When the 98th Tour de France route was announced last October, I got more excited that usual, as the ASO had scheduled two stages plus a rest day and re-start in the Auvergne, an area we know well and cycle regularly. So with holidays and Euro Tunnel booked, Sarah and I headed off for a TDF week in the Massif Central.
We had obviously taken road bikes with us to be able to follow the race in the mountains, but for a while I had been meaning to fix my ancient Marin MTB which had been rusting in a French outbuilding for a few years. Armed with my brand new shifter, cable and enthusiasm to ride a mountain bike again after a 10 year lay-off, I set about the necessary repairs.
That very afternoon, my maiden voyage reminded me why I ride road bikes, as I disappeared base over apex on a loose descent, coming to rest with the mangled handle bars jamming into my thigh, pinning me to the ground. Day one could therefore not be deemed a success, having a knackered bike, a knackered shoulder and more importantly a battered, swelling leg which made me walk like Worzel Gummage for a few days.
A couple of days later and back on a ‘proper’ bike, a spin up the local hills through the village of Cros was in order. Reassuringly, my Peg Leg felt much better on a bike than when walking, so things were looking up, as the next journey was a recce of the local Cat 2 climb of Col de la Croix St Robert, a climb I had done before on the Auvergnate Sportive.
Sarah was looking forward to trying her new Cube bike on a long hill, so we rode along race route, through La Bourboule, steadily climbing all of the way to the ski resort of Le Mont Dore, where the proper climb begins. After two or three hairpins, the straight 1 km grind begins under trees before the roads opens up to superb views of the town and the surrounding mountains. After another km, we located the perfect spot to watch from, with views back across the valley in addition to the section of 6% we were now on. Recce completed, we continued up the climb to the top at 1451 metres (with only a few walkers and birds of prey for company) before turning for home.
The plan for race days was to walk the dog, make a picnic and set off early to retrace our route to the view point. What a difference a couple of days makes – motor homes were slotted in wherever possible, deckchairs were strategically placed in the town and even Didi the Devil made an appearance. The climb road was already closed to traffic when we arrived, so this time we had nothing to worry about other than weaving through the hundreds of spectators who were already marching up, loaded with chairs, cool boxes, flags and all types of banners. We rode past the bell ringing cattle until looking up through the trees to where I thought our view point would be, I noticed some Belgian flags – in fact lots of them.
As we approached the spot, it became clear that the flags on one side of the road belonged to the motor home on the other – the occupants being six Belgian guys, kitted out in matching Hawaiian shirts, homemade straw hats and even more flags. Sarah parked her bike whilst I went for another summit attempt, still wondering if our new neighbours were really the ones we wanted for the next few hours. Putting these thoughts to one side, there was actually plenty of time to have another good look over the climb, so with a sensible gear selected to push the last few km, I continued until passing under the King of the Mountains banner. This time the cross wind up the valley was much more noticeable than before and it would be a stern test for anyone later who was not in the bunch.
On arriving back with Sarah and the Belgians, the music from a massive speaker in the back locker of the motor home, the dancing, the beer drinking and most importantly the flag waving was all in full swing – something which continued for hours in a very jovial and good humoured way. Indeed, they kept us and the ever increasing crowd entertained with what must be the Belgian equivalent of Morris Dancing and singing all afternoon.
After trying to keep out of the heavy thundery downpours, it was soon time for the Publicity Caravan to pass but much to the disappointment of many, the local authority has asked the organisers not to throw any gifts out to avoid littering – something I have never heard of on the Tour before. Then it was time of the main event – first the radio communication plane circles above, followed by the six tv, sponsor and organisation helicopters, one of which almost disappears into the trees. The breakaway riders then come in to view down the valley and we watch as they climb nearer and nearer. The speed at which these guys go in the mountains always amazes me and before you know it, the two small groups containing Zandio and Flecha from Team Sky are gone and the peleton is soon upon us. After a few seconds, 190 riders have disappeared, leaving only a couple of stragglers in between the fleet of team cars and police outriders – then nothing but silence.
Of course, the Belgians who had now been joined by some yellow jersey wearing Norwegians and some Viking helmet clad Auvergnats are soon back in full swing before no doubt moving on to tomorrows mountain.
Despite, the masses now descending, Sarah and I decide on one more climb to the top before heading home to plan the following day’s viewing.
As the next stage was slightly further away, we decided to take the dog for a day out too, meaning we would need to find a spot close enough for Sarah to walk to and from, whilst I could still get to some challenging riding. We did just that and I went off in search of the village of Dienne in the Cantal mountains. Is soon became clear that this was going to be a very hard stage with not only over 200km of continually up and down roads but if you did find a flat bit, chances are there would be a severe head or cross wind.
