Posted by: Ian | May 23, 2010

My perfect training bike

I’ve been thinking for a while of getting a new bike that I can use in the rain, mud and snow of winter, and more generally to enable me to reserve the Felt for sportives and special rides. I like the idea of saving my lightest and fastest bike for occasions when those qualities are most important. While it can be viewed as an extravagance, I see it as a way of enhancing the value of the Felt, both psychologically – in heightening my awareness of its speed – and also more mundanely in avoiding the rate of wear on the Felt’s more expensive components.

It’s exciting to mull over what to get. The first essential choice is material. I already have one bike made from each of carbon (the Felt), steel (my Condor Tempo), titanium (the Van Nic) and aluminium (my Specialized Tricross). I love them all and each of them is best for its own type of riding. For my new bike I’m ruling out aluminium straight away because after thirty miles or so the ride starts to feel too harsh. I’m also ruling out carbon because that would miss the point of what I’m after. I could get a kick-ass carbon racer and relegate my Felt to be a training bike or I could get a “cheap” carbon training bike – both of which have been proposed by our carbonophiliac friend, Joerg. Not only would this not give me the contrast I want between my A bike and my B bike, for a winter trainer I simply don’t trust the material. The frame of the Felt seems precious and unhardy, and this impression was borne out by Emily’s crash in last year’s Exmoor Beast, after which her Scott was judged irreparable despite there being no obvious damage to it.

I can think of no obvious rational reason to rule out titanium. I love the ride of both my Van Nic and the Litespeed I used in Maui, and Ti is sturdy, relatively light and rustproof. It’s often said to be expensive but I could run to, say, Euro 1,700 for a complete Van Nicholas Mistral if I wanted it enough, and it’s hard to see anything about it that’s not to like. But I think I want steel. I can’t say why exactly but the pleasure I get from zipping around London on my Tempo is a big part of it. Sheldon Brown argues that most of the commonly held preconceptions about the differences between bike materials are ill-informed. I can report from my own experience that these preconceptions are actually right on the money, at least as far as the bikes I own and have ridden are concerned.

For my frame geometry I’m inclined to go classical. The Tempo has a more modern and relaxed set-up with a sloping top tube and a relatively wide rear triangle. I can see why the guy I was chatting to at the Cornwall Tor last weekend cycled Land’s End to John O’Groats on his Fratello, which has the same frame. Much as I enjoy the Tempo, if I’m getting a new bike I want something a bit different, beyond the addition of gears. Likewise, I’ll be eschewing the compact chainring this time in favour of a standard 53-39 and choosing a narrower range of sprockets (maybe 11-25) on the cassette. For wheels, I’ll use the Mavic OpenPro with the CycleOps Powertap built into it that’s currently on my Felt at the back and the Mavic Ksyrium Equipe that used to be on my Felt on the front. (On the Felt I’ll keep the Ksyrium Elite from Emily’s crashed Scott on the front and add the matching wheel onto the back too. One day I may upgrade the Felt to deep-rim wheels, possibly with tubulars.)

Given that the training bike will have the Powertap on, I’m sticking with Shimano, which is my preference anyway. I don’t need to splash out on Dura-Ace but I will probably go for an Ultegra over the 105 groupset. If I can make it up the hills here with a heavier frame, heavier wheels, harder gears and a less refined groupset, the Felt should be a breeze.

My current front-runner for an actual model is the Condor Classico. It’s unfortunate that it sounds more like an ice-cream than a bike but hopefully in the customisation process I can get the name off the frame. The lugged steel is very appealing, though perhaps reveals me to be a Rouleur phoney nostalgia victim. I’m inclined to get a proper modern saddle rather than see how a Brooks would shape up after a few thousand kilometres. I’m in two minds about the steel fork and what to choose for the other components.

Early on Tuesday I’ll be at the Condor shop for a fitting. If I measure up close to one of the Classico’s standard frames I may well order it. If not, I might order a custom built frame – the lead time is currently 20 weeks so I’d get it just in time for the bulk of the winter. Until I have committed myself with an order all ideas and alternative suggestions are very much welcome.



  1. […] A few months ago Ian announced that he was going to get a training bike. Prior to this, I had been blissfully unaware of the gaping hole in my bicycle collection. Once the […]

  2. […] perfect training bike – second thoughts After writing recently about my perfect training bike I went to Condor and asked about getting measured up for a custom-fit Classico. I was looked after […]

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