As mentioned in my last post; I have recently learnt (still learning really) to ride a bike at the grand old age of 27! The biggest problem I faced, after getting over my lack of balance, was learning on a very manly mountain bike, made for men, by men with masculine things. Now, a man’s bike is very different to a woman’s bike, especially in the seat. Put it this way, after a while sat on it, my womanly attributes were somewhat sore. I won’t go in to the specific differences in bikes but it mainly revolves around women having longer legs and shorter torsos. Therefore, first tip, buy a woman specific bike, not a man’s bike with a woman’s seat on it.
So, after mastering, sort of, the basics of riding a bike I decided I wanted my own ladies bike. Low and behold while searching for my ideal bi wheeled transport, up pops Victoria Pendleton‘s ‘Somerby’. I was instantly in love. I’d already formed an attachment to the very British Pashley but at verging on £600, they were a bit out of my price range. The vintage, Amsterdam style Pendleton perfection is more than half that at an extremely reasonable £279 from Halfords.
Move on a few weeks and I am the proud owner of the sky blue wonder and goodness, what a pleasure it is! In addition, I’m about 5′ 7″ and went for the 17″ frame. But, the bike does only come in 17″ and 19″ so possibly not ideal for the shorter lady. Also, the staff at my local Halfords were very helpful in helping me decide what size bike I needed. Don’t be afraid to ask if you’re a total beginner like me. They’d probably enjoy it, get to use some of their considerable knowledge.
Aesthetically it really is beautiful. The colour is lush and is perfectly complemented by the cream tyres, mud guards and chain cover. The well padded faux dark brown leather seat and handlebar grips are the cherry on top. It even has a bell, which can be removed if you prefer, but why would you!? I absolutely adore the step through frame too. No more unladylike-leg-swinging over-the-back action. Designed to be ridden while wearing a skirt/dress if you wish. I am a keen wearer of 1950s style dresses with frilly petticoats, so this was a big attraction!
The detailing is gorgeous also. It features the ‘VP’ logo as a badge on the front with the same symbol appearing as stickers (well lacquered over so they have no chance of peeling) on a cream background on the forks and seat post. The names ‘Pendleton’ and ‘Somerby’ are also present on the step through frame in flowing gold lettering and ‘Pendleton’ is stamped on the seat itself in the same gold. The mud guards also feature some pretty gold scrolling, just for effect. All in all, it’s a feast for the eyes!
Now to the actual ride quality. After learning on a ‘proper’ mountain bike with very springy suspension, the Somerby came as shock. Not a horrible shock, just different. The seat is sprung and so this takes the brunt of a bumpy ride. Thus resulting in you bobbing about a bit. I quickly got used to it though. It was a lot like riding a horse through a canter for the first time. You need to get used to the motion. Also, when riding over any bumps, the bell does tinkle of its own accord. This doesn’t bother me at all, but it might get annoying for some. But as mentioned, it can be removed.
The tyres are also very firm, though you could let a bit of air out, and this results in a very nippy ride! Again, after being on the big mountain bike with its chunky tyres, it was an adjustment I got used to. On the tarmac paths in the local park, the Somerby would blow the paint of the mountain. It really does get up some speed! This is where the 7 speed Shimano gears come in handy so you can actually pedal! I’ve been told that if it’s not Shimano, they’re not worth having (a reason this bike is excellent value!). The brakes on the Somerby also seem more than adequate, in that they slowed me down when I was going too fast! If you are a complete cycling novice like me, new brake pads do squeak a hell of a lot at first so don’t worry that something’s wrong straight away. I’ve been told that the best thing to do is ride the bike with the breaks on lightly so as to get rid of that new ‘shine’. It worked and I now break squeak free!
The sit up and beg style of this bike is also extremely comfortable. I’ve got the seat quite far down so my feet rest flat on the floor. It means that I can ride with a very straight back and with my weight on my sit bones, not on my aforementioned womanly attributes! Also, you can maintain a very light grip on the handlebars and the steering is very light providing a very effortless ride. Until you come to some hills anyway!
Another nice quality feature of the bike is the integrated rack on the back, ready for some complimenting leather panniers I think! This is unusual and you usually have to buy them separate and then have to endure a rack which isn’t the same colour as your bike! I know, travesty. But here, they’re lovely and blue and feel very strong. As an addition to this, I will be adding a basket. This bike needs a wicker basket like I need a cup of tea in a morning.
The only thing I will change on the bike are the pedals. They’re quite slippy underfoot. Though apparently most cyclists change the pedals on their bikes as they never come with very good ones. So, a minor adjustment and an inexpensive one. The bike also has a bracket on the left hand side for fitting a stand to. It doesn’t come with one. But, ones that fit the Somerby are available. That’s next on my list to buy as It’s not a bike for just casually leaning against a mucky wall!
As you may have gathered, I am extremely pleased with my purchase and would happily recommend this bike to any woman who is looking for a bike to ride for pleasure. Plus, I am testament to the fact that you don’t have to be an expert. You can go as fast or as slow as you want and remember, nobody says you can’t get off and push for a bit.
Also, ladies, don’t be intimidated by those big bags of testosterone who ride right expensive bikes and wear silly lycra outfits and would see this bike and think “Ugh. That’s not a proper bike!” or a BSO as I’m told they’re seen as (Bicycle Shaped Object to those not in the know). Remember, I learnt to ride as a 27 year old in the local park! I wasn’t embarrassed, why should I be? I’m learning to do something I never thought I would do. How can that be a bad thing? If you want to ride a bike, ride one. If you want to wear lycra, wear it. But do what you want to do. Buy the bike you want not what cycling internet forums tell you you should buy. I could never see myself on a skinny road bike or a massive mountain bike but this one is all me!