I climbed up through the feed station and past the fleet of compulsory motor homes before turning right to the village. Instantly I knew this was probably the wrong decision, because unlike the riders, I had to make my way back up this hill at some time. Still, curiosity meant I had to go and see what was below so as the Garmin showed -10%, -11%, -14%, I knew this was going to be a bit of a grind back up later. What I hadn’t bargained on though, was that the rather over-zealous Gendames in this area would not allow me to ride back up as the road was now closed. Bugger – I don’t fancy walking all the way back up there in cleats, so as soon as I was out of sight of the last official, I got back on and pedalled as hard as I could until the next one came in to view, and so on all the way back to the main road. There was never a problem, as the publicity vehicles were still a while away.
When the Caravane appeared, the spectators were much happier than the previous day as the publicity giveaways were flying left right and centre. For anyone who has never seen the TDF, the procession of floats and strange vehicles is, to say the least impressive, and eagerly anticipated by the vast majority – some of whom will go to almost any lengths to grab hold of that plastic key ring or bag of pink sweets!
Once again, the imminent arrival of the riders was heralded by the drone of low flying helicopters and this time it was much more clear cut – a small breakaway followed a couple of minutes later by the whole bunch – and that was that. Three hours of riding, walking, sheltering from storms, trying to make conversation with French policemen, German spectators and a Scottish bloke who wanted to steal the sweets away from the small kids, and it was all over – time to head back. It was only a few km to ride back to the car but the wind had veered, so it was into a strong headwind. Fortunately a Frenchie was going my way. So we did some European 2 up practice along the side of the valley which was so enjoyable it was a shame when it ended. Still, we touched gloves as if we had just been caught by the peleton after a 100 mile breakaway, said au-revoir and that was that – Tour watching for 2011 all done. Well not quite…….
After a rest day for us and the riders, we were off for a morning rendezvous with the Tour at the start in Aurillac. We were fortunate to have been given some access passes for the start village and therefore couldn’t pass up such an opportunity. Once in, we were treated to hospitality from many of the event sponsors, including displays of Tour memorabilia, local food and personalities. The highlight for me was meeting the great Raymond Poulidor and getting his signature – a true Great in cycling history. For anyone who doesn’t know of his racing palmares, look him up on the internet – he really was one of the best ever.
Finally, we left the village to enter the team assembly area, where all the riders arrive prior to their daily signing on ritual and the official start. Despite the sudden hailstorm, it was fabulous to mingle with the riders and teams as close quarters.
So there we are, three very different days of the 2011 TDF. For me, the Tour organisation starts in October as soon as the route is announced when I normally start booking hotels and planning where to go, This year was extra special as it visited our ‘local’ region when he go every year anyway. As for next year’s planning, well I suppose that will start in three months time.
Having enjoyed two great track sessions at Newport and Calshot over the Christmas Holidays track rider and VC10 member Rob MacCullouch gives a review on his Goldtec track hubs
At the superb VC10 Christmas & New Year track sessions at Newport and Calshot, I had a couple of conversations with riders about kit. Some riders were thinking of buying something a bit more training-orientated – there were some lovely frames and track wheels at both sessions, with lots of carbon fibre on show, but riders don’t always want to ride their best kit when training. One question I was asked, as a couple of VC10 lads know I build wheels, is “what’s a good mid-price track hub for a training wheel?” Goldtec.
I’ve owned four sets of Goldtec track hubs over the years and built up a pair for a friend too, who is a 6’4” competitive rower and a powerful rider. I don’t think either of us has ever done any serious maintenance to the hubs, aside from a bit of a polish with a rag once in a while. My main set of Goldtec track hubs, used on the road, are still spinning fine after two and a half years and about 10,000 miles in all weathers, after being used both fixed and singlespeed. These things work.
Goldtec make two types of rear track hub: the ‘standard’ rear track hub and the ‘Pro’ track hub. The difference between them is weight, the finish, the chainlines and the bearings. The standard rear hub is just under 310g with its two axle bolts and axle washers, has a 42.5mm chainline, sealed steel bearings and an anodized or raw alloy finish; the ‘Pro’ hub gets titanium bolts, ceramic bearings, a lower weight, a choice of chainlines and a posher finish. The ‘Pro’ hubs are lovely, but they’re also much more expensive – ceramic bearings aren’t cheap. So, this review is for the ‘standard’ track hubs, which are about £150 for the front and rear.
A note on the prices: Goldtec ‘standard’ track hubs cost a touch less than Shimano Dura-Ace 7710 track hubs; more than £50 less than the cheapest Phil Wood hubs (the reference for high-end track hubs); and nearly 50% less than imported US exotica like White Industries track hubs. However, Goldtecs are nearly twice the price of either the well-known and well-trusted Dia-Compe or Miche track hubs. Why the cost difference? Probably because Goldtec are a small operation and everything is built in the UK. I’ll go out on a limb here too: having built up most of the hub sets mentioned above, Goldtec have better internals and sprocket threading than Miche; weigh less than Dia-Compe and aren’t generic Taiwanese knock-offs; have a more user-friendly sprocket and less weight than White Industries; weigh significantly less than Phil Woods and have a better axle arrangement; and require less maintenance than Dura-Ace. That’s just my opinion and all the above are great hubs – but Goldtec remain one of my favourite hubs to build with and to recommend to riders who want a trouble-free hub at the centre of their wheels for a not-too-crazy price.
