Proper Bikes (and more) at the London Bike Show

At the end of last week HeyGreenGo got in touch and offered me tickets to the London Bike Show which they were one of the sponsors of. MOH had planned to pop into the show after a 60 mile ride which started at the Excel on Sunday, but I didn't have any plans to go along. I assumed the show would be geared towards those who take cycling a bit more seriously and for those that wear full cycling gear, which as you know isn't me.

But taking a look at the site I wondered if my assumption was right. I knew MOH was keen to look at potential new bikes, and I knew that after cycling sixty miles or so around Essex that maybe might not be high on his agenda, so going a day earlier might work out well. And so that's what we did.

Imagine my surprise then when on the first stand we stopped at I spied a step through bike, and bikes with wicker baskets. Just my sort of bikes and where the afternoon potentially turned expensive. As with any show there were show offers, but while I was interested I knew I wouldn't buy one on the day, as for me a show offer only really works if you've done your homework beforehand and not in the fifteen minutes or so you spend on the stand.

The first stand we saw at the London Bike Show had step through bikes which was quite unexpected
Looking through the spokes at the London Bike Show

The bikes that were deemed suitable for me ranged from £700 to £2,250 - and now you can see why I say deemed suitable. I think if I were to spend the higher end of that range on a bike I wouldn't leave it anywhere, ever. There were though some very nice bikes, and we spent quite a while learning about the bikes from an informed salesman. I don't know much about the technical parts of a bike, and nor do I think I need too, but I did find it frustrating that when it got to a technical bit it wasn't me that was being spoken to, it was MOH.  

A salesman once did that when I bought my Megane, and yes I still bought the car because it was a good deal. He insisted on talking to MOH, who doesn't drive, and asked MOH if he wanted to sit inside. The salesman's face was a picture when MOH got into the passenger seat. After that the salesman spoke to me more often and backtracked really quickly, and couldn't do enough for me to get the sale.

But I digress, it's still frustrating though.

A Pashley bike complete with the all important wicker basket at the London Bike Show

I was quite taken with the Pashley, but was potentially swayed by the basket, which I think is bigger than my current basket and proper wicker, rather than plastic wicker. The Brooks saddle doesn't look quite as comfortable as my current padded leather one, but I know they come well recommended and well, they mould themselves to the shape of your derriere.

A Brooks saddle on a Pashley bike at the London Bike Show

The bikes on the stand were generally in neutral colours and I think that's what made the one below stand out. I'm quite partial to green as well, so I found myself drawn to this one from a cosmetic viewpoint. It didn't have traditional brakes and involved pedalling backwards to brake, which I'm sure you get used to but it probably wasn't something to try out at the Excel on Saturday. It's a looker though isn't it?

A green Brooks saddle and green grips at the London Bike Show

In fact as I'm writing this I've realised I tried two bikes out for size, which was two more than MOH did and it was him that was supposed to be more seriously looking for a bike. Whoops.

This is the one at the higher end of that range I gave you earlier and was beautiful. It had a couple of people placed alongside it and I couldn't work out if they were just taking a break or ready to pounce on anyone that was taking a serious interest in it.

A top of the range bike at the London Bike Show
An inbuilt light for the top of the range bike at the London Bike Show

The light was integrated and pedalling powered the light, very clever. The chain too looked different, we saw this maintenance-free style chain on a couple of the bikes on this stand, and it looks interesting, although I'm sure I could make this type of chain come off, most probably without too much effort.  

What I did like about the people we spoke to on this stand, even the salesman that could sense my eyes glaze over at the technicalities, and throughout the show to be fair, was that none of them looked down their noses at us for having Halfords bikes (and nor should they), or for me being at the more leisure end of the cycling scale and that was much appreciated. Now if more cyclists had that attitude I think we'd all be better for it.

A maintenance free chain at the London Bike Show
A close up of the disc brakes at the London Bike Show

Finally we left the first stand, I know, I think I might have become obsessed with these bikes and I think I've realised that at some point this year I'll be replacing my bike. There's nothing wrong with mine, but it is a bit of a beast (MOH's nickname for it) and it is heavy. I know I want to keep an upright and step through style and I know that I don't want to spend four figures on it. I now also know there's a bike shop in Great Portland Street that will take the time to find me a bike that suits me and my price range, and so quite a useful afternoon. 

