Saturday, 30 April 2011

Pro Rider Secrets - Part one

This is not a drugs expose and will have no reference to dogs, wifes or dentists magic sweets. I am going to try and bring to light things that make the 'Supermen' of the peloton seem a little more human. I don't know how many of these I'll be able to do in a series but this one is about shorts.


PRO Teams always have a a clothing sponsor who will provide the Team with all their togs for the season. Unlike many sports, cycling is open to all elements from snow to the crazy heat of the Alpine slopes. Contrary to popular belief 'the one short for all seasons' does not exist.

Slowly we are seeing the emergence of the Roubaix bib short. I am aware of three Brands that are selling this product at the moment, Hincapie Sports, Northwave and Santini (although I couldn't find it on their website but I have seen them). I am sure there are a few more companies producing them for sale, but nearly all make these shorts for the Teams.

I have had chance to test some recently, and frankly they are nothing short of a revelation. It is rare that a full tight or a 3/4 can offer the fit of a good pair of bib shorts paired with either knee or leg warmers. Of course there are some exceptions to the rule but generalisations exist for a reason. Many people will never quite get the concept, but trust me when I say this, they are incredibly useful in conditions from 12-0 degrees.


My three favourite short brands don't make a pair of these shorts, probably insisting that the 3/4 bib or a pair of bib tights would fit the bill. In my experience (and of course that can change with new products) I am yet to receive a truly excellent fit.

What it offers the racer or sportive rider is a pair of shorts that can tackle the coldest mornings before a ride or competition starts. Pair them with a good pair of Belgium Knee Warmers and you are onto a winner (don't know what they are see here).


I tried getting some responses from PRO riders and the best I could get was 'that they used them in training', but hey that is better than nothing. It seems that on many subjects that surround the life of a professional rider this is still to remain a secret of the peloton.




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Guilt, friend or foe

Guilt, a five lettered word that extends it's influence beyond the dictionary definition. In my time as a cyclist is has been a friend and and foe, but thankfully never my master. Currently I stand at the threshold of Autumn and soon Winter. But in the days of the falling leaves the decisions that we all make now will shape the Spring and Summer that comes. We can do very little to influence the weather, friends or the financial climate. We can, thankfully, plan a course of action which will leave the rider with breath in your lungs rather than struggling up Toys Hill like a 40 a day smoker.


Guilt can inspire you to do more, the flipside of that coin is that it can pin you down like a rabbit in the headlights, the blessed irony that this is a fate you can decide. For me this will lead to using a Training Plan I received from a Coach last year. It helped, giving me focus when I saw little of the sun and the warmth of Spring seemed far off.


Like many of you I enjoy being fit, the feeling that you get when you have that little bit extra zip in your legs, is worth the winter sweat earned in the garage. If you have ever seen that great footage of Merckx on the rollers, hammering out the miles, it gives me great cause for inspiration. If you haven't watch it below, and then watch it again.

My goals for next year are not set, but come November the 1st my training is back in action. Life will try to throw some spanners in the works, but with a mapped out plan it is easy to pull yourself back as the guilt draws you back if you have missed more than one session.

So guilt can be both a positive motivator and it can also inhibit you, it depends on how you react to it.

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Thursday, 28 April 2011

HTC - The Paris Roubaix Experience Video - Words and Photo's by Me.


This is a really nice film of the HTC boys in action at this years Paris - Roubaix race. I got to see the bikes and some of the riders at the start and they where all super relaxed and focused on the day. Having watched fellow amateurs riding their roubaix's and now seeing the close up footage of the Teams bikes here I have to testify to being a little jealous as they just worked so well over the Pavé. While Specialized may lack some of the sex appeal of other more well established marques you can't argue about it's status as a tool for the job. Look at the results it's gained over the last 3-5 years, it's pretty impressive.

The Pro machine differs from the one that is commercially available to punters in that it recieves a different geometry so that they don't have to resort to crazy -17* stems for the riders to achieve their desired position. Even for us regular Joe's the shorter headtube makes sense as looking at their bikes I'd probably require a 40mm stack compared to the slammed and negative combination which would get me close(ish) to my desired position. As the popularity grows in this types of Sportive with the Tour of Flanders version regularly attracting over 17,000 riders to me there seems to be some commercial sense in making this available. The success of bikes like the Cervélo R3 tells me that the people who ride would probably buy what in effect would be the posistion of a stock Tarmac with a Roubaix's comfort.



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Friday, 22 April 2011

The Smile List, April

These are a few things that are making me smile at the moment. Some of these are cycling related, but not completely. So here's whats made the list.

The Velocissimo Bibshort sits in the middle of Castelli's range, but by no means does this reflect in the comfort or quality of the short. The Giro++ leg grippers and just heavenly due to how thin the material is. Stretchy let supportive they offer hours of comfort and seem able to cope with a wide range of thigh sizes. Because of the width of the band it doesn't dig in, which is a bonus. The pad is the Kiss 3 which is super comfy as I first used this at the Castelli 24 last year. It's pretty minimal but don't let that fool you, it's supportive were you need it to be. The Fabric, just works and transfers moisture really well and i find it difficult not to stroke it while I'm wearing it, it's so soft and smooth. 


