There’s a bit at the start of the Blues Brothers where Elwood picks up Jake in an old police car which Jake hates, so Elwood jumps the car over over a drawbridge to prove it’s value. “Fix the cigarette lighter” is all Jake has to say. This is how I felt at the end of my first proper long ride on my Meteor Works Aesir after designer and frame builder Lee Prescott asked me how I found the bike - “I hate the bottle cages” was all I could think of that was wrong with it.*
Full set up on the trip from Edinburgh to Warwick
The whole point of buying an adventure bike is, to go on adventures. You get one to open up new challenges and to ride places you haven’t been before. That first long ride on the Aesir was a 250km ride from Warwick to Hove with a 3 hour bivvy stop at roughly half way. OK the actual bivvy bit was a bit of a disaster, but the fact I rode for several hours during the night and that I rode a huge chunk of trails were both pretty new to me. The bike was just a very different feel to my Bianchi Infinito or anything else I have ridden for that matter.
I have now owned the Aesir for a month. I have ridden 1500km on it on roads, single track, back lanes, trails, rocks and grass. I have ridden in a short sportive and an 8 day, 800km trip from Edinburgh to Warwick. So I think I have a pretty good view on now on how the bike performs. I am clearly not an expert bike reviewer though, so you are not going to gain in-depth feedback here on head tube angles or material choices. If you want that watch the video of Lee explaining it here or go to the Meteor Works website.
Meteor Works is hardly a household name so why didn’t I just buy a better known brand and spend a lot less money? There isn’t actually a simple answer to that but it’s something to do with the idea of having a unique bike built for you, the look of the Meteor Works bikes and the appeal of the brand. I am a sucker for the latter as anyone who has seen me riding around in Rapha kit on a Bianchi will tell you. But I am unapologetic about it.
The bikes are either made completely to order or in small batches. I started with a production frame and then Lee built the bike to the budget I had, with knowledge of what I intended to do with the bike. I am sure that many people who would like to be more hands-on with part selection, but I figured I could spend hours searching for parts and end up with Frankenstein’s bike. Let the expert do his thing. I had already done a couple of bike fittings with Lee at his Velo Atelier studio so he knew exactly what he was building. The end effect was that from the first moment I sat on the bike it fitted me perfectly. During that first long ride though, I felt that I was experiencing a little vibration in the handlebars which gave me pins and needles in my left hand. Lee and I discussed this and he changed the stem angle which eliminated the problem. There are some things I guess you can only learn through use and it’s likely that my riding position alters when I have got full bags on. That’s part of the appeal again of having a more direct relationship with the bike builder: they can make subtle changes to individual components without affecting the rest of the bike set up.
The biggest changes for me to get used to in reality were the 35mm wheels and tyres and the 1x Shimano GRX groupset. The wheels were easy to get used to as was the fact that I ran the tyres at a much lower pressure than I am used to (that’s a technical as I ever get right there). I’ve had one puncture and despite my reservations, fixing a flat on a thru-axle bike is easy. Somehow I imagined it was going to involve lots of extra faffing around but that’s just not the case. I have stuck with tubes so far but might well switch to tubeless next year. I just didn’t want to add another unknown factor to the mix before I headed north for the long ride home.
The gearing took a little longer to get used to. At first, I felt like I was changing gear constantly searching for a gear that suited the speed my legs wanted to go. But after a few rides, I have grown to really love the GRX set up. It’s so simple. I easily have enough gears to make it up almost any hill - I managed a 23% last week with fully laden bags. If anything I think I have got used to adjusting my legs to the gears rather than the other way around. Maybe that’s the wrong way around. I don’t know. It might make it difficult to ride in a group with the club over the winter though, we shall see.
Every component was given a thorough test on the Edinburgh ride and everything worked really well. Even after the horrible ride through the fire road in Keilder forest. I think I was closer to losing fillings than I was to any part of the bike failing. The GRX disc brakes were tested out on some very steep descents and never felt like fading at any point. I was particularly glad of this going into Hebdon Bridge where I was dodging traffic as well as negotiating -15% hairpin bends. Considering the weight on the bike, there could easily have been a few scary moments. Even over the tops of the Peak District when we strayed on to Trans Pennine Trial which is much better suited to mountain bikes, I felt like the bike could handle anything. This is all the more remarkable given my poor bike handling skills. The Aesir just makes me more confident.
More than anything the Aesir is fun. After I got back from the Edinburgh trip on Saturday, I went out on my Bianchi on Sunday morning. It felt brilliant to be out on it again. It felt so light, so responsive, so fast. But tomorrow morning when I step into the garage to choose a bike for my early morning ride, the choice of bike will not be a simple one.
*they were side loading cages that I just couldn’t get on with.