Tom Southam retired in 2011 and needed a club of mates to ride and race and so co-founded PVCC-nor (Pascoe Vale Cycling Club). Condor decided to keep Tom busy and asked him to test and race prototypes of the Super Acciaio 2.0.
With a professional racing career spanning over decade, Tom is used to having bikes matching his kit, and so as our Mr Stig in the Super Acciaio hot seat we added some blue and grey finishing touches to match the club colour of PVCC-nor.
I had no idea what kind of bike I would actually want when I grew up. When you race a bike for a living, you are something of a child after all – you get what you're given, and you are pleased to have that.
When I stopped racing after a seventeen years, ten of which as a full time rider, I had all the criteria in my head for what I liked and wanted in a bike, but when it came to actually trying to chose one, it was much harder than I'd thought. I felt like I had a great story in my head, but I was staring at a blank page not knowing quite how to start.
The answer actually came to me part way up a mountain in the Dolomites when, while discussing the issue, a friend I was riding with, said, 'have you thought about steel?'.
I looked over at him quizzically, and down at the carbon bike beneath me. I realised then that I hadn't ridden anything but carbon bikes for well over ten years. Without me be aware of the fact, carbon had become my default choice when it came to bikes; I was conditioned into thinking that was just what a bike had to be.
The truth is that carbon bikes can be wonderful racing machines. All through my career I hammered carbon bikes, and they took it, and they were good to me. At the time I liked being a kid and having bikes given to me, and I loved racing on carbon.
But finishing my career came with the acceptance that I had grown up as a rider. I still wanted to smash it over climbs, and push myself on descents, I still wanted to hurt other riders every now and again – but I wanted to be an adult about it now, and to be measured about it. And I wanted a lot of the same things from a bike; I still wanted it to look the part, and I wanted to feel the part– but I also wanted it to have that little something more.
As we continued the climb, I thought about everything that I'd learned about what made a good bike over my years as a rider. I knew that the bike you ride should be not only a small part of yourself, but also a part of the environment you live in.
What I wanted, when I really thought about it, was a bike that was all of these.
Amazingly, in the time that I had been a bike rider, not only had I grown up, but steel had grown up too. The last steel bike that I'd ridden had died long before the millennium, and had my friend suggested steel even a few years ago, I would have dismissed the idea. But this time, as we ground our way toward the summit, something clicked in my mind.
I had already jealously eyed the steel racing machines that some of the guys in Rapha Condor were riding in my last years in the team and, having seen them in action, I had no doubt whatsoever of the bikes out and out racing credentials. But there was something about those steel bikes that now started to make sense - they had that something else.
The Super Acciaio looked like a real bike – like the bike a grown-up would ride; steel tubes gave it classic lines, and a look that said 'I know what I am doing'. It was a bike that could be made to measure, out of a material that would last and give me the ride comfort that I now desired. It was a bike that was designed in the UK - the country that I live in, and on whose roads I ride - but it was also a bike that was built in Italy; a country with such a rich cycling heritage it must be considered the true home of the world's best racing machines. It was a bike that said a great deal without trying to, and that would do a great deal more when I needed it to.
Before we reached the summit of the climb that day I had made up my mind as to the bike that I wanted to ride, and the Super Acciaio is just that; the bike that I want to ride.