Your local bike shop – customer service, it’s more important than deals
I thought I’d take some time just to do a shout out about some amazing customer service I received today.
Although the new bike has “puncture resistant” tyres on it, I’m getting sick of dealing with punctures in the dark and in the rain. Really hacked off with it now. I swear those tyres are glass magnets! I had intended to switch out my tyres after winter and go back to the old thin road bike tyres I used on my last bike but the recent spate of punctures has meant that I’ve escalated that plan.
I have used Continental Touring Plus tyres for 3 or 4 years now and NEVER had a puncture. So I’ve gone back to them. They are really hard-wearing and take some real punishment. However… they are REALLY sturdy and getting them on and off the wheels is a major challenge for little old me and by challenge I mean IMPOSSIBLE!
So today I popped into the bike shop (Edinburgh Bicycle Coop in Cannonmills) unannounced to buy some new tyres and the lovely guy in the shop spend 40 minute fighting with them and getting seriously muddy and oily (have you seen the Scottish weather just now) so I didn’t have to. How cool is that?
So I just thought I’d shout out cause I have always had fantastic and supportive customer service from the guys in the bike coop and that keeps me as a customer even when the other shops are doing fancy deals.
Brooks saddle – so what’s the verdict?
Well it’s been a couple of months since I posted anything about the Brooks saddle (maybe more than a couple) but to be honest I didn’t really have anything to say. To look at, the saddle hasn’t changed since I last posted and I hate to say it but comfort wise it hasn’t changed either.
This is quite a difficult post to write as I don’t like having to be negative and I had really hoped to experience this christmas miracle that the Brook saddle users were all telling me about where the saddle is suddenly the most comfortable saddle I’ve ever used and I’d be a convert. But unfortunately that just hasn’t been the case. The saddle isn’t uncomfortable, let me just get that straight. It’s perfectly fine to use, it’s just not what I’d describe as comfortable and it certainly can’t compete with the wide range of “modern” saddles that are available. It’s just not anything special.
Sure the actual look of the saddle makes it stand out and I can’t deny that’s it’s a lovely piece of craft but I just feel that this is the reason people buy it, for the look, not because it’s “good”. Now no doubt there will be others out there who disagree but I can only talk of my own experience and my experience just doesn’t live up to the hype.
Would I buy another brooks saddle? No. Would I take this off my bike and replace it? No actual I wouldn’t. It’s not uncomfortable so there would be no point in wasting the money that this rather expensive saddle cost. I’ll continue using it until it’s time to replace it. I think that’s a pretty fair thing to say, it does the job of being a saddle if not the super saddle I had hoped it would be.
The dark path – an update
I’m not going to get over excited about this because I’ve been promised fixes and let down before but…
Latest contact from East Lothian Council is…
“To further update you, the Council have been working to restore the vandalised units by securing doors and replacing stolen batteries. However, a new strategy of installing an overhead, mains powered cable system is now being worked on which will hopefully provide a more resilient lighting system. This work should commence week commencing 23rd November.”
So hopefully we’ll have a lit cycle path again soon.
Just have to hope the little sods don’t vandalise it again.
Pitch black path STILL being ignored by East Lothian Council
Well it’s been forever now since I first notified East Lothian Council that the lights on the path had been vandalised and that the path was now pitch black from the end of October onwards. I’ve continued to ask for this to be fixed, multiple times a year.
I’ve heard all sorts of excuses about how it’s not economical to fix it but given that it’s such a danger to residents, I can only assume that East Lothian Council don’t realise just how dark it is.
So just for them, here is a video showing me walking along the path just to show how bloody dark it is.
Come on East Lothian Council, do something about this, you told Gavin Brown MSP that you had put money aside for it to be repaired in October this year, so why hasn’t it been fixed?
saddle update – it’s starting to change
Saddle update – the first changes are happening.
The front/nose of the saddle has begun to splay out on the right.
No change in comfort though… keep you posted.
Brooks saddle – monthly update – September
Not much to see or tell you I’m afraid not much has really changed other than I’ve now done 508 miles on the saddle.
