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The Light Blue Parkside review

Budget-friendly commuter and leisure bike

Our rating 
3.5 out of 5 star rating 3.5
GBP £650.00 RRP
Pack shot of the The Light Blue Parkside commuter road bike

Our review

Quirky and comfortable bike for the more leisurely riders among us
Pros: Kitted out for the leisure rider; good comfort
Cons: Heavy; wide bar and ’guards; quirky quill stem
Skip to view product specifications

Well, they don’t make ’em like that anymore,” I thought about the Parkside. Except, of course, in the case of Cambridge’s Light Blue Cycles, they do.

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This contrasts with most of the bikes we test, which major on lightness, aerodynamics, dozens of electric gears and cycling’s latest technological advances.

Not the Parkside. Not at all. No electronics, no carbon, no graphene, no skinny saddle and not even derailleur gears because this Light Blue has the latest incarnation of that most venerable gearing – the internal rear hub.

The Parkside even has something I don’t think I’ve seen on test here this millennium: a quill stem. Welcome back! Even the frame size is imperial rather than metric. Perhaps its only nod to modernity is its Tig-welded 6061 aluminium frame, but even this is paired with a classic, curved steel fork.

Badge on the headtube of the The Light Blue Parkside commuter road bike
The beautiful The Light Blue head-tube badge.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

These factors make it clear that the Parkside’s ambitions are very different from our usual test bikes’ aims.

This is a bike for “heading off to the next lecture, nipping to the shops, or even cycling out of town for some gentle leisure fitness”.

Riding The Light Blue Parkside

You can easily imagine Miss Marple riding the Parkside around St Mary Mead, though perhaps she’d be on the bike’s 3-speed step-through version. This might be for one of her poison-pushing, stiletto-wielding or ukulele-string-strangling adversaries instead.

But it’s not all based on a long-forgotten fantasy, as Light Blue has built in practicality too, with pretty much every component chosen for day-to-day riding and long-term durability.

The ride is measured and leisurely, with just about the most upright riding position I’ve ever experienced; you’re virtually in a running or walking position. But I found it extremely comfortable.

You just relax your shoulders so that your upper arms hang vertically and ride with your forearms at about 45 degrees or so and you’ll find the handling very light.

This is in spite of the Parkside’s front end, with its radically swept-back bar and the equivalent of a short stem, being lively with handling bordering on the twitchy.

But the lightness of touch required for steering makes for an easy, relaxing ride. And while I absolutely wouldn’t recommend it, you can ride the Parkside no-handed, so it’s not that twitchy.

Passport saddle on the The Light Blue Parkside commuter road bike
The Passport saddle is surprisingly supportive.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

One issue with the handlebar is that its narrow 22mm diameter means you’ll need a shim to fit a light, GPS or bell, though I successfully fitted a dinger on the inside of the left handlebar grip, using the grip’s extra diameter for a secure fit.

The Parkside’s riding position puts no stress on your lower back, and is great for both seeing and being seen, ideal for tootling lazily along traffic-free routes and quiet country lanes.

The 64cm wide handlebar – 20cm wider than a road bike bar – means you’re not going to zig and zag zippily through traffic, but head out on a gentle leisure ride and you’ll find the miles tick along nice and smoothly.

I initially felt that the huge “elastomer-sprung Passport Upper Class Squidge-tech gel padded saddle” might overdo the ‘squidginess’. I was so concerned with the two centimetres of give that I took a firmer spare saddle on the first ride, but this wasn’t needed.

The Parkside’s rubber handlebar grips are also well-shaped for comfort, their profile allowing you to vary your handhold.

The Halo Tourist tyres don’t feel that supple but they do have an anti-puncture strip and their 35mm width is welcome – a 35mm tyre will have nearly twice the volume of air as a 25mm tyre, and that’s extra cushioning you appreciate over poor surfaces. Add in a tread that coped well with towpath and hardpack and it’s a thumbs up.

The Light Blue Parkside gearing

The Parkside’s gearing really is something from another generation, a 5-speed internal hub gear from Sturmey-Archer – that’s a flash from the past! – albeit manufactured in Taiwan these days, rather than in Nottingham.

