Today was a big milestone in my time with the Wattbike as I passed the 2,000km milestone on it. Coincidentally it was also the first ride of a new 16 week programme for winter training.
I’ve been seeing my mileage on the Wattbike ticking up over the last month or so and I’d been pondering what it’s taught me so far and what I think there might be to come from it.
In fairness, most of the time I’ve spent on it was between February and July. In that time I learnt:
1) Indoor training IS an effective way to improve your riding.
Until this year, my riding had always plateaued around the same average speed – 29kmh. No matter how fit I felt I’d got riding and riding in the spring and summer I never went faster. In fact over the rolling countryside where I live I’d never manage to push past this average on a 50-100km ride in 5 years of trying. After 3 months training using a Wattbike Sportive Plan, I’ve managed to bang out 3 or 4 rides averaging over 30kmh this summer. This has been a big moment. Life, work, family etc got in the way in the summer and I couldn’t keep the momentum or training going and I’ve fallen backwards but I’m still riding pretty well so hopefully I’m well placed for a sensible winter training plan. I’m someone who’s always considered indoor training as an absolute last resort – for when it was snowing or had rained solidly for a fortnight. Now it’s my first choice.
2) Training with Power AND Heart Rate indoors delivers results.
This is the key thing about the Wattbike – training with heart rate and power zones at the same time. At first it was incredibly frustrating. I could get my heart rate to sit in say Zone 2 but if I did, my power was in Zone 1. If my power was in Zone 2, my heart rate popped up into zone 3. They were supposed to be in the same zone. It took about 6 weeks for them to “equalize”. Sticking to the programme saw me continue to improve as long as I kept up the work.
3) It’s not all about intensity and interval training
This has been a big surprise to me, as I had thought that riding indoors on a Turbo or on a Wattbike would be mostly about smashing intervals and this couldn’t have been further from the truth. A great deal of the training has been low intensity to strengthen the training base. I’ve spoken with another sports scientist who agreed that this gives an athlete a strong platform to build from. Getting faster has involved surprisingly little interval training. So far.
4) It’s not just about the speed – stamina improves too
After a couple of months of the training I noticed that my ability to hold efforts longer had markedly improved. Where I ride it’s unusual to need to ride hard for more than 10 minutes at a time and training on the Wattbike has definitely helped me ride stronger over a longer duration. Throughout the course of the year and it still is now.
5) It’s very time effective
A couple of years ago I spoke to a coach who said he could get me results if I committed to training for 9 hours a week. I knew I couldn’t find this much time, so I didn’t pursue the coaching. I’ve got faster than ever before on the Wattbike with only 4-6hours a week of training and that’s invaluable for anyone with a busy life.
6) It only works if you do
During the summer I’ve been very busy with family, life, work and stuff that’s just got in the way and so my time on a bike or the Wattbike dropped significantly (by over half). And guess what, I’ve got less fit and slower. You’ve still got to do the work. I do believe that the quality base building I did on the Wattbike earlier in the year “stuck around” better but I still went backwards. I hope to focus over the winter and do a 16 week plan and keep at it as it’s not going to require a huge amount of time investment each week. I hope I can manage to do it as I want the results in the spring.
7) You’ve got to have a plan …. But if you don’t….
The Wattbike website has a range of free training plans, so there’s really no reason not to follow a structured plan. Sometimes though for whatever reason that’s not possible and I’ve found that even simply doing 2-4 one hour Zone 2 sessions a week is a good way of augmenting your fitness.
8) Trust the free Wattbike training plans … or
If you follow the free Wattbike training plans, you will get results as I’ve proved. So you can easily start with them and work your way through them. Depending on what level you’re beginning at that could take you a good way through a year. If you don’t want to use the Wattbike plans (or have finished them) there are sites like TrainerRoad or even the Sufferfest that you can access plans for and use the Wattbike as your tool for power and heart rate training. If I’m lucky enough to still have the Wattbike in the Spring, I hope to give TrainerRoad a go.
9) Or find a coach who can work with the data the Wattbike produces
The Wattbike produces a large amount of detailed data from every ride, whether you use it or not. It records something like 36 parameters, 100 times a second while you’re using it – including your power and pedalling technique. I have to admit I don’t use that data and simply rely on my Garmin, Strava and the pedalling efficiency graphic. However if you can find a coach who can work with the data, it could provide for a very successful training programme.
10) Sod the weather
I have always been a fair weather cyclist. I hate riding in the rain. I’m not British and I don’t get the whole – just ride anyway thing. Now I feel the urge even less – if it’s raining – great, I’ll Wattbike. Job done, in an hour, regardless of how rainy it is. I’ve moved and have gone from a very nice spot in a conservatory to being in the garage – but that’s fine and I can still get the job done.
11) Get to just enjoy your weekend rides
When you’re using a training plan, you get your training done before the weekend, so you can just enjoy each weekend ride. Have fun with your friends, ride as hard or as slow as you feel and just have enjoy. By this point in the week, you’ve done all the actual training you need. Weekends are the fun bit and the reward for your training during the course of the week.
12) What are the downsides?
a) There’s no getting around it, the biggest challenge for many of us is the sticker price of just over £2k. Sure the 0% finance is going to help most people and that’s a good thing. I think of it more as a great second bike as I’m lucky enough to have a great bike already. I guess we each need to decide what could make us faster, a nice second bike or a Wattbike and that’s something each of us needs to work out for ourselves. After 2,000km I’m convinced it can make me faster and if it can make me faster, I’m confident it can make you faster
b) The downside of the Wattbike training plans is having to print out all of the pages and write your particular heart rates and training zones on it. I usually have at least one piece of paper with me when I get on the Wattbike and right now I have all of the pages of the Winter Triathlon Training Plan printed out so I can recalculate all of the different sessions for my own heart rate and training zone data. It seems incongruous with the sophistication at the heart of the machine …. But it’s far from a deal breaker, especially when it’s ultimately all done with software and could all be automated. 2015 …. Maybe?
The first thing that struck me about the ShuttVR Gilet is the fact that it’s a substantial piece of kit, not the sort of flimsy I’m used to stuffing in my pocket as riding days warm up. I say substantial, but not in a bulky sense, it folds down nicely to a light and compact size which can easily slide into a jersey pocket. The gilet is very nicely made and has a quality feel about it and in the best tradition, you can get it in any colour you like as long as it’s black!
As far as the bill of materials is concerned, you can get all the techs and specs from the Shutt VR website, but it features windproof, ripstop material front and back with Coolmax trim around the arms and mesh side panels for ventilation. The collar is finished with a fleece material lining. A decent, weatherproof YKK zipper is edged by reflective piping at the front. At the back there are two good-sized pockets where you might normally expect to a zip or other access to jersey pockets. There’s also more reflective piping and some subtle branding (the Shutt colour bar on the pocket and logo – also reflective – on the right shoulder).
I wouldn’t put myself down as an expert in gilets, but these features all seem very well thought out to me and make the garment a very practical piece of riding wear. Used with arm warmers you have a decent solution for those days of indeterminate weather where long sleeves or a jacket are overkill and don’t really give you flexibility for changeable conditions.
I’ve been wearing the gilet a lot for short commutes to the office; I like the pocket space, the gilet fits me well and it keeps the morning draft off very effectively. For my part, I think it looks very smart worn with jeans and a t-shirt, but I’m no fashion guru. I also chose it during my recent trip to Yorkshire for the start of the Tour de France for exactly the reasons described above; the weather was very warm when the sun poked its head out from behind the clouds, but chilly otherwise and there was always a wind! However, in conjunction with Castelli Nanoflex arm warmers and shorts, while I was arguably overdressed, I remained very warm and comfortable the whole time (which included a lot of standing around). I even bumped into someone else wearing one!
I was asked an interesting question about the gilet and that was whether it was really had a place in an age of Castelli Gabba and Capo Lombardia, wet weather, performance jerseys. My answer to that is, it depends on your sort of riding, or the sort of ride you’re on. If I was charging out for a couple of hours in the rain, I don’t think that the gilet would be my go-to choice. However, for longer days and adventures, I think the gilet provides classic layering advantages and is a really versatile piece of clothing. As fantastic a jersey as the Lombardia is (it makes a great Christmas or Father’s Day gift if your family is struggling for suggestions), the disadvantage is that once you leave home in it, you’re committed – I’ve found myself almost praying for the weather to stay cool and wet.
