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.

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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?