Saturday, 12 January 2013

Helen Pidd on the Raleigh Gran Sport

It's been a while since Helen Pidd has contributed a cycling review in the Guardian's Weekend magazine, although I haven't been buying it every week, so I might have missed one or two.

The Raleigh Gran Sport. Photo courtesy of The Guardian
This week, she's back with a review of the new Raleigh Gran Sport, a bike that reminds her of the first new bike she ever owned, a Raleigh racer.

Helen is one of those unfortunate people who suffer from the experience of joint birthday and Christmas presents. While my birthday is on 10 December, it's just far enough away from Christmas to avoid such a fate, although I'm sure my dad would have insisted on me having both a birthday and Christmas present, so in one sense I've always been lucky.

Helen's first new bike, however, was a dreaded joint present and when she took it down the local recreation ground she discovered that racing bikes were no longer the big fashion statement they used to be. All the kids were riding brightly coloured mountain bikes with lots of gears. Oh dear!

The problem for Helen, however, was that Raleigh makes virtually indestructable bikes so Helen was stuck with her out-of-date bike throughout the nineties when everybody else was riding mountain bikes. Still, you live and learn, Helen and hey, you did alright, here you are writing about bikes for a major national newspaper. It all turned good in the end, eh?

Helen Pidd much prefered the Trek Madone (above)
Anyway, the Raleigh Gran Sport reminds Helen of her first new bike, that old Raleigh racer, except that it doesn't really cut the mustard. While, she claims, 'hipsters' buy secondhand Raleighs these days for hundreds of pounds, she doesn't seem too impressed by the new version of her old racing bike. In fact, she makes an analogy with the Wonderbra, claiming that the bike, like the bra, "promises more than it can deliver."

Pidd says the Raleigh Gran Sport is 'a decidedly average bike' with an unresponsive steel frame and an unsatisfying ride. It was, she said, 'like trying to snog someone who won't properly kiss you back'. She wasn't happy with the metal pedal cages which, she said, scraped the ground whenever her feet weren't in properly (which was often in London traffic). The gear shifters were 'being deliberately difficult' – unlike the Trek Madone which she described as 'easy and pleasurable and similar to 'stroking a friendly cat'. Changing gear on the Gran Sport, however, was an effort.

While Pidd's original Raleigh was made in Nottingham, the new Gran Sport was constructed in South East Asia now that the company is Dutch-owned (since 2003). According to Helen, the company manufactures 850,000 bikes annually, but she reckons some of the quality of the old Nottingham-built bikes has been lost in translation. "Or am I just nostalgic for my youth?" she asks.

But Pidd still believes the Gran Sport is currently a trendy ride and that her ten-year-old self would have been happy about that.

For the original article by Helen Pidd, click here.

1 comment:

  1. My first racer was an australian one called a Malvern Star.. it had a five star frame and was the "ducks guts" for its day. My friend bought a raleigh racer and on one ride he rode right into the back of my bike. The bent the head set and his bike was never the same.

    I often wish I had kept my bike as they don't make bike in Australia anymore!