A change of LEL plan, and an intro to the Darkerside MetaBike

Snappy post title, eh?

Regular readers (there must be someone out there, surely) will hopefully be aware that I’m doing London-Edinburgh-London; a ride of 1400km in five days, starting on the 28th July. Which is somewhat under two weeks away.

The plan was to do this on a Morpheus tandem (previewed here) with a fine chap called John. This has now changed slightly – John will still be there (along with 998 other riders), but we will no longer be mechanically attached by the sinuous tubing of the Morpheus. We had a great weekend a little while back putting around 200km onto the Morpheus and came to the upsetting conclusion that: a) we weren’t confident we could keep it up to a good cruising speed without killing ourselves, and; b) the slightly wider-than-normal chainstays were giving both of our knees a bit of gyp. Given the Morpheus is designed as a highly flexible city cargo/utility and tandem thing this is absolutely not a criticism of the bike itself (which is brilliant), more a stark reminder that whilst pushing cycles well out of their comfort zone can be fun, maybe LEL isn’t the best place to do it.

Therefore we needed some more bikes. John has sorted himself out, although is being oddly secretive about what contraption he’s ended up with (given his current location in Wales, my suspicion is some kind of sheep-drawn chariot). I, however, was a bit stuck. My normal distance machine was the Nazca Fuego, but it needed a good bit of TLC after the winter season and I was already strongly considering trading it in for something different. My other bike is a steel Kona Sutra which will go absolutely anywhere, but weighs the same as Aberdeen. All of Aberdeen.

That’s a lot of granite.

So, something had to be done. I arranged two test rides with Laid Back Bikes; one on the Optima High Baron (thoughts here) and another on a 26″ wheel MetaBike. Boths bikes are pretty similar and great fun, but the fact that the MetaBike takes disc brakes and a rear rack made it much more appealing in my eyes and more than compensated for the slightly aggressive handling.

Several weeks later (seriously; don’t order a frame from the MetaBike factory if you’re in any kind of rush), David at Laid Back has finally received the frame and seat from Spain, and is frantically building it up using a variety of components I’d picked from the Tour de France-driven sales.

The bits that MetaBike finally got round to sending. Shiny.
The bits that MetaBike finally got round to sending. Shiny.

MetaBike are a little peculiar in that they only really produce a single frame, to which they add a variety of fork, wheel and component options to generate their different models. Therefore their dual big-wheel, rim-braked MetaPhysic uses exactly the same frame as the smaller-wheeled, disc-braked MetaThesis. The build I’ve gone for is similar to what they call a MetaPhrastic, but for vanity purposes I’ll call it the Darkerside MetaBike. Yeah…

The Darkerside MetaBike

I’m aiming for something light, fast and stiff, then with as much comfort and flexibility as I can get without too much compromise of those three key aims. What I’ve ended up with is an aluminium framed high-racer with a carbon fork and seat, disc brakes (hydraulic disc brakes, no less), a wide-ranged drivetrain, and a variety of long-distance goodies like dynamo lighting. All together, it looks rather like this:

Still with the last few bits to be added, but definitely getting there.
Still with the last few bits to be added, but definitely getting there.


Drivetrain is all SRAM. Apex compact double chainset at the front, with a massively wide-ranging X9 cassette and derailleur at the back. This results in the same spread of gears you’d get with a normal triple, albeit with gaps between changes that you could lose a badge in. The X9 Type 2 rear derailleur also has some fancy clutch that is supposed to reduce chainslap on mountain bikes – I’m hoping it will prove magical with the long recumbent chain. Shifters are SRAM X0, because they were shiny and on offer. Pedals are Time Xpresso jobs, because I like the name.

Brakes are Shimano SLX hydraulic offerings, which have a near-religious following in MTB circles. I’m mildly nervous about the complete lack of road-side repairability of hydraulics, but the additional control and the ability to contort the cables a bit more at the crowded handlebar will hopefully make up for it. If not, I’ll be the recumbent using the drag parachute down big hills…

Wheels are custom made. Mavic Open Pro rims, knitted to a Hope hub at the rear, and the SON delux dynamo from the Fuego at the front.

Lighting comes courtesy of B&M and practically picked itself. Their new Luxos model includes a USB charging socket and my GPS will need some way of charging over the five days of LEL. A match made in heaven. The rear light is a B&M Topline Braketec device, which incoporates a chunky reflector, has an off button, and apparently shines brighter when you brake! Fancy and only a couple of quid more than their non-braking version. Well worth a punt.

There’s a variety of other odds and sods going on like mudguards, mirrors and luggage options. More info to follow when I first get my hands on the thing on Friday afternoon!


Add Yours →

The arrival of your Metabike just whets my appetite for the arrival of mind – those pictures are not helping with the patience I require to wait for the Spanish approach to timeliness. David ephamistically called their quoted lead times ‘optimistic’. Looking fwd to hearing your first impressions, advice and feedback from the LEL.

por favor haga mañana de hoy!

It does look nice, doesn’t it? I’m struggling myself with the not-actually-being-able-to-see-it-in-the-flesh-yet-ness.

The Luxos U is a great light, which I’ve been using for the past few months: you can charge a Garmin 800 in about 2-3 hours. It takes a bit longer to charge at night, but this does enable you to use the GPS all night. The light itself is fantastic and the day-running mode draws so little power you won’t notice it and so can leave it on all the time.

The BrakeTec is also a good rear light, although not a great brake light: most riders don’t notice it (no rider has ever commented on mine), and nobody’s expecting a bicycle to have a brake light and so ignore it. That said, it’s bright enough without being “laser beam” and takes barely any draw from the dynamo, so can be used all day as well as all night.

Ah, good news. I haven’t managed to get out in the dark yet, but you’re saying it’s still able to push a bit of power through the charger even with the (dipped) headlight on?

Agree daytime LEDs are very handy, as is the automatic switch to full beam. Rear light seems perfectly fine, and some tame drivers have commented that it’s fairly visible in daylight as well.

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