This post will make more sense if you read the previous post – part 1 – first. Done that? Good. Then I’ll begin…
I had certainly heard people mention Pennine Cycles before ever having discovered that it was the nearest dealer in Bianchi bicycles to where I now live in West Yorkshire. One of those mythical cycling Meccas with a long pedigree of serving the cycling community dating back to the days when shops were given the names of the people who ran them rather than something that goes down well with a focus group. In the case of Pennine Cycles, it was ‘Whitaker & Mapplebeck‘*, the name which is still proudly displayed above the wonderfully cluttered window of the shop in Thornton Road, Bradford. The chap on the right is the owner, Paul Corcoran.
[*If you are interested in the history of the shop, read this article from the Bradford Telegraph & Argus that appeared in the newspaper a few months before the arrival of the Tour de France in Yorkshire back in 2014.]
In fact, if you prefer your bike shops to be more, well, ‘Evans‘, you’d be better off staying well clear of Pennine Cycles. The place is small with just a very limited amount of stock on display (mainly the Bianchi bikes I had come here to find out about), a row of colourful handmade frames hanging from the ceiling, lots of signed cycling memorabilia on the walls and a stockroom-cum-workshop which rivals the Steptoes when it comes to organisation. It was clearly an establishment run by someone who knows their cycling stuff. Cue Paul Corcoran.
I remember going into bike shops a few years ago when I knew precious little about cycling and feeling ever so slightly as though I was there to be instructed. Nowadays I can talk the talk when it comes to cycle touring, but still struggle when it comes to road cycling. Paul, however, had the comforting knack of treating me as an equal. I explained my predicament (as set out in part 1 of this post) and he started to talk… As a teacher you sometimes have to ‘wing it’ with the kids. There was no risk of Paul having to ‘wing’ anything. Here was a man who not only knew his stuff but had the honesty to tell you what he thought, even if it was something that could impact on his bottom line. I’m struggling to think of the last time that I met anyone who was so unassumingly confident about the thing that he was trying to sell. I recently bought a new fridge freezer from Curry’s. When I asked a question, the woman who ‘served’ me told me to read the information on the front of each appliance. Err… thanks. Paul was at the other end of the sales spectrum; he talked through each of the models, each of the options, didn’t treat me like the numpty that I am when it comes to road cycling, digressed when appropriate to do so, was patient with my questions and, as already noted, hearteningly honest about the products he was trying to sell. He was a joy to listen to. I spent about 90 minutes in the shop talking with Paul. On two occasions he excused himself to deal with someone who had come into the shop but within a few moments was back with me, advising. The guy should win an award for his customer service. In fact, earlier this year, he did just that:
— Pennine Cycles (@penninecycles) June 13, 2015
So, what about the bike…
Well, here is the model that Paul and I spent most of our time standing over and chatting about; the Bianchi Vertigo Veloce. This is a 2015 bike and, should I go ahead and make the purchase (I’ve yet to come up with an argument that will change my mind!), the 2016 bike is no longer called the Vertigo, but, I think, the Intrepida. Paul assures me that little else will change:
The main technical option is whether to opt for a Shimano groupset or a Campagnolo one. When I got home after my visit to Pennine Cycles I posted a simple Shimano v. Campagnolo poll on Twitter (yes, I know other groupsets are available, but not for the Bianchi Vertigo/Intrepida). The result is… Shimano.
Here’s an interesting #cycling poll… When it comes to groupsets, is it:
— Andrew P. Sykes (@CyclingEurope) December 22, 2015
We live in a Shimano world… But I’m with Paul on this one; the Shimano groupsets are just as good as the Campagnolo ones and vice versa, but if you are buying an Italian bike, why would you not want to use Italian components? At this point you are thinking to yourself “…he’s deluded! A Bianchi bike is about as Italian as stir-fried rice…“. Well, OK, true. What affordable mass-produced bicycle in 2015 isn’t made in Taiwan? (Brompton. Any others?) Read this page from the Bianchi website for more information about the Italianness of the Bianchi bicycle.