That said, one drawback I’ve noticed when riding in the Gilet comes courtesy of its waterproof liner. As far as I can detect, this is not a semi-permeable membrane – no detail is provided on the company’s website. So, while it keeps water out, it also keeps moisture in; specifically, sweat. When working hard in the saddle, prepare yourself for a build-up of damp. This is not altogether a bad thing, but is does mean that clothing beneath the windproof panels can get wet. I guess this means you need to time gilet removal carefully, there’s probably an optimum window before your clothing gets too wet, but I haven’t found it so far. Obviously it’s not a particular problem if you plan to keep the gilet on all day and it does mean you cool quickly when the zip’s undone.
The zip deserves some accolade. I’m a bit of a klutz when it comes to jersey zippers, frequently jamming fabric into them as I get them on and off. The YKK Vislon zip is easy to get hold of and use single-handed in the saddle (I’m not a big lover of taking both hands off the bars whilst climbing, especially to fiddle around with garment closures – I’m just not pro enough), and I’ve yet to shut anything in it (or have to take the gilet off over my head)! The zip garage also deserves a mention and adds to both smartness and comfort, as has been noted by my riding buddies.
Other touches like that fleece lining on the collar make for additional comfort. Its soft feel is obviously nice as the gilet goes on, but it also wicks sweat off your neck as you ride without any slickness. At the other end, the elasticated waist also features a silicone gripper which does a decent enough job stopping the gilet riding up when riding out. The back of the gilet is designed to provide a good amount of protection against rear wheel spray if you’re riding in the rain and you’re not on your winter bike (which obviously has mudguards).
The only issue I had with the gilet was in sizing. I’m 5’9” tall, 76kg, variable waist size; I wear size XL Castelli shorts and believe me, I wish I didn’t! Most of my stuff is sized large, however, the Shutt VR Gilet fits me perfectly and it’s a small. I’ve become used to “sizing up” because I like Italian cycling clothing but don’t have the frame for it (a fondness for pies, unfortunately), so going down two sizes is a bit of a surprise – although not an unpleasant or unflattering one.
Shutt’s sizing guide however, suggests that a small chest size is 34 – 36 inches (closer to my waist size). The gilet is not “racing cut” and so will accommodate most torso types. If I was to be honest, I think that more accurate sizing and a less generous cut would be more appealing. While I’m not a racing snake, I find it a little baggy around the middle and couldn’t help wondering whether the slightly elastic mesh panels would be one way of providing a closer fit. There is also an XS size that for slender, smaller or many women may make more sense.
Another small issue is that the mesh part of the gilet at the back/sides has “bobbled” a bit. I’ve been wearing it a lot but the “bobbling” if that’s a word is a touch disappointing.
Shutt’s lightweight gilet is on sale from the company’s website priced at £75, I think this is very much at the top end of the market, however, for the flexibility it provides to the wearer and the build quality, it’s worth the premium. As I mentioned at the top of this article, the garment feels substantially made and I think it’s something you’d wear for years, certainly it feels robust enough to take a good amount of wear and tear unlike flimsier, lower cost equivalents. Just be prepared for a little to-ing and fro-ing to get the right size.
I’m all for City Bikes and think that they should be more easily available for sale in the UK. For ordinary people looking for a low maintenance easy to ride bike to go to the shops and back, City Bikes are the right tool for the job. To pop across town on a hybrid or a mountain bike is the wrong answer to me.
With my interest in cycling advocacy and in what conditions are needed for 40-60% of a population to ride bikes everyday, having the ideal everyday bike is a key factor. In fairness it is way behind fixing the UK’s hostile road design and infrastructure but we need more practical bikes for sale in the UK to go with better infrastructure.
To quality as a city bike I think you need a bike that you can ride comfortably in ordinary clothes and that requires virtually no maintenance and can easily carry your shopping etc as you ride.
In the small cycling advocacy group I’m a part of one of our members, a Dane called Jesper, showed up a few months ago on a Danish city bike from a brand called Ebsen. I had a quick ride around the car park and it was very, very comfortable and I was impressed. Jesper told me that when he’d moved his family to the UK from Denmark, they found it very difficult to find shops where you could buy Danish City bikes for either adults or children. So he did some research and decided to launch http://www.copenhagen-bicycles.com/ who are now selling part of the Ebsen bikes range and also some MBK bikes.
Jesper offered me the chance to try the Ebsen Street Trend and I jumped at the chance. I’ve been riding it around town for the last few weeks and have found the experience fascinating.
Ebsen have been in business for 16 years and is run from Denmark by Peter Stricker Ebsen. The company designs bikes in Denmark and has them made in Germany, Italy and Taiwan. The company has a wide range and sells 15,000 bikes a year.
The Street Trend that I’m riding is made in Germany and has a list of features I’d say are essential for a true city bike:
Shimano Nexus 7 Speed hub gears (3 speed is fine if you live somewhere flat) – lower maintenance than external derailleur gears.
Hub Dynamo and front light
Battery rear light
Coaster rear brake (back pedal to stop)
Chain guard and full mudguards
Reinforced rear rack
Integral Frame mounted lock
The bike features an alloy frame and a nice comfortable upright riding position. I know from twitter discussions that some people who have some knowledge of Dutch bikes would argue there might be a few more features missing (such as a front rack, front roller brake, steering lock and a double sided kick stand) but having spent some time both talking to Jesper and looking at the model range from some large Dutch bike brands, it’s not quite that simple.
What does seem to be the case is that most city bike manufacturers in Europe have a wide range of bikes and specifications and people choose and pay for all of the features they want around a similar central theme. Buyers also often customise their bikes themselves after buying them to get them just so – which most cyclists do on any bike they buy.
As an example, if you live somewhere flat like Copenhagen, a 3 speed hub gear bike will be more than enough. Also in a flat city you might not actually use a front brake, just using a coaster rear brake, so the extra expense of a roller brake over a cheaper V-brake on the front of the bike might not be something you’d look for. Also you might upgrade the bike. Personally I’d prefer a dynamo rear light too and a light that kept running when you’re stopped at lights (we don’t have Copenhagen’s green wave or the intelligent road design of the Dutch sadly, so I’ll have to waste time at lights regularly). Chances are if you have specific features you want – then there’s a bike for you. Or if there isn’t quite – they’ll be something close and you can sort the last bits out afterwards. I could add a front rack and a steering lock for carry heavy things in a basket if I wanted to (and probably would).
So what’s it like to ride and live with?
The Street Trend is aluminium framed bike and the 7 speed Nexus gears give a good range of choices for steep hills through to descents and in between. The complete bike weight is about 17kgs, which has been fine for me. It’s not as comfortable as Jesper’s own Ebsen bike (the Habana), which is steel, so both heavier and more comfortable but the Street Trend is still comfortable and the riding position has been great (sitting up).
The coaster brake took a bit of bedding in but works well and reminds me of when I was a kid when I had the same type of back pedal brake on my first bike when I was about 5. I loved that bike and the skids I could do. I’ve been restraining myself and not doing skids on the Street Trend though as it’s not my bike but it is tempting.
Jesper also kindly loaned me a pair of Basil Panniers (Basil are a Dutch company that makes a great range of panniers and baskets http://www.basil.nl/).
I took advantage of the panniers immediately to ditch my rucksack and ride in my normal clothes on my admittedly short 2km commute. Being around twice the weight of my other race bikes it takes a bit more to get up to speed but the bike gets along very nicely. I love being upright on the bike, my visibility is better, I’m more comfortable and the number of stupid passes from motorists seems to have significantly decreased. I feel very comfortable on the bike. The Nexus gears are great and I’ve gotten used to the roller rear brake. The knack is to get your pedals into the position you want to push down backwards to brake (and to me that’s about 10 o’clock.) I find I don’t really use the front brake unless I’m holding position on a slope.
The built in lock is fantastic (although I’ve been using a second lock when locking it to a bike rack all day). That second lock just sits in a pannier the rest of the time, which makes life very straightforwards.
The Dynamo light works well but do switch off when you’re stationary. The battery powered attached rear light is fine too – not super bright but has good reflectors built and seems clearly visible. The kick stand is very handy but if I put too much heavy stuff in the pannier – it’s not strong enough to stop the bike from tipping. A kickstand is such a simple addition that means you no longer have to find somewhere to lean you bike against (great for stopping outside a shop).
