XX3.THREE/AEIGHTTECHBLOG – ØNE HISTORY PT.2
Our ØNE Concept - A single bike designed for all your riding. One bike to rule them all...
Following a successful trial of my own ØNE I went back to the workshop with a heap of ideas. I’d been riding my prototype for two years at this point, trying different set-ups and wheels. I’d raced in a few different countries and tested the concept off-road throughout the UK. Wales, Scotland, Exmoor and the Lakes all presented slightly different requirements and I was really aware that the task to build a bike that could suit all these different terrains and uses was a big one! I also realised that as well as wanting to be personally involved in developing the bike, at some point I’d need to get a larger pool of riders out there to provide their input before making my first frame commercially available.
I’d been working with a rider called Cameron Preece for several years since he was a Youth rider. As part of his development into Under-23 racing he’d got properly into Cyclocross racing and so in the first week of January 2019 I built him a ØNE of his own. We didn’t have time to paint it ahead of the upcoming National Cyclocross Champs, so I assembled the raw frame with a di2 group and some hand built wheels and sent him off to test it! The first time he rode it was on the Friday night before the Champs and he immediately decided to use it as his main bike for the Sunday - this was a positive sign!
Cameron says, “Glen built my ØNE over the winter of 2018/19 and it was first used at the National Championships at Cyclopark, before it was even painted”! This was the year that Tom Pidcock managed to 80% all but 13 riders! Cameron managed to stay in the race for about 40 minutes, finishing in the top half - a decent first test! He then explains, “I also used it for the last race of that season which was the LCCA Team Champs at Ardingly Showground” [where we got on the podium together - GW!]. “I then raced a full season of cyclocross on it in 2019/’20”. Throughout the ‘19/’20 CX season Cam racked up a host of top five places, a win and an overall London and SE CX League top five. The ØNE is not just a race bike, but for me, it’s important that it has race bike DNA - if you can make a bike go fast and be dependable for racing, I personally feel, that this translates into a bike which behaves nicely away from racing.
One of the two main changes I made between my prototype and Cam’s was the addition of a tapered headtube that also had a slightly slacker angle - this doesn’t sound like much now but it made a huge difference and by riding Cam’s bike, it made me realise that this was definitely the right direction. It also allowed me to use a much wider option of forks including a short travel mountain bike suspension fork. I wanted to test this for myself so my plan was to remove the headtube from my prototype frame and braze in a new tapered headtube. However there wasn’t enough space for this so I took the opportunity to repurpose my prototype into a new frame for a third test rider, Pip Jenkins! I obviously also needed to make the frame smaller and this gave me a chance to change the seatstays to my adopted “Valknut” rear end and perfect the design which I first used on Cam’s bike.
Pip says, “My first ride [on the ØNE] was the South Downs Way in a Day. Since then I’ve used it for virtually everything except TT! I commute on it, either off-road or on - I use it as my training bike in the winter on the road and club rides - I race cyclocross on it and I’ve used it for bikepacking adventures or gravel rides. Its really versatile and I love the comfort of being on the same bike for multiple disciplines, simply adjusting the set-up to suit the parcours.” Cam has used his in a similar way as his racing has developed - “Since my first few CX seasons my focus has been on road racing, so I use my ØNE as my training bike, on the road through the winters and off-road in the summer. It’s the perfect bike to mix up training easily, and the ability of being able to handle all sorts of terrain is a feature that I would recommend to anyone, as it can handle both off-road and gravel riding as well as being an appropriate bike to train on, on the road. I have two sets of ÆIGHT WHEELWØRKS PRIMØ 700c wheels - one set up for gravel/cyclocross and the other for the road. This way it is super easy to change as and when I feel, depending on where I would like to ride. It’s great having the option to mix-up disciplines of the sport within a single ride on the cyclocross setup for example, by taking a gravel track or bridleway without even thinking about it”.
Wheels are the number one way to adjust your ØNE for the style of riding that you do like Cam says - Pip backs this up with her experiences - “I have three sets of wheels; A superlight pair of ÆIGHT WHEELWØRKS SUPREMÉ 700c Race Wheels which normally have cyclocross or gravel tyres on for racing - An everyday set of ÆIGHT WHEELWØRKS PRIMØ 700c Training Wheels which normally have a road tyre for club rides, commutes and training - And a pair of ÆIGHT WHEELWØRKS DËLUX 650b which give me a big confidence boost when I’m not sure what terrain is coming up. All my wheels are set up tubeless and because we all use the same hubs, rotors and cassettes across all of our wheel options, everything lines up very nicely. Even if I'm running late for work I can switch wheels in the morning easily and with confidence”. In general we sell most ØNE bikes with at least two sets of wheels for this reason. My next big thing to change with my own bike is the chainring - the ØNE could potentially be set up with a double but I simply don’t find this necessary and we’ve never done this. I have a 38 tooth chainring and a 40 for the winter whilst in the summer I use a 46 or a 44 depending upon the course/terrain. I almost always use a 11-40 cassette across all wheels and because Pip and Cam share this setup, all our wheels are interchangeable just like you’d have on a pro team - we also recommend this setup for our customers because if they ever need support, I have all the spares and parts in stock and ready to go. Asking for feedback on the frame from Pip and Cam following two and three years of respective use, here’s what they say; Pip - “I love it, being completely bespoke means that it fits perfectly and its totally stable - perfect for the various jobs it does. I don't feel like I'm shaken to pieces after a gravel ride like I was on my old alloy bike and I can still sprint to the cafe on a road ride. No one actually believes it is steel when I tell them”. Thinking more about the material Cam says, “although not as stiff, the ØNE has a much smoother feel when riding compared to carbon, so this especially helps for long days in the saddle or for gruelling off-road rides. I remember an initial worry before Glen built it, was how heavy it was going to be - however, the 853 tubing is thin enough that with the right wheelset and finishing kit you can easily get it down to a competitive weight alongside other carbon bikes, and I have not worried about its weight since I have been riding it. I love the aesthetic of steel and the custom paint job on my ØNE is still my favourite!