You change gear using a thumb-shifter inside the right handlebar grip, with the 38-tooth chainring and 17-tooth sprocket offering a 38-96-inch range, which is a decent 256 per cent spread.

A hub gear from Sturmey-Archer on the The Light Blue Parkside commuter road bike
Hub gearing from Sturmey-Archer.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

This is the equivalent of a 34×27 bottom gear and a top falling between 50×14 and 50×15 on a derailleur system, and is pretty sensible for the sort of non-challenging cycling environments the Parkside is designed for.

You’re unlikely to spin out on the top gear, though that bottom gear is a bit higher than on most derailleur setups and, combined with the Parkside’s weight and swept bar, steep hills are a challenge.

The advantages of hub gears are that they require minimal maintenance and that you can change gear while stationary, handy if you stop in the wrong gear.

My only criticism, a tiny one, is that I’d have preferred a more prominent marker than a small black dot on the shifter paddle to show you what gear you’re in.

The Light Blue Parkside brakes

V-brakes on the The Light Blue Parkside commuter road bike
Yes, these really are V-brakes.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

Just as with the Sturmey-Archer gears, the brakes are a step back in time.

Forget rim calipers or discs, the Parkside has… V-brakes. Yep, also known as linear-pull brakes these were the star stoppers in the 1990s, when they were considered an upgrade on cantilevers. But they’re virtually unheard of these days.

What I had forgotten, though, is that V-brakes – even with non-cartridge brake blocks – are actually very good and the Parkside’s braking was consistent and controlled, though the levers have a budget feel to them.

The braking was also accompanied by a squeal, and if this doesn’t disappear over time, it’s just a case of toeing in the brake blocks. And while this is old technology, replacement brake blocks are widely available and will be for years.

The Light Blue Parkside practical features

The Light Blue Parkside commuter road bike has full-length mudguards
Full-length mudguards help to make the Parkside a practical package.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

Final features that add to the Parkside’s day-to-day practicality are full-length mudguards, a bike stand and an 18kg capacity Yuen I rear rack.

I found it flex-free and strong enough for shopping, or your thermos (or Pimms, of course) and scotch eggs for fuelling a day out. The rack also has a sprung top clip for your lecture notes (or ukulele string if that’s what takes your fancy…).

The Parkside’s enclosed chainset not only helps keep your clothes cleaner but should increase the longevity of the anti-rust-coated chain.

The bike’s weight means it’s awkward if you have to carry it up stairs and the wide bar, bolted wheels and mudguards make it hard to manhandle into the back of a car. I reckon you’d be better off with a rear-mounted car rack if transporting it.

The Light Blue Parkside bottom line

I wasn’t sure about the Parkside at first, fearing it might be a case of style over substance, while the choice of a quill stem in 2021 seems, er, downright quaint. But The Light Blue has also factored in enough substance to make the Parkside a viable choice if you live in a mainly flat area and favour leisure riding over chasing Strava segments.
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The full complement of extras, low-maintenance gearing and easy-riding comfort make the Parkside a sound choice for daily commutes, rides to the shops, evading amateur sleuths and so on… but it’s also fine for longer rides, perhaps into the countryside for a picnic.

Product Specifications

Product

Price GBP £650.00
Weight 14.8kg (21in)
Brand The light blue

Features

Features Mudguards: Chrome-plastic laminated
Rear rack: Yuen I 18kg capacity
Available sizes 21, 23in
Brakes V-brakes
Cassette 17t Sturmey-Archer
Chain Passport Elements anti-rust
Cranks 38t chainset with 170mm alloy cranks
Fork Tubular steel
Frame Tig-welded aluminium
Grips/Tape Passport Upper Class Ergonomic
Handlebar High-rise alloy North Road-style
Saddle Passport Upper Class Squidge-tech Gel with anti-scuff panels
Seatpost 27.2mm alloy
Shifter Sturmey-Archer 5-speed hub, thumb-shifter
Stem Adjustable height quill
Tyres Halo Tourist anti-puncture tyres 700x35C
Wheels Double-wall White Line aluminium rims