I decided to get a new bike through Cyclescheme as there were clear savings to be made. Fortunately my employers are very cycle-friendly (our bike park is indoors!) and they have already signed up to Cyclescheme previously.
Except, I ran into a problem: B'Twin is only sold in the UK by Decathlon, and it's a bit like Carrerra or Boardmans bikes are to Halfords. Decathlon is registered under Cyclescheme, but insisted that I had to call into one of their stores to make a Cyclescheme purchase.
In my case, that would've meant around a 6 hour round trip, adding probably well over £100 just in travelling costs to the picture, as well as using up a day's annual leave, just to call into the store to sign paperwork.
It get's better - some time after, when the bike was ready, I would've had to call in again to show photo ID of some sort, adding another £100 travel costs to the total.
Clearly this was senseless!
At this point I started looking around, specifically at the Carrera TdF from Halfords. Again an entry-level road bike, it had some good reviews, plus it was bright yellow, my favourite colour.
Except... it only had two chainrings, while the B'Twin is unusual in that it has three.
That extra chainring makes ALL the difference as I have two Cat 4 climbs on my 12 miles each way commute and the TdF reviews stated that it wasn't ideally geared for climbing.
After many emails and several phone calls, I finally received some great news from Mike, the Bikes Manager at Decathlon Surrey Quays in London: they'd sell me the B'Twin via Cyclescheme without me having to go into the store!
From that point onwards everything became almost a formality: work approved the request and after some time I received my Cyclescheme certificate (via email) and forwarded that to Decathlon.
Why the B'Twin you ask? Well, in addition to the triple chainring, I have some specific needs that were going to dictate what bike I get.
Rack: For starters, to me it'd be a fast commuter and not a competition bike, so it has to have support for fitting a rack to take my panniers. Both the Carrerra and the B'Twin ticked this box.
Mudguards: As a commuter, I need full mudguards. Again, both bikes support this and I've added Raceblades to my bike.
Cost/Value for money: I was price sensitive, especially to the point that this wouldn't be one of those only-ride-on-sunny-days bikes, but rather an everyday workhorse. I wouldn't feel comfortable putting a very expensive bike through that. I wanted something that offers quality but didn't cost the earth.
Trust the reviews: My friend Simon has exactly the same bike as what I got, and he raves about his. A review from somebody you know and trust means SO much more than an Internet review!
Heritage: I did some homework and it turns out B'Twin frames are built in Italy by Dedacciai. Just Google Dedacciai frames and see how much they cost! When you buy a B'Twin, you get a top-quality frame from an elite frame-builder, at a fraction of the usual price! Dedacciai also builds frames for Pantani, Cipollini, Petacchi and others. It turns out my cheapy bike has a rather good heritage.
Hills!: Yes, the ultimate clincher was the triple chainring. If my mind wasn't made up by anything else, this would've done the trick.
Now onto the bike itself. I haven't had it for all that long at all, and I'm still tweaking seat position, etc. to get it set up just right for me. So far I absolutely love it and I expect nothing will happen to change my mind about the bike.
I'll write a ride report once I've had more time to settle into the bike and in due course I'll have to change the tyres to something more puncture resistant.