We only live about 250-300m from a corner shop, which is a distance I’d usually walk (although I have neighbours who’d drive) but I’m now zipping up on the Ebsen. It’s easy, fast and convenient – especially when I can lock the bike right outside the door and put my shopping in the panniers.
The Ebsen Street Trend is a very easy bike to live with and everything seems to work well – but it should given it’s based on a very well proven city bike concept. Yes, you can buy cheaper bikes (you always can). But when you start look at the cost of the 7 speed hub gears, dynamo hubs and wheels and lighting. The built in lock, heavy dutry rack as well as full mudguards and chain guard – it’s not too bad. Also consider that bikes like this are designed to need almost no maintenance and last for many years – it’s not expensive transport. And that’s the thing, this bike is mostly about transport as any good city bike is. You could take it on bike paths and tow paths and maybe even a well surfaced Sustrans path (narrows it down a bit) but it’s an urban workhorse first and foremost and designed for years of weather and very little maintenance.
I’m probably even more convinced about city bikes after spending a few weeks on one than I was before.
Oddly the only thing I’ve been wondering if I would choose differently spending my own money is would I go for an open frame instead of a traditional mens version with a high cross bar? For a bike that’s all about convenience, comfort and ease – lifting your leg over the cross bar when you’ve got the panniers full is actually quite awkward. There are certainly some more unisex models and when you look at cyclists in the Netherlands and Denmark, lots of men are riding step through frames and now I understand why.
In time, I’d probably also upgrade the lights but as Jesper said that’s what people do – choose a spec that’s going to get them the basics of what they want and improve it over time.
I hope that Jesper succeeds and that more city bikes come onto the market as they’re a pleasure to ride and live with. They’re not too slow either. I’ve certainly not found a lack of speed to be a problem when I’ve needed it and I can keep up with slow moving urban traffic easily (and have a better view ahead than before). I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Ebsen Street Trend and I hope you’ve found this interesting. I’ll be sad to give it back.
The new Garmin Edge 1000 is an additional and flagship model to the range, slotting in above the Edge 810 which continues as do the Edge 510 and Edge 200.
So far, I’ve ridden over 500km with one and have simply used the Edge 1000 as a direct replacement for my personal Edge 800 and this has already highlighted some of the key differences between these models.
The version I’m using is the top of the range performance bundle, which includes a premium heart rate monitor with a slightly redesigned strap over the version I have currently (it features a third pick-up point on the belt). This bundle also features some excellent new extras in the form of completely new speed and cadence sensors. As anyone who’s battled at times with the old GSC10 combined speed cadence sensor will know – these can be picky and annoying to get working properly and to keep working. I personally didn’t find them the most durable or reliable units.
The new sensors attach simply and easily by rubber bands to either the offside crank for the cadence sensor or with the attached rubber band in the case of the speed sensor, which then needs clipping to a wheel hub.
As for the unit itself, the Edge 1000 is noticeably physically larger than my Edge 800 and that’s had a lot of comment in other press coverage. The unit is slimmer though and the larger size means a bigger screen and I’m all for that as I am already finding it makes it easier to read and to see maps etc when riding. Interestingly Garmin have switch from using their own maps on the 1000 to including Open Street Maps for Europe as standard. These are great maps and I think it’s a good move as it means all Edge 1000 models come fully loaded with maps. You can run these on your Edge 800/810 and I’ve written about doing that here: http://girodilento.com/open-street-maps-garmin-first-thoughts-review/
When you switch on the Edge 1000 you’ll likely notice it works a lot faster than the older units. It obviously has a faster processor and loading routes to navigate with takes a fraction of the time compared to my old Edge 800. With my 800 I found the actual navigation along a route, I’d loaded sometimes a bit hit and miss. Some days it would give me turn by turn guidance as I’d asked, some days it wouldn’t and I could never figure out why. So far in this respect the new 1000 has been faultless – it seems much better at navigating via routes but I’ll keep testing … just in case.
For this new model Garmin have dropped the bike profiles that my old Edge 800 has, which might bother some people but to be honest, I cover per bike odometers using Strava when I upload my rides afterwards.
Speaking of uploading rides, the Edge 1000 features both wireless and Bluetooth compatibility and will automatically upload your rides to Garmin connect if you set that up. It’s a nice feature and works well and it’s just a little better again as Garmin have finally realised that lots of us want our rides uploaded to Strava. Now you can. Garmin have opened up their API to Strava, MapMyFitness and Endomondo. So now once you link your Garmin Connect account to Strava – your rides (with the 1000 and the 810) automatically sync wirelessly. This is great and seems to be working well – no need for cables and plugging your Garmin into your computer is a win. However, it just gives the date of the ride as the title and allocates the ride to your default bike choice. So some editing is required. It all seems to work quite fast. When I get home from a ride, in the time it’s taken to put my bike in my garage and walk into the house, my ride is up on Strava thanks to the wireless transfer. I like that.
Now, as a result of not having bike profiles, each time you switch on the 1000 it automatically scans for sensors as it doesn’t know which bike you’re using. I only have one set of sensors which I’ve been swapping across bikes (which is very easy thanks to the rubber band connections) but this appears to work well too. I’ve had one ride where it didn’t pick up the cadence and speed sensors automatically but I could easily “attach” them whilst I rode – it took about 10 seconds while I was riding.
The new screen features a different technology and now has a new automatic dimming feature to maximise battery life. It’s higher resolution and the colour reproduction is nicer and as a result I’m finding it more pleasant to view. Battery life seems decent, I had the unit on all day on a ride that meant being on the road for 7 hours following the mapping the whole way and there was still about 40% battery left. I think you’d get 10 hours real world battery life before you needed to start tweaking settings to extent it further. The auto-dimming is particularly good and I’m finding it’s a little feature that’s making living with the 1000 much, much nicer as it works so well.
One of the things that are new to me is “Personal Records” which pops up when you’ve set a personal best (according to the 1000) after a ride. It’s been funny watching power output records popping up after a Zone 2 Wattbike session, which highlights how it only matches what you’ve done with the device – it doesn’t look at your full riding history. It’s still a nice feature – just funny when you’re a more experienced rider.
As can be the case, early adopters reported a few software issues but I’ve not experience many issues as yet and the unit lets you know when a new firmware is available.
So far, I like the Edge 1000 more to live with than my 800. I’ve gone back to the 800 a couple of times just to check but for me the user experience is much better on the 1000 from these early impressions. If you’re not bothered about the bigger screen, faster speed or nicer user experience, the 810 might be the one for you as it’s a chunk cheaper. For me, though I’d be happier with the 1000 for all of those reasons. My 800 is sitting in a drawer now gathering dust and I’ve loved that device, clocking up over 15,000km with it
The Garmin Edge 1000 comes in two variations – one with the new sensors and heart rate strap for £499 and is available from a wide range of outlets including these:
That’s it for my first look, I’m off to try some of the specific Edge 1000 features like live segments, sharing where you are on the road, so loved ones (or fellow riders) can know exactly where you are. I have tried to use this but internet problems at home stopped the experiment – I’ll try again though as it looks like a great feature for those of us with loved ones who’d take comfort from knowing where we are (which in fairness was launched with the 810).
If there’s anything you’d specifically like me to check for you, please leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to do that.
If like me, you’d always wondered what it was really like to attend a bike launch, I thought you might find it interesting to hear about how I found attending my first ever press camp.
Rose Bikes have now facilitated a number of firsts for this blog over the years: They were the first brand to lend me a bike to review, back at the end of 2010. They were the first brand to lend me a disc braked road bike for review in 2013 (http://girodilento.com/rose-xeon-dx-review/) and they’re the first brand to invite me to join them at a bike launch in 2014.
However, jet setting off to Austria to find out and ride bikes wasn’t something I’d done before so when I saw my friend Dave Arthur from Road.cc was also on the guest list, I gave him a quick call just to check the basics out. The basic advice was to pack plenty of riding gear (for wet & dry weather) and to remember to take your pedals. Because the weather forecast wasn’t looking great, I did pack quite a bit of wet weather riding gear – more than dry weather gear to be honest. Obviously I also packed my camera, notepad and laptop.
My logistics were to be at Heathrow Terminal 1 in time for a 0650 departure on July 24th. This meant a 0330 alarm call, which was a struggle as I’m not a morning person. I got to Heathrow just after 5am and found absolute carnage in the check-in area. Four different airlines were trying to get flights checked in and baggage processed but the baggage carousel had broken. So there were about 300 people in a queue and flights were being called one at a time. After not moving in the queue at all after 30 minutes, my flight to Munich was called. I put up my hand and someone took me to a special queue and finally got my bags checked in. Then a stressful wait in a queue for security and x-rays meant I finally got to the flight about 90 seconds before the other UK guys boarded the flight. Nice one Heathrow!
