I guess any build project has to start with a reason…
Before this turned into a build project, it was an event. Early-onset-midlife crises. I needed to get away from Mr Job and Sir Career for a little while. To sum it up: “I want to travel with no itinerary and as little planning as possible, for as long as possible”.
At the time, the finances and circumstances could not quite line things up. New work opportunities came along and consumed my focus and energy, but a seed has been planted in the back of my mind. I pegged a provisional departure date: 1 July 2015. At the time, so deliciously far in the future it was almost unreal.
The Rule of 2 applied: This date can be moved twice, after which it becomes fixed or never happens.
The first move came when work commitments required an extension by 1 year. Fine, 1 July 2016 then.
Strike 2 came when my contract got extended to 31 July 2016. I knew that was it – the final date was cast in stone. Last working day before the trip will be 29th of July 2016. Flight out will be 31st of July 2016. Done, thank you (he says with a resolute grin and tickets in hand).
The great thing about pegging an initial date is that it sets focus. You have to confront things like the nature of the endeavor, mode of transport, duration and so on. I initially wanted one year. Then six months. Finally settled on 3 months. I also wanted to bike (like motorbike) some far-off locale. Think far-Eastern Russia, Mongolia. At worst, up Africa. While this idea was in play, I started getting kitted. Bought the bike (see write-up here ) and investigating the realities of such a trip.
Two-and-a-half years buy you a lot of “reality adjustment” though. Chat to me about this when you see me on the road…
I settled on 3 months in Europe, cycling, visiting the big Cols of the Tour de France, some monuments of the Giro d’Italia, emerging Spring Classics and exploring new countries if time allows. To make the money stretch for that long, there’d be a lot of camping, and some home-cooking to boot. Finally, I’ve decided to be on a holiday and not a pilgrimage or crusade. A joyful heart, sore legs and double-espressos, if you will.
The decision on the nature of the trip set some key parameters for equipment: 1) I need a bike. 2) I need to carry stuff with it. 3) I need to love looking at it while I’m doing it, as well as when the trip is over.
Since there will be a lot of climbing (and I guess descending too) I realized I need racing geometry. With good brakes. My notes kept returning to “Cyclo-cross Tourer”. It certainly makes for a niche machine, but jury is out on the “beautiful” part.
That was until I started hitting Google with intent, and stumbled upon Mr David Mercer, an up and coming local frame builder. His work got featured every so often in local magazines. Seeing his personal tourer online, something stirred inside…
(Photo courtesy of MercerBikes)
I delayed the necessary phone call, knowing if the price was right the deal would be done and the option to turn back, well, gone.
And so it happened. On an ordinary day, using an ordinary phone, from an ordinary location, something with promises of extravagance and artisanal beauty was born. David named his (approximate) price and deposit requirements. I thought about it for a moment and counted on my ability to breathe under water.
It became a bit of a timing deal, I guess. Waiting longer to commit would cause hassles given his order book and my envisioned departure date. In the end, we settled on delivery early April 2016. Again, so far off, it seemed almost unreal.
The key specifications were:
- Disc brake ready frame and fork
- 700c/29” wheels
- Ample clearance for cyclocross/MTB tires
The frame would be built in steel, with a Columbus carbon CX fork.
The good thing about the extended timeline was that I had lots of time to research and procure components for the build. I also saw our local currency loose its shit twice, while I was sitting with wish-list orders on various bicycle part supply sites. It was obviously great being able to wait these things out a little…
I’ll do the write-up in chronological order, to share the agonizing process of waiting with a bleeding credit card in hand.
The frame is covered. Ordered 1st and expected to arrive last. Like it should be. I should name this frame “Hitchcock” for all the suspense it brought.
Here’s a sneak view of some of the details…”Artisanal”
(Photo courtesy of MercerBikes)