I purchased my touring bike back at the end of 2010. The photo will reveal the make. I’ve never really loved it as much as I probably should love a custom build, bespoke frame. I don’t know if that is my, the bike’s, or the frame builder’s fault. Mine probably, owing to unrealistic expectations I think.
I went to visit CR back in October 2010 as I decided I wanted to try cycle touring. I’m never one to scrimp on getting the right equipment for the job, so I went straight for what is probably close to the top end of the market for such a bike. I didn’t really know what I wanted in terms of the details (that’s what I would be paying an expert for) so was happy to take CR’s advice on the various options (gears, brakes, wheels, lighting etc etc). I took along my very much loved and comfortable titanium road bike but its geometry was largely ignored during the measuring process.
I thought I was getting a female transcontinental touring frame, with a nice low/sloping top tube so I could easily lift my leg over when my bike was laden with panniers, and a frame geometry that would lead to quite an upright position. I decided against a hub gear. I decided against a third bottle cage (a decision I now regret). I decided against dynamo lighting. When it came to the frame colour, there was a beautiful metallic lilac/purple bike in the workshop at the time and I pointed my finger and said “I want that one”.
I went to pick the bike up 6 weeks later. CR presented me with a blue bike. Errrr – surely some mistake. Apparently I had ordered “blue lilac” according to the hastily added “blue” in pencil to my order sheet. I was told that everyone else coming into the workshop had commented how beautiful it was so CR could easily sell it to someone else if I no longer wanted it (forfeiting my deposit of course). *sigh*. Fine – accept the blue bike (it is a beautiful bike as the pic will confirm).
I took it for a spin around the block. Bloody hell it was uncomfortable. I was stretched out more than I had been on my road bike – this was not at all what I was expecting. I told CR and he looked somewhat incredulous that I could possibly find the bike uncomfortable. The saddle was adjusted and it was better (although still not really what I had expected, but maybe I had my expectations all wrong). I had a niggling feeling in the back of my mind that it wasn’t actually my bike (a feeling I have never quite managed to shake).
I took it home and cycled only 600 miles in the next two to three years, using it only when the weather required mudguards, or I needed to carry heavier than usual panniers. It was sluggish, and heavy and difficult to get onto (as the top tube wasn’t quite as low as my flexibility needed it to be). I became even more disheartened by the bike when on a tour in Northumberland, spokes on the rear wheel starting randomly snapping (not on the drive side, and right in the middle of the spoke). It almost ended our tour at the time. I returned the wheel and it took them 6 weeks to respoke it, along with the attitude that it was somehow my fault.
However, after a few more tours, where I properly loaded up with 4 panniers and a tent and actually asked the bike to do what it had been built to do, well, it really came into its own. Don’t get me wrong, I still pretty much hate cycling it as a day bike without luggage (in its so-called naked state). But as a fully laden touring bike, it’s a pleasure to cycle. It feels strong and sturdy as opposed to slow and heavy. It’s incredibly smooth and stable, something that is needed when you can build up a decent amount of speed carrying that much weight.
So, what are the specs? Well here are details of a few of the key elements:
- CR transcontinental compact touring frame
- Harry Rowland hand built 36 spoke wheels, Rigida Sputnik rims, Shimano XT hubs
- Shimano XT rear mech
- Campagnolo comp triple front mech
- Stronglight 26/36/46 chain rings
- Shimano 11/32 10 speed cassette
- Gear inch range approx 22″ to 113″
- Stronglight cranks 170mm
- Tubus Logo rear and Duo front racks
- Shimano canti brakes
- SKS mudguards