Challenges And Opportunities Of Yorkshire Hills: Part 3

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I’m still using the excuse that Reggie the Ridgeback Panorama is too heavy to use on a regular basis on the hills of Calderdale and West Yorkshire in general. It’s pathetic, I know, but there you go. When I lived in relatively flat Reading, Reggie was my ‘do-anything’ bike; the commute, the shopping trip into town, the occasional leisure ride, the even-less-occasional 8,000km jaunt across the continent… He did everything brilliantly. But now I’m living back in Yorkshire, home of the steep hill, and I happen to live on one. Turn left out of my door and there’s a steep descent into the bottom of the valley, turn right and the road climbs with an equivalent perspiration-inducing gradient. I was told shortly after moving in that this corner of Calderdale is known as Little Switzerland. It’s not difficult to see why. I’m not complaining however; I spent the first 20 years of my life just down the road and the hills were one of the things that dragged me back to my place of birth. So I’ll stop whinging.

I toyed with the idea of buying a new lightweight bike towards the end of 2015- read about that experience in two posts; part 1 and part 2 – but then my job situation changed and I put the idea on the backburner. Perhaps that was rather fortuitous as I’m not sure a beautiful Bianchi bike would have been the best solution to my problem. I needed something that was somewhat more robust, something built for the rigours of the Yorkshire roads and, especially, its hills. Light, strong with fat tyres…

Sitting this morning beside the river in Hebden Bridge sipping a coffee and getting increasingly annoyed with the kids chasing the flock of pigeons and ducks, I was surrounded by Sunday morning cyclists. Two women were talking about their imminent climb up Cragg Vale, others were celebrating the end of strenuous loops along and around the Calder Valley. I felt shamed. There I was, a soon-to-be published author of another pan-European cycling book… who had hardly cycled anywhere since arriving in Yorkshire in the late summer of 2015. Twelve months of inactivity. Action was required.

Two hours later, I was in the showroom of Cycle Heaven in York. Yes, there are cycle shops nearer than York – Blazing Saddles in Hebden Bridge being the closest, but others in and around Leeds and Bradford – but I have a soft spot for York having lived there as a student and it is, after all, one of Britain’s top ‘cycling cities’.

Cycle Heaven is a stockist of Cannondale and Ridgeback – it was interesting to see the bikes that are now enticing the prospective cycle tourers of 2016 – but it was the Cannondales that caught my eye, in particular the CAADX 105…

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A light hybrid – here are the technical specifications – this is what the bike24.com website has to say;

“Made for dirty and fast races. Super stiff, lightweight and rock solid. The CAADX has been updated to be a remarkable tool for an extreme sport… Whether you’re jumping into the world of cyclocross or you just want an extremely versatile and usable bike for training, commuting or adventuring the Cannondale CAADX Disc Cyclocross Bike can deliver.”

Yes, that’s what I want!

I do, however, have one reservation. The Cannondale CAADX 105 has only two front plates. Reggie has three and he can make even the most fearsome of climbs wince. ChrisC on Twitter (@ChrisC_CFC) pointed me in the direction of this useful online tool for comparing gear ratios. If you plug in the minimum and maximum size of the plates and the cogs at the back (sorry, the cassette…), it gives you a nice chart. Here are the charts for a Cannondale CAADX 105 and a Ridgeback Panorama (of which Reggie is one);

The issue is the number in the bottom left-hand corner of the charts. For the Cannondale it’s 1.3. For the Ridgeback Panorama it’s 0.8. To explain things (courtesy of ChrisC, my new resident expert on such things) “a ratio of 1 would mean for each turn of the pedals the rear wheel would turn once“. He tells me that a ratio of 1.1 is “very low” so 0.8, all credit to Reggie, is phenomenal. Perhaps I’ve been living a charmed life for all these years riding him. On the positive side of things, 1.3 isn’t particularly high. I’m already feeling more relaxed about this and then I remember that when I put Reggie into that bottom gear, we are hauling the bike, the gear and me up The Alps, Mont Ventoux or the mountains of southern Norway. The Cannondale will be naked in comparison, although I hasten to add that I won’t.

So, what do you think? Is the Cannondale CAADX 105 the bike to make the hills of the Calder Valley, Yorkshire and its Dales melt? I have a day off on Thursday and my plan is to return to York to place an order. Unless, that is, you persuade me otherwise.

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Andy Lee says:

    Every time I take my Bianchi out it turns heads. When I got it I expected it to be much harder to ride around Holmfirth. But it’s surprised me as it, like the Canondale has a compact Chainset and 11 – 29 cassette on the back. On my touring bikes I go as low as I can (22 front – 34 rear!!!) but on what is my Sundi bike, the compact is just dandy! Oh, and that is on the ups and downs of West Yorkshire too! The Bianchi stole my heart as soon as I set eyes on it- its only their entry level model but it really as something special. At the local club the majority of riders use a compact with a 32 on the back and 34 on the front. I’m in the minority when I turn up with a triple. Whatever you choose, get a bike that steals your heart as soon as you set eyes on it then systematically lower the gearing as much as possible before you take delivery – a LBS will usually will swap out parts at retail value on a new bike. So you can tailor it to your own preferences for not a whole lot of extra money. Heart First and gear ratios second!

  2. Paul Hunter says:

    I have the 2016 version, and would recommend changing the smaller ring. I’ve had a couple of occasions where I’ve run out of oomph/ability. If you want to change the cassette to something more palatable, I think you will need to change the rear derailleur too.
    Also if you are loading up the bike, just watch out for breaking spokes on the rear. Seems to be the weak spot for me.
    Love the bike though and would definitely recommend them. As Frank says, take a test ride to see if it feels right first. It took me a couple of weeks to find the right set up.

    1. Andrew says:

      Yes, it’s still playing on my mind. I watched a few reviews this morning on YouTube for the Cannondale and they were, without exception, positive, very positive. But they do mention the gearing. Comparing across Cycle Cross bikes, the 36-46 size seems to be the standard. I can cope with not travelling too fast on the road – speed has never been my thing – but I am conscious of the hills around Calderdale. Will I cope? On your other point, I’m not looking to the CAADX to be a tourer, not a heavy tourer anything (perhaps some frames bags at the most) so the spoke issue shouldn’t be an issue in the first place.

  3. Frank Burns says:

    Ah yes, advice from others is always welcome, but the most definitive advice is what you tell yourself at the point of purchase about those almost indefinable qualities of design, style, colour, branding, feel of the fit, rush of adrenalin when you take it for a test ride. In the end, if you feel empowered by the riding experience, it’s pretty well a done-deal.
    The key factor is the test ride………to really know what the saddle and pedals are like, to check the ratios are right for the hills, to make micro-adjustments to your riding position fore and aft, you have to take it out for a half or full day’s ride. A good dealer would understand that.
    Good luck with your final choice!

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