Hill-Climb bikes are notoriously home-brewed, and the bike that won the legendary Monsal Hill Climb (opens in a new tab) in the Peak District on October 2 is firmly in line with this very British tradition.
Above all, a hill climb bike must be as light as possible. They are not limited by the UCI’s 6.8kg weight limit. So with this relatively heavy Planet X Nanolight dating from the beginning of the last decade, Gregg Booker definitely had his work cut out for him.
“It’s actually my dad’s,” says Booker, 25. “It easily dates back to 2010.”
“Nanolight” at the time meant less than a kilo, so its claimed weight of 999g just manages to do it – at least as far as marketing at the time goes.
However, Booker has done everything in its power to mitigate the extra 300g or so that the former Planet X gives up on the frames of the best road bikes. (opens in a new tab) to reduce it to less than 6 kg: this means eliminating drops, removing the rubber covers of the Shimano Ultegra R8000 (opens in a new tab) shifters and running a set of DT Swiss Dicut RRC 32T 1100g tubular wheels with Vittoria Speed 23mm tubs.
Further weight savings come from a 1x setup – the SRAM Force carbon crankset with a spare Superstar 36t (opens in a new tab)The Raptor oval chainring, which Booker says smooths out dead spots on really steep hills.
The hodgepodge of components can only be loosely described as a bunch – Booker simply went for anything that kept the weight as low as possible and allowed him to put a winning amount of power into the Garmin Vector 3 pedals. (opens in a new tab) without the bike collapsing.
Although it clocked an impressive 679 watts for the “official” 0.29 mile Strava (opens in a new tab)segment, which took him 1-08 (although his official winning time is 1-19.4), Booker, who is local and has walked the course several times, says it sounded low and he s would normally wait around 800, putting the anomaly up to a probable abandonment.
As for ride quality, Booker says it’s surprisingly good: “Stiff, responsive…that’s all I need.”
Are we likely to see this bike at the National Hill Climb Championship on The Old Shoe near Llangollen, South Wales on October 30?
“No, I’m a bit heavy for that – it’s a 12% average mile and I’m more of a short stint rider,” says Booker, who weighs “73 or 74 kilos…but I won three of the four hill climbs I’ve done this year and I’m happy and surprised to win at Monsal.”
Booker, who lives near the rise of Bakewell, finished third in 2018 and fourth last year.
The record still stands at 1-14.2, set by Malcolm Elliott in 1981.
Cutting off the drops – which aren’t used anyway – is common practice in UK hillclimbs. Maybe removing the rubber shrouds goes further than some riders, but thankfully the Ultegra 11spd bare shifters are smooth enough to hold securely while reducing power.
Booker uses a negative rise 3T ARX Team stem in order to drop slightly to what would have been a drop position.
SRAM Force 1x crankset with Oval Superstar chainring
“I use a SRAM Force carbon crankset and a Superstar Raptor oval chainring,” says Booker. “I find the oval smooths it out a bit more, especially when you’re pushing hard in those big gears.
“When you’re on a 16 or 17 percent grade and you’re at the weakest point of the pedal stroke, it removes the dead spot, so I find that helps with climbing.
Many people use narrow-wide 1x chainrings to save weight and the oval is relatively rare. The data is there to show oval works but not everyone is convinced.”
Booker uses a pair of well-used Garmin Vector 2 power meter pedals, which are there to analyze the data afterwards rather than watching it during the ride, he explains.
“The wheels are top of the line DT Swiss, 1100 grams,” says Booker. “I used to work in a bike shop in Chesterfield and these wheels were fitted by a guy called Danny Featherstone, who did a 1-22 on Monsal [in 2016, he was eighth]. I saw them there in the back of the store and said to the manager, do you mind if I have those wheels and he just said ‘yes’.
“The Vittoria Corsa Speed tubs are only 23mm and I put 110 psi in them which was a bit too much as they were popping all over the place.”
Mt Zoom seatpost and unpadded carbon saddle
The seat post comes from British brand Mt Zoom which makes lightweight components primarily for XC MTB racing and weighs around 150g, according to Boooker. It’s held in place by a Pinarello carbon clamp (off-screen) which gives the bike that much-needed bit of Italian class.
Booker didn’t name the unpadded carbon saddle, just agreeing that it’s “unbranded.”
Behind the saddle is an Exposure TraceR (opens in a new tab) taillight. Climbing bikes – perhaps a bit oddly – are subject to the rules and regulations of cycling time trials, which means front and rear lights just in case motorists don’t notice the crowds rushing to the side of the road and the fact that the actual ascent route at Monsal Head was closed that day.
Booker used a Knog Blinder 4 LED front.
- Frame: Planet X Nanolight
- Wheels: DT Swiss Dicut RRC 32T
- Tyres: Vittoria Corsa Speed Tubular 23mm
- Crankset: SRAM Force
- Chainring: Superstar Raptor oval 36 teeth
- Shifters, rear derailleur, cassette and brake calipers: Shimano Ultegra R8000
- Bar: Carbon Planet X
- Stem: 3T ARX Team
- Seatpost: Mt Zoom
- Saddle: unbranded carbon
- Weight 5.9kg