I went downstairs earlier to get ready for an afternoon ride on the cheap bike I picked up a few months ago as I wasn't certain if I would keep the cycling up and found to my dismay that, once again, the rear wheel had come loose on the bearing and was wobbling back and forth.


I've been thinking about replacing it since I have kept up the cycling successfully but there's too much information out there for me to make sense of and certain concerns that I don't know how to quantify; but first, I'll put what I'm after.


  • £1000 budget
  • Road type split: 90% tarmac, 7% gravel cycle path, 3% horrible rutted gravel road
  • Commuting 15k each way
  • Would be used for occasional long distance cycle rides (Think London to Amsterdam style challenges)
  • Rugged/Low maintenance
  • 24 speeds preferred (If this is just me being too used to MTBs from my childhood, please let me know)
  • Drop bars preferred
  • Proper gear shifters that click into place instead of moving a lever and hoping preferred
  • Sized for 6'0", 33" inside leg
  • Capable of carrying a fat sod who weighs ~100kg (for now)

Normally, I would consider just replacing the wheels with higher quality ones but I think that the bike I have is a size smaller than it should be as I have to have the seat at its maximum height, my legs still aren't fully straight at the lowest point of the pedal and the handlebars won't come high enough for me to take advantage of the drops. On top of that, I prefer airless tyres as I've historically had terrible luck when it came to punctures and am crap at fixing them.


My concerns stem from various throwaway comments such as the review here under disadvantages where the reviewer raises concerns about nuts and bolts falling off. More experienced riders than myself have commented that airless tyres feel like 115-125psi which can only exacerbate the problem. As you can probably tell from the "crap at fixing punctures comment" earlier, I'm not a confident tinkerer - while I know where most of the important bits fit together, that's mainly on a theoretical level and getting out allen keys/spanners is something I view with dread.


After all that context, my specific questions are below:

  • Does anything spring to mind that fits the above requirements like a glove?
  • Failing that, does anything spring to mind that fits all but one of the above requirements?
  • If neither of the above, what should I look for to ensure that the bike is going to fall apart the minimal amount?
  • Is there such a thing as a bike made from disparate components, where components are all purchased separately like if you were building your own PC?
  • On a slightly different note, as a large chain of stores, is Halfords trustworthy or the PC world of cycling? - I have a LBS near me but their opening hours are almost entirely the same as the hours I work making life a bit tricky.

And once I own said new bike

  • Does cycling on horrible rutted gravel roads or even smooth gravel cycle paths harm road bikes considerably?

Bike weight doesn't bother me that much currently - I'd rather something be overbuilt than constantly be worrying about it.
Finally, I wouldn't be entirely surprised if my requirements list is incompatible with the budget. Thanks all,
Ben

  • 1
    We can help you fix that bearing better. But specific product recommendations are off topic because they date quickly and are highly regionalised. Your bike looks fine, once the wheel bearing is tweaked up. – Criggie Oct 9 at 8:54
  • Hey all, for what it's worth, I went for a Genesis Tour de Fer. Thank you everybody who answered. – Ben Wooff Oct 11 at 21:19
  • @Criggie - I have other issues with the bike. Even on the shallowest downwards slopes, I run out of gears very early on the muddyfox and while speaking of gears, when I step up to the larger chainwheel sprocket, the chain falls off it about one time in 20. It's served its purpose over the last 500k but it's time to move on. – Ben Wooff Oct 11 at 21:22
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Last year I bought a steel tourer. It seems to tick all your boxes or near enough: £900, 27 speed, pretty rugged (timelapse of a ride I did last year, starting when I hit the gravel, before it got rough), and I can also do 300km days on road. I weigh less than you but then more than make up the difference on some trips.

A tourer's not your only option. Cyclocross bikes and adventure road bikes (the 3 categories overlap anyway) will also do it but I wanted to be able to carry a lot, and you might do too. You may want to swap tyres between rough gravelly stuff and serious distance. The combination of a heavy rider, potentially crashing through potholes (though I could be maligning you there) and a light road bike isn't a good one, which is a reason to go for a sturdier frame.

I'd steer clear of Halfords both because they don't have much range and because I've been unimpressed with their ability to sell bikes that actually fit the rider -- fit is important here as you want long rides, and drop bars make for a less forgiving fit IMO.

Mine came from Evans, but an independent local bike shop can often get similar pricing, and would have more chance of tweaking the spec if necessary. When it comes to tyres, I suggest going for tough touring tyres, with a Kevlar belt. I run that sort of thing on my top 2 bikes by mileage, and I don't think I've had a puncture this year (over 8000km).

As you appear to be in the UK, do you have access to a bike-to-work scheme? Is that where your £1000 comes from?

  • Hi Chris, thanks for this. £1000 comes from the number of articles online that discuss "Best bikes under £1k" etc. As for crashing through potholes - the airless tyres have probably given me a false sense of security to be able to do just that. – Ben Wooff Oct 7 at 19:55
  • Funnily enough the airless tyres are worse, because only the material near the impact can absorb the chock, rather than all the air in the tube. But they don't get pinch flats (another benefit of tough touring tyres is you can pump them up hard if you're heavy and get away with only pumping them up every 2 or 3 weeks) – Chris H Oct 7 at 20:59

Specific product recommendations are off topic here, but some general answers.

There are putatively ‘road adventure’ bikes that run 28-35mm tires that will deal with tarmac and gravel. However, a road bike will not fare well on poor, rutted and potholed surfaces. A ‘gravel’ bike with 40mm plus tire will be better but will be compromised on paved road surfaces.

Forget the idea of ‘airless’ solid tires. Those are not seen on bicycles for good reasons. Puncture resistant tubed tires are available, also ‘tubeless’ tires that run with sealant inside that seals small leaks.

Yes, you can have a custom bike built but it will be very expensive. You can buy individual components and build a bike yourself but it’s still expensive and obviously not for you.

The 10% gravel suggests that you may be looking for a 'gravel' type of bike. They have drop bars, they have various holes for attaching panniers, mudguards and bikepacking. You should be able to do London to AMS on such a bike and it's going to perform pretty well for your daily commute if you fit it with wider, perhaps tubeless tyres. 1k budget should afford you at least a carbon fork and ideally a carbon frame as well, to reduce vibration from the road. Later on you can upgrade the wheels etc.

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