It’s a question of comfort
Some years ago, I owned a Mercedes-Benz. It was by no means new, and it had seen a good number of miles, and by the time I had finished with it, it had done many more. For reading material at that time, I often bought a copy of a magazine whose title I have since forgotten, but which was concerned with the subject of MB ownership of all kinds.
Many correspondents of this magazine were owners of cars that had covered considerable mileages – indeed, the theme of the magazine seemed to be this – cars of a certain generation, due to their ‘cost no object’ Swiss-watch German engineering, were capable of keeping going long after their peers were sitting under several other cars in a scrapyard. I liked this, because I like the idea of machines that are capable of doing what they are designed for as opposed to being ‘facsimilies’ of machines that actually work (think British Leyland in the 1970’s….).
Thus it was, if you’ll pardon the rather rambling and car-centric preamble, that I have been turned on to the phenomenom that is Thorn Cycles.
Regular readers will know that my pal Mark is the lucky owner of a very lovely BRG Thorn Raven Sport with Rohloff hub. He rides it daily and it seems to have been well and truly run in.
Mark and I have entered the Suffolk Sunrise 100k sportive this year, having also completed it last year. Although this year’s ride is a slightly different route (they have excluded the bottleneck of the Deben ferry, which was lots of fun, being an old boy with a woolen sweater, beard and battered sailing cap taxi-ing five cyclists and their bikes at a time across the dangerous currents of the mouth of the River Deben…..imagine the queue!), it’s still a lovely early summer ride and it provokes some bleak crosswinds being close to the east coast all the way up.
Last year, Mark was still waiting for his Thorn to be built, having completed the extensive order form and provided measurements that would normally be the preserve of a bespoke Hong Kong tailor. So, he completed the ride on his then commuter bike, a Marin MTB. I was on my Orbea, which at that time was un-modified and sported OEM wheelset and saddle. So we were both ready to finish by the 100k stage, and it took an onslaught of real ale in the garden of a very commendable village pub that afternoon to revive our spirits.
Comfort, you see, is not something that is always considered when specifying your bike, yet for longer rides it is such an important factor. I have slowly built up a set of kit, both clothing and bike bits, that help me to enjoy my riding. The contact points on my bike have now all been replaced – but I have deviated from the traditional ‘roadie’ route of ‘lighter at all costs’, fitting a pair of MKS steel pedals with lovely stainless traps and Christophe straps; a Brooks B17 narrow saddle, and a second layer of cork bar tape from Cinelli.
It’s amazing what a difference these kinds of tweaks make – but they all need differing degrees of ‘breaking in’ until such time as they are specific to the individual – like a well worn pair of leather shoes.
Personally, my type and style of riding means I am happy to make compromises for the sake of comfort. Not for me the neon lycra and knife-sharp carbon that seems to float the boats of many road riders these days. So I’ve been reading with interest the Thorn Cycles forum, which is a fascinating place for aspiring owners of a quality ‘traditional’ bike to glean pre-purchase info about the world of more civilised riding. The over-riding theme of the posts I have read is ‘comfort’ – clearly these bikes and their riders inhabit the world of touring and Audax, both of which demand long hours in the saddle and the subsequent close contact with their bikes for a sustained period of time. Riders report frequently that they can finish a 100 mile all day ride and feel that they could carry on……
So this year’s SS100 will be an interesting exercise for me, not just because it will be a realistic comparison between a road bike with skinny, lightweight wheels and a hub-geared tourer, but because although I shall undoubtedly be better cosseted than last year, I will probably be hobbling long before my riding pal feels any discomfort – who knows, he may even bid me farewell and breeze off round the 100 mile route……