One of the best features of Goldtec track hubs are the bearings. The standard Goldtec hubs get two great big, high-quality 6001 stainless steel bearings, with excellent seals. This means the seals are a bit stiff at first – something you notice when spinning them in the wheel jig – but the seals break in and the bearings keep getting smoother with use. Ride them only in the velodrome and it’s unlikely you’ll ever need to touch the bearings. The smooth bearings also indicate that Goldtec machine their bearing bores (where the bearing sits inside the hub) perfectly, so that the two bearings keep the axle absolutely straight and aligned between them. This is a big issue in hub quality – and something that much better known companies like Hed and Zipp have been quite vocal about in the last couple of years when improving their own hubs.
Another feature that Goldtec have changed recently is the track hub’s chainline. Goldtec used to use a 45mm chainline – which is 3mm more than the ‘track standard’ of 42mm. This doesn’t sound a lot, but if your chain is bent by 3mm between rear sprocket and front chainring, then you can risk a chain flying off – not good. However, Goldtec hubs are now made with a 42.5mm chainline, so unless you have badly matched components, Goldtec track hubs should give you a decent chainline.
One of Goldtec’s most novel features is the axle ends in the rear hub – the axle ends are flat, so that the axle has to be slotted into place in a horizontal track dropout. This is to prevent the hub and rear axle rotating as you tighten up the allen bolts against the dropout. This design makes a wheel change a bit more involved, but it gives more contact between the dropout and the axle too, which is always a good thing on a track bike for more stiffness. You can also get the rear hub in four different axle lengths, meaning that if you wanted to fit a Goldtec track hub to your rim-braked singlespeed MTB, you could. It’s also easy enough to change axles if you wanted to swap wheels between different bikes with different rear spacing: Goldtec sell the axle kits separately to help you do this.
You can use these hubs for singlespeed or fixed riding too. Theoretically, the standard Goldtec rear hubs are a double-sided fixed gear hub. However, I’ve threaded on a singlespeed freewheel and used that with no problems at all, aside from adjusting chainline. This means that you can use the hubs as a flip-flop: a fixed sprocket on one side, a singlespeed freewheel on the other.
The threading for the rear sprocket and lock ring is done excellently and the alloy used for the hub shell is tough. I built a pair of Goldtec standard hubs up for a tall lad who had stripped the threads off a cheap ‘no-name’ hub, but his enormous legs are yet to trouble the Goldtec. Even after taking sprockets on and off several times, I’ve found that the threads have kept their anodizing, so corrosion is kept at bay on Goldtecs too.
For a wheel builder, how do these hubs build up? Firstly, Goldtec track hubs have symmetrical-spaced hub flanges. Weirdly, this is not a feature on many rear track hubs (Phil Wood single-side hubs, Dura-Ace, Campagnolo Pista, Miche etc…..). What this means for a wheel builder is that Goldtecs use the same spoke length on both sides of the hub, with both sides tightening to the same spoke tension and building up into a super strong wheel. Secondly, the spoke holes are nicely countersunk and wide enough to accept thick spokes like Sapim Strongs without too many issues. Thirdly, Goldtec only recommend lacing these hubs in a tangential pattern – spokes crossing twice or three times on the way to the rim – but this method of spoke lacing is the norm for every wheel builder and means less worry about hubs cracking from radial spoke lacing.
These are bloody good hubs, then. Not too heavy, really durable and they build up easily (on a Mavic Open Pro rim laced 3 cross, you’d use 292mm long spokes, which you can get as spares in most bike shops). They’ve got really good bearings, a normal chainline and you could fit them to any number of bikes if you buy a couple of spare axles in different lengths and know how to re-fit them (as this involves taking out the bearings).
I’ve only ever had two problems with Goldtecs – once, a rear hub had the spoke drillings slightly offset, meaning the spokes weren’t tensioning evenly. I spoke to Goldtec, sent the hub back and got a new hub 48hrs later in the post, no questions asked. A second time, I had a front hub shell that was just slightly too wide and rubbed on the axle end caps – generating a huge amount of heat and resistance. 5 minutes with some emery paper just reduced the tolerances a bit and the hub has worked fine ever since. I reckon that was a minor quality blip, though – these hubs have proved super-reliable over the years.
I haven’t said anything about the Goldtec front track hubs. To say that they’re a fit-and-forget product is an understatement and they share all the same great qualities as the rear track hub: great bearings, wide hub flange spacing, a bolt-on axle using allen bolts and the same smoothness once the bearing seals are broken in. They’re not light hubs (about 200g plus), but they make a stiff, reliable, smooth front track wheel.
