Voila! Il est Bob

In March’s post about my post-apocalyptic snow ride across the Pennines, I pointed to difficulties in ‘real life’. I’m afraid more ‘life events’ have monopolised my time and energy of late. To say things have been difficult would be an understatement. Nevertheless, life must roll on and, with a deep breath, I can now quickly post about the Bob Jackson I started to build last year.

After many a false start and component challenge, the bike I will ride at this year’s Eroica Britannia looks a bit like this…


I’ve had to make one or two compromises along the way but I’m pretty happy with the final result. I say ‘final’ but the pedals need to change to meet l’eroica specifications (clips and straps) and it needs some bottle cages. You get the idea though.

And before the purists start squealing, I know this is not really kosher… it’s not a road bike, but sourcing a pre-1987 bike in the right size (ginormous) was nigh on impossible. It apes the old French randonneur and touring bikes and is very much in that spirit, but with (hopefully) more reliable modern replica components. And besides, it’s a fair old stretch for those downtube shifters on a frame of this size. I guess they make it heroic if nothing else!

The chainset is now a triple – a simple Stronglight Impact – after supply problems from Middleburn and Velo Orange. This was not my original plan as I hoped to fit a ‘super-compact’ double. The Stronglight works well though and is aesthetically right.


The brake levers are positioned a bit high too, I will adjust them ahead of the ride if I get the time.

The build is as follows:

Frame: Bob Jackson World Tour 26.5 inch, Reynolds 631 (yes, it’s a monster)
Bars: Velo Orange ‘Rando’ 46 cm
Levers: Dia Compe Gran Cru drilled
Bar tape: Brooks tan
Stem: 3ttt Status quill 130mm
Headset: Chris King threaded
Mudguards: Velo Orange 45mm hammered finish
Tyres: Panaracer Pasela Tourguard 32mm
Hubs: Dia Compe Gran Compe ENE, 36-hole
Rims: H Plus Son TB 14, Polished
Brakes: Velo Orange Zeste Cantilevers with anti squeal blocks, Dia Compe roller hangers.
Shifters: Dia Compe downtube micro-ratchet shifters
Front mech: Campagnolo Veloce
Chainset: Stronglight Comp triple 175mm, 50,40,30t
Bottom bracket: Stronglight JP 400, alloy
Rear mech: Campagnolo Comp triple
Cassette: Sram 8 spd, 11-28t
Seat post: Velo Orange Gran Cru (layback)
Saddle: Brooks Imperial
Saddlebag: Caradice zip roll

I’m riding the 100-miler on Sunday. It’s a lovely route on roads and paths I know well. I can’t wait!


If it ‘aint broke…

Cycling is synonymous with technology. Advances in components allow the moderately fit to ride a mountain bike up the side of a house while cycle tourers can tumble down a mountain pass with four week’s supplies on board and be confident that they’ll be able to stop.

Frame materials have moved from mainstay steel to aluminum and carbon in a bid to shed weight. Wheels have lost spokes, saddles have shrunk and handlebars have morphed in accordance with ergonomic study.
Manufacturers’ devotion to product development is mainly geared to the racing community, where weight and energy transfer are paramount, and to those ‘normal’ cyclists with deep pockets who seek to emulate their heroes in the peleton.

I don’t fit that mould (I’m far too ungainly and ugly) and, consequently, my tastes are a little more prosaic.

I prefer my bikes to be steel and I like my wheels to be handmade and have 36 spokes. I want my components to be reliable, tough and easy to maintain.

This ethos extends to all kit choice, but this pragmatism does not displace genuine affection for one or two items.

The first has to be my Brooks saddles. I have two B17s, a black standard issue on my audax and a Champion Special in rather natty green on my tourer.

Both are now well broken in and sublimely comfortable. I am lucky in that my backside fits an out-of-the-box Brooks pretty well so I don’t suffer during the break-in period. I know it’s agony for some folk, though.

In the two years I’ve had them, they’ve required no maintenance save for a bit of proof hide, mainly on the underside. I’ve also dabbed a bit of 3-in-1 oil on the front bolt to stop the well-known squeak.

I can’t imagine cycling distance on anything else and the only reason I don’t replace the perch on my hack Kona is that I fear someone would steal it when it’s locked up.

Other products that rank highly are my Caradice panniers, bar bag and junior saddlebag. The fact they are not waterproof means little to me – rucksacks are not watertight so using drybags is second nature.

The cotton duck is incredibly strong, the mounting system on the panniers is simple but rock-solid effective while the saddlebag on my Audax will swallow cake, repair kit, wallet and waterproofs without need for a rear rack.

More than all that, what makes my heart swell about both Brooks and Caradice products is that they are made in the UK. Brooks saddles are still manufactured in the West Midlands – Smethwick – while a very nice lady in Nelson, Lancashire, made my bags. I know this because there’s a little label inside them that tells me so.

I also know that if either of them let me down, these companies will deal with any issues swiftly with the minimum of fuss.

Not a scrap of carbon or titanium in sight, just simple stuff that works really well.