Flying Lufthansa meant typical German efficiency and the flight to Munich was very pleasant. We all had instructions to head to an airport transfer service for a shuttle bus for the hotel in Austria. We had a short 20 minute wait for a connecting flight from Stockholm to deliver 2 Swedish journalists and we were on our way to our destination. Rose split their press camp into two halves. We were the second group but in total there were around 70 journalists from about 15 countries who attended the event.
I think we’d only driven for about 5 minutes before I was being impressed again by the quality of German infrastructure – including segregated bike paths which I saw regularly out of my window in the minibus on the way to Austria.
Upon arrival at the venue, a very nice hotel in the beautiful region of Tyrol (http://www.tyrol.com/) we checked in. Dave and I were sharing a room, so we dropped our bags and popped down to check out where everything was. A quick lunch was followed by the product presentations, where the Rose guys talked about their new BikeTown Shop opening in the second half of the year in Munich (they already have 6,000sq m shop in their home town of Bocholt. http://www.rosebikes.com/content/about-rose/the-rose-stores/rose-biketown-bocholt). In the new shop customers will be able to see all of the bikes, configure them on an iPad next to the bike, choosing exactly what spec they want and to place their order. Rose offers a high level of customisation options on their bikes and they told us that their customers greatly value this. I would too.
At that point the product designers introduced their new models. First Mountain bikes, then Road. Notes were made, photos taken and questions asked. We were then invited to get changed and go riding.
The new disc braked road bikes were in big demand with the press, so I put my name on the new super light aluminium race bike (Xeon RS) instead. I put my pedals on, set my saddle height, grabbed a drink, switched my Garmin on and pedalled off into Austria! I had no real idea where I was going. What I thought was a fully charged Garmin switched off with a dead battery 30 seconds after I started. So I started recording my ride via Strava on my phone. One of the Rose guys had suggested, I turn right then the first major left and follow the road around towards the right. So I followed my nose for a while and was surprised how busy the roads were. Lots of Austrian traffic. Most drivers were very polite and careful around me on a bike though, which was appreciated. It only took about half an hour to realise that I didn’t really know where I was and couldn’t remember the name of my hotel or the village we were staying in. I’d found a nice little climb with a view of the mountains and I started trying to work my way back in a loop to the hotel. This worked ok until I reached a right turn into a tunnel that was motor traffic only. So I decided just to retrace my steps back to the hotel and made a mental note to research routes a bit more before setting off next time.
Because there were lots of bikes I wanted to ride – going out for 40kms like I had, didn’t seem like a great idea. So I made a plan to work out a 15-20km loop with some climbing for the next day.
Dinner was in the Hotel and very pleasant followed by beers in the hotel bar that evening. After a 3:30am start, I was fading a bit by midnight and I turned in at the point I felt that the next beer might be a game changer (if you know what I mean).
The next morning after breakfast, Dave said that he was going to spend the morning on mountain bikes (they had chairlifts to the top of the mountains and apparently some great trails) but asked if I fancied joining him for a road ride in the afternoon. It’s always good to ride with company, so that sounded good to me.
I worked out my short route and got out to test it on the new top of the range road frame the Xeon X-Lite (800gms for a 57cm frame). With a bit of exploring and wrong turn or too my loop included gravel, tarmac, flat roads, and climbs. It was perfect for what I wanted and also had some beautiful spots for taking photos.
A second lap of the new loop on the new 11 speed 105 Xeon RS got me to lunch. Having been too busy to ride a lot recently, I was finding the climbing pretty hard going and I was riding nowhere near the big mountains that surrounded us.
Dave Arthur had been eyeing up the biggest mountain around us – the Kitzbüheler Horn which rises to just on 2,000m. After lunch Dave and I picked out the bikes we wanted to try, then Dave asked about the Horn. Thomas from Rose told us that a couple of guys had ridden it yesterday and said it was the hardest ride they’d ever done.
Thomas also told us that it was the hardest climb in Austria. 7km at an average of 14.7% with kicks to 22%. I think that pretty much decided that it had to be done for Dave – I wasn’t feeling so keen. I’m going to write a separate post about this, so you’ll have to wait to read that. What I can say though is that that was the afternoon sorted out.
That evening we were all driven to restaurant high up in the mountains with fabulous views and authentic Tyrolian food and entertainment – including Yodelling! It was a beautiful spot – good food and the music was fun – even if the two musicians had a slightly unnerving habit of staring right at you as they sang.
Once we were back at the Hotel, I partook in another few beers in the bar before turning in – again not too many as I wanted to make sure I could get as much riding as I could on as many bikes as possible. For me, this was a rare opportunity to ride a lot of bikes in a range and I wasn’t going to risk it with long nights in the bar.
Saturday was the final day of the trip and our shuttle bus left for Munich Airport at 11.45am. I’d had breakfast by 9, so was torn between starting writing up the visit or getting one last ride in. One last ride won and I took out the completely new Xeon DX road disc bike for about 15km. I’m glad I did too – it was very nice.
A quick shower, packing and a few final technical questions for the bike designer followed by a coke and ice cream in the sunshine with my fellow UK travellers before we left for the airport.
The flight back to the UK was a pleasure – more Lufthansa efficiency & our UK group said our goodbyes at the baggage carousel of terminal one. Even the M25 was unusally kind to me with a quick trip home to Kent.
If you hadn’t already guessed, I had a fantastic trip. As a blogger who typically doesn’t get this level of access to bike brands it had been an absolute treat. The guys (and girls) at Rose had been very welcoming and professional, whilst also leaving you the space to get on with the riding you wanted to do – no hard sell on the brand or the bikes, which in fairness they didn’t need. The venue had been fantastic and so was Austria.
I know that for the seasoned journalists on the trip, it was more just a normal part of their job. Even in what many of us would call a dream job, the novelty does eventually wear off and it becomes just another part of your routine. For me though, it was a complete pleasure and I’m very grateful to Rose for inviting me.
One of my biggest challenges for this blog is getting new product to test, perhaps especially bikes, so the ability to ride 5 different bikes over 3 days (even for short rides) is enormously helpful. We were also very lucky with the weather and that helped make the trip more enjoyable and productive too. The forecast had been for lots of rain and there’s no question it would have been very different in that case. However for everyone, the sun meant more riding and that’s good for Rose too.
I hope that Rose’s lead will mean that I get an opportunity like this again – time will tell.
My thanks again, particularly to Fin who looks after Rose in the UK, for the invitation!
Towards the end of last summer I received a pair of Capo Cycling’s upper mid-range SC-12 Bib shorts and a matching SC-12 jersey to review. By the time I’d spent enough time riding in them to feel confident in my opinions, we were well into autumn and it seemed too late to post. Obviously we’re now in summer again and whilst it’s later in the season than I would like, here are some thoughts.
Right from the first few rides and now many hundreds of kilometres later, this combination is the best summer riding kit I’ve ridden in. Both the jersey and the shorts are fantastic and a different kind of product (and a different level) to the also terrific Capo Pursuit bib shorts I’ve reviewed previously (http://girodilento.com/capo-pursuit-bib-shorts-review/).
The SC-12 bib shorts are a more technical product than the Pursuit with more materials, more panels, aspects of compression fit and they’re simply more of a race short than the pursuit. The detail and quality of manufacture are first rate and these are my go to shorts for when I’m riding fast or in hot weather. As yet, I’ve not found anything I’ve enjoyed as much in the 7 years I’ve been riding. I’ve done a lot of riding in these shorts and they’re also holding up well to regular washing.
To be more specific, the SC-12 are a part of Capo’s Super Corsa range which is inspired by European Race Design but still great for long days in the saddle. The fabrics are a range of technologically advanced textiles combined to create stretch where it’s needed and control where it’s needed. According to Capo their Warp Knit Carbon E and hydrodrop fabrics hold the structure of the garment and ensure the breathability. The bib shorts feature high-gauge lycra with single layer power leg bands. In simple terms there is a compression element to help reduce fatigue but but the single layer leg band does this without affecting line and the fit and they’re very comfortable on the bike.
