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.
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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 has a catalogue of hill-climb bike photos taken over the past couple of seasons to compare and contrast some of the machines’ modifications.
British hill-climb champion Adam Kenway and his Raleigh Militis bike after winning the 2017 Monsal Hill-climb. Cut-down bars, single chainring and barebones saddle.
Adam Kenway’s saddle has all of the cover and padding removed.
No bar tape or drops for Adam Kenway.
Dan Evans on his way to winning the 2017 Welsh hill-climb title on board his Cannondale Super Six Evo. This already light bike is made even lighter – albeit marginally – by the absence of bar tape.
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 in 2016, 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.
Lou Bates set a new women’s course record at Monsal in 2016, 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 at Monsal in 2016, 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 Monsal-winning bike from 2016 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 won the Monsal hill-Climb for the first time back in 1996. In 2016, 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 in 2016. And a very clean looking pair of shoes.