Shimano’s new Tiagra 4700 groupset is important and here’s why

Shimano’s road groupset evolution strategy is one of trickle down that starts with Dura Ace at the top of the tree. The trickle down effect sees ideas and designs from the top tier work their way down the price points. Since Dura Ace 9000 was released, many of the same features and benefits have been incorporated in Ultrega 6800, 105 5800 and now to Tiagra 4700.

The now superceded Tiagra 4600 was an excellent groupset with 10 speeds and super light shifting. It was reliable, easy to use and maintain … and cheap enough for almost anyone to afford. In fact to me, it shifted better than 105 the next level up and I always enjoyed riding it more than I expected.

However it wasn’t perfect and the new Tiagra 4700 address most of my personal issues with the old version.

New Tiagra 4700 STI shifters
New Tiagra 4700 STI shifters

Firstly it now has internal cabling from the shifters, so no more cables getting in your headlights at night. The catch is that the old external cabled shifters were what gave Tiagra 4600 such a light and easy gear shift. Shimano has made big steps forward on internally cabled shift quality so this should be resolved in the new version.

For me the ugliest part of the older Tiagra was the cranks, which I always thought looked “cheap” even if they worked well. Tiagra 4700 brings the striking four-arm crank design to a new, even more affordable price point and this is very welcome. It’s also great as it brings the very sensible 110mm chain ring standard, which means if you want to switch front gear rations from say 50/34 to 52/36 (a very welcome new option on Tiagra 4700) or to 53/39, you simply buy new chainrings not a totally new crank. This is a big step forward in functionality as well as looks.

New Tiagra 4700 rear mech
New Tiagra 4700 rear mech

The new rear mech has an improved cable pitch for better shifting and can work with up to 34 tooth cassettes – great for your trip to the Alps and perfect for the many beginner bikes this groupset will be specced on.

Braking is also improved with a nicer looking new caliper design boasting 30% improvement in braking performance – which is always welcome.

30% improvement in braking performance
30% improvement in braking performance

To me, Tiagra 4700 looks like a great and very welcome upgrade for budget bikes or people who want to stay 10 speed. This is also an important aspect to note, Tiagra remains 10 speed. Shimano have decided not to make the change to 11 speed with Tiagra, most likely to keep clear differentiation with 105 (which is the entry point for 11 speed shifting with Shimano road).

New Braze on Tiagra 4700 front mech
New Braze on Tiagra 4700 front mech

As much as I like high end kit, I’m excited about this new Tiagra and am already looking forward to riding it. If it’s as good as I think, it’s going to be a home run for customers looking for affordable bike builds.

If you’re ok with remaining on 10 speeds and don’t mind a little more weight than the more expensive Shimano road groupsets, Tiagra 4700 looks like a terrific upgrade. There’s never been a better time to ride Shimano.

Thanks for reading

New band-on Tiagra 4700 front mech
New band-on Tiagra 4700 front mech

Hestra Tracker Gloves long term review

Anytime it’s got cold or cool in the last year, the gloves I’ve reached for without fail have been the Hestra Tracker. I’ve now had these for around 12 months, have spent hundreds of miles riding in them and have no hesitation is saying these are some of the best cycling gloves I’ve ever used.

The Hestra Bike Tracker have performed exceptionally well for me in temperatures down to about 3 degrees celcius and I’ve not over heated when the temperature has risen to double figures.

They’re a two and half seasons glove – Autumn, Spring and all but the coldest winter riding. If you suffer from cold hands, once you get to 5 degrees Celsius you might want to use a liner or go for something warmer like the Hestra CZone Gaunlet (which I’ll cover another day). I can happily use the Hestra Trackers to a bit colder than 5 degrees but I don’t typically struggle with cold extremities.

Hestra only make gloves, so they have a big incentive to get them right. They’ve obviously got a good track record of doing just that too as they’ve been in business since 1936. The company’s based in Sweden and the products are imported into the UK by Nordic Life.

The Tracker are a very well made glove with a neoprene cuff, Gore Windstopper outer fabric and an inner fleece lining for extra warmth and comfort. I chose the neon version to help visibility when indicating and the gloves also feature reflective piping. There is also a white option.

The palms are moderately padded using Chamude synthetic suede, the thumb has soft fleece fabric to wipe sweat or such like. There’s a nice tab to help pull the gloves on on the inside cuff (with a Gore Windstopper logo on it).

DSC01186The thumb and first two fingers feature a pad which I wondered if might be for touch screens but to me it doesn’t seem to really work with those. It does give a bit of rugged protection for the end of those fingers.

When riding, I’ve found them to be first class. I did have to size up and also be reminded that it’s the air around your fingers that keeps you warm, so you don’t want gloves to tight and squash the air out. They’re handling regular washes well and I’m completely smitten.

The Hestra Bike Trackers are a terrific full finger riding glove for all but the coldest conditions.

