Trek Emonda hill climb bike

Firstly, thanks to Beeline bikes Oxford for helping me get loan of bike and setting it up.

I have been riding a Trek Madone (at 2013 hill climb champs, it weighed about 6.0kg). But, with the new Emonda coming out this summer, I wanted to try and get the new specialist climbing bike for the upcoming national championship.

It meant only 1 week to get used to the bike – not ideal, but I thought potential weight saving worth it.

Customised Trek Emonda


60cm Trek Emonda SLR 9 – stripped down. Weight: 5.1kg  /11.2 lbs

Trek agreed to lend a Emonda SL9. The Emonda SLR 9  The SLR 9 has a claimed weight of 6.1 kg. When we first weighed it was about 6.3kg, but that was with 60cm frame, mechanical Dura Ace 9000 rather than Di2 and lots of extras screwed on – . However, from the SLR 9, we made quite a few modifications to bring the weight down to 5.1kg.

Some details of hill climb bike

  • Frame – Emonda SLR – OCLV 700 series frame (claimed weight of an Emonda SLR 56cm frame is 690grams) – This frame is 60cm, so a bit bigger.
  • Groupset – Shimano Dura Ace 9000 mechanical – but front mech removed and Shimano Dura Ace 7900 crank to fit Race Face narrow wide single chainring.
  • Rear wheels – Zipp 202 (weight with cassette and TT tub – 900 grams)
  • Front wheel – Tune  hub / AX lightness rim (weight with Vittoria Chrono TT tub – 550 grams)
  • Saddle – AX Lightness (63 grams) (The Bontrager Paradigm XXX saddle was 175g)
  • Brakes – Shimano Dura Ace 9000
  • Pedals – Speedplay (X1) – 150 grams a pair
  • Total weight – 5.1 kg – (8-900 grams lighter than Trek Madone hill climb bike in 2013)

Trek say ‘The Emonda is made from Trek’s top-end 700 Series carbon fibre, but lighter and without compromising stiffness or handling’. It is geared up to be a ‘climber’s bike and Trek must be hoping the UCI reduce their weight limit of 6.7kg.

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Cheddar Gorge – cycling

Cheddar Gorge is an interesting climb through the beautiful limestone gorge of Cheddar, Somerset. Climbing gently out of the village of Cheddar, the road starts to snake upwards at a gradient of up to 16% round some twisty corners. It is a tough start to the climb, but the remaining couple of km are a much gentler gradient, allowing you the opportunity to take it at your own pace as you climb away from the gorge and onto to the top of the moor.

Cheddar Gorge understandably features in many local cyclo-sportives and is a popular destination for many cyclists. It is also popular with tourists and rock climbers. The road can be busy – especially as you leave the village of Cheddar – so be prepared to be patient until you clear the car parks on the lower slopes of the climb.

It also makes a great twisting descent. But, be careful not to get carried away as near the bottom, you can really pick up speed on the sharp corners.


Cheddar Gorge full hill

  • Distance 2.6 miles
  • Average gradient: 4-5%
  • Maximum gradient: 16%
  • Height gain. 150m
  • 100 climbs: #1
  • Cheddar Gorge, Strava


Cheddar Gorge is nestled within the Mendips in Somerset. There are plenty of other good hills and roads around here. It is just a few miles from Burrington Combe – another popular gorge and a similar climb.


The road is steepest at the bottom after leaving the car parks

I rode Cheddar Gorge in October, 2014 after racing Burrington Combe hill climb. There was a helpful S.E. tailwind making the climb relatively enjoyable. It would be a different proposition with an easterly climb. The wind seems to get funnelled down the gorge – making it strong in either direction.

2007 National Hill Climb Championship

In 2007, the national hill climb championship was organised on Cheddar Gorge. Somehow they managed to get the road closed and it made a great venue for the hill climb. A steep section and a long drag – a bit for everyone. James Dobbin won his second national hill climb championship in a time of 6-51.5. 2nd place was David Clarke (Blue Sky Cycles) Matt Clinton 7.08, (Mike Vaughan Cycles) was third. I was 6 seconds off the podium with 7.14

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Burrington Combe hill climb

Sunday was the penultimate hill climb and race of 2014. Organised by Bristol South CC, it was a 2 mile hill climb up Burrington Combe.

Burrington Combe was one of the first open hill climbs I ever did – way back in 2004, I did a time of 7.12 in my first season – 2nd to Danny Axford; and perhaps was something that encouraged me to take hill climbs a bit more keenly.

