Time to miss a few races and light the brazing torch up…
Looking back at the Summer I couldn’t have really asked for more. I rediscovered my love of mountain biking and topped it off with a win in a 6-hour race at Bedgebury. The 11-speed updates to my Scale 29er made a big difference and I’ve felt comfortable all season. The first couple of ‘cross races this year have gone well and I’ve bagged a couple of strong top ten’s, despite being knackered.
I’ve relaxed my racing program since the Summer in an effort to spend a bit of time working on some new frames and to let my body recover a little. In the Spring I worked with Geoff Roberts on building up a Hellingen Bike for myself and now I’ve finally had the time to finish and build it. Basically the bike is designed for rough roads and cobbles, perfect for the English winter, but not a Winter bike.
The key thing for me was that the bike kept it’s racer geometry – I wanted it to be a proper Flanders Race Bike rather than a soft townie commuter. I’ve never understood why companies are obsessed with making steel heavy and badly shaped – if your race bike position is right, why would you change it?…
Geoff taught me at Enigma’s workshop in Hailsham, Sussex. They run frame-building courses no matter what your level of experience is and I’d thoroughly recommend both Geoff and Enigma. Of course there is a lot to take in and it’s impossible to be a frame-builder over night – the general consensus is that you start getting good after 50 or 60 frames, with builders like Geoff and Joe Walker (Enigma) becoming masters of the art after a good few hundred frames. It takes this time to fully understand how the metal will behave when you heat it a certain way and how to control that.
Therefore I had a lot to learn, but the great thing about working any material with your hands is that, whatever level you’re at, you can add your own individual touches. So my frame is to my exact spec and features custom geometry, space for 28mm tyres, enough compliance to deal with the cobbles and even an old-school number bracket to prove its racer breeding!
Many of the techniques I’d learned before were explained to me in new ways and I came away from my week at Enigma with a really special frame, a much greater understanding of what I was doing and a new mate in Geoff. This gave me the confidence to build two new ‘cross frames which I’m going to write about soon. I’m just getting these two ready for paint now which again will be taken care of the guys at Enigma Paintworks who have really stepped up their act in the last couple of years.
They’ve taken care of the camo paintwork on my Hellingen bike too, so now all I needed to do is ride it. And oh-my-god, it rides so well! In fact it doesn’t really feel like riding, it feels like floating! The Columbus tubeset and 28mm tubeless tyres make it feel like I’m riding on a cushion of air, but then when you stand up and give it the beans the straight rear stays transfer all the power to the ground. I’m taking it out to Belgium later this month to test it more fully, but basically I can’t stop riding the thing!
Cheers to Geoff, Jim, Sam, Max, Joe, Matt, Paul, Richard, Greg, Dave and Jako for all their help, knowledge and time.
Photos by Glen Whittington.
Glen rides for the Southborough & District Wheelers. He races Mountain bikes in the UK National XC Points and Eastern XC Series, Road bikes in the Surrey, South-East and Eastern Leagues, TT in the South East Region and ‘Cross in the LCCA League. He receives personal support from Helly Hansen, The Velo House, and the.æight.bicycle.cømpany @eightbikeco #aeightracer
Glen runs The Velo House with Olly, a coffee shop, workshop and bike shop welcoming all cyclists and even well behaved non-cyclists. We’re based at 5 St.Johns Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN4 9TN – 01892 554 505 – firstname.lastname@example.org. @thevelohouse #thevelohouse