Wheels, etc: The Pendleton Somerby

An Olympic star? Or a cupcake on wheels?

A A A

Price: £279, Halfords
Frame size: 16in or 18in steel/aluminium frame
Wheel size: 700c
Weight: 15.1kg (approx)
Gears: 7 gears, Shimano Revoshift gear shifter

If you close your eyes and imagine the kind of bike design that world and Olympic champion cyclist Victoria Pendleton might come up with, it's fair to say that you won't be picturing anything that looks much like the Pendleton Somerby, one of a new range of women's cycles she has designed in collaboration with Halfords. In pastel blue, with cream mudguards and tyres, brown faux-leather saddle and handgrips and sit-up-and-beg handlebars, this is definitely more Call the Midwife than Tour de France.

The new range is designed exclusively for women (as opposed to being an add-on to a men's range). The bikes are stripped of the extraneous whizzy features and multitudinous gears that Halfords' research tells them we don't want and are aimed at beginners and those returning to cycling (which is perhaps a chivalrous way of saying middle-aged women, like me).

So here I am, squarely in the target market. And yet. I find I resist the whole concept of a "women's bike" (this one is "perfect for shopping"). The truth is that one of the things I find exciting about cycling is that it brings out a competitive, macho side I never knew I had. I feel no desire to add the Somerby's optional wicker basket and fill it with flowers. My cycling fantasies run more to gleaming, Hoxton-friendly fixies than the girly Pashleys upon which this bike seems to model itself. But that's the fantasy. In humdrum reality, my main ride is a bulky Boris bike. At home, I ride a hybrid in an entirely gender-neutral colour, whose styling hints at mountain-biking aspirations. I bought it from a colleague on the grounds that it was unlikely to get stolen. Of its 21 gears, I use seven. It's a women's bike, but at least it's not a girl's bike. The slightly sportier white Dalby, another of Pendleton's three designs, might be a little bit more up my street.

So how do I feel about riding this cupcake on wheels? First impressions are not so good. Image problem aside, there's quite a bit of rattling considering it's fresh from the box and I immediately notice that it's a bumpy ride. It's hard to forget this because he vintage-style chrome bell rings whenever I go over the tiniest bump – ping! ping! I set out on the 5.5-mile ride home from the office with my thumb jammed on the bell to silence it.

That's when I discover the upside. The Somerby is suprisingly nippy. Whether it's down to a light frame or Pendleton had more of a hand in the technical side than she admits (she says she leaves that to the experts), I can get up real speed and feel in control. Gear changes are smooth. There are seven gears, though on the flattish terrain I ride regularly I can't imagine ever having a use for gears one, two and three, and I could definitely have done with an eight and nine to give me a bit more oomph when riding through London's parks.

So ultimately, the Somerby won me over. Bumpiness aside, for the price it's a practical choice for non-techie, lycra-shunning women commuters. Or shoppers, even.

The competition

The Poppy by British vintage-style experts Pashley comes in, erm, blush pink and pastel blue. It cost £450, for which you get classic good looks, three gears and a steel frame, which makes for a slower-but-sturdier ride.

Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test