Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Turning the Uncle John into a Winter Bike and Commuter Bike

I've had my Planet X Uncle John for maybe 8 years and circumstances have meant that I need a winter training bike for on the roads and can't justify a new purchase so I've spent the last month updating the Uncle John to use as my commuter come winter hack.

The Uncle John has been a fantastic bike over the years. I originally bought it to try some cyclocross racing for a change of scenario over the weekend although realised that the grief I received from my Mum for how much mud was going into her washing machine meant the cyclocross bike stayed more as a summer bike for playing around in the woods and the occasional early 'cross season race whilst conditions were relatively dry.  

Planet X Uncle John ready for xc commuting

My commute gives me the opportunity to ride almost anything I please. I can drop down onto some fantastic flowing woodland singletrack that's well suited to the cyclocross bike, I can even easily find my way onto some gravel tracks or take the fastest route to the office on the roads. For that reason the cyclocross bike has always been great to have.

I've actually considered streamlining the number of bikes I have for a while. My old Kinesis Racelight T winter bike started to develop a number of concerns and being 8 years old it really needed significant amounts of replacement that I might as well have needed to buy a new groupset for the the bike. Therefore the idea of spending a little bit of time, money and TLC on the CX bike to turn it into the ultimate winter bike made sense.

Reflective tape on the handlebars and a Solar Storm  light from eBay

It's amazing what a few additions and replacements can do to a bike. The bolts had started to round off on the FSA Gossamer chainset that came with the bike and I also needed to replace the bottom bracket so opted for a Tiagra Compact Chainset (34/50)

With creaking coming from a lot of places on the bike I opted for a new set of wheels. Picking up a set of Fulcrum Racing 7 LG wheels to be matched with some slightly wider tyres, I swayed between Schwalbe's ultra-reliable Marathon Plus but eventually opted for some Schwalbe Durano Plus tyres with the same obscene level of puncture protection except for a more road specific tread.

A set of SKS Blumels Mudguards have also been fitted and a chunky Lezyne pannier rack I had lying around in storage has finally been fitted although in honesty I don't actually own a pannier bag to use it.

The Mudguards have been a little challenging as the Planet X Uncle John doesn't feature a bridge or screw hole at the chainstays to secure a mudguard. I've had to solve this with the use of a zip tie although as you'll see from the photo below there is now a gap between tyre and guard running in towards the bottom bracket so I'm still on the lookout for solutions to resolve this if anyone has one.

Planet X Uncle John set up for winter road training and commuting 

How does it feel on the roads- Heavy!
I've found that the combination of the relatively heavy Fulcrum Racing 7 LQ wheelset and nearly 500 gram per tyre of Schalbe Durano Plus means that acceleration is hindered. Especially when you add in the additional weight of the pannier rack too. It will be interesting to see just how this affects me over a winter of riding. I'm hoping it's just taking me some time to adjust but it's certainly harder work than I'm used to out on the roads compared to my old Kinesis Racelight T.

My consideration is to change to some lighter tyres after Christmas to see if it adds an extra bit of zip whilst training starts to gear itself towards next seasons races so we will see if that adds better acceleration. At the moment the Uncle John just feels like hard work but hopefully it will pay off.

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