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Gallery: The anatomy of a 5.5kg hill climb bike

Joe Robinson
2 Oct 2019

We spotted this bike specifically created to smash steep hills at the 2019 Cyclist-sponsored Catford Hill Climb. Photos: David Wren

The Catford Hill Climb is no different to any hill climb that takes place up and down Britain throughout September and October. An intense effort that takes riders between two and six minutes to complete. Gradients that surge in excess of 25%. Roaring crowds that ensure each entrant reaches the summit. The potential for a lot of rain.

Just with the Catford is the small matter of being the oldest cycling race in the entire world.

It's a race that riders travel overnight to compete in, a hoard of lightweight whippersnappers who have spent their summer saying no to dessert and avoiding the pub descending on this leafy corner of Kent to see if they have what it takes.  

Besides what they can do to their own body, there is plenty that can be done to their bikes in order to make them as featherweight as possible to aid their efforts. 

Just ask Jon Saunders, 27, who rides for Charlotteville Cycling Club based out of Guildford, Surrey and rode the Catford Hill Climb in 2018.

Starting in February, he had been sourcing the parts needed to make a bike as light but stiff as possible to challenge the wall that is York's Hill.

You see, the Cycling Time Trials body (CTT) are not on the same page as the UCI when it comes to minimum bike weights; 6.8kg isn't as low as you can go and many push close to the 5kg marker.

There are just a few rules that budding home mechanics have to abide by. Brakes need to be accessible from the widest part of the bars which can be no narrower than 35cms and your tubs should be in good condition, that's about it.

So to push the boundaries of what's rideable, Jon got creative with his bike, as he tells Cyclist after crossing the finish line. 

'I have opted for a Cannondale SuperSix frame, which isn't the top end, with a set of shallow Enve rims built onto Chris King hubs with a 22mm front and 25mm rear Continental tubular tyre, all of which I bought on a whim earlier this year,' breaths Jon still trying to regain his breath.

'To save weight I then had a mate shock blast and chop the ends off of some Ritchley bars which are super light and I have attached button shifters underneath the bars.

'I then fitted THM carbon crank arms which is just 230g with a 36t 1x chainset. The remainder of the groupset being second-hand Sram Red eTap as that is the lightest groupset on the market.

'To finish off, I have some Garmin power pedals, Planet X Forge brakes, KMC gold chain and a carbon saddle and seatpost that I found on eBay.

'All in it weighs in a slither over 5.5kg.'

Impressive, to say the least, and you would expect that such a mean hillclimbing machine would help produce a time worthy of at least the top 10.

Unless, like Jon, you forget to charge your gears and are forced to ride the entire hill in one gear.

'So I rode down the hill to the start in quite a heavy gear, a 36-13. Then just before I set off, I tapped my button shifters to find nothing happened. I had no gear shifting because my eTap battery had gone flat,' Jon laughs through the obvious pain.

'I raced it anyway as I'm here although I almost came to a standstill on the very steepest section.'

Jon eventually finished 105th with a time of 3.06.2, over a minute adrift of race winner Rowan Brackston.

Cyclist is sponsor of Catford Hill Climb which takes place on Sunday 13th October.

Photos - David Wren

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