One of the positive things about the impending Papal visit, is that it has spurred on a few friends to consider riding a bike. In lieu of a public transport system stressed by thousands of pilgrims, the humble bicycle now seems like a far better option. Needing only a spark of enthusiasm, I pounced on my friends with all the manipulative force of a cult leader trying to get followers to join their religion . I quickly organised a loner bike (from my BUG
), some riding lessons and became a 'bike buddy'.
The bike I borrowed is called a Gofa
. It markets itself as a utility bicycle that comes with everything on it for new riders. Being something of a bikesnob it was interesting to test-ride a bike that was one-sixth the value of my racing steed. Just how much bike could you buy for that? A lot it would seem.
The Gofa is built around a very strong step-through aluminium frame with a very relaxed or upright riding position. Its designed to suite people of varying heights, between 155cm and 186cm. At 177cm, I was towards the upper end of this spectrum but I didn’t feel too big on the bike. The Gofa comes with mudguards, a rear rack, front basket, quality front and rear lights and a combination lock. The great advantage of this bike is the value for money. It saves you nearly $300 of extras that you might otherwise spend on a basic commuter/hybrid. In this regard, it suits a very novice bicycle rider who doesn’t want to get caught up in all the confusing decisions that can come with buying bike accessories.
The ride quality of the Gofa was very good and I had no trouble pushing it into higher speeds in the traffic. The mountain bike slick tyres are a sensible compromise between comfort and speed. I did touch the ground with one pedal when charging through one roundabout, but provided you don’t corner like your on a criterium circuit, this is not really a problem. One of the things I really liked about the Gofa was the quality pedals. Having snapped many a plastic pedal in my youth, it was nice to see that they were made out of metal with some rubber edges for better grip. The next thing I liked was drive train set up. Based around a single front chainring with an 8 speed rear cassette, the Gofa gave me all the gears I needed for riding up and down big hills. Knowing the total confusion that comes over many a novice when faced with a triple chainset up front, I can see the appeal of having at single chainring. The Gofa also uses a single “Revo” gear shifter, which is much like the older “GripShift” motorbike-style shifter that Shimano made in the early 1990s. I’ve never been a fan of “GripShift” (especially if mountain biking) but the Revo shifter is an improvement and is fairly reliable.
The Gofa comes with a front basket that is very Euro chic in style, however it didn’t win me over in practicality. The front basket hangs off the handlebars using its weight to leverage it downwards. Other front baskets will have three contact points with the basket firmly attached lower to the frame with a ring that connects it to the bottom of the headset. The advantage of the Gofa’s front basket is that it is detachable, however I found it to be very jumpy when riding and was worried that my stuff would fall out of it. The weight of the basket was also a problem when parking the bike. When carrying a load in the basket, it was impossible to use the kickstand because the baskets weight would tilt the handlebars and tip the whole bike over. Given that the Gofa has a rear rack, I thought the addition of rear basket (or perhaps panniers) would have been a more functional and secure option. The only other problem I had with the Gofa was the lock mount. I found it fiddly to use and it didn’t feel very study. The cable lock offers low security however if you wanted to use a D-lock, I don’t think one would fit around both the frame and the front wheel.
The Gofa offers incredibly good value for money and is a excellent option for enticing someone back on the bike. At only $200 more than some department stall bikes it captures a niche between quality and mass appeal. It’s a highly rideable and practical choice of bike within a market where people are often sold bikes that are not suited to everyday urban cycling. As a machine designed for comfortable everyday cycling it works very well. However, as a load-carrying utility bicycle it could benefit from further refinements to make it even more appealing.