This article is part of a series called ‘A love letter to…’, where Cycling Weekly writers pour praise on their favourite cycling items and share the personal connection they have with them.
The below content is unfiltered, authentic and has not been paid for.
My pub bike isn't great, that's kind of the point. It has one gear, which is never enough to go fast on the flat or downhill, and is only just bearable going uphill. It is a real grind on anything above 2%, and that's a problem in Bristol, a city that puts stupid gradients everywhere for fun.
It isn't amazingly comfortable, either. It does a job, but the Dutch style sit-up-and-beg position is not one I want to be in for more than about twenty minutes. It's fine. It's not pretty, with its black and orange styling, combined with tyres that are way too skinny for 2023. It isn't even designed for me, ostensibly being a women's bike.
And yet, I love it. It is my ticket to freedom, my pass to get anywhere around town I want in not a lot of time. It has saved me a lot of hours of pounding the pavement, and saved me the money I would probably have otherwise spent on e-scooters, buses and maybe even taxis. It has got me to bed as quickly as I could possibly need to be, and to countless events in the nick of time. I might not be cycling it up every hill in Bristol - sometimes, walking with it is necessary - but it feels like a cheat to use it every time.
This does not apply to just my pub bike, of course, that crummy single speed Pendleton that I should probably show some love to, but all pub bikes. You might know it as a hack bike, and that's what it is, a hack. Need to go to a gig? Why not cycle there. Need to pick something up from the big shop? Just climb on.
You might be thinking: "This is stupid, is this not all bikes?". That's a perfectly valid question, but no. We can all be too precious about our nice bikes, want to keep them pristine, or never want to leave them anywhere in public, but I'm talking about the machines which we would use for anything, the bikes which are often unloved because of their versatility. We use these bikes all the time, and they deserve just as much celebration as a fancy aero bike, they just seem like second nature.
It is often easy to forget that "cycling" to most people isn't zipping around, going at 30km/h, especially to those of us who cycle for fitness or for fun, but it is using the bike as a tool, to get places, to just live. That's what I'm doing when I use my pub bike, I'm just going places, whether that's to French lessons, or, invariably, to the pub.
The act of cycling it isn't fun, but it isn't a chore either. It's just commuting, a tiny bit of exercise, and getting from A to B at speed. Crucially, I don't really mind where I lock it up either, the middle of Bristol, on a dodgy industrial park next to a taproom I'm going to, or outside a supermarket. No one is going to nab it, it looks terrible, but I love it.
If our future is active travel focused, we all need hack bikes or pub bikes. If you don't have one, maybe get one and your world will suddenly seem closer; a 15-minute city is suddenly a lot bigger if you can nip around on a bike. Just remember to show it some love.
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