You can find out more about the Tracker here: https://hestragloves.com/sport/intl/gloves/mtb-bike/windstopper-tracker/441100/

If you’d like to order some, they’re imported by Nordiclife:  http://www.nordiclifeuk.co.uk/, so please contact them for more information. At the time of posting this review, they’re not on the site as a recent Bikes Etc review has sold out all of the stock both here in the UK and via Hestra’s world wide stock. I’m sure they’ll be more stock on hand soon.

Thanks for reading

2015 Bontrager Aeolus D3 TLR – lighter, faster, more versatile?

If you’ve been watching the news recently, you might have noticed the news about Bontrager announcing a new evolution of their Aeolus carbon aero wheels.

These new updated wheel bring a few useful updates that should help keep them on your possible shortlist for high end aero wheels.

The previous versions got some excellent reviews and praise from critics and Bontrager themselves are very punchy about how good they are versus the benchmark of Zipp (not to mention Reynolds/ENVE etc).

You’ll see what I mean if you watch this video:

This new generation brings, according to Bontrager, further improvements in aerodynamic performance (beyond any other brand!), particularly in crosswinds, tubeless tyre compatibility and a drop in weight of over 100 gems per wheel set in some cases, which is impressive. Not just that but Bontrager say these are the most durable carbon wheels on the market, another big claim.

The Aeolus aero wheels are available in three depths and in either tubular or clincher versions. Also launched as part of this update are disc versions too – increasing the number of options for this of you with a disc bike, which is very welcome.

For those of you like me who favour clincher wheels over tubular, you might also find it quite exciting that the 50mm Aeolus 5 D3 clinchers are now only 1440gms a pair, which is very light for the depth

If I’m lucky I might be able to get a set of these wheels in for review and I’d very much like to do this.

The Bontrager products, I’ve tried over the last year have all punched well above their weight. For the company to be making so many bold statements about these wheels, suggests they feel the product clearly delivers.

Fingers crossed, I can try some and review them for you.

Find out more here: http://www.bontrager.com/features/aeolus

 

Thanks for reading

Bowman Palace first look review

UPDATED 12/03/15

I’ve been lucky enough to have been loaned Neil from Bowman Cycles very own Palace to try for a couple of weeks. For those of you who don’t know, Bowman is a new brand to the UK market and the Palace is the first frame to launch, shortly to be followed by the Pilgrims. After only a couple of short rides the Palace has made a good impression with me.

Neil has been around bicycles for decades and indeed I first met him a few years ago when he was a tech writer for UK magazine Cycling Weekly and I took him a NeilPryde Alize to review. I thought from the first meeting that Neil was a smart guy who gets bikes. Not long after that Neil left Cycling Weekly to design bikes in a journey that sees him today running his own new fledging bike company.

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The Bowman Cycles website describes the company as producing “performance-centred bicycles frames designed for the discerning cyclist and the competitive bicycle racer”. It further expands by saying their initial concept for the bikes “has matured into a range of bicycle frames designed to provide the ride and performance characteristics that committed cyclists demands. Racers and discerning riders alike have one thing in common: the need for great handling. Get this right and the pleasure of the ride is guaranteed”.

The website then goes on to talk about a passion for bike racing and also that great bikes are about more than just numbers and specifications, things that many of us would agree on.

The Palace is named after the Crystal Palace Crits, a famous London mid-week bike that Neil told me is a technical circuit where a great handling bike can make for a fantastic ride. Neil also stressed that the key aspect of the Palace is that it’s designed to be a great handling bike first and foremost, not a race bike necessarily but a great handling bike that you can ride as hard as you want to, whether you’re racing or just out having a great ride with your mates.

The Bowman Palace is designed here in the UK by Neil and manufactured out of Triple Butted, custom formed 6069-T6 Aluminium in Taiwan. The finish is a smart black anodised finish designed to be tough, with largely teal and white graphics. The frame also includes a full carbon tapered steer fork with 1:1/8th to 1.5 steerer which is becoming standard these days. Also increasingly common and very welcome is clearance for 28mm tyres. There is a PF86 bottom bracket (which helps lower weight), a 27.2mm seatpost – great for a little more compliance and full external routing.

DSC01417The external routing is interesting as many frames now have or are switching to internal routing but I’ve yet to meet a bike mechanic who doesn’t prefer external routing to enable you to get the best mechanical shifting. I say mechanical deliberately as the external routing pretty much precludes Di2 for most people who won’t want to run cabling externally.

The claimed weight for a size 56cm frame is 1200 grams dropping into the territory of other fine aluminium frames like the CAAD10, the Kinesis Aithein, Canyon Ultimate AL SLX or the new Rose Xeon RS. A tough market that shows a resurgence in stonkingly good aluminium frames that the Palace aims to garner a reputation as being similarly impressive.

DSC01406The geometry of the size 56cm bike that Neil’s loaned me features classic 73 degree head and seat angle and a headtube length of 165mm which should work for a lot of people. The site also helpfully lists stack and reach measurements should you need it.

