First impressions

Today, my anticipation was ended at 10.05 am, which was pretty much the moment I collected my Thorn from the LBS after it had been in for various final build tasks that required a torque wrench (and the BB facing off) – tasks which I would not even try to do on a new and expensive frameset.

....and here it is, the finished article!

....and here it is, the finished article!

Having shoehorned the bike into my car, I spent half an hour on some final fettling tasks, including fitting new bar tape, and then wheeled it out for some inaugural photos.  Now the timeline of my day today has been largely dictated by the bike.  Having decided that I must test it out, I donned what Ivor Cutler would have termed my ‘woolen combinations’ and set forth, stopping at the end of the close to adjust the seat height.  So, in a vaguely structured order, here are those all important first impressions:

1) Visual

You can make your own mind up about this.  There is no doubt in my mind that Thorn build a stunning bike.  The powder coat is of the highest quality, and you find yourself (this is really sad) poring over the welds and the braze ons, fascinated by the standard of engineering.  The proportions of my 570L frame seem right too; I am pleased I did not go for a larger frame size, as my first impressions when I took the bare frame out of its box were that I had ordered too small a frame.

2) ‘Feel’

Coming from an aluminum road bike with super tight frame geometry and carbon forks, this is a whole different ball game.  Sitting on the Orbea, whose set up inspires an ‘everything over the bars’ position, you felt like you had the small, chunky steering wheel of a Peugeot 205 GTi in your hands.  It felt fast, tight and not a little menacing.  The Thorn, with its longer top tube, higher bars and considerably more relaxed geometry, feels like sitting at the wheel of an old Alvis from the 60s – it’s built for all-day comfort and even sitting still, it inspires confidence.  Interesting, as I have moved the same stem, bars and levers over from the road bike, but it still feels a world apart.

Front view

Front view

3) Handling

What a sensation it is to ride the Thorn after a road bike – the steel frame is dynamic, the forks too.  The whole thing works as one, feeding back every element of your journey in a quite bearable and very useful way.  It almost feels springy after the super stiff and unforgiving ride I have become used to – helped no doubt by the 25c tyres as well as the steel forks.  The longer wheelbase has a significant effect as well – the handling of the road bike verged on scary at times, as it could (and did) turn on a sixpence if the mood took it.  Fast riding was always unpredictable and whilst this quality did mean that quick blasts out of the saddle were easy, it did not make for a relaxing experience as my rides got longer.

The Thorn is the opposite.  Downhill, it simply in spires confidence in the rider.  It feels like you just need to point it and ride – but the extra weight and longer wheelbase do not, strangely, seem to have a slowing effect on it.  Make no mistake – this is a fast bike when speed is demanded of it.  Given that mine is carrying a Carradice bag with SQR bracket, a Brooks saddle and mudguards, this is quite an achievement.

4) Distance Comfort

It’s clear immediately that Thorn have designed this bike for the Audax style of riding – long hours in the saddle, the possibility of some touring work with a load strapped on – so it’s a versatile machine.  A full set of rack mounts is provided in stainless steel, but it’s unlikely you’ll want to run with racks all the time.  The one you see in the photos has been taken off for day to day riding.  My drive train is direct from the Orbea, so at the moment I am running a mixture of 105/Tiagra road componetry.

At the front, I have a 2009 Tiagra compact chainset running 52/39, with a 12-27 cassette on the back that is changed by a short cage 105 rear mech.  The bulk of my riding at present is East Anglian country roads, typically 20/30 miles plus, with perhaps a few hundred feet of climbing in the whole ride.

There just isn’t the need for the kind of flexibility that I might get from a triple chainset at this stage, and I was comfortably maintaining 15.5 – 16mph on a 52/15 ratio today – a momentum that the bike clearly wants to keep up all day.  So, unless I am bitten by the long distance touring bug, the road kit will stay put as it all works and is in good condition.  A new HG53 9 speed chain has worked wonders for smoothness as well.

So, 15 miles under its belt, the Thorn has already begun to impress me profoundly.  It’s facilitating a whole new style of riding, and the chances of resurrecting that roadie frame currently hanging up in the  garage are receding by the hour!

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