Sunday, 21 November 2010

What I wore on my ride today ... Sunday 8°C

I've thought a lot about doing this when I get a chance and remeber what I've had on, but I've always forgot to do it. So today is a strange day, not typically cold at 8°C with a 13 mph wind, so it can be a descison in what to wear and where you are riding may influence your choice of gear.

Although many jackets claim to be a broad church (with the Castelli Radiation Jacket being one of the best excamples on paper) I decided to go for a multi layer approach as it gave me some flexibility if the conditions changed, so heres my list.

Base Layer - I went for Descente Pro V seamless. Super soft and wicks really well. Good option if you have long arms.

On the legs I went with the Castelli Nanoflex Leg warmers. These I have to admit had me slightly worried. You see they are super thin and I thought that they wouldn't keep me warm. They are a water resistant fabric which are meant to perform the same as the companies Thermoflex ones. I have to say that not once did I feel cold. I reckon these would be a great choice for racing as they are light and don't restrict movement. I'll be packing them in the bag come April.

I used Bib Shorts, but of the thermal variety. I've long been a fan of this product and I have maybe around 4 pairs in my wardrobe. The Castelli Claudio bib short was excellent. Castelli quote a temperature range of 10° - 18°, as I said earlier it was 8°C and I had zero issues at all. I reckon if you where pushing hard and going quick (thus generating a lot more natural heat) I'd think in those circumstances you'd be able to go as low as 6°, but everyone is different. The fabric is a bit thicker than what is used on the Leg warmers, in an ideal world I'd like that same lush feel to be applied there as to the shorts.

[[posterous-content:pid___0]]I was testing a product from Teko, a Merino cycling sock. Fit and construction was excellent. The only issue I had was that they weren't warm enough for this Fall/Early Winter day. My feet never froze but they would be better placed when the temperature dial is above 10°. Also on the feet was a pair of Northwave Aerlite shoes but with a pair of Castelli Nano booties over the top. Castelli claim a temperature range: 6° - 14°, my feet where never frozen, but I wouldn't say they where warm. They are really light and super stretchy, and very aero. As they provide no warmth as such (except for blocking out the wind) they do a very good job. I suspect that using either the Castelli Quindici or the DeMarchi Contour Plus would make that 6° a reality. I'll test the theory out and get back to you. But I can see these being used a lot when the days are a little warmer.

I had an older dhb mid layer Long Sleeve brushed jersey on. I've has this ages and it works well wicking the sweat away and keeping me warm. I was never a fan of mid layers until I left the big smoke, now they work really well for me combined with a gilet or a shell.

I've had the Gore Xenon AS (active shell) for a while now and to be honest it's a go to piece. Not waterproof as such but I know from having an older model I can do 45 minutes in tipping rain and it only starts to come through on the seams, where it isn't taped. The benefit over a full on waterproof is that it breaths better leaving you less moist, it fact today the combination of layers left me bone dry, which I put down to all three layers working well together.

[[posterous-content:pid___1]]Buying an expensive shell may seem like an over indulgance, but if you like your gear you won't be left unhappy as it really performs well and as its Gore it will last and last. That is one thing you can say about GBW, they make things that last. Head wear, well for most of the ride it was a classic cotton cap, but as I've been suffering with my ears I stuffed a Risvolto cap in one rear pocket. I popped it on in the last 10km. I'm always amazed how much difference making sure your extremities are warm everything else suddenly feels warmer. Theres solid logic, the hands and the feet are further away from the vital organs and the brain uses a lot of blood and energy, so you lose heat.

[[posterous-content:pid___2]]And finally I used my trusty Super Nano gloves. This is my second winter on them and they show very little sign of wear. They are a Spring/Fall glove but as it has to be very cold before I don something warmer so I have used them loads. Great product, no padding so you really feel in touch with the handlebar.

[[posterous-content:pid___3]]So that was my kit today, a very Castelli day for sure. If you've found this interesting I'll post another, or if you want a more detailed thoughts on a piece listed leave a comment.



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Lacking motivation

April seems a long way off and not knowing exactly what events I'll be doing isn't helping. I need to get myself a 2011 wall planner and get on it.

So I rolled out of the house late today with riding on my mind, not training, not focussing on my weak areas, just riding.

Today while out it felt effortless regardless of the head and cross winds. West Sussex and Hampshire are blessed with some amazing little lanes straight out of the Flanders text book '101 Lanes that you could ride Forever'. People are always surprised on the little gems I have found so far.

A short ride of a few hours ended up being a really good ride. In previous years I've started my De Ronde training in October. And for the last two years I've either got sick or had some life changing event to screw it up. So maybe with this looming in the back of my head I've held off. Training begins in December and hopefully the enthusiasm will be easier to keep going and I won't get sick.

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Friday, 19 November 2010

Sportful No Rain Overshoes ~ the story so far

Every two winters I generally have to replace my overshoes. I wanted to try something different and having been really impressed with the No Rain arm/knee warmers I'd bought a month before I thought I'd give them a go.