At the next stand MOH learnt more about the ORRO bikes, who are based in Ditchling, near(ish) to Brighton. I think he was quite taken with this one, and it was interesting to see him being drawn to black and red styled bikes throughout the show. 

ORRO bikes from Ditchling which MOH was very taken with at the London Bike Show

There were many colours to choose from, and many specifications. You'll not be surprised to learn this one caught my eye, for the obvious reason. Here's a clue if you're not sure why: 💛

Bikes of all colours and makes at the London Bike Show

Elsewhere in the show there were clothing brands as you'd expect and plenty of lycra on sale and being worn. These more feminine tops from Chapeau caught my eye, but I'm still not sure if I'd buy one or not. I don't like, or wear tops cycling or otherwise with high necklines. I know why they're designed like this, but I've yet to be convinced, and all my cycling tops with back pockets (which are very useful on longer trips, even with a basket) are a vest style, which gives me the lower neckline, but are also sleeveless which isn't always practical. 

One day, maybe, I'll find what I'm looking for. 

female cycling gear by Chappeau at the London Bike Show

Throughout the show there were many opportunities to try energy bars and flapjacks. Our favourites tend to be Cliff bars, as they're not too artificial tasting, are very dense but they do give your jaw a good workout so are good value too as we often share one between us.

When I spotted this beetroot based Beet It stand, I was keen to learn more, and to taste their bars to see just how beetroot-y and earthy they were. The answer is not as much as you think, and the bars were quite pleasant to eat, but not overly sweet either. Beetroot is full of nitrates, and that's good, especially for exercise; the more you have, the more it opens your arteries which allows more oxygen to get to where it's needed. That's the non-technical description of why.

What's more is where these are made in Suffolk the beetroot pulp is returned to the farm so that it can be fed to the pigs, so there's hardly any wastage and both us and the pigs benefit from the natural produce. The beetroot shots are quite concentrated and so do turn your wee pink, which could be a shock if you weren't prepared for it, and I do wonder if it has the same effect on the pigs too - I didn't ask that!

Beet It sports nutrition at the London Bike Show

One of the last stands we visited was the Vitus stand, MOH had heard of them, I hadn't. I was though quite taken with the classic racer bike they had on display. It's a real beauty and the style of bike I remember being popular as I grew up in South London in the 1970s. I couldn't get on these then, so there'd be no chance now, this one was suspended way above my head, so it was safe, but it really is a design classic isn't it? 

Sean Kelly rode the iconic vitus 979 frame for most of his major rice wins, poster at the London Bike Show

So quite an afternoon at the London Bike Show, and I was glad we went, and even more glad that I'd found, what I call, Proper Bikes  if you haven't worked it out already that's step through and with a wicker basket. MOH still shakes his head, but for me a bike without a basket just isn't happening, I find it way too useful. 

We headed back to Greenwich on the cable car and was treated to another fantastic sunset, London still has the power to surprise me at times.  

The O2 from the cable car on the way back home from the London Bike Show

I never really expected to find my kind of bikes at the show, let alone be considering a new bike, and I think I'll be studying this little black book of bikes more closely, working out what my budget is and most likely popping up to Great Portland Street to actually try some out for size. 

Velorution - the little black book of bikes - some post London Bike Show reading

So while the afternoon itself didn't turn out to be expensive, there is still potential that our visit to the London Bike Show might mean a couple of new bikes for us, at some point. Ah well, there's worse things I guess...

Did you go along to the London Bike Show? What did you think?

* This is a collaborative post, with thanks to HeyGreenGo who gifted me tickets for the London Bike Show. As usual all views and opinions are my own.

My vintage Boden: Classics that keep on being useful

When I learnt I could take two bags into the cabin on my recent trip to Kufstein and Munich, my heart did a little dance.  Not only because of the extra space, but also because I knew just which bag I'd take.  My new stylish Freitag bag was already earmarked for clothes, and I'd recently re-found this leather satchel bag, a purchase from Boden many years ago. I'm not sure how many years ago, but it's a good few. At the time I think I used it occasionally but it never became a regular go to handbag.

I liked it's classic styling and neutral olive green and brown colouring, and I knew it was a great bag, but it's taken its time for me to really appreciate its usefulness. I rediscovered it - not that it was actually lost - as I tried to locate my big woolly lime green scarf, also by Boden. The scarf was a regular go to item, along with the matching beret-style hat, being a regular addition to my velvet coat, also Boden, and also still hanging in the wardrobe in the spare room. I tell you, their stuff lasts.

