Saturday, April 18, 2009

Mixing It Up

Apologies for the long and tedious post, believe it or not it was requested.

So back in August the company I work for was purchased by another company. The list of benefits we were given included the Cycle2Work scheme.

ChargeIf you're unaware of the Cycle2Work scheme, it's a government initiative offering tax breaks on the purchase of bikes. It's effectively a loan from your employer which you pay back over 12 months from your pay packet before tax, and you don't pay VAT, which means that you save roughly 40% on a new bike. The down side is that after the 12 months you don't officially own the bike. I believe the normal practice is that you then buy the bike for 6% of the original value of the bike.

EvansNow the Cycle2Work scheme shouldn't really be counted as a benefit as it's open to all employees, no matter who you work for, but I imagine that putting my head through a brick wall would have been easier than trying to get it through my previous company's admin staff. Then there was the news that the new company chose to only offer the Cycle2Work scheme through Evans, certainly not the cheapest cycle shop in the world, and something that shouldn't be necessary. Evans also do the scheme a little differently, your company pay them direct and then Evans send you a voucher for the price of the bike. Companies should usually directly give you a cheque for the value of the bike.

The Ghetto of Nunney CastleSo in September I got copies of the forms I needed to fill in and went off to Evans to choose a bike (so I'd know how much to apply for). Originally I had in mind a single speed/fixed light-weight hybrid, and the Charge Plug immediately caught my eye. Once I'd decided that single speed/fixed were pretentious I had a look at the Tap but decided that with the saving I was going to make I might as well go with the more expensive £800 Mixer. Evans didn't have any Mixers in at the time, but I figured that the Cycle2Work voucher would a little while anyway.

ChargeAfter a month or two I went to HR to enquire about the non-appearing voucher, unfortunately English isn't her first language so it took me three attempts over several weeks or months before I understood that the forms would not be processed until we had signed our new contracts in December. Meanwhile the Mixer was still on order so I wasn't too worried.

Shimano ChargeThe voucher arrived some time in February, by which time the Evans' website had started a cycle of naming a date when the Mixer would be available then going back to "contact us for details". Eventually I called Evans who said they couldn't tell me any more than the website, but amazingly gave me the phone number of their supplier when asked. The supplier was very helpful, telling me that the problem was a lack of the Shimano Alfine rear hubs, but Evans should be getting two Charge Mixers in the following week. I called Evans and practically begged to have one of the two and my wish was granted. Unfortunately by this time Evans had put the price of the bike up to £900 and I forgot to see if they'd do a price match as some people were doing it for considerably less.

So was it worth the wait? I suppose so. It's a bit heavy, especially at the back and the gearing could be a bit higher (I usually start in 4th or 5th and regularly get up to top gear, 8th), but the Alfine hub is apparently much superior to the Tap's Nexus. The disks are pretty nice too, my first.

After having a look at all the stickers on the bike I am a bit confused as to who actually makes it. I would have thought Charge make the bike, Evans sell the bike, but it doesn't look that simple. There's the Hot Wheels sticker, who are apparently distributors. Then there is Infinity who I think make the frame. Alex Rims and Continental tyres take care of the wheels. Shimano of course do the gears and breaks. Then there is the Ghetto of Nunney Castle, who I think might test the bike.

UPDATE: I finally got around to weighing my bike, on bathroom scales, so it's not that accurate, but the Charge Mixer weighs about 14kg.


Yvonne said...

As far as I know ´Nunney´is the chav abbreviation for a really terrible area in Grimsby (a place really lacking nice areas anyway) called Nunsthorpe. It is the kind of estate, or ghetto, if you will where the buses get petrol bombed regularly and instead of going to the pub, you go down to the local crack house. In the midle of this council housing estate is a playing field with a run down old concrete building on it, which smells of piss and may be the ´castle´. It makes me wonder if your bike was checked over by some crack heads with open wounds oozing puss. What do you think?

KFP said...

Hey iam in the market for one of these bikes :)
How is it holding up so far ?
what size did you get yours because i keep reading tha the frame is too big
Sorry for all the questions its just that nobody imports these bikes in Greece so i'll be getting it online