It’s hard to know which other track hubs available in the UK give you such real value for money. Frankly, Goldtec standard hubs do it all at a pretty decent price. Recommended for winter; for summer; for racing; for training; for indoor ‘dromes; for outdoor trails; for singlespeed; for fixed……..these are excellent hubs for anyone considering a new wheel build and they also give your wheelbuilder a nice, easy hub to work with.
After contacting David Tiemeyer last year, the first part of my Tiemeyer project was to measure my current position for David to translate into a frame, which involved measuring the bike that I knew fitted. I had some questions for David about forward reach and forward drop on a short track – and I had in mind using a particular stem reach and angle (110mm and -6˚), so wanted to see how that would affect the build. I also gave David details of my weight, height, riding style (not that I really have one…..) and the contact points (saddle, pedals etc.) that I intended to use, as they can all affect frame fitting.
Based on my experience at Calshot track and speaking to Harry Jackson, our coach who was twice in the Great Britain Olympic team, I’ve always set my track bike up exactly the same as my road bike set-up: same measurements and forward reach and drop. David agreed with this, based on his track experience, so this made fitting the frame from my existing numbers a bit easier.
David came back immediately with a frame drawing based on my current road bike. I wanted to see if the stem I wanted to use could work, so David tried a couple more alternate frame designs. Two elements were apparent – firstly, I need a long head tube, so putting a negative rise stem on the frame would mean either a lot of spacers between the headset and the stem, or a frame with virtually no standover height. Also, a 110mm stem for someone my size would slow the handling down a bit (useful for events like Madison, but more stable handling isn’t what you always want in a track bike) and also give me toe overlap (where the front wheel can hit your toes in a really tight turn) due to a shorter front end.
So, back to the drawing board – David advised me that a 100mm stem with 0˚rise would give me less headset spacers, no toe overlap and a ‘classic’ track bike handling feel. Also, because the head tube had to be tall, a sloping top tube would increase standover height. I wondered if we could extend the head tube above the top tube junction, but this is where David’s long experience kicked in: if the head tube extended far above the top tube, the aluminium tube could deform. OK, a sloping top tube on an aerodynamic frame is a little less aero……but having too little standover height is potentially dangerous in a crash. I’ve always liked sloping top tubes, so I was happy to give up some aerodynamics in favour of being able to climb off the saddle in comfort.
This process took about six weeks of transatlantic e-mails and ended up with five frame designs – the final design drawing is shown. Lots of angles and numbers, but I could see that they would fit perfectly, based on my fitting measurements and other bikes.
Three final questions remained. David’s frames come with a Chris King No-Threadset and Edge Composites track fork as standard. Did I want a different fork, like an Oval Concepts? No, as Edge Composites are an awesome company for Carbon components, so I can’t think of a better track fork. What colour did I want the headset? Silver, as I was planning a build using silver components. Finally, I asked for the anodized finish, rather than the standard paint finish. This was because the anodized finish is noticeably lighter (nearly half a pound) and I knew from reading about David’s frames elsewhere that they’re built for strength first and weight second, so being a little guy, I wanted to keep overall weight down if I could. That meant that I had to have a silver frame, as David has found that coloured anodizing discolours around the welds.
The great part of the process was the communication with David. I asked a question; David responded usually same day with a reasoned and sensible answer, often pointing out areas I hadn’t considered. I learnt a lot from the exchange of ideas and we settled on a frame design that we both agreed would be ideal for what I wanted. All the while, David was able to steer some of my less knowledgeable questions into a more sensible design. That experience is the most valuable element of going to a great custom builder – their guidance to make sure you are on a bike that does what you want when you get it, with no hidden surprises.
Building the frame took about ten weeks, which meant that I could choose parts for when it arrived. We’d designed the frame around a 100mm stem with 0˚ rise, so a Thomson X4 stem and a matching Thomson seat post made sense: both rock solid reliable and both in silver to match the frame. I use a Selle Italia SLR XP saddle on all my bikes so no issues there. David and I had also discussed which bars I was intending to use – I always use Deda Newton 40cm anatomic bars, which I find really comfortable, so the frame build had these bars in mind (I also prefer aluminium bars: decent value, decent weight, as stiff as I need and cheap enough to replace if you crash).
Two areas were up for discussion – drive train and wheels. The drive train question was do I use classic 1/8” track chain, sprockets and chainrings, or drop a lot of weight by using a ‘road-sized’ 3/32” chain and drive train? It ended up being 3/32” as I didn’t feel I needed the extra strength of 1/8”. Stronglight track cranks, a Spécialities TA 49 tooth chainring, a Dura-Ace 16 tooth sprocket and a Connex 808 chain were the main drive components and kept cost right down – but all are tried and trusted components, having used all of them before. That gave me some extra to spend on Speedplay Zero pedals with Titanium axles, which I got in a sale, and a Spécialities TA Axix Light bottom bracket with a Titanium axle. I’m OK using Titanium axles on the track (big guys can bend them) because I’m not that heavy and don’t notice any loss of stiffness. I upgraded the bearings on the bottom bracket to Enduro Zero ceramics, as I got the bearings at a good price, with the design of the TA bracket making replacement of the bearings easy.
