Fitting the final details – pt 1

After some soul searching I opted to stick with SPD style pedals rather than going to a proper road pedal such as the Look KEO range which William and a few others had recommended. It wasn’t that I doubted the widsom of the advice, but experiences of seasoned audax riders suggest that walking safely and comfortable at stops wins out over strict pedalling efficiency.
With a bit of web research, the Shimano A600 pedals and RT-82 shoes seemed to be an almost ideal compromise. The pedals are light, single sided and have a much larger platform than a conventional mountain bike SPD pedal. The shoes are a touring shoe, also light and with a reasonably stiff sole, and an upper that is much closer to a road shoe design. Sadly, cycle touring doesn’t seem to be a big market for Shimano in South Africa and so neither were readily available locally, meaning an online order to the UK was needed. Wiggle were helpful as ever though.
The almost final part of the jigsaw for now,  was the handlebar. In fact, over the first few weeks riding Jolly, I came to like the entry level Giant bars that we’d fitted initially. So by the time my Wiggle order arrived with the pedals, shoes, and Ritchey Pro Biomax II bar I wasn’t really sure the new and more expensive bar would add very much. Having spent the money though, I figured I should at least give it a try and after a couple of weeks riding with them I’m very glad I did. Many of the reviews I’d read commented favourably on the the small “speed bump” sculpted into the drops, and I have to agree – it makes for a very comfortable position for riding in the drops especially after a prolonged period.
With these remaining pieces in place it was time to go have a proper bike fitting. A number of the Wannabees riders spoke highly of Erika Green and her husband Spook, of Daisyway Coaching Systems. Rather handily, they are just a short ride down the road from me, so a visit was clearly in order. In fact, we only got part way through the fitting. Spinning on the stationary trainer, Spook quickly confirmed that my saddle height was correct, but also agreed with William’s assessment that my saddle needed to go back approx 5mm further than my current seatpost allowed. That’s not great news, because it means I have two lovely expensive USE Alien Titanium seatposts that I can’t use. Worse still, it leaves me with just the similarly pricey Van Nicholas seatpost as the only Titanium post with a larger setback. We wrapped up this first part of the fitting with a proper cleat setup, and deferred further saddle and stem adjustments until I could get a Van Nicholas seatpost to try.
With a couple of rides done since the fitting, I can already feel the benefit of the proper cleat positioning – definitely helping for a smoother and more natural pedal stroke. I might be imagining it, but it feels like I can lay down more explosive power too when needed, but perhaps that is just a factor of my other training starting to pay off.
Just need to wait patiently now for the new seatpost before we can make those final adjustments – and hope that I can sell the surplus USE ones for a decent price locally.
Photographs of Shimano pedals, shoes, and Ritchey handlebar from the Wiggle cycle store website.
Photographs of USE Alien seatpost picture from Chain Reaction Cycles cyclestore website.

Pieces coming together

No racing this weekend and only light training now until the Argus on the 11th March, which gives some time to update on progress with the new bike. Or more accurately at this stage, the slowly accumulating pile of pieces that will hopefully all come together successfully in the form of the new bike.

The first delivery arrived a few days ago from SJS Cycles in the UK. 

Most significant are the two silver components on the boxes – the dynamo hub and the LED front light that it will power. These small, excruciatingly expensive pieces of German engineering are defacto choices for serious audaxing. I just hope that their reputation is worthy of the cost and distance they have travelled.

 Also pictured are the Brooks B17  saddle, and it’s saddle conditioning care kit. These also appear to be an almost automatic choice amongst long distance riders, but at this stage I cannot fathom why. I’m convinced the saddle would be only slightly harder if it was entirely fabricated from diamonds. I’m told that regular applications of the leather cream, and about 500km of riding will see it nicely softened and formed to my backside (or more likely my backside formed to it). Either way, at this stage I’m rather doubtful that it’s surface and my behind will have anything other than the briefest of encounters.

Another major milestone has been finalising the frame design with Justin Burls. Justin’s interpretations of my measurements and descriptions of riding style were spookily close to Merry’s current dimensions even in his first CAD drawing. A few emails ironed out the remaining kinks: lengthening the head tube a tad for more upright without an unsightly spacer stack; and room for mudguards with longer chainstays and altered fork angle to reduce toe overlap.

I’ve also pretty much settled on an Ultegra groupset. The luscious Italian lines of Campagnolo Chorus had me mesmerized for a long time. In the end though, the need for a special £200 tool to link or repair the 11 speed chain was a deal breaker. Not just for the ludicrous cost, but also the impracticality of carrying such a bulky item on a long ride. You can be sure the one tool you don’t have is the one you’ll most need, and that made the risk just too great. The chances of being able to find spares for and repair Shimano out on the road made it a much simpler choice even without the incentive of cost saving.

The use of mudguards and Kinesis DC07 forks also helped in the Shimano decision. The best choice for the long drop brake calipers that are needed to fit around mudguards looks to be the Shimano R-650s. These would look so badly wrong on a bike with an otherwise Campagnolo groupset – Nike sneakers poking out under an Armani suit. Although I’ve yet to source the Ultegra components, I found a great deal on the calipers from Buy Cycle, so with luck these should be here by the end of the week.

All positive strides towards the new ride and something to look forward to after the Argus.

During the Argus though, I’ll be one of many cyclists who pedal just that bit harder up Suikerbosse in memory of South African cycling legend, Ertjies Bezuidenhout, who passed away today.