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XX4.TEN/AEIGHTTECHBLOG – CARBONISREAL Pt.2

Carbon is real too...


Part 2. February/March. Spring Shake-down of the OPEN U.P.


At AEIGHT we’re known for making bespoke, made-to-measure, one-off steel frames. But we appreciate that not everyone wants this - for some, carbon-fibre is a great option and therefore, last year we took the decision to offer carbon frames, and custom bikes, alongside our bespoke steel and custom alloy options. We offer and ride several brands including ENVE, Basso and now OPEN, and to highlight them we’ve decided to document a year’s worth of riding and racing on board our “stock” options...





To pick up from part one of this blog I got the bike up in the stand after the first couple of rides and got on with customising it to suit me, the first part of which was to swap my brake hoses around to suit my normal UK setup. On Campag Ekar the banjo fittings are at the top of the system and bolt directly into the lever, making swapping the hoses quite simple. I took the chance to shorten the hoses and fit a slightly narrower integrated bar at the same time. Campag has done a great job of making the bleeding process nice and clean by fitting a bleed valve at the bottom of the system - this doesn’t require you to remove the syringe before you lock it off, which is a really simple, yet smart design.


I then swapped the saddle to suit my preference and adjusted the seat post accordingly. It’s muddy as hell in Sweet Sussex this winter so I fitted the muddiest mud tyres I could find - a set of 33mm Schwalbe X-One Bite, which is a full cyclo-cross mud tyre. In comparison to the factory 35mm Schwalbe G-One All-Round, the tread is a lot more aggressive. The tread is much more pronounced and the gaps between the tread are bigger to allow the mud to clear from the tyre. Because the tyre is narrow it allows for much more clearance between it and the frame which allows you to keep moving even in the stickiest bogs as long as your legs are up to it!


The best way to use a CX tyre is to take it CX racing, so that’s what I did. I took my new bike to the Herne Hill Velodrome for a London and SE CX League race, and thankfully the mud in South London is almost as bad as the mud in Sussex! I haven’t raced as much as I should have recently and my fitness was shite, but the skills remain okay, so I kept myself amused by out riding the guys around me in all the deep techy mud. The interesting thing I found with the OPEN U.P. is that the geometry really suits modern CX. "Gravel" has started to develop into something bigger, hence OPEN adding the Wi.De, which is like an U.P. but with more clearance for bigger tyres for modern Gravel. The U.P. has retained it's title of the true do-it-all, fast all-road bike, perfect for CX where you want a fast steering, agile bike. The balance is fantastic and it turns on a dime.


Speaking of which, the second test I wanted to do was a couple of long mixed terrain rides to see how long the bike would remain comfortable, fast and fun to ride. The following week, my friend was racing 100km away, in Kent. So I fitted the 35mm G-One All-Round tyres back on as they suit the road better, and plotted a route across the county. I definitely counted three big hills on the profile - I definitely rode about six! But my lowest gear is a 38/42 and you can easily get up anything on that. At the other end, for the downhills, you have a 38/9 (the 9 really makes a big difference over Shimano’s 11 and SRAM’s 10) - it doesn’t sound like it would make such a big difference, but it really does, and I genuinely didn’t find myself spinning out at any point.


Just to prove it's all-road potential I rode 112km, with 1170 m of ascent, in 4 hours - that's an average speed of 27kph which is pretty good for a solo rider on what many would call a gravel bike, with a 35mm tyre, on a rolling road, with no training.





On the following weekend I put the Schwalbe G-One Bite tyres back on and plotted a 70km off-road ride down to Brighton to watch another CX race. This is where that gearing comes into play again - as you mix tarmac, with muddy off-road the speed differential is very wide and once again, it handled everything I could throw at it. Along with the frame, which just feels great all the time! I really tried to find a weakness but I just haven’t been able to. On the road the frame is comfortable when you’re plodding along, and when you give it the beans it seems to stiffen up, hunker down and shoot forward like a race horse. Off-road it turns into the perfect CX bike. It’s agile, really smooth, but like on the road, just seems to have access to speed whenever you ask for it. The confidence it gives you to ride stuff is fantastic.


Then I got so confident on it I fitted some 40mm Schwalbe G-One R tyres and took it mountain biking! The second Hotchillee Mountain Bike Ride at Swinley was a perfect hardcore test for the OPEN - it should be way out of the comfort zone of the bike! Full disclosure, I also fitted a Redshift stem, like I do on my ÆIGHT ØNE bespoke steel frames, to give myself a little more control on the really bumpy rooty stuff. Between the tyre, the frame and the stem I was quite frankly amazed by the grip I was getting on the polished marbles that Swinley is notorious for. To all the people who say gravel bikes are like 90s mountain bikes, you’re all wrong - 90s mountain bikes were (and still are) rubbish. The OPEN was so capable I honestly couldn’t quite believe it. After the club ride I went out on my own and managed to clock the 18km loop in under and hour, in the wet! That’s basically modern XC mountain bike speed.


If you’re interested in building your own custom, semi-custom or fully bespoke bike for off-road or road please get in touch via the contact form or the contact details on the website (www.aeightbikeco.com). We have bikes to suit most riders in a range of materials and builds.


Photos and words by Glen Whittington


2024.RIDERS - GLENWHITTINGTON

#aeightracer – Glen’s an ex-racer who still finds time to ride bikes as much as possible - follow his adventures on Instagram. He started racing in 1998, initially specialising in XCO, Marathon 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 his own range of bikes, frames and wheels which he now offers to the public, alongside servicing and race support, as part of his ÆIGHT brand - you can find his business Instagram account here.


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 #aeightbikeco


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 eightbikeco@gmail.com


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