Giro D’Italia 2016: The Shark has pearly teeth

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Giro D’Italia 2016: Week 2 – “Age and Treachery”

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Giro d’Italia 2016: The Giro Multiverse

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Rapide RCDisc1 review

The Rapide RCDisc1 is a well-designed, endurance geometry, disc braked road bike that’s a comfortable and smooth companion for distance riding.


  • Well-sorted endurance geometry
  • Comfortable and smooth ride
  • Good long distance companion


  • Not the lightest
  • Mechanical disc brakes are poor compared to hydraulic
  • A little lifeless at low speeds

Since I posted my first look review on the Rapide RCDisc1, I’ve been out riding the bike on a range of types of rides, to fast social rides to longer 3 figure rides. As I outlined in my first look post, the designers at Rapide have done a good job with the core of the design brief. Disc brakes? Check Flat Mount Disc brakes? Check. Through axle – Check (on the front wheel). Internal cabling and Di2 compatiblity? Check. Good tyre clearances? Check Mudguard Mounts? Check Well-sorted endurance geometry? Check


On paper the Rapide RCDisc1 makes a strong case for itself. The spec is solid too – the new 4700 Tiagra looks great on the bike and is a pleasure to use. Don’t let this being specced on any bike put you off (including this one) as it’s very impressive. The FSA finishing kit is also solid. The compact bars have a compact 80mm reach, 125mm and a good shape. The matching FSA stem and seatpost also do the job well.

The Fulcrum Racing Sport DB wheels also do the job well, although they’re not light and they’re 6 bolt rather than centrelock (for fixing the rotors). The Continental UltraSport 25mm tyres are like the wheels – solid but don’t set the world on fire for performance. They performed fine during the test period but swapping to a pair of Kinesis RaceLight Disc wheels shod with 28mm Continental GP4000s were faster and more fun to ride. There’s nothing wrong with the stock choices, they’re just a bit heavy and sluggish but they’re tough and durable and didn’t let me down on the test. The tyres would certainly be the first part to upgrade once you’ve worn out the ones that come with the bike.

The TRP Spyre brakes were competent but they’re a real step down compared to the performance of Shimano’s full hydraulic brakes. The TRP’s improved once they bedded in and with the 140mm rotors, I often felt that the braking was one of the aspects of the bike I enjoyed the least. I think if it was my bike I’d be certainly stepping up to a 160mm, if not looking to switch out to a full hydraulic solution.


During the test period, I found that I enjoyed the Rapide most on long rides where I wasn’t looking to set a load of personal bests. The geometry helped me feel comfortable and suited longer days in the saddle. In fact I felt so confident with the stability of the geometry that I found myself descending (not steep descents) no hands and even round corners, just shifting my body weight. I wouldn’t do that on my race bike!

I found the Rapide a smooth ride as well as comfortable but as I said in my initial report, this did translate into a ride that felt a bit lifeless, especially at lower speeds. This actually worked in it’s favour on long rides as it make it easy companion over distances. Removing lots of buzz/feedback probably also makes it easier to acclimatize too as a newer rider. What was a bit of a surprise that the level of feedback from the bike increased significantly (and to me in a good way) at speed. I found that at faster points over 35kmh, the feedback through the bike was actually quite nice.


The weight of the bike isn’t exceptional at around 9.2kgs complete but at low speeds it feels a touch sluggish but it’s got good gearing and it was never a problem to climb any hill (unless I was considering an attack on a Strava KOM).

The Rapide was a bike I warmed to a little bit more with each long ride I did on it. It was a comfortable, smooth companion. It’d make a decent bike for anyone looking to do long sportive rides, where comfort and smoothness over outright speed wins the day. I reckon it’d be a good Audax bike too, as you can also fit mudguards (although it doesn’t have rack mounts). The frameset is well designed and thought through and it’d be easy to upgrade over time.

IMG_20160403_100710I tested the RCDisc1 with 10 speed Tiagra, but you can also buy a 105 version (RCDisc2), an Ultegra version (RCDisc3) and there’s also a frameset only if you want to build your own.

If you’re relatively new to road cycling and want a bike that stable, comfortable and easy to build your confidence on, then the Rapide is worth considering.

For more information visit:

Thanks for reading

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Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2016: Sometimes it snows in April

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First look: Rapha adds new colours to Core bib shorts and jersey range

If you didn’t spot the recent announcement, Rapha have launched a new “entry level” range called Core.  It’s a simple line to begin with a bib short and a jersey available for men and women. Likewise colours are limited but have just been expanded to six colours for men and five for women. The men’s bib shorts are available either in black or with white straps and the women’s short are waist only – no bibs.

Rapha core men's jersey colour choices
Rapha core men’s jersey colour choices

I have to say that I was surprised to see Rapha move down the price point for their range but it’s an excellent way to extend the brand and bring new riders in who might have either not wanted to or couldn’t afford to spend the higher prices.

What’s even smarter is that the designs reflect a pared down simplicity in a really smart way. I’ve been sent a pair of the shorts and a jersey to try and right from getting them out of the bags, they give the feeling that the design has been as considered as the higher end products but from a different perspective.

P1000601Rapha Core sees the designers attempting to make a simpler product with the quality, feel and fit of the more expensive ranges. At first glance, I think they’ve achieved this as the Core shorts and jersey are more minimal in design flourishes but seem to have the substance and quality of materials to justify the prices. On the website, Rapha talks about how they used the fabrics more carefully across the garments to keep them simpler (and the price down) such as the leg-gripper trim being also used in the jersey back and the material for the zip guard is used again in the sleeve tips.

P1000600The branding is also more subtle, which works very well with the simpler aesthetic. I think it’s a clever approach of doing something simple and doing it very well. As someone who personally likes to be a touch understated and favours quality without spending a fortune, the Rapha Core range seems to be very compelling – especially if it performs as it should.

As part of the value aspect, the Core bib shorts use the same pad as the considerably more expensive Classic bib shorts, which is a great move as it’s a very well respected pad. This is then manufactured with a dense-knit fabric and flatlocked stitche for comfort. The straps are a simpler design too but give an excellent fit on me at least.

P1000608I’ve worn the shorts a few times so far and have been very happy with them. For me, it’s still not exactly shorts weather (I feel the cold) but I’ve used them comfortably on the Wattbike and under some unpadded bib tights on a recent trip to the Ardennes. I have friends who’ve also taken the plunge and ordered them and have had a similarly positive early experience. The only negative I have noticed is that on my Core bib shorts, the writing on the care label has almost disappeared completely after 3 or 4 washes but I can’t find any other sign of wear at all.

P1000610Whilst you can certainly bike more complex and arguably more highly engineered shorts for the price, the Rapha Core bib shorts give a strong early account of themselves.

The jersey (I have the Navy colour), which once again demonstrates that Rapha have a great eye for colours, also provides a fine snug fit. The fabric has been given an antibacterial treatment and whilst the design is simple, it feels like a quality garment with just enough flourishes to make you feel that the company has put in some effort for the £75 asking price.

P1000595Both the Rapha Core bib shorts and jersey give the impression that they’re made to work hard and be worn often. Over the next few months, I’ll try to test that out and will report back.

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In the meantime, if you’d like to know more, visit the Rapha site here:

Rapha Core



Amstel Gold Race 2016: The Little Team That Could

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Training is hard

It’s not just the riding that’s hard about training…

In the 10 years plus that I’ve been riding bikes, I’ve found it easier and easier to find out about products related to cycling. As the world has moved further online, Google is there to help you find out about the latest bit of carbon bling (including helping you find this site).

I still struggle though to find the answers on training. Yes, there is lots more info out there. Every cycling magazine you pick up has at least one article on training. Most cycling websites have regular articles/posts on training and a new coach (if you have the funds) is also only a Google or a Tweet away. There are training platforms now too like Trainerroad, Zwift or Sufferfest – but which one is best for you and how will you know?

For all this wealth of information I have to admit I find it hard to translate this into deciding what’s best for me. What plan should I be following? How hard should it be? What should my power output goals be? How intensive should my programme be or not?

Everywhere you look there’s a view but is it right for you?

You could decide to try different plans but if they’re not working, have you just wasted your time or should you expect to spend years learning what works best for you? In a perfect world, we might well choose that, but if you only started riding in your 30’s or 40’s, that feels like a luxury that’s not practical.

After over a decade of riding, I still haven’t cracked this. For 5-6 years, I just got and rode as much as I could find time for. I did get faster but it plateaued at a level I couldn’t push through. I thought I could ride better but just going out riding didn’t help me past a certain point.

So I got a coach and at that point in time I wasn’t a great student. I wasn’t good at routine and I found the structured part of the plan impossible on the varying terrain I rode on. So after a few months, I waved the white flag and stopped being coached, having wasted both of our time to be honest.

What I had noticed was that one of my riding buddies had continued to get faster, whilst I hadn’t during that time. The only thing he did differently than me was he trained on a turbo trainer 3x a week all year round. Still that penny didn’t drop for me. I had a turbo trainer (and still do) and it stayed covered in dust tucked away in the corner of my garage.

Then I discovered the Wattbike and training with Power and Heart Rate and the penny dropped. I do believe that the best way to train with limited time is using a structured programme indoors. It’s not as romantic, glamorous or fun, but it’s efficient and effective with the right training plan for you.

When I first got a Wattbike, I downloaded their basic free training plans. I started with a sportive training plan (number 4 in case you were wondering) and I learnt to arrange my week to do the sessions. Within 10 weeks, I was riding faster than I ever had before and pushed through my previous plateau point, which was a revelation.

Since then, I’ve on and off the bike thanks to life. I’ve been sick with coughs and colds, busy with work and family and this has meant a number of periods off the bike. I’ve tried Trainerroad, which I loved but the training plans made me sick – really, they quickly ground me down and my health deteriorated. During the winter I tried the Wattbike winter training plan and that didn’t work for me either. After 13 or 14 weeks I had little stamina or strength and was pretty dispirited.

Some more time off the bike thanks to a busy work schedule took my fitness backwards again. I’ve been back out riding on the road recently and things are now moving slowly in the right direction.

I’ve now changed my views to the point that I think structured indoor training is essential for maximising the 4-6 hours a week I can typically find to ride. This has definitely delivered results and I’m a big fan of the Wattbike as part of this.

What’s hard though, is that I still don’t know what the right training plan is for someone of my age and for the limited time I have. I know I can ride well when I’m fit but how to get there still feels like following a mirage in the desert. As soon as I you think you’re there it moves again.

If this is something you also find difficult about cycling, please leave a comment. I’m trying to put a plan together that might help others as well as me. If that could be of interest, please let me know.

Also if you’ve found your own answer to this, please do tell me what it was, I’d love to hear.

Thanks for reading

Trek’s new Domane SLR – the key points

If you follow road cycling you’d have to have taken a media break or been under a rock to have missed Trek’s announcement of a new and improved Domane SLR yesterday.

There’s been almost blanket media coverage for the last 24 hours. The chosen cycling media (sadly not me) have been reporting first rides in places like Flanders amongst others and almost every other road cycling site has been reporting about the bike, including this one!


The Domane SLR is a big deal. Trek are one of the world’s leading bike brands and one that has put more and more engineering brains into their product development during the last 5 years. Trek in my opinion are an innovator and the original Domane also happened to become the biggest selling road bike for the giant US company. So a new model for the biggest selling model of one of the world’s largest brand is interesting. Especially as it features some new innovations to move the Domane on for a next generation of customers.

