Boris Johnson, mayor of London, is looking for a new bike. Last week he wrote a moving column on the demise of his Marin hybrid. Old Bikey sustained the terminal damage on a wet Friday afternoon after a run-in with a pothole disguised as a puddle.
The loss of a bike is a blow to anyone, but Johnson appeared particularly hard hit by the laying to rest of a steed that had carried him through two successful mayoral elections and to countless political engagements in eight years.
Johnson will be cycling again soon. But according to the column, the sole flaw with the Marin was that it wasn't built in Britain, something he is determined to remedy with his next purchase.
Bike buying can be a time consuming and emotional task. So to help out the busy mayor, BikeRadar – with some assistance from Phil Taylor of Bespoked – has taken the liberty of providing him with some buying advice.
We didn't have much to go on, so we asked Transport for London for some more information on what the mayor's after. Truth be told we weren't expecting a reply, but a couple of hours later, one arrived: a copy and paste message with odd formatting, which made us think it might just have been direct from the mayor himself.
'On the lookout for a British made, flat barred hybrid ideally. Nothing too flashy'.
More than enough info, so without further ado here's BikeRadar's buyer's guide to help Johnson pick the perfect new steed.
Use: Commuting predominantly. Johnson also rode the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 last year however (on a Boardman). As a potential MAMIL in gestation, he'll need something racy. He's also busy man. London doesn't just run itself, so he needs the bike to carry him around London promptly. A light, speedy bike is a necessity.
Terrain: The ultimate urban jungle. London is a tough place for bikes. Run-ins with buses, white vans, bikes and motorists are commonplace. And as the mayor will likely concur, potholes are a bloody nightmare too. This bike will need to be bombproof.
Appearance and maintenance: 'Nothing too flashy' is important – the bike mustn't attract the unwarranted attention on the capital's bicycle thieves. And though the mayor has an admirable track-record in keeping his bike roadworthy, the less maintenance needed the better; his big job means he can't afford to be distracted by jumping gears and annoying squeaks. Personal appearance is important too. Oil stains on trousers legs are a no-no. A belt drive, internal hub system is highly recommended.
Image: A crucial consideration, this. Whatever his choice, it's going to send messages to voters. Buying British is a sensible stipulation but even this is fraught with difficulty. Can he get away with the bike being designed in Britain but made elsewhere to help with international business relations? Or should he buy London local? This shows support for the regional economy but could re-emphasise the perception of a divide between the capital and the rest of the country – something that wouldn't play well if he runs for Tory leadership.
Pros: An all-UK designed and built carbon race frame would satisfy Johnson's strict provenance stipulations. Buying carbon would also show Johnson is forward-thinking, modern and dynamic. It would get him to meetings on time too and he'd be able to join the roadies who head out to enjoy Surrey's lanes at weekends.
Cons: Perhaps too impractical for London, though Richard Craddock told BikeRadar he would make an exception and fit a flat bar to his thoroughbred race frame if Johnson came calling
Pros: the bike would be custom built to Johnson's generous dimensions and the Lancashire company prides itself on fitting its frames out with British-made components – a double whammy.
Cons: Maybe a touch too elitist. Moss Bikes makes an achingly lovely bike but they look expensive and they are expensive. A fact that may not play in his favour with the electorate.
Pros: Johnson would have a wide range of well-built, well-specced hybrids from which to choose at his local Halfords. Would also be a popular choice with many commuting Londoners. As an added bonus he'd probably be able to ask Olympic champ Chris Boardman himself for a free one next time they are at a photo op together.
Cons: UK designed, but falls foul of the British-made stipulation.
Pros: An eccentric-looking bike, British-made and highly regarded. Offer great city-living practicality. Sounds like Johnson all over.
Cons: It's small-wheeled and we're just not sure Johnson would get the nippy performance he needs. They're solid machines but Johnson, at about 17st might look a trifle odd – like an elephant on a moped.
However BikeRadar believes it has the perfect recommendation...
Rusby Cycles in East Dulwich could build Johnson in ideal town bike - and the templated model has already been created. Jake Rusby's town bike looks just the ticket: British-made, nimble, fast, understated and low maintenance thanks to the Gates Carbon belt drive transmission.
The tubing is durable Reynolds 631, which should give Johnson's steed a long, happy life in the city. Rusby Cycles is a one man operation based in East Dulwich, so Johnson can be happy in the knowledge that he's supporting a young, thrusting business.
Alternatively the mayor could hang on and visit the Lee Valley Velopark between 11 and 13 April and make his choice from the wide range of British builders showing their wares at Bespoked.