Since 2004, I’ve been back several times, and always enjoy the climb. It’s a pretty good view and nice part of the country. In recent years, there’s been an explosion of interest, with the event attracting nearly a full field. Credit to Bristol South and the other local clubs for encouraging people to take part. The WTTA have put on a good season long hill climb competition, which seems to encourage more entries.

Burrington Combe HC course

  • Length 2.2 miles
  • Average gradient: 6%
  • Max gradient: 10%
  • Height Gain 183m

My Race


Yesterday, I took delivery of a new bike – a Trek Emonda on loan for the week. A big thanks to Beeline Bicycles for helping to get the bike and get it ready. When it came in the shop, it weighed 6.4kg. But, within 15 minutes, my hill climb weight weenies talent came to the fore and we had it down to 5.5kg, with perhaps a little more to come. It’s sad to look at a bike and immediately work out how you can take 1kg off – but that’s being a hill climber for you. (weight loss on hill climb bike)

It meant no riding with a power meter, but at this stage of the season, it’s not so critical. I’ll do a full review of the bike later, but it rides well, I haven’t noticed a big different to my current Madone yet.


Burrington Combe

Another balmy October day meant warming up in 16 degrees plus, there was also quite a strong wind – which was the subject of a surprisingly large amount of conversation – all the riders seemed to struggle to work out where the wind was coming from. The forecast suggested crosswind. Some claimed a tailwind, others a headwind. It was just one of those days.


I was confident to ride without power meter. I’ve been doing this climb for several years without one. It’s rather nice to ride on feel and not worry about numbers in a way. Anyway I got off to a steady start, but still caught up with my two minute men.

The Burrington Roar


You don’t expect a big crowd on a long 2 mile climb, but just over half way, you go past a car park and there were lots of spectators and riders giving a huge cheer to their fellow riders. It was a lot of noise, and much appreciated – it definitely helped add to the atmosphere. After this section, there is a sharper incline, where I struggled a little to keep it in the big ring. I lost my nice fluid rhythm, but I didn’t want to go down into the inner ring. After the cattlegrid it is just a minute or so to the finish, so you can dig as deep as you can and hope you hold onto the finish. I caught my third minute man just before the finish, and stopped the clock in 6.57 – not a course record, but the 2nd fastest ride and nice to get under the 7 minute barrier.

Ben Davis (BH Solidor) took second, with Joe Norledge (Procycling Magazine) third. Julie Marazzi (Somer Valley CC) was the quickest woman up the climb.

Going back down the hill I continued to try and work out whether it was a fast day or not. I think the consensus was that it was a little helpful, but not a block tailwind.

I stopped in the Burrington Combe cafe and talked to quite a few of the locals. Some will be going up to Pea Royd Lane next week, others are wisely calling it the end to their season. A pretty good way to go out either way. Continue Reading →

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Rake hill climb


Jim Henderson on the rake

The Rake hill climb is a short and steep ‘classic’ British hill climb through the Lancashire town of Ramsbottom. It has featured in the Tour of Britain and has been the location for three national championships (1999, 2005, 2012) A wide variety of riders have attempted to ride the rake including Chris Boardman, Malcolm Elliott, Graeme Obree, Chris Newton and Michael Hutchinson.


Photo PJ. 2012 National championship

The hill climb course is only 875 meters long. But, though short, it makes up for it in steepness – reaching a maximum gradient of 22%. (1 in 4.8)

  • Length – 0.9 km
  • Average gradient: 12%
  • Max gradient: 23%
  • Height gain: 98 m

In 100 hills, the Rake is no. 72

I’ve ridden the Rake twice in two national championships – 2005 (11th) and 2012 (12th).


CTT Course Description:

START at lamp post No. 3 outside the public library in Carr Street, Ramsbottom. Proceed via Carr Street, Tanners Street, Rawson’s Rake and The Rake to FINISH at the lamp post opposite Exeter Cottage, Chapel Lane, Holcombe Brook approximately 120 yards before the junction with Helmshore Road.

  • Length 875 metres (956 yards)
  • Height gain 98 metres (321 feet)
  • Average gradient 11%
  • Max gradient 22%


The climb begins with a gradient of around 10% for the first 300 metres, then there is a false flat for 100 metres until about half way where you turn right onto Rawsons rake and the climb starts to get really steep increasing to 20% with some sections around 22 – 23%. Right at the end there is a short 40 metres of almost flat. The road surface was not great. (though it has been resurfaced in 2012. Very smooth now).