First thing you notice out of the packet is how soft the material is, it feels like a cross between an arm warmer and neoprene. The second thing is that the overshoes have a double cuff. A super thin neoprene one and then an outer one made of the No Rain material.

So far I'm yet to use them in really shitty weather so I can't comment on how waterproof they are. What I can say is that in light showers and through puddles they have performed superbly. A full more in depth review once I've had some fowl weather.

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Thursday, 18 November 2010

Castelli Sorpasso Bib Tight ~ a first look

This isn't a full review as I've not ridden them enough yet, more of a first impression.

So the first thing you notice when trying them on is the straps on the bibs, super thin & stretchy. I was blissfully aware of not being aware of them. It was like a David Blaine magic trick. It feels delicate but the fabric appears to be super tough. Long term wearing it will confirm or deny that. (the fabric is called Giro++ for tech heads)

I am really impressed with the pad/chamois (although really as it's a synthetic it's a pad) as riding it in today the first thing you notice is nothing. No pulling, snagging, weird lumps or over complicated gizmos. The pad is smooth to the appearance but is a multi density configuration, which is actually a two piece set up.

It's not the first two piece pad, as that first belongs to Assos who had it on a F1:13 (S3 pad), it was a tremendous clever invention which has served me well on long gruelling sportives. Initial feelings is that the Progetto X2 is a better version of it. I'm looking forward to having a long ride to really seeing if it cuts the mustard.

Well it's so far so good. I'll be back once I've logged some serious miles to feedback on how the fabric performs.

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Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Specialized BG Toupe Saddle ~ Review

Body Geometry (BG) saddles come in various guises both on a price and intended use level. Unlike many other saddle manufacturers they also can have up to three widths to choose from. The first thing you need to ascertain is the correct width for your sit bones. This in itself is a simple process that requires you to sit on a Gel pad to gain the information (it has makers on one side and a conversion table on the other side). Once performed it was calculated that I would need a 143 size, but depending on which bike or your given riding style you may need to reduce this, I am particularly thinking about time trailing or track riding when your position may be slightly more extreme than your regular road one.

When you are setting up the saddle you will need to take in to account the plastic nose and tail sections as these end up making the seating area smaller than their other saddles like the Alias. Compared to the original Toupe the Gel version has received a stiffer shell due to the increased amount of carbon now used. As indicated this version now has Gel on the sit bone area to increase comfort with a small increase in the weight of the saddle. With two colour options (black or white) it should suit most bicycles. The same hollow Ti rails remain from the original model, as there is no need to chuck the baby out with the bath water.

The pressure relief area works very well, and the best thing I can say in using it is that it goes un-noticed when in use. I have used a few other cut out saddles and this has definitely not been the case, with more pain being evident than the saddle reducing it. The real proof in the pudding is when you do jump onto a regular non-pressure relief saddle as you can immediately feel this area under the perineum. So in my books there are no negatives except one on the cut out, on wet rides the spray of the saddle can go up through the whole leaving you with a wet central section. Even if you don’t buy into the BG philosophy, you still end up with a great looking saddle.

The sides of the saddle are nicely sculpted away to leave less interruption from pedal strokes than some other deep-sided saddles. As I mentioned before, the plastic sections can affect set up, you loose 15mm on the front and another 15mm again on the back. This ends up reducing the useable overall length from a possible (measured at the longest point) 275mm to 245mm, making the contact area relatively small. If you have used an Arione before, which has a 300mm length, this will probably feel very strange indeed, but if you have used a Concor it should feel familiar. I would prefer if Specialized went back to a full 275mm length as this offers a wider spectrum of position options. Weight of the saddle is 206g and the useable rail length is 78mm, which is quite long.

For shorter rides, say up to the 80km mark, I found the saddle to be very comfortable with nothing to report back. Using it for longer rides (over 80km) the personality changed greatly. Over the longer distances the sit bones would become sore, to the point that once off the bike and sitting on a normal chair it would offer a mild discomfort. I put this down to two things, 1. The lack of padding available on the saddle, even though the Gel pads were there they did not provide the desired comfort level 2. The small reduction in length which never quite allowed me to achieve my ideal position, and at times forced me to ride on the plastic tail piece. I also threw into the equation that I am a heavier rider, but having talked to some other riders (70kg guys roughly) they also experienced the same issue over longer distances.

Final Words

I can’t fault the saddle on the build quality and I liked the sleekness and general appearance. Saddles are a very personal affair, and while it did not work for me over a long distance I was more than happy on shorter rides. My experience is probably in the minority as this has been one of the top selling saddles over the last 12 months. I would happily fit the Toupe to a track or TT bike where saddle time is less but comfort and weight are still important factors. If you are a mega mile muncher this may not be the saddle for you and you may be better served by looking at the Alias model in their range. Although it is a little heavier it does offer more padding and has a full length to play with, and over long distances presented me with no problems. If you are interested in this saddle (or any other Specialized model) see if you can persuade your local IBD to loan you one, it might just turn out to be your cup of tea.

