Mike’s Bikes – my bikes over the ages.

A purple Raleigh Chopper Mk2 owned by Nigel Bradley outside the Bike Hub in  Newcastle Quayside

I’ve had a few bikes in my time, from the iconic Raleigh Chopper (Mk2) and a road (racing!) bike my Dad put together out of parts from the local skip (think municipal recycling center) – I called this bike ‘Frankenstein’ and, although it looked awful, it was a pretty cool machine that got me to parties and to see girlfriends at the weekend when I was in 6th Form, at a school a few miles from where I lived (Old Burfordians – you rock!) – it was also pretty fast but cost me a fortune in batteries for the lights – they weren’t pretty, or efficient, or light for that matter! It was also in the days before really effective deodorants…..I’ll leave that one with you…

showing two retro bicycle lights or lamps from British Ever Ready circa 1975.  One front light and one back light in cream plastic.  The back light has a large red lens.
British Ever Ready Bicycle Lamps circa 1975

Then, decades later in 2008, when I got selected to got to Canada on the Joint Command and Staff Course, I decided I needed a bike to ride the 5 miles from my home to the campus, in Toronto. Now, no-one told me how bad the winters got in Toronto….I should have invested in a snowplough…. Anyway, instead, I bought a Kona hybrid bike, along with a rear rack and panniers. It is heavy and although was top quality for the time, I found it hard to ride and was forever getting shoulder injuries from it (probably from carrying it in the snow… I now know the importance of bike ‘fit’ -more on that later) I estimate I’ve ridden less than 150 miles on that bike! Looked nice though! It’s still in the garage, unused and unloved 🙁

Kona Dew Deluxe bike model year 2008

Fast forward 10 years…. Now I’m living at the coast in the beautiful North East of England and my workplace is a tantalizing 11-mile commute. I’m getting fatter and lazier at my sedentary job so I take up cycling and long-distance open-water swimming. That decision in and of itself is a strange one to rationalize; at the time, I’m overweight, under-confident and I chose sports that encouraged me to wear extraordinarily, and in my case, really unsightly, tight lycra and rubber…. Anyway, I digress. My mate Marc, of whom you will read more in other posts, helped me pick my first ‘posh’ bike. It is a Cannondale CAADX – a thing of beauty, made from Aluminium, resplendent in Battleship Grey livery, and equipped with a Shimano 105 groupset (I didn’t know what a groupset was at the time, nor the importance of frame size and weight) – it took me a while to find the gear shifters (make some noise if you’ve had that problem on returning to cycling after a while- sometimes I still look down to the frame for those levers!) Luckily Marc, and Alex from Start Cycles in Newcastle, were on hand to advise me – thanks both! It was on this fabulous bit of engineering that I began my love affair with cycling.

The author  wearing Rapha gear on his Cannondale CAADX cyclocross bike in a lane near Keswick in the Lake District, England, UK. The author rides triumphantly with his right hand pumping the air.
Me and Connie the Cannondale CAADX 9 at the Back o’ Skiddaw – and the Keswick Mountain Festival 2019

Less than a few months later, I am signed up for my first sportive – the Great North Bike ride – it’s windy, and grey, showers are forecast, so naturally I place my wife’s showercap over my helmet.. it gets a few laughs and gives me a neck strain – it’s not an aerodynamic choice! Well, it’s on this ride that I see, in the flesh, for the first time, the carbon road bike – truly achingly beautiful things. I have to thank my pal Adam Lambert (no, not the rock star, though Adam was a star that day!) for stepping up to the plate and doing the ride with me as Marc had to pull out at short notice – nothing to do with the weather forecast, eh Marc? So, having seen these race thoroughbreds on the road (albeit largely as they overtook me!) I start planning how to show that I ‘need’ one of these bikes. Now, that Christmas my wife made the mistake of buying me a subscription to a bike magazine. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, right?

The author and Adam taking a short break during the 2018 Great North Ride Sportive.  There are other bikes and cyclists in the background

So, from Christmas to Easter, I planned the bike of my dreams.. From reading the magazines, I understand about weight, geometry, endurance v sprints, tailpacks, tyres (tubeless and tubed), carbon wheels and blades, and am now pretty much au fait with every major bike brand out there. However, no matter what research I did, or how many ‘best bikes of 2019’ I read, I kept coming back to one brand…. Bianchi – oh my word do they build pretty bikes!! So, the task in hand was to build my list of requirements around that stylish, elegant, Italian brand!

I decided I needed an Ultegra groupset, and was pretty fixed on a disc braked frame. But these cost upwards of £4000, which was an ask even I wasn’t brave enough for! Eventually though, after weeks of online research, I found a bike with Start Cycles – a Bianchi Infinito CV (non-disc) Shimano 105, 2018 model and managed to negotiate a price close to £2300, including an Ultegra upgrade – given that I knew I could get close to £100 for the 105 groupset on ebay, £2200 was a much more palatable sell to Mrs M! In early April 2019, I became the proud owner of this beauty!

Bianchi road bicycle with matching helmet hanging from handlebars
Bianchi infinito CV Ultegra roadbike with matching helmet hanging from handlebars
My beautiful Bianchi – Bianca!

I took Marc’s advice and had a bike fitting and since then my Bianchi and I are one unit! We’ve done the Great North Bike Ride, Christy’s Manchester to Blackpool ride and my charity ride from London to Amsterdam together. It is simply a joy to ride and I can spend all day in the saddle with no aches, pains or twinges – it’s a perfect sportive and endurance bike – V (counter-vail technology really smooths out the bumps and makes for a taut and responsive, yet comfortable ride) – but of course, it is limited to road use. So, now the hunt is on for a perfect gravel bike for days bashing around the forests and lake paths of Northumberland! Watch this space!