In fact the funny thing about really good bib shorts is that they can feel restrictive when you’re off your bike but as soon as you get onto the bike and move your body into the right place with your hands on the bars and start pedaling you’ll feel really comfortable. The SC-12 is one of those kinds of shorts.
The pad in the shorts which I’ve also found to be excellent is the Elastic Interface Technology (EIT) Anatomic DP Carbon pad, which is dual density, compact size with antimicrobial carbon micro fiber to help keep you clean and dry.
Capo say this about the SC-12 on their website:
European race-inspired design with strategic panels for comfort in the riding position. Powerful muscle compression reduces fatigue, keeps your legs fresh. Anatomic EIT insert provides excellent protection with optimal fit. Push yourself your hardest in the SC-12.
For fit, I’m riding a size small. I’m just on 6ft/180cm tall and weigh 68/69kgs, so I’m moderately tall and relatively thin. I could get away with a medium too (and tried one) but prefer the snugger fit of the small size. It’s the same with the jersey, I have a cyclists physique (not a massive upper body) and again I find the small is a good race fit whereas I found the medium a bit loose. You can decide if I made the right decision from the photos!
The red colour of SC-12 jersey is particularly lovely, it’s a proper tomato red and works beautifully with the shorts as an “outfit”. The jersey is SPF50 rated so it’s a great jersey for a sunny day and I find that the fabric breathes very well. If I’m riding on a hot day – this is the jersey I’ll hunt out of my wardrobe above all others. The feel of the fabric is thinner than a lot of the other jerseys I own and that’s obviously an aspect of its warm weather performance but I haven’t only ridden it in the summer – that’s just where it’s at its best.
One of the things I particularly like about the Capo approach is that whilst style, quality and fit are all vitally important, Capo also work to create matching “outfits” which look terrific together and the SC-12 is a great example of this. A lot of cyclists aren’t especially coordinated in their look out on the bike and with Capo – there is an easy way to sort this. Simply choose the range that works for you and buy a matching pair of bib shorts and jersey. Job done. The bib shorts and jersey are designed to work together as a combination and you can’t help but look well turned out whenever you ride in the set.
Another big plus in the UK of riding in Capo is that you’re riding something that’s great quality but there aren’t loads of other people in it, which can be a plus. So if you like high quality riding kit, that’s well designed, constructed, and meant to help you look good as well as ride well – Capo should definitely be on your short list.
The combination of California and Italian style works terrifically well and Capo deserve to be a lot more visible and successful in the UK. As I said earlier, this combination (and the Capo Pursuit bib shorts I also have) have become my favourite cycling kit off that I own (in fairness, I love my Castelli Espresso Due Winter jacket as well).
Capo’s SC-12 range is available for both men and women and jersey colours also include black, neon yellow and pink. The SC-12 bib shorts retail in the UK for £125 and the SC-12 jersey is £90.
Capo’s clothing selection is extensive and each sub range offers slightly different characteristics in fit, performance and function. In simple terms the more technical the product becomes, with more technical materials, panels and typically more race fit they become and the price point rises according to the additional complexity. The simplest way to buy Capo, is to try an outfit, bib shorts and jerseys. Capo also make an excellent range of base layers and their socks are some of the best on the market too.
There a number of retailers across the UK who sell Capo and they’re worth seeking out.
On Thursday I was lucky enough to be invited to come and see Trek latest product showcase. Trek as a company is moving away from the concept of a model year in the traditional sense, so this was a chance to see the range including some new models and updates that I’d not personally seen before.
Trek’s been busy so far this year. The company has launched the Boone cross bike at the beginning of the year, the Silque womens road bike, the Emonda and launched Domane Disc bikes, so there was plenty of shiny new bikes to see. Trek have also trimmed their retail prices and boosted the spec of a lot of bikes, so as these come to market, Trek should be more competitive than ever – especially when you consider the lifetime warranty they offer.
Starting at the entry level, the One series carries over largely unchanged as it was launched last year and it’s a great entry level platform (as I’ve reviewed the 1.5 here: http://girodilento.com/2014-trek-1-5-review/). The 1.1 has a fantastic new colour called Liquid Red, which looks fantastic in person and makes the bike look much more expensive than the £600 asking price. The 1.5 has actually had it’s price reduced to £800, so it’s an even better buy than it was and also has a new gloss white with black and lime accents colour scheme, if you prefer that to the black one.
The Madone 2 series is the next step up and the pricing has been sharpened so that as well as the 105 specced version at £1,000 there is an extremely good looking new Ultegra spec version at £1200 including upgraded wheels. The Madone 2.1 will now be running 11 speed 105 and can be had in a Trek Factory Racing colourway, if you’re so inclined.
The matt black finish looks great and could easily be mistaken for a carbon bike at a glance. I think for me this was one of the stand out bikes of Trek World. It’s a terrific looking bike at a compelling price point.
This is where it gets interesting. The Madone 3,4,5 & 6 series are in the process of all being replaced by the Emonda range with only the aero 7 series Madone remaining for those who want an aero race bike.
The new Emonda comes in three variations of relative lightness. The Emonda S frame weighs in at around 1200 grammes and is available as a complete bike from £1200 – quite possibly the most affordable OCLV bike ever ( it uses 300 Series OCLV carbon in case you’re wondering). The £1200 model comes with a Tiagra drivetrain or you can get it with a full 11 speed 105 groupset (including cranks & brakes) for £1500, The Emonda S range tops out at £1, 800 for 11 speed Ultegra (also a full groupset) and is available only in Trek’s H2 geometry as is the next model up the range – the Emonda SL.
The Emonda takes another step up for the SL range where the frame weight drops to about 900 grammes. Complete bikes start at £1900 but the most popular bike at Trek World seemed to be the Emonda SL 6 which at £2300 in a bright red that Trek call Viper red with full Ultegra at £2300 looked to be a great buy.
For those who fancy a step up on gruppos, the Emonda SL can be had with Dura Ace (Emonda SL 8 DA) for £3100 or with SRAM Red for the same price. In Red spec, it’s a 6.8kg bike stock – not with particularly light wheels or finishing kit, so could be lightened further. The Emonda SL is also available as a frameset for £1350, which feels like excellent value, particularly when you include Trek’s lifetime warranty.
The Emonda SLR is where things get special …. And of course more expensive. The SLR frame weighs in at 690gms – very light indeed, again with a lifetime warranty and a rider weight limit of 125kgs!
Of course you’ve probably already heard about the range topping sub 5kg bike available for £11,000 which apparently already has a waiting list of buyers! It has a weight limit of 90kgs thanks to the Tune components used in the build, having a weight limit of 90kgs. One was on display hanging from some scales and of course almost everyone was taking it off the scales and picking it up (me included). Sub 5kgs feels amazingly light for a complete bike and it is cool! Out of my price range personally, but it’s not the model I’d buy if I did have the money.
Available in H1 or H2 fit, the Emonda SLR is available as a frameset for £3,000 and a complete Ultegra bike starts at £4,300. The Emonda SLR 8 with Dura Ace finished in matt black, white and gold was particularly lovely and only around 6kgs for a complete bike.
With a retail price of £5800 you’re paying around £1 per gramme. I don’t know if that’s good value or not – but it was a bike I could fall in love with.
The Emonda is designed to not only be light but also for stiffness and a compliant ride quality. Over 300 simluations and prototypes were created in the development of the bike and Trek were very bullish about how good the bike is (obviously). Interestingly, it’s a step away from aero given the Kammtail design of most of the Madone range it replaces. I was told that for most people you have to ride at a good speed for aero dynamics to work whereas most people will benefit from a lighter bike. The Madone 7 series is still there for those who want a race proven aero bike.
The Emonda is the first time that Trek have seriously chased light and I’m very curious about how they ride. It’s certainly a bike to give those who were considering a Cannondale SuperSix Evo something to think long and hard about and it should be a very different bike to ride than something famously stiff like a Venge or a Foil (less aero though obviously). Whilst talking about the bike, I was told that the Trek engineers and development team tried to re-create their favourite ride quality from the 2011 Madone and they experimented with a multitude of layups to get the Emonda just as they wanted it.
The Domane sees the launch of a range of disc models and seemingly some tweaking of price points across the range. A couple of the stand out models to me were the Domane 5.2 with full Ultegra and a fantastic orange paint scheme at £2500. For those with a touch more budget the Dura Ace equipped Domane 5.9 at £3300 also looks like a terrific bike for the money in a very pleasing Matt Black. The Domane’s have also had their pricing trimmed a bit and as much as I like the idea of Dura Ace for the non disc versions, it’s the 5.2 I’m most excited about. It should be a terrific all-rounder for UK road conditions.
