Q: For 15 years, my trusty Dawes Galaxy has satisfied all my cycling needs. But as I now spend most of my time on the bike commuting, I was thinking of buying a more lightweight machine. How much difference will a lightweight bike really make to my comfort and times? And should I go the whole way and get a sporty racing machine or a more all round steel audax bike?
Victor Arotsky, Hendon
A: The venerable Dawes Galaxy is certainly a solid and dependable touring bike but a hilly 30-minute commute will be three to four minutes faster on a bike with a lighter frame and wheels. What you buy depends on the level or refinement you expect and the depth of your pocket. I also think you should have mudguards permanently fitted if most of your riding is commuting. Aluminium bikes still represent very good value for money - the Specialized Tri-Cross Sport www.specialized. com is perfect for your needs, and costs around £699. It has Shimano 105 equipment and carbon forks with an aluminium steerer tube, though we would go for a 'faster' tyre than the 32mm version it's supplied with.
Carbon bikes that are aimed at the comfort end of a manufacturer's range offer a slightly lighter, smoother and more refined ride than aluminium but there are none available with the mudguard clearance you need for commuting. While not tested by us yet, the Van Nicholas Amazon has a titanium frame that will provide the lighter ride you are looking for, and the brushed titanium finish will resist the onslaught of winter roads better than a painted finish. Prices start at 1981 Euros and they can be contacted at www.vannicholas.com.