The British hill-climb race season is unique. Within just a handful of weeks in October, riders congregate on some of the country’s most challenging hills to see who can ride up them the quickest.
Some of the events have been going for a century or more, and in that time the machines used by riders have evolved into the super-lightweight bikes that we see today.
Not content with using the latest lightweight carbon-fibre frames, wheels and gears, individual riders often make further weight-saving modifications.
>>> Adam Kenway and Lou Bates win Monsal Hill-Climb (gallery)
Removing un-needed brakes, saddle padding, chopping off handlebars, getting rid of bar tape… every gram counts when you’re going up hill. However, sometimes the modifications are for a mental advantage as much as physical.
Cycling Weekly photographer Andy Jones took a series of side-on shots of riders’ bike during the 2016 Monsal Hill-Climb in the Peak District to compare and contrast some of the machines on show.
Jack Pullar’s bike is perhaps one of the more extreme hill-climb machines. The 2012 national hill-climb champion used a fixed-gear bike at Monsal, with a Lightweight rear wheel and an Edco front on a Dolan aluminium track frame. Cut-down bars and Continental tyres complete the package.
From the front, you can see how narrow Pullar’s bars are. Just the one brake lever, to work the front brake.
Women’s winner Lou Bates set a new course record at Monsal, and has a pared-down hill-climb machine. The saddle is a carbon-fibre model with no padding and Bates has used modified time trial bars on her Cervelo R5. There’s a single-ring Rotor chainset and Shimano Di2 rear mech.
A view of Lou Bates’s handlebars from the front, with the Di2 unit held in place using insulating tape.
Ben Swift used his stock Team Sky Pinarello F8, with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 gears and C35 wheels. No modifications here, although the spectating border collie seems very interested in his front hub.
Adam Kenway’s bike Monsal-winning bike is based on a Kuota Khan frameset. The Rotor chainset has the inner ring only. There’s a mechanical Dura-Ace rear mech, Zero Gravity brakeset and Lightweight wheels. The road bars have been sawn off at the drops and the saddle has been reduced to a carcass.
Russell Downing placed third on the day with a new personal best. He won the Monsal hill-Climb for the first time back in 1996. He used his stock JLT Condor road bike with Campagnolo Bora One wheels and Record EPS drivetrain. No chopping of bars here.
Joe Clark went into the 2016 Monsal Hill-Climb as defending champion. He used his team issue Giant bike with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 gears and TU climbing wheels, which drop in at 934g for the pair. The border collie doesn’t look impressed, for some reason.
100 Cycling Climbs author Simon Warren used his trusty Time with Zipp 303 wheels, single chainring and insulating tape on the bars. And a very clean looking pair of shoes. Warren had taken part in the Urban Hill Climb in London the day before, travelling up to Monsal in the Peak District to complete two days of hill-climb racing.