The frameset including frame, fork, headset and seat clamp retails for £650 and can be bought either directly from the Bowman Cycles website or from a number of dealers.

Neil’s bike is built up with SRAM’s top of the range Red groupset, Zipp finishing kit, a fabric saddle and bar tape. The wheels are lightweight aluminium clinchers with wide rims and quality Japanese bearings shod with quality Continental GP4000s in 23mm.

DSC01407It’s a nice build and with the frame weight of 1200 gms, makes for a light bike.

Sadly in my limited time with the bike I only managed two rides on the Palace with a total distance of just over 70km.

DSC01415Even in that time it was possible to tell that it is a bike that handles well and changes direction well with out being nervous or twitchy, in fact it felt well planted on the road. Like any good aluminium frame, the Palace provided good feedback through the bars and saddle in a way that carbon bikes often don’t – it’s a “chatty” ride that gives you feedback on the road surface in a good way. Power transfer seemed fine and I enjoyed riding the bike. I rode it over a range of surfaces and terrain and I was surprised again and again how comfortable it was and how well it handles. The Bowman Palace is also a great descending frame and the light build helped create a bike that likes to go fast and is good fun to push the pace on.

I thoroughly enjoyed my short time with the Bowman Palace. It’s a fine example of an affordable, well designed and manufactured bike and yet more proof that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a terrific ride.

If you like the look and the price point, in my short time with the Bowman Palace, I can’t find any reason why you shouldn’t go for it if you want to.

If you have any questions or want me to look into any aspect of the bike, please leave a comment and I’d be happy to.

Bowman’s website is here: http://bowman-cycles.com/

Thanks for reading.

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Capo Padrone Roubaix Bib tights first look review

Good quality winter bib tights are for me an absolutely essential piece of cycling kit. Particularly those that can keep you comfortably warm once it gets down to around 0 degrees Celsius.

I’m thin and don’t have much body fat, so the keeping warm part is critical to me. As much as I moan about winter, when the days are clear, it can be fantastic to be out riding in the cold, when you’re wearing the right kit.

A little while ago I was given a pair of Capo’s Padrone bib tights to review. The Padrone Tights are for cold weather riding and use a range of fabrics to give both wind protection but are also intended to enable you to breathe and not overheat. The Padrone range is Capo’s top of the line winter cycling apparel featuring high end materials, design and construction including compression, thermal regulation and comfort. A high end tight also comes with a high end price and these particular tights retail for £179 in the UK.

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The Padrone tights feature a pad from EIT, whose pads I’ve previously found to be very good indeed and in my riding to date in these tights, the pad is another winner.  It’s described as a 6 hour endurance pad and while I haven’t spent that much time in them in one go yet, I’ve been very pleased with the comfort.

The knee area features a Windtex triple layer fabric to provide wind protection, water resistance, thermal insulation and stretch recovery. Capo also use a thermal Roubaix Dream fabric that features a red sheen and is designed for keeping you warm in cold conditions. Riding down to 0 degrees, I’ve found them to perform very well indeed with respect to comfort, warmth and wind protection.

DSC01558The Capo Padrone Roubaix bib tights are one of the best tights I’ve ever ridden for warmth and comfort – absolutely no question.

This particular pair of tights that I’ve been given to review were a pair that had been returned to a retailer by a customer as the stitching around the straps had split. It’s not a big defect but I can understand why the customer returned them. This hasn’t caused an issue for me to test and the problem hasn’t got worse.

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However, one additional issue I’ve had is with the one of the zips on the bottom of the legs, which has now failed and won’t hold together when I’m wearing them. I’m wearing a size medium and only weigh 68kgs so I’m a slender medium. Now it could be that the original purchaser was unduly tough on the zips (or too large for a medium and over stressed the zip) and there’s no question that the compressions style fit on your calves makes the zips difficult to close. It’s still a bit disappointing for a zip to fail.  I’ve ridden quite a lot in Capo clothing in the last year or two and this is the first time I’ve had a product quality issue, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt in this instance.  As I know from this particular pair, they were replaced for the customer and I would hope that this is normal practice for any clothing brand where the customer has an issue but especially one making top end products.

It’s also annoying because I think these are terrific tights and I really like wearing them. I’m going to see if I can fix the zip issue as I want to keep riding in them. I’ve only ridden a few hundred kilometres in them, which is why this is a first look rather than a full review, but I would spend my own money on these tights (even given the zip malfunction), which is the ultimate test.

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You can find out more about these tights here:

http://www.nordiclifeuk.co.uk/products/cycling/197/580/bib-tights/P-capo-padrone-roubaix-bib-tights

http://www.capocycling.com/apparel/mens-apparel/padrone/padrone-roubaix-bib-tight

Thanks for reading.

Core Bike Show highlights 2015: Kinesis, Alé, Tifosi, Effetto Mariposa

Running a few weeks later than planned, but I wanted to share thoughts on some of the things that stood out to me at the recent Core Bike Show. For those of you who don’t know, it’s an invitation only UK trade show. It’s mainly aimed at bike shops and their staff but the press are also welcomed on one of the days. It can be a show for new releases but more often it’s when folks who don’t go to Eurobike see new products in person in the UK.

