Goodbye trusty steed: The Roadrat’s obituary

22 07 2013

I go through an odd set of emotions when I decide to sell a bike, or frame. Unlike many of my cycling peers, I never had a great stable of bikes at anyone time, and haven’t actually owned that many bikes. The process of picking a frame and it’s components is usually long and drawn out. How am I going to use the bike? What components to get? How much will it cost? How am I going to fund this project? As a result, I tend to keep bikes for a good few years and have many adventures on them. This builds a set of emotions and feelings for the bike. I become attached to them. So when the day arrives that I finally decide it’s time to move on, it’s not a decision taken lightly and involves a fair bit of pain. It’s like loosing a dear friend. So when on Saturday I decided to place my Cotic Roadrat frame on a well-known internet action site, only to have it bought within an hour, I thought it fit to write an Obituary of sorts to remember the adventures we’ve had together.

Cotic Headbadge

During 2007 I had been thinking about putting together a bike for a mixture of uses. It would be asked to do long distance road rides, touring and some light off-road use. It would need to take skinny slick and knobbly tires, have the option of either cantilever or disc brakes, be well-built and be a little bit different. I had looked at the Surly Crosscheck, the Soma Doublecross but I’d also spotted the Cotic Roadrat and the frame fitted the bill. But there was no way I could justify the cost of such a bike at that time to be honest. However, Rach and I were getting married May 2008, and for our honeymoon we’d decided to go for a two month bike tour around central Europe and neither of us had suitable bikes for the trip. So we agreed that new bikes would be our wedding gifts to each other.  The Roadrat was born and specked to be hard-wearing. I picked a range of components that crossed the mtb and road world. Hope pro2 hubs, bottom bracket, headset, DT swiss rims and spokes, spooky cantilever brakes, to be upgraded to cable discs after the honeymoon (which never happened). Ultegra 9 speed brifiters, XT rear mech, 105 front, Sram mtb cassette, Race Face cadence compact chainset, with an array of decent finishing kit including On-one midge bars and a Brooks B17 saddle finished it off. It was a sexy built to last bike put together in my lounge.

Building the roadrat

By April 2008 I had a finished bike. What a great feeling. Having a brand new bike with shiny new parts awaiting its first ride of discovery.

IMG_5286

It’s first proper adventure was my stag-do. Yes, I went cycling for my stag-do, and with only one friend, Simon. At the time I only had one friend that would want to cycle the sustains coast-to-coast route over 3 days including the off-road sections. So I strapped on some luggage, fitted knobbly tires and off we went to cycle across the county and drink some beer on the way. What I didn’t know at the time was this ride was to be my very first bikehiking trip, something I love doing now.

Roadrat C2C

Stag security

The trip was a success and the bike performed without fail. The next trip was our Honeymoon. Two months around central Europe. Rach and I covered 1600 miles and crossed Slovenia, Hungry, Slovakia, Poland, Czech Republic and East Germany. The Roadrat was loaded with bike camping gear and new kit for the trip, and again performed brilliantly.

hungary j on bike

me by Elbe

I still think that was the best two months of my life. Travelling on a bike I loved riding and with my best friend who was now my wife. My two favourite things! But those two months came to an end and we were back home, but the adventures continued. First up early August 2008, I stripped the luggage off, put the knobbly tires back on and rode some cheeky trails on the Worcestershire Way.

Worcester way

Pear Amberley

This was followed by an attempt on the whole 100 miles of the South Downs Way, again with Simon. It had been Simon’s childhood dream to ride the South Downs Way in one go. It was not to happen on this occasion, we made it to about the 80 mile mark before we ran out of light. We would return during May 2009 and finish the distance but this time on mountain bikes.

Roadrat on SDW

It was during these long off-road rides using the flared drop midge bars that I started plotting my next bike. That plotting would ultimately spell the end of the Roadrat but more on that later. For now, the Roadrat was being used for another type of adventure, audax. Somewhere during the end of 2008, Phil, a cycling friend at work, asked if I fancied entering the London-Edinburgh-London audax. At 875 miles, I hesitated and then entered. Phil didn’t enter. The ride was at the end of July 2009 so I had about 7 months to train. This was a major undertaking. I’d decided that buying and training on a fixed wheel bike would be a good idea so through the bike to work scheme I picked one up during December 2008. Indeed I rode all my training rides up to 400km on the fixie but the long 600km rides and the LEL itself I would use the Roadrat. It’s odd, but I don’t have any photos from those long rides. I suppose I’d decided that taking a camera would not help me finish any quicker! So during June and July 2009 I put in about 1200 miles on the Roadrat over two very long hard rides. The LEL was a monster but we finished without fault, but having ridden my lighter road specific fixed gear bike all year I was starting too see the flaws in my choice of kit for the Roadrat. It was just a little too heavy, a little too robust and a bit too stiff for fast long distance road rides. What it did excel in, was being fitted with wider tires, a little bit of kit and being taken on multi-surface adventures. And that’s what it’s next trip was all about.

Having been in training to ride long distances and in need of a holiday for 2009, I decided it would be a good idea to spend two weeks riding the 1600 miles from Birmingham to Almeria, Southern Spain to see my cousin. Rach, would have her own adventure and go overland by train and we would spend a week relaxing before flying back. So some more kit was purchased, namely a bivi bag, light weight tarp and ultra light sleeping mat and I headed off early September 2009 to churn out 150 miles a day for about 12 days.

Shadow me

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

Broken me

It was an awesome trip! The highlight being two days of Col bagging in the French Pyrenees. The bike was set up as light as I knew how at the time (I’d make big changes to the set up if I did the trip now). I met great people on the way but the daily distances broke me and I suffered from solitude. Again the bike performed wonderfully, if a little heavy, but I was grateful of its build quality when tackling unsurfaced Spanish roads.

2010 rolled in and I was still using the Roadrat in multi-terrian mode to muck about off road. The Roadrat really suited the knobbly tires. I’d used it for the 2009 HONC, and again in 2010, coming close to a win both times.

Roadrat Cannock

But it was the 1000km Mille Cymru that was the main target for 2010. Again most of my training was done on the fixie except for the last month when I went back to the Roadrat in road guise to get used to using gears again.

me mille

I smashed my way round Wales putting in 3 back to back 230 mile days with over 14,000 meters of climbing. It was a hard ride, possibly my best ever to date. I don’t think I’d ever been that fit before or that fit since. By now the Roadrat was starting to get a little tired. Other than new cables and pads, I’d only changed the chain once but hadn’t needed to do any other real maintenance. By the time Spring 2011 came round a number of the components needed some love. The headset, rear hub and bottom bracket bearings had seen better days, I needed new cables, pads, bar tape and tires. All this corresponded with Rach and I saving to buy a house. Money was not flush and the Roadrat hung on the wall waiting to receive some love. I’d also decided to turn my attention to long distance mtb rides, and didn’t have any tours planned. The Roadrat became a bit redundant as my first choice for road rides was always the fixie. Being lighter, having less to maintain and ultimately better suited to ride rides, it was always picked in favour to the Roadrat. Off road rides were done on the mtb as it was always quicker over technical terrain.

Roadrat seat tube

The Roadrat’s final big adventure was made during the summer of 2011 where it went from London to Brussels in 24 hours leading a group of charity cyclists. It was a fun ride, and one that suited my cycling style. Not much happened with the Roadrat after that point. After three solid years of adventures covering 6-7000 miles the Roadrat slowly went out of favour as I turned increasing to my other two bikes.

Through late 2011 and into 2012 the Roadrat was used for little more than the odd snow ride and occasional 3 mile commutes to work. We had our house and Adam had been born so money and attention had been diverted elsewhere and the Roadrat’s list of requirements went unmet.

Roadrat snow

But it was a new frame that marked the end of service. I loved riding the Roatrat off road with knobbly tires and flared drop bars and this set up had long convinced me of the merits of a 29er mtb, maybe even one designed for use with flared drops. I’d had my eye on a Salsa Fargo for a few years but in the end I was given some money and bought a Singular Gryphon frame and forks. The Roadrat was stripped, the components serviced and fitted to the new frame. During August 2012 my long distance 29er, rigid, single speed, flared drop bar, bike packing mtb was born. It’s the logical evolution of all I loved about the Roadrat, namely the off-road adventures, but it’s just a lot more rugged.

Gryphon Fisherfield

And despite all the long distance road rides I had tackled on the Roadrat, it never really excelled in that function. Sacrificing the Roadrat to build the Gryphon confirmed that to me. So from August 2012 until last Saturday the Roadrat has hung in the shed awaiting it’s next adventure. Every time I saw it just hung there, looking a bit sad, it brought back the memories of the adventures we’d tackled together. And that me feel guilty, that it’s destiny was to wait until I decided to bring it back to life with a new set of components and a new function. But deep down I knew that was unlikely to ever happen. The Roadrat deserved more than that. So it was with a sad heart that I decided to sell the frame and therefore open up a new line of adventure for the Roadrat in someone else’s care.

Roadrat frame

Of course, I’m planning a replacement. I have been since 2009. A bike that will follow the long distance road ride spirit of the Roadrat. A perfect stablemate to the Gryphon, with its off-road focus. It will share many of the same core requirements as the Roadrat, such as disc brakes, comfortable, stable to ride, versatility, not shy of some rough road action if required. But this bike will be much lighter, more forgiving and less rugged. It will not be used for loaded touring, the Gryphon can do that, but will be fitted with light weight luggage.  I’ve my eye on a few possibilities from Salsa, Shand and Lynskey. With thousands of miles of long distance solo road rides under my belt I’ve had plenty of time to ponder the build. I know what I want, I know what I don’t want. I know every component to be used, who will build my wheels, what brake pads I will use. This bike will be a keeper. Problem is at this point in time there is no way I can justify the cost. But I’m 40 in the not so distant future and I’ve a few long distance road adventures on my radar, the 2015 Paris-Brest-Paris, the 1001Miglia and the Transontinental Race. So who knows?

Long live the spirit of Roadrat!


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3 responses

26 07 2013
Ben

A great read James! Seems like you have had some serious adventures and much fun to boot.

4 08 2013
audaxing

Funnily enough I had a trusty Roadrat for a few year and also sold it recently. Mine was mainly a commuter bike. I had a 15 mile each way commute over the Blackdown hills. The rat had alfine 8 speed and marathon+ except when it was snowy and then it had marathon winters. It was only stopped by the weather once, when the snow was too deep. I did the Dartmoor Devil 100km on it once and took it on a family cycle touring holiday in Holland. The frame wasn’t really quite my size so when an acquaintance was selling a Karate Monkey in a bigger size I bought that and sold the rat.

14 10 2013
james

Hi. I have read your obituary and at so many point found myself smiling and nodding so many people go from prefab bike to badly planned prefab bike. I am 31 have 2 kids a wife a house and 3 bikes the. bikes go so many places and see so much beauty that many people dont get to see. Its a horrible thing to part with them however i have just order my first roadrat due for dilivery on fri its to be my adventurebike campin out new steed and your lisst of adventures makes me look forward to the build.. Thanks for sharing.

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