A month or two ago I wrote about a special frame I was making at the Windover workshop for this year’s Pan Celtic that was a homage to the old school bike my mother rode for many thousands of miles.
It’s now complete, built up, race tested and ready to ride on 2nd July when the 2023 Pan Celtic Race departs from St Malo. A 3-day trial along London's Thames path out to Kent and round the Kent and Sussex coast back to Worthing over the recent bank holiday weekend has bedded everything in.
Past experience has taught me to be particularly vigilant about two aspects of building an ideal endurance bike: touch points and luggage system.
On the touch points, I sought out SQLab after becoming aware of their components and obsessive focus on ergonomics at last year’s Bespoked bike show in London when we exhibited our Beacon and Bostal models publicly for the first time. SQLab supplied the grips, bars, pedals and saddle, all tailored to my specific needs and body dimensions given their wide range of options and excellent online fitting guides. Having covered around 400 miles on the bike so far, all I can say is WOW! So much so that we’ll be including their finishing kit as upgrade options on our models in the future. So that’s a big tick for staying comfortable on the bike for long distances.
As for luggage systems, I strongly favour a solid rack system, but in the last race had everything in a dry bag strapped to the top of a rack as traditional panniers were too bulky and wide. The result? I ended up having to unpack everything to get at anything and ended up losing so much kit when severely fatigued. And the lost sleep faffing around was heartbreaking! Enter Tailfin stage left. James and the Tailfin team supplied me with their aero pack along with 5 litre side packs and I am simply blown away. The exceptional quality means everything is absolutely secure and no amount of weather is getting in. The system is ideal for modular packing which is so much more efficient. In the top I’ve had my sleeping kit (bag, bivvy, beanie and down jacket), in the left pack I have my cycling kit and in the right my personal kit, electronics and food. It’s all so elegant and very aero, so I’m not going to sacrifice too much of the pitiful power my bamby legs generate. My dad’s words echo “Buy good stuff, buy it once, and you’ll never regret it.” I’m looking forward to racing and touring with these bags for many years to come.
Finally, wheels and groupset. I’ve gone for a handbuilt set of aluminium wheels from DCR. Their attention to detail and vast experience building wheels mean I am totally confident about both the performance and durability of the wheels - and they look fabulous too. I’ve gone for a Deore 1x12 groupset - yes it’s a mountain bike groupset, but the 10x32 high ratio is plenty fast enough for me and the massive 51x32 low ratio will help me spin gently up the highest of hills with tired legs. Tyre wise I’ve been trying some Maxxis Re-Fuse (32c) which have been great, but I’ve not done sufficient miles to have full confidence so I’ll probably end up going with dependable Marathon Plus or Mondial tyres.
So, bring on St Malo next month (and some good weather this year please Matt)!