Tuesday, 9 March 2010

A bike fit for a Gentleman

The lovely people at Velorbis gave one of their devilishly handsome Churchill Balloon bikes to test-ride. Although I could appreciate its rugged charm from a far, we needed a fella to saddle up and give us the low down, so over our Cyclechic chap Matt Smith...

I’ve been riding the Velorbis Gentlemens’ Churchill Balloon, on and off for four months now. It’s on loan from Velorbis, and every so often it has to go off somewhere to be put on show, and I have to go back to my bog-standard hybrid bike, a perfectly good bike, functional, practical, cheap, but absolutely nothing special. Riding it gets you from A to B and I wouldn’t be able to think of a single other thing to say about it, other than it’s grey.

The Churchill Balloon by contrast, is about as far away from bog-standard as you can get. Riding it actually makes you feel different, somehow improved, enhanced, actually pretty cool. In real life I’m not a cool person at all: I have zero fashion sense, no individual style, I’m not flash by nature and to be honest I usually avoid doing anything that will make me stand out in the crowd. But when I ride around London Town on my Velorbis I get looked at, pointed at, talked to, admired, even revered. That is a pretty remarkable effect when you think about it, for what is after all only a bike (I’m not vain or stupid enough to think it has anything to do with me by the way). And it’s the main reason I love it and recommend it to all the people who stop me and ask me about it.

There are other, more concrete reasons why this bike is great. It feels smooth, solid, expensive. It’s got luxurious Brooks leather handles for instance, and a matching Brooks seat. The built in dynamo lights stay on for a while after you stop pedalling. It’s got a hook at the back you can hang your shopping on. It makes a lovely efficient whirring sound as it goes along, and although it’s heavy, it’s stable and easy to ride. It’s also strangely relaxing, the stresses and strains of busy city life just don’t seem to matter as much and you get a sort of detached-yet-incredibly-smug feeling as you cycle past all those mugs crammed miserably into yet another bendy bus at rush hour. And finally there are those big, thick, awesome Fat Frank tires which deserve pride of place in some design gallery.

Downsides? Well, it’s a bulky and frankly a bit of a pain in the arse to park and lock up, and lock it up you must or it’ll surely get nicked. And you really never want to be in a hurry on it, it just doesn’t do fast (I see this as a positive actually, but if you’re one of those people who’s always running late you’re in trouble).

Other than that, it’s splendid and whilst it’s not exactly cheap, it is remarkably good value for money. Highly highly recommended.


Dottie said...

That is a damn fine bicycle! Anyone riding a bike like that would get my attention :)

Christa said...

Lovely review, thank you. Yes, very handsome!

Wondering where Velorbis are sold in southern California.

The bike companies would probably be aghast, but I want to see several high end urban bicycles in one place at one time for easy comparison.

It could be a weekend festival in an elegant place. For example, some of my friends go to the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance to admire cars. We need something of this caliber for bicycles. Or is there something similar already?

Jiří Jaroš said...

really smooth, isn´t it?