The secret to building a steel frame is to balance the tubes which need to be stiff and strong (for instance, the chainstays are very stiff to ensure that the drivetrain and brakes work well), with the tubes where you can afford a lighter, more compliant, tube (such as the top tube and the seatstays). In simple terms if you draw a straight line between the rear axle and top of the head tube, everything below that line on a ØNE is super stiff whilst everything above it is more compliant. This makes the bike behave accurately in terms of the terrain whilst balancing the riders comfort. This is backed up by Pip’s, Cam’s and my own experiences across years of testing and development. I asked them about their favourite rides/races; Cam - “The standout memories so far have been the first ride at the National Champs and the following season swimming in the mud at the Somerhill round of the London and SE CX League which I won. It’s hard to pick out a favourite ride with so many great tear-ups around Bedgebury and local trails with Glen and friends, but one that stands out would be when we did the South Downs Way in a day in 2020 - That was such a team effort! Looking forward, I plan to continue to use my ØNE to train on the road again next winter, but also, I have missed racing cyclocross the last couple of years so if it works out, I would love to do a few races on it next season, and maybe even delve into some gravel racing on it at some point in the future.” Pip - “Winning the first round of the London and SE CX League last year at Coombes Farm was one of my best memories - I’m not super confident off-road but the course suited me and the bike helped me overcome my demons! In terms of riding, the 270km SSX Mystery Tour last year was absolutely brilliant and it was the first time I’ve done anything like that on my own, it was a tough day but amazing and beautiful to ride with so many awesome people. Looking forward this year to the FNLDGRVL race and a second bite of the SSX”. For me, my first gravel event, The Distance, sticks in my mind as a brilliant moment in the development of the concept and the bike itself. Thinking back to what we talked about in Part 1 of this blog, this event felt to me like I’d finally nailed what I wanted to achieve! Since then I’ve tweaked a lot, but fundamentally the latest customer frame has the same DNA as the 2016 prototype. Riding in the Lake District was a standout adventure for me - I built a route that was totally unsuitable for gravel bikes and it just dealt with everything I threw at it - I remember being on very rocky downhills thinking about just how much impact my brazing could deal with - I couldn’t quite believe what the frame was capable off. I also love to ride in Exmoor and we’ve had three fantastic trips down there and it always proves to be a favourite for testing, along with our very own Sweet Sussex!
In part 3 we’ll look at the current evolution of the ØNE concept and the latest customer bike.
If you’re interested in building your own bike for off-road or road please get in touch via the contact form or the contact details on the website (www.aeightbikeco.com).
Photos and words by Glen Whittington
Additional words by Cameron Preece and Pip Jenkins
Additional final photo from The Distance by Pannier CC
GLENWHITTINGTON #aeightracer – Glen’s an ex-racer who still finds time to ride bikes for #SDWRacing. He started racing in 1998, initially specialising in XCO and Solo 24-Hour Mountain Bike. He became a mechanic in 2002, working in shops and also for professional race teams. During this time he spent more time racing ‘Cross and Road, and then also TT. In 2013 he built his first bespoke steel frame and then spent several years at Roberts learning the art. Since then he’s designed and tested, alongside our CØLLECTIVE, his ØNE, ÄXE, HMŔ and GÅR platforms which he now offers to the public as part of his ÆIGHT brand. #aeightracer #borninracing #madeinsweetsussex
2023.RIDERS – PIPJENKINS Pip races road locally and TT at National level. In the last four years she’s developed from a background in Triathlon to one of the best riders in her club (SDW), currently holding all female (and two outright) club records including the 24 hours and has collected more than 25 Open TT wins along the way. She races all distances including 12-hour (PB 268.7 miles), 24-hour (PB 463.8 miles). As a physiologist by trade, Pip is our resident Soigneur, coaching us on health and well-being.
2023.RIDERS – CAMERONPREECE Cameron’s been riding with us since 2014 when Glen first built a tiny 650c Youth road bike for him – since then he’s raced his first season of ‘Cross in 2017/18 in the Juniors, followed it up with a highly successful road season, before a blinder of a 18/19 ‘cross season where he broke into the top 5 and raced the national champs on the ÆIGHT.MANUFACTØRY ØNE. This was enough to secure him a place on a new team, Fundacion Ciclismo Benicadell and he’s now based in Spain, racing full time - our first graduate! GOT WHAT IT TAKES TO RACE WITH US? We’re always looking for riders to be part of our ÆIGHT CØLLECTIVE. The #aeightbikeco is about doing things a little differently - Rather than a jersey being the common theme, we kit our riders out with bespoke steel bikes and handbuilt wheels made in our Sussex workshops, the ÆIGHT WHEELWØRKS and the ÆIGHT MANUFACTØRY. We then support each other at events and races regionally, nationally and internationally - whether that’s for mountain bike, ‘cross, gravel, crit, road or TT - it’s what we call, the #protectedriderprogram
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 work with, mostly so we can standardise shared equipment, but your own sponsors and clubs are almost always welcome. 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 email@example.com