Monday, 29 March 2021

MY NEW BIKE: RALEIGH PIONEER GRAND TOUR

One of the highlights of last year was the time I actually got to go outside - I live in a flat without a garden, so the first lockdown felt particularly hard - I longed for outdoor space of my own, and I've never appreciated fresh air more! When I look back at last year my best days were definitely the ones where I made an effort to get out and go exploring.

For the last 7 years (!) I've owned a Dutch-style bike (this one!). It looked very beautiful, but it was very heavy and only had 7 gears which meant I was pretty limited whenever I wanted to cycle up hills. Living in the city, it's too risky to leave my bike locked up outside at night, which means whenever I want to use it, I have to carry my bike up and down three floors of stairs - not fun!

I've been swithering for a while, but as the weather has got nicer I decided it was time to finally bite the bullet and buy a proper bike - so say hello to my new steed, a Raleigh Pioneer Grand Tour!

My beaut new bike parked outside lovely Filmhouse Cinema

I hadn't planned to buy a bike online, but I went to a couple of bike shops (which are actually open, even in lockdown) and both had barely any bikes left in stock - apparently there's been a massive demand for them since last year, and manufacturers are struggling to keep up! I knew I wanted to buy a good bike (which meant spending a bit of money), so I really wanted to make sure I wasn't settling for whatever was left in stock, and I took time to find the right bike for me.

I've always like Raleighs, I've had them before and the brand has a great rep for making high-quality bikes. I knew I wanted something light (to make lugging it up stairs a little easier), that I wanted something with a low bar (I'm pretty short and I want to be able to cycle in a skirt if I want to!), and importantly, something with lots of gears to make it easier to get around Edinburgh's hills. My last bike had been beautiful but impractical, so I was trying to look past aesthetics, but obviously I'm a sucker for a nicely designed bike. 

I also needed a bike that was good for both city cycling and country adventures - so decided that a hybrid bike was the way to go.

Looking like a happy potato

I spent AGES looking through all the options, watching videos, reading reviews, and obsessing over the difference between a 14kg bike and a 15kg bike. It was also tricky trying to work out what frame size I wanted - it would have been nice to be able to try some bikes out, but I just had to make do with sizing guides online.

In the end I took the plunge and bought the Pioneer Grand Tour in Low Step. It pretty much ticked all my boxes: it's got a light aluminum frame; 24 gears; big grippy tyres that are happy on pavements and country paths; and it came with mudguards, a pannier rack and a bell, so I didn't have to pay extra for those. It was £525, which feels quite expensive to me and was definitely the top of my budget, but I know I'll get years of use out of it (and we don't have a car, so it really is my main mode of transport these days!).

The bike is an absolute DREAM. I was worried that I'd get carried away imagining how much better this was than my old bike - like, how much difference can a few extra kgs and gears make? Turns out, it's LOADS. The gears are a life-changer! Hills are so much easier, I'm much faster, and I feel so much more confident cycling in traffic. The bike doesn't have suspension, but the seat is fitted with mega springs, so it's much comfier going over cobbles or uneven ground. It looks great too!

Now the weather's improving, I've been able to go out for a few rides already, and I love it. Such a great decision to buy! I'm really looking forward to going farther afield on warm sunny days - bring on the summer! 

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