Please be mindful that I bought just the frameset from Thorn Cycles / SJS Cycles and had it built up at a Local Bike Shop (LBS). The LBS used some components that may differ from the complete bikes supplied by Thorn but it is a long similar lines.
Before I go into all the details, I'd like to say that this is a really great bike and without doubt a good choice for me. Secondly I'm really disappointed in myself for not being able to clock up more miles in the last 5 months. If you're a regular reader you'll know how an injured hand caused me to stop riding for several weeks and it still prevents me from riding as much as I should. That's the challenge: it's a fantastic bike that begs to be ridden and yet I know I have to allow my hand to heal properly.
I digress, back to the bike. Here's a review which I hope will be of use to anyone interested in this kind of bike. It's worth bearing in mind that there are a number of alternatives which I'm sure will have their merits; the light touring bike seems to be popular these days, though probably terms such as "sportive", "audax" or "training bike" may have more street cred with some cyclists.
The frameset, the heart of the bike, is where it all springs from and I reckon it's worth spending an appropriate amount of money to get this right from the outset. Please click here for Thorn Cycles for all the technical details. It is supplied complete with a headset and a seat post which contribute to this being good value. Before I rode the bike I looked over the frame. It was flawless.
I like many of the thoughtful touches. There are a number of braze-ons which are all very worthwhile:
- Pump peg on the seat stay
- Two sets of bottle cages
- Four point fixing for a rear pannier rack
- Low rider fixing points on the front forks
- Slotted cable guides
- Mudguard eyes
I appreciated the small bottle of touch-up paint and I've already had to use this. I have also found the gear cable casing rubs against the head tube (just because of the natural curve) and so I've used a little gaffer tape to stop any more paint wear.
It handles beautifully overall. It has a nice lively sporty feel compared to my 1984 Dawes Galaxy. Also it's nice and stiff, useful when stomping down hard on the pedals. And yet it's not too sporty either; it's stable on fast down hill swoops (I've hit 38mph a few times) and yet has that steel frame springiness to make long rides less jarring.
I'm pretty sure this is the same as what is offered by Thorn as a complete bike. Deore chainset with 48, 38 and 26T chainrings, combined with a 9 speed cluster of 12-26T. The mechs are Shimano XT at the front and Deore at the rear. The shifters are the bar end type, indexed for the rear only. The chain is a 9 speed KMC with a quick link.
The performance is impressive. It changes so fast and smoothly (compared to what I was used to) and remains the case. It has retained perfect adjustment with only the need to tension the rear cable once. The range of gears is lovely, though in practice I've not had much need to use the 26T chainring but it's nice to know it's there. I'm sure there will come a time when I appreciate it being there.
The choice of shifters was something I dithered about. I got put off STI shifters because of their complexity against the long term simplicity of the bar end alternative. They work fine though it still does not seem a completely natural place for shifters to be. The STI ones seemed really comfortable when I tried them. Perhaps for this comfort reason, I might go for those if ever I need to replace the bike in the future.
I have the same 32h Mavic Open Sport rims. After the initial bedding in period they were trued and have remained perfectly true for hundreds of miles (including a few bumpy trails, fully loaded). The Miche hubs are different and a suggested upgrade by my LBS. These are fully sealed cartridge bearings, replaceable of course. They're light, ultra smooth and reckoned to be better than the Shimano equivalents.
The Panaracer Tourguard tyres are fine with nice handling and grip. They're not heavy and I'm confident they're a good choice. I have, however, had two punctures but looking at the offending glass and thorn I think they can be forgiven.
As for wear, you can see just a little wear in the picture but that's after 1000+ miles on the rear. So therefore I guess there's another 3000 miles. You can get cheaper tyres but it's just not worth it over that number of miles.
The LBS used Cinelli bars and stem with the sizes based on those in the brochure, with the offer of changing them free of charge if the need arose. No such need cropped up and they're fine, though a little wider than what I was used to. These though are, I'm sure, the correct width.
The pedals are the Shimano clip less, carried forward from my old bike. They're fine apart from being single sided. Even though they cost, from memory, £35ish, and have done thousands of miles, they're still smooth, in perfect adjustment and therefore good value. I hate the Specialized shoes but that's a subject for another time.
I went for a Brooks B17 saddle as I already had one on the old bike. I just like it and appreciated being able to still get something like that. The LBS doesn't usually stock them, "no demand" they say. Shame. If people think a cheap squishy plastic saddle is the route to comfort, I reckon that's a mistake. I also like taking care of the Brooks saddles with an occasional wipe of Proofhide - a kind of ritual.
These are the standard issue Shimano ones and are fine but only adequate in terms of their stopping power. Maybe better pads would help. They have stayed in perfect adjustment. One other observation is that the pads are at the bottom of the slot and only JUST sufficiently far down enough to miss the tyre. Another 1 or 2mm wouldn't go amiss.
I had a Cateye Strada wireless computer for my birthday, a while after I got the bike. It's great, I love it!
The Nimrod rack is too flexible and will be replaced before too long. I do like having a proper fixing plate for the rear Cateye light, so that's good. Yep, I'm disappointed in this rack as it seems to be made with a one-size-fits-all approach which is undoubtedly useful on some bikes but not this. It just sways from side to side too much. The mudguards in the top photo got replaced as they were too wide for the forks and flapped around - I went for some narrower SKS mudguards with two sets of stays. I think the original ones were Blumels Commuter type, grrrrrr. Nothing less will do and they're not expensive.
This bike is great, no doubt. I'd buy another if it got nicked, crushed or whatever but I'd ponder some of the details once again.
As for the elusive question of whether it has that certain "something" where I feel totally in tune with it, I'd have to say "no, not quite, not yet". That is partly due to my injured hand, naff shoes and whether STI levers would be more comfortable. But they're only details which can be dealt with as-and-when. This bike holds great promise and I look forward to getting my money's worth over the next 25 years.
Any comments, questions?
Just leave me a Comment below....