There’s no doubting the steel framed fast tourers that tipped the scales around the 26lb mark, largely responsible for defining the sportive genre remain exceedingly worthy mile munchers but Audax bikes have become leaner, meaner and a whole lot racier. Faced with the prospect of owning just one road machine and with a couple of grand to spend, Burls’ sub eighteen pound Titanium framed Audax proves very hard to resist.
Much to the horror of my ride companions, I sing when a machine agrees with me. Swinging a leg over the top-tube it wasn’t long before I’d lost Justin’s wheel and could warble a Led Zeppelin medley. I noted the Audax lacked the raw immediacy of its race sibling thanks to the slightly longer wheelbase. However, into my stride, this was quickly forgotten, the space age frameset turning bumps to satisfying ripples, the low weight allowing me to power up all but the steeper climbs fully seated. Out of the saddle and dancing on the pedals there’s no power robbing flex, thanks in no small part to the bottom bracket’s external bearings. Cockpit rigidity contributes to the planted feel and while low, still affords a good view of conditions ahead.
Shifting up and down the block is typically Campag- precise if heavier than equivalent Shimano. Along the flat, open lanes reminiscent of scenes from rural Belgium, the bike gives the impression you could sit back and cruise all day at around 20mph without inducing fatigue or needing to remain overly alert. Be under no illusions, tickle it and it transforms into the proverbial flying carpet. Town manners are equally pleasing. Quick, yet predictable steering offers safe passage around opening car doors, gaping potholes and pretty much anything else that might rudely introduce itself.
Thanks to sensible bottom bracket height and crank length, no amount of provocation could cajole a pedal into grounding when cornering sharply and the continental ultra sports stick like glue, although being slightly neurotic I’d sooner something around the 25mm mark for all weather duties. Given the machine’s low mass, dual pivot callipers are more than equal to the task Modulation and feel from the Centaur inspired confidence, delivering dependable braking in all conditions, although being a quick spin, there wasn’t an opportunity to test this laden but I don’t envisage any surprises for riders under 90 kilos. The only fly in the ointment was a tendency for my heel to periodically brush annoyingly against the chainstay, although this wasn’t hazardous and could be attributable to my choice of footwear that afternoon (while my legs are of equal length, my right femur is marginally longer, resulting in a slight imbalance corrected by orthopaedic insoles).
On the strength of this two hour blast I must confess, money in hand I would find it very hard to resist were I wanting a machine for all reasons and had no pretensions toward ‘cross. It masters most trades and, dropping the guards it’s begging to be raced. Wider rubber and with secure (read sits within arms reach of my desk) storage it would undoubtedly double as a very, very exciting commuter and/or geared winter trainer.
In common with the others in his titanium range, framesets are available in either off the peg or bespoke sizes and expertly TIG welded in Russia from plain gauge 3AL/2.5 grade-the stuff of submarines, unaffected by continuous immersion in salt water so salt strewn winter roads aren’t an excuse for missing the club-run. The only slight downside is the brushed finish’s tendency to collect every blemish; finger mark and stray flick of road-spay but these are easily removed with a bit of Mr Sheen so hardly worth obsessing over. Fairly modest 32mm round seat and top tubes are offset by a beefier 38mm down tube for greater lateral stiffness and won’t go out of style. Elsewhere the curvaceous rear triangle and 72.5 degree seat angle mimic the race sibling tested back in April- implying a shorter than actual 42cm wheelbase.
However, uber traditional straight stays are available at customer request. Our 54cmm test bike was nigh on perfect for my own slightly irregular 1.81 frame (characterised by long legs and short torso) thanks largely to proportional bars and stem, the former measuring a deceptive 42cm centre to centre easily passing for other marques’ 44s and didn’t leave me feeling remotely cramped. Twin bottle mounts, four point carrier fixings-albeit shared with single mudguard eyelets keep things four-season’s long haul practical. Production models will have Kinesis carbon forks in place of the substantial looking ITM 4ever blades on our test bike but bespoke means the customer may deviate from the script to suit their tastes.
Campagnolo Vento reaction wheels are good examples of how far budget; production wheels have advanced in recent years. Sure, weighing 1,855g(pair) they’re not the lightest but stiff mid section machined sidewalls, sealed low friction industrial bearings and track influenced large flange hubs make for a classy package capable of tackling everything from racing and winter training through to Audax and even weekend touring. Continental ultra sport tyres require little introduction and complete the package nicely
Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.