Fabian Cancellara who has favoured the Domane since the beginning has already won Milan-San-Remo on the new bike and was a key participant in the development process.

Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara of Trek Segafredo Team, on his arrival to the 2016 Strade Bianche from Siena's Fortezza Medicea to Siena's Piazza del Campo, Italy, 5 March 2016. Strade Bianche is a 176km road race containing seven sectors of white gravel roads. ANSA/CLAUDIO PERI
Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara of Trek Segafredo Team, on his arrival to the 2016 Strade Bianche from Siena’s Fortezza Medicea to Siena’s Piazza del Campo, Italy, 5 March 2016. Strade Bianche is a 176km road race containing seven sectors of white gravel roads. ANSA/CLAUDIO PERI

Here are the key points about the Domane SLR:

  • The IsoSpeed at the rear of the bike is now adjustable. This is a really interesting development. I rode the old Domane, which was a fine bike but felt a little over engineered for my low weight (and low power), tuning the ride comfort at the rear would have been very appealing and I think will help people tune the comfort to their own weight/style. It also means you can stiffen up the bike for smooth roads and soften it for rough – potentially maximising performance.New Isospeed Rear compliance setting options Trek say this new slider based design offers an extra 14% compliance over the original Domane on the softest settingAdjustable Rear IsoSpeed detail
  • There’s now Isospeed at the front of the bike – which adds an extra 10% compliance at the front. It’s the same principle as the rear and allows the fork steerer to move in the headtube to give 10% more compliance than the orginal Domane. This was an area the old bike was criticised for in some reviews – that the front felt harsh compared to the rear. My view was that was overstating it a touch as the front was still smooth riding relatively speaking but this new innovation should help make the front and rear of the bike more balanced over rough ground.The Domane SLR now also features IsoSpeed at the front fork
  • There’s a new IsoCore handlebar which increases vibration damping by 20% over a normal carbon bar. It’s an OCLV carbon bar with relatively long reach 93mm and a compact 123mm drop and weighing around 250gms depending on width. The bar features replaceable IsoZone padding to help deliver the vibration reduction.
  • You can get the Domane SLR in either caliper brake (direct mount) or disc brakes (flat mount) but there’s a 0.8kg weight penalty for disc brakes. For my current weight the impact on overall bike and rider weight is around 1% extra for the disc version – so while it feels more when you pick it up – you’re not going to notice that difference so much when riding.
  • The frame weight stays the same – even with the new IsoSpeed designs
  • Wider tyres clearance but still with mudguard/fender mounts. You can now officially run 28mm tyres on the non-disc bikes or 32mm on the disc versions. Early reports suggest you may even fit wider if you want to depending on the tyre/wheel rim combination you’re using. The switch to direct mount brakes is said to have helped the caliper braked bikes run wider tyres.Tire Clearance Direct Brakes with 28mm tyres
  • Disc brake bikes change to Shimano’s new flat mount system and their recommended 12mm front and rear through axle, which should be a tiny bit less stiff than the previous 15mm front and rear (which was super stiff). This is on-trend for the new year but don’t worry about it if you’re running the old one – the other standards will continue to be supported.
  • New control center under the front bottle cage for Di2 Control module. The new rear IsoSpeed design means you can’t run an internal Di2 battery in the seat tube. Trek have worked around this to lift the control module idea from the new Madone and bring it to the Domane SLR.Control Center
  • Geometry – available in Race Shop (pro) and Endurance (normal people) geometries as before. The pro endurance geometry features a longer wheelbase, lower bottom bracket and shorter head tube length to give a more aggressive posture. The standard Endurance geometry should enable most people to get a good fit for all day riding.

All of these changes take an interesting and successful bike to the next step in its evolution.  I think these look like more than marginal gains and to me the Domane SLR looks like a really interesting bike. It’s an engineering heavy design with the front and rear IsoSpeed, when most other companies seem to focus more on carbon layups and tyre widths than physical engineering (as a generalisation).

The ride reports I’ve spotted seem to be suggesting this bike is a step forward and I hope at some point to be able to try one myself.

If you own an original Domane and are happy with the comfort and ride quality, there’s probably no need to upgrade – if you were thinking of a smooth riding bike for rough roads, this ought to go on your short list if the budget works for you. In the UK, with our roads continuing to deteriorate, bikes like the Domane SLR could help you continue to enjoy riding regardless.

Speaking of budget, the new Domane SLR range comprises of:

Domane SLR 6 £3,600 (USD 5,000) 7.46kg, mechanical Ultegra, Bontrager direct mount brakes, Bontrager Affinity Comp wheels, 28mm tyres, Matt black

Domane SLR 6 Disc £4,000 (USD 5,500) 8.3kg, mechanical Ultegra, Shimano RS805 flat mount brakes, Bontrager Affinity Comp Disc wheels, 32mm tyres, Matt Black

Domane SLR 7 £4,400 (USD 6,000) 7.49kg, Ultegra Di2, Bontrager direct mount brakes, Bontrager Affinity Comp wheels, Semi-gloss Crystal White/Orange

Domane SLR 7 Disc £4,800 (USD 6,500) 8.3kg, Ultegra Di2, Shimano RS805 flat mount brakes, Bontrager Affinity Comp Disc wheels, 32mm tyres, Semi-gloss Crystal White/Orange

Domane SLR 9 eTap £7,600 (USD 11,000) 6.76kg, SRAM Red eTap, Bontrager Direct Mount Brakes, Bontrager Aeolus 3 carbon wheels, 28mm tyres, Bontrager Affinity Pro Saddle, Matt Black/Viper Red

Domane SLR Frameset £2,400 (USD 3,000)

Domane SLR Disc Frameset £2550 (USD 3,000)

For more info, visit the Trek website or your local dealer.

Here’s a short video on how the front IsoSpeed works from Cycle Fit in Manchester:

Trek’s own PR video for the bike is here:

If you’ve not seen it already, you might enjoy the GCN video walking you through the bike and featuring a first ride in Flanders:

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You can subscribe now for less than 3p per day by clicking on the green button below:

Shimano RP9 road cycling shoes first look review

A little while ago, Shimano announced a new range of cycling shoes designed for the grand fondo and sportive rider. These new shoes, according to Shimano, “bring the optimum balance of speed, rigidity and all-day comfort to the power-transmitting platform”. Three models were launched: the RP2, RP5 and the top of the range RP9. Also launched were new women’s shoes, the RP5W, RP3W, RP2W and the WR84.

Conceptually this made a lot of sense to me, as for long or fast recreational riders, I don’t necessarily want the same things from my shoes as a racer. But I do want something high performance, comfortable and fit for purpose.

P1000634I’m currently trying a set of the top of the range RP9 shoes and first impressions are very positive indeed. The RP9 brings the same heat molded custom fit tech from the higher end race shoes. The look is clean and also mimics the more aerodynamic outer design as seen in the R321 and R171 as the fastenings pull the shoe closed into a shape that seeks to smooth airflow over the shoes, which also makes for a very uncluttered aesthetic. The lower two straps are Velcro and a reverse ratchet strap at the ankle allows for more fine tuning of fit. The shoe has a sort of a clam shell fit that wraps around your foot as you put them on. It’s a little unusual but it works well and is how the aerodynamic shaping is achieved.

The carbon weave Dynalast sole, is rated 11/12 for stiffness, which is only slightly less than the top of the range R321 race shoes. It also looks good, has vents at the front of the toe and under the toes as well as the obligatory 3 point SPD/Look cleat fittings. There are further exhaust ports for air flow on the upper to let air pass through the shoe from the inlet under the toes.

P1000632The syntethic upper is marketed as being durable and it has a pleasing lack of obvious branding and logos. It’s available in two colour choices – white or black. Out of the  box, they feel like durable shoes and in fairness, my other pair of Shimano shoes have lasted very well, so I’m optimistic that these should too.

As a higher end model in the Shimano road shoes range, the RP9 also feature custom fit insoles which can be heat treated by your dealer to fit you even better. I’ve not taken that step, rather just put on my cleats and got out on the road.

In what was a perfect way to begin with these shoes, I took them with me on a trip to the Ardennes in Belgium this week. I’ve put in around 100km in them and climbed a couple of thousand metres.

My first impressions are that these are the most comfortable shoes right out of the box I’ve ever ridden in. For me, there was no “wear in” period at all. Once the cleats were in the right spot, I felt very comfortable from the first kilometre. The first ride took 4-5 hours and I was totally comfortable throughout, which is exactly what the shoes are intended to deliver. The fit of the shoes is excellent and to me they felt just slightly wider than my other Shimano shoes. The reverse buckle and Velcro straps gave a perfect fit. Power transfer was good. The overriding sensation was simply of comfort. I think they look good too, but that’s a personal thing.

P1000633I intend to keep riding the shoes over the next month or so and will update this review to see how they cope with a range of conditions and temperatures. First impressions are excellent. Right now I can’t think of a reason not to recommend Shimano’s RP9 road shoes. They look good, fit well, are easy to adjust and extremely comfortable. If you’re after shoes that help you stay comfortable for long rides, definitely put these on your short list.

The Shimano RP9 shoes retail for £174.99 which I feel is very good value for the quality of the product, but as always, you can find even lower prices if you shop around. Included in the price is a simple bag for keeping the shoes in when you’re not wearing them, which is a welcome addition.

You can find them at Wiggle here or Evans Cycles here

You can find more information here:

Thanks for reading

Updated August 2016: I’ve now posted my final thoughts on these shoes here:

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girodilento Hall of fame: NeilPryde Nazare (Alize)

I’ve decided to create a new category for the products that are my favourites from everything I’ve reviewed during the last 6 years and over 400 blog posts. The NeilPryde Nazare (Alize) is the first of those reviews. I love these NeilPryde aero bikes, they’re fast, comfortable and fun. If you’re lucky you can also pick them up at a bargain price.

Not long after I begin this blog back in 2010, I wrote a post about the brand’s launch (  I sent NeilPryde a link to my story and a series of discussions ended up with me being appointed the UK agent to help launch the bikes to the press and to customers. Part of that meant I ended up buying one of the first of, what was then called an Alize, in the UK.

My original NeilPryde Alize
My original NeilPryde Alize

I remember that the day the bikes arrived at my house, I had a potential customer travel from London to try them out in the dark. Much like me, he was smitten as soon as he rode the Alize. Right from the first few hundred metres, we both were saying that it just felt “right”. He bought one and for me it was the beginning of a cycling love affair that’s still going strong in 2016.

To date, I’ve ridden around 6,500km and am on my second one. I had to sell my first one to pay some bills a few years ago and regretted it immediately. This began a process that led me to my current Alize, which is a 2013 model – just before the name changed to Nazare thanks to the legal department at Specialized, who were concerned that buyers for their aluminium Allez might be confused by a carbon aero bike called an Alize. I still call it an Alize but officially it’s now a Nazare as NeilPryde figured it wasn’t worth an expensive court battle for their small bike company.

My current Ultegra Di2 NeilPryde Alize/Nazare
My current Ultegra Di2 NeilPryde Alize/Nazare

I haven’t worked with NeilPryde for over 4 years but I still love the Alize. Aero bikes were traditionally uncomfortable and not the greatest to ride, but the Alize has always been a joy – smooth fast and comfortable, really everything I want in a bike.

