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Monday, May 6, 2013

A true classic

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Whilst beautiful to look at, the ride is at first, well to be brutally honest, harsh and uncomfortable. Being used to mod-cons such as disc brakes that actually stop you and an ergonomically designed seat, you initially yearn for these, plus modern suspension and more gears than fingers on one hand. However, take it for a spin on a sunny day, relax, go with the flow and you start to forgive every one these shortcomings. You enjoy the ride for what it is - pure unadulterated motion, totally dependent on the skill of the pilot. You immediately understand that Modern Technology actually dulls the feedback of tyre on the ground and forgives pilot error. If nothing else, it's still stunning to look at and always draws 'how old is it' and 'do you polish the wheels' remarks in the car park.

1964 E-Type Jaguar? 
Nope, my 1992 Rocky Mountain Altitude, old-skool Reynolds 531, fully rigid steel mountain bike.
My ultra-modern Scott Spark is in the LBS being fixed, so the opportunity to get the old girl out for a ride (the bike, not the E-Type or my wife) couldn't be resisted. And I fell in love all over again.

The Altitude clearly has more than a bit of road bike in it's rear triangle genes. When I had her resprayed (in original livery) a couple of years ago, I was asked if I wanted disk brake bosses welded on. Apart from destroying the aesthetics, I was not convinced that the pencil thin seat and chain stays would take the stresses, so the Mark 1 'V' brakes went back on. The original XTR components were as good as the day they were fitted, so also went straight back on in the rebuild. My only concession to modernity was fitting a set of Pace rigid carbon forks. Being lighter than most equivalent titanium bikes, she was always a great climbing bike. The lighter, now fully rigid ensemble was unstoppable. A true delight to ride; you feel totally connected with the riding surface and you are a better rider for it.

Certainly there is no way I would want to do an all-day 'epic' or tackle the Rockies on the Rocky, but for a Home Counties outing, the Altitude is still something truly special. Thanks Scott.

Incidentally, I was curious as to whether Reynolds still manufactured '531' tubing. It turns out that it has it been in production since 1935 and is still available to special order. In one of those lovely circular serendipitous findings, it turns out that Reynolds 531 is actually the material of preference for the Jaguar E-Type Enthusiasts' Clubwhen restoring the front 'A' frame of their ride of choice.

Gary Colet

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