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Mow Cop hill climb 2014

Sunday was the Lyme Racing Club hill climb up Mow Cop. Mow Cop makes a spectacular hill climb as there is a real sting in the tail with a 25% uphill finish. It makes it quite a challenging mental as well as physical test. After coming out of the lower section, you can see the hill looming up above. Deciding how much to leave for the final section is a difficult decision. I fancied going down a gear just before the start of the steep section, but like last year, I was already in the lowest gear. Probably just as well, as the only thing to do is grin and bear it and hope you keep the momentum up that 23% slope. In hill climbs it’s always a difficult balancing act to get the right pacing, but Mow Cop presents a particular challenge.


Great view looking down. You get a different kind of experience cycling up it.


Mow Cop Hill climb stats J9/14

  • Distance 0.9 miles
  • Average Gradient: 11.7%
  • Maximum gradient: 23%
  • Elevation gain: 170 metres (560 feet)

Last year, there was a persistent drizzle. This year, the weather was much better, though the hill was still wet, providing some minor wheel slip on the steepest sections. On the hill, especially at the top, there were quite a few spectators cheering the riders on. It was good to have a crowd to cheer you on.

In the men, Joe Clarke   (Team Zenith, who is having an excellent season, finished in 3rd with 4.28. Next came M.Clinton ( who shaved o.1 seconds off the old course record from 2013 with a 4.22. The course record lasted just one minute 58 seconds; I managed to squeeze in front  with a 4.20, to make another close finish. Like so often, another hill climb decided by a couple of seconds. In the ladies, Nicola Soden ( was first and Helen Eborall (Born to Bike – Bridgtown Cycles) second.

My race

My memories from last year are quite vague. It’s interesting how you can quickly forget about what it was like to ride a hill climb. When you’re racing, you’re on the limit, but when you reflect afterwards you always think about how you could have gone faster. In particular I had the idea next time not to be intimidated by the steep section but go harder all the way into the last section. This is all wonderful in theory, a bit different in practise.

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White Lane – Bec CC hill climb

White Lane is a short 700 yards climb. Mostly 1 in 6, it has an average gradient of 13%.

At the start it isn’t so steep, but gets steeper the further up the climb you go. Perhaps just over 20% at it’s steepest before a slight decrease in gradient before the top.

It is in 100 climbs #16. The climb is situated just to the north of the southern section of the M25 by the village of Titsey.

White Lane has a height gain of just over 79 metres in 0.4 miles.

Perhaps not the most remarkable climb in the country, but it has become well known due to featuring in the annual Bec CC hill Climb. 2014 will be the 59th annual running of the event, which started in 1955. It is usually run on the same day as the Catford CC hill climb – The Catford CC can make a claim to be the oldest race in the world. The Catford CC event first started on Westerham Hill on August 20th 1887. It now takes place on York Lane. If makes a good double hill climb header. Though some of the top riders decide to ride one or the other.

Bec CC Hill Climb

Photo Dave Hayward Flickr

– Pete Tadros riding fixed up White Lane in the wet. Photo Dave Hayward Flickr


The mighty Bristol South

The mighty Bristol South. Photo Dave Hayward.


Course record breaker – Jack Pullar photo dave-hayward

David Millar to ride Bec CC hill climb in 2014

After 18 years as a professional cyclist, David Millar will be riding his last event in the Bec CC hill climb. Millar has chosen a domestic hill climb as a way to mark the end of a long professional career – a career which has seen both highs and lows, has included four individual stages of the Tour de France and five stages in the Vuelta a Espagne.

David Millar explains his choice of his final race.

“I’m not just going to ride uphill & wave goodbye. I’m going to have a crack at setting a new ‘White Lane’ record in what will be my first ever Hill Climb TT, as well as my last race.. “It’ll be like going full circle on my cycling career”.

Most Brits start in a Cycling Club as I did, so its fitting to end my career at a British Clubs event. I’m really looking forward to it, although ‘Gazza’ my friend, Soigneur & organiser of the event, tells me Hill Climbs are not always that easy & it takes a certain knack to hit the Hill just right! He also tells me they bloody hurt, even though its only a sub 2 minute ride.. Maybe I’ll enjoy it & not retire after all & just ride Hill Climbs!” (Velo UK)

Should be a great event!

