Anybody who knows me, knows that I love new stuff! A new T-shirt, new tube of toothpaste, new bikes, new varieties of chocolate bar. Wait a minute – did someone say new bike??!!!!!

A good cycling buddy of mine, Chris Williams, (Captain Castelli we call him, or Bike Shop Chris), pointed out that Specialized, the esteemed US manufacturers of two-wheeled transport were having a test day at Torbay Velopark. So, a quick scout online, sign up and away we go!! That was about 4 months ago. The day finally arrived on Sunday 2nd April. Chris drove – a novel experience in his “Noddy” car I must say. We parked up at the Velopark on the edge of Paignton, Devon. At this point I must say, if you’ve never been there, do yourself a favour and go!! It’s a 1.5km closed tarmac circuit in a loop. You will never ride your bike on a better surface, I swear. It’s great fun to test yourself and do ’speed’ laps in a safe environment. It would also be a wonderful place to take kids who are learning to ride.

I digress. Having handed over Chris’ ID, (I forgot mine!), we were greeted with an array of Specialized’s finest bikes. For the men, there was a “Tarmac”, a “Roubaix” and their race aero bike, the “Vias”. There were also bikes for kids and women. We didn’t go on them!

First up the “Tarmac” – finished with Ultra, Hydraulic disc brakes and a very fetching Fluoro Lime/Lemon paint job, (which coincidentally matched my shoes!!). We had to bring our own pedals, (not peddles!), and shoes, helmets etc. The nice boys from Specialized patiently fitted pedals, adjusted seats and gave us a cheery wave as we departed onto the track. Well, actually they didn’t wave. We set off on a couple of stretch-the-legs warm-up laps, and on the third of these Chris was complaining about the saddle on his bike, claiming that his testicles were hanging either side of it. As I stifled a retch, I noted that his saddle had a shorter nose than mine and did indeed look uncomfortable. I suspect he was just moaning because he couldn’t keep up!

Warm-up laps complete, I embarked on my ‘fast’ lap’ – 2 minutes 28 seconds. A teeny bit quicker than my previous best on my own Giant Defy Advanced. Chris had already given up on his ball-breaker at that point and was getting set up on a “Vias”. This bike is seriously aero, and looked expensive, (6,500 English pounds, to be exact!!). While he set off on his tester laps I waited for mine to be setup. Sitting on it felt odd, mostly because I am not built for speed and this bike looked like it could be seriously quick! A couple of spins round the track and I decided to go for a quick lap. Surprisingly it was 2 seconds slower than my previous effort. When I think about it now, I didn’t feel entirely secure on the “Vias”. It felt like a machine made for Chris Froome, not Chris Biggins!!! So, I reckon I didn’t give it full beans as I was scared at falling off, (something I am quite adept at).

Anyway, two down, one to go – the “Roubaix SL”. Again, Ultegra and Hydraulic discs – oddly ALL the test bikes had disc brakes. A sign of things to come perhaps? This cycle has a funny little suspension system built into the headset. It looked odd in the saddle as it kept dipping up and down as weight transferred, and felt as though it might be quite unstable and alarming. I must say, for all the times I tried to dislike it, the bike stayed firmly planted on the track and was incredibly comfortable and quick. The Roubaix delivered my fastest lap – 2minutes 27seconds. I put this down to the fact that this was the bike I felt most secure on. I love my Giant, but this bike is a real challenger. Given that it was built to challenge on the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix, (6-time winner in 8 years), it obviously copes admirably with bumps and lumps. It would be perfect for the crappy roads of Mid-Devon!! And I suspect you could happily spend 6 or 7 hours in the saddle and still get off walking normally. In short I loved it!! Chris spent most of his time rolling round the track on the “Vias” chatting to some random bloke. He said he was enjoying it, but I suspect he couldn’t actually get off it!!!

We sat and had a coffee and bacon roll and chatted about what a great morning we’d had. We also decided that buying a bike is a bit like buying a bed. You lie on a bed for 10 minutes in a shop and decide that it’ll be perfect for 8 hours of kip every night for the next 8 years!! People can spend anything from £500 to £8000 on their bicycle, and most just take it for a 2 minute spin round the car park!! The benefit of what Specialized do is that you can actually ride the thing for a few miles and see how it feels. I don’t understand why more manufacturers don’t do it? One of their tech guys also told us that you can have the Specialized of your choice delivered to your local bike shop), and use it for a whole weekend while you decide if you want to buy it! What a great idea!!

So there we are – track days are fun. Riding new bikes is fun. Bacon sandwiches are great!


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