It’s been about a year since I’ve given up on automobiles, when I moved to the UK I decided to stop riding and driving. The reason for this decision was very simple.
My requirements for a mode of transport are as follows, in order of priority:
- It should be easy
- It should be cheap
- It should be fun
In India, motorcycles were my choice because they are quick, dirt cheap, and shitloads of fun. In the UK however, public transport is so good that I never felt the need for a vehicle of my own. Most of the time though I ended up walking/running rather than taking the train, why give up on the chance to roll along a canal for hours listening to an audiobook, saying hello to doggos and babies?
Running is slow, walking is slower. I got a bit tired of doing 7 kms an hour, so I decided to buy a cycle.
It was a shock to me how bloody expensive these things are now. I cycled in school, some 14 kms a day and my fancy new cycle at that time with a front suspension and shit cost my parents some 2000 rupees, roughly 25 pounds. I rode the wheels of that thing, quite literally, crashing head on with motorcycles twice, riding it far faster than it was meant to go, like Bill Denbrough’s Silver. Everything bent back into place somehow, and it kept rolling.
Based on this experience from 2002, I decided that my budget should be around 100 pounds. The laughter from UK’s online cycling community should have kept me awake at night.
“Any bike under 600 pounds is by default going to be shit.”
“I bought a 300 pound bike a few months ago, it frustrated me to bits. I upgraded to a 1000 pound one and have never been happier.”
“Budget cycles in the market start at the 400 pound range, buying anything cheaper is like trying to use a table fan for anal pleasure, it’s just not going to work.”
These are the comments I saw in forums and on websites. The more I read, the more sense it made. Cheap bikes are heavy, come with bad brakes, and just aren’t designed to last very long. More money gets you less weight, better brakes, and better product quality.
So I decided to double my budget to around 200 pounds, and ordered a Btwin Rockrider 520. All the reviews seemed to be alright, it looked OK, and I was somehow able to justify the price to myself.
At this point it is important to point out that I could’ve bought a second-hand cycle, a rather good one for the same amount of money. However, I suffer from OCD, a used cycle wasn’t an option.
Then for some reason that I don’t really understand, I researched a bit more. I really should’ve stopped after I ordered the Btwin, but all of a sudden I started questioning why my new cycle shouldn’t have 29 inch wheels, rather than the 27.5 the Btwin had, or why I shouldn’t have hydraulic disc brakes, rather than the mechanical ones on the Btwin.
For a number of bullshit reasons, I ended up cancelling the order for the Btwin, and instead paid 500 fucking pounds for a Voodoo Bizango. Capitalism won again, and I’m glad it did.
I don’t buy a lot of stuff, I learned very early in life that the more stuff you have, the more stuff you need, and the more time you waste worrying about your stuff. But when I buy something, I generally end up using the shit out of it, to the point where my usage of that product may be described as torture. This is why I rarely regret spending money.
I have ridden the Voodoo Bizango the past 3 months, almost on a daily basis, doing a total of more than 2000 kms. Here’s what I think of it.
Keep in mind that I have no reference points at all to compare the Bizango against, this is my first geared cycle, and my knowledge of the cycling world at large is comparable to Donald Trump’s knowledge of the concept of shame.
Voodoo Bizango review: The good
Before I bought the Bizango, I was riding a cheap ass full suspension bike. It’s hard to describe the feeling when I got my ass on the Bizango, I did not know things were supposed to be that way.
I’m sure there are plenty of people who’ll disagree with this, but the Bizango is super light weight, lighter than that tuft of hair that’s always sticking out of Boris Johnson’s head. 13 kgs is insanely light for a cycle in my books, my old cycle probably weighed at least 20, and the Hero Jets that are so popular in India probably weigh about as much as a juvenile sperm whale.
Then there are the brakes. I have unintentionally stoppied twice now, surprising random people and myself. Rear slides were fairly commmon in the beginning as well, until I fucked something up while cleaning the cycle and now they feel like there’s some oil on the pads. I could try to remove the oil, or change the pads, but can’t be arsed, the braking power I have at the moment is more than enough.
The tires aren’t really meant for what I use them for, commuting, but they are awesome for that one time I took 8 hours to ride 50 miles. I took part in a charity off-road cycle ride a few days after I bought the cycle, I didn’t realize how much British Heart Foundation wanted to murder me. I spent hours riding in circles in some forest somewhere, I have no idea how I finished that thing without dying. By the time I got to the end, they were packing their tents up. The tires helped, even if they did that by not getting punctured. I should change them to something less hardcore, but who cares.
The gear shifts were pretty shit in the beginning, but at that time I hadn’t understood the cultural difference between India and the UK. In India, if there anything wrong with your cycle, you just go to a guy and he fixes it for you, for about the cost of a pint of beer, in 1972. When on day 2 I took the cycle back to Halfords, they were baffled, and I was baffled because they were baffled. They reluctantly moved some screws around, put their hands on their waists, and then gave me back something that was worse. Then I went online, learned how to fix the damn thing myself, and haven’t gone back there since then. Halfords can suck it, so can the old and destitute guy in India.
The point is, everything about this cycle is awesome. I converted both tires to tubeless, so don’t have to be bothered with random punctures anymore. I put up a tiny air horn that sounds like a duck, so when I approach someone from behind I sound like a duck, and so they don’t notice me because they think I’m a bird, and I then have to use the normal bell, at which point they turn around surprised and say they thought I was a bird. At least it adds 50 watts to my peak power.
Voodoo Bizango review: The bad
There’s nothing bad with the cycle.
Halfords on the other hand could improve a thing or two. Their technical staff seem to only work from 9-5, M-F, which also happens to be the time when everyone else in the world cannot come to see them. On top of that, their regular sales staff is usually overworked, but curiously agreeable to experiment on random bikes without actual knowledge of what needs to be done, like that dude who tried to bend my disc rotor to fix a weird squeak, rather than adjusting the brake pads which were the obvious source of the problem, something that I realized only later when I gave up on Halfords completely.
Voodoo Bizango review: Verdict
I am not quite sure why I bought a mountain bike, I think I was scared of the ultra-bendy position of road bikes, and their finger thin tires. However, I’ve always been a tourer, and I’ve using the Bizango like a tourer. I don’t really mind, it’s fairly rugged and can take punishment, it’s not high strung, it’s chilled out, and I like that, especially when some random kid decides to make the bike fall over himself and cry, and you know the bike will be OK, especially since it was cushioned by the soft body of the kid, but also because of the inherent strength of the product.
Cycling is fucking amazing, I can’t do it in India because someone will hit me from behind and kill me, and nobody will care. The Voodoo Bizango gets 12/10 in my books because he’s a very good boy.
I bought the Bizango when there was a sale at Halfords, the bike was selling for 500 pounds, and I also got a British Cycling membership that gave me a 10% discount, so in the end the thing cost me 450. I have kept it stock, put on a front mudguard, which is quite useless, a bottle cage, and a saddlebag. In the last 2000 kms I have changed nothing, and nothing has broken. Tires still look OK, so do the pads and the chain.
All in all, can’t complain.