The saddle still looks like new and it’s not got any softer or more comfortable. In fact last month I discovered a pain in my left butt cheek, felt like a tendon was trapped between the saddle and my sit bone and I took to wearing padded shorts but the fact that the saddle still looks perfect and not at all like it’s be “broken in” makes me thing it will be a time yet before I’m seeing any real change.
One interesting one though, it’s torn my shorts to pieces.
Cyclescheme – so how much have I saved?
Well folks I’ve now been using my new bike for just under a month, racked up 235 miles and made my first payment and I have to say, my entire experience of cyclescheme has been a positive one.
I am happy to admit, for those of you who haven’t realised it, that I was skeptical about the cycle to work scheme’s claims that you’d save money using this scheme rather than buying your bike yourself. Hence why I promised to write a blog about my experience. I wanted to offer folk some real life information about what it was like to use rather than just calculators using words like “about” or “around” or “possible”.
So as promised, here is the real life experience of using the government’s cycle to work scheme to buy a bike for commuting.
Completing paperwork and applying
This I have to say was very easy and all done online, no paper to print out and sign and post. It was simple to complete and most importantly I got a very quick response saying that it had been processed and giving me my cyclescheme account details.
I chose the bike and accessories from my local shop, they gave me a quote and I filled those details in. That easy.
Processing time – less than 24 hours
Receiving my certificate to spend
Once I had been processed, I was given an account on the cyclescheme website where I could log in and see the progress of things or any useful info. This page let me know that my info had been processed and they were working on my certificate but that it could take up to 30 days for me to receive my certificate.
This I have to say was the only time I felt disappointed. Having to wait before I could go get my bike was annoying, but I suppose necessary.
However, it didn’t take 30 days at all. It only took 14 days.
So I happily picked up my bike from the shop who took care of all the paperwork for cycle scheme as I stood and admired my new bike. Easy as pie.
So I suppose the bit you really want to know is did I save money? Do all the sales pitch things add up?
Well yes. I got my tame accountant (my lovely father in law Mike) to check over my wage slips just to make sure I was giving you the correct info, but yes I absolutely am saving money on my bike.
I bought a £750 bike with £30 mudguards – so £780 in total which worked out at £65 a month for 12 months.
This payment comes out of your gross salary, before tax, meaning your tax and national insurance are less, so… I am actually only paying £42 a month in real terms – roughly a 35% saving or it sounds better to say I’m actually paying £276 less for my bike! How good is that.
Now here’s the extra cherry on the cake. I’ve saved almost £300 on buying a new bike, but I also get my first annual service free so that’s another £90 less I’ll pay this year 🙂
So would I recommend using your bike to work scheme?
Brooks saddles – are they everything people say?
You can’t be part of the cycling community and not hear about Brooks saddles at least once a month. Their fans are a loud and vocal group on a mission to convert the world of cycling to their way of thinking. I have heard the chat about Brooks saddles for years now but in all honesty never really got it. There are a heap of fantastic, modern, shaped and scientifically designed saddles out there, why the hell would you want to use something that was first made in 1882 and hasn’t really changed since then?
Well, I eventually gave in. A couple of guys at work have been particularly enthusiastic at telling me about their Brooks saddles and I figured why not give it a try. It’s not like any saddle you buy is instantly comfortable anyway so lets truly put the Brooks thing to the test and I got one as a birthday gift at the end of July this year.
So here’s the skinny, I am going to write a blog post review of the saddle as we go so that you can hear about any changes that happen, if it gets super comfortable and if it doesn’t as I find out.
I promise I will be honest, if the saddle is everything it’s fans claim, then I will too be raving about it here on my blog. If not, then I’ll be honest and tell you that it’s not everything it’s meant to be.
I’m also going to keep a photo record of the saddle and how it ages/breaks in. I’ll take a photo at the end of each month so you can see for yourself how it changes over time.
So I’ll start you off.
You can see that after a month there is a little bit of wear showing, the seat doesn’t appear quite as tight and perfect anymore.