I got back on mine after the winter last weekend and had forgotten how fast it was. It’s a good feeling and it made for a fun ride.

Kammtail tube shaping on the down and seat tube
Kammtail tube shaping on the down and seat tube

The frames have a few tricks up their sleeve these days, but the core has remained unchanged: high modulous carbon, Kammtail frame shaping by BMW Designworks (wind tunnel tested), tapered fork, a second seatpost option so it can double up as a TT bike, internal cabling. The frame weight has been lowered over time.

When NeilPryde worked with the United Healthcare (UHC) pro cycling team, the riders loved the bike but wanted less weight and stiffer front end. NeilPryde tweaked both and added Di2 compatibility as well as improved power transfer and a PF30 bottom bracket.

Chunky PF30 bottom bracket area gives excellent performance
Chunky PF30 bottom bracket area gives excellent performance

UHC said thanks by picking up nearly 100 pro podiums in the year they rode the revised bikes. So it’s well and truly race proven.

The geometry is excellent too, it’s race bike geometry but sensibly so by not being super low in the front end. I was told by the company that they consulted with someone on the geometry who’d ridden a number of grand tours, which might explain why it works so well.  It’s a bike that I’ve never had to doubt the handling on. This is a bike that’s always up for riding as fast as you want. Some race bikes urge you to attack all the time, the Alize/Nazare is a bike that works with you to go as fast or slowly as you like. It’s quite happy cruising along the lanes as you chat to your mates as it is attacking a high speed series of bends. I’ve ridden few bikes that can do this so well.

Shaped headtube has been stiffened up over the years to improve front end handling
Shaped headtube has been stiffened up over the years to improve front end handling

My original Alize could even run 28mm tyres! Although the moulds haven’t changed, I can’t manage that on my new one but there’s plenty of room for 25s. My own Alize is running Shimano’s fantastic Ultegra Di2 and is usually to be seen with a pair of Reynolds 58 Aero wheels which are a wonderful compliment to the frame. Fast wheels make the NeilPryde Alize/Nazare even faster! They look great too and make for intoxicating combination.

For me the bike is also a terrific test platform as I’ve spent so many miles riding these frames they’re a great benchmark – especially for aero components.

Internal cable routing capable of running mechanical or electronic groupsets
Internal cable routing capable of running mechanical or electronic groupsets

NeilPryde have struggled to cement their place in the cycling market in the UK with multiple changes in distribution over the years and this has meant that it’s been possible at times to pick these bikes up at really cheap prices. At the time of writing, Wiggle has a range of NeilPryde Bikes for sale at half retail price. These represent a fantastic buy if you want a bike that’s fast, fun, comfortable and suitable for everything from crit racing to weekend everyday riding. I can’t think of another aero bike with a high modulous frameset for anything like the value.

A terrific high modulous carbon frame, that's fast, fun and comfortable
A terrific high modulous carbon frame, that’s fast, fun and comfortable

Over the years, several of my friends have also ended up buying Alizes and some of those early customers have ended up friends. For all of these riders, it’s been amazing how universally positive they’ve been about the bikes. I’m not the only person I know who sold theirs and then had to track down another as they missed it so much. I also know owners with top end Italian exotica in their fleet but spend most of their time riding their Alize.

The NeilPryde Alize/Nazare well deserves its place on the girodilento Hall of Fame. It’s a fantastic bike and if you buy right, also an excellent bargain that offers a terrific blend of speed, comfort, performance and fun. It’s a hidden gem in the cycling market that riders in the know will seek out as a fantastic aero bike for all types of riding.

For more information, visit:

You can check those Wiggle bargains out here: NeilPryde Nazare Ultegra & NeilPryde Nazare 105

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My original NeilPryde Alize out for a ride with an Italian friend
My original NeilPryde Alize out for a ride with an Italian friend

Lezyne Alloy Digital Drive ABS2 track pump review

I’ve been using Lezyne pumps for quite a few years. I began with a Road Drive pocket pump for out on the road but over time I’ve embraced Lezyne track pumps too.


For the last few months, I’ve switched to the latest version of Lezyne’s alloy track pump. It’s now called the Alloy Digital Drive ABS2. Not the catchiest of names but it represents the next step in an evolutionary journey. Several generations ago, I began with the version featuring the now superceded screw on valve (that you switched orientation to change from presta to shraeder valves). This is now called the ABS Flip Thread Chuck HP and It worked very well (unless you were running Continental inner tubes with loosely fitted valve cores, as they often came out when you unscrewed the pump, which was incredibly annoying) but it was time consuming to get it on and off. Effective but fiddly.

These earlier pumps also had an analogue pressure gauge and you can still buy Lezyne track pumps with analogue gauges if you prefer. However Lezyne also released digital gauges for greater accuracy, which was an improvement I’ve been very happy with. Around the same time, there was also a new dual valve head  added to the range, which I’ve very much enjoyed. It was a major step forward in ease of use and matched to the digital gauge became my preferred choice. So much so that I’ve just given away an old Specialized track pump that was a previous favourite.


So I was surprised to receive this new improved Alloy Digital Drive ABS2 as I’d been extremely happy with the pump I had. I have huge respect for Lezyne in that each year they seem to improve already very good products and this is a classic example. The Alloy Digtal Drive  ABS2 has a completely new valve – it’s the ABS2 part of the name.

The ABS2 chuck is a clever piece of engineering. It can be used on either presta or schraeder valves with a slightly different technique and the video below is incredibly helpful in showing you the technique for use.

If you’ve watched the video you’ll see the presenter confidently fitting the new head onto a presta valve with a simply one-handed technique that looks a piece of cake. You pull back the outer red sleeve, push it like that onto the value, push the outer sleeve forwards and turn clockwise to lock into onto your valve.

You then pump up your tyre, adjust pressure if you need to via the easy to use bleed button then simply pull the ABS2 head back off your value, pulling it from the sleeve part of the head.


It looks a piece of cake in the video. To be frank I’ve found it much trickier than that to get it on my bikes, particularly in the first month of use. It’s usually taken me two or three goes to get it onto a wheel. Sometimes I get it right on the first go, much like the video but more often than not, it takes more than one attempt. I’m not the most mechanically sympathetic guy in  the world, so I think I make a good real world tester.

I found myself going back to the dual valve head pump quite a bit to begin with, even though it needs two hands to operate, whilst the ABS2 head is a one handed operation (I’ve tried it with two just to be sure). In fairness, I’m now getting the hang of it better and it’s becoming more natural to use and get right more regularly on the first go but it’s taken longer than I’d have thought.

P1000615There’s no question, this new head feels like a cleverer, better engineered solution and when you get it onto your valve in one slick movement you feel extremely positive about this pump. When it’s taken more than one go, I’ve looked longingly at my Dual Valve version as a simpler, if less elegantly engineered solution.

The great thing about Lezyne’s extensive range is that you have the choice. If you want a really clever valve head, combined with a digital gauge and are reasonably confident with your dexterity, then the Alloy Digital Drive ABS2 is a very good track pump.  If you want something with a simpler, more idiot proof valve, the Dual Drive version might be for you, although you have to step down to the cheaper steel drive version to do so. If you want an analogue gauge instead of a digital one – no problem – there are plenty of options for those and it’s possible to get a dual valve head with an analogue gauge, if that’s what you need.

P1000642There is now also a taller version of the alloy drive pump too, which is largely about comfort – it’s nicer to bend down less to pump up your tyres. I tried this version at a recent show and as silly as it sounds, it is indeed easier to pump your tyres up with. You bend down less and it is more comfortable.

Of course being Lezyne if you buy a pump with one valve head and decide you want to get another type, you can buy them as accessories and switch. You can also get spare parts including replacement gauges, either digtal or analogue.  I’ve been using these track pumps for the last few years and they’ve been faultless in terms of performance. The only maintenance I’ve done was to change the battery in my digital gauge, which was a piece of cake.

The pump is rated at up to 220psi or 15 bar, which is way more than most of us will ever need, especially in this age of wider tyres and lower pressures. The wooden handle feels good in the hand and the base is rugged (although they scratch a little with use over time) and together they make for a reliable workhorse.

The Alloy Digital Drive ABS2 is another excellent product from Lezyne and I have no problem recommending it apart from my caution about the learning curve in technique for using the ABS2 head.  I did and still do find it a bit more fiddly than I’d like to get it onto my wheel, but once it’s on, it works very well indeed.  You might be a bit better at using the valve head than I am. As I said I’m not the most mechanical person you’ll ever meet, so I’ve found it just a bit challenging and at times annoying. For me the Dual Valve head was easier but it’s not as nicely deigned or engineered and I do think the new version is a better product.

Lezyne have a wide range of terrific pumps and I’ve little doubt you can find the perfect one for you out of the choices available.

More info at can also be found at

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Zipp skewer and hub recall, what customers need to know

2015 Quick release recall:

This week Zipp announced a recall on some Zipp quick releases. The affected models can fail to engage in the closed position, creating a potential crash and injury hazard. SRAM say that to date they’ve not been any reported incidents due to this.

The skewer recall affects 18,530 titanium and steel quick releases between March 2015 and December 15th 2015. You can identify if you have the models being recalled using these images as there are no specific part numbers.

Zipp qr ID

To arrange replacements, contact the Zipp retailer you bought your wheels from, who should contact their nearest SRAM tech centre ( for UK readers, In the United States consumers can contact SRAM at 1-800-346-2928 from 9am – 8pm (EST) Monday through Thursday and 9am – 6pm (EST) on Friday).

Zipp 88 hub recall

In addition to the quick releases, Zipp (SRAM) are also recalling Zipp 88v6, 88v7 and 88v8 aluminium front hubs as the flanges can fail posing a crash and injury hazard.

There are no specific model or serial numbers on the hubs to identify them.  You can identify if you have affected hubs by checking if they have a separate flange ring as show in the photos below. The affected model 88 hubs were offered in multiple colours (including silver, grey and black). The flange ring should be easy to spot using these photos:

Zipp 88 hub silver large

Zipp 88 hub grey and black

The later version of the 88 hub, v9, does not have a flange ring and is not affected.

flange rings

hub in wheel

If you suspect you have a wheel affected by this recall, please STOP using the wheel immediately and contact the dealer you bought the wheel from.

Your dealer should then contact Zipp via their nearest technical centre ( for UK readers, In the United States consumers can contact SRAM at 1-800-346-2928 from 9am – 8pm (EST) Monday through Thursday and 9am – 6pm (EST) on Friday),  who will arrange for the wheel to be rebuilt.

SRAM and Zipp have spent the last 24 hours putting in place resource to facilitate this and your dealer will assist you in getting this process.

For further information, you can visit Zipp’s recall page on their website here:

As stated, your first point of call should be the dealer you bought the wheels or skewers from. If you have any trouble getting help, please feel free to leave a comment and we can pass these onto Zipp for you.

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Trek Crockett 9 Review

In this follow up post to the first look I wrote on the Trek Crockett, I’m going to start by saying that I’ve enjoyed this bike enough that I’ve now bought it. When Trek got in contact to ask if I was ready to return the bike, I decided that I’d rather get my credit card out than box it up and send it back

Mid ride muddy-ness
Mid ride muddy-ness

Since my first look post, I’ve spent more time out riding the Crockett in a variety of terrains and situations.  I’ve spent more time off road and also I’ve swapped out the stock Bontrager wheels and tyres out for some Kinesis Racelight Disc wheels with 28mm Continental GP4000S II tyres and done some winter road riding too. For me the Crockett continued to perform in every type of riding.

