The Road To 30….or How To Have a Mini Mid-Life Crisis

21 May

Turning to my right as the light ripples across the sun streaked glass walls to the old abandoned car dealers, I can’t help but marvel at the gust of wind I have caressing my close-cropped hair; ZZ-Top strumming out the quick yet steady rhythm to “Tush” and the feeling of my heart racing to the whisk of my legs. It’s the closest I can get to forgetting my daily routine and enjoying the summer sun.

 

I recently got a new push-bike. It’s a purple single speed bike, very light thanks to the simplified components, yet sturdy. The goal? To gain some much-needed fitness that my under worked office corpse has seen robbed from it over the last 7 years and before I turn 30. No simple task when you live in the UK and the dream of English summers of old continue to evade the modern age. Seems these isles have two seasons now, autumn and winter. Add to that being on the husky side of the male figure with a few health issues and that task starts to seem both difficult yet a necessity.

 

So how did I choose to start my endeavour? Why cycling a BMX 5 miles from the nearest city! Time to back-peddle a little. This whole experience has been something of a long-winded torture process for me, heck simply getting the bike has taken me the best part of a month to secure funds and choose. And trying to decide on which bike to get, that probably cost me at least a years worth of good eyesight and mental capacity. I’m not the sort to just buy what looks nice, or if I walk into a shop and sit on one that I thought was comfy, I would have to check out it’s specs, see what components it had and also see some reviews on it. I need to make sure that my money isn’t going to be wasted on a piece of junk that’s going to collapse at the first crank of the pedals. Never used to be like that, I had an easy-going upbringing with a lifestyle bank rolled by my parents.

 

Now, well I’m in the wonderful world of being a homeowner with a regular job, and you know what, you don’t need to hear all the rest of it. But thanks to this, money has become something I can’t ignore. I’ve never had a fondness of cash, it controls too much in this world, shortens the perception of time as it becomes the all consuming waking thought of what to spend on and a dread of being conned. A fool and his money are soon parted.

 

So to that end, pass me the jester hat and my fool’s stick. I’d no sooner got my allowance courtesy of work, than I’d set about getting my order in! After teasing on an almost weekly basis the local bike shops, stringing the poor guys along with the temptation of a sale, I ended up purchasing my bike online. I’d tried, really tried to support the local economy, I’d run through all the available bikes they stocked, or could order. Heck one of them actually had a bike in I test rode-and nearly bought but I’d read too much, seen the insanely cheap deals online, and listened to my inner design tart.

 

I’d read up on bikes by a company called Charge. A small UK based company; they’ve been making small allotment of bikes for several years, and crucially for my taste, made a selection of single speed/ fixed gear bikes. Wait, why on earth would anyone in the modern day who doesn’t live in a completely flat area who’s sole occupation in life would be to cruise up and down the boulevard eyeing up the bikini clad babes, want just one gear? Simply simplicity.

 

I’ve got a motorbike, a nice, fast, modern once-it has all the gadgets and complex modern equipment I could need to propel two wheels down the Queens highway at highly illegal speeds. It has electronic steering dampening, dual stage fuel injector, a close range gearbox, 16 valves and an advanced CPU that tells the engine to do magic things on its way to a giddy adrenalin rush fun. This also has tyres; chain; sprockets and oil; petrol the list goes on. In short ongoing costs and maintenance that must be done or the rider runs a very real possibility of death and disfigurement, fun no?

 

So why on earth would I want to have a similar level of upkeep on a vehicle I want to be able to get some exercise and just go rambling on. Hence the single speed was decided upon. There’s some excellent resources out there that sing the praises of the single speed bike, and plenty who prove you can do distance and speed with one carefully chosen gear ratio. And then there’s the weight. One of the biggest must haves I wanted from this bike was lightness. I knew of the magic of carbon and titanium, but I didn’t want to spend a fortune on a push bike that could all too easily end up as a fancy wall ornament, so by ditching all the gears, derailleur and associated equipment, I’d drastically reduced the weight and expanded my choice of materials. Whereas I would have had to choose a cheap aluminium framed, poorly equipped geared bike, I could consider good quality steel frames, carbon forks and good quality wheels for the same money.

 

And this was why I’d become enamoured with Charge bikes. They specialise in steel framed bikes. They do make the odd aluminium and titanium bikes, but mostly steel. And Japanese steel at that! Considering my love of all things from the mystical orient, especially that from Nippon, they just couldn’t be beat! But sadly, as with most companies since the recession and “Age of Austerity” hit, they had cut back on the outsourced components and were making more in-house.

 

So to that end I widened my search online, and found a Charge Plug Freestyler 2011 model. The other thing with Charge is they tend to do a model for a year or two then change it, so new old stock is worth hunting. This one had all I wanted Tange steel frame (from Japan), Sugino cranks and chain ring (also from Japan-natch), Sanko cro-mo forks (again from Japan…notice a pattern). But the real pièce de résistance; hot purple coloured frame with white deep-v rims!

It pretty much felt made for me. Or would it? I couldn’t find one of these to sit on, let alone test ride and the bike I’d managed to get a ride on, although a single-speed was a very different geometry. But heck, I wasn’t going to let this chance pass up. Especially as it was only £350 in the sale! It was the best quality for the lowest price, and the pictures just seemed to whisper into my little bells atop my jester hat “buy me…buy me”

 

24 hours later and sitting in my living room was a very large box-with a very purple treasure inside. Fortunately I’m fairly competent with my hands, thanks to years of owning and fettling motorbikes, so the assembly was as straightforward as they come. Which brings me round to the ride.

 

Would it live up to my expectations? Like a child sleeping with one eye open on Christmas Eve, hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa with his toy sack, not a snippet of Dad; face littered with mince-pie crumbs and clumsily stuffing presents under my bed I set off to test my purple people eater from Japan via England. With a good dose of summer sun, a calm air and a tenacious strike round of the pedals I was off. What a revelation! I’d rushed to spend my money on a slice of dream made real and I wasn’t disappointed. The bike was quiet, accelerated with almost instant urge and an agile and springy ride.

 

It’s been some 4 weeks since I first tasted that freedom long forgotten since the days of childhood had departed. I’ve since managed to get out for a ride at least 3 miles of a fast sprint ride around my local village to a personal best of a 28 mile round trip to see my folks. Almost every night bar a couple when it’s rained has seen me pounding the rubber into the asphalt or dirt, either heading into the nearest city, or taking the canal towpath. I’m still seeing Santa from the corner of my eyes.

 

I’m hoping to keep this up, and steadily lose some fat, gain more fitness and keep enjoying freedom that can’t be gained with motorised transport. To savour every moment of this sunny patch and use it to shake up my life a touch before I start the next decade.

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