You know, there’s a heap of bike shops in Wellington, but almost nothing in the way of functional attractive bikes inside them. Lycra and off-road people are well catered for, and if you don’t care what sort of bike you’re riding to work then there’s plenty of options for you too. But if you want to get around on something stylish, something that can get up Wellington’s hills, something that can carry your briefcase or bag and a bit more besides, something you can ride in your everyday clothes – or your morning suit or ballgown, should you wish, something that won’t smear grease all over your apparel and that will last you for 50 years… well there’s not a lot of choice.
There is, of course, the excellent Mamachari, purveyors of recycled cycles which come complete with baskets and, sometimes, coat-guards, and, should you wish, an internal gear hub of the gear range of your choice. They’re down in Island Bay, in a very convenient location for taking a test ride. I understand they can fit internal gear hubs too, if you have a single-speed bike or an oldie on which the gears have finally given out. (Mine is 80 years old and the gear hub has finally given up the ghost! Not a bad run, eh?)
As far as new bikes go, there’s actually a heck of a lot out there – unfortunately little or none of it seems to be in Wellington. Here’s the Gazelle Toer Populair, for example.
It has an 8-speed internal gear hub – that’s equivalent to 21 derailleur gears, more than enough for our hills. It also has a chain guard and a coat guard, eminently sensible for riding in clothes, and it’s almost unbelievably comfortable to ride, thanks to the combination of upright posture and Brooks saddle. It has a dynamo light, so you’re never caught short. And it comes in a step-through, should you feel the irrational need to ride in the skirt you’re wearing today.
There are many other excellent bikes well suited for transport/commuter riding. Here’s the Civia Loring, currently on special with almost $600 off the usual price. It’s a very comfortable ride, although the 3-speed internal gear hub might not be enough to get you up to Brooklyn.
There are also the Retrovelos, Klaus and Klara (3-speed internal gear hub) and Paul and Paula (7 or 8-speed). These are German and have specially-developed balloon tyres to smooth out the rough humps in the road – something I think of often as I ride over yet another repaired drain situated conveniently in the path I’m most likely to cycle. Note the convenient location of the briefcase in the picture on the right.
Rode in Auckland is doing a nice little trade in such bicycles, as is Velo Ideale in Christchurch. And yet the Wellington Gazelle dealership is going begging. Burkes in Kilbirnie used to have it, but I never saw any Gazelles on their website. Shame, really, I think they’re going to miss out on the tailwind. Velorbis seems to have completely disappeared out of New Zealand, as has Kronan.
So here’s what I think. Somebody should set up an elegant, comfortable, welcoming shop, preferably on Lambton Quay, dealing in both new and second hand* bicycles that a suitable for our hills and encourage us to ride with our clothes on. I even thought of doing it myself, but the timing just isn’t right. So, who do you know who’s up for it?