Online Feature: Voucher to ride…

In a return of our wordy Online Features, Singletrackworld reader Paul Cray has been pondering the needs and wants of the modern cyclist, all prompted by the simple gift of a voucher…

“It’s been a bit frugal and grim around here over the past year, I’m sure you all know the feeling. So when I was given a £50 ChainReaction voucher for my birthday it was like finding the Golden Ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

After basking in the reflected glow of the shiny voucher I got down to the serious business of what to spend it on. Magazines were perused, websites cross examined and lists made – don’t pretend that you don’t do the same (extra marks for anyone who gets the highlighters out as well).

Now, my venerable old Cannondale hardtail has a few maladies at present (bent gear hanger, blown BB, grindy hubs, etc.) but this voucher was a birthday present – this is for ‘accessories and bling,’ not mundane fixery. Surely, I need new white lock-on

Need or want?

grips (very on-trend) or maybe some silvery Nokon cables or more Park tools with their unctuous blue vinyl? And here’s the clever bit, with a voucher the front may say £50, but of course that means £50 ‘towards’- that’s invisible spending which doesn’t count. Now I reckon a £50 voucher can get you a whole £80 of real spending, maybe even £90 at a push. This, of course, is our revenge on our partners. How much did they spend in the sales? Nothing, they ‘saved’ a hundred pounds. How much did I spend on my bike? Nothing, I used my voucher (plus fifty pounds… shh!)

But what do I need? I live in North Hampshire, where the majority of the trails I ride are slippery chalk and wet boggy bridleway (even after 3 weeks of full-on sun). A hardtail is the perfect animal for this, but somehow I find myself ‘needing’ a 5 inch full sus trail bike, Lapierre Zesty anyone? A hardcore hardtail, maybe a Cove Stiffee? And I’ve got a nagging at the back of my mind that my life’s not quite complete without a rigid forked 29er. What’s happened here? When I’m out on the bike I don’t ‘need’ anything, oh alright, maybe a new set of mud tyres, yes definitely a new set of better mud tyres…But tuck me up in the warm and dry with a coffee (Massimo skinny gingerbread latte if you will) and a new magazine and I need at least three grand’s worth of kit just to get out the front door. I once read that the hardest part of any ride is between bed and shed. But it’s a lot less painful if there’s a luscious, high-end beauty draped in Chris King’s precious metals and wearing designer leather and rubber to tempt you – that conjures a picture, let’s dwell on that for a second…

Braided brake cables, how can I cope without them? 5 years ago all we had were rubbish v-brakes which sometimes worked when it wasn’t wet, now we get all panicky if the front rotor is smaller than a wagon wheel. Baggies with a waterproof back, how did we manage before these things? Portable espresso maker, really?

How much more sh*t can we possibly need – when did riding a bike get this complicated?

Is this the logical conclusion?

I keep having a dream, or is it a nightmare? I’m out riding with my partner and we’ve just traversed a particularly steep hill, thanks to the K-Trak caterpillar system fitted to our bikes. My partner zips open her hardshell spine- protecting pack and takes out a bottle of wine and a Campagnolo heritage corkscrew. I however, have opted for an espresso which I deliver from my portable espresso maker cum-altimeter and weather station, as we gaze hand in hand looking across the magnificent vista through our photo-chromatic Oakley Jawbones…Wake up. Where’s the mud? Where’s the effort? Where’s the fun and achievement and all the emotive bits? It’s the hardships of our hobby which make it so wonderful. It’s the difficulties which we look back on and cherish. As a prophet said “what we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly, it is dearness only which gives everything it’s value” and he wasn’t talking about the cost of Chris King headsets.

As for me, you’ll find me a-slipping and a-sliding down the best of North Hampshire’s mud, on an underforked, old fangled geometry, sketchy-rubbered, old skool alloy XC race bike wearing a mix of the finest uncoordinated lycra and baggy mtb clothing you could assemble. The grin, however, will be 100% cheddar and all my own. A super new shiny carbon bouncy thing wouldn’t be half as much fun or use around here.

Paul Cray

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Online Feature