Now, I build wheels, mainly for myself, but also for friends. The wheel build took ages to decide. You can spend a fortune on wheels, but I didn’t want to – I wanted something reliable, reasonably light weight, reasonable cost and aero. That’s quite a hard ask, to be honest. I was able to get some unbranded Gigantex 50mm deep carbon rims from another UK wheelbuilder (Gigantex make rims for many better known brands). Sapim CX-Rays are my favourite spokes to build with, so they were a no brainer. I used hexagonal alloy spoke nipples to push the nipples onto the spokes, giving less wind up at the nipple and a secure grip on a tiny component. Hubs were the last thing. I’ve often used Goldtec hubs before and generally never had any issues. Goldtec also distribute Enduro bearings in the UK. They set me up with a custom drilled 20 hole front hub and 24 hole rear hub, both upgraded to include Enduro Zero ceramic bearings. When they arrived, both hubs span for ages with finger pressure alone. The last thing were tubulars – I’d heard good things about Schwalbe Milano tubs as a decent all round training tub (no point using race tyres until you are going to race) and I found somewhere selling these for about half the price of Vittorias. A bit more cash saved…….all in all, I’m very happy with the wheels – they feel as stiff as wheels I’ve used with a lot more spokes and are noticeably quicker to get up to speed, with the Schwalbes proving a very good tubular indoors. Cost was about the same as a pair of Campagnolo Pista wheels.
Finally the frame arrived. It was very silver. It was very aero. The seatstays were the widest I’d ever seen. The downtube was beyond belief. The aero edges are so sharp compared to other aero tubes that you could imagine taking a grinding stone to them. The rear wheel cut-out looks as if it’s been hewn from solid metal.
The frame was a delight to build – what you get with a custom builder are the extra touches. The bottom bracket shell was threaded and faced perfectly, so the TA bottom bracket glided into place. The frame takes a standard sized 27.2 mm seatpost – no weird seatpost diameters here – and has a cunning seatpost bolt that slots into place for a single 5mm allen key to tighten both sides of the seat-tube equally. The dropouts are solid titanium plate with an inch of adjustment, so it’s easy to set your chain tension and not worry about marking the dropouts. The headtube is reinforced with rings at each end and the headset was fitted by David perfectly. David has said in a past interview with Velonews that he doesn’t ‘do’ pretty welds, but the standard of welding on the massive tubes is top-notch. Ever the perfectionist, I took a tape measure to the frame to check the dimensions – it was built millimetre perfect.
I had a couple of issues in building the bike, but both were to do with components, not the frame. Firstly, the Stronglight cranks have an extra ring of material on the inside of the left hand crank that is just decorative and not part of the crank structure – this caught the shell of the TA bottom bracket and prevented the cranks spinning freely. 20 minutes careful grinding took this ring off so that the cranks span as they should. Secondly, once I tightened up the dropout bolts on the front hub, the hub wouldn’t spin freely – the hub shell was a bit wide and caught on the hub’s end caps, so I had to grind the hub shell down a bit to get the wheel spinning right.
But that’s it – I set the bike up according to the measurements and drawing that David and I had agreed on. Every measurement was spot on, a real testament to a precision build from a great frame builder. My weight weenie tendencies also worked out – the entire bike is 14.7lbs. Not bad for a 2kg frame made from ‘old-school’ aluminium…….
I’ve now ridden the bike around six times, enough times to get a handle on it. First impressions are that the combination of the correct position, aerodynamic frame and wheels and lighter overall weight mean that it’s definitely faster than my previous track bike. Most of that is due to the better position, but the other elements help get up to speed and help me stay there. Rather than moving all over the bike, I’m finding I can stay in the drops for a long period of time – no feeling of stretching or discomfort, but a comfortable position with arms that aren’t locked and rigid. I’m also finding that when at the front of a line of riders, the bike is almost laser guided down the line you want – there’s far less effort at keeping a line. The standover height and lack of toe overlap when moving on and off the track are also noticeable – the frame just feels ‘right’.
There’s only one area which was noticeably different and that was going round steep banking on the inner black line at speed. On the first few rides, I found the bike was a bit harder to control and tended to ‘go wide’ up the banking. I don’t think that’s the frame – I think that’s the wheels. They’re about a kilogram lighter than the previous wheels I used and I think it’s the lower rotating mass that makes the bike a bit livelier in corners. But – I’m going into the corners faster, because my speed has gone up due to the overall effect of the bike, so the difference is like steering an oil tanker (my previous bike) and steering a fighter plane. I had a period of readjustment to concentrate more in corners, but now its flying and I actually have to back off the power a little bit in corners. I wanted a frame that would help me go faster through a better position and better function and that’s exactly what I got. Handling, comfort and stiffness are all top notch – the bike does what you want it to do.
So was it worth it, compared to getting something off-the-peg and about four months quicker? An undisputed yes. I’ve learnt a lot about my bike fit; I’ve learnt more about how bikes work; I’m going faster due to the overall effects; I feel far more comfortable; and the length of time to build the bike meant I could spread the cost. Moreover, the frame, forks and headset cost less than an equivalent Dolan and far less than an equivalent Cervelo, Principia, Bridgestone or other frame. And whilst this wasn’t the main object of the build, I look at the bike and think it not only looks great, but it also looks ‘right’. When I looked at my previous bike, I used to notice all the things that had been bodged to fit.
That’s not to say that everyone needs or wants a custom built frame. But if you’re concerned about your position or body and have some nagging doubts, you could potentially end up wasting a lot of money on an off-the-peg bike that isn’t doing you any good without you realising. I learnt that talking to the experts took away that uncertainty and I’m a better rider as a result. Putting all the pieces together – a good position, a more efficient frame, greater aerodynamics, better wheels – has all worked for me.
David Tiemeyer’s frame was the final piece of the jigsaw. David is one of the unsung heroes of the many American custom framebuilders: unassuming, helpful, technically-driven and a real expert in his field. His frames are not built for decoration and you won’t find him making weird and wonderful showcase bikes for the North American Handmade Bike Show. But if you want a frame for a purpose – to go faster, more comfortably, for longer – he’s your man. Very few people have his experience or expertise. I can’t recommend talking to David enough.
A final point – my odd legs needed a custom frame. But David also builds track frames in ‘standard’ sizes that come with forks, headset and a choice of paint finish for a lower price than his custom frames. If you’re a serious track, time trial or road rider in the market for a new frame, you might want to speak to David first. You can contact him at www.tiemeyercycles.com.
TIEMEYER SIGNATURE TRACK FRAME – part 1
Before writing about my new track frame, I’m going to write a first part about why I went the custom route, instead of buying one of the many off-the-peg track frames available in the UK, and why many of the VC10 and Calshot regulars like Greg Lewis had to put up with my talking about a track frame choice for about a year before I made a decision.
A couple of years ago, I had a suspicion that the bikes I owned didn’t fit. I felt like I was “pedalling squares” and had quite a lot of lower back pain during a ride. After years of learning how to fix bikes, I realised that I didn’t actually know why or how my bikes fitted – I knew how they worked, but that’s a totally different thing.
I took myself off to Rock’n’Road Cycles in Southampton, who are well known in my local area for bike fit. That’s mainly due to the owner, James Huggins, who had his racing career ended by a broken kneecap and who learnt – courtesy of many intensive courses – the physiology of cycling and putting riders straight onto bikes. I’m fairly (very) inquisitive, so a two hour fitting session with James one Saturday ended up at four and a half hours. It was the best four and a half hour investment of time I have ever spent – it turned out that my normal position was useless and, in fact, damaging my knees, back, neck and feet long-term.
A painful lesson was that I have a few fitting problems. Short femurs, long calves, inflexible hamstrings, over-pronation, different leg lengths……I didn’t think things were that bad, but the numbers from the fitting jig and its power meter didn’t lie. Turns out that I need – for any bike – a seat angle of 75˚ to get my short femurs in the right place over the pedals. Then I need a tall head tube to ease the strain on my inflexible hamstrings. My saddle came down, my bars went forward, insoles went into my shoes, my back straightened out, my feet stopped flopping……all very positive changes, resulting in an immediate 20-25 watt gain just on the fitting jig in the shop.
But, there was a catch. None of my bikes had a 75˚ seat angle. Few of them had a tall head tube. And more to the point, have you ever tried to buy a road or mountain bike with a 75˚ seat angle? They don’t exist. Sadly, I am one of the few people who actually, really, seriously need a bike frame custom made to fit, in an ideal world.I say sadly, because most riders don’t need a custom fit and most bike shops tend to tell you that you definitely don’t need a custom fit, so it really does make life more difficult. Conversations in bike shops nowadays generally involve me having an argument with a bike shop guy when they don’t believe that such-and-such a component won’t fit me. To be fair, I was sceptical myself at first. So, as a double check and after a bit of frantic E-baying, I went to see Dave Yates to get a standard steel training frame to ‘re-build’ my bike fleet. Dave Yates is a British framebuilding legend, a totally straightforward bloke and his frames are seriously good value, in the custom scheme of things, as they last forever with care. I told him about my fitting session and fitting results – he said “I doubt it” – then he sat me on his frame fitting jig and he said “whoever measured you is right. You need a 75˚ seat angle”.
