Despite the absolutely unexceptional nature of my time trial career (which could be succinctly summed up as sporadic, unprepared and underwhelming) I have always hankered over a dedicated time trial bike. Unlike a conventional road bike (which has quite a variety of qualities expected of it), there is definitely something particularly beguiling about a machine conceived with one thing in mind – absolute speed. Now, when some bloke comes whizzing past me on a piece of sculpted carbon, over-pressured Chrono Evos rumbling like thunder, tucked into a ludicrously hunched position, topped off with a spaceman helmet and a skinsuit that ought to carry an 18 certificate for the benefit of spectators, I am sensible enough to realise that the reason he is going faster than me is entirely down a combination of his heinous training schedule and probably plenty of natural talent. The advantages that his equipment bestows are secondary to his physical preperation, and only really become significant when he is going proper fast. Only a complete imbecile (or Alan Sugar – although that distinction might not actually be necessary) would go out and buy a fully fledged time trial machine, replete with carbon wheels and all the other associated aerodynamic paraphernalia unless he had already proved himself in some way against the clock.
Luckily, I have proved myself against the clock. I have proved that I am average. Possibly below average. But proven nonetheless. So, onto the next step. Some months ago I came across a site called Fixedwheel which details all sorts of fixed gear time trialling endeavours, along with gear inches vs RPM vs speed tables to facilitate gearing decisions and pedalling strategies. There are also plenty of tales of fixed gear hill-related derring-do that make my knees creak just at the thought.
Anyway, the idea of a fixed gear TT bike was appealing both in terms of simplicity and budget. As such, when I recently discovered an attractive looking Brian Rourke lo pro frame and forks on eBay it was time to initiate Project : Lo Pro.
The frame had been custom built for a rider of pretty much the same stature as the one I enjoy (anthopometric data of Vitruvian perfection I should imagine) from Reynolds 653 tubing. I am led to believe that this was a mixed tube set, using some 753 (for the stays) and 653 main tubes, with 531 for the forks. The frame features the delightfully detailed wrap-around seat stays (visible in the second image) and also horizontal dropouts that will allow it to be run fixed without too much complication. As far as the materials are concerned, I am not an aficionado of Reynolds and have absolutely no idea what to expect, other than (hopefully) a fairly comfortable ride. I think the frame had enjoyed a bright blue 80s style paint job originally, but the vendor had had the machine blasted and then powdercoated the rather attractive grey / blue visible in the images here.
I now wish he hadn’t, because one of my original specifications for Project : Lo Pro was that the bike should be stealthy. It would have been great fun to embark on a fluorescent retro aesthetic – fluorescent yellow to pink to blue graduated spray job, fluoro cable outers, original Profile tri-bars with bright pink bar tape, maybe a Look Ergo stem, white Turbo saddle, white Specialized Tri Spokes. You dig. But while that would be a magnificently enjoyable exercise in questionable taste, it would inevitably draw far too much attention to me, and I would prefer to remain rather more anonymous if it’s all the same to you.
So, you see the bike mocked up in its current state sitting upon a trusty pair of Rolf Vector Pros. Not for long though. Say what you want (but I’m not listening) – that frame is going for a respray. When it returns, it will be 100% weapons grade stealth black. Matt or satin, I’m not quite sure yet. The rear wheel will disappear and in its place will be a Corima 4 spoke carbon track wheel (another eBay acquisition). The forks will be held in place by a Tange Levin LV1500 NJS headset. Instead of going retro on the aero setup, I think I’ll use a Profile quill to 1 1/8th Aheadset converter, and then stick some modern aerobars on top.
At the other end, I think I might pilfer the Easton carbon seatpost from my Litespeed (which has always deserved a titanium seatpost anyway) and, in a nod to tradition, attach an original black Flite saddle. The front wheel will remain, but probably shod in a black tyre instead of the red Tufo S3 that I must have bought on a particularly dull day. I’m not sure about cranks yet – maybe a Miche set with a 50 tooth chainring?
Project : Lo Pro certainly promises to be entertaining though, and luckily there are some months yet before I have the chance to suffer the indignity of being overtaken astride this particular stealth machine.