So, what have I been doing? Well, there has obviously been the obligatory cycling up hills in a vain attempt to make the hills of South Wales, which I’ll be tackling in a couple of weeks, feel flatter. My training hasn’t been helped by the appalling weather, and after a while cleaning my bike almost daily got to be tedious, but I’m scaling some of the local climbs faster and in higher gears than I have previously so it hasn’t all been bad. I’ve even done the odd training loop on my mountain bike in a half baked attempt at strength training. Not sure what the people of North Devon made of the portly red faced bloke riding very enthusiastically but ultimately very slowly uphill on knobbly tyres but I think I can feel the benefit.
Apart from dodging the rain I’ve been busy swearing at things in the garage as I attempted to build a new bike that would be a bit lighter and more responsive for the rest of the remaining climbs. Initially I was going to rebuild my old Bianchi but the finished product fell down in a few areas. After years of riding with V brakes and disc brakes I found road bike calliper brakes just don’t impress me any more. I’ve got used to being able to almost stand a bike on it’s nose when slowing down. I’ve also got used to the advantages that fatter tyres can offer; mainly a more secure feeling of grip in damp conditions and better ride comfort on rough roads. Most of the climbs I’ll be tackling are in fairly exposed areas and in the 20 climbs I’ve ridden so far I’ve experienced a range of different road conditions, most of them rough. I also had a problem getting my desired gearing choice to work on the Bianchi and ended up with a chain line from hell that I couldn’t resolve. Because of these issues I decided to settle on a cyclo-cross frame as the basis of my new bike. I could fit big brakes, as many gears as I want and use fatter tyres than a road bike frame will allow.
After much head scratching I bought an Uncle John frame from Planet X and teamed it up with a Kinesis CX Disc fork. Both of these give me the option of running disc brakes if I want to in the future but for now I’ll be using Vs and the wheels off my Surly Cross Check. I’ve fitted it with my usual combination of mountain bike gears as even I’m aware that my summer of training won’t have left me so fit that I can fly up hills in top gear; I’m a low gear spinner and probably always will be.
The build wasn’t without its problems and the bottom bracket shell needed facing by my local bike shop to an extent that they’ve never seen before (it was on the wonk so much you could see it). I’m also struggling with a headset that is either too tight or too loose and I suspect a new headset will be needed at some point if I can‘t get the current one running smoothly. In addition to this the lovely metallic blue paint only needs you to look at it and it will chip. God only knows what being slung in and out of the car over the coming months will do to it. I’ve learned to live with the fact the wonky bar tape and an uncut steerer tube is the signature mark of all the bikes I build. Actually the alloy used on the Kinesis fork is so thick I’d probably need an angle grinder to shorten the damn thing and I’m not sure my neighbours could take the swearing. Apart from a few niggles I am happy with the bike. It feels faster than my Cross Check and it is a hell of a lot lighter. I can’t necessarily say the same about me but a lighter bike is at least a start.
Not a traditional road bike but surprisingly effective
My faithful Surly Cross Check is still going strong but the lighter stiffer ride offered by the Uncle John means the Surly will be relegated to being my spare bike. Besides the Cross Check needs a complete respray after three years of hard use which I’ll probably sort out over the winter.
The new bike will be getting a full workout in a couple of weeks when I spend a long weekend taking on seven of the Welsh climbs. I’m aiming to do no more than three climbs a day in order to limit the fatigue that builds up by the need to travel between the climbs. My trip to the Peak District also taught me that if I try four climbs in one day I’ll end up grovelling up every single climb the following day and now that I’m having to travel to increasingly far flung locations to take on the climbs I can’t risk not being able to complete the targeted climbs. More to follow on my Welsh adventures.