On the road it was lots of fun. The Kinesis wheels are very good and the 28mm GP4000S II are comfy and quick. I rode the Crockett hard on a group ride with some friends, who were mainly on aero bikes with deep section wheels and I had a lot of fun trying to keep up. Although outgunned by faster lighter aero machinery, the Crockett was a fine companion on the road.

A key reason why I’ve taken the plunge and bought it is that I’ve really enjoyed the geometry. As I mentioned in my first look post, it’s not quite as long and low as many other options out there and after a recent bike fit, I’ve been looking for shorter reach and a higher stack in any bike that I’m considering adding to my own fleet.

Geometry Comparison
Geometry Comparison

As you can see, compared to my current road bike benchmark (the NeilPryde Nazare/Alize), the reach of the Crockett is only 2mm longer and stack is 6mm higher and this works really well for me. The size 56cm Crockett even shipped with a 100mm stem making me feel comfortable on the bike from day one as I use same stem length on my road bike.

I said in my first look post that my biggest issue with the Crockett is the pricing, particularly in this spec. It goes someway to making up for this by being a great looking bike with a spec that works very well. I’m not planning on changing anything on the bike at present – everything works and it’s mostly what I would have picked by choice or at least nothing bothers me enough to feel the need to spend money to replace it.

Rear disc brake design is post mount and neat
Rear disc brake design is post mount and neat

I’ve mentioned my love for the Shimano hydraulic disc brakes specced on the Crockett 9 before. They’re amazingly good off road, simply marvellous. On the road ride with my buddies, it was wet/drizzly and I had so much more control at any braking point it was staggering. In fairness they were on deep section carbon wheels and caliper brakes which are at their worst in wet conditions.

The Bontrager finishing kit works well too. The bars and bar tape are comfortable and feel good in the hand – the shape is good. The carbon seatpost contributes to a level of ride comfort that still pleasantly surprises me every ride.  The only negative of the carbon post is that the finish has scratched easily, especially running a light on the seat post on a muddy day. But it’s a Cyclocross bike, it’s going to get muddy and a bit scuffed.

Trek Crockett 9 drive side view - great colour scheme!
Trek Crockett 9 drive side view – great colour scheme!

The paint finish on bike still makes me smile each time I get it out of my garage, it’s a terrific colour and I think it looks expensive (which it is!)

The Bontrager Paradigm R saddle also works perfectly on the bike. I’ve had a bit of an odd relationship with this saddle. I’ve tried a few models in the range of road bikes but this is the best it’s worked for me on a bike. It’s staying.

Cable routing detail, Trek Crockett 9
Cable routing detail, Trek Crockett 9

Whilst Trek have recently tweaked the Crocket range to include new colours and specs, this is still the model I’d have chosen as being the top of my wishlist – in fairness it’s now a close call with the red SRAM 1×11 spec.

Some might argue that the 15mm front through axle and quick release rear are not cutting edge, I like the combination a lot and it’s very easy to live with. I’m also told by those that race that the quick release rear makes turbo warmups very easy. The post mount disc brakes are no longer cutting edge either as the market is now moving to the newer flat mount design but post mount brakes work perfectly and will be around for as long as I have the bike (in my opinion).

The Crockett frame (and fork) give a really nice ride quality, the bike feels light and sufficiently lively on the move with good feedback. It’s stiff but comfortable to ride and with lighter wheels would be very spritely.  Certainly when I swapped out the wheels to the lighter Kinesis Racelight Disc, the bike accelerated better and was fun to ride on the road. Ultimately, it’s the ride quality that you fall for with any bike and I’ve been really impressed by the Crockett. It feels very well sorted and flatters my inability off road. It’s a pleasure to ride and it’s a bike that feels like it’s working with you on each ride in an unflappable way.

Trek Crockett 9 rear 3/4 shot. Mud clearances are good for a race bike!
Trek Crockett 9 rear 3/4 shot. Mud clearances are good for a race bike!

As I’m not racing, the Bontrager Affinity Comp’s wheels seem tough and roll well even if they’re not the lightest. They’re wheels that give you the impression that they’ll take a beating for years without complaining. Time will tell. They’re staying on the bike for the foreseeable future.

The Crockett is also a flexible bike. I can fit mudguards to it (it has hidden mounts) so it can be a winter training bike if I want it to be. It’s Di2 compatible if I feel so inclined and it’s also 1×11 compatible.  The Crockett 9 also has the full carbon fork – including the steerer that most of the bikes in the range don’t seem to have. That’s a win for me for sure.  There is also good clearance for different tyre sizes and should run to at least 38c wide without any trouble – maybe as wide as 40mm depending on the brand.

So what’s the downside? Well it’s the retail price. I still think £2,200 is too high. Certainly for this price I’d have preferred to see the bike with an Ultegra crank and a step up the range in wheels. Then I think it could have carried the price a bit better. Fortunately there is a range of price points, build and colours to choose from, so there’s a Crockett for most budgets.

20151213_125721Even better, if you do want to build your own, Trek have dropped the price on the frameset to £550 retail and added a purple colour which is great if, like me, you couldn’t own a pink bike J The purple looks pretty too and I think you could build up a really tasty and versatile bike to your own perfect spec for sensible money.

There’s now a new colour for the Crockett 5 disc, retailing at £1350 complete which looks interesting. There are 5 options for complete Crockett bikes between £1250 and £2,200 as well as the two frameset options at £550. There’s also Trek’s lifetime warranty, which is probably even more beneficial on a bike designed to be used off road.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Trek Crockett 9, so much that I’ve bought the review bike rather than return it. This is something I’ve never done with a review bike before. I was definitely in the market for a Cyclocross bike and this one won me over. It was a combination of a great geometry for me, that was close enough to my road bike but still gives me the option to try a race or too if I want to. It also rides well on the road, is versatile and future proof with a spec that was close to perfect for my needs and preferences. It looks great in the 9 spec too with a classy paint job.

Me, in between crashes :-) Still smiling though
Me, in between crashes 🙂 Still smiling though

But leaving all else aside, I’ve just really enjoyed riding it. It’s fast, fun, stiff, responsive and comfortable. It’s been a pleasure to ride and a terrific companion every time I’ve taken it out.

You can find out more here:

You can buy one from here:

If you’d like to go back and read my first ride review as well, you can find it here:

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Specialized & Mavic go shopping for faster wheels

Over the last couple of weeks you might have noticed, like I did, that Specialized and Mavic have got their corporate chequebooks out and bought some more speed.

It amused me as it’s what us punters talk about doing – credit card speed but as well as giving me a bit of a chuckle, I think there are some interesting angles on both of these transactions. But please note, this post is pure opinion, so keep that in mind as I share some of my thoughts.

Firstly, Specialized. At a simplistic level Specialized is one of the giants of the bike industry, they’re a big ambitious and aggressive company. They also have a pretty intense rivalry with another giant of the marketplace: Trek, and one of their most recent battlegrounds has been in aero.

You may have noticed that both companies put in a big push in engineering for their flagship aero road platforms: the Venge for the big S and the new Madone 9 series for Trek. I’ve not tried either bike but in talking to people in the trade and reading the press, my impression is that Trek might well have won that battle…. just

Bontrager (Trek’s component brand) have also forged a strong reputation for their Aeolus aero wheel range, which has recently been updated. Specialized have Roval but I’ve personally never seen an article or a review which has suggested that they’re near the cutting edge of performance. In fact Roval always seemed an odd acquisition to me but that’s another blog post.

So it made a lot sense to me when I read that Specialized have licenced some of HED’s rim technology. In fairness it looks like it stems from the new Roval wheels for the Venge being very close to HED’s patent.

I think deal/solution is a smart & pragmatic move that is good for both companies. Specialized needs a bit of step change in its aero wheel line and this should help shortcut the path to new and faster wheels that at the very least put it back on par with some of the leading brands.

It also makes perfect sense for HED. Since the untimely death of Steve Hed back in 2014, I’ve wondered where that would leave the company in terms of new designs. Steve was acknowledged as a pioneering engineer whose designs helped create the aero wheel market we have today. With him sadly not around, it probably makes perfect business sense for the remaining HED shareholders to see some of their patents and designs licensed to bring more money into the business. At the least it gives them some time and funding to invest in new designs themselves. It also sets a precedent that if Specialized got very close to one of it’s patents and have paid up to use it, that other brands might do this too.

As I said, I think it’s a smart move that I hope will also lead to new products in time. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Specialized had also discussed an option to buy HED outright at some point in the future. HED could fit very well in the Specialized business.

In some respects the announcement that Mavic have acquired Enve is a similar situation. Anyone who’s been talking about wheels over the last few years has watched and wondered why Mavic have seemingly sat on their hands and watched other brands eat their lunch in the performance aero market.

Part of the reason is that Mavic’s existing wheel range has a good reputation and sells extremely well. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it or something like that. Mavic’s v-shaped Cosmic rims are tough, ride well and are fast if there isn’t a lot of sidewinds. I’ve owned a pair and it’s still one of my most read reviews. I enjoyed owning them but even then the game was moving on…. but Mavic never really did. I see Mavic as an old school road cycling brand and it almost felt like they thought the aero thing would blow over. It didn’t though and as time went on Mavic wheels have fallen off the shortlist of anyone wanting the very best aero performance.

So how could they fix that? They certainly have the wherewithal to invest in R&D (frankly they could have hired Simon Smart as ENVE did), hire new engineers and develop a cutting edge line of new Mavic aero wheels. Instead they decided to buy ENVE outright as a specialist high end supplier. I think this is a really smart move for a number of reasons. Firstly, as I mentioned the Mavic wheel line is well defined, known and respected. It also sells very well. Mavic are a major global business with a huge dealer network and buying ENVE gives Mavic, their reps and dealers a new high-end brand to sell. So Mavic can take what ENVE have achieved and scale those sales globally. I think the folks at the ENVE factories are going to have to make a bunch more product probably pretty quickly as Mavic scale up ENVE sales around the world.

I also think it’s a smart move as it enables Mavic to turn ENVE into their Lexus, the high end, premium companion brand that they can trickle down tech into the Mavic range as the choose too. It’s my opinion that this is just as much at the heart of why they just spent $50m on ENVE.

A final reason this deal is a good thing for Mavic as it brings a lot of carbon fibre expertise directly into the Mavic family. Mavic have always been strong with aluminium but not so convincing with carbon – this should change that.

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks – I hope you’ve found this interesting. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish to.

Some more information on the Specialized deal with HED can be found here:

Here’s more info on Mavic’s acquisition of ENVE:

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Genesis Datum 30 review

In my first look post on the Datum I began by saying “Sometimes you can tell if you’re going to like a bike within the first few miles of riding it. The Genesis Datum is one of those bikes. “After much more riding, I was just as smitten by this bike as I was at beginning. I think it’s an absolute cracker of a bike and I was very sorry to see it go back to Genesis.