There you go – that’s why I now have a couple of custom made frames. It’s all about the fit and nothing to do with flash: for me, going custom was a necessity if I wanted to ride a bike and not worry about my kneecaps disappearing in an arthritic blizzard. I now spend about 95% of my cycling time riding just two frames – my Dave Yates trainer (steel, heavy as sin, bombproof, ideal trainer) and my very new, very fast Tiemeyer Signature Track.
Most track bikes have a 75˚ seat angle or thereabouts. Problem is, they tend to have short head tubes to compensate for a rider with a position moved forward by the steeper seat angle. So – Dolans don’t fit me. Cervelo’s really don’t fit me and I can’t afford them. Most of the other track frames I’d like to ride – like a Bridgestone – don’t fit me. More to the point, Cervelo aside, very few track bikes used for mass start events, like points races, are aerodynamic. But take a look at the Olympic Points race in 2008 – lots of aero frames and wheels. Track is a cycling discipline where I certainly believe that aerodynamic gains are an advantage. I’d seen from my fitting session that I was now positioned lower and with a flatter, straighter back, so it seemed sense to extend my position’s aerodynamic gain to a frame as well.
So seeing as I’d wanted to replace my bodged-to-fit steel track bike for some time, I wanted two things from a new frame: the best fit and good aerodynamics.
There are often a lot of reasons for going custom – take a look at the North American Handmade Bike Show, for example – but I’m a bit of a purist, as I really think the purpose of a bike is to get you from A to B, so what I want from a track bike is pretty simple – function. To my way of thinking, function on the track revolves around the fit first and the aerodynamics second.
As far as I know, there is only one frame builder who regularly makes custom aerodynamic track frames – David Tiemeyer of Estes Park, Colorado.
A bit of history on David’s frames. The fastest time trial in history (the Giro d’Italia prologue in 2001) was on a Tiemeyer painted up as a GT and ridden by Rik Verbrugghe on the Lotto team. Kristen Armstrong, current world elite time trial champion, used to ride a Tiemeyer before big sponsorship came her way. Jason Sprouse, current holder of the World Masters Hour Record set his record on a Tiemeyer. The UK’s own Matt Haynes rode a Tiemeyer to his National Kilo win a few years back. David’s provided frames to riders and track squads in the last four Olympics……these are fast frames with a great pedigree, no question.
I’m not exactly in that league of rider, but David’s frames were exactly what I was looking for. A couple of other things made the decision easy – firstly, David also makes the innovative PositionCycle™ and works with elite level USA cyclists to refine fit, so I was confident he would be able to have a good discussion on my fitting needs. Secondly, his local velodrome is the 142m Boulder Velodrome – mine is the 142m Calshot Velodrome – so he also understands the geometry and handling of a bike on a short indoor track.
There was one final thing that I really liked about David’s frames from a distance – they’re all made from aluminium. My ‘serious’ cycling started in the early 1990’s with the mountain bike explosion, so I’ve always liked aluminium frames with big welds and big tubes from that era and frankly, having never ridden a carbon frame (because of that fit thing), all the aluminium bikes I’ve ever owned have been fantastic. I’ve owned some legendary aluminium frames (which, needless to say, ended up not fitting): Santa Cruz, Principia, Spooky and perhaps most legendary for aluminium, a Pace RC200 with square tubes (sold, after my fitting session. It didn’t fit. I’m still sad about that).
That might sound as if David Tiemeyer’s aluminium-only frames are old-style technology, but that’s far from the case. David has his aerodynamic frame tubes custom manufactured for him and the frame designs have been tested at the Colorado Ambient Air Tech wind tunnel, where David’s frames record fast numbers alongside other better known frames. Aluminium is also easier to fabricate for a custom build – no one-off carbon moulds to fit one-off riders – and the stiffness of the material is ideal for track frames, which is about 60% or more of the frames David builds. There’s a lot of thought and technological research behind what appears a fairly simple design. That’s not surprising when you learn that David was an aeronautical engineer before starting his frame building career.
So that’s the story of why I’ve ended up with the new frame I’ve been lucky enough to buy and have a great custom builder make for me. It all began with a search for the best fit and has ended up getting to that point. I’d agree that not everyone needs or wants a custom build, but for me, it was really the only answer and the process of making those decisions was really informative.
Next up, part 2 and the build itself – because that was the really fun part, where I learnt even more from David Tiemeyer about bike fit and function.
With the VC10 trip to Majorca looming the problem of getting my bike there had to be solved. Last year I borrowed a bike box from Greg which proved to be excellent, easy to pack, simple and robust, but with more travel with my bike expected I decided to bite the bullet and buy my own.
If you’ve ever looked at bike boxes you’ll know there is an incredible choice from very basic plastic boxes for a few pounds through a variety of hard and soft cases and bags to all singing and dancing hard cases that cost as much as a bike. I was looking for a wheeled hard case that would pack the bike securely and should be tough enough to last a few trips and cost no more than £175. I spent a while surfing the net and looking at reviews, eventually opting for the dhb Elstead Bike Box from Wiggle, which came within my budget at just over £150 including delivery.
