I thought I'd do my bit to help address the Bike Sales in Decline concern. And, it being the end of the year, there are some decent deals out there... So I went and invested in a Giant Toughroad SLR 2. Basically it's an experiment to see how I get on with flat bars. I only ever use two positions on the drops (or so I believe - I may find out differently) so flat bars with the bar-end thingies might work. I also want to strip the Tricross down and give it a bit of a good clean, and change a few bits and bobs, and knowing me that'll take forever and I don't want to be without a bike for that period. But most importantly, on all the rides I've done this year my favourites elements have been the tow-paths and farm tracks, the places where the lanes became grass and gravel and stone and the cars fade away, the long trail through the apple orchards, the paths through the woods, and so on. I'm not a down-hiller or a technical rider by any stretch of the imagination but I do enjoy the cross-country green-laney type thing. That's why I bought a Tricross and it has coped admirably - even on 28mm tyres. But there have been several moments when I wished I was on a mountain bike or at least something with straight bars, and better brakes. And there have been a few times when I've planned routes that avoid such lanes because I know they are a little too green. Going forward my aim will be to try and incorporate more and more of that type of trail into my longer rides. And hopefully the Toughroad will still get me to such places in a degree of comfort. I'm not worried about speed - I know I'm pretty slow, but I've always liked taking it easy, taking lots of photos, enjoying the scenery, rather than blatting along. I will still do some Audax's and if I'm at the back... well nothing will have changed! The low gears will be a boon, too. I'm really looking forward to going back to a few of the hills that conquered me this year and seeing if low gearing makes a difference. If it does - and it may be a big if - that will open up a whole new set of routes that I've deliberately avoided this year. So that's the thinking. I might find none of it comes out like I'd imagined. But I shall give the experiment a good shot and see what happens. Or, maybe it's all just a case of n+1 ????