We were in Glasgow last night to have a look at the new bikes in the HOY range, and chat to Sir Chris about them. There's three new bikes: The Fiorenzuola track bike, plus the Meadowbank Junior track bike and Cammo junior road bike, both with 650c wheels.
The Fiorenzuola (above) is designed to be anything from a road fixer (it's drilled for a front brake) to a tool for a privateer racer. Based around a triple butted 6061 alloy frame and carbon/alloy fork, it's built up with a SRAM Omnium track chainset and good quality Q-lite freewheel and track hubs, those hubs laced to Alex track rims. It's designed to be a quality package for racing straight out of the box, and will retail at £750.
There's a 650c track bike too, the Meadowbank designed to suit riders from eight years and up. Running a 44/16 gear and with a carbon-bladed fork, it's again designed to be ready to race. The drops are shallower and it features 145mm cranks for smaller arms and legs. It'll cost £450.
Also new is a 650c road bike, the Cammo, aimed at the same age bracket but with a 16-speed Shimano Claris / Microshift transmission. It's an all-alloy frame and fork and the short reach bars and junior STI units should make it small hand friendly. The Cammo will retail for £600.
We got a chance to catch up with Sir Chris at the Revolution track meet where the bikes were being launched; HOY bikes also sponsor the Future Stars series within Revolution which is a proving ground for the most talented 15-16 year old riders.
road.cc: When we talked to James [Olsen, designer at HOY bikes] he said this was all your work: it’s almost entirely your influence on the design of the track bike. Have you wanted to make a track bike for a long time?
Chris: It’s the thing that makes the most sense really. I’ve worked in all aspects of cycling but this is the one that I know, maybe not everything about, but the most about. It’s what I’ve spent the time on, it’s what i’ve ridden all these years.
It’s really nice to get out on the track, having given the specification and geometry – a very similar bike to the one I used to race on in terms of the handling – and they nailed it first time. The prototype is the bike we’ve got now.
There was nothing to revise from the prototype?
I got the prototype, and… well, not looking to rip it to shreds, but to say that it’s not stiff enough here, or it’s too relaxed, or it’s too short. But it was perfect. And you almost feel like you’re not doing your job properly, but there it was. The difficulty has been more in the componentry because the frame and forks are as good as you’re going to get. You could swap out the wheels and drivetrain and race it up to a very high level, sprinting and bunch racing. But it’s also an enjoyable bike. The joy of it is that it’s going to be accessible; people can use it for riding at drop-in sessions, they can ride it for fun, they can ride at a track league event, and if they want to, progress beyond that and upgrade the bike themselves.
In terms of the kind of riding that you’re famous for, and the more general type of riding people would do on the track, do you have a good all-round view of what’s needed or do you find yourself more focused on the sprint disciplines?
The bike itself, you can get a frame to fit and tailor the sit with the stem and everything else. But it’s a bike that will work for bunch racing, omnium riding… apart from pursuiting where the guys looking to get serious will get an aero bike, it’s able to do everything. For me, it had to be strong enough for a 95kg sprinter who’s going to kick out 2,500W; but it’s also lightweight and responsive. That’s especially true of the Meadowbank too: if you’re getting kids into track then the bike has to be light and responsive.
The only thing I was concerned with initially that we changed on the prototype was the sprockets and the chain. You’ve got to have a decent drivetrain on there. But in terms of giving it the full beans from a standing start… there’s a video of me online from Newcastle doing a few starts and it’s a lot better than some of the carbon bikes I’ve ridden. It’s rock solid. Stick some steel bars on and it’d be even more solid, you can make it a proper sprinter’s bike and get zero flex out of it. But it’s still light enough to ride for everyday stuff.
Sir Chris giving a pep talk to the Future Stars riders
And you ride an XL frame, is that right?
Just to get the reach. I’ve got quite a long reach on the bike and the head tubes are quite low, it’s almost like a size down. On the track people tend to ride smaller frames and have an extended seatpost and stem. But for me, if you held that bike up against my old race bike the dimensions are very similar. And it almost felt like an old bike, when I got on the track for the first time it felt familiar because of the familiar position.
I’d go so far as to say that wasn’t far off being as stiff as my old carbon bike. When you get non-carbon bikes, particularly the keirin bikes we used to get, you’d step on it after a carbon bike and it was like a step back in time: bending and flexing and feeling very strange. Whereas this feels great.
Fiorenzuola was the first World Cup I went to in Italy, in 1997 and it’s where I won my first World Cup medal, we won the European Championships there in 1999. So it’s to signify the start of something; it’s not your very first bike: the Meadowbank is the kids’ bike because that’s where I started to ride the track. Each name has something in it that’s significant to my career.
And there’s 24” and 20” bikes coming too?
Yes, initially they’ll be road bikes. There will be a full range, essentially we’re going to have everything from balance bikes up to the all-singing, all-dancing full-size track and road bikes. We’re kind of expanding from the middle, if you like, going down and up at the same time. But it’s great to see the track bikes out there now. We wanted to go with the hybrid and road bikes to start with but it’s great to now have that expansion in the range. You could take that track bike and stick a front brake in and have a fixed wheel bike for the road; we’re going to have a model up from the Fiorenzuola that’ll have a Dura Ace spec and won’t be drilled for a brake. It’ll be the kind of bike that you’ll be able to race at a very high level straight out of the box. It’s the same frame though; we’re confident that the frame is as good as it can be for that kind of money.
Is this the bike you’re most proud of so far?
It’s hard to say. It’s the one that’s probably the most personal but I’m proud of them all. When you see somebody out riding one, that’s brilliant. That’s someone that’s gone to a bike shop, and they’ve had the pick of all these bikes from all these different ranges, and they’ve gone, “Nah, I’m gonna go for this one” – and when they come up to you to tell you about it, or tweet you about it to say they’re having a great time on it, it’s just brilliant. This track bike is the most personal project so far but there’s going to be one that’s even more personal coming out soon which is a limited edition bike, quite special… there’ll only be 50 or 60 bikes made.
Have you enjoyed the transition from competitive racing to being at the other end of the industry?
It still feels weird, when you come to a race and you feel guilty that you’re tucking into chicken breast in the track centre while these guys are slogging their guts out. But I’m really enjoying being at the start of something. It reminds me of the early days of my racing career… you can see it plotted out ahead of you, it’s a lot of hard work and you take nothing for granted, but…
It’s been a great bunch of people to work with too, the guys at Evans are like a big family. nd today’s a really significant day, the new bikes are finally out in the public. They can see the bikes, they can ride the bikes. And you’re a bit like a nervous parent, watching and hoping that they’re going to enjoy it. But the bikes have had great reviews so far, you get that kind of response and it’s really nice when we give them to people like you guys, independent, objective people are testing them and they’re doing well.
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.