This review will be in three parts – I’ll start with my first impressions and a description of the box followed by packing my bike ready for the trip and concluding with an update on how it faired.
As usual with Wiggle the service was excellent, I purchased the box online on Wednesday opting for the free delivery option and it arrived on the Friday morning. It was well packed in a cardboard box with large polystyrene packing pieces to ensure no damaged in transit.
It’s not an excessively large box and looks very neat resembling a large dark grey suitcase. The shell is made from a dense textured plastic which appears robust and should absorb most impacts from careless baggage handlers.
There’s a spring loaded handle on the side for pulling the box along and another on the top for carrying. It has two lockable catches on the top, either side of the handle, with keys supplied together with an additional central three digit combination lock which can be reset from inside the case.
There are also two more catches on either side which help to keep the case closed and although these catches are not lockable they do have latches to secure them and prevent accidental opening. These catches at first sight seem quite flimsy but when closed they do fit quite flush so shouldn’t be too vulnerable.
Along the bottom edge are three steel hinges riveted to the shell and two large plastic fixed wheels at one end with two casters the other for easy mobility.
Inside, the box is lined top and bottom with 25mm thick ridged foam, straps for securing the frame and two large blocks of foam for extra protection. There are also two soft wheel bags for keeping the wheels safely away from the frame and visa versa together with a small zipped bag for pedals, tools etc.
To sum up – the box is compact and tidy and seems fairly well made without being too expensive. I like the added security of the combination lock as the suitcase type locks are easily picked. It rolls well on it’s wheels and isn’t too heavy at 13.5kgs. I’m a bit wary of the catches on the side but I’ll make my mind up about them once I’ve packed the bike. Looking at the case I can’t imagine the bike fitting however it is a bike case, so it should!
Packing the Bike:
This is a rough guide to how I will pack my medium framed Planet X road bike into the dhb Elstead box in the simplest way that will hopefully give it enough protection to survive all but the clumsiest baggage handlers. All boxes and bikes are different so this can only be used as a basic guide.
The first thing I did was to make sure the bike was clean and I had all the necessary tools. I thought it best to use the tools I’ll take with me, so I know there’ll be no problem assembling the other end.
I also got together some gaffer tape, cable ties, dropout spacers, axle protectors and additional foam for added protection. I find pipe lagging to be good for the job as it easily wraps around tubes.
I used a piece of the gaffer tape to wrap around my seat post to mark it’s position then removed it and put it to one side. I shifted into the big ring on the front and small on the back and removed both wheels, skewers, pedals and bars complete with stem.
I placed the wheels with the axle protectors fitted (these come with new wheels to prevent the axles damaging the packaging, if you haven’t got any contact your LBS) together with a spare tyre into the supplied wheel bags, which seemed well padded and generously sized. There’s no need to let air out of the tyres unless they’re massively over inflated as an unpressurised hold on a plane can only increase the relative pressure within a tyre by 1 bar or around 15psi, at the very most. Inflated tyres will also help to protect the rims.
I placed the front wheel into the base of the box followed by the frame with the drive side uppermost.
At this point I removed the rear mech and wrapped it in foam and secured it to the frame with tape. I also secured the chain to the big ring with a couple of cable ties and the rest of the chain bound up with another. This helps to prevent the chain from flapping around and will help to protect the big ring.
Some pipe lagging can be used to further protect the big ring and another piece taped over the top of the seat tube. Insert the dropout spacers into the forks and rear dropouts to prevent them being crushed. If you haven’t got any of these spacers you will probably be able to source them from your LBS or knock some up from old bolt through axles/hubs.
At this point I added more pipe lagging to the frame tubes and secured it with tape as necessary.
I had to juggle the bars and stem around to find a suitable place for them as I didn’t want to remove the stem and lose it’s position.
I then added foam to the seat post and placed it to the rear of the frame.
The rear wheel now fits on top with the cassette facing down in the middle of the frame triangle making sure it’s not pressing on the frame tubes.
Place tools, pedals skewers, spare cable ties etc. into the small bag supplied and slot it into a suitable position, again securing with tape if needed.
There’s plenty of room now for other bits to be packed away such as clothing, Torq powder, gels, tubes etc before carefully closing and securing the lid. This isn’t as easy as it appears as the whole bike is squashed down under a fair amount of pressure but the catches on the side seem to lock down tightly and help to hold everything in place.
That’s it all packed away now for the real test.
How did it do?
Well I was impressed. The whole trip went without any problems. The box stood up well without any damage other than a few expected scuffs and the bike remained intact without any damage. The clips on the side which I suspected to be a weakness were fine and worked perfectly.
The only thing I would add next time would be a couple of pairs of latex gloves, as although the bike was clean when I originally packed it, it was extremely dirty when packed for the return trip.