Saturday, 8 January 2011

New year, new bike!

After much anticipation and even more faffing around, here I am arriving home this morning with my new Thorn Audax Mk3.  Hannah looks pleased too.

It was easy deciding Thorn bikes were good from the various reviews and general things on the internet.  Easy too deciding it was the Audax Mk3 was my choice.  Fairly easy deciding on the spec (to keep the price down).  The really hard part was deciding on the colour!  I had mistakenly gained the impression from the helpful Thorn staff that they had almost every colour and "guest" colour in stock in my size and there was much debate at home about this.  Should I go for this, or maybe that.....? So after deciding on British Racing Green, with Cobalt Blue as my second choice, I called late last year and placed the order.  In the end the choice was red or blue.  I really liked the blue.

I actually decided on getting the frame before the impending price rise and made it just in the nick of time.  I also propositioned a local bike shop by saying I'd committed to at least the frame and their challenge was to reproduce the basic SJS spec in matching the price or improving it.  They came up trumps and its nice to support a local bike shop too.  SJS were pretty relaxed about this and quickly supplied the frame.

I opted for the Dura Ace bar end shifters as a long term bet.  The STI combined gear / brake levers do look and feel nice though.  Balanced against the attraction of keeping it simple and a tad cheaper, bar end shifters would be a safe choice.  In the bike shop there was some debate about the wheels, suggesting the standard DeOre hubs could be improved on and as I like the idea of happily riding this bike for the next 25 years, some more up-market Miche sealed hubs were selected - they're very smooth and I think worth a little extra and accept Shimano cassettes.  Sticking with the wheels, the same Pasela puncture resistant tyres are used, together with 32h Mavic Open Sport rims.  These rims aren't top-of-the-range but still very good with an interesting cross-section (need to see more detailed Mavic information for these details). There's a wear indicator engrained into the braking surface which for me is something totally new to me - I've never worn a rim out although I'm sure my old ones are a much thinner nowadays.

The bike shop has used Cinelli bars and stem, a Nimrod rack, Shimano brake levers and brake calipers.  They ordered me a Brooks B17 saddle which didn't arrive in time so for now I've got my old B17 on.  Pedals are my existing Shimano SPD clipless ones (they're the sleek looking single sided tourist model).  A 12 LED Cateye rear light (already got one - no qualms about getting another) and that almost completes the bike along with some comfy gel-filled cork tape and a lightweight Specialised bottle cage.  That was an interesting challenge to fit: the position of the boss was very close to the band of the front mech (Shimano XT).  Some spacers - about 3mm - had to be used to make the bottle cage stand proud enough.  That was a curous thing, particularly as the XT front mech was part of the Thorn spec.  The DeOre chainset came with a chainguard.  Without apology, it was unscrewed.  It just didn't look or seem right.

Had lunch, quickly noted the serial number under the bottom bracket shell) and got ready for an "introductory" ride; to get to know the first bike I've bought for myself in 25 years.

All in all, it was superb!  I noticed quite a few differences from my c1984 Dawes Galaxy.  Some were anticipated, some took me by surprise, some just slowly unfolded.  The positioning of the pedals seemed much wider: the MTB style cranks are designed to offset your feet outwards by a few mm.  That combined with the bottom bracket appearing to have an external bearing arrangement, adding a further 5mm on either side.  Quickly I got used to this.

The frame.  The frame - wow! As anticipated it is a lot sharper to ride, much faster compared to the Dawes Galaxy.  From the start it seemed to just get the balance right between being a fast responsive frame and yet gave that comfort you come to expect from a classy steel frame.  Being a tighter, shorter wheelbase I was expecting a ride that was a little more fidgety which to a certain extent I got but within a couple of miles I found I'd adapted and really there is no issue.  The real test was a nice downhill sweep where normally I'd freewheel down at 25-30mph.  To my surprise it was completely stable and felt very sure-footed: this really was a sign of a great handling bike.

