Anatomy of A Hill Climb

Once i’d decided that I was going to go fixed this year, and therefore go fixed properly, I set  about converting my winter frame, a bob jackson vigorelli path/track iron, into a fully-fledged hillkiller. It took me longer than i thought and i went down a few blind alleys in search of weight savings. I also knew that i faced a simple handicap in that the frame and fork weight was about 1600g.

I had to swap the fork and front end out to make any significant gains. This is much easier said than done, finding a 1″ threadless carbon fork with carbon steerer that is light and stiff is very tricky, a bit like looking for a block of ossau iraty in Asdabedminster. In the end, and for a bit of a premium, i tracked one down on the ebay. I suspect a few other people had the same idea because it was a proper bunfight. It was worth it in the end, saving a bit more than half a kilogramme.

I also ran a 3/32 drivetrain, i imagined it to be lighter than a butch eighth pitch chain, but might be wrong. Weightweenies was a valuable (if pornographic) resource during my quest for lightness. They have a useful database of feathery things. I am aware that through all of this I was essentially trying really hard to create a really light bike when i already had a really light bike in the cupboard, but that’s not quite the full story. Building a fixed hillclimb machine is one of the most fun things you can do. It’s also a bike that has an absolutely defined purpose: riding uphill fast. The specialist nature of the task and the event appeals to that latent autism that all men possess.

Here is a more detailed list of the componentry.

1. Reynolds 631 Bob Jackson Vigorelli Frame, 57cm; 1700g; Carbon fork and steerer; 420g; 3TTT ARX Pro Stem 150g; Chopped bars, 220g; Cane Creek TT lever, no cap, chopped half-length; 42g; Campag chorus 39t ring, 172.5 centaur cranks, record 102mm BB, 732g; DA carbon pedals 250g; Campag veloce caliper, 150g; front wheel: PX carbon laced to PX hub with conti comp tub: 660g; Rear wheel: Arc-En-Ciel laced to Royce hub with conti tub; 960g; Alien USE Carbon seatpost; 142g; SLR saddle, 123g; chain/bolts/bits/cables/sprockets, 750g (3/32 drivetrain to save weight)

Bike weight = 6.329 kg

Once you go down the route of spending money on lighter things, you then become suddenly aware of one of the truisms of cycling: it’s far far cheaper to shed weight on the rider than it is on the bike. I’m quite light, but for hill climb season i tend to take this to the edges of quite lightness. I stop eating chocolate and treats and don’t drink anything alcoholic. Incidentally, i don’t tend to drink very much at all these days anyway, it’s utterly incompatible with regular racing. In hill climb season I eat considerably less than ‘normal’ people. People seem confused that I have only one small sandwich and a banana for lunch. Race weight during the regular season tends to be 68 kilograms, or 150lbs. During hillclimb season it drops to 65kg, sometimes 64kg, or 141lbs. At this kind of weight you tend to feel dizzy and light-headed when you stand up. You can feel your ribs and your sitbones tend to make wooden chairs or benches a little bit uncomfortable. Long days at work with no snacks between frugal meals produce a feeling of emptiness. It’s at the lower reaches of the BMI index.

Combined bike and rider weight: 71kg

When out on the bike, when the form starts to arrive, you feel a sense of helium-induced invincibility and the pulse quickens at the base of any climb, a feeling endorsed by the knowledge that you can get out of the saddle and fly upwards. It’s a fantastic feeling. When I’m out training on fixed, spinning between a 57 and a 64, I sometimes get passed heading to a climb by a roadman on gears. Once the road tilts uphill the roles are reversed and the bike acquires a life of its own, the lack of weight and the relentlessness of the right gear align perfectly and I glide past the startled cyclist and leave them floundering. Occasionally they catch up on the flat some time later and a dawning recognition hits them, they’ve been skinned by a self-certified lunatic: a member of the hill climb fraternity on a specialist and home-made weapon.  

as a caveat, there is always a thinner gorilla…

thinner gorilla

On Monday I am going to Cadbury World with Belle, where apparently you can ‘create your own delicious taste sensation covered in warm liquid Cadbury Dairy Milk’. I am planning to eat the entire contents of the factory.

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8 thoughts on “Anatomy of A Hill Climb

    • traumfahrrad October 25, 2012 / 1:40 pm

      i am especially liking the wheels on the bike of the thinner gorilla.

  1. elliot davis October 25, 2012 / 7:43 pm

    lucky its not governed by th UCI, at the track champs i had to add a garmin and 8 links of chain inside the bars to take it 4 grams over weight, one chap had a whole chain taped under his saddle.

    • elliot davis October 25, 2012 / 7:43 pm

      obviouslt the garmin wasnt inside the bars it was under the saddle

      • traumfahrrad October 25, 2012 / 7:53 pm

        did you look at it during the race at all? would have required mad skilz.

        anyway, the UCI – total bunch of useless corrupt fuckwits.

        Have you worn the rainbow jersey out on the roads yet?

  2. elliot davis October 25, 2012 / 7:56 pm

    they were making guys in the 70+ age change their bar angle to conform to what ever rules about 10 minutes before they were due to race, mad given whats going on in the cycling world
    Not worn it yet i`m waiting for a team one before i go out in it

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