The Perfect

This is the Perfect. It isn’t the bike I’m going to be riding in TCR. It has some similarities though. I should also say that the bloke in that picture is not me. I will however be working to get my facial hair looking like that (ed: my beautiful wheel-building assistant informs me that I will not be working to get my facial hair looking like that…).

The Perfect
“The Perfect” – with thanks to the wonderful friend who gave it to me!

 But back to the bike. The bike is similar to mine in that despite the name, it isn’t perfect. And nor is mine. Because perfect is an elusive concept – much harder than you would think. There may be a perfect bike for a fast and grippy descent in the Alps, or a perfect bike for hammering along a smooth flat road with a medium headwind, or a perfect bike for a 6% climb on a dirt road, but when the descent gets wet, the wind swings to the side or the climb kicks up to 10% then suddenly none of those bikes will be perfect any more.

One thing that I am pretty sure of is that I will be facing all of those conditions through the TCR. And I won’t have the perfect bike for any of them. What I will have though is a fantastic compromise. I’m not going for perfect, but I’m going for the best possible compromise!

The obvious starting point is the frame. You can buy a frame straight out of a factory and as long as you have put a little bit of thought into it you will probably get something very good. To get it just that bit better though, you can go for a custom made frame. Now it just so happens that a guy I used to race against in Canberra is now manufacturing 100% custom frames in steel or titanium right in Canberra. His name is Luke, his frames are called Fikas and his work is superb. If you want a new frame, or you need some work done on your own frame, I strongly recommend having a chat to Luke.

Fikas – Beautiful custom bikes hand made in Canberra

I had a bit of a chat to Luke about what I was doing and what I would need for it, and he is building the frame for me right now. The material wasn’t very hard for me to choose. After my carbon road bike broke last year I decided that for TCR I wanted something durable. And comfortable. And still pretty light. I wanted titanium. Easy. But the next bit was much, much harder.

If you are going to get a custom frame though there is no point getting it in the wrong size, and getting the right size is surprisingly hard. You see everyone agrees approximately how a bike should fit, but even the experts disagree when it comes down to the finer details. And the variables aren’t just the frame – it has to allow for your own physique as well, which is much more complicated. I ended up going to two different experts for advice, making a whole lot of very small changes to what I had been riding for a long time, doing a lot more riding, and then settling on what seemed like the best synthesis of all of that. Big thanks to Michael Hanslip and Steve Hogg for a whole lot of advice that ended up with a position that feels great, and hopefully still will by the time I hit Meteora.

Figuring out what I want the frame to look like – comparing three of the many options!

Now if you ask basically anyone who has seen a bike what a bicycle looks like they will probably start with something like “It has two wheels and…”. So obviously that two wheels thing was something that I needed to address. There are thousands of wheelsets that you can buy straight off the shelf, and a lot of them are perfect… for something. Generally not perfect for a wide range of uses though, so again this was going to be a question of the best possible compromise. And in this case, the best possible compromise pretty much meant building the wheels myself (from parts I bought, of course! No laying up carbon fibre in the kitchen for me, thank you very much!). Of course the bike as a system has a whole lot of interdependencies, so I had to make a few other decisions before I could decide on the wheel parts, but I made them, and here we are – 45mm carbon rims from Nextie, DT Swiss spokes and rear hub, SON dynamo front hub, all built with my own fair hand (with help from my beautiful wheel-building assistant, of course) for 12mm through-axles and centre-lock disc brakes. At least, one of them is built, the other one is yet to be built, but I’m sure it won’t take too long!

Wheel building is something half the world things is ridiculously dull, and the other half finds wonderfully relaxing!
Wheel building is something half the world thinks is ridiculously dull, and the other half finds wonderfully relaxing!

There is a lot more to go after that of course, but I will leave that for the next post. You know you don’t want to miss it, so if  you haven’t done it yet you should probably subscribe now! Right now though I need to build a wheel!

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