A few months went by and a lot of things have changed. We no longer live in London, I have a new and more demanding/exciting job and I haven’t built a wheel since August. I have a much nicer space to work on bikes and wheels, but I have far less time than I used to. I have also decided that wheelbuilding is going to be a hobby and nothing more from now on.
Like many, between Christmas and the New Year I stepped on the scale for the first time in months: it was with a certain degree of horror that I realised I have piled up the equivalent weight of a modern road bike, that despite 100 miles a week of commuting. Action required, I decided to enter the Fred Whitton Challenge for the very first time (subject to lottery). I always wanted to do it, but I have always been too lazy, weak, feeble, scared, you name it…
I am no stranger to demanding rides: I have done the Raid Pyrenean, the Etape du Dales, Paris-Roubaix twice, the Eroica three times and a few others, but the Fred is something different: it’s not just about going up, it’s also about going down! Beside the unavoidable 15-20 pounds that I need to lose to climb Hardknott, I also need to look at the bike, specifically to the brakes.
Tottering in the West Midlands, I could probably be content with a Dutch back-pedal brake, but coming down Buttertubs in a gale last year I smoked the pads of my front TRP HyRD. Nothing dramatic, but few seconds more and it could have been less of a happy ending. I run semi-metallic pads, which seem to be a bit of a jack of all trades. I could run sintered metallic pads, those won’t fade at high temperature, but they will pass the heat to the hydraulic system, which might not be a good thing. Frustratingly, there is nothing really impressive on the market: hundreds of alleged manufacturers selling exactly the same thing, while I would like the daddy of all pads, the one that never fades and doesn’t dissipate through the hydraulic: some sort of silicon carbide compound would do, but nothing like that in sight. I will probably revert to a mechanical caliper like Hayes CX 5 or Spyre and sintered pads for the day, it seems the most sensible option.
Wheels: I have lots of Sapim D-Light spokes left from my building days and will rebuild my HED + rims with those: that will shed a few grams over the current two year old Alpina ellipticals and give me another 12-15K miles of trouble free riding… shame they are black, I hate black spokes, but beggars are not choosers, right?
Tyres: last year I have been very happy with the IRC Roadlite and although I was tempted to get another pair, in the end I took advantage of the perennial sales and got a pair of Hutchinson Sector. Everybody rave about them and it’s time I give them a try, tubeless of course.
Gears: at the moment I have a 36 x 34, which goes pretty much anywhere, but on the day I might even get a cassette with a 36 T sprocket, for extra peace of mind, gradients are brutal up there.
Clothing: in Britain this is where the money is better spent. In the Lake District it rains more than anywhere else in Western Europe and gale force winds are not uncommon even in late spring and summer. I have just ordered a Castelli Alpha jacket, again following the trend. Some might think it’s excessive for May and I hope they are right, but I fear it might just be right.
Did I miss anything? Oh yes, back to the diet plan…