I was looking out the scarf as with the forecast negative temperatures I knew I'd welcome something warmer than my now more usual fabric scarves. Unless it's very cold, these do me, mostly thanks to my overactive thyroid I guess, where internal body heat is never far away as I rarely feel the cold, even with medication to control my thyroid.

 With both found, I was struck by how good they looked together as they waited for the off, sitting patiently on the futon.

My vintage Boden scarf and satchel bag
A bold colour and traditional patterned scarf

The scarf is well worn, but still soft and it's classic design means it'll have plenty more years in my wardrobe. At the time lime green was a bit of a departure for me colour-wise, but I still love it.

A great big woolly scarf, lime green of course

And the scarf came into its own in Munich where it was reportedly minus ten. I was wearing it, with my new bobble hat as I explored the Hofgarten in the snow, where I think my face tells you just how cold it was!

TRYING NOT TO LOOK TOO COLD, AND FAILING

TRYING NOT TO LOOK TOO COLD, AND FAILING

So there you go, some savvy shopping in the past is paying rewards now. MOH is very much of the view that if you don't use something then you should chuck it out, whereas I've a different view where if I think I'll use it again, it's worth keeping. You'll know I aimed to throw out 2016 items last year, and didn't quite make it, but just imagine how disappointed I'd have been if I gave in and got rid of these.  And how chilly I'd have been in Munich too!

Proof that classics and good styling never date

Do you hang onto things you'll use again, or have you got rid of things you now regret?  Or do you have things, like me, that you put away for a while only to enjoy them again when you pull them out of storage?  

Travelling light, and stylishly so too...

On my visit to the London Graphic Centre in Covent Garden before Christmas I spotted some unusual looking bags, made from recycled tarpaulins, displayed in the shape of a Christmas Tree. My interest was piqued and I decided to look into them further and discovered a fascinating story of how two brothers were looking for a robust and waterproof bag to hold their creative work and hit on the idea to reuse tarpaulins from trucks. 

There are now over forty different models, with each bag unique and incredibly strong. With an overnight trip to Kufstein on the horizon and Christmas ahead of me, my own idea started to form and so during our Christmas shopping we ended up back at the London Graphic Centre. In my mind I thought I'd leave with a yellow or green bag, but it turned out I was wrong. 

We left with this red and blue F251 Kowalski. 

My Christmas present from MOH - a Freitag bag made from tarpaulin

Not yellow. Or green. At all.

Details of the strap on my Freitag bag made from tarpaulin

In the shop, this was the one that spoke to me.

My biggest concern was if it was practical for a short break.

shoulder straps on my Freitag bag made from tarpaulin

And having travelled light on my recent trip to Kufstein and Munich, it was. 

It was also much admired, and drew comments on just how light I was travelling. But with careful outfit planning, I had plenty of options.

I packed a pair of trousers, pyjamas, two long sleeved T-shirts, a vest top and cardigan, toiletries, my bag of liquids to get through airport security and a big wooly scarf to help combat the expected negative temperatures. I didn't pack a pair of shoes, because I didn't think I'd need them for two nights away, especially if it was that cold and with the information that heels weren't permitted in the fortress at Kufstein where we were dining.

I didn't realise it but packing our panniers back in the summer was good practice!

crossover straps on my Freitag bag made from tarpaulin

It's quite a clever design, apart from the tarpaulin I mean. Pushing the shoulder straps to the side frees the top opening, and then it does look a lot more like a (stylish) cycling pannier. On the Freitag website they say the bag is "automatically weatherproof and closed when on your back" and they're not wrong.

My Freitag bag made from tarpaulin opened fully

Inside there's a couple of smaller side pockets which came in handy for my passport and smaller items. It's a bit dark in there, but you get the gist.

A peek inside at the inner pockets in my Freitag bag made from tarpaulin

And it's strong. I pushed it to the limits, adding more papers and paraphernalia for the return journey, like always seems to be the way. But it's tarpaulin, from trucks, it's made for hard work. 

Details of my Freitag bag made from tarpaulin

But I bet no one expected them to be recycled into something so stylish in their next life. There's plenty more colourways on the Freitag site, and a short video showing how the design works.

I think this has to be one of my most stylish Christmas presents ever, and over the coming year (and beyond) I'm hoping to put it to good use. 

Gorgeous isn't it?