Virtual Park Up: Jack Thompson’s Ti Aura

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This week’s VC ‘Bike of the Week’ comes from Ultra Endurance Adventure cyclist and VeloClub member Jack Thompson.

One of the most romantic things about cycling, in my eyes, is one’s bicycle choice. Grown men and women, sit behind computer screens ogling at technological advances, bright colours, frameset weight and geometry in order to pick ‘the perfect’ bike for the job. This begs the question, ‘what is the perfect bike?’

For one, it may be the lightest bike, for another it may be the brightest bike. More sensible folk may spend hours looking at geometry, putting aside looks and weight and picking the bike that most suitably fits their body configuration and range of movement (or lack there of in some cases…)

There is a new movement in the world of cycling, best categorized as ‘Adventure Cycling’. The beauty of adventure, is that no two adventures are ever the same. One persons adventure may be as simple as a 50km ride along paved roads to a nearby town. Another persons adventure may be a trans-continental expedition through strange countries, on gravel roads, up mountains, through the night and with little sleep. For me, it’s the later and nothing excites me more than the unknown.

When embarking on a multi day, transcontinental journey through varied terrain, equipment choice becomes increasingly important. Things such as weight come into play, but it manifests itself in a slightly different light. When I think of weight, I think of my total equipment weight (bags, water, food, sleeping equipment, tools and clothing), where on the bike it will be stored and how the bike, in particular braking and handling, will be affected by the additional weight. When I think of geometry, I think of comfort, the ability to sit in my aero bars for upwards of 18hrs/day and the ability to fit the right bags and water on the frame so as to utilise all of the frame space available.

Up until now, I’ve been riding a custom Quirk Cycles Steel frameset. To be brutally honest, it has been brilliant. But, being my first custom bike, there were a few things I overlooked. I opted for a slightly smaller frame and longer stem so as to reduce weight. In theory, this was great, however in reality, it translated to a smaller frame triangle which in turn meant less capacity for water and storage.

I am fortunate enough to be in a position where I have been offered the opportunity to design a second custom frameset, this time in Titanium. A close friend on mine based in Perth, Tom Barratt, runs a boutique bike brand, ‘Aura Cycles,’ that up until now have been building both custom Ti and Carbon frames. The Ti frames are hand built in the North of Italy by an established frame builder and the quality is mind boggling.

Tom is looking to concentrate solely on Ti bikes and the ‘Adventure Cycling’ market and as such, given we are close mates and live within a stones throw of one another in Perth, it made sense that we partner together and design a custom frameset for me to ride moving forward. Tom is an oil and gas engineer by trade with a fine eye for detail so I feel incredibly comfortable leaving the design work to him. We’ve spent countless hours discussing the geometry and frame specifics (over a few beers of course) and we’re confident that we now have the ‘Ultimate’ frame designed and ready for production. Production kicks off this week and delivery will take place in approximately eight weeks, just in time for the Transcontinental Race across Europe.

Whilst I wait for the frame builder to work his magic in the Italian Mountains, I have had the pleasure of being able to ride one of Tom’s very own Ti creations. Tom is a little taller than me so to begin with I was a little concerned that his bike would be too large. I ride quite a stretched out position in the Aero bars so with a drop of the seat post, we managed to get the bike dialed in perfectly. Having come off a steel frameset, and not having ridden Ti previous to this, I didn’t quite know what to expect. Like the steel frame, the Ti absorbs the majority of the road buzz and allows me to concentrate my energy through the pedals. The comfort levels are incredible and the bike feels as though it’s right at home on long climbs, even when loaded with bags.

The one thing I did notice was the weight saving in the Ti frame compared to the steel. Admittedly, the Steel bike has disc brakes and the current Ti bike has caliper brakes although I don’t believe there is a huge difference between the two. My favourite characteristic of the Ti frameset is the raw finish. Say goodbye to scratched paint and unsightly gouges. If you scratch a Ti bike, you can use a little steel wool to buff it back and voila! It looks like new again. For me, this translates to a win as after multi day trips along gravel roads my bike is generally looking a little worse for ware. In addition to this, the constant friction of frame bags can tarnish paint and when the bags are removed this looks unsightly. Like most bike lovers, I like my equipment looking like new all the time.

I’m still deciding what group set I will run on the new frameset. One thing I have settled on is mechanical disc brakes in lieu of Hydraulic disc brakes. The background to this decision is serviceability and the need to be able to fix my bike on the run. In addition to this, when loaded up with equipment, the disc brakes provide the additional stopping power that’s required on long alpine descents. When I’m out in the Serbian mountains this August, I don’t even want to think about bleeding hydraulic brakes!! I will continue to use my Hed Belgium+ wheels and will likely pull the seat post, stem and Bars off my current steel steed. The build will be finished with a Selle Italia SLR saddle, Deda Aero bars, speedplay pedals and my Apidura Bags.

I can not wait ;)

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