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Do I need a new bike?


That’s the short answer, but if you ever need justification for buying a new bike –  these are some reasons to help you dip in the wallet and buy the new bike you deserve!

Of course, no real cyclist ever needs justification to buy a new bike, but this might be helpful for dealing with those family members who may not share the same understanding of the scientific and emotional benefits of the new 2015 Shimano Dura Ace di2 groupset.


Good reasons to get a new bike

  • Because manufacturers inform you this years model is 20% more rigid, 12% lighter, 7 % more aerodynamic and only 33% more expensive. If you buy, everyone’s a winner!
  • If you don’t buy a new bike, it means you will be riding a bike that is potentially slower than you could be riding. How painful is that thought?
  • Why spend all those hours training in the wet and cold when you could be getting the same marginal gains whilst sitting in the office doing overtime to pay for your new bike?!
  • Because there will definitely be someone on the start line of your race / cyclosportive /  Strava leaderboard – who will have that new bike. You wouldn’t expect Lewis Hamilton to turn up to a Formula One race, in a 1920s Ford Model T. You need the best to have a fair competition.
  • You need a cheap commuting bike to reduce the scare of getting your 33% more expensive new bike stolen. This is brilliant, You get a new bike that is so expensive, you have to get a cheaper bike to complement it. Two reasons for the price of one.
  • Cheaper than upgrades. If you took a bike apart and tried to buy the components separately, it would be twice as expensive.  If you find yourself buying a new component like a new stem or new pair of wheels, you might as well just go the whole hog and buy a new bike!
  • The last bike you will ever need. The next bike you buy is so good, it will be the last bike you ever need. Manufacturers have been making bikes stiffer, lighter and more aero for years. But, this technological progress has to stop sometime. If you buy a bike, bike manufacturers are likely to say ‘that’s it, bikes can’t get better than this. (P.S. I have bought seven ‘last ever bike I will need’)
  • New bike gives new inspiration. There is a great feeling in riding a new immaculate bike. If you’re struggling with inspiration to train, buy a new bike and the next week of training will be really high quality because you are so happy to be riding a new bike. Admittedly, a weekly new bike could be stretching even the most enthusiastic resources of the most ardent ‘buy a new bike’ type person. You should save this for desperate times like the middle of winter.


  • Because it looks good. Who said a new bike needs to be faster? It’s not as if you’re going to win an important race anyway. Bikes are all about looks. That 1980s Colnago C50 will have plenty heads turning on the club run, and if that’s not worth taking out a £5,000 loan – what is?

Poor excuses not to get a new bike


Bike in house. A kind of modern art.

  • There isn’t room in the shed. This is a very poor excuse. There is always room to accommodate a new bike. Who said bicycles have to be stored in the garage? Take down your David Hockney from your living room, and in its place put your new living modern art (aka – your new Colnago) on the wall. In this way you’ve killed three birds with one stone:
    • You have a motivation to clean the bike after every  ride
    • You have joined the modern art movement of spending a lot of money on the unexpected!
    • You have your new bike!
      If all else fails, you could always consider selling an old bike. But, this is really a last resort, because it’s much better to accumulate an ever increasing number of bikes.
  • You haven’t got the money In the days of Wonga, credit cards and quantitative easing, there’s always money somewhere. Your granny may have told you money doesn’t grow on trees, but if the UK can have a national debt of £1,432.3 billion and Q.E. of £350bn money creation, do you not think you deserve a very small extension of credit for helping the economic recovery? Think of it as expansionary fiscal policy – any good Keynesian economist will tell you that your consumer spending is a selfless act for the greater good.
  • Family unconvinced. This is slightly tricky – your partner is not convinced that you need a 12th bike when the last family holiday was a budget hotel in Skegness in 2009. But, still with a new bike – every day is a holiday. All we need is that 12th bike and we will become a beacon of happiness and cheerfulness (until the next seasons models come out) – so everyone is a winner really. Note the emphasis on shared ownership. You may ride the bike, but really it belongs to everyone.

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Fibrax Wrexham hill climb 2014

It was another great day of weather at the top of Horseshoe Pass. It’s the second consecutive year, I’ve experienced a dry, still day at the top of  Bwlch yr Oernant – I’m sure it’s not always like this on the top of the Welsh hill side.


There was barely a drop of wind in the air, and if there was any, it was a tailwind; a local rider said he’d been riding Horseshoe Pass for 30 years and has never experienced such a still day.