Another option is the saddle. I’ve now had my Brooks saddle on Reggie for several years and very comfy it is too! But Brooks haven’t (yet – apparently they soon will) produced a road bike saddle. Paul recommends fi’zi:k (that must be a real pain to type if you work for the company) and they do look good. I trust they are comfortable too. Interesting to point out that fi’zi:k are now the owner of… Brooks so probably not too long before that Brooks racing saddle appears in a bike shop near you.
There are also choices to be made when it comes to pedals. Prior to my visit to Pennine Cycles I was under the impression that there were two options; use SPDs (Shimano again!) or don’t use SPDs. I was wrong… Paul isn’t a fan of SPDs and he carefully explained why. He talked about the three other options he has available (I’m sure there are probably more) but the one shown in the pictures above – the round one – is, apparently, the most knee-friendly. As someone who has knees that do occasionally creek, this is the one for me.
“What about the brakes? Disc or caliper?” I asked. Again, it’s hard to fault Paul’s logic on the matter. Disc brakes are the fashion but are they the best option? Are they the easiest to mend? Do they do anything fundamentally different to what the tried and tested caliper brakes have been doing for years? He accepts that in a few years’ time it’s likely that the disc brake will be the standard but until that point…
Finally the colour. I do like the black…
So, what’s next? Well, I’ll be back at Pennine Cycles at some point in January to take things a step further. Paul would like to see my current bike so Reggie will get one trip out this winter at the very least (although it may be in the back of my car…). Then I’ll no doubt be measured in a way that people are rarely measured by non-medical people, decide definitely which options to take and place my order. I could be riding my new bike by the end of January. At which point I’ll start tackling the hills of Calderdale a little more frequently than is currently the case.
Thoughts, comments and advice are, as always, welcome below!
UPDATE: December 24th:
And here’s the full technical spec…
Product code: YLB4BI1J
Frame: Intrepida Carbon, 1,5″ headtube, sizes 48-51-54-57-60cm
Fork: Bianchi Full Carbon, 1.5″ head
Headset: Fsa Orbit C-40-ACB
Shifters: Campagnolo Veloce Ergopower Power Shift 10sp
Rear derailleur: Campagnolo Veloce 10sp
Front derailleur: Campagnolo Veloce 10sp
Crankset: Fsa Omega MegaExo Compact, AL7075 chainrings, BCD 110mm, 50/34T, crank length: 170mm-48/51cm, 172.5mm-54/57cm, 175mm-60cm
BB (Bottom bracket): included in the crankset
Chain: Kmc X10 Ept finish
Sprocket: Campagnolo Centaur UD 10sp 12-27T
Brakes: Reparto Corse RC-471 Dual-Pivot
Brake levers: included
Wheels: Reparto Corse Road Runner
Rear hub: Reparto Corse Racing B130
Front hub: Reparto Corse Racing B100
Tire: Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Slick 700×25
Stem: Reparto Corse Alloy 6061, rise -7°, height 41mm, 1.1/8″, ext: 90mm-48cm, 100mm-51cm, 110mm-54cm, 120mm-57/60cm
Handlebar: Reparto Corse Compact, Flat Top, Alloy 6061, diam. 31,8mm, reach 126mm, drop 77 mm, size: 400mm-48/51cm, 420mm-54/57cm, 440mm-60cm
Seatpost: Reparto Corse Alloy 6061-T6 shaft, two CroMo CP finish bolt, Alloy 6061 forged head, 15mm offset, L. 350mm, diam. 31,6mm
Saddle: Selle San Marco Era Start, steel rail, 277x145mm
Waterbottle: Celeste w/Bianchi logo
Water bottle hanger: Alloy
Rear carrier: –
Front carrier: –
Front light: –
Rear light: –