The frame itself is finished off flawlessly - I went over it pretty thoroughly and it is without any blemish and each of the welded joints are very clean and neat.  I like the detailed touches, even down to the way the mud guard can screw neatly into a little tube just behind the bottom bracket - not a hole to put a nut and bolt through, but a threaded socket.  Getting a little bottle of touch-up paint was thoughtful and without doubt it'll be useful in the fullness of time.

Once again I'm in the cool position of having a bike worth more than my car and I can say with real conviction - IT FEELS GREAT!

I'm really looking forward to getting to know the Audax Mk3 better over the coming weeks.  Today's 10 miles has been a good start but just that, a start of what will hopefully be a long and healthy relationship.

Great having a triple chainset for once but I don't need those
ultra-low gears on the standard SJS spec

A reminder why mudguards are a must, no matter how naff they might look
While out running I noticed this road was closed
 during the recent wintry weather

Perhps the most boring self-timer picture of all time.  Nice bike though.


  1. Congrats on your bike,Doug.
    I have a Blue audax too...mines a Roberts.
    I also like to run as well.
    I have enjoyed stopping by and reading your blog,
    All the best, 'H'.

  2. nice bike mate i bought mine last yr and as you said WOW!i prefer it to my carbon scott addict which cost me £2500 enjoy!!!!!!!

  3. To H and Anonymous - my apologies for such a brief "thanks" in the above comment.
    H - although I've always enjoyed cycling since my teens, I've only just started running in the last few years. I think I'm a better runner than cyclist and so with the Audax I'm hoping to get a better balance this year.
    Anonymous - I bet your Scott is still a great bike but I'm intrigued about you preferring your Thorn Audax. Why do you like it so much?
    Regards, Doug.

  4. Hello Doug,
    just found your blog, whilst carrying out the same research you must have done,..and comming to the same conclusion. I reckon you must have had the Mk3 for a year or so now....howz it going? Anything I should consider befor putting my money down, and joining the "Bike worth more than the car" club!
    Cheers Dave

    1. Hi Dave

      If you buy the bike direct from Thorn, that will be the most straightforward way of getting a ready to go bike. There is nothing wrong in doing that and I am sure it will be great. I took the LBS route as they were willing to accept the challenge. The only gripes are small details such as the naff mudguards they fitted and I replaced. The rear rack isn't that good but again it is a small detail. The only thing I would change is probably going for STI levers instead of the bar end ones. That is just from ergomics and comfort.

      The main thing is getting the right size frame, which is probably easy if you already cycle. My LBS offered to swap the bars ans stem if they weren't right but I have no need of doing that.

      Aside from the STI levers and rack, I would buy the same bike again if it was stolen or something.

      Hope that helps, if you get a chance please let me know what you decide.

      All the best,


    2. Doug, yes the size of the frame is the real issue.Looking at the pics I would say you went for the 550 (medium)?What height are you?
      Im 1780 (5'.10" in real money)and currently ride a 53cm Cannondale synapse with a reach of 475mm (nose of saddle to centre of bars) When im on more "leisurly", longer rides,60 miles or so, it feels as if a slightly shorter reach would be more comfortable,(lower back discomfort), so Im eering towards the 525.(Small/medium). Thorn even suggested the 555s, but I think this may be too short, and has the added disadvantage of not taking carbon forks.Any observations or personal experiance from existing 525 or 555s owners would be much appreciated! :) Dave.

    3. Hi Dave,

      Yes you're right I did go for the 550 medium size and I'm an inch shorter than you. I've just popped out to measure the saddle nose to handlebars and it is 51cm but you need to +/- a bit according to saddle type or position.

      With a nice long seat seat post you have plenty of flexibility and of course there's plenty of handle bar stems around to fine tune the fit. Having said that, I do remember when I bought my frame I had a helpful conversation with Thorn Cycles about the size and it seemed a very straight forward decision. Clearly no amount of fiddling with handlebar stems will fully make up for a wrong sized frame in the first place.

      I've just taken a look at the Thorn brochure and there is a questionnaire about your dimensions so I guess that would help you and Thorn decide on the optimum frame size.

      I'm sure you'll have seen their forum but there's not a lot of 'audax' chat there.

      Hope that helps?