As pictured, the bike, set up for summer training, weighs under 18.5lbs.
My S&S Roberts road bike for every purpose
Text and photos provided by: Neil Carlson, cyclist, London, England
To complement my racer and tourer, I decided to see if I could have one bicycle built that would replace everything inbetween. Incorporating S&S couplings, this was to be my travel bike; for training, commuting, randonees, audax rides and short tours. It would need to be fast, stable yet responsive, stiff yet comfortable, robust, reliable, repairable, able to accomodate up to700x32c tyres, low-maintenance and, above all, lightweight.
With a reputation spanning mountain and track bikes, racers, tourers and tandems, I went to see Chas Roberts, one of the UK's top framebuilders in May 1998. Having turned a previous outlandish request of mine into one of the first rideable steep-angled, micro-sized, small-wheeled triathlon bike frames on these shores, he would surely tone down my impossible desire for universality into what was achievable without compromising the essentials. And he had been waiting for the right opportunity to put his first set of BTCs to good use...
As well as the couplings, the resulting frameset features: compact geometry for lightness and comfort; a slightly stretched wheelbase for stability and tyre clearance; cast BB shell and fillet brazing at seat cluster and head tube; a custom tubing selection including Reynolds 853 and Columbus Nivacrom for lightness and stiffness under load; Columbus Metax chainstays, stainless steel vertical dropouts, rack and mudguard braze-ons and mudguard bolting points under the fork crown, brake and chainstay bridges for convenience.
The bike incorporates Gore-tex cables, Grunge Guards and SRP/Action-Tec Ti bolts and axles throughout, Martec shock-absorbing foam under the bar tape, a Tubus "Fly" tubular steel rear rack, a flip-flop aheadstem for a choice of riding positions and Freedom Bikepacking's "Limpet" front pannier system (not shown, but it is rackless, lightweight, stable and easy to fit & remove). I first rode it in September. What can I say? The bike is amazing. It rides like a dream. The frame weight, including BTCs is 4lb 8oz. The fork weighs 1lb 11oz. The complete bike, as shown, including rack, mudguards, triple chainset, touring wheels and bar bag QR mount weighs 22lb 11oz. Planned upgrades, including a fast set of wheels for unloaded use, should bring the weight down to 21lb (stripped down, just over 19lb).
I will try to update you when I've really put the bike through its paces, but just in case you think I'm biased (I admit it!), in October 1998, Richard Hallett, technical editor of the UK's "Cycling Weekly" magazine favourably compared a Roberts Compact Road bike against an identically-specced Roberts Classic racing bike. In his review of the year in December he awarded the "lightweight and responsive" Roberts Compact "the most rideable bike of the year." (See the Framebuilder page for more information on Roberts Cycles)
5-19-2000 "After a year commuting to work (a 21-mile round trip each day through central
London), in weather that's been fine and downright disgusting, I took a week's vacation in August 1999 on the Roberts Compact
Audax. My wife accompanied me on her Roberts. Fully-laden with panniers front and rear and 700x35c
tyres, we went camping in France. Running the gamut of changeable northern European
weather, we nevertheless had a perfect view of the total solar eclipse from the garden of a beautiful chateau near Amiens. Though I was carrying more than
25lbs of gear every day, I never even noticed that the S&S couplings were there.
Late in the autumn, I finally found myself apprehensively approaching the bike with the coupling tool in hand. Time for a full service. Certain that the threads would have seized, would I have the strength to undo the couplings after a year's use without checking or relubing? When they came undone smoothly and easily with minimal pressure, I was relieved and mightily impressed! I look forward to more adventures this year - both the bike and couplings have exceeded my wildest expectations."
Neil Carlson, cyclist, London, England
11-15-02 Here I am on the latest "version" of my S&S Roberts approaching bend two
just off the summit of Alpe d'Huez in June 2002. As a racer, the bike proved faultless on Alpine climbs and
descents, on rides of up to 70 miles per day. The couplings can't be seen because I cover them with black
neoprene suspension fork boots when riding (keeps the dirt and sweat off). I'm on a set of exceptionally lightweight custom-build Lew wheels (1007g
per pair) and a USE Alien carbon seatpost and AX Lightness Endurance carbon saddle (minimally padded, 91g, extremely comfortable!). The bike as ridden
here weighed 17lbs. This trip was the first time I'd actually broken the bike down into the soft case for travelling. It took me a couple of hours
to pack it all in the first time to my satisfaction, an hour or so to put it back together on arrival and about 45 minutes to pack it all back in to
go home. Taking the bike apart and fitting it all into the bag to go home attracted quite a bit of attention, as I did it in the
middle of the pedestrian precinct of Bourg d'Oisans just after the descent from Alpe
d'Huez (and a quick shower). The soft-sided bag worked well and was easy to carry (or tow - a compact, lightweight handcart such as the Moveasy
CompacCart 200 is a worthwhile investment). Packed up, the bike and virtually all my gear came within 1kg of the (low)
20kg limit for the no-frills airline I travelled with, and everything arrived in France and
returned home in perfect condition. In truth, I'm unable to find fault with either Roberts or S&S - the bike performs flawlessly and travels easily.
Neil Carlson, cyclist, London, England
Follow this link to see Neil's latest 12+ pound "BACKPACK" ULT COMPACT RACER
from Roberts Cycles.