This article was originally posted on 26th May 2008 on

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Thank God for . . . Assos

Sometimes the greatest break throughs can happen by accident, such as baked beans, the quick release skewer or the lycra short. Toni Maier-Moussa had a vision of making a carbon fibre bicycle. This was the mid '70's when most companies were still relying on steel as the material of choice.

Toni had to seek special permission from US Department of Defense to start his project, as much of the material was being used on top secret projects, so I am sure a Swiss man wanting to use it for a bicycle must have raised a smile.

Once the prototype frame with it's radical teardrop tubes had been made they took the bicycle to the Zurich Technical University. What would take place would be the first ever aerodynamic tests on a bicycle. Two things were discovered in this testing process, 1. that the aerodynamic properties of the tubes were reduced once the rider sat up and 2. the wool clothing caused excessive drag.

Toni and his wife Eliane (who was a apparel and textile technician) began work on a body suit to reduce drag, with Hans Hess, who had worked on downhill ski suits. How the relationship with DuPont (the only people to make Lycra) began is uncertain, but my guess would be that between Hans and Eliane they may have had some knowledge of this new fabric. All I can say is thank you, can you imagine riding in wool shorts today.

Some things don't change and PRO endorsement then made as much sense as it does now as it adds vital testing and credbility to the intorduction of new products. How Tony managed to convince the then No 1 team in the world to use his shorts was nothing short of a marketing master stroke, since the original interest from Peter Post was in the carbon frame. Ti Raleigh team took to the shorts preferring the more aerodynamic lighter weight, and they were also more comfortable to wear. Within a few years nearly every PRO could be seen wearing a version of Toni's short, the lucky few had the "Real McCoy" in the Assos product.

Not one to stand still Assos still lead the pack with their constant evolution of both cut, fabrics and the chamois in the shorts. Along the way Assos have scored many firsts, which leaves others playing catch up. Because of Assos all cycling shorts are now better, and because they constantly innovate they are still the most desired products made for a cyclist.

Thank God for Assos, absolutely.

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Sunday, 14 November 2010

Aero, who says so.

The question with any enthusiast cyclist is 'how low can I go without losing power', initially for me this wasn't a big deal as sorting my general fitness & recovering from a back injury was. Now a few years down the line with my flexibility and fitness improved it has become a quest.

Over this year I've dropped my handle bar height by around 2-2 1/2 centimetres. Part of this discovery occurred when I borrowed a friends bike. It allowed me to explore options that I might well have left alone. So recently I pondered going lower still. Dropping 5mm out of the front end improved the position to a degree and proved fine on my short 25km commute. It was only recently when I went out for a long ride did the time and distance in the saddle expose that (at the moment) it was a set too far. The nagging back pain came back exposing my weak untrained muscles. Also the computer doesn't lie. Trying to cruise around at 35kmph proved to be a challenge whereas in the weeks previos this had become a comfortable experience.

So bars where duly raised back to their previous position and the pains in the lower back and neck eased off some. But bizarrely I was longing for a little bit more cockpit room. Moving the saddle back around 3-5mm seemed to solve the problem. A few more tweaks over the coming weeks led me to change the shape of the bars from the 3T Rotundo to the Ergosum. This was a revelation on the Felt, even more so than on the other bike (Opera) I have them on. With a few more saddle set back adjustments the position seems comfortable, but no doubt the position will be completely refined come spring.

Thankfully the 35 kmph speed was back. In fact one ride it was so good I'd swear that I had entered the fabled 'no chain' zone knocking off 10 minutes off my ride. So aero is nothing really without the sustainability of power, and this my friends is the fine line balance that we all seek.

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Thursday, 11 November 2010

Bernard Hinault , Happy Birthday

Today is Bernard Hinault's birthday. Born 11th November 1954. professional Cyclist from 1975-86. He only ever rode for two teams! Gitane/Renault from '75-83 and La Vie Claire '84-86. His nickname was 'le Blaireau' or 'the Badger' in English. A fierce competitor who took no prisoners and showed a battling spirit long gone from French racing. I long for another French rider to take this mantle over, but I fear that it may be a long time before we see the Breton's successor.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Its Movember

I've wanted to do this for ages and it has been on my mind for some years to do it. It was my Dad having to have check ups once he went over 50 that brought it home. Not that he has cancer or anything but you become more aware when even the check ups hit your life cycle.

Like testicular cancer prostate cancer is curable and in many ways we need to bring attention to it. I'd like to thank the Movember crew for bringing a fun way to bring awareness to it.

Currently I haven't raised any cash and I'm hoping that after the barrage of emails I sent out that some people will sponsor me, not for me but to help fight the fight. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

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