For me there were a few stands with products that stood out on the day and they’re listed below:

Kinesis 4S Disc

DSC01199Kinesis were possibly the bike brand with the most new models on display, which were mostly disc versions of existing bikes, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t interesting. The GF_Ti has been a big hit in the caliper braked version and a disc version makes a lot of sense. Again, a disc version of the 5T Cyclocross bike also makes a lot of sense. The same could be said about the 4S Disc too but it looks like Kinesis are being particularly smart with this bike as they told me it would be disc and caliper brake ready. That’s right you will be able to buy a 4S disc and run your current caliper braked gruppo until you’re ready to switch it to discs. Maximum versatility. Not only that but they say it should probably take wider tyres – up to 30mm with full guards. Nice … oh and you can run mechanical or Di2 on it as well as post mount or the new flat mount disc brake standards. The current 4S disc has been a big seller at it’s £550 retail for the frameset and Kinesis told me they expected the 4S Disc to be around £600. My prediction is these will fly out the door once people realise all the options they offer for the present and the future. However, you’ll have to wait until further in the year as they told they’ll probably not be finished and here until mid to late summer.

Alé Cycling Clothing

DSC01210Distributor Paligap had a big range of new Italian brand Alé on show. It’s been getting good reviews and I recently tried a jacket (in a review in a high circulation bike magazine) and was very impressed with it. The range looks very Italian, with shall we say, bold styling and my view based on sampling one product is that it’s well worth checking out. Visually it makes a nice change from some of the other big brands.

Gravel wheels!

Reynolds ATR carbon gravel wheels
Reynolds ATR carbon gravel wheels

You’ve heard of gravel bikes if you’ve followed the bike press over the last year or so. It’s road cycling’s 29er perhaps. Emanating from the USA, gravel bikes are road bikes with clearances for larger tyres, longer wheelbases for comfort, disc brakes and endurance geometries.

So it’s not a surprise now to see wheels specifically designed for this kind of bike and riding. Stan’s had the new Grail wheel on display and Reynolds had a new ATR carbon wheel for this market. Gravel wheels are disc specific, probably tubeless and with wider rims.

Stans Grail gravel wheels
Stans Grail gravel wheels

If gravel wheels are part of the switch to disc there’s more high end disc wheels hitting the market too, with a new Reynolds 46 Aero disc, a direct competitor to the Zipp 303 Firecrest disc wheels out last year. The Reynolds had very nice new graphics too.

Reynolds 46 Aero Disc
Reynolds 46 Aero Disc

I’ve ridden the caliper Aero 46 and was very impressed, very quick and stable in crosswinds. A do it all wheel (although I must confess I personally prefer the Aero 58 for more speed).

Lizard Skins now make gloves….

DSC01207You might have already spotted this but I hadn’t – and quite a broad range too.

New aggressively priced and specced road bikes from Tifosi…

Tifosi CK3 Giro 105
Tifosi CK3 Giro 105

Tifosi is a house brand of UK distributor Chicken Cycles and has been making bikes for many years. The Tifosi Audax bikes have a strong following and are well respected. They had new road bikes on display including this smart looking Tifosi CK3 Giro featuring 105 components for £899. Two cheaper builds (Claris and Sora) are also available and a range of colours.

New Effetto Mariposa Carogna Tub tape

DSC01222I was told effusively how good this new tub tape was at a stand other than its own distributors, which piqued my interest as you don’t often get staff at a distributor raving about a product a competitor distributes. Apparently it’s reusable, has better temperature performance and the glue activates more as the pressure of the tyre rises. This could be just the ticket for those of you considering trying a set of tubs but who don’t want the hassle of glue.

Well priced Lapierre Sensium Di2 with Hydraulic discs..

DSC01231On the Lapierre stand I spotted this carbon framed Sensium 500 disc road bike featuring Ultegra 6870 Di2 and Shimano’s fantastic (if a little heavy) R785 hydraulic disc brakes for a retail of £2999, which seemed like good value to me. I’ve not tried a Lapierre but I’ve noticed them getting some very good reviews in the press and if this keeps that form going, it could be a good option for anyone looking for Di2 and hydraulic discs.

Thanks for reading…

Bike Mechanic by Rohan Dubash and Guy Andrews Book Review

I’ve known Rohan Dubash for a few years now and remember him mentioning some time ago now that he was working on a book with Guy Andrews. Rohan’s one of the best and most meticulous bike mechanics I’ve ever met, with a huge passion for things Italian as well as the history and traditions of the sport of road cycling, so I knew it wasn’t going to be a typical or basic look at bike mechanics.

Rohan’s worked personally on my bike before and I couldn’t recommend him highly enough as as a mechanic. So from that point of view plus the fact that he’s also written a number of stories for Rouleur Magazine over the years,  meant I was intrigued by the book. I’ve also been a long-time fan of the writing of co-author Guy Andrews, who was the Editor for Rouleur magazine from launch until very recently and the book is a Rouleur (and Bloomsbury) publication.

