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Tim sent us his thoughts on his custom Lightning X-1 build

Posted by Tim Stringer on

Recently we were privileged to build a bike for Tim Stringer based on a custom Lightning X-1 frame and Koppenberg XXLR50 wheelset. A few days ago we received this letter from Tim which we reproduce here in full with his kind permission. 

Thanks Tim for sharing your thoughts with the world. And thanks again for being our customer. See you out on the road!

From Mr.Tim Stringer:

If this is more than just a ‘review’ it is because it’s something of a paean to the Spin Industries Lightning X-1 which I’ve had for just over a month now! It is, perhaps, self-evident that I’d be reluctant to be negative about something which represents a considerable investment, both in terms of ‘research-time’ and money. I have no other ‘vested interest’ in writing about this bike other than, maybe a vaguely ‘socialist view’ that everyone should have one!

Maybe some personal context would be useful, so you can see where I’m coming from! I suppose I fall into that group of people that others typically and rather contemptuously call a “mamil” in that I am, at best, at the top range of being middle aged; I am a man and I do wear lycra –I’d be uncomfortably stupid to wear anything else, really. So I am, unashamedly, a mamil! I started cycling ‘seriously’ over thirty years ago through necessity – the necessity of commuting to work - and that has morphed into me becoming a very keen leisure cyclist/sportive rider/bike-part of a triathlon team - that metamorphosis began when I could afford a car!

I’ve owned a lot of bikes – some very good ones too – and I’ve ridden steel, aluminium, and carbon framed bikes. But titanium? Instead of taking government advice and spending my pension pot on a Lamborghini I’ve spent it on a bike! I live ten miles from the ‘iconic’ Home Moss – on the Tour 2014 route – though that is just the most famous climb near me: there are many other, harder ones! So as well as needing to get some personal bulk off, I also wanted something strong and light – the Lightning X-1 is certainly light!

I wanted a bike that would last me for the rest of my cycling life; I’d been frustrated by spots of rust appearing on my steel framed bike, despite my best efforts; my alloy bike is still a great, if rather harsh ride, and I’ve seen the effects of a crash on a carbon-fibre frame.

I spent about six months – off and on - researching titanium frames and frame makers on the internet; visited a great many shops and looked at a huge number of machines from the UK, the Netherlands, the US and Italy. It would be invidious of me to mention specific companies, but you can probably work out which ones I researched. Eventually, improbably, and by accident I came across a video posted on You-Tube, of all places, about a Spin Industries Spitfire – as with most top end bikes, it looked (and this isn’t too strong a word) beautiful. In fact, a Frenchman has already told me “Vous avez un beau vélo!”

I did further research and as part of it, contacted Drew at Spin Industries to see if I could meet up with him about having a bike made. I could maybe understand his skepticism – after all, I’d visited other places and left ‘empty-handed’. He agreed and I travelled the 120 miles needed for a meet. I had not intended ‘signing on the dotted line’ there and then, but I did! I was so impressed with Drew's good-humoured enthusiasm and knowledge, compared to some of my other experiences, that I knew there and then that I could trust him completely to deliver what I wanted.

Drew agreed to build me a bike precisely to my specification from the frame up, and just six weeks later, I picked it up!

It is equipped with SRAM Red 22; Rotor QXL cranks (with power meter); ENVE forks; Deda Superleggera 35 carbon black on black bars and stem and the Spin Industries K2 XXLR50 carbon wheels. I’ve only just wiped the smile off my face, it looks so good!

I’ve done about 500 miles on it by now, and have held fire about writing about it until now so I’ll have a good picture of what it’s like.

I say above how stunning it looks – but it’s when you get on it that you realise there is some substance backing up its appearance. For the first few rides, I deliberately didn’t put my computer on the bike – I’m new to power meters, and I wanted to concentrate on what the bike was like and not on what my computer was telling me.

The frame is ultra compact, with a low, ‘aggressive’ feel to it though it was very light and, from the first, very comfortable compared to anything I’ve ever ridden before: a veritable Rolls Royce of a bike.

I know there is an unconscious response to anything new –be it shoes or helmet, whatever – to give it ‘big licks’ the first few times and I probably did on the Lightning X-1, but it is a bike that just begs to be ridden hard and ridden fast. 

I had been warned that titanium gets a bit of getting used to and that I should expect it to be slow on the pick up when trying to accelerate hard. Contrarily, it handles in a wonderfully responsive way – going up steep hills it takes the power without any of the ‘sponginess’, flex or delay I’ve experienced on other bikes. 

On fast descents it is wonderful too – it goes exactly where I want it to! It is very stable and responsive as it sweeps round corners and I immediately ‘trusted’ it, if that makes sense: it handles brilliantly. The straight-line speed on the flat is also superb – it just seems to glide along, making light of the vagaries of the road surface near where I live. Perhaps the oversized down tube aids comfort as well as helping stiffness and responsiveness.

I’ve got the K2 XXLR50 wheels – also built by Spin Industries. Never having ridden a carbon wheel before, I was a bit apprehensive – particularly with regards to their strength and braking as well as handling in side winds. 

I shouldn’t have worried! The wheels are beautifully balanced, stiff, stable and fast! Braking instills confidence. And they're really strong. Well, I hit a pot-hole at 40 mph, hard enough to make me think I’d dislocated my thumbs, and the wheels just shrugged it off! Side winds don’t trouble them at all somehow.

I ride 23 mm clinchers, though the rims are 25 mm – this means that they run at lower pressure – again, adding to the comfort

I can say, unreservedly, that this it the best bike I’ve ever ridden – it ‘ticks every box’ I can think of!

Thank you, Spin Industries, for making a dream come true!

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