The Domane Disc – a bike that makes an awful lot of sense for UK riding – a performance race bike for rough roads, could be incredibly compelling with discs. The Domane 4.3 disc features TRP’s terrific Hy/Rd cable operated, hydraulic calipers that I’ve ridden and been very impressed with before, it also features the new 11 speed 105 and obviously 400 series OCLV carbon. This bike retails at £1,900 and with it’s mudguard compatibility could be a brilliant winter bike. Although, if you’ve got that kind of budget – it might be tempting to find another £400 and stretch to the Domane 4.5 disc which features mechanical Ultegra 11 speed and Shimano’s brand new hydraulic disc brakes (R685) – they should give the 4 series Domane a bump in performance.
Another interesting disc (and non-disc) Domane is the 6.2 with a higher end 6 series OLCV frameset, Ultegra mechanical mechs and shifters combined with Shimanos exciting new hydraulic disc brakes (or the also excellent Ultegra caliper brakes). The disc version should be a terrific high performance rough road bike and it retails for £4,000. The non-disc version is £400 less at £3,600.
Of course if you have the funds and want the best, the stunning Domane 6.9 disc at £6,000 features Dura Ace Di2 and Shimano’s hydraulic disc brakes in a very light overall package. It’s also pretty stunning in matt black.
Trek Women’s Road range:
The Trek Women’s road range is stronger than ever with a number of exciting new bikes now coming to market. There’s now a strong range of choice for women who want performance road bikes from £600 to £8,500 depending on your budget and the type of performance you’re looking for.
The Lexa fulfils the role of both the 1 series and Madone 2 series in the range. The standout bike to me was the Lexa SLX at £1,200 featuring the Isospeed technology from the Domane in 200 series aluminium frame, carbon fork all in a stunning colour scheme called Seeglass Liquid red.
If Mrs girodilento ever decided to get into road riding, this bike would go straight to the top of my list. A fantastic looking bike.
The Emonda is also available in Trek’s women’s specific design (WSD) geometry and could be perfect for women looking for a lighter or climbing focused race bike. The entry level Emonda range offers the Emonda S 5 WSD with 105 11 speed for £1500. Stepping up to the Emonda SL range there is the lovely appleseed blue SL 5 WSD with full 105 for £1,900 or the crystal white SL 6 WSD with full Ultegra for £2300.
Emonda SL 105 Women’s specific geometry (WSD) – look great and the paint finish as usual with Trek was very high indeed
The top of the range Emonda SLR 9 WSD features Dura Ace Di2 and Bontragers Aeolus D3 carbon clinchers and weighs in at just over 6kgs. It also costs £7,800 if you’re keen.
More exciting news in the womens range is the new Silque range that’s hitting the shops around now. A completely new bike designed from the ground up to be perfect for the different centre of gravity that a woman has compared to a man – check this funny video to explain this difference in lay terms:
Trek’s Women’s Specific Design is about centre of gravity differences as it’s a myth that women have different proportions to men. Trek then went to Carmichael Training Systems who have a huge amount of data from riders they’ve coached to see if the different centre of gravity women have also means there is a different way women produce power as they ride. The short answer is yes they do and that a women requires a stiffer rear of the bike but a less stiff front of the bike – again as a result of a different centre of gravity and hence weight distribution on a bike, combined with differences in physical strength between the sexes. Ride quality is also tuned for each size frame for consistency across the range. Trek worked hard to deliver this balance and they reckon they’ve nailed it. One day I hope to have a female rider on girodilento to test products like this but for now, as a bloke, I’ll have to take their word for it. Sadly my photos of the Silque weren’t terribly successful, so sorry for the odd range of shots and angles…
There’s no questions the Silque is a terrific looking bike and I have to confess that I liked the pink one best. Seriously. Although the blue Silque SLX is also a great looking bike. The pink one is the Silque SL and retails for £2200 with the current top of the range SLX retailing for £3,000. The Silque is a high performance bike for women, designed to be fast enough to race but versatile for all kinds of riding for women who like to go fast. As I’ve come to expect from Trek the paint finishes are also great on the Silque range at all of the price points.
The one disappointment was the lack of ‘cross bikes on display. No Crockett’s or Boone’s, which was a shame. However the CrossRip range produced another highlight in the form of the CrossRip LTD, which has a burnished aluminium finish, terrific orange detailing (including hubs), 105 drivetrain and TRP Hy/Rd disc brakes with a retail price of £1200.
The CrossRip is an in between road and cyclocross geometry so a do it all kind of a bike – commute, tow path, a bit of muddy stuff, riding with your kids. Trek tell me it’s designed for longer distance commuters and it looks like it be very good for this. Add mudguards and rack and you could do a lot with this bike. I think it looks good at £1200.
Trek’s getting more serious about kids bikes again and hat a new range of Mystic girls bikes and an interesting Kids road race bike called the KRX S, which isn’t cheap at £600 but looked to be well better equipped than a lot of kids bikes I’ve seen to date.
Trek KRX S Kids Race bike
The Trek FX range of hybrids was on prominent display and it’s one of the UK’s best selling ranges. Again it’s great to see discs making their way onto these bikes too. I got to walk through a section of bikes for the Polish market that included “proper” Dutch style city bikes with Shimano Nexus hub gears, dynamo lights, fully enclosed chains and sit up and beg riding positions – but sadly there is apparently no demand for these bikes in the UK. I offered to buy one myself as I’d love a bike like this but apparently one sale is not enough to create a market. Our (and my) loss. I genuinely think it’s this kind of bike that’s fundamental to mass cycling happening in the UK. Comfortable, easy to ride, upright, low mainenance bikes that have everything you need and can carry your shopping or kids with you in comfort. It’s what the Dutch and the Danes use instead of cars to get around towns. Surely they could be special order items? Please! Mark Treasure’s written a great blog about bikes like this and the lack of them in British bike shops: http://aseasyasridingabike.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/where-are-britains-practical-bikes/
I might need a run around for the shops/train station riding around town on so something like a Trek FX 7.2 might have to do the job in the absence of a proper city bike option (see above!) – obviously with mudguards and a rack added to it!
Trek did have bikes from their recent acquisition of Electra on display which are a California-ised dutch bike and I’ll do a separate post on those. Some of them are very funky and maybe one of those could become my city bike ….. maybe
Bontrager’s new XXX Road shoe was one of the new product highlights. A pro level road shoe being used by a few more pros than just in the Trek Factory Racing Team including Geraint Thomas and Peter Kennaugh. Available in White or Red, it’s a striking looking shoe and a pair is yours for £260. I’ve been very pleased with the comparatively inexpensive Bontrager RL Road Visibility I’ve been riding recently but the XXX Road really did feel world’s above these.
There was also the very cool looking Bontrager Classique shoes with a black lace up finish and a great looking 12k carbon weave sole that might pique your interest….
With the rise in the number of disc bikes on the market, we’re all going to need more wheel choices and Bontrager are launching 3 new road disc wheelsets. The Affinity Pro TLR Road Disc wheelset at £850 a pair and weighing 1520gms a pair.
The Affinity Elite TLR Road Disc wheelset at £550 a pair, weighing 1655gms a pair and the Affinity Comp TLR Road Disc wheelset at £350 a pair and weighing 1750gms a pair. All are tubeless compatible and if you like, Bontrager have a range of tubeless tyres and kits for these wheels.
Bontrager’s very sexy looking XXX Integrated bar and stem caught my eye too. Extremely light at 236gms including a 110 stem length and featuring Bontragers new Blendr accessory mounting system. It’s not cheap at £400 but it looks great.
Blendr is a new means of mounting accessories like lights, computers, phones etc with the mount built into the stem. It’s available as an aftermarket product and some Trek bikes will come with this system as standard. Mounting accessories like Garmin’s etc, is messy and typically doesn’t look good, so this should appeal to the more particular of us.
So that’s my big wrap-up from Trek World, hope it’s been interesting and if you have questions, please leave a comment and I’ll answer as best I can.
