Saturday, 19 January 2013

Brian Rourke: the experience

These posts have in recent times veered off cycling and running subjects. Not this one. This one is, to not coin a phrase, all about the bike, for today I have spent a blissful 5 hours at Brian Rourke Bikes in Stoke getting measured up for a new bike. I've never had a bespoke suit, let alone a bike, so this was a novel and at times, slightly uncomfortable experience. I wouldn't say I felt like Prince Charles, who allegedly has a lackey to squeeze the toothpaste on to his toothbrush, but I did wonder if I was losing the plot a little at the point where I was giving serious consideration to which font to have my name in on the top tube.

Anyway, back to the start. Brian R himself, an ex-UK road race champion, has been making frames, and had a shop in Stoke, for 40 years. He's semi-retired now at the age of 74 (though he wasn't in the shop today as he's cross-country skiing in Austria at the moment), and it's his son Jason who's the actual frame builder, and who features in the marvellous Made In England (see here: I saw Gareth, who does most of the measuring up now. And is a very patient man. He has to be, with the likes of me around, though I don't think I can be blamed for not knowing which headset I wanted, which must have taken 10 minutes debate.

The Rourke approach to measuring you up is a unique one. There are no theories, no computer programmes, no jigs and no measuring - it's all about starting on your existing bike and adjusting the fit till it's perfect. In my case, that meant fitting new handlebars, and changing the saddle angle and position, but nothing else; my fit was reasonably good. That said, the trial-and-error that we went through took nearly 3 hours with seemingly infinite combinations of angles, heights and hand positions. Writing up the results for Jason to work from in the construction of the frame took another half hour.

Then it was on to discussing components and colours. The saddle choice took half an hour, though Rourke offer a no-quibble exchange policy if you're not entirely happy with the one supplied, as their core aim is to provide the most comfortable bike possible for the money you're prepared to spend. Which brings me to that difficult subject. I'm not going to divulge what the damage is going to be to my bank account, and I'm not even going to reveal my choice of wheels and groupset, because that will give clues. I'll say two things. First, this ship ain't gonna be spoiled for a ha'porth worth of tar. And second, I've gone for the Reynolds 953 steel tubing, the canine's genitalia for frame making. If you're going to keep it real, you may as well keep it mighty real. Oh, one more thing; I've always wanted some Mavic wheels, and they will indeed feature.

The worst bit now - apart from the paying - is the waiting. Mid-July is the delivery date, which I've got mixed feelings about. On one hand, I'd love to have the new beast to go play in the Pyrenees with in July, when Mendip Rouleur and I are there. On the other, I'd be petrified of Easy Jet damaging the thing on its first outing. At least with the BH I'll be able to relax.

Finally, a selection of photos of famous customers: their shirts, frames, or current bikes.

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