Hill-climb bikes are notoriously homebrewed mix-and-match affairs, and the bike that won the legendary Monsal Hill Climb in the Peak District on October 2 is firmly in that very British tradition.
Above all, a hill-climb bike has to be as light as possible. They are not constrained by the UCI's 6.8kg weight limit. So with this relatively heavy Planet X Nanolight dating back to the beginning of the last decade, Gregg Booker definitely had work to do.
“It’s actually my dad’s, explains 25-year-old Booker. “It’s easily got to date back to 2010.”
‘Nanolight’ in those days meant under a kilo, so its claimed weight of 999g just manages to do that - at least as far as the marketing of the time was concerned.
However, Booker has done everything in his power to mitigate the extra 300g or so the ancient Planet X gives away to the frames of the best road bikes to bring it in at sub 6kg: that means hacking off the drops, removing the rubber hoods from the Shimano Ultegra R8000 shifters and running a set of 1,100g tubular DT Swiss Dicut RRC 32T wheels with 23mm Vittoria Speed tubs.
Further weight savings come via a 1x setup - the SRAM Force carbon chainset with an aftermarket 36t Superstar Raptor oval chainring that Booker says smooths out the dead spots on very steep gradients.
The mish-mash of components can only loosely be described as a groupset - Booker has simply gone with whatever keeps the weight as low as possible and allows him to put a race-winning amount of power through the Garmin Vector 3 pedals without the bike falling apart.
Although he recorded an impressive 679 watts for the 'official' 0.29-mile Strava segment, which took him 1-08 (though his official race-winning time was 1-19.4), Booker, who is local and has ridden the course many times, says that sounded low and he’d normally expect around 800, putting the anomaly down to a probable dropout.
As for the ride quality, Booker says it's surprisingly good: "Stiff, responsive... it's all I need."
Are we likely to see this bike at the National Hill Climb Championship on The Old Shoe near Llangollen, North Wales on October 30?
"No, I'm a bit heavy for that - it's a mile of 12 per cent average and I'm more of a short-stint rider," says Booker, who weighs "73 or 74 kilos... but I've won three out of the four hill-climbs I've done this year and I'm happy with that and surprised to win at Monsal."
Booker, who lives near the Bakewell climb, finished third in 2018 and fourth last year.
The record still stands at 1-14.2, set by Malcolm Elliott in 1981.
Cutting off the drops - which aren't used anyway - is standard practice in UK hill-climbs. Perhaps removing the rubber hoods is going further than some riders, but fortunately the bare Ultegra 11spd shifters are smooth enough to hold securely while putting down the power.
Booker is running a negative rise 3T ARX Team stem in order to get slightly lower towards what would have been an in-drops position.
SRAM Force 1x chainset with Oval Superstar chainring
"I'm running a SRAM Force carbon chainset and a Superstar Raptor oval chainring," says Booker. "I find oval smooths it out a bit more especially when you’re pushing hard in those bigger gears.
"When you’re on a 16 or 17 per cent gradient and you’re at that weakest point in the pedal stroke it takes the dead spot away, so I do find it helps for climbing.
A lot of people run 1x narrow-wide chainrings to save weight and oval is relatively rare. The data is there to show oval works but not everyone is convinced."
Booker is using a pair of well used Garmin Vector 2 power meter pedals, which are there to analyse the data afterwards rather than to look at during the ride, he explains.
"The wheels are top of the range DT Swiss, 1,100 grams," says Booker. "I used to work in a bike shop in Chesterfield and those wheels were ridden by a guy called Danny Featherstone, who did a 1-22 on Monsal [in 2016, he was eighth]. I saw them there at the back of the shop and said to the manager, do you mind if I have those wheels and he just said ‘yeah’.
"The Vittoria Corsa Speed tubs are only 23mm and I put 110psi in them, which was a bit too much because they were skipping about all over the place."
Mt Zoom seatpost and unpadded carbon saddle
The seatpost is from British brand Mt Zoom that makes lightweight components mostly for XC mountain bike racing and weighs around 150g, according to Boooker. It's held in place by a Pinarello carbon collar (out of shot) that lends the bike a little bit of arguably much-needed Italian class.
Booker didn't name the carbon unpadded saddle, simply agreeing that it's "unbranded".
Behind the saddle is an Exposure TraceR rear light. Hill-climb bikes - perhaps slightly bizarrely - come under the rules and regs of Cycling Time Trials, and that means lights front and rear just in case motorists don’t notice the crowds packing the roadside and the fact that the actual hill-climb course to Monsal Head was closed that day.
Booker was running a Knog Blinder 4 LED front.
- Frame: Planet X Nanolight
- Wheels: DT Swiss Dicut RRC 32T
- Tyres: Vittoria Corsa Speed tubular 23mm
- Chainset: SRAM Force
- Chainring: Superstar Raptor oval 36t
- Shifters, rear derailleur, casette and brake calipers: Shimano Ultegra R8000
- Bar: Planet X carbon
- Stem: 3T ARX Team
- Seatpost: Mt Zoom
- Saddle: carbon unbranded
- Weight 5.9kg
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