NorthRoad Riders – James and his International Explorer
This week we’ve reached out to James. James has not only been a long term NorthRoad rider but is one of a band of pals who have all upgraded to NorthRoad Bikes. Following him on Twitter, you’ll see a chap who has ridden the Paris Roubaix route, James rides a custom NorthRoad Explorer (spoiler alert, all NorthRoad bikes are custom) and he starts by taking us through the motivation.
First things first, What made you decide to choose NorthRoad Cycles?
“I had a cross bike from a ‘big brand’ and had been massively underwhelmed by its quality. I wanted something I could possibly do the odd cross race on, but use down tow paths, in woodland etc so I could cycle more with my son. I saw the old NorthRoad HQ under Rapha and popped in one day to speak to Ian.
After been attacked with cuteness from Bertie, with zero pressure Ian explained the lead time, what he could do, couldn’t do etc and was totally honest while managing my expectations. I was also looking at other ‘big brand’ gravel bikes as I do love my road bike, but decided that the overall value and quality along with the personal service offered from NR made them the stand out choice so I committed to buying a NR explorer.”
Why did you choose the options you did?
“I am colour blind and the least creative or artistic person you could meet so in many ways, the option for unique customising was probably a slight hindrance to me!
What I did know was that I wanted to run Shimano and a 1 x system as I’ve also used a Shimano drive train. The 1 x with a decent range cassette also appealed as it would give me more than enough gears plus less chance of any chain drop on front rings etc. I also wanted to shave a bit off the weight so went for some Hunt wheels which I sourced myself.
I was probably your worst customer for a colour scheme as I must’ve changed my mind 4-5 times before settling on one…..! I had a few crazy ideas, then a Flanders themed one, but ultimately, these all looked too much like a road bike finish and I wanted a clear distinction. I had opted for a gloss grey, but then having chatted to Ian, I finally went with a matt grey.
How ironic that someone with poor colour vision ends up with a grey paint scheme eh?”
What has surprised you the most now you’ve had the bike for a while?
“I have been surprised with quite a lot of things to be fair.
Firstly, how easy it rolls on the road. It seems effortless to get up to 30kmh with it’s gravel tyres on and am sure it would roll faster if the gears allowed.
I was really surprised with how it copes with the more rough stuff. I have probably pushed the term ‘ gravel ‘ way more than I should and taken it on some pretty rough tracks. It more than holds up to all I have asked of it and remains really comfortable.
I reckon with some knobbly cross tyres on it I could push the boundaries even further and it would be more than up to it.
It’s stiff, but comfy, compliant and responsive and half the weight of my hated old Cross bike which was a real surprise. It’s not far off matching the weight of my road bike which I’m still stunned by!
Finally, I use it as a pub bike, or run around bike for local trips. It’s all round versatility is perhaps the most surprising as it really is the ultimate bike and can do pretty much everything. I plan to use it as my winter bike for the road this year too and just swap tyres to suit any specific ride I want to do.
I didn’t really get on with tubeless but that is more my appetite to persevere with them, top them up, deal with the solvent etc. Given that I have 3 sets of wheels for it, this didn’t really suit me ultimately anyhow but had I committed to using it purely for gravel, I’m sure I’d have stuck with them.”
Anything else you would like to add?
I just love the story attached to NR. New bike day is one of my favourite posts I see on your socials as I know that whatever the calibre of rider or model they choose, they’ve got a great bike.
Even better, they’ve no doubt had fantastic service and that is the stand out for me. Any issues, you guys are always on hand to help. Ste you were great in finding a solution for my leaking tubeless, and Ian was so patient with my many questions and indecision while choosing what was going to be right for me.
I’ve also noticed it’s a real head turner and have had many compliments on it. People are curious about the brand as most won’t have head of it. I and I’m certain the rest of the wider NR family will happily tell anyone how amazing you guys are and encourage anyone who is after a new bike to add you to the list of options. At the very least, pop in the bikery, to see the crew, and if Jane and Bertie are in you will also get to cuddle the pooch!
I made a point of telling anyone who asked about my old bike how awful it was and how much of a mistake it was to buy this. Within 3 months of having my Explorer, 2 of my mates had bought one on my recommendation which should tell you all you need to know.
If you’re interested in talking to us about your new bike, please don’t hesitate! get in touch by clicking here!