A Bike for life: Dependability

What looking for A Bike for life that is going to be used as a main bike for a whole rage of tasks for the foreseeable future then it absolutely has to be dependable.

For me that means:

  • Durable. It is no good if bits keep breaking or wearing out.
  • Reliable. I need to be confident that it is going to be available.
  • Low maintenance. I don’t want to be forever having to service the bike, replace components, adjust cables or anything else.

My Trek Pilot just survived an 11 day sprint of 1020 miles doing LEJoG, yet to my mind it does not really meet these criteria.

  • I needed to adjust the front gears twice
  • I needed to replace all the brake blocks after 6 days (and they were almost brand new)
  • The chain and gears needed a quick clean and oil every day or the gears would not change smoothly
  • The chain and rear cassette are now worn out and need replacing again
  • The belt hook attachment for my cateye rear light wore a hole in my Carradice SQL Tour seat post bag
  • I had to wash the whole bike a couple of times to clear the accumulated gunge from the drivetrain
  • I had to swap the batteries in the rear light several times

None of these are show stoppers. Except if you have just ridden for 10 hours you are really not feeling like spending time working on the bike before you ride again the next morning.

In everyday life, if I ride home in the rain from a meeting at 10:30pm then I don’t want to have to do any work on the bike before I use it the next morning to get to a school assembly.

In my personal opinion/experience this is particularly challenging to the bikes we generally see around the UK in the following areas

  • Brakes. Rim brakes of all types are incompatible with durable and low maintenance.
  • Gears: Derailleur gears are incompatible with low maintenance and reliability
  • Chains: Especially modern narrow and lightweight chains are incompatible with durability and low maintenance
  • Lights: especially battery powered lights are none of durable, reliable and low maintenance
  • Winter: bikes are designed with the assumption that you will only ride them in nice weather. When you ride them all year round they fail in lots of ways.

I have ridden over 3,400 miles so far this year, so I am looking for a bike for life that will be ridden on average about 10 miles a day, everyday all year round (assuming the rest of the miles will be split between the Bullitt Cargobike and other more specialist bikes). My goal is a bike that can do this without needing any maintenance at all most weeks.

The Series so far:

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  1. Paper Bicycle? My wife has been using one for several months now and the only maintenance it’s had is tyre pressure checks and and an occasional wipe over with a damp rag. The 8 speed hub gives a satisfactory gear range. We’ve changed the saddle for her favourite Brooks B17.
    Rob at Really Useful Bikes is also a man after your own heart when it comes to dependable everyday bikes. http://www.reallyusefulbikes.co.uk/. (No connection apart from being a happy customer of his.)

    • Nigel,

      I like the paper bicycle, great for the around town use (although load carrying options have been a bit limited in the past). However, it is not as well suited to a 100 mile day ride or a multi-day self supported tour.

      I have spoken to Rob in the past, it is great that we have a few places now specialising in practical bikes.

      • Ah! It would be a slow, but *very* comfortable, 100 mile ride on a Paper Bicycle! But, in your post you suggested an average ten miles a day, for which it would be ideal. As you can see in our pictures we had a Tubus rack fitted which works fine for a pair of panniers and/or rack pack.

        • Hi Nigel,

          The 10 miles per day is based on the overall average of about 15 miles a day and allowing for a fair few local miles on my Bullitt Clockwork cargobike.

          I have written a few posts on the sorts of rides I hope to do. Instead of 90 miles a day for 11 in a row it will be multi day laden tours, long day rides and general transportation.

  2. Low maintenance, your demands appear to answer themselves, dynamos for batteries, hub gears(Rohloff) for derailleur, belt for chain, and disc brakes for brake pads?

  3. A bike for life « 42 Bikes - pingback on July 23, 2012 at 6:02 am
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  6. A Bike for Life: Carrying stuff « 42 Bikes - pingback on July 23, 2012 at 6:04 am
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  8. A Bike for Life: The British bits | 42 Bikes - pingback on December 29, 2013 at 12:06 am
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