I've been a big fan of oatcakes for years and this is the brand (Nairns) I trust. I like the fact they have some options like the Cheese or Pumpkin and Herb ones as I tend to eat these plain at my desk in the week while drinking water. I've carried them on long rides also, just to break up the sweet fest of Gels, bars and drinks.

Spring has sprung and with the constant temperatures it feels like early summer. I suppose May is just round the corner, it just feels a little unexpected that's all. I love this time of the year as it's the first chance of getting my beloved Birkenstock's on. I always forget how comfy they are comapred to 'normal' shoes. I keep meaning to buy a set of London's as they'd be perfect for when I need to be smart but still want to leave my feet in comfy heaven.



I got to ride the Pave of Roubaix. I'm not going to say loads as I really need to get round to writing up my thoughts from the weekend. It was pretty special so I won't go on about it here apart from it was a great weekend and it made me smile.

And finally, the product which has lifted me out of exhaustion is the Torq Ribose product. You can read more about it . I know it works for me, I've used it before, and sometimes with trying lots of stuff I forget how good certain things are.

As I need to shift some kilo's I'm going to try some of the Carnitine as it's meant to help with reducing body fat, prolong endurance and increase aerobic power. Of course this doesn't come cheap but I've been impressed how efective the raw products work. Reading through the bumf on the various products I could see myself buying more of these. If you bought all four you'd have a highly effective recovery product which is Vegan, anyhow I digress.


So these are the things that have made me smile in April.

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Thursday, 21 April 2011

Eighteen Bergs


What they lack in height they make up in percentage gain. These climbs aren't for the grimpeurs, but suits the rouleurs and puncheurs. These are this years climbs.

1 Tiegemberg 70 km

2 Nokereberg 80 km

3 Rekelberg 127 km

4 Kaperij 139 km

5 Kruisberg 154 km

6 Knokteberg 164 km

7 Oude-Kwaremont 171 km

8 Paterberg 175 km

9 Koppenberg 181 km

10 Steenbeekdries 187 km

11 Taaienberg 190 km

12 Eikenberg 194 km

13 Molenberg 209 km

14 Leberg 216 km

15 Valkenberg 225 km

16 Tenbosse 232 km

17 Muur – Kapelmuur 242 km

18 Bosberg 246 km

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Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Movistar @ Paris Roubaix

This is the craziness of the Pro/World Tour that a team that has no interest in this race has to ride it. Surely they should be able to opt out & we could see a team who has a passion for this race to be there. Maybe one of the Pro Continental outfits would animate the race.

So the team was using the new Electronic Campag which looks nice, but still looks like it's far from a finished version. The team used the Dogmas (mainly) with some riders opting to go for the KOBH (probably those riders who wanted to attempt to get to the velodrome)

I like the Movistar colours, on a bike they look stunning. Old school Campag rims have been pulled out of a cellar somewhere clad with 25mm Conti Competition tyres. Not a massive concession to comfort when many teams have settled on 27/28mm tyres. I didn't notice many riders opting for double wrapped bars either.

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Cicle Classic

A short film from Geoff Waugh. It's a shame there was no major coverage on TV this year as I like this race. I rode the Sportive many years ago and was shocked at how rolling it was. The English passion for all things Flemish continues to grow. All we need is 20 or 30 more of these races which will help develop a whole new bunch of riders as we see racing on the road becoming a more difficult task to operate.

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Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Smelling the flowers

… or it could have easily been called 'Long live short Rides'. So often we never tell tales of the short rides we do, but this morning may have lacked the 'Epic' factor but it was high on the smile one.

I've been back 40 minutes or so since I've got back and I've had my breakfast now. It's a nice way to start the day and sometimes it's good to remember to squeeze every last drop out of it. I really enjoyed the swooping lanes and looking at all the beautiful flowers that the spring carpet is rolling out. Here's to a good day for everyone.

p.s. I was trying out some new items from Castelli today. Rosso Corsa Gloves, Free Bibs and the new GPM jersey. I'll get back to you with some thoughts soon.

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Sunday, 17 April 2011

Saxo Bank-SunGard - Baden Cooke Before Paris-Roubaix


It's interesting what Baden says about a longer wheel base making a huge difference. When you think about it this makes a lot of sense as the wheels are further apart so creating natural flex and absorption through the frame. The longer wheel base also allows for a larger volume tyre to be used, and most of the serious contenders have settled on 27/28mm to be the optimum. For many a Roubaix bike is the perfect bike for all of the riding. Comfort and more stable handling are traits which new and seasoned riders can all enjoy, so no wonder this category continues to grow.