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In some ways I might well be a perfect test for the book. I have little mechanical aptitude and struggle at moving past basic bike maintenance. Whilst I’m also somewhat interested in the history and traditions of cycling, I’m far more interested in the future. So I wondered would someone like me struggle with a book written by perfectionists like Rohan and Guy, who have also helped breathe new life into the rich history of road cycling.

Actually, no I didn’t. Normally I wouldn’t even conceive of buying a book like this thanks to my lack of mechanical sympathy or ability but I found the opening section of the book on the history and life of pro-mechanics drew me in and held me there until the detailed discussions of tools and bike repairs took over in the second half of the book.

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Even then, knowing I was fairly unlikely to attempt much of the work shown, I still managed to keep reading but in fairness, I think the second half of the book is aimed more to be reference to dip in and out of. For that it works well, broken into a sensible structure, with good photo references and helpful guidance (including tool selections and lubricants).

The section of the book about tools was very likeable as it featured Rohan’s own favourite tools gathered over decades of working with bikes – not simply those from a brand who might typically sponsor a book like this then showing a wide range from said brand.

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This is more of an artisan approach, where a good tool may be discovered in an unlikely place as well as a manufacturer’s catalogue and will last a lifetime, becoming a trusted friend.

If you’ve ever enjoyed a copy of Rouleur, you’ll likely enjoy this book. It being a Rouleur/Bloomsbury title means the writing and photography too, thanks to Taz Darlings fine photos give it the customary look feel with respect to both the written word and the visuals. It’s a book that can both look good on your coffee table but also provide a solid reference to use for any work you might want to do on your bike. I even reckon some smudged oily finger marks will fit in with the design.

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If you’ve even a passing interest in road bike mechanics, then Bike Mechanic is well worth checking out. Even if you don’t, it’s a good book with an interesting insight into the world and history of professional race mechanics. I’ve enjoyed reading Bike Mechanic and it now has a permanent place on my cycling book shelf.

I’ve reviewed the hardback version, which you can order here if you wish and the paperback is now also available here

Thanks for reading

Autumn Winter Rapha clothing: Pro Team Jersey and Bib tights, Rain jacket and base layer first look review

Clothing companies are increasingly designing their garments to complement each other and to work together as outfits. I learned this last year when Capo Cycling suggested outfits to try and this winter Rapha have suggested the same.

The advantage for us as customers is that as well as getting items of clothing that will work best for you when put together they also help make us look good on our bikes. Perhaps it shows that I’m getting a little vainer each year but nowadays this is exactly what I want to do on the bike. I want to wear quality clothing that looks good together and so I appear well turned out. I also want the benefit of being warm and comfortable for my ride in kit that’s designed to work best together as a system.

With that in mind, I’ve chose (in consultation) an outfit for Autumn/Winter riding. This is the first time I’ve tried Rapha clothing, so I’m interested to see how it works for me.

I admire what Rapha have achieved in the 10 years they’ve been around for – they’ve built a significant business, a brand that people emotionally respond too (for both good and bad), they’ve help make cycling more stylish. I also think they’ve got people excited about road cycling and about looking good whilst doing it. I’ve noticed a difference on the roads where I live too. Over the last 5 years more and more riders look good on their bikes rather than looking like an explosion in a lycra factory. Obviously people can and do look good not riding in Rapha too, but I think they’ve made a positive impact on how cycling clothing is designed.

I’ve aimed to choose an “outfit” to mean I can ride through winter in comfort given the typical temperatures I’m experienced in the last couple of years. The specific pieces I’ve created my review outfit with are:

Pro Team Jacket                                    

Rapha say that the Pro Team Jacket is designed for high-tempo interval training in cold weather. What I read into that is it’s not a jacket designed for complete warmth on really cold rides. This jacket is in fact a good example of how new materials (in this case one from Polartec) are enabling manufacturers to innovate on their designs. In this case, Rapha have been able to build a winter jacket that’s not much bulkier than a winter jersey. Yes it certainly has some substance but not as much as full on winter softshell. By using Super Roubaix fabrics on the rear, the jacket is designed to breathe.

Front view, Pro Team Jacket and Bib Tights together
Front view, Pro Team Jacket and Bib Tights together

It’s also not a waterproof shell, so Rapha sensibly advise carrying a packable rain jacket such as their own Rapha  Rain jacket when you’re expecting proper rain. It does seem to shrug off showers well thanks to the water repellent coating.

There are three good sized pockets on the rear and a small zipped one on the front left at the bottom. Perfect for your credit card or cash for the café stop.

From the rear: Rapha Pro Team Jacket and Bib Tights
From the rear: Rapha Pro Team Jacket and Bib Tights

It’s definitely a slim fit, but the fit is very good for me anyway. I’m riding in a size small and for my 68kg and 180cm size it’s perfect.

