22 January 2009

How long does a bike last?

It's a testament to modern engineering and marketing that you can buy a full-suspension bike from Halford's for eighty quid that will easily last you 20, 30, even 40 minutes or more.

Obviously a proper bike - one that costs you over say 250 quid and is made from metal, not tinfoil - will last rather longer. After all, you see plenty of Sunday club riders on a 20-year-old Dawes Super Galaxy.

Well, no. For me, at least.

As with beer, I don't buy bicycles, I only end up renting them. I compiled a list of all the bikes I'd ever had, and a clear pattern emerged: the maximum lifespan of a bike I own is about five years. Most don't even last that long before they get stolen, squashed by a lorry, or lost in the middle of 30,000 other bikes in a subterranean college shed.

Take, for example, my beloved Raleigh Record Ace (1996-2001), the bike I did the End to End, and London to Athens, on: turned into a folding bike by a truck while parked in Clink St.
Or the Specialized Hardrock (2001-2005): nicked while double-locked to a stand as I was having a curry in Twickenham. The curry wasn't even that good.

On that basis my current bike, a heavily customised Specialized Crossroads, with the accent on 'heavily', will expire sometime this year. I won't be too upset; it's something of a foster child. I was given it by an in-law who had bought it as a Christmas present for her boyfriend only for him to chuck her, so she gave it to me when my other bike was nicked.

The handlebars are so high that BP has dubbed it 'the Hyena' (below right). Thanks to the meercat stance it offers, when riding it I must be seven foot tall. I can look down on most car drivers, see what they're texting as they drive along, and let them know the error of their ways:

-'Scuse me, do you know what you're doing is wrong?
-What do you mean?
-I mean there's no apostrophe in it's.

I don't love this bike like I loved the other two. But it gets me around. It has a rack that can haul wheelbarrowfuls of shopping, and mudguards, and 27 gears, three of them in actual use. It has a twinky little bell unable to cut through a pedestrian's iPod, but handy for summoning a concierge. And when it goes to that great Brick Lane Market in the sky, I might just be a bit sad.

But then I'll have my excuse to buy a Thorn Sherpa. They really are built to last. I just hope that whoever steals it in 2014 will appreciate the fact.


  1. Last year I visited the Azor factory just down the road from here and made a video when I was there. One of the things I was amazed by was the attention to making bikes last a very long time. A very good paint job is used so that the frames last 20 years even if the bike is stored outside. To test electrical components and paint finishes, they are put in a tub of warm brine for a few months to see if they go wrong (you see this in the video).

  2. My bike is still moving forward...it's a '98 model!

  3. I literally ride my bike every day to and from school: rain, sleet, snow or sunshine. my bikes hardly last a year :(.I've had 5 bikes in 3 years.

  4. The dumbest crook in the world stole my 2007 Mongoose. I already knew they sold the brand name in the 90s. The "made in China" sticker and $185 price tag gave me the first clue. One brake didn't work. It was heavy as a tank. Half of the gears didn't work. The chain slipped, too. By some miracle, I had it for two years, without the thing breaking down in the middle of the road. I had to walk it up hill, even though it was a "mountain bike". I would've given it to the thief had he asked. Some pawn brokers had a laugh.

    I'm going to lock the body of my Specialized to bike racks, once I buy it. I'm still saving my pennies for a good bike. If anyone steals that, I will hunt them down.

    I'm planning to purchase

  5. 1996 super galaxy still going strong !!

  6. My ride is the 1980 Raleigh Record Ace I saved the money from my paper round for. It's done between 2,000 and 15,000 km/year. Still has the same Suntour gears, Weinmann brakes. Other bikes just have never made me smile as much.