The #ÆIGHTMANUFACTORY ONE frame was finished but unpainted when Cameron’s plastic bike failed a few days before the National Champs…
I’d intended to get The ONE ready for the end of the season as a surprise for our riders so we could play with it under no pressure – the racing would be over and we could thoroughly test the bike out ahead of next seasons cross races. Then Cam’s plastic bike failed with just a couple of races to go. This wouldn’t normally be a problem but one of those races was the National Champs and was only a few days away. In fact he confessed that his bike had broken in reply to a message I sent the lads, asking where they thought the framestays looked better before I brazed them in!
We agreed on where to braze the rear end and I sped the work up in the vain hope that we might pull something together as Cam’s old bike was terminal!
To get it built in time I scavenged a mix of bits from my own bike and the wheels from Cameron’s but everything was as I intended it to be. The Hope wheels were already dressed in Schwalbe’s excellent X-One’s and had a XT 11-40 cassette on them to cover all uses. People moan about the gaps but feedback from Pip, Cam and Jack, as well as my own testing, has proved that it’s not a problem even on the road. Maybe old school riders are used to the smaller gaps that you get from a traditional set-up but it’s just not for us.
To achieve this we use a mix of Wolftooth and Hope rings depending on the bike/use and then simply choose the right ring for the conditions – in reality this change needs to be made very rarely. All the bikes are Di2 specific so here I used an XT rear mech, Ultegra shifters and an Ultegra crank. My shifter buttons are set up so that you can shift up/down with either the left or the right hand and the levers are taped with skateboard tape for extra grip. The hydraulic levers match up to XT callipers really well and I’m trying some Hope callipers on another bike at the moment, which are even stronger!
I use Ritchey finishing kit throughout most of the bikes and mount the junction underneath the saddles for protection rather than the normal flimsy handlebar/stem mounted junctions which suffer in cross racing. It also helps create a super-clean look as only one di2 cable is visible – it’s then shrink wrapped to the brake hose leaving just the front brake hose plus one other single hose/cable on show! The bars are wrapped in my favourite colour, camo, and the bike was pretty much ready for a test ride.
The National Champs course ended up being super dry after some unseasonal weather – the perfect conditions to test an unpainted steel frame! Both of the lads rode a couple of laps in the official practice on the Saturday night, just 24 hours after the frame was finished and only six hours after it was built into a bike. Feedback was good and it was clear that after some minor tweaks we had a bike that both of them could use – there saddle heights are within 30 mm of one another so altering the bike between test rides/races was really easy. In fact I’ve built this frame so that at a push it can be set up for me and even for Pip – One bike for all of us to use at races as a spare or main bike.
We did a couple more laps on Sunday morning and it was ready to go. Jack opted to use it for warm-up and as a spare in the race. He had a fantastic result and learned a lot which was great to see. Then we had a gap between races to watch the epic Elite women battle between Nikki Brammeier and Anna Kay before Cameron warmed up. We’d managed to grab another spare bike from a friend so I was even more pleased when I asked him which one he wanted to ride and he said he wanted to race on the ONE.
The race went off like a 100m sprint and never really calmed down but Cam stayed out of trouble and was in a great position at a third race distance which was when Tom Pidcock started to lap and eliminate riders. At around half distance Cameron got pulled but this was no reflection on him as eventually only 13 riders managed to actually finish the race – three U23s on the podium proved that the old guard of cyclocross had been well and truly deposed! Best of all for us was that again, Cameron had raced well and learned a great deal, the bike had performed well despite a lack of prep and we’d flown the flag for the local club and the #aeightbikeco, proving that working as a collective, we’d managed to beat many other riders – next year we’ll be back!
Photos by Glen Whittington.
Thanks to Geoff Roberts for his encouragement, wisdom and cups of tea.
#aeightracer – Glen rides for the Southborough & District Wheelers. He races mountain bikes, road bikes, TT and ‘cross at local and national level. He started building frames in 2013, has worked in bike shops since 2002 and started racing in 1998. He receives personal support from Helly Hansen, Wildside Cycles, Four4th Lights and set-up the.æight.bicycle.cøllective
Cameron’s been riding with us since 2014 when Glen first built a tiny 650c Youth road bike for him – since then he’s worked hard and raced his first season of ‘Cross in 2017/18 finishing 10th overall in the Juniors and then following it up with a highly successful road season – he’ll be looking to improve on that in the 2018/19 season where he’s racing the Seniors/U23. He’s also racing road on a 2nd cat license and has moved to a new team, Southdowns Bikes/Casco Pet, which will help him make the step up to 1st cat and possibly some euro racing. If he can squeeze it in he’ll also be trying his hand at some mountain bike and TT.
GOT WHAT IT TAKES TO RACE WITH US?
We’re always looking for other riders to be on our collective. The #aeightbikeco is about doing things a little differently. We’re looking to kit our riders out with steel race frames made in Sussex. Whether that’s for ‘cross, road, crit, TT or mountain bike we’re offering the chance to have a custom steel bike made for you to race on – not just put together, but fully bespoke.
The best part is that we’re not asking you to leave your team or club – that includes racing in your club/team kit. We’ve got certain brands that we’d like to work with and that we’re adding to, but we’re open to suggestions and maybe you’ve got a sponsor or support that you could bring to the table?
We have some strict qualifying criteria but don’t be put off by this – if you’re interested in being part of the #aeightbikeco then please get in touch by emailing your racing CV to firstname.lastname@example.org