As I mentioned in my products of the year roundup, the Genesis Datum for me represents another positive and welcome step forward in bikes that are designed for the reality of British riding conditions in the 21st century. The truth is that the vast majority of us are not actually racing, riding fast, yes. Having fun, absolutely but pinning on a racing number, probably not. Increasingly we’re also having to contend with poorly maintained and deteriorating road conditions. I think the trend towards social and adventure riding are part of a shifting landscape that the Datum is absolutely perfect for. We’ve also seen a move towards wider tyres and the Datum takes this concept and runs with it with the possibility of running up to 40mm tyres (and 45mm mudguards – though not together). That’s a big jump wider than the 28mm many manufacturers currently see as plenty.20151212_125839

But even if you want to put all of the above aside, the Genesis Datum is just good fun to ride and that’s more important than any spec list or design detail. Like the Genesis Equilibrium, that the geometry is taken from, the Datum is not a race bike. It’s not quite as nimble but it can be hustled along surprisingly quickly, it’s predictable, dependable and a terrific companion to while away the hours on.

Genesis’s decision to make the Datum from carbon fibre has really paid off. Yes, part of the logic was to allow them to make the seat tube cut-out to enable shorter chain stays with big tyre clearance, but it’s also allowed the bike to be a bit lighter than a metal counterpart would be. A couple of years ago I reviewed an Equilibrium, which I very much enjoyed but it was a lot heavier than my carbon bikes (2-3kgs) and I wondered at the time how much more fun a lighter version would be. For me the Datum is that bike, but with a heap of other benefits – flat mount disc brakes, internal cabling, Di2 compatibility, through axle front wheel, huge tyre clearances and more comfort. The Datum in the 30 spec I had is a very impressive bike.  The geometry has been cleverly thought through so that even using what’s effectively a Cyclocross fork, the Datum isn’t too high at the front end and the sizing looks good across the range.20151212_125900

The build options Genesis are bringing to market are also well thought through and work well at each of the price points. If you want to build your own bike, you can buy the frameset for a reasonable £999.99. The Datum 10 for £1,799.99 has by far the best colour scheme of the range to me – it looks fantastic in the flesh and the spec is a smart choice. Usually the most expensive bike gets the best paint job in a range – but not the Datum, in my opinion at least. The new 10 speed Tiagra looks and performs terrifically for the money and TRP’s HyRd brakes are probably the best non full hydraulic option on the market. The Genesis finishing kit is excellent – you’d not need to change anything. The Fulcrum wheels are a bit heavy and dull the road feel a touch but they’re tough and roll well. On the bike I had were 30mm Challenge tyres which rode fine but I swapped the wheels out for some Kinesis Race Lite Discs matched with 28mm Continental GP 4000S IIs and found a noticeable improvement in the ride and speed of the bike – not least because the combination dropped over 400 gms off the bike weight. There’s nothing at all wrong with the standard spec but lighter wheels would make for a nice upgrade.DSC03387

The Datum 20 is also well specced with the finishing kit upgraded to Shimano 105 chainset, mechs and cassette with the new 105 hydraulic disc brakes. It’s the same matt black colour as the frameset and is the stand out choice if you’re looking for a stealthy finish.

The top of the range Datum 30 features a full Shimano Ultrega Di2 groupset with the top of the range RS805 hydraulic disc brakes and R785 shifters. This is the spec I tested and quite frankly it’s fantastic and a brilliant match for this bike. I did really like the paint scheme too. I’m not a big fan of white bikes but it’s an interesting use of colour and patterns and it works well. I still prefer the red of the Datum 10 but I love the Di2 version of the bike.

Front 3/4 shot highlighting the graphic design and big fork clearances
Front 3/4 shot highlighting the graphic design and big fork clearances

Arguably, it could work out cheaper to buy the frameset and build up the bike yourself and pleasingly that’s an option as long as you like the matt black finish.

Huge front fork clearance
Huge front fork clearance

I loved my time with the Genesis Datum 30. I can’t think of a test bike that I’ve enjoyed as much since the original Kinesis GF_Ti but this bike tops it. The Datum has a near perfect geometry for us everyman riders, it’s as close to future proof as you’ll get in terms of its flat mount brakes, internal cabling, Di2 compatibility, tapered full carbon fork, wide clearances and front through axle. You can take it off-road a bit if you want but it works incredibly well as a comfortable, quick enough, fun and engaging road bike. Genesis have taken what was great about the Equilibrium, tweaked it with all of the above features and added huge clearances and the lower weight the carbon offers – whilst still providing an excellent ride.

Genesis Datum - non drive side - good for seeing how much cleaner flat mount brakes look
Genesis Datum – non drive side – good for seeing how much cleaner flat mount brakes look

It’s also been a sales success. The early stock sold out almost instantly and whilst there is more on the way, it won’t be here until around April.

I could easily see a Datum in my garage but not as my only bike. As a compliment to my aero race bike the Datum could easily be all I needed in a road bike for those days I’m not looking to go as fast as I can. The truth of the matter is that those less frenetic days are really the majority my riding and if it is for you too, then check out the Datum.


Who/What the Datum is for:

Recreational riders, Sportives, Audax, Commuting, Adventure riding, Gravel

What the Datum isn’t for:

Racing, Cyclocross

More info on the Genesis site here:

If you’ve not already read it, I recommend checking out my first look post too as that covers more of the technical side of the Datum:

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You can subscribe now for less than 3p per day by clicking on the green button below:

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Bontrager AW3 Hard-Case Lite Road Tyres review

During the winter and early into 2015, I spent some time riding Bontragers AW3 Hard-Case Lite Road tyres. I chose the 23mm version as this was the biggest size I could fit on my Stoemper under the PDC Full Metal Fenders I had in to test. I swapped to the Bontragers from running 28mm tyres from another brand I was testing for another publication. Normally I would have chosen at least at 25mm (or better the 28mm) but I could only fit 23mm.

Swapping from 28mm to 23mm, you’d expect a loss of comfort but frankly I was pleasantly surprised by the Bontragers on the first few rides. It’s a supple carcass and I found the 23mm AW3 as comfortable as the 28mm from another brand (that featured a cheaper less supple carcass in fairness).

DSC01100Out on the road over some of the worst local training roads near where I live, I also found the Bontragers to be a confidence inspiring tyre that gripped well on all surfaces, whilst maintaining a very pleasing ride quality.

The Bontrager AW3 Hard Case Lite offers less protection that the Bontrager Hard Case series but a less impenetrable carcass means a suppler ride.

Bontrager describe the Hard Case Lite range as their “fastest and lightest puncture protection, just enough to keep out typical road debris without the extra bulk”.  It’s a single layer protection system.


The difference to the Hard Case range is that this has 3 levels of puncture protection rather than one. It does have an anti puncture layer like the Hard Case Lite but additionally has an anti-cut casing and an anti-pinch sidewall.

I had no punctures even regularly and deliberately choosing particularly badly surfaced local roads to ride on.

If you want more/maximum puncture protection, or if you’re a commuter or ride particularly flinty lanes, the Hard Case line may be a better and tougher choice but I was very pleased with the Hard Case Lite. In fact, I enjoyed them to the point that they went back on my bike for this winter and I’ve been out on them again.

The Bontrager Hard Case Lite have shrugged off the winter weather and detritis with commendable ease. They roll well, are comfortable, offer dependable grip and they feel quick – so you’re not sacrificing speed in choosing them. They’re also showing little signs of wear even after I sought out some of the nastiest, most poorly maintained roads around where I live through the winter.


I haven’t found anything to complain about with these tyres, I’ve even looked at online user reviews which are almost all positive and especially complimentary about wear rates (or lack of). I’m pretty sure I’d have preferred them in a 25mm or 28mm but I didn’t have the choice for how I’d configured my bike. If you don’t have the same limitations, I would recommend choosing the wider sizes.

They’re well priced compared to some of the choices from other brands with a retail price of £34.99 each and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed riding them.

The Bontrager AW3 Hard Case Lite is a folding bead clincher tyre and available in 23, 25 and 28 mm widths.

You can find out more here:

You can buy some if you’re interested here and they’re on special at the time this post was published:


Thanks for reading.

Ten interesting things to see at the London Bike Show

The London Bike Show is on at the Excel Centre this weekend with all manner of bikes and related goodies to tempt you with. From the latest bikes, wheels, clothing and training equipment to nutrition, travel and accessories, there’s a wide range of stands. Whilst it would have been easy to share photos of the obvious shiny carbon or titanium bikes on display (and lots of other sites have done that already), here’s a different perspective on 10 things that might be of interest. Damien who also contributes occasional reviews spent the day with me and we each picked out 5 things of interest for you….

Scott’s list:

New Schwalbe tubeless tyres … and clothing

P1000466Schwalbe have been a big contributor to the growth on interest in tubeless tyres on the road. They’ve not finished yet as they’re adding and improving the range all the time.  There’s the new Pro One in a 25mm for your race bike (also availabe in 23 and 28mm), the new 30mm S-One if you have the clearance, an X-One tubeless Cyclocross tyre (33mm) and even a G-One at 40mm if you have the clearance.

Schwalbe told me that we are all moving to wider tyres and I think this will continue. 25mm is the new 23mm and wider tyres are growing fast. Schwalbe’s new tubeless easy designs make it easier than ever to go tubeless according to the company too.

As well as tyres, Schwalbe also have a range of clothing for sale at the show and I have to say I was very tempted to pick up one of the hoodies but went away to think about it and never made it back.

P1000471Intriguingly the guys at Schwalbe also said they build the stand from scratch, which is pretty cool if you take a close look at it. Find Schwalbe next to the Bikes Etc test track


Bowman Cycles – new colours and models….


Bowman are looking to push on front the great start they’ve made with the Palace and Pilgrims and they have lots of interesting stuff on their stand.

P1000452From the Rich Mitch Foots Cray limited edition colourway to two new colour ways for the terrific Palace to new Token & Bownman branded, headsets, bottom brackets and seat clamps and there is the company’s own new flat mount Cyclocross fork on display too for the Foots Cray.

P1000450 P1000445 P1000453

Not only all of that but also they’re launching a new semi -custom paint programme for clubs and teams, so now you can get a bike that’s colour matched to your club if you want. Nice! There’s also a prototype stainless steel frame to check out as well which could end up being another new model if Neil is happy with how it rides. It’s a cool stand with some really interesting product – do check it out.


Bowman’s stand is LB 1404

Cannondale’s Slate plus new Evo and CAAD12

P1000423You can spot the terrific and frankly fascinating Cannondale Slate at both the Cannondale and Chelmer Cycles stand – it’s a bike that just looking at it makes me smile and I’ve written about it before. It was interesting to find out that it’s been a big hit and the UK distributor has already sold all of their stock for the year, so if you want one, you’ll need to find a dealer with one in stock.

P1000425It was also good to see the striking new SuperSix Evo of which the Dura Ace version is my favourite with a terrific “primer” paint job. It’s a stunning super light bike which retails for a competitive £3,700 complete. Cannondale also have a stunning stars and stripes custom painted CAAD12 that was so popular I didn’t manage to find it with nobody next to it for a photo (I check 4x).


Cannondale are at stand: LB 330

Cervelo C series “gravel” disc bikes


I have to be honest, I never anticipated a company like Cervelo, famed for their aero expertise, building a gravel disc braked bike. But they have and you can see it at the show. I’m delighted to see them do this. It doesn’t have the big clearances (especially at the fork) as many of the newer UK bikes of this type but I hear it rides really well (as you’d expect) and it’s great to see more of these ride anywhere bikes coming to market.


