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.|