Thanks for reading
July 21st, Addendum: I was asked for some extra photos of the new colours for the 1 series following posting this so, below are the extra pictures I have (not great but I hope they help):
The Dragon Ride is one of the most famous and most demanding sportives in Britain. It’s not an event I’ve ridden but this year my friend Damien did and I asked if he’d like to write a post about the experience and this is his story:
On the 4th or 5th of June I came home to a small and unassuming
envelope which I’d taken to be a circular until I finally opened it
and discovered enclosed my race number – 3747 – plus timing chip and various stickers for my bike and helmet. They filled me with dread – and not the thrill I’d had earlier in the year when I received my
“Accepted” magazine from the nice people that run the Prudential
RideLondon-Surrey 100. Let me explain…
I’d had a fairly simple strategy for my sportive preparations during
2013: Ride my bike. To be more specific, go and ride up as many hills
as it takes, and make sure I’d ridden the requisite distances before
heading to any start line. In other words, make sure I knew what I was
in for and make sure I was up to it because I’d already done something similar. With the exception of Whitedown Lane at the very beginning of last season, it had proven an effective strategy.
However, at the beginning of 2014 Mr girodilento and I had
hatched a plan to transform ourselves into fitter, stronger and harder
riding gods. Our principal motivation was to surprise and then destroy our regular nemesis, using a thoroughly professional one-two on the hills. After a careful analysis of the opposition’s training, the standout difference was (and is) his apparent (and somewhat unnatural) love of the turbo trainer. That and the many hours they while away together.
So a new strategy was born for 2014 – structured training. One of us
took to a Wattbike and the other (me) dusted down the turbo trainer
and subscribed to TrainerRoad. The theory of which had all seemed well and good at the beginning of the year; I approximated Wattbike’s Dragon Ride training programme using TrainerRoad rides, and off I went. My goal was to follow the lead of my hero/ nemesis and wear out my turbo trainer. I even mused about what I would replace it with.
Reality could not have turned out to be more of a stark contrast. I
had a series of chest infections which kept me off my bike. Normally I
would ride through coughs and colds, but with a very large ride
looming ever more threateningly on the horizon, I reasoned that rest
was a good idea. But here’s the thing, when that envelope dropped
through the door I’d completed just 6 of a 12-week programme. Worse, I’d begun deviating wildly from Wattbike’s recommendations. In a nutshell, I lacked confidence, was underprepared and turbo training had left me with a sore arse.
After quite a lot of discussion, I’d come to the obvious conclusion
that riding a compact was the sensible choice for tackling Brecon
Beacons. I’d recently bought a previously enjoyed Cannondale CAAD 10 (fantastic bike, by the way) and transferred my Ultegra 6700 10-speed over, installing a Praxis Works bottom bracket at the same time so that I could use it with the original Shimano cranks.
Unfortunately my rear wheel, a Mavic Kysrium Elite, was just about to give up the ghost, so I also put on the Fulcrum 3 wheelset which the previous bike owner had thrown in with our deal.
I’ve enjoyed riding the Kysriums, they’re a great value, light, stiff
and reliable wheel. To my rear end, they seem more comfortable than
the Fulcrums. Not to say that the Fulcrum is a bad wheel, in many
respects the two wheelsets are similar, but I guess it’s just what
I’ve become used to. And it made me think again about saddle choice,
because this is an area I’ve found hard to get right. Really hard. At
Scott’s recommendation, I bought and fitted a Pro Turnix Carbon
(142mm) and I have to say, it’s about the best thing I’ve ever bought
for my bike. Transformational is the word I’d use for it’s comfort
(it’s lightweight and relatively low cost too). Recommended purchase!
Five go mad in Powys
So off I went to Wales, full of misgivings. I met with my riding
buddies – two of the Schneider Electric lads with whom Scott and I had ridden coast to coast in 2013 – in Margam Park. They were being joined by two others.
One of our group looked strong and ready, having put in some hard
miles in Yorkshire leading up to the day. Three looked like they’d
just emerged from the pub smoking area after a lock-in. But the most
nervous was the fifth rider – me. During a very disturbed night’s
sleep, I’d spent a lot of time wondering if my son had any Tramadol
left over after a recent operation and whether it would have been any
help to me in the ensuing 12 hours.
One thing you have to hand the Wiggle/ Human Race people, they know how to organise a ride and get people off the starting line. We got through the briefing and across the start line very efficiently, and
quickly we were off towards Port Talbot on the flat. For the first few
kilometres we rode with hills to our right; I was reminded of that bit
in Braveheart when Wallace’s executioner draws back a blanket to
reveal the instruments of torture and ultimately, demise. My
confidence was that high!
Then we started climbing. Climbing, climbing, climbing. The first
20-odd kilometres took us up to about 500m; a proper climb. The sort of climb I’d wondered about whilst tackling our local, relatively
modest 100 – 150m hills. Something does happen in your head as you
turn and head up, turn and head up and, just as you think the summit
is sight, turn and head up again. I started to fret about what this
was going to be like on tired, 100-mile legs.
By way of reward, the scenery is absolutely magnificent in Wales. In
parts, stunning. Certainly amongst the best I’ve had the pleasure to
ride. The roads were very quiet and in the main, the surfaces in very
good condition. Certainly our Kentish roads don’t hold a candle to
them. At the beginning of the ride everyone was in good spirits,
cheered by the banter of the Welsh. The day started to warm up, and
although it never really got going weather-wise remaining drafty
throughout, it didn’t really rain other than a short shower.
The problem with riding the Dragon is that you’re only ever climbing
or descending. There’s not really any time spent on the flat to ride
your legs back into form. That’s my excuse anyway. The good news about the ride is that all that pain seems to draw people together. It is a good humoured ride, from the volunteers manning the feed stations to the marshalls and riders themselves, there was a pervasive
cheerfulness. I’m not sure whether this was down to the relatively
benign weather or mild hysteria, but bring it on.
Another point is the general standard of riding. Now I’ve ridden a few
sportives and although I wouldn’t say I’m an expert cyclist, in
14,000km over the last 30-odd months, I’ve shared the road with the
good, the bad and the downright ugly. OK, so on some of the tougher
climbs there was a certain amount of weaving (me too), and in some of the tighter lanes it was sometimes hard to make forward progress as slower riders formed roadblocks when gradients kicked in. But I saw and heard very little testiness, and descending seemed controlled and disciplined. On reflection, this may be in the nature of the ride and the people that take it on. Unlike some of the more “accessible” sportives, climbs are for climbing, not walking.
The hours ticked by, the climbs ticked off: Blwch, Rhigos, Penderyn,
Heol Senni/ Devils Elbow. Past the 100-mile marker and up the Black
Mountain. And even when you think it’s all over, a couple of steep and spiteful inclines, then out of Neath and up Cimla. We’d stopped at the feed station just around 150km in, and from that point my head had gone. I’d seriously considered abandoning or joining the shorter Medio Fondo. But in the end, there was no real choice but to dig in and press on. We closed up and rode together for the last 20km, me just looking at the wheel in front and hating every meter climbed over the publicised 3000m, every kilometer that we hadn’t expected.
And then there we were; back in Margam Park. Other than having to stop when the guy in front fell off at the foot of the Devils Elbow, I’d
ridden the whole thing. My biggest ride ever at 226km, with a healthy
3650m of climbing (significantly more than the 2250m which was my
previous record). It felt good, and it still feels good – a real
achievement. Even though I know at least one local rider for whom the Welsh Dragon was a training ride for an even bigger adventure in the Alps, I’m satisfied. I wasn’t prepared for how tired I’d be, even a
fortnight after, or how hungry I’d be. But it feels, well, righteous.
I was surprised how far and hard I can/ one can go when the challenge
presents itself. I have learned to trust the turbo – it is my friend.
I have also learned to hate the sweetness of energy gels, bars and
drinks when you spend a day in the saddle. By contrast, I have
discovered that salted, boiled potatoes in their skins are as fine a
food as you can get. But to understand that, maybe you need to get
yourself signed on to next year’s Wiggle Welsh Dragon Gran Fondo
I’ve been fascinated by the idea of Di2 from the start and have watched it with interest. However other than a short go on a Shimano Dura Ace 9070 bike on a turbo trainer, I’ve never ridden it.
When I built up my new NeilPryde Nazare/Alize test bike recently, it seemed like the perfect moment to make the leap to Di2. After some conversations with a few people including the good folks at Madison, I had bought myself a Di2 groupset.
I thought it might be interesting for people to see a little about how Di2 is installed and setup, so I took my camera for the build and took some notes to share with you. I’m no mechanic so my observations are pretty general rather than an instructional guide.