With my national jersey still in the wash from yesterday’s Otley 2 stage, it was just the usual skin suit. I had about 4 pairs of odd gloves, and no matching pairs, but fortunately, it warmed up just enough by 11.00am to ride without gloves. I was glad for later start; at 9.00am it was pretty chilly, by 11.00am it must have been 10 degrees warmer (also glad for extra time in bed…).

With good weather, I thought of James Dobbin’s course record of 9.03; it’s an impressive course record because so many top hill climbers like Chris Boardman and Stuart Dangerfield have ridden the event over the years. Horseshoe pass has also been the venue of the National Hill climb championship in previous years (1971, 1976)

I rode a fairly steady tempo all the way up; the last 500m was the fastest as the gradient eases and you picked up a mild tailwind. I stopped the clock in 9.02. 1 second under and job done. Except, not quite – the only thing was that Dan Evans went even quicker with a superb ride of 8.52, so I had to settle for second place. Dan said he’s lost 4kg compared to last year – which kind of puts shaving 40 grams off your bike into perspective. But, a great course record for the flying Welshman.

3rd place was Liam Holohan, Madison Genesis (9.32), who must be very close to his off-season after a great ride in this year’s very tough Tour of Britain.

After awards ceremony, I went back down the hill and went up Horseshoe pass again, but at a fairly steady pace.

Next week, it will be back to 10%+ gradients with Jackson Bridge and Mow Cop on the menu. A different climb to Horseshoe pass and more similar to Pea Royd Lane. The hill climb season is hotting up as the temperature gets colder.

I took a photo of results board and will upload soon. Thanks to Fibrax Wrexham R.C


results-2014-2 results-2014-1

Click to enlarge



finish rider-wrexham horse-view2 view-sun1


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Naught Bank Road – Otley Hill Climb

Saturday was the Otley CC double hill climb on Naught Bank Road (Guise Edge) and Norwood Edge.

For the first time in the hill climb season, the morning was wet and windy. Though the threatened downpour didn’t materialise, it was still damp on the steep gradient of Naught Bank Road.

Naught Bank road is a tough climb from Pateley Bridge towards the top of Greenhow Moor. It is an alternative way up the moor to the B road up Greenhow Hill, but is just as taxing, with 200+ metres of climbing. The hill climb course, misses out a bit of the early part (the road is a bit narrow for racing), and starts half way up the climb.

Right from the start it is quite steep around 15-16% and it is fairly unrelenting until you come to the first hairpin where you turn right. Once over this steep hairpin turn, it levels off a little, before another left turn taking you up to the exposed moors above.


photo by Claire Jessop on Guise Hill (2010)

Naught Bank Road / Guise Edge – hill climb course V8910

  • Distance 0.7 miles
  • Avg Grade 10.6%
  • Max grade – 20%
  • Elev gain 383ft


Naught Bank Road no. 146 in 100 hill climbs V897

  • Distance: 2.35 km
  • Height gain: 207m
  • Average grade 9%
  • Max grade – 20%
  • 100 hill climbs no. 146

2014 Race

I didn’t do much of a warmup. I spent quite a bit of time getting sorted out. By the time I got on the rollers there wasn’t much time until the start. Also, it’s pretty useless warming up on rollers when you’ve taken off your outer chainring. With just a 39 chainring, I could barely get over 130 watts, so much for getting up to race pace.

Nevertheless, I felt pretty good. After feeling a little tired towards the end of last week, the Yorkshire hill scenery seemed to be lifting up spirits.

With a steep first gradient, it requires a fine balance between not going off too hard, but gaining a good momentum up the hardest part of the course. On the middle section, there was a bit of a headwind so I stayed low and got on the drops. Going around the last left hand was good, I still had a bit spare in the tank and was helped up the last steep bit with a bit of a tailwind. It made a fairly fast finish and I was able to go through the finish line in a time of 3.22. I had broken my course record by another 1 second. Amazingly, it’s the fourth consecutive year I’ve broken the course record on Guise Edge – though only 2 seconds quicker than 2011.

