RCUK's ultimate winter hack build – part one

Not so shabby

Let’s get one thing straight before we start: this will not be the ultimate winter bike. It’s an attempt at realising a fine example of that very different beast, the winter hack. Are they not one and the same? They could be, but you’d need to be pretty wealthy as well as indifferent to the condition of your personal ultimate in order to treat it as a “hack”. It’s an unkind term used of a horse and, while bicycles don’t deserve quite the same care for their welfare, is not exactly a generous term to use for a two-wheeler.

In this case, however, it is already looking pretty apt – and here’s why. The frame has been liberated from the depths of a friend’s garage. Wearing a steel threaded fork, it is, according to the decals, an Omega Xerxes Ti. It must be a rare beast; I’ve never seen another and, going by the various bosses with which it is festooned, it is some kind of titanium touring frame. Despite having languished unloved for almost a decade, the overall condition is excellent. That’s titanium for you; corrosion-proof and able to come up as shiny as new after appalling abuse.

Having spotted it, I measured up and found a suitably sized 57cm top tube allied to a comparatively short seat tube just 56cm from bottom bracket centre to top of top tube. The seat tube length is not a big deal; a long seat post will sort it out easily. The lack of head tube length, however, proved harder to get around. I like my bars some 645mm above the bottom bracket axle centre line, adjusting this using my position replicating technique.

Trouble is, the threaded fork steerer uses a quill stem and none from my collection had a long enough quill to get the bars as high as I needed them while keeping to the minimum insertion marked for safety on the side. Rummaging around, I found a quill adaptor for a threadless stem, which looked promising. Further searching brought forth a selection of stems of roughly suitable length and angle and, by playing around with two or three I found one that put the bars exactly where I wanted them. It’s a Rotor S1 from 2007 weighing 114g, which will go some way to offsetting the weight of the adaptor.

Besides being a bit low in the top tube, the frame has a surprisingly low bottom bracket. Axle centre height is 260mm, which will put the pedals pretty low to the ground. I’ll have to take care when pedalling around corners but at least I’ll be nice and close to terra firma when the roads are slippery.

So, we have a frame that fits – just – and will shrug off whatever winter throws at it; a steel fork; an unappealing but effective solution to the handlbar placement problem and mudguard bosses. There’s also clearance for them; plenty of it. The bike is built for long-drop 57mm calipers so fattish winter tyres will go straight in without complaint. If this isn’t all leading up to some kind of ultimate, what is?

The next piece in the puzzle is the wheelset, which is the RCUK test pair of American Classic Sprint 350s. Unused for a few months, they are still running beautifully after two hard winters, look good for at least one more and, with red decals that clash nicely with the yellow of Omega and the anodised red of the stem, keep with the hack theme.

Coming soon: component choice

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