Reflections of riding the Irish Sea Cycle Route.
I bought myself a new touring bike in early 2016, I think it’s worth spending a little time reflecting on my significant purchase. Now I’m no techno freak able to regurgitate the marketing hype nor do I stay current by reading countless reviews of every gizmo, however, I do value quality and I do appreciate good design. That said, I also recognise purchases are buyer specific – there is no ‘one size fits all’, otherwise I would have just one bike probably the same as yours!
Anyway, here are my reflections on my ‘significant purchase’.
I wanted a touring bike that would effectively last my lifetime, hopefully another twenty more active years. I wanted the option of carrying everything I may need, including camping gear. For personal reasons, I need low gears. It would be nice to have a lower maintenance regime - I want my touring bike to ride, not to keep clean.
the Rohloff speedhub
My specification was taking shape. To convert my ideas into something more meaningful I was researching lots of kit on-line to see how it might fit into my touring bike specification :
a 14 speed rohloff hub; a SON (high output/low drag) dynamo hub for lights and garmin; front and rear carriers ; straight bars with bar-ends and a Brooks B17 saddle for comfort.
The chosen hubs tend to suggest rim brakes. Maybe I should also consider a Gates carbon belt drive instead of an oily chain.
the Gates carbon belt drive
After much on-line research I decided to visit a specialist supplier, living in the North of England I opted to visit CycleSense in Tadcaster, Yorkshire. They have a good range of specialist touring bikes and they are approved suppliers for Koga and Van Nicholas amongst others – both these manufacturers were on my radar.
It was a two hour drive to Tadcaster so before I left, I made an appointment with Dave at Cyclesense and gave him some background. On my visit I enjoyed a couple of hours where Dave showed me the Koga range of touring bike’s. My first choice was the Koga Signature, a bike I am sure would meet my needs and so much more and I must admit I liked it ‘in the flesh’. It seems Koga have contemporary production methods supported by up-to-date systems supporting the manufacturing process. In my eyes they appear to be a modern production company employing up-to-date methods and techniques that produce high quality products, and if a Koga is good enough for Mark Beaumont, then it will be more than good enough for me.
Chatting with Dave, the spec for my touring bike looks viable, it was making sense and could be achieved. I liked the Signature with its range of options but it was time to come away, sleep on it and think about the cost and how it would fit into my cycling, and would it contribute to my life.
It was New Year, 2016, I arranged another visit to Cyclesense, I wanted a refresher of the Koga Signature and another chat with Dave – I was also in the mood to place an order. I also took this opportunity to explore (or discount) the ‘shiny titanium’ Van Nicholas range. There’s a leap in price, so I wanted to explore the differences starting with the touchy feely stuff. The VN Pioneer had been on my radar although the price was something I was wrestling with. Close up and personal with the Pioneer, I was impressed. It transpires Van Nicholas are part of the same Group as Koga so the stuff I valued about the Koga company should also apply to Van Nicholas.
Van Nicholas Pioneer 29er
I wanted to cock my leg across a Pioneer to see if the 29er would fit my long body short legs frame. Unfortunately, Dave didn’t stock the Pioneer in my size, but that wasn’t a problem to him. He simply phoned Van Nicholas in Holland who would ship a demo model over to England for me to try. Wow! You can’t do that with on-line shopping! It would take about a week to get the bike shipped.
I was now coming to a decision, my preference was for the Pioneer 29er so if I can cross my leg over the Pioneer easily, then I would place an order. Needless to say, the Pioneer was shipped, I slung my leg over the crossbar, smiled and in six weeks I will take delivery.
Brooks B17 saddle
Everything went well, delivery was on time, Dave built the bike up for me and I went across to Tadcaster to collect my dream-touring bike. Once home, I was riding my local roads; Barbondale, around Sedbergh and the South Lakes and I love it. Throughout summer I have ridden extensively on the Irish Sea Cycle Route through Wales, England and Scotland and it is superb. In simple terms, I love riding my Pioneer, it is a joy, it rolls along wonderfully, the Rohloff hub has the best range of gears for me and the carbon Gates belt drive means no oil, so less cleaning. My position on the bike is relaxed and the Brooks B17 saddle is so comfortable I can stay on my bike all day - and ride the next day as well.
There are lots of images of my Pioneer in the gallery section of this website.