Previous times up Guise Edge

  • 2009 – 2.47 – shortened course due to gales (7th) -
  • 2010 – 4.02 (2nd) – windy
  • 2011 – 3.24.8 (1st) CR
  • 2012 – 3.24.5 (1st) CR
  • 2013 – 3.23.1 (1st) CR
  • 2014 – 3.22.2 (1st) CR

Norwood Edge



After a nice three hour break, it was time for the second hill climb of the day. I’ve raced up Norwood edge several times. One thing that has always been prominent about Norwood Edge is the amazing course record of Jeff Wright set in 1992 in a time of 4.42. I got close in 2011, with a 4.46. I tell myself if Norwood Edge had been the 1st climb of the day rather than 2nd, I might have got even clsoer. But, since then, it seems to get harder and harder. Both Jim Henderson and Matt Clinton (former national hill climb champions) have ridden Norwood Edge, but we haven’t got too close to J.Wright’s amazing record from the days of steel frame bikes and fixed gears. C.Boardman also rode this hill in the past.

If anything, I’d gone up Naught Bank road at 99.5% effort – aware there was still another hill climb to come. I gave it a good effort up Norwood Edge, but there wasn’t quite as much power on the last half as I would have liked – just goes to show whether you’re a hill climb newbie or national champion – you would always like a bit more power.

Still, I crept under 5.00 minutes with a 4.57.9. Overall time for two stages 8.20.1

Overall, it gave me 1st place, ahead of Henry King (Ilkley CC) and 3rd Julian Varley (PH MAS cycling) – Julian was also first junior so it was a very good ride.

4th was Ben Jacobs of Albarosa CC – who led Albarosa to the team prize.

5th place was fellow southerner Ben Nichols from Amersham CC. Ben is riding Bath CC hill climb tomorrow – great dedication to the hill climb cause.

1st Lady was Leanne Farrow of Ilkley CC, 2nd lady Mason Hollyman (Kirklees CA). 1st Vet was Andrew Pearson of Huddersfield Star Wheelers, and 1st under 15 Nathan Allatt of Holmfirth CC

As usual a great promotion by the Otley CC, particularly good to see lots of youngsters getting involved in hill climbs. Otley CC seem to have a very good junior section these days. When I was in Otley CC many years ago, I always seemed to ride with 50 year old gentleman! – though that was partly because I never joined the fast section, but choose the more ‘sedate’ club runs, predominately 50+, these days they would be called MAMILs, in those days they were just dedicated club members.

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Marginal gains for hill climb bike

Different attempts to save weight on the hill climb bike – with varying degrees of success and cost.

1. Cutting off fabric from saddle

This was motivated mainly because my Tune saddle looked a bit frayed. An expensive saddle – but the fabric was coming away. Rather than glue it back down, I thought the excess fabric needed cutting off. The hope was it would look neater and save weight into the bargain.


The result – Total weight saved – 0 grams. Psychological advantage – incalculable.

2. Cutting the end off cables

My local bike maintenance shop Reg Taylor are very good, but they aren’t used to catering for the weight weenie hill climbers. The cables always come back with nice long bits of spare cable and neat cable tidies at the end. I kept looking at these for a couple of weeks, but I knew they were doomed – it’s just something asking to be cut. I got great joy getting out the cable cutters and snipping off free weight. Zero cost, no power lost, possibly even a fractional aero gain.


  • Weight saving 1 gram – Just 1g down, 5,999 grams to go. Wow, this isn’t going to be quite as easy as I hoped. All that metal for a measly 1 gram!

Cutting skinsuit

I got a National Champions skinsuit by Impsport. I made the mistake of getting the cheaper version. When I put it on, it was less skinsuit more inflatable parachute. I had it sent to a tailor (Alex Laycock) to make it more suited to a stick thin hill climber, rather than your average ‘I ate all the pies’ Joe. But, even then the arms were too long and these end cuffs – although they look quite good – stuck out in the wind quite a bit. It didn’t look very aero or very smart. Eventually I got out the scissors and cut these offending bits off – a shame really. The motivation was to make it look better, but as an added bonus the operation saved a whole 11 grams.


Marginal gains from clothes could be a potentially dangerous avenue to start going down. It’s one thing to start drilling holes in your saddle, it’s another to start cutting holes in a skinsuit… I’m sure there would be a CTT Regulation too about this too.

Saddle – Tune saddle


The Tune saddle at 83 grams is definitely less than your average saddle. But, perhaps not the best. It has quite a bit of flex (which makes it comfortable, but I’m worried about power loss from a flexy saddle.

This AX Lightness Sprint saddle is a mere 69 grams. But, do I want to pay £270 for 14 gram weight saving? – not really. I’d rather make my skinsuit shorts a little shorter.