Of course there’s a full range of Cervelo’s so check them all out including an almost shockingly light RCA complete bike, much of the R and S series. Find the Cervelo’s at stand:  LB 120

Books, books and books…..


When you’re not riding your bike, you’re sure to be recovering or resting….. well maybe.  If you are, you might enjoy reading about cycling. Most of us are familiar with the many great magazines on sale but it was good to see Bloomsbury there with a surprising big range of quality cycling titles. I have a few in my collection and there’s plenty more to tempt you on display at the show….

Bloomsbury are at stand: LB 1416

Damien’s list:


Although I can’t say I’m a fan of the look, I’ve been interested by the number of people wearing compression socks on their bikes. Full (mid-capilliary) compression garments are said to aid recovery, the problem being they tend not to be breathable. The human body is not tremendously efficient and turns most of its energy into heat. The harder we work, the hotter we get and on a bike, this is a bad thing.

IMG_6245Enter X-Bionics and its range of partial compression sports clothing. By utilising surface or partial compression, the range of men and women’s cycling and running tops, shorts, tights and socks have been shown in tests to increase the duration of performance, reduce the build up of heat and lactate, lower the heart rate and speed recovery. It uses the moisture in your sweat to keep your temperature down, but the garments dry rapidly when you stop sweating.

IMG_6243Since I’m guessing that we all mostly wear bike clothing, partial compression appears to provide a free and legal performance enhancement. We’ve all seen the benefit of marginal gains, but this is one that the pros don’t tend to leverage because the compression material cannot be printed on – and where would the peloton be without sponsorship?

I was a bit concerned that the snug nature of compression clothing might also enhance aspects of my physical appearance that I’d rather people didn’t have to endure. Not to worry, I’m reliably told (albeit by the manufacturer) that the matt look is far more flattering than shiny lycra and does much to slim the figure. Find out more on stand Stand LB1040.

Hope Technology

I stopped by the Hope stand to have a look at its new hand laid carbon fibre seat posts, designed, tested and manufactured at the company’s facility in Barnoldswick, Lancs. The range seems to be squarely aimed at road riders, although Hope has also introduced carbon handlebars for the off road community where the brand probably has a much greater affinity.

IMG_6256With a price tag of £130, and weighing from 195 grams for the 27.2mm x 350mm post, the new seat posts seem to be competitively priced. What the competition may not offer is the sheer beauty of the carbon lay up, they look absolutely fantastic and would probably please the harshest critic. I hope my picture of the cutaway post does this justice.

IMG_6254Rob from Hope explained that the company had gotten a great deal of help learning about carbon fibre from two other industries where the UK enjoys global recognition – Formula 1 and aerospace. That probably goes a long way to explaining why the products look so good. The range also includes 30.9mm x 400mm and 31.6mm x 400mm versions also made from the highest strength, Standard Modulus carbon fibre available. All the posts are fitted with a single bolt, aircraft grade aluminium seat rail clamps. Hope Technology are rightly proud of being British, a tour of their factory can be arranged by dropping them an email. Find out more on the Hope Technology stand LB714.

Drayson Technologies

In my day job, I spend a lot of time talking about things like cloud computing, big data and the Internet of Things, so I was naturally drawn to the Drayson Technology stand where their CleanSpace App and Tag were on show. Drayson is a wireless technology business based in London, which is in the process of building a database of UK (and in near future, global) air quality.

IMG_6215It’s doing that by trying to persuade as many of us as possible of to download and activate the CleanSpace app on our smartphones. Better still, the company would like us all to join in the process of providing accurate data about air quality by purchasing and carrying a CleanSpace Tag – a lightweight sensor of similar dimensions to an iPhone which connects to the phone via Bluetooth (see more at

“You don’t need to get hit by a car for it to kill you” reads the clever publicity, and I think that’s a good point. You know it when you get knocked off, but you can’t easily assess the harm that might be done to you riding in traffic fumes. If you want to really scare yourself, read about the particulate emissions associated with diesel engines.

IMG_6269In my opinion, Drayson and CleanSpace have the potential to do a great deal of good by getting this sort of information into the public domain. If you care about the environment, I’m sure you’ll want to do likewise. For some reason the company is not listed in either the printed catalogue or the London Bike Show website, however, their stand is diagonally opposite Dassi (stand LB1620 – also well worth a look)

Engineered Bicycles

IMG_6247I was asked what I thought about the show whilst on the Velominati stand and I think the expression I was looking for is snow blindness. There is so much to see, which means that in the space of a single day I will have walked straight past things that deserve more consideration. A good example is all but ignoring Pinarello’s offering. Now, I know that if one of my pals rolled up on one of these machines, we’d spend a long time talking about and inspecting it carefully. Questions would be raised and responses carefully worded. At the Bike Show, walk past.

IMG_6248However, I was stopped in my tracks walking past the Engineered Bicycles stand when I caught sight of the wonderful green pearlescent paint finish on its Zondag aluminium framed cyclocross machine. This is the first outing to London for the Bristol-based bike company, I was told by Creative Director, Adrian. He said that the Engineered Bicycles offering appeal mostly to competition-focussed riders, but clearly those looking for bike that stands out from the norm. I thought the attention to detail was terrific. Each bike produced is unique according to the wishes of its owner – the Creative Director being there to make sure that dreams are realised in the paint selection, design and finish. If you’re in the market for a custom fitted and finished bike, Engineered also have Gran Fondo, Road Race, Road Endurance and full custom frames available. See them on stand LB1042.


Elephant Bike

P1000405As a person who’s spent time in Malawi building homes there, the work that Elephant Bike is doing really raises my spirits. The enterprise is taking former Royal Mail bikes (built by Pashley, no less) and where these were once cut up and trashed, they are now fully refurbished and sold to the public for £280 including front and rear racks. Then comes the good bit, each time a bike is sold in the UK, Elephant Bike donates an identical machine to a social enterprise in Malawi via a charity called Krizevac (see


In Africa a bike means a lot of things; from providing public transport (in Lilongwe, the capital, they’re used as taxis) to helping youngsters make sometimes long and arduous journeys to school, so they arrive less tired and better able to learn. Even though these bikes are no longer suitable for Royal Mail purposes, these great British workhorses are now finding a new lease of life in one of the world’s poorest countries.

P1000410Besides the bike outreach, Krizevac has also exported old sewing machines to Malawi and has trained local tailors to make wallets and small pocket cases out of unwanted inner tubes, which they sell to support their development work. Go along and say hi – Elephant Bike will be encouraged just to see you there. And even if you don’t want to buy a bike or wallet, you can help them by donating your old tubes! Elephant Bike is on stand LB1422.

Find out more about the show including booking tickets here:

Thanks for reading

Sportful R&D jacket and bib tights first look review

Some of the cycling products I get most excited about are where manufacturers try new things, new ideas and new materials. I respect brands that are trying to move things forwards. So when I spotted Sportful’s R&D range, it piqued my interest as this is the range where Sportful try new materials and ideas after a lengthy product testing process. I got in touch with the company to find out more and they’ve been kind enough to send me a matching R&D jacket and set of bib tights to review.

P1000282On the Sportful website, the R&D jacket is rated by them as 4 out of 4 for windproofing and insulation and 3 out of 4 for waterproofing and breathability, which sounds impressive. What qualifies this jacket as an R&D product is, in this case, the material used – Polartec Alpha. According to the Polartec website, this is a fabric that was developed for military use as an insulating material in combat uniforms. It’s designed to regulate heat whether you’re active or static, with a level of breathability that’s supposed to stop you from having to peel off or put on layers depending on how active you are. That’s what the Polartec site says. The Sportful site says this is a perfect material for cycling.

A few of the other interesting claims for the Polartec fabric are that it has warmth without weight, that it’s packable, fast drying and easy care, which in fairness does sound good for cycling.

Polartec Alpha is the key fabric to this intriguing jacket
Polartec Alpha is the key fabric to this intriguing jacket

This is a jacket for cold weather riding. For me, cold weather means less than 5 degrees Celsius.  With my benchmark winter jacket, the Castelli Espresso Due, I found that if the temperature rose much above 7 degrees I overheated but I could happily ride in it a few degrees below zero. I’m curious to see how the R&D jacket performs.

Front view of the jacket and tights as an outfit
Front view of the jacket and tights as an outfit

The cut and general construction is relatively traditional it’s a slimmish fitting jacket with a higher collar, the normal 3 rear pockets and a small pocket on the front. There is tasteful and reflective branding on the front (chest) and rear with a R&D logo on the left arm to remind you what you’re wearing. There are a few other things that strike you about this jacket when you pick it up – it’s light and the fabric feels very thin. The outer windshell fabric has an unusual feel about it, it’s a little shiny and feels like it might catch and rip easily. I think it looks good though (if a little disco jacket) and I really like the blue colour. Inside the jacket is a bright yellow mesh lining also labelled Polartec Alpha and that’s the hi-tech part of the garment – the mesh inner – it’s the part that provides the warmth and temperature regulation.

The sleeves also have a stretchy black mesh fabric running from under the armpit to the cuffs – which don’t have a cuff but the sleeves seems to turn in on itself. The sleeves are generous in length. There’s a nice wide soft collar at the top and a thick elastic band at the bottom. It’s most definitely lighter and considerably less bulky than my Castelli reference point.

P1000273It certainly doesn’t feel like a “normal” jacket and I’ve been waiting for some proper cold winter weather to try it out. That arrived last weekend and I put the R&D jacket on for a kids club off-road ride on the Trek Crockett with my 10 year old son. It was about 0 degrees when we started and riding with kids made it a low speed, low intensity ride. After half an hour the temperature had dropped to -1.5 but I felt warm and comfortable. I’d put the jacket on inside the house before I left and felt comfortably warm quickly. Stepping outside I seemed to stay nearly as warm but with a substantial temperature change. Again on the bike, I felt comfortably warm and also when I kept the jacket on for the café stop. It’s intriguing but the temperature regulation seemed to work very well but this impression only based on a first ride.DSC03773

I feel the cold, I’m thin and don’t have a lot of body fat, so the R&D jacket looks like a good choice so far. If you don’t feel the cold as much there is also an R&D jersey, which looks like it’s similar except for a more breathable back, that lets out a bit more of your body heat, more like a Castelli Trasparente, Rapha Pro Team jacket or Bontrager RXL 180. When it gets really cold, these jackets aren’t warm enough for me but on first impression the Sportful R&D jacket seems to be very good indeed as a cold weather winter jacket. I’ll keep riding and report back.

The Sportful R&D jacket retails for £185 and the bib tights £120 but you may find better pricing if you shop around.

DSC03762The R&D bib tights don’t feature any Polartec fabric but do have a triple serving of ThermoDrytex. The main use of this is a double layer fleece with hollow core polyester inside for warmth, Thermodrytex PL+ on the thighs and knees for wicking, then Thermodrytex Plus on the back for stretch and fit. This is then combined with the Total Comfort Pad and straps, flatlock stitching and YKK ankle zips.

Pad from the Sportful Total Comfort range
Pad from the Sportful Total Comfort range

On Sportful’s rating system the R&D tights score 4 out of 4 for breathability, 3 out of 4 for windproofing and insulation and 1 out of 4 for waterproofing. I wear a size medium and these are a good comfortable slim fit. Just about perfect for my 180cm and 68kg frame.

