Plenty of titanium frames cost £1,450, but touring specialists Spa Cycles of Harrogate will sell you a complete bike for this price: the Audax, named after the long-distance events for which this bike is designed. If you want flash or frivolous, look elsewhere. If you want a machine that’s ready to clock up serious miles, this is it.
The Audax offers a comfortable ride which takes the sting out of rough roads. The tall head tube and generous stack of spacers give a lofty front end which takes the strain off the rider’s lower back. Combine the forgiving frame and well balanced riding position with the plush Passport Navigator saddle and you’re ready to tackle any long-distance randonnée.
You get the strong impression that the Spa has been put together by people who do just that. There's a pump peg on the frame, and the 34x32-tooth bottom gear helps winch you up the steepest climb however tired your legs might be. If the road points down instead of up you’ll be glad of the Spa’s steady-as-she-goes handling. The Audax is stable but not so stately that you can’t have fun.
The Schwalbe Durano tyres are a sensible choice. If they were good enough for Vin Cox when he set his round-the-world record, they’re good enough for the likes of us. Their 25mm width gives plenty of air to cushion the ride and they’re durable, too. More sensible boxes get ticked by the mudguards, which are included in the price, and the dedicated mounting points for a luggage rack.
The wheels should be up to the job if you do load up for a spot of touring. They’re handbuilt (there’s even a sticker with the wheelbuilder’s name on) with 36 spokes laced to Rigida rims. In truth, these wheels are overkill for most riders, and their hefty weight means that the Spa takes a while to wind up to speed. But it will take the pothole from hell to knock them out of true.
At this price we have few complaints. The Miche brakes could do with more bite, the frame stickers look a bit cheap, and the matt finish looks rather dull. It’s what’s underneath that counts, though, and at this price the Audax is a steal.