Single Chainring


Single chain ring. This was 2012 hill climb bike and weighed 5.7 kg

I had a look at the remaining hill climbs and realised I won’t be using the big chain ring at all (I hardly ever use outer chain ring – unless the climb goes downhill – and then I’m usually on TT bike anyway). So it’s time to take it off. Free weight saving. It may be Dura Ace but, it looks heavy. Why carry up an extra 100 grams when you can get away with out it?


My Dura Ace 53 tooth weighed more at 135g rams

The big temptation is take take off the front dérailleur too – it doesn’t do anything with only one chainring. But – and this is a big but –  Do you want to take the 5-10 % risk of your chain falling off for the sake of another 100 grams? Even the keenest weight weenie knows that saving 100 grams isn’t much use, if you don’t have a chain to pedal. It can happen, and usually when you least want it to.

I hear that they are making chainrings for MTBs with bigger sprockets or something to stop chains jumping off.

Chopping off the end of handlebars


I’ve never done this before. I’ve never been able to work up the courage to buy an expensive set of handlebars just to be able to cut off the drops. But, this year, I’ve taken the plunge and bought some Zipp Sl handlebars. Straight away I got out the hacksaw and cut them off. The problem with buying such a lightweight handlebar is that when you cut off the drops, you only save a measly 50 grams. Still it’s 50 grams of weight saving, and perhaps it will be a better position for pulling on the handlebars.

A hard way to save 50grams

A hard way to save 50 grams

I’ve just slightly worried I cut off too much.. You can always cut off more, but sticking stuff back on isn’t going to work.

Shortening the chain


12 grams from an Ultegra chain

With taking off the outer chain ring, I realised I could shorten the chain – saving weight and improving chain tension. Unfortunately, in my zeal to save weight, I took out five links and it became too short. I couldn’t use it because the rear dérailleur would have groaned in the biggest sprocket. I had to put some links back in. But, using a multi-tool chain splitter I managed to damage the chain. After using once up Leith Hill, I had to throw away and start again with a new chain. I think it has about 2 links less than usual, weight saving 12 grams.

Cost – more than it should have done. Moral of the story – never do bike maintenance yourself!

Vittoria Crono Time Trial tubular

– 700*22 – claimed – 165 gram. I have one on front. At moment I have Veloflex sprinter on rear. (225 grams). But, will switch to Chrono for both nearer the national. That will be an extra 60 grams. (Mind you when I weighed it, it came in at 185grams, that is with glue on.)

Until 2012, I used Continental Competition in hill climbs, just because they were what I used for time trials. Continental Competition at 240 grams are a good workhorse, but not designed for hill climbs. I was throwing away 180 grams of rotational weight because I was riding nice thick puncture proof tubulars. On the positive side, I never punctured in a race or warming up.


Zipp 202 Rear - 604 grams total: (rear Zipp – I got for £750). Expensive, but a good solid wheel, lightweight and strong.

Lightweight front


Lightweight wheel with Tune hub and AX lightness wheels – weight of wheel 345 grams (without tub). This wheel is really light, you can pick up with your little finger. This really makes a difference. Sometimes you test equipment and you can’t tell the difference, but replace a training wheel with a light wheel wand you will fly!

Why Do People Say Weight off Your Wheels Counts Double?

I think the reason  is to do with acceleration and the fact the top of your wheel travels twice as fast as your bicycle (Don’t quite understand this, obviously I didn’t pay any attention in GCSE Physics). To accelerate, the energy taken to push the wheel is greater than for the bike. Once you have maintained a constant speed, then the weight of your bike and wheels count for the same. But, if you slow down and then accelerate, the energy to move the mass of your wheels is greater than for the bike.

If you can try and maintain constant speed and effort that is better. But for a twisting climb of varying gradients then the effort to move your wheels will be proportionately greater.

Even if I don’t understand the science, when you put on a 363 gram wheel you do notice the difference climbing.

Weight saving tips you might not want to try at home

Jim Henderson told me he spent one hill climb season weighing up whether he should risk riding with 4 chainring bolts rather than the more traditional five. He knew he could probably get away with 4, but in the end – he played it safe.

I once got an AX lightness stem (26.9) and didn’t realise it was old size. This meant I had to get a standard handlebar, but I’d run out of money for AX lightness handlebar, so I got some other model which was 27.0 – resulting combination tended to slip. Not good – sold both on ebay later!

Never forget, lighter bike is not necessarily faster. Rigidity and power can make more difference.


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