Somerset’s Thorn Cycles are a top touring marque – and get top marks for sticking to their guns, continuing to offer well-designed steel tourers. The Audax Mk3 is a fast, multipurpose machine on a mission to please as many steel aficionados as possible.
The Audax Mk3 weighs a reasonable 10.1kg (22.3lb) with its chromoly fork, but the optional carbon fork is 600g lighter – and an extra £120. The frame, handmade in Taiwan from Thorn’s heat-treated 858 chromoly, offers the perfect balance of zing, comfort and strength. Thorn’s conviction in the quality of its frames is backed up by the lifetime guarantee – as well as a 14-day money-back guarantee.
While all-out performance isn't the raison d’être of a 10kg bike with a 102cm wheelbase, the Audax feels nippier than its weight would suggest. In part this is due to the wheels. These very successfully pair Shimano Deore hubs with Mavic’s Open Sport rims, and are complemented by Schwalbe’s excellent 28mm Ultremo Xx tyres.
On our first 60-mile ride over poor roads these came into their own, offering great grip, bags of comfort and shock absorption with very little perception of increased rolling resistance. The saddle, Thorn’s Velo, is well shaped for the long hours of in-the-saddle audax riding. And although it won’t appeal to dyed-in-the-Lycra roadies, the Thorn’s triple chainset and Shimano Tiagra shifters offer an impressively wide range of gears.
One unusual frame feature is its 133mm rear dropout spacing – 3mm wider than road hubs and 2mm narrower than mountain bike hubs. Steel’s natural springiness allows you to use either road or mountain bike hubs, though you can have it permanently set to 130 or 135mm.
The frame has a full complement of braze-ons, including low-rider mounts on the classic sloping crown chromoly fork, and this medium-duty machine can go both ways: sprightly enough for a brisk club run, tough enough to load up and head out on a Continental tour. The generous 56cm top tube and deep-drop anatomic bar on a steep stem also mean you can ride in a comfortable, upright position or tuck in tight on the drops.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine.