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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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
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
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.
|Brand||The light blue|
|Features||Mudguards: Chrome-plastic laminated
Rear rack: Yuen I 18kg capacity
|Available sizes||21, 23in|
|Chain||Passport Elements anti-rust|
|Cranks||38t chainset with 170mm alloy cranks|
|Grips/Tape||Passport Upper Class Ergonomic|
|Handlebar||High-rise alloy North Road-style|
|Saddle||Passport Upper Class Squidge-tech Gel with anti-scuff panels|
|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|