Straps are familiar from the Total Comfort Line
Straps are familiar from the Total Comfort Line

These tights didn’t make the Cyclocross ride last weekend as I didn’t want to trash them on the first ride. They’re being lined up for a cold weather ride this week – with the matching jacket and I’ll report back in due course.

P1000289Thanks for reading.

The full R&D tights review is now posted here:



Trek Crockett 9 Cyclocross Bike First Ride review

I’ve been riding road bikes now for about a decade. But that’s all I’ve done. I’ve not ridden mountain bikes and I’ve not ridden Cyclocross apart from one event a few years ago: the White Chalk Hills UCX.

As the years have past, I’ve got keener and keener to get a bit muddier and I’ve had lots of debates with various friends in the bike trade about what my first steps off road should be. Like most of us, once I’d realised how much fun riding bikes is, it was only a question of time before I began thinking about what other kind of riding I could do to have more and different fun.

The obvious answer is ride off road, so it’s absolutely perfect that Trek’s stylish Crockett 9 recently arrived for some adventuring.

Trek Crockett 9 drive side view - great colour scheme!
Trek Crockett 9 drive side view – great colour scheme!

The Crockett has been around for a few years now and perhaps has fallen out of the limelight a touch after the arrival of the IsoSpeed equipped carbon Boone, but it’s still a bike with fantastic pedigree. Trek’s champion ‘cross rider Katie Compton had an important influence in its development and it’s a World Cup winning platform.

Geometry Comparison
Geometry Comparison

Looking at the geometry first, the Crockett it has a very similar stack and reach to my road bikes but the bottom bracket is a touch higher (for obvious reasons) and the head angle is a bit slacker, which also makes sense. As someone, who doesn’t race and doesn’t really need super long and low positioning, the higher stack height of the Crockett compared to some of its competitors is very appealing.

Trek Crockett 9 offside view
Trek Crockett 9 offside view

The Crocket range has a number of choices that should work for most budgets. The Crockett 9 that I have to test is the top of the range and retails for £2,200 but the range starts with the frameset only from £600. There’s a 105 spec complete Crockett 5 disc for £1,250 and a cantilever brake Crockett 7 for £1,450. The range should allow almost anyone to find a spec and a pricepoint that works for them. We’ll come back to pricing later.

Rear disc brake hydraulic cable routing
Rear disc brake hydraulic cable routing

Looking at the Crockett 9 that I have here in more detail, the frame is made with Trek’s 200 series Alpha Aluminium and features a tapered head tube, BB86 Bottom Bracket, internal control (gear cable) routing, post mount disc brakes, a chain keeper and hidden mudguard mounts. On this model, the Crockett 9,  the fork is Trek’s IsoSpeed cross carbon disc version with a full carbon steerer and a 15mm through axle. Please note though that this is the only Disc braked model in the Crockett range with the full carbon fork (the Boone has the same fork approach too – only the top model has the full carbon fork, all the rest have alloy steerers. On both models the canti braked version have a full carbon fork).

The frame looks to have good clearance for mud/wider tyres particularly at the seatstays and fork. It looks a bit tighter around the chainstays to me. No problem for the 33mm tyres fitted but if you wanted to go to 40mm tyres for example, it might be a bit tight.

Trek Crockett 9 rear 3/4 shot. Mud clearances look good!
Trek Crockett 9 rear 3/4 shot. Mud clearances look good!

As the top of the range, the Crockett 9 to my mind has the best paint scheme in the range, the Matt Charcoal is a stunning paint colour and most people who’ve seen the bike have mistakenly assumed it was carbon, which depending on your point of view might be a good thing too. The white detailing looks great and I love the look of the bike.

Rear disc brake design is post mount and neat
Rear disc brake design is post mount and neat

A key component is the brakes and this bike has Shimano’s frankly fantastic RS685 shifters and hydraulic disc brakes. These are still an expensive component choice but they work brilliantly on the bike. The shifters are paired with Ultegra front and rear mechs, which look good and work exceptionally well. The cassette and chain are Shimano’s reliable 105 (11/28 cassette). And the cranks are FSA’s Energy Cross in 46/36. I think it would have been nice for the cranks to be Ultegra too for this retail price to be frank.

Bontrager tubeless wheels & tyres plus Shimano RS685 hydraulic disc brakes
Bontrager tubeless wheels & tyres plus Shimano RS685 hydraulic disc brakes

The finishing kit is all Bontrager. We have Affinity Comp Tubeless wheels with 15mm through axle front and quick release rear (a combination I like and it’s also good for pre-race warmups on your turbo trainer). The wheels are shod with Bontrager’s CX3 team issue – non tubeless 32c tyres. There’s a Bontrager carbon seatpost and Paradigm R saddle. Handlebars are Bontrager Race Lite IsoZone compact bars attached to a Bontrager Elite 100mm stem.

The Crockett 9 features a full carbon fork with tapered steerer and 15mm through axle
The Crockett 9 features a full carbon fork with tapered steerer and 15mm through axle

I tapped up some local riders who I knew rode ‘cross bikes to show me some of their loops and I’ve been out on the bike for a few rides.

The first thing that struck me was how comfortable the bike is. Yes, part of this is switch from a road bike with around 90psi to 33mm CX tyres running 40-ish psi. The second thing I noticed was how easily the geometry of the Crockett made me feel at home. It’s close enough to my road bike positioning that I didn’t have any trouble adapting to the bike.

Me, in between crashes :-) Still smiling though
Me, in between crashes 🙂 Still smiling though

I’ve spend a lot of time riding Shimano hydraulic disc brakes on the road, but they’re even more impressive on the Crockett. Fantastic control and modulation regardless of the conditions I’m riding through – a real joy when you’ve suddenly discovered you have to learn how to ride off road from zero. As an inexperienced rider off tarmac, I’ve quickly realised I have no skills and the Crockett has been a delight so far as it’s really easy to ride. In deep mud (which there has been lots of), I’ve found the tyres wanting a bit but I’ve enjoyed every ride so far. The geometry is stable and the bike’s handling has helped me build some confidence off road. Well at least confidence in the bike if not my own skills yet. The Crockett 9 does all the basics well as you’d expect from a major company like Trek. Cornering, climbing, descending are all handled with aplomb. In complete fairness, I don’t have much to compare it too as I’m a beginner off road but I’ve found this a very easy bike to take to.

Mid ride muddy-ness
Mid ride muddy-ness

As a roadie, it’s been fantastic to get out into the mud and there have been a couple of rides where we’ve stopped for a chat in a field, surrounded by trees, with no other humans around and it’s been terrific to be further out into nature (and away from drivers). Finding places to ride around where I live is not so easy but they’re absolutely worth the effort.

My inability off-road has seen me crash on nearly every ride but it’s all be relatively low speed stuff and part of the learning experience. The Trek has a couple of scuffs on the bar tape but otherwise seems unscathed.

I’d always wondered what it’d be like to have a bike I could ride off road in my fleet and so far it has expanded my flexibility to go on different types of rides and it’s expanding my horizons a bit too, which is very welcome.

Cable routing detail, Trek Crockett 9
Cable routing detail, Trek Crockett 9

So far, I’m thoroughly enjoying the bike and my only reservation is the price. £2,200 feels like a lot for an aluminium cyclocross bike, even for one with a pedigree. I suspect it’s priced to encourage you to stretch another £200 for the full carbon Boone (and the Boone range has a similar pricing approach). I think the £1250 Crockett 5 looks much better value but it doesn’t have the hydraulic disc brakes or the full carbon fork (or a few other spec differences). The paint job isn’t nearly as appealing either. If you can cope with the pink colour of the frameset, that is probably the best option of the lot that would allow you to build up any spec you like and I reckon I could build a comparable spec for less than the £2200 of the Crockett 9. So there are plenty of options if a Crockett is of interest. Personally I couldn’t buy the pink frameset though, I’m just not a pink sort of a guy. If it was the charcoal like the Crockett 9 – it’d be much easier!

If you can justify the asking price, I think you’re getting a bike that works incredibly well right out of the box. The Trek Crockett 9 looks great, rides really well and has a spec that works perfectly as a package. I keep looking at the bike and thinking, if this was mine, what would I change? The simple truth is, I wouldn’t change anything, I’d just enjoy riding it. For now that’s what I’m doing. I’m going to keep riding it and see if these impressions change. Price aside, my initial impressions of the Trek Crockett 9 are very positive indeed. It’s been a fun bike to ride and fine companion on some off-road adventures.

My next test will be to put some different wheels and some 28mm road tyres on it to see how it doubles as a winter road bike. I’ll write more about that in my next post on this bike.

Thanks for reading.

UPDATE MARCH 11 2016: I’ve now published my final review here:

You can find out more about the Crockett Range here:

You can read another review here that gives more of a racing perspective:

Great companion for riding with my kids too
Great companion for riding with my kids too

girodilento products of the year 2015

I thought I’d end 2015 with a short round up of the products that for me, stood out the most in 2015. It’s a personal view, so it’s just my opinion but these are the products that I either tried or took a shine to in reading about this year. I hope you find it interesting.

Trek Madone 9 Series:

The brand new Trek Madone is the bike that got me most excited this year. I love it for the huge amount of research Trek put into it (and engineering resources). I love aero bikes anyway and moving them to this next level, whilst adding in the IsoSpeed for comfort is a winner for me. They look stunning in the flesh as you can see in this simple walk-around video I made at Trek World. I’ve not ridden one but the journalists I’ve spoken to that have were gushing in their praise. It’s not a bike I could afford at present but if I had the money, I can’t think of another high end bike I’d rather buy.

My favourite review of this bike is from Bicycling Magazine:

Genesis Datum

I think it's a great looking bike
I think it’s a great looking bike

The Genesis Datum is, I believe, another very positive step forwards for bikes designed for real world British riding conditions. Bikes make for our dodgy weather and disintegrating roads and a recognition that the vast majority of new riders are not racing but want a fun bike they can ride all day and explore on. In my opinion the Genesis Datum nails this almost perfectly. It’s comfortable, smooth, fun to ride, has flat mount disc brakes that in hydraulic form are superb, huge tyres clearances allowing you to enjoy the benefits of wide fast tyres (or multi-use tyres for the occasional bridleway). This is a bike I loved riding and would be happy to spend my own money on. Not a race bike but a wonderful, fun companion you can ride all day and step with a smile on your face. Full review soon but you can read my first thoughts here:

Kinesis 4S Disc

Kinesis 4S Disc - incredibly versatile and affordable for many at £650 for the frameset
Kinesis 4S Disc – incredibly versatile and affordable for many at £650 for the frameset

Another star of this year for me was the announcement of the Kinesis 4S Disc. I had a TK3 (before it was re-named the 4S, review here) and knew that Kinesis were looking to create a disc version but how they’ve done that I think makes it a standout of the year. The 4S Disc is compatible with flat mount disc brakes, which make the look of the frame and fork cleaner – but also allow you to run post mount disc brakes. Not only that, the 4S Disc can also be built to run caliper brakes – so you can build it to use any caliper (long drop) parts you have around and upgrade to discs when you’re ready. I think this is fantastic. It’s also internally wired and compatible with mechanical or Di2 groupsets. Brilliant. Not only that but you can run 28-30mm tyres with full mudguards and there are rack mounts too. The 4S Disc is more or a race geometry than endurance so if you want a lively, quick, fun to ride all-weather, all-season ride that you can build up in virtually anyway you like – this could be it. The most versatile bike of the year I reckon!

