Posted by: Ian | June 7, 2010

My 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 by an extremely nice guy, who also knew his bikes. We arranged that I would go over at 7:30 one morning to get fitted up – and in true Condor style (because, as all their reviews show, they are simultaneously the best and the worst bike shop for customer service) – he didn’t show up. Full of apologies later, though, we made another appointment during regular shop hours and, more or less, that was when I got up on the jig and was assessed for bike size. Paradoxically, when I went up on the jig to be measured for my Tempo in Autumn 2008 the guy I spoke to then thought that I might benefit from a custom frame, even though I was after an off-the-shelf one, but this time, when I specifically asked for a custom frame, Missed Appointment Guy reckoned that a standard 61 cm (like the Tempo) was bang on for me. Although Missed Appointment Guy was hesitant to discuss the minor details of the groupset and componentry I might want as this could be sorted out once the frame was nailed down, he did talk about it enough to get me an approximate price for the finished bike. I like the idea of a custom paint job and the price for that is actually relatively modest: I don’t want anything garish but it’s interesting to select some colours off a RAL chart and I’d love to have some small flags – a St George, an Italian tricolour and a Japanese flag – painted on to reflect the provenance of the bike and its components. A couple of days later Missed Appointment Guy let me know, when I called him to follow up, that they have a 61 cm Classico in stock waiting to be painted. I sent him my thoughts about how I’d like it done and waited. Then I called him up a couple of days later, just to make sure that he’d got everything he needed.

As I’ve been going through this process the compelling logic of having a training bike – which is compelling for anyone who does many miles in all weathers – has rubbed off on Emily and she’s thinking of getting one too. This week she plans to go in to Condor and hopefully she can see whether Missed Appointment Guy has any news for me. I hate to chase him because he’s a nice chap and he’s probably just waiting to hear back from someone at the factory. But the news-less waiting gives me time to think of alternatives. The obvious one is to go to Mosquito Bikes in Islington where they boast about how good their custom fitting service is. I much prefer Condor but Mosquito do supply a good range of bikes and a steel job from Independent Fabrication would probably be just as good as a Classico.

This evening I’ve also had another thought. I put my Van Nicholas Amazon Rohloff tourer up on the workstand, enabling me to stare comfortably, but still perplexed, at the eccentric bottom bracket, wondering how to adjust it, with only the tools I own, to tighten the chain. I’m pretty sure that a Condor Classico with an Ultegra groupset and customised paint job (but without wheels as I don’t need them) will cost me around £2k. For less than £1,500 I could get a Van Nic Mistral. This comes with a 105 groupset; in my experience the 105 is not as slick as the Ultegra, but a recent review in Cycling Weekly alleges that the new version of the 105 is not only cheaper than the old 105 but is indistinguishable from Ultegra or even DuraAce. And the Mistral also comes with wheels. More significantly, it’s Titanium. Although I love the ride of my steel Condor Tempo, there is very much to be said for having a winter trainer constructed from a material that doesn’t rust. If I wanted to improve the spec, I could even get the more upmarket Van Nicholas Euros. The name (which matches the pricing policy) gives a clue that the cost of these might come down quite a bit if I wait a few days. Even at the current exchange rate, the Euros equipped with an Ultegra groupset (and wheels) costs less than the Classico. I wouldn’t get the experience of being fitted on the jig and I’m distrustful of the self-measurement methodology on the VN website. Even so, since my recent jig process at Condor amounted to little more than matching the set-up to the dimensions of my Tempo I can easily do that at home, comparing the bike geometry of each potentially relevant Euros frame size with that of both my Tempo and my Felt. For 300 more Euros I can give them exactly the frame geometry I want if their standard ones don’t look right. Plus a Van Nic would ship directly to me (or, if I prefer, to a local dealer in Taunton, who will then provide free lifetime service), and the follow-up from Van Nic is, to my direct knowledge, superb. Add to that, the Mistral (I guess) and the Euros (for sure) is a lighter frame than the Classico.

But I do love the Condors and the ride on my Tempo is exceptional. Custom paint job or not, the lugs are much nicer than any welds, no matter how tidily done. What to do??



  1. […] bought the Astraeus as a winter trainer after much deliberation about the available options. One benefit of the trouble I had buying it is that I’ve ended […]

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