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Northwave AERLITE S.B.S. ~ a review

Shoe choice is very much dependent on what fits your feet. I'm a fan of Sidi, the way they are made and the simple execution of the design and function. Unfortunately they dont fit my feet. Lake, Specialized and NORTHWAVE (from herein known as NW) do happen to fit. So this isn't a review that will work for everyone, but please take from it what you will.

The AERLITE S.B.S. is the big brother of the Aerlite which I reviewed a couple of years back, and to be honest they where a revelation. I had a small list of things I'd fix, but they would be on my 'perfect shoe' list. So how did the SBS fare.

For those who don't know the NW shoes are wider across the metatarsals and offer more volume than most shoes, on par with Specialized. For me this is welcome as I used to suffer from 'Hot Spots', a dreaded nemesis of any cyclist. Using the Aerlite showed me clearly that my feet loved the extra room and I've not had any issues since I switched over. Part of fixing the 'Hot Spot' issue was to use a less stiff shoe as the extra flex (maybe only slightly) is welcome over a longer distance. I was a little concerned about trying the stiffer 10.5 rated big brother in case my feet started screaming at me 80-100km into a Sportive. I was informed that due to the wood laminate footbed that this should not present a problem.

So first impressions, the fit was not too dissimilar to the Aerlite except for in one key, and beneficial, area - the top strap was a ratchet. I've found that there is too much room/space in the heel cup area, and although I've never pulled my foot out climbing or sprinting for signposts it always lacked that locked in snug feeling. Over to the SBS, so problem solved, well not quite. Although the ratchet allows you to pull the heel into the heel cup to provide a better fit it just always lacked the locked and loaded sensation. Ironically in winter this was better due to the nature of wearing a thicker sock taking up some more room. Looking at the 2011 shoe (the lower down Evolution S.B.S) it looks like this has been addressed.

Sole stiffness is noticeable in that no energy feels wasted and every kilojouel of energy is being used to propel you forward. Did the laminate footbed make a difference, well it has to be a resounding Yes. The wood is a strange structure as it provides both stiffness and allows a degree of flex, in many ways like Carbon Fibre and you can see why Bamboo is being used in frames. So on a comfort front top marks, the ideal dream for the long distance/Sportive rider would be to combine the laminate footbed with an 8.5 rated outer Carbon sole, comfort heaven I reckon and present in the aforementioned Evolution SBS model.

All in all I've been really happy with the shoes, in an ideal world it'd have those adjustments made to it so allowing a much better overall fit. Being White they look a little grubby from hours in the saddle, which kind of adds to the character of them. I've cleaned them up once and they looked as good as new, but frankly at this time of the year as they are hidden under overshoes for months I'm not too bothered. Maybe when spring finally breaks I'll perform a bout of cleaning, ready for the sunny drier days of spring. Durability wise they have been good. The soles are scuffed, the uppers a little dirty, but they still work & that's the most important thing.

I'm keen to try the Evolution SBS and here's why. The hard plastic toe guard on the Aerlite is something I've never been a big fan of. It serves a purpose but is a little ugly. Thankfully the Evolution loses it. NW have never made the lightest of shoes, but having picked up the Evolution shoe the other day its certainly been to fat camp as it feels very light in comparison. Also the most comfort I've had is by using the three layer shoe which is welcome no matter how fit or unfit I may be. Combined with the new stitching method which eliminates more of the overlap between the panels it sounds like a winner.

So if you want a neutral footbed, wider toe box with a top end shoe I'd suggest you take a look at the Northwave collection, I'm sure you'll be impressed as there's something for all budgets.

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SMP Saddle Test ~ Evolution

The SMP range of saddles is completely dedicated to the pressure relief of the user. It looks kind of cool but weird at the same time, partly due to the fact we are not used to seeing that shape. The dramatic swooping nose has a dual benefit, one being that while riding on the rivett you are not compressing the genitals. The other, much in the same way as the Curly Hetchins or a GT mountain bike, negates the need for any branding to identify the product. The concept of allowing the rider to sit through the sit bones is nothing new, Brooks moulding leather saddles allow this to some degree. What is new is to droop the nose to releave frontal pressure. Initial set up is easy as I followed the instructions and pulled out my trusty spirit level (a bargain purchase at £1). I set the saddle in the same set back as usual. A 50 minute session on the rollers allowed some feterling time to dial the saddles position in. Once this was done I knew that I would be ready for the ride on the open roads the following day. So does it work, Yes is the answer, but there's a but. I found the model I chose to be a little narrow for me, and the next size is a little too wide. I think that I could use the reduced width option for shorter rides but for long days in the saddle it wouldn't offer the support I would look for across the sit bones. The pressure relief works, and although I don't experience problems with a regular saddle I have to say that I did noticed the difference between the non SMP and the Evolution model tested. Cost, well I think they are expensive, although well made. I've tried pressure relief saddles from most manufacturers over the years and in my books only Specialized and SMP work, but of course we are all different.

Images used from the SMP site.

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