I have the blue colour and it’s a terrific colour and the which reflective arm bands and trims look really good and provide a little more visibility. It’s a classy looking jacket and seems very well made.

In the riding I’ve done in this jacket so far, I’ve been very happy indeed with how it’s been on the bike. It does work best in high tempo riding or when it’s not too cold. The lower the temperatures, the more higher tempo you’ll need to ride. I don’t like the cold, so when it’s got down to lower than 2 or 3 degrees Celsius I’ve swapped to a warmer jacket but I think you could happily ride up to around 10 degrees.

Rear Rapha Pro Team Jacket details including pockets and reflective details
Rear Rapha Pro Team Jacket details including pockets and reflective details

I’ve not had this jacket for too long but it’s already become a favourite and I’m delighted to have it in my wardrobe. I’ll keep riding in it and report on it closer to spring (where I think it will also perform well).

Find out more at the Rapha site: http://www.rapha.cc/gb/en/shop/pro-team-jacket/product/PJC02

Pro Team Bib tights

These are designed to work as an outfit with the Pro Team jacket and like the jacket they feature a windproof, DWR coated front for weather protection and more breatheable fabrics on the rear. Again Rapha describe these as perfect for tempo winter rides. You can see and feel the difference between these fabrics when you examine the inside surfaces and construction of the tights and they do feel nice to the touch.

The Pro Team bib tights have a pad build in, apparently at the request of Team Sky who wanted a simpler winter wardrobe (than having both shorts and unpadded bib tights). As a purist, I felt a little saddened by this but I’m also very happy to try new solutions.

Like the jacket, these are a slim fitting product and I needed a medium to be comfortable.

Rapha Pro Team Bib tights from the side with reflective block Rapha branding
Rapha Pro Team Bib tights from the side with reflective block Rapha branding

Featuring the same design treatment as the Jacket, they feature white reflective details and a block Rapha logo across your backside to give some winter visibility. I personally really like this graphic treatment and I think it works very well.

The pad is attached to the tights differently than I’ve experienced on other brands and almost feels like it’s just stitched around the outside edge to the tights, so the middle feels disconnected when you’re putting them and before you get on the bike.

Rapha Pro Team Bib Tights rear view with reflective Rapha branding
Rapha Pro Team Bib Tights rear view with reflective Rapha branding

However, as soon as you get into the saddle and start riding, it’s hard to not be impressed with how they perform on the bike. Even from the first couple of rides, the on bike fit for these tights is one of the best I’ve ever ridden. There’s also a good amount of warmth given they’re pitched as being for tempo riding. On my first ride with them, I found myself warming up from the legs rather than from my core.

I’m looking forward to spending more time in them, but first impressions are very favourable indeed. An impressive beginning. I’d not ridden tights at this price point before and they’re not that differently priced than some of their peers but I already think Rapha might have nailed it with these.

Inside detail for Rapha Pro Team bib tights including small pockets and name tag
Inside detail for Rapha Pro Team bib tights including small pockets and name tag

Find out more at the Rapha site: http://www.rapha.cc/gb/en/shop/pro-team-winter-tights-with-pad/product/PWT01

Long sleeve Merino Base layer

Rapha’s Merino base layers have had a good reputation for quite a few years, so it’s nice to have one to try. The one I have is a black long sleeved one in size small. The fit is very good, it seems really well made and has a couple of nice small Rapha flourishes in the design. Having moved away from Merino base layers in my own riding, it’s going to be interesting to spend time in them again.

A good glimpse of the Rapha Merino baselayer under the Pro Team tights
A good glimpse of the Rapha Merino baselayer under the Pro Team tights

So far mostly, I’ve been wearing it around the house and to my work as it’s got colder and it’s very nice in those situations. I’ve yet to get out and ride hard in it but I most certainly will.

http://www.rapha.cc/gb/en/shop/merino-base-layer—long-sleeve/product/BLS01LS

Rain Jacket

I’d read a number of good reviews and reports on Rapha’s rain jacket, so it’s great to have one to try out and report on. The biggest disadvantage is that I’ll actually have to go and ride in the rain a few times (something I’m almost pathologically averse to).

The first thing that stood out on receiving this jacket to test is …. the colour. It’s absolutely stunning in orange. Even Mrs GdL who isn’t generally at all interested in cycling stuff, said “wow, that looks great”. It really, really does. The matching accents are a creamy white, which matches the Orange perfectly. It’s a thing of beauty and I could get quite carried away about how much I love the colour…..

Rapha Rain Jacket in Orange. Great colour!
Rapha Rain Jacket in Orange. Great colour!

Anyway, the white/cream elements are all reflective. Nice. There is a small zipped front pocket for cash/cards and it’s lightweight enough to be considered a packable.

Some other nice touches in the design are that there is a different fabric for the forearms in case you ride it with a short sleeve jersey. It’s designed to feel nicer on your skin on the arms, which is a nice example of the thinking Rapha’s designers have put into the product. It’s also sensible because as it’s packable you could take this jacket out anytime all year if there is a chance of rain.

