: The overflow valve for my mind
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This is currently my best bike.
I use it for days out, evening fun rides and daily commuting.
Stopped mid ride

I bought it back in June 2003 (the 6th if you want to know) with the intention of starting to ride longer road distances, to tour, and to ride the Lands End to John O’Groats ride. In the first 8 months this bike covered 2,243.5 miles (the rest of the time I was on one of my other bikes, or prevented from riding to work as every one week in four I had to take the motorbike as I had to visit various work sites).

After 8 months I fell off the Brompton and injured my shoulder badly, resulting in a month off the bikes altogether. Once I returned to cycling I didn’t go out as often as before, so my mileage has suffered (as has my fitness). I am hoping as we go into 2005 that I will start to ride more once again. (As I write this at the end of January 2005 this bike has 4,819.2 miles on the clock).

This bike is a 2002 model Dawes Audax and I bought it at an “end of range/last season” price. As a 2002 model it is still a lugged Reynolds 531 frame (the 2003 model moved into welded 631 tubing).

After test riding it and enjoying the ride, I asked my bike shop to upgrade it with the following.
- A-head converter so I could fit a shorter stem so I wasn’t as stretched out when riding.
- Replace all Shimano gears with Campagnolo gears (I had been fed up with regularly buying new Shimano chains and cassettes so I thought I’d try out this theory of “Shimano wears out when Compag wears in”).
- Instead of fitting a standard Compag block (which are close ratio) I asked my bike shop to combine two separate cassettes to give a range from 26 teeth to 12 teeth. I did this as I had fast touring in mind, rather than racing. For this reason I also specified a 52/42/30 triple chainset rather than a double.
- Replace the wheels with Mavic Open-Pro rims on Compag Centaur hubs
- Fit my current comfy saddle and SPD pedals.

When I went to take it round the block for a test ride before paying I was absolutely amazed at the improvement that these changes had made! The bike was just a pleasant bike to ride on my test ride, but now it was a joy to ride. The steering was so much more precise and responsive, the acceleration was immediate and positive; everything just felt so crisp and perfect.

This has made the bike a joy to ride, whether on a short trip to my parents, a longer trip to work (as I do almost daily now), a day out and a long ride or even the longer rides (such as the Dun Run).

Since purchase I have upgraded the bike with a rack (a Christmas present) a bar bag (a valentines present) an Air-Zound (a birthday present) a mirror and also a Schmidt dynamo hub lighting system. This was an expensive outlay, but I would recommend this lights set up to anybody intending to often ride on the road at night. After many years of buying many different lights I have finally found the correct answer. These lights are brilliant! I was initially worried about drag from the dynohub, so bought a whole new wheel to lace it into. However the drag compared to the Compag Centaur hub is so negligible on the road that I have not yet got around to removing the Schmidt wheel and replacing it with my “summer” centaur wheel!

I am running a Schmidt hub, an E6 light and an E6-Z secondary light. At night on single track lanes approaching cars find a safe place to pull over and stop, on residential roads with parked cars oncoming traffic does give way, sometimes I even get flashed by drivers asking me to dip my lights! This is despite them being just 3Watts each and angled low so that they do NOT dazzle oncoming traffic! I am happy to ride by these lights on unlit downhill sections at up to 40 miles an hour, no other light has yet satisfied me in this way. Even better, they do not run on batteries so I can ride all night at this level of brightness if I want to (and I do sometimes).

Some people say that you must run really powerful lights to be seen, especially on unlit roads. My setup has proved this to be wrong. The most classic example was soon after I got them. I had arranged to meet up with a group, and we were just leaving the pub for a long night ride. The chap in front of me was pleased with his lights (2 10W bulbs) and was critical of me as I had no front lights at all (we were stationary so mine were unlit). As we pulled away his lights were bright. As we gathered speed up to normal running pace my lights outshone his and he pulled over to let the “car” past, as that’s what he thought I was. Once he realised that I wasn’t a car we had our ride. At the start I outshone him, after half an hour his lights were visibly dimmer, and after an hour and a half he was desperate to finish the ride as his lights were about to go out as the batteries were flat; my lights, being dynohub powered, were still as bright as at the start.

Another upgrade I have made to the bike is to replace the Schwalbe Blizzard tyres with Panaracer Tiagra tourguards. I wasn’t impressed with the Blizzards as they gave very little grip in the wet, and had almost worn out after 1,700 miles and so had started puncturing every few rides. I have found the tourgaurds to be a faster and more comfortable tyre which grips as will in the wet as it does in the dry. I have also found it to last a lot longer than the Blizzards, with a tyre that had done over 2,000 miles showing very little wear. They also seem to be very puncture resistant (although this week I have had some problems and realised that when they do puncture the threads seem to go; therefore the jury has now gone out on these tyres).


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