Is there a difference in comfort? Well yes, I have to say that a brand new Brooks saddle is damn uncomfortable. It’s rock solid, I mean absolutely rock solid to start with. It’s starting to give slightly now so it’s not uncomfortable anymore but I wouldn’t say it’s comfortable as such. There are still times when I think – oh mind that bump.
Check back next month and see how it’s aged and if it’s improved.
Cyclescheme – an update
Well I expected to be writing more update blog posts if I’m honest but here we go. I have my new bike, already. I got a Whyte Portobello and mudguards.
I applied to join the cyclescheme on the 20th July, got my approval on the 21st and was told it could take 30 days to get my certificate. It took 14. Can’t argue with that.
I got an email on Monday at lunch time with my certificate and called Edinburgh Cycle Co-op that evening. I picked my new bike up today(Thursday).
The process of picking the bike up was really straight forward to. I had the certificate on my phone, showed that to the shop assistant and he did everything else. Within an hour of collecting the bike I’d got an email from cycle scheme wishing me well on my new bike.
I have to say. The whole process has been so simple and easy. The bike shop even set my bike up and installed mudguards and my existing rack for me with no labour charge. Also with bike co-op you get a free 6 week service and a free 1 year annual service. Now that’s customer service.
So I guess that’s about as much as I can update you with just now, next update will be to give you a very rough idea of the savings of this scheme over buying outright and then maybe I’ll tell you about my new bike. For now I’ve only taken it one proper run so it wouldn’t be fair to judge it yet.
Cyclescheme – what’s it like to take part in a bike to work scheme
Well, I took the plunge.
My bike is not falling apart, I have to say. She’s five years old and is still doing really well, but you know how sometimes you just see someone else’s new bike and think, I really want a new, shiny bike that doesn’t make so many creaky noises? Well, that was me.
To be fair I’ve been blowing hot and cold on the new bike idea for a bit, but for some reason this week I just decided, “Stuff it!” so I had a wee peek at the cyclescheme we have through work. I’ve never used one of these schemes before so I don’t 100% understand all the details and I don’t really know what to expect, which gave me the idea of blogging about it from the perspective of a new user. I figured that way other folks like me who are not sure but think it might possibly be a good idea can have a read about what to expect before making any decisions.
So cyclescheme / biketowork what is it?
Basically, you can buy a bike (using a certificate), well technically you are hiring the bike, and the cost of the bike comes out of your salary at gross level. Which apparently means that you pay less tax and so over the time period agreed you make a saving.
Now I have to be honest, I have said apparently because I’m not 100% sure how this works or if it does actually do what it says on the tin, I guess we’ll find out together.
I have chosen a bike and accessories which comes to £780, I will pay 12 monthly instalments of £65 which will come to the full amount of £780 BUT apparently, the savings based on my tax will be £249.
At the end of the 12 months, I can choose to keep the bike on hire for another 3 years and pay a one off small fee of 7% and then after that 3 years the bike is officially mine.
I have to be honest at first I thought – you have to be kidding, I’m paying the full cost of the bike and then a fee on top and it’s not even mine???? But I have been assured that the savings are to do with tax so I am not really paying the full cost of the bike.
Currently, my tax would be: £258.20 NI: £149.64
Let’s check it again once I’m paying for the bike.
Choosing a bike
I’m quite lucky that I have access to a fantastic bike shop here in Edinburgh – Edinburgh Bicycle Coop and I was able to chat to the guys there about both the cyclescheme and the type of bike I wanted. I currently ride a flat bar road bike so as much as I love the romance of the old-fashioned sit up and begs, I don’t think it would be a great idea to suddenly change to that style of bike. But hey ho, after a wee chat, Craig and I were able to work out the size of bike I needed and pick a suitable one.
Next step, off to my company’s website to get the process rolling. I filled in their online form with all my details and the details of the bike and then I got a message back saying they were processing my application. Within an hour I got an email telling me that I had been accepted and that they had sent my stuff to cyclescheme, the company who administers the cycle to work type goodies.
Again the response was really quick, next day I think, I got an email telling me that I have been accepted and that my certificate would be processed and sent to me, however, there is a caveat that it could take up to 30 days. This bit was disappointing as I was quite excited about getting a new bike, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.