I was 42 and I’d outgrown my bike. I’m not talking about stack, reach and seat tube angles; I mean I needed a new bike that fitted me. Finding one wasn’t going to be easy.
I realised I needed this new summer bike when all my mates got theirs. Ever had that? You see, I have this tiered system where I relegate bikes to seasons; spring, dry weather winter bike, wet weather winter bike, bikes ‘for the sake of still owning because I’d never recoup how much they cost me’ bikes. You know the ones.
If you’re reading this and you’re in the process of deciding what to buy, you have my sympathy and support. It’s really difficult. There are so many great options to choose from. I’m Stuart. I love bikes. And here’s my story.
I knew how I’d spec this new bike before I’d worked out which frame it was going on. Shimano Dura Ace Di2. I spoke to one of the Shimano employees a while back and he told me about his personal bike set up. He talked me through his “boring” groupset that never needed any attention, “because it just worked”. I like to ride bikes, not mess around with them.
Ceramic Speed oversized pulleys save, according to the manufacturers, between 30-80 per cent over standard jockey wheels. The chain line is smoother so there’s less friction. It makes sense. Would I notice the difference? No, probably not. I was getting them because they look so good.
And here’s where I feed the trolls a handful of truth. Rim brakes. Here’s why. When they invented disc brakes, the rim brake didn’t spontaneously combust overnight. They still work, and in the same way that I chose a Shimano groupset (admittedly an electronic one), I wanted this bike to be simple. They, for me, are far easier to live with. This, I confess, is coming from a cyclist who still wraps fig rolls for on-bike fuelling. Mate, energy gels?
The frame was the thing that took me longest to settle on, because I had to do some serious soul searching first. Indulge me here. Where was I in my cycling journey?
I wanted something special. Maybe something custom? A fancy paint job? I’m not racing anymore, so didn’t need an aero bike or something designed purposely for saving watts. I still wanted something fast, though – I’m not that grown up yet. An all rounder. A rouleur.
Then, last season, Romain Bardet made the podium of Liège–Bastogne–Liège (anyone who listens to the Rouleur podcast will be aware of my fandom for “Oh, Bardet…”). A couple of weeks before that, his team-mate Silvan Dillier came second in Paris-Roubaix. Same bike. Two very different races. I’d just found what I was looking for.
A Factor O2 isn’t an aero bike. It’s not one of these endurance bikes either. It’s a racing bike. It’s pretty simple, really. I opted for the limited edition CHPT3 OML version, which satisfied my desire for something a bit special. I also went for a matching Brooks C13 saddle colour coordinated with the frame, a Black Inc one-piece bar stem and a set of Black 30 wheels. I live on the coast where it’s always windy. Crosswinds are inevitable.
Since doing this issue, I’m convinced I need an all-road bike next; a single bike that does everything, but not quite as well, as all your other bikes in one. I’ll get disc brakes this time, but deciding on the frame isn’t going to be easy. Here we go again…
‘Narcissistic sports pimp’ Stuart Clapp is king of the Essex café rides. This article was originally published in the Rouleur Desire special, under the title ‘One piece at a time’