The seams are all taped as you’d expect to ensure the waterproof fabric doesn’t get let down by the seams.

The fit is also very good. I’m riding in a small and it’s a perfect fit.

Rapha Rain Jacket from the rear. Reflective elements including the logo
Rapha Rain Jacket from the rear. Reflective elements including the logo

Whilst I’ve not ridden in heavy rain yet in it, I have taken it with me when using the Pro Team Jacket  as Rapha suggest and it’s been particularly useful on cold rides to have as an extra barrier layer. For example if you ride to a meeting point, or you stop to fix a puncture, or even a café stop, I’ve found that popping on the rain jacket over the top of the Pro Team Jacket helps protect my core temperature. It’s a good reminder that a packable jacket gives you great flexibility in layering.

Using the Rain Jacket so far has helped me work the Pro Team Jacket a little better and manage my temperature more actively on colder rides.

I’ll report again once I’ve got a proper soaking or two.

http://www.rapha.cc/gb/en/shop/rain-jacket/product/RJK05

To date, and I’m only part way through the testing, I now can see better what all the fuss is about with Rapha. All of the items above have been beautifully designed and well manufactured to look great and they do. However, these garments also do definitely perform very well indeed.

I have other clothing from other brands at similar price points as these and my early impressions are that these Rapha garments are every bit as good as anything else I’ve ridden and in many cases are better.

I’m looking forward to spending more time in them to see how I feel after another 500km or so of riding.

Thanks for reading and if you have any questions, please leave a comment.

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Shutt Velo Rapide Performance Jacket Review

I was passed this jacket for review earlier in the year as its medium size is too large for my friend @girodilento. To be fair, medium is a marginal size for me – I would probably opt for a large, however, since it fits me quite well, I was resolved to ride it and review it. The jacket has been hanging on a rail for some time now, awaiting the right weather for a reasonable test of its function.

Such weather presented itself over a single weekend towards the end of 2014, when I wore the jacket on two consecutive days for 50km+ rides, so a total of 100kms and 4 hours or more to find out how it performs.

Both ride routes are very familiar to me, and include a reasonable mix of climbs, flats and descents – but definitely nothing too extreme. Saturday was a miserable day – overcast and dark, with light showers and temperatures as low as zero degrees.

The following day was altogether brighter – one of those crisp, cold
and dry days with sharp winter sunlight. The average temperature,
according to my Garmin Edge, was 3 degrees, although colder in places.On both days I rode during the afternoon as I have several friends who’ve fallen foul of black ice, so I wanted to avoid early mornings when this sort of thing appears more prevalent. In any event, the rides provided a cross section of the sort of weather you could expect to be riding in at this time of year.

Donning the Shutt VR Performance Jacket, the first thing that struck me is that it appears very light in weight – almost insubstantial. Shutt VR say that the garment is crafted from a technically advanced, 3-layer, bonded, Swiss sports fabric. Now, girodilento and I had had a discussion a few weeks ago about how a fleecy warm appearance might provide a placebo effect – the anticipation of warmth maybe contributing to a snug feeling. The Performance Jacket takes no such approach.

FullSizeRenderOn both days I wore the jacket with a lightweight long sleeved base
layer, plus Castelli winter bibs (one day with Windstopper, one day
without), my favoured Woollie Boollie socks, Northwave Fahrenheit GTX winter shoes, Gore winter gloves and a peaked cap beneath my cycling helmet. So, I really felt I was putting a lot of trust in Shutt’s 100 percent windproof promise to keep my core warm. I wasn’t disappointed.

I’d say that the Performance Jacket fully lives up to its windproof
claim. Together with its fleecy lining, the jacket kept me at a very
workable temperature at all times. That’s not to say that I was toasty
warm, to coin a phrase, but that I remained comfortable throughout
both rides. In fact, only my toes were slightly chilled after the
first ride, the rest of the time I felt just fine.

Shutt VR say that in addition to being windproof, the jacket is both
waterproof and highly breathable. I’m a little bit wary of claims like
this; in my experience, things designed to keep moisture out also keep moisture in, while those designed to allow moisture to pass through do so in both directions. To deal with it’s waterproof layer, the rain I rode in was not really heavy enough to give this a proper shakedown. However, it shook off whatever the heavens threw at it us quite adequately.

Inside the jacket, I did get a build up of sweat, making the fleece
lining quite damp. I’m not really sure how you solve this problem –
maybe a better wicking base layer could be the answer. On a cold day, even with the best windstopping fabric in the business, you’re going to get chilled down when descending if the inside of your outer layers is wet. However, in its defence, although my temperature dropped and I was aware of the cold, I wasn’t uncomfortably so wearing the Performance Jacket.

The jacket is made of a rather good looking black fabric outer layer
(with lighter microdots on it), and all the seams have a reflective piped grey finish. The cut is relaxed and allows for additional layering underneath, and thanks to its white side panels, also quite flattering to the shape – if you’re worried about such things. It means that you can keep dry and warm on winters days without looking like a beached seal. Shutt VR have done a nice job with subtle branding and the jacket features two reflective logos, plus the company’s signature rainbow tab.

