I never really fell in love with my carbon fibre Cannondale Synapse road bike after a very scary speed wobble down a steep hill at 40mph. After much research and checking of spokes, head bearings and geometry, I couldn’t launch the bike with abandon down another hill. My Thorn Sherpa inspired confidence: rock-solid handling, fully loaded down the steepest of hills and ridiculous speeds, even on rough tracks. So the Cannondale, and an unused Brompton, were consigned to eBay to fund a new bike. I wanted something for long day rides and B&B or very light camping tours. After considering a Thorn Club Tour, I settled on a Thorn Audax Mk4. Together with my Sherpa, this would cover a broad spectrum, including all my intended cycling ambitions for years.
The bike was specified with Shimano 105 transmission, a Brookes saddle, carbon fork and TRP Spyre disc brakes – held together with lovely Hope hubs and a bottom bracket. Wheels are DT Swiss RR411 asymmetric rims which can take tubeless tyres. Lastly, the build included mudguards and a light rack, plus a T-bar for a front bar bag and an Alpkit frame bag. This is its light touring configuration.
With the glorious local weather and the pandemic lockdown curtailing any further adventures, I have stripped the bike for a summer exercise routine. The wheels came with tubeless Schwalbe G-One 30-622 tyres for winter use, that roll really well and grip like glue to slippery road surfaces. Now I use Schwalbe Pro-One tubeless, but fitting these has been a challenge.
On delivery, I discovered the tyres had been fitted with tubes, so after a few phone calls, Thorn sent me the tape, sealant and instructions for mounting tubeless. Their literature raved about the performance of tubeless tyres, run at lower pressures. Removing the G-One tyres, cleaning the rims and heating them gently with a hairdryer and applying two loops of rim tape, I added the tubeless valve. I fitted the tyre after pouting in 80ml of sealant. The tyre popped onto the rim with a reassuring click after an energetic use of a track pump. Gosh, I thought, these are easy to fit.
Come summer, I decided to fit the Pro-One tyres, as the G-One’s are not long-lasting and I wanted to start a regime of swapping the tyres each season, replacing the sealant. However, installing the tyres a second time around proved to be painful – I just could not get the tyres to inflate and ‘pop’ on to the rims.
Using inner tubes to keep me on the road, I ordered a Schwalbe air booster and some more tape. After much fiddling, I had to start from the beginning: spotlessly clean rims; new tape; carefully fitted valves and use of the new booster. It worked (eventually), and I can confirm that the results are tremendous – the difference in comfort and speed is noticeable. On the downside, the cost of tape (£25), booster (£45) and sealant (£30/litre) make this an expensive option. I hope the value of comfort and puncture protection (pinch flats and thorns) is worth it. I dare not consider a tubeless repair roadside, so I carry tyre levers, a cloth and an inner tube. It is a messy process but it will get me home.
This rigmarole is worth it. The bike handles brilliantly and is very comfortable – this comfort translates into performance, inspiring confidence and I find the bike is actually faster than the much lighter Cannondale frame (particularly down the long steep hills now :-). Imagine riding on a rough section of road that transitions to freshly laid smooth tarmac. It feels like smooth tarmac all day on tubeless.
So I am happy with the bike, now I have fettled the tyres and adjusted the geometry to perfection. The brakes could be a bit more powerful, but the Brooks saddle is slowly bedding in, and the bearings and gearing smoothing out.
Have I found love again? The Cannondale was a beautiful bike, but I prefer the integrity and function of the Thorn – a durable bike that will keep me happy for a lifetime.