WHAT a magnificent day it was for a bike ride. With the sun shining from a cloud-free sky It didn’t take much for me to decide that I had no immediate deadlines pressing and it would be a computer-free day.
There’s little point in living in one of the nation’s most beautiful areas if you can’t enjoy it on a lovely day so that’s exactly what I did, very aware that the BBC weather forecast was full of gloom and doom for tomorrow.
It wasn’t however, a complete work-free day. Next week I’m taking a new touring bike to ride the Hebrides from end to end. I collected the bike, a Revolution Country Premier from Edinburgh Bicycle Co-op, last week and I’ve now ridden a couple of miles on it, including today’s 100km (sounds more impressive than 60 miles) down to RoyBridge and back to my home in Newtonmore.
In short I’m really impressed with this bike, although I changed the saddle after a hundred miles or so. The Selle Royal saddle that came with the bike felt hard-edged and very uncomfortable. Probably I should have given it longer to break in but I’m afraid I tend to be impatient with saddles.
A painful backside on a bike ride is even worse than riding all day into a wind as far as I’m concerned and after a couple of outings I was very uncomfortable in the sitting department. Everything else was fine so it seemed sensible to change the offending item.
And here’s the strange thing. Some time ago I bought a Brooks saddle but even after 5-600 miles it still felt very uncomfortable so I relegated it to a shelf in my garage. Some sixth sense made me look it out the other day and fit it on the Evolution bike and do you know what? It felt fine. Still a bit hard and unforgiving but a big improvement on the Selle saddle.
I also fitted some Shimano M324 combination pedals. I like the fact that these are clipless on one side and flat on the other. Sometimes when you’re touring it’s useful to have a flat pedal and I’ve used these on all my big bike trips over the past few years.
So, having changed the saddle and the pedals, how did the Revolution Country Premier perform in its first couple of hundred miles?
Well, it performed well enough to for me to commit to taking it across to the Hebrides next week instead of my usual steed, my Ridgeback Panorama.
It’s taken me a little while to get used to the multi-position ‘butterfly’ ergo bars, offering a wide variety of riding positions, and I’ve found that by using the top bars I can occasionally stretch my back quite nicely. On the lower position I find my fingers going a little numb so I’ll perhaps need to look at changing the height of the bars just a tad.
Gear shifting, courtesy of the latest Shimano Deore LX 3×10 shifters and gear mechs, is excellent and very exact. The spread of gears is much the same as on my Ridgeback – 48/36/26 chainrings and Shimano 11-32 10-speed cassette. This setup offers a higher top gear than a regular mountain bike transmission with 42/32/22 chainrings to enable a quicker burst of speed on the road.
The biggest advantage of this bike is undoubtedly the cable operated disc brakes. These are Avid BB% mechanical disc brakes which roll on ball bearings to ensure smooth engagement and release and they operate beautifully. What a difference to the rim brakes I’m used to. You barely have to squeeze these to slow you down, indeed ‘sqeeze’ is not a good word. Squeeze these and you’ll go head over the handlebars. All you really have to do it gently tickle them and you slow down. Wonderful. Too many times I’ve had cramp in my wrists because I’ve been squeezing the hell of out rim brakes when on long downhills, especially with a big load on the back.
But there’s one a potential problem with these disc brakes. The mechanism on the front wheel means that it looks like it could be pretty awkward to fit front pannier racks and that could be very inconvenient. There is so much weight already in the rear of this bike that I’d be keen to split any load between front and back. I’m not sure I can…
I’ll have a further tussle with my front pannier rack before I head west and if I can’t fit front panniers I’ll just use a Wildcat Mountain Lion handlebar harness that I use on my mountain bike. That should be able to carry my tent at least, freeing up a bit of space and weight from the rear panniers.
So, after a couple of hundred miles I’m really enjoying riding this bike. It has a turn of speed on the flat, climbs well and is becoming more comfortable with every ride as I get used to the handlebars and the saddle.
At this stage is seems to me that the retail price of just under £800 is very good indeed for what is a pretty up-market touring bike.