Bike Porn: Klein Agile
Here’s a bike that would definitely pull a crowd if you leaned it up against the food tent at Mayhem. It’s a bike with rare and retro-appeal, a cycling celebrity owner and there’s that amazing three tone fluoro paint job. In order to appreciate what might cause (an albeit small number of) people to start drooling, you have to first appreciate that, even in its pre-Trek days, Klein never actually made cyclocross bikes. This Klein Agile belonged to Caroline Alexander, one of the most successful UK mountain bike racers in the ‘90s, if not ever. After being sponsored by Raleigh for many years, she went on to race for Klein,
Ritchey and others. While Caroline raced a stock Klein mountain bike, there wasn’t a Klein ‘cross bike she could use – and as a UK national ‘Cross champion, it made sense for Klein to make an effort to create one. What they did was to modify an Agile frame – something pitched as a 700C ‘hybrid’ bike for towpath/commuting use. It still featured Klein’s monster headset and oversize fork and stem and it took 700C wheels. A close look at the bike shows that a certain amount of creative bodging went on in building the bike. The rack mounts and downtube bottlecage bolt holes have been plugged up (no one needs bottle cages on a real ‘crosser) and the stem, originally designed to take 25.8mm mountain bike bars has had a 26.4mm Cinelli drop bar
www.singletrackworld.com Internal cables and bespoke bearings. A mechanics nightmare
Between Caroline and Barrie, how many Nat. Champs have these wheels won?
Fat and squealing like a pig
crowbarred in instead. That’s one stem bolt we won’t be touching, ever. The transmission shows a typical pro-racer attitude. Stuff that works, with scant regard paid to tradition (and sponsors). Campag brake/ shifter units drive a Campag rear and a Sachs front mech and Ritchey brakes. With 8-speed transmission, this works surprisingly well. Cranks are very sweet Dura Ace jobs, running on a special Klein pressed-in bottom bracket. These are rare enough now that only one person in the country (at John Atkins Cycles) still has the tools and knowledge to replace them along with the monster headset bearings. The wheels are another ‘crossers touch. Due to the great amount of wheel swapping that goes on in ‘cross racing, mismatched wheels are common and a glimpse at the front Ritchey wheel and rear Hope XC hub bears that out. Looking closer at the rear wheel, a ‘Barrie Clarke’ sticker shows that Barrie and Caroline probably had a store of common wheels that either picked from. The wheels are stock 130mm – however the frame is 135mm MTB spacing, so a certain amount of ‘springing’ goes on to get a wheel to sit tight. So, a rare old bike. There might be one other like it in existence (cyclocross racers always pack a spare) but that’s it. This one came up
for sale at the Singletrack Re-Cycled cycle jumble, courtesy of Sian and Carl, two hometown friends of Caroline’s. After very little persuasion it was bought by our very own Mr Chipps. So, that’s the history, now how does it ride? Well, suffice to say that it’s a good job ‘cross races are only an hour. There’s not a compliant bit on this bike. It’s all about stiffness and efficiency. The fork, needless to say, is very direct – which for the generally soft conditions of ‘cross racing is fine. There’s tons of mud room too. It’s not, however, a bike for enjoying the Three Peaks on. Your arms may fall off... The sloping top tube isn’t very ‘cross, and does impede you for shouldering the bike, but it does mean the top tube is low enough for grabbing and lifting over obstacles. The riding position is stretched out for most of us, so who knows how weeny Caroline managed to race on it. It didn’t appear to slow her down any. And talking of slowing down, the Ritchey cantis do a perfect job of slowing the bike slightly, which is all they really need to do in a race. Adjusting them is a lesson in ‘retro squealing-pig noises’ but they can be made to work eventually. OK, it’s not going to be seeing a great deal of ‘cross race action, but as bikes go it’s dated less than an equivalent mountain bike. In fact, at 21.5lbs, and with a bit of oil on the chain, it’s ready to race.