08 February 2009

The cheapskate buyer's guide

As threatened yesterday, here's a summary of what the Cycle to Work scheme magazine, Cycle Commuter, recommends as biking gear (usually their cheapest recommendations), and the Real Cycling Alternative.

(They say the most popular purchase choice under the scheme is the Specialized Sirrus Comp at £650. My bike – a Specialized Crossroads – was donated as an unwanted gift.)

Accessories: Blackburn EX1 rack (£30); Agu Yamaska 475 rack pack (£40)
Real Cycling Alternative: Better get a bike with one in the first place, but Blackburns are good. Instead of rack pack, buy panniers (Ortlieb Classics, £100 a pair but you can go shopping with them - mine are almost as new after five years of heavy daily use). They don't mention mudguards, which will be £20 or so (but why not get a bike with one in the first place?).

Lock: Abus Granit X+, £60.
RCA: Yup, you have to get a really good lock, but one's not enough. You need two – get an additional Abus, perhaps one a couple of notches down that's longer to give more room to shackle up with. Lock inflation is running at about 6% per year (1950s, nothing; 1970s, pocket combination lock; 1990s, one sturdy D-lock; 2000, two sturdy D-locks). By 2040 you'll need three D-locks, laser shields, CCTV and a robot Jack Russell.

Lights, reflective vest: Cateye Opticube Uno plus Smart LAM317R, £40; Altura Night Vision, £20
RCA: Fine. But look out for Aldi's cheap mayday sales. Even if they're not doing their five-quid sets of perfectly decent lights this year, you might pick up some bargain Croatian-brand baked beans or Latvian-made shoe-horns.

Computer: VPO MC1.0+, £80.
RCA: You'll only lose it, get it nicked, or launder it by mistake in a trouser pocket. Get a cheapo one (such as the sub-£10 models in Aldi's mayday sales). Or better, don't bother with a computer and do what most people do to measure their mileage – lie about it.

Helmet: Specialized Chamonix, £30.
RCA: See 'helmet scepticism' post earlier this week. A woolly hat from the pound shop is all you need, and then only on cold evenings (£1). Plus you can wear it inside Aldi or Lidl to blend in with the other customers.

Glasses: Endura Shark, £30.
RCA: You'll only ever wear them on top of your head, and then lose them in the pub or sit on them in the cafe. Get a pair from the pound shop (£1).

Gloves: Altura Night Vision, £20.
RCA: You'll only leave them in the pub or on top of a fence while you stop to take a photo. Or, even more frustratingly, leave one of them in the pub or on top of a fence. Get a pair from the pound shop (£1). Or perhaps two pairs, just to be on the safe side.

Jacket, trousers, shoes, socks: Altura Nevis, Endura Humvee, Shimano MT32L, Polaris Merino, £155 the lot.
RCA: The jacket, trousers, shoes and socks you're wearing. £0. Sure, they'll get scuffed and grubby and you'll wear an embarrassing hole in the back of your trousers, but that's what TJ Hughes and Peacocks are there for.

Now, you don't necessarily have to go to a pound shop. It doesn't have to be that expensive. I was up Kingsland Road the other day and the recession is obviously moving things downmarket. Next door to the poundshop is a 99p shop. Next door to that is a 98p shop. Seriously.

But here's the final score. Cycle Commuter's (mostly cheapest) recommendations will set you back £505, and you still won't have a set of mudguards, or enough locks or luggage capacity. Real Cycling's recommendations supply what they missed, and yet cost only £313, and are much better suited to commuting.

And you'll expand your repertoire of budget baked bean and shoe-horn buying choices.

1 comment:

  1. Now having seen some of what you were talking about yesterday, I see what you mean. If a non-cyclist got that magazine they'd think you had to have all sorts of specialized equipment that just isn't necessary. Seems like that magazine is all about selling expensive stuff.

    Two things I'd say about panniers: (a) ones that lock onto the rack are desirable (I mean with a catch, not a key-operated lock). Especially if you ever consider carrying a laptop or an expensive camera. (b) they're good on the bike, but I find the straps dig into my hands and really hurt after a while carrying them - ones that can be used as a rucksack or with a shoulder strap (and avoiding the protuberances that would bash into you when used that way) would be a boon.

    Can I also put in a plug for folding crates. 2 or 3 pounds from most supermarkets/DIY stores (or probably 98p from your 98p store!). Secured on a flat-topped rack by a couple of bungees, you can get a week's shopping in one of these (possibly with panniers as well).

    I'd also recommend the kind of rear light that fastens UNDER the back of the rack. That leaves the rack clear for strapping stuff to. If you have the LED type lights that mount on the seat tube, the crate above or anything big on the rack will obscure it.

    And TWO locks? The perils of living in London! One is heavy enough. But certainly make sure the axles aren't quick release.