Reflective piping extends down the sleeve to help give visibility when signalling
Reflective piping extends down the sleeve to help give visibility when signalling

Elasticated grippers hold the cuffs and the bottom of the jacket
nicely in place, and a full storm flap (again with reflective elements) does a great job keeping moisture thrown up from the road and down from above, off your rear end. I particularly like the high neck of the jacket, which is very effective keeping body warmth in, and the zip garage which deserves a special mention. Finally, no jacket would be complete without pockets and Shutt VR have included two capacious cargo pockets and a waterproof zipped compartment for you mobile phone, money and house key.

Because I’m not experienced in such things and was unsure how
believable manufacturers claims should be, on the first day I packed
the cargo pockets with a Shutt VR lightweight gilet (the same one I
reviewed for this website), a fleece neckie which also serves as a
beanie (both items in case I couldn’t get warm enough), spare tube,
pump, 4 gels, drinks tabs and a flapjack bar. I also had my glasses,
keys, phone and money – you can see how much of a bulge it all created from the picture – but the jacket swallowed it all willingly.

With full rear pockets
With full rear pockets

If you’re going to ride outside during winter, a decent jacket is
essential to your wardrobe. On the whole, my opinion is that the Shutt VR Performance Jacket is a great piece of kit, and lives up to the claims which the company makes about it. The fabric is very effective as a windstopper, and certainly weatherproof as far as I tested it – but bear in mind the test didn’t involve full immersion. At an RRP of £149.00, the Shutt VR Performance Jacket is priced in the mid range for a winter jacket and is a lot less than some Italian and UK brand offerings.

With empty rear pockets
With empty rear pockets

Find out more at Shutt’s website: http://www.shuttvr.com/shop/productdetail/Performance-Jacket/
Thanks for reading.

Kinesis T2 complete bike – first look review

For many years, the way to buy a Kinesis bike was to buy the frame and forks and build this up to your own specific requirements. Of course for a lot of people that’s still the case but according to Kinesis there are also more and more dealers and customers asking for complete bikes.

The T2 I have to test is the latest fruits of the work by Kinesis to put a compelling product under the crucial £1,000 price point. It’s a key price point as it the threshold for the Bike to Work scheme, which is an extremely popular way for people in the UK to buy a new bike. In simple terms it allows someone to buy a new bike through their employer and get a discount thanks to how the tax effect works. It’s sold a lot of bikes for a lot of companies and dealers and helped get many new people riding, commuting or extending their fleets.DSC01014

The challenge for a smaller brand like Kinesis UK is hitting this price point with a spec that does the bike justice, yet is still in the ball park for value compared with the big global players who have much larger volumes and hence economies of scale.

Kinesis would argue that something they can bring to the party at any price point is ride quality and that’s something I’m aiming to find out with this bike.DSC01018

I’m a big fan of both winter bikes and entry level bikes and the T2 is the entry level in the range for Kinesis. Another plus for customers with Kinesis is that if you do have components already or want a different build, then you can buy the frame and fork separately (£240 and £140 respectively) and build up the bike yourself. Not something you can do if you wanted to from many other and bigger brands.

It’s probably fair to say that the T2 still represents the spirit of early Kinesis road frames: It’s affordable, aluminium, has clearance for 28mm tyres and guards and still features a non-tapered fork, so is less “racey” than the 4S (or TK3).DSC01016

It should be a fine companion for long winter rides or commuting or club runs but be a little more relaxed than your race bike …. and smoother/more comfortable.

The complete build features a Tiagra 10 speed core, with Shift levers, mechs and the cassette from the groupset. The bike also features entry level Shimano wheels, WTB 25mm tyres, FSA finishing kit including cranks and full mudguards from Future Forms. You can read the full spec list at your leisure here but suffice to say, the only things you need to add to go riding are pedals and water bottle cages.DSC01022

The complete bike I have (size 57cm) with some winter mountain bike pedals (don’t hate me) and a bottle cage, weighs in at just over 10kgs. Not light but bikes at this price point with mudguards aren’t going to be. The only other variation from the off shelf spec, is the Bontrager saddle I’ve fitted as the Press Bike arrived without a saddle. I suspect the Bontrager saddle is a little lighter than the standard model.DSC01011

So with my pedals and bottle cage attached, I’ve been out for a first couple of rides to start to get the feel of the T2.

First impressions are that it’s a smoother and more comfortable ride than the 4S but it’s also less lively and racey (even with the same geometry). I’ve felt the extra weight over my 8kg bikes on the climbs  but the T2 rides really nicely, from the first few miles, it has a really pleasant character. I suspect it’s going to be an easy bike to spend time with. But after 15 years of evolution of the design, that shouldn’t be a surprise.DSC01024

I’ll report back in due course.

Thanks for reading.