Newer converts to cycling may cast their eyes over my machine and be quite lost. So, eyes down for a history lesson.
As you will have spotted, my bike does not have disc brakes, electric gears or a fancy integrated handlebar and stem. Its tubes aren’t especially aero and look, the seatstays finish at the seat pin and not halfway down the seat tube. I know, weird. Its tyres are ‘only’ 25mm wide and get this, they still have inner tubes in them. It’s not that I have a deliberate aversion to all modern bike technology and when I built this bike in 2014 it was just about state of the art. A lot has changed since then, and none of it for the good – in my opinion.
The two key parts of any bike are the frame and the wheels – the rest really is just decoration. Invest in the core, a solid base, then you can continue to dress it with fancier parts as you go, that is what I have always done. I’ve only ever bought one bike off the peg – my Raleigh Corsa back in 1988 – and since then I have always purchased a frame and gone from there. In this case the frame is a 2014 Time NX. This is my second Time because they make frames to last: they are not the lightest but they make them strong, by hand, and they are works of carbon art.
I’ve never been for a bike fit. I buy frames with a 57cm seat tube, set my saddle height using the LeMond method (multiply your crotch-to-floor measurement by 0.883) and slam the stem, job done.
The next key part is the wheels. These needed to be clinchers to be practical as this isn’t a road race bike any more and they had to be quick up hills and mountains. I first went for a pair of Zipp 202s (because I liked the graphics) then after four good years’ use traded them in and upgraded to these beauties, the 202 NSWs. Apart from a pair of Lightweights I once borrowed these are without doubt the best wheels I have ever ridden, they are an absolute dream, light, direct, strong, but oh so expensive. In fact, they were so expensive I had to tell my wife to sit down when I broke to her the news about how much I spent. It turned out she was actually relieved because from the look on my face she thought someone had died.
As for components, I have been on Campag since 2004 and for this build and for the very first time I acquired a complete groupset. Before I’d just cobbled stuff together but this time it was all new and all matched. I went for Record because Super Record is for pros and I’m not a pro and this was the last good-looking crank any manufacturer ever made, fact. You may notice the Super Record rear mech, though, which was an eBay find after I wrecked the first Record one.
Like the frame, the pedals are Time and I’ve been loyal to this brand since 1990. Whatever Greg LeMond used, I wanted, and over the last 30 years I have had every incarnation they have released. There have been times when I have been tempted to change, mainly due to the often poor quality of their cleats but when you run five bikes with the same system that is quite an undertaking, so I have just stuck with them. Thankfully the current cleats are pretty robust and most importantly Time still, like they always have done, make the best looking pedals on the market.
My tyre of choice, which I have been running for three seasons now, are the Pirelli P-Zero Velos. I was sent a pair to test which replaced the Conti GP5000’s I was on and I fell for them right away: they are a dream to ride and as the say P-Zero on the side they also turn your bike into a supercar. I don’t fill them with white gunk, I don’t even know if you can, I just couldn’t handle the mess if any got on my frame or wheels. Instead, I use super light and supple latex inner tubes.
Although you might consider my entire set-up vintage, there is one part that really is – the saddle. I’ve pretty much ridden the same saddle since 1990 when I got my first Flite for my 18th birthday.
When the Flite TT came out, which is slightly sleeker and lighter, I then switched to these and have never changed. This isn’t a saddle you can buy off the shelf any more so when one fails or wears down to the carbon I have to search eBay to replace it because I’m pretty sure it’s the only thing my backside will fit now.
To finish off, I always use white bar tape, and yes, if you look closely you’ll see it’s wrapped from the top down! Heresy you cry! You can’t do that! Why not? I’ve been wrapping my bars like this for 30 years, it’s neater, there’s no need for ugly electrical tape at the top, and no, it does not rub up on the tops and curl up. That’s just a myth – try it!
This bike is for dry weather only, unless it is totally unavoidable during a sportive or hill-climb. I don’t road race any more but will enter a few big sportives and take on a full hill-climb season to put it through its paces but apart from that it’s kept on its toes chasing obscure KOMs with roaring tailwinds.
Every time I take it out it’s a treat to ride, but there are a few days when we have been in perfect harmony and one of those was the 2018 Fred Whitton.
After four wet editions I finally got to ride a dry one and I left everything on the road, in fact with five miles to go I’d left a bit more than everything on the road and rolled in on fumes but we were as one that day. It’s taken me round a Marmotte, a couple of Maratonas and across countless mountains and up a myriad of hills, and I know it will be going strong long after my legs fade.
My top three spec changes
As I built the bike from scratch all the parts are hand picked but as far as upgrades go over the last six years I’d have to say the ZIPP 202 NSW wheels are by far the best and I just hope they last forever because they only make disc versions now.
Other things I have added are the Nokon alloy gear and brake cables because they looked bling and would save me 0.0025 grams but I soon swapped the gear cables back as the shifting wasn’t as direct. I also swapped the hideously expensive Time carbon bottle cages which although light as a feather didn’t do an awfully good job of holding bottles so I replaced them with these Elite ones which were a tenth of the price.
Last year I also added a power meter so I could have absolute proof of how little power I could put out. Being a Campag user these are a fortune new so I turned to eBay and picked one up for a very good price. It’s Chorus, not Record and not of the same vintage but you can’t look at both sides of the bike at once so no one notices.
As for future additions I really don’t know where I would go. I obviously can’t downgrade to disc brakes and I’m never going to be in a situation where I need to change gear so fast that I need electric gears so it’s perfect. In fact this year all I have added are some Chinese alloy jockey wheels with ceramic bearings. I’ve no idea if they work though as I’ve not ridden them yet because as I write this it’s still February and this bike will be staying under cover until at the earliest late March, it is never ridden in winter, ever.
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- Frame: Time NX 57cm
- Wheels Zipp 202 NSW – see options at Wiggle, here
- Seatpost: Time Carbon
- Chainset, right hand: Campagnolo Record 175mm 53/39 – see Campagnolo components at Wiggle here
- Chainset, left hand: Campagnolo Chorus with Stages Power meter – see Stages Power meters at Pro Bike Kit here
- Chain: Campagnolo Record
- Front mech: Campagnolo Record
- Rear mech: Campagnolo Super Record
- Cassette: Campagnolo Chorus 13-19
- Brakes: Campagnolo Record
- Tyres: Pirelli P-Zero Velo 25mm – see for £44.99 at Chain Reaction Cycles here
- Tubes: Vittoria Latex – see from £12 at Wiggle
- Handlebars: Easton EA70 42cm – see from £54.99 at Wiggle
- Stem: Easton EA90 125mm – see for £84.99 at Wiggle
- Saddle: Selle Italia Flite TT
- Pedals: Time XPRO 10 – see for £129.99 at Tredz
- Bar tape: Deda Mistral – see from £9.99 at Wiggle
- Brake Cables: Nokon – see for £59.95 at Sigma Sports
- Bottle cages: Elite Paron – see for £6.99 at Hargroves
- Computer: Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt – see for £184.99 at Wiggle
- Weight 6.95kg