The first thing done was to run the connecting cables for the gear shifting through the downtube from the stem to the bottom bracket where on my frameset the internal junction box runs. Then the wires from the junction box to the front and rear mechs were installed as was the one for my external battery under the non drive side chainstay. In fact choosing the cables to connect the mechs and battery are really the only “tricky” part of deciding what you need to order. You need a cable from the each shifter to the junction box under the stem. You then need a cable to run from the top junction box to the bottom bracket junction box. Then cables from the bottom bracket junction to the battery and the mechs. Shimano sell the cables in a range of lengths, so it’s a matter of getting your tape measure out and working out what lengths you need to connect everything together.
Installing a lot of the components is exactly the same as a mechanical build – the brakes and brake cables, the cranks and bottom bracket (I went for a Praxis Works conversion bottom bracket to run my Ultegra crank in a PF30 frame).
Also the chain and cassette and even the rear mech mounts the same way as a mechanical one. The front mech is slightly different as there is also a bracing plate and bolt to stop the mech twisting under the significant torque the motor generates shifting between the front rings.
Once everything is installed on the bike, it was connected to a laptop to ensure that all of the electronic components each had the latest firmware. It is possible that if they don’t due to different timings of manufacture that they won’t work right away – checking and updating the firmware makes sure they’re all using the same software version. The laptop interface also gives you the opportunity to adjust how the levers work in terms of speed of shift or which buttons shift which gears. I left everything as standard except increased the speed of the shifts. Once the software was all up to date, Jack from Madison then set up the gear shifting.
Setting up the front mech was done with both front and rear on the inside cogs (so small ring at the front and biggest cog at the back). A Di2 mech over shifts and then trims back when it goes up onto the big ring, so setting the limits correctly is key. Once this has been done properly – it should just shift perfectly on an ongoing basis and does on my bike.
With the rear mech, again setting the limit screws is the first thing to do and once this is good, the shifting itself is adjusted. To do this you move rear cassette into the 6th of 11 gears (i.e. the middle gear) and enter the adjustment mode using the junction box at the stem. This is then your digital barrel adjuster that has 12 micro adjustment points in each direction from the middle – so 25 points of adjustment.
Pressing the gear shifters adjusts the gear shift position either up or down a fraction allowing you to really fine tune the shifting. Once that bits sorted – it’s done. It’s a simple but clever design and I think 25 points of adjust for the digital barrel adjuster seems amazingly precise.
Obviously one of the great things about Di2 is no cable stretch – so the gear shifting should stay bang on. I’ve done around 350km now and it’s still perfect. Fast, easy, silent and with a fantastic trimming noise from the front mech as you move across the cassette.
One piece of advice/warning I was given was that because of the power of the motors front and rear – NEVER press the gear shift button when you’re not riding as the motors are strong enough to bend the rear mech hanger or bend the front mech. So good practice is to remove the battery whenever you’re not riding it – if someone either accidentally or pushes a shift button or purpose it can do damage to your bike. The same goes for if you’re travelling somewhere in the car – if you go over a bump and your shift lever clicks on a gear – that can be a problem – so disconnect the battery. It’ll save you anguish, potentially cost and keep your gear shifting perfect.
Of course you have to then remember where you put your battery! I haven’t lost mine yet (nearly but not quite).
Charging the battery took about an hour the first time. Charges should last up to 600km. I took my battery out after about 250km to charge it just in case and it took less than 30minutes to charge. It’s really not something to worry too much about. Obviously the more you change gear, the faster the battery will run down – bot you’ve got hundreds if not thousands of gear shifts per battery charge.
Di2 Riding impressions:
Out on the road so far it’s been a joy to use. It’s not pefect – nothing is but it’s very nice indeed. Your are literally just pressing a button to shift. There is some feedback through the button but that’s the bit that’s not quite perfect for me – unless you press the button just enough it doesn’t always shift and I’ve missed a few shifts as a result. If you’re resting your finger on the shift lever hitting a bump can mean you accidentally change gear – but in fairness that’s a problem I have with my Campagnolo Chorus shifters too. Maybe my lever’s are a touch off but if you click more firmly it works perfectly every time. In the fast shift mode I’m using – the shifts are very quick – and perfect performed. The system trims itself as you move across the cassette meaning all 22 gears are perfectly usable – it also makes a cool noise as it trims which you and your riding companions will audibly hear! The front shift is impressive too and is fine under load – although I always try to lift off a bit shifting up on any bike I ride.
Having the gear shifting working so well also helps my bike run very quietly. Often riding with others when you get to a climb and people start lots of gear shifting to get to the right gear it can be quite noisy as chains clatter across cassettes but there’s none of that with Di2 – no clatter just smooth fast shifting. If you like a quiet bike – Di2 is the best thing I’ve found other than riding a steel bike for a quietness.
So apart from a few tiny niggles around the operation of the shift levers, I’m very, very impressed with Di2. Yes it’s not particularly cheap at roughly the same street price of Dura Ace 9000 mechanical but I suspect it’ll be both cheap to run (due to shifting better and looking after the chain cassette accordingly) and very reliable. This is the 4th generation of Shimano Di2 now, so it should be as reliable as any other high quality Japanese engineering!
It feels like a bit of an extravagance compared to say mechanical Ultegra 6800 which is really good too – but sometimes it’s nice to be able to have a treat and this one certainly is very cool as well as working beautifully. There are more bikes out there now with Di2, so it’s not perhaps the novelty it was say 12 months ago – but Di2 bikes still aren’t exactly everywhere.
My plan is for this to be a long term test, so I’ll keep riding it though the year and report in on any further findings. If you have any questions, please let me know. Thanks for reading.
I was recently sent some samples of the new Redant Precision range of bike cleaners to try out and see what I thought of them. I met Vern from Redant back at the Core Bike Show and found his story of wanting to bring a car detailing approach and quality of product to bike cleaning a compelling one. If you’ve not ever noticed the car detailing market, it’s full of people who take amazing care in the cleaning and presentation of their vehicles, agonising over ingredients and combinations of products for the highest quality finish and clean. It’s way too OCD for me personally, but I admire their focus and dedication and this applies to the products they use as well as the end result.
The team behind Redant come from a background in chemistry and have taken a similarly focused approach to developing their products, making sure they both clean and protect your two wheeled pride and joy. Many of us have a lot invested in our bikes, so the idea of a top end cleaning system specifically formulated for the materials and paint finishes common to bikes is an interesting one. My bikes are amongst my most prized possessions so products like this are something I was definitely keen to check out. When you think of how many £5k+ or even £10k+ bikes you can buy now – you’ll want to take fantastically good care of them.
Redant have created a cleaner and a finishing agent for matt carbon frames, painted bike frames (carbon, steel or aluminium) and for titanium frames. I’ve been sent a set of each to try. The ingredients are designed to be safe for each type of frame finish, the cleaners are bio-degradable and the cleaners are designed to be sprayed all over your bike including the drivetrain, thanks to a degreasing agent as well. The cleaners are also PH neutral to ensure they’re kind to your frame. The frame protector finishing protects are also designed for each type of bike. For example the carbon/painted frame finish has a shine enhancer for paint finishes, whereas the matt finish one has a UV protector to help protect from the effects of the sun.
I’ve now used the Matt cleaning system twice on my NeilPryde. The first was a very quick clean in the garden at dusk where I sprayed the cleaner over the bike, left it for 3-4 minutes then hosed it off just with cold water and used a microfiber cloth to clean over the bike with. For a start to finish clean of 6-7 minutes I was really impressed with how easy it was.
Yesterday I did another clean on the same bike. I’d ridden it three times without cleaning for about 190km of riding. The bike definitely looked dirty, if not completely filthy.
Following the instructions, I sprayed the matt finish cleaner reasonably liberally over the bike and then set my phone timer for 5 minutes. With about 45 seconds of the timer left, I decided I couldn’t wait any longer and began hosing the bike down with water. Again, I did this while wiping over the bike with a microfiber cloth. Just like the first clean, the dirt came off the bike incredibly easily.
From a first couple of goes with the matt finish cleaner, I’m very impressed. I’ll try out the carbon finish one next.
Yesterday, I also then finished the clean by applying the finishing agent, to protect the finish on my bike. It was also very easy to apply – simply sprayed onto the now clean bike onto all of the carbon parts. The frame protectors have a drying agent, so on a warm day it dryed very quickly. Once again I was wiping on the finish with a clean dry microfiber cloth to make sure it all went on evenly. Again it didn’t take long at all – but my bike looks great.