a rack and panniers.
Despite all that action, its a bit old fashioned now. First up it has cantilever brakes which are well into the twilight of their career in the bike industry. Discs are taking over the world as we speak but that’s a talking point for another day. Secondly, the geometry is just not ‘on trend’ anymore. Its effectively race geometry (very low front end) on a frame with the ability to fit pannier, racks and water bottles. These days cross bikes are just cross bikes for racing, nothing else and gravel/adventure bikes have now filled the void when cross bikes dropped fittings for panniers and racks. The geometry is much more forgiving on adventure bikes now too which begs the question. What do I buy?
Analysing my needs
To be honest I don’t actually need another bike or a new one. The Kinesis is fine and with regular maintenance of the transmission, it’ll probably last me another 5 years but we all like a treat and there is nothing better feeling than, say, buying a new car or booking a holiday. The joy we get doing the research then taking the plunge is all part of it. Its no different for me with a bike. Endless research, hunting down a bargain and taking the plunge. I know if I get it right, the bike will last me just as long as the Kinesis has and will serve me for thousands of miles to come.
Deciding the type of bike I wanted wasn’t the difficult bit. Essentially a better, more up to date version of bike capable of what mine does now. Cross bikes don’t do racks and panniers anymore so a Gravel/Adventure bike, disc brakes that can take wide tyres and mudguards too. Simple really.
Deciding what groupset I have on it, the price point etc is where it gets interesting and you can get bogged down in choice. There is just too much. If you have a budget, stick to it, do not go over it and I apply this to myself all the time now on big ticket purchases I might need to consider. So my budget is £1300. Having spoken to my commuting buddy Baz who has a disc-equipped (carbon) Boardman winter bike and done some research myself, Shimano 105 remains a very popular, respected groupset and given current trends it would need to have hydraulic disc brakes. Hydraulic Tiagra is still on the table if the compromise on the groupset allows a upgrade elsewhere, say, better wheels or frame for example. So, I’m looking for an alloy-framed Adventure bike with a Shimano 105 or Tiagra hydraulic groupset that can take a rack, panniers and guards and has geometry comparable in comfort to my Kinesis. Easy right?
My budget comes with the caveat that I will be buying the bike on Cycle to Work and possibly via work where I get 25% off too. $$$
Finding a bike
When I started cycling 30 years ago. There were literally a handful of respected framebuilders and you built a bike. There weren’t ranges of bikes like we see now. Nowadays there are just shit loads of brands ranging from actually shit to outstanding to ok to over-priced. So where did I start looking?
Unless I wanted to literally trawl through thousands of bikes, I had to get specific. Price point £1000-£1300. Anything less or more will not meet my spec or go over-budget. The spec needed to be Tiagra or 105 with hydraulic brakes. Brand didn’t matter. And so I began trawling websites, reviews and social media for ideas. I spent hours and hours in my spare time at work, during the night when I couldn’t sleep and at weekends while Dan was on his Xbox looking at specs of bikes. Hundreds and hundreds. I’d refine and then go back and check again. Price vs Spec, and it opens your eyes too. Some brands take the piss on spec for the price they want. Big mainstream brand names. Others really do nail the spec for the price and they grabbed my interest and were shortlisted. Once shortlisted I could look at geometry and fit.
Brands I looked at
Argon 18, Bianchi, Bergamont, Specialized, Trek, Giant, Cube, Boardman, Eddy Merckx, Cannondale, Cube, Saracen, Whyte, Marin, Charge, GT, Forme, Kona, KTM, Merida, Orange, Orbea, Polygon, Raleigh, Scott, Tifosi, Wilier, Basso, Ribble, Planet-X, Merlin, Dolan, Genesis, Ridley, Lapierre + probably more I’ve forgot
Some I could discount immediately on price point or lack of suitable bike, others had bikes but were later dismissed on spec or geometry.
The final three
So…after a lot of research, here are the three bikes I have shortlisted
Boardman ADV 8.9 – £1000
This bike is pound-for-pound the best spec Adventure bike for £1000 on the market. Shimano Tiagra, hydraulic brakes. Rivals only have mechanical brakes and mainstream branded bikes are upto £200 more for the same spec. Sub-compact gears too (48/32T)
Ribble CGR 105 – £1299
This bike comes in two colours, a two-tone light and dark blue and this one but I like this colour the best. One of the best specs on the market for the price. Does everything I want and the big plus for me is it has Mavic Aksium Disc wheels aswell.
Cube NuRoad Race – £1299
I sold Cube bikes in my shop so I know they are great value and well made. My best bike is a Cube. Why not have another Cube then? This does everything I need, ticks all my boxes but its not available until March 2019 and the colour is a bit meh! I’d also need to change the outer ring and tyres too.
And my new bike will be…..
Well, I haven’t decided yet.
The Boardman was originally a front-runner. I nearly bought one at the start of the year when they came out but I decided to hold out and then the hot Summer came and I spent months on my best bike anyway and it all got forgot about until the Winter commutes began again. Given two out of three of the bikes are now 105 and the fact I prefer bikes that have complete groupsets (the Boardman has a Tiagra transmission, FSA chainset), I think I have discounted the Boardman. (..and spares for Boardman unavailable)
Which leaves two bikes.
The Ribble is great looking and great value. My only quibble is the 50/34T chainset, I’d have to change the outer ring to a 46T but no big deal and the headtube is big. I currently have a 110mm headtube on my Kinesis and the Ribble’s is 150mm. I do have spacers under my stem on my bike but it could end up been a touch higher than I have and the reach is slightly longer too which may need a 90mm rather than 100mm stem. I’m hoping to get to Ribble in Brum to see one before I decide but the biggest minus for this bike is although I can get it on Cycle to Work I won’t get 25% off it (staff discount) like the Boardman or Cube.
Cube again have nailed the spec for price on the NuRoad. Geometry is spot on. Spec is bang on the money too. I’d have to change the outer ring and tyres to 28mm but colour and availability are putting me off this bike. I’ve got to wait until March for this bike when it won’t be long before Summer and the best bike comes out. I get the discount but is it worth the wait?
What do you think?
Thanks for reading.