More info here: have just reviewed one here:

Garmin Edge 1000

The Garmin Edge 1000, still the King for me
The Garmin Edge 1000, still the King for me

Whilst there has been lots of new cycling GPS launches this year including the new Lezyne models and new smaller Garmin models like the 20, 25 and 520, I’m happier than ever to be still using the 1000. I love the bigger screen, which makes it much easier to see the map, or have more data fields on the screen and I’ve found it to work well almost all of the time. My previous Garmin was an 800 and I’ve not once lamented for the smaller screen. Yes, it can make it tricky to fit on the occasional review bike but the out-front mount takes care of that. For me it’s a bit like my smart phone – now that I have a 5” screen, I’d never go back to a 4” screen. I love the Garmin Edge 1000 – it’s an essential part of my riding.

Rapha Pro Team Jacket


During the last year, one of the pieces of cycling clothing I’ve most loved wearing …. And worn an awful lot is the Rapha Pro-Team jacket. I wrote a glowing review of it here: and amongst other things, praised it for being a great match with UK winter riding temperatures which don’t get too cold – with it’s breatheable back and wind proof front, I’ve found it a stylish and effective companion on cool weather rides. I also love Rapha’s packable rain jacket ( especially in the now defunct Orange that I have and it makes a perfect compliment to the Pro Team Jacket. Keep it in your back pocket for when the rain gets heavier than a shower or for a touch of extra warmth on colder days or for when you stop to chat whilst riding.

Lezyne LED Lights range

As someone who blogs when I have the time, rather than it being my job, sometimes it can take a long time for me to write reviews. The one brand this has worked against the most on this site is Lezyne. For example, last year I was sent a terrific PowerDrive XL LED light but a busy year meant that Lezyne’s new range is out before I’ve managed to review the old one. My apologies to Lezyne for this but the amazing thing is that each year Lezyne seem to make a huge improvement to their LED lights range and the PowerDrive XL is actually a terrific example. The light I have and have been very pleased with is rated at 600 lumens – it’s a terrific and easy to use product. The new version of the same light is now rated at 900 lumens! A 50% increase in power in one year. The Macro drive light I have was 200 lumens when I got it, the latest one is rated at 600 lumens! Lezyne products in my experience have always been well engineered and a pleasure to own. The fact that each year the company improves its products so much means there is never a bad time to buy something from Lezyne …. Even it’s bad news for slow reviewers like me. I’ve learnt my lesson though, anything from Lezyne and I need to crack on and get it reviewed quick!



Over the last 18 months, I’ve ridden over 4,000km indoors on a Wattbike and it’s featured in a range of blog posts: The Wattbike has fundamentally changed my view of training and I’ve shown myself again and again that if I do the work on the Wattbike (often in a surprisingly short amount of time each week) I get the results out on the road. I’ve just been upgraded to the latest blue-tooth compatible model and am currently half way through my 16 week winter training plan and I can already feel that I’m noticeably fitter than I started with what’s a relatively low intensity plan. If you want one post that encapsulates what I’ve learnt, this is the one to read:

Reynolds 58 Aero wheels

My NeilPryde Alize/Nazare shod with Reynold's terrific Aero 58s
My NeilPryde Alize/Nazare shod with Reynold’s terrific Aero 58s

I’ve been lucky enough to have had a long term pair of Reynolds 58 Aero wheels to ride and I really have been lucky as they’re fantastic. I run them mostly on my NeilPryde Aero bike as you can see in this post: but I’ve also spent a lot of time riding them on my steel Stoemper Taylör. The 58 Aeros are the same 58mm depth as the Zipp 404 and they’re just flat out fast. All of my fastest ever rides, have been on these wheels. I’ve ridden them on Belgian cobbles (during the Liege Bastogne Liege Sportive) through to gravel and the UK’s normal pot hole filled roads. They’ve been faultless and have survived everything I’ve thrown at them with only 1 minor true-ing after I hit a pothole hard at 60+kmh on a descent.

Recent advances in aerodynamics have transformed wheels like these, to the point that rather than being worried about riding in the wind (and I’ve ridden these in 30mph winds), I reckon they give you more speed in the wind. The 58 Aeros are impressively light for the weight and I can still climb happily on them knowing that everyone is going slowly when it’s steep but all the rest of the time – these wheels just add extra speed. Yes, they’re expensive but they really are a terrific all rounder.

More info here:

Shimano Ultegra Di2

IMG_6947Over the last year and a half, I’ve ridden thousands of kilometres on Shimano’s 11 speed Utegra Di2 drivetrain and I’m still completely smitten. On each bike I’ve ridden it on (including my own:, it’s been faultless. The battery charge lasts for months, the shifting is faultless – and when you swap wheels you can even trim while you’re riding. I went from thinking it was perhaps an expensive extravagance to it being my first choice (budget allowing) on any bike that I wasn’t looking for the lightest weight on (Dura Ace mechanical would be my personal choice in those cases). Once you’ve spent time on Di2, you’ll quite possibly like me, become even more smitten. It’s a terrific groupset.

Shimano Flat mount disc brakes RS805 and RS505

Shimano’s first generation road disc hydraulic disc brakes were instantly impressive to ride but I felt they looked like more of a mountain bike adaption rather than something engineered specifically for the road. This meant that to me, they look bulky and are heavier than I’d like. However this has been all fixed beautifully by the newly released flat mount RS805 and RS505 brakes. I’ve had the pleasure of riding them on a few bikes including the Genesis Datum and the latest Rose bikes and they work just as well as the post mount brakes but are smaller, lighter, more discrete and better looking than the older models. Not only that but as you can see on the Kinesis 4S Disc, flat mount compatible forks are much cleaner and allow the possibility (with the right brand) to be both caliper or disc compatible – which is great for us punters. These are terrific brakes and if you’re going disc – they’re my pick. Here’s what I wrote when they were first announced:

Bontrager Race Thermal Bib shorts

IMG_7202Well over a year later, these are still my favourite “affordable” bib shorts and the pair I have are still going strong. For a reasonable (to me) £75, the Bontrager Race Thermal are some of the nicest bib shorts I’ve ridden: very comfortable, a good pad, hard wearing and a great fit. I love these shorts and wear them more than most of the more expensive shorts in my wardrobe. I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending them – they’re great! I still stand by everything I wrote about them in this post:

Cannondale Slate

Cannondale fascinating new Slate - well worth checking out on the Fabric stand
Cannondale fascinating new Slate – well worth checking out on the Fabric stand

A few months ago I was invited to attend the 2016 Cannondale launch in the UK. Cannondale were obviously excited and proud of the updates in the new CAAD12 and the revised SuperSix range but they were politely insistent that I heard the story about the new Slate. I have to be honest, I agreed to listen out of politeness more than anything but I’m very glad I did. To me the Cannondale Slate is most likely the most innovative bike of the year and I couldn’t have entertained a list like this without featuring it. It’s a really clever design and I applaud Cannondale for releasing it. It feels like one of those concept cars that get shown at a show then get watered down massively before release, except that in this case it’s come to market exactly as envisaged. From the 650B wheels running 42mm tyres with the same rolling dimensions as a 700x23mm wheel to the highly regarded lefty 30mm travel suspension fork, the Slate is a fantastic piece of innovation. Reviews have been very positive and it’s a bike that’s hard to pigeon hole, which also highlights how they’ve created something special. This is one of those bikes that when you look at how it’s designed closely it makes you realise how narrow the design of road and Cyclocross bikes has been – slight differences here and there on the whole. The Slate gives us a big push to think more laterally and I am delighted to see it launched. It’s given my own sometimes too narrow view a good kick and I’m grateful for it.

Find out more here

Hunt & Kinesis wheels

DSC03348Until a year or so ago, when people asked me for an upgrade wheel recommendation over the ones supplied with a bike, I usually said the Mavic Ksyrium Elites. At around 1520gms a pair, they ride comfortably for a stiff wheel, are bomb proof and serviceable in most bike shops, they were an easy recommendation. This year has seen that change as both Hunt and Kinesis released wheels that I think change my recommendations for good for road caliper braked wheels (and disc wheels too). The Mavics are around £500 a pair but now for around £300 a pair you can have wheels of a similar weight (if not lighter) with wider rims for better cornering, comfort and fit with wider tyres, tubeless compatibility (future proofing), quality reliable sealed bearings hubs. For training, general riding and upgrades – you can’t go wrong with either the Hunt or Kinesis wheels in my view. These are well thought out, well specced and well-built for the money. I’m riding the Kinesis Racelight Disc wheels at the moment ( and have been really impressed. I’ve not ridden Hunt wheels yet, but I’ve read the reviews and I know that the team at Hunt have also done their homework. Hopefully I’ll try some in 2016.

Find out more here: and here:

Thanks for reading and I wish you a happy and successful 2016



Rapide RC1 Disc first ride review

Earlier in the year I wrote a post about Rapide’s 2016 range after seeing them at UK distributor, Madison’s 2016 bikes launch. One of the models that particularly stood out was the new RC Disc – in the striking green and black colour.

I thought it was a smart move by Rapide to embrace disc brakes early in the development of the brand, not least because disc brakes really suit endurance style bikes (to me). Other things I thought were smart was making their carbon frames flat mount compatible – that’s the way the market’s going and also 15mm through axle on the front wheel. I also like the fact that the bikes were designed to run 25mm tyres and full mudguards – to me extending the potential audience for the bikes to include club or distance riders looking for a carbon winter or commuter bike. It’s also smart to have a clear and simple range of Tiagra, 105 and Ultegra level builds or a frameset if you fancy something different.

As luck would have it, a little while later Rapide offered to send me an RC1 Disc to review and I’ve managed to get out and get some first impressions recently which I wanted to share.

DSC03642The RC1 Disc features the new improved 2016 Shimano Tiagra 10 speed groupset hung on a black with red branding version of the RC Disc frameset. Available in 6 sizes, the RC1 Disc also features Fulcrum Racing Sport DB Disc wheels (they were also specced on the Genesis Datum I rode recently) and are shod with Continental Ultrasport tyres in 25mm.

Flat mount adapter for post mount TRP brakes
Flat mount adapter for post mount TRP brakes

The brakes are well respected TRP Spyre cable operated discs and interestingly matched with TRP 140mm rotors on the Rapide carbon disc range rather than the “normal” 160mm most brands seem to specify.  The finishing kit (bars, stem and seatpost) are all FSA and it’s topped off with a Rapide branded saddle.

Lots of internal routing...
Lots of internal routing…

Apart from the brakes and chain (KMC), it’s a pretty much full Tiagra 4700 groupset with Shifters, Mech’s, chainset, and cassette. On paper I think it’s a solid build list and the full bike retails for £1,699 compared to £999 for the frameset. The other option some might be tempted by is the striking green 105 build which moves you to 11 speed, but keeps the same wheels and tyres with a slightly upgraded FSA finishing kit for an extra £200. Whether that jump to 11 speed is worth it, is up to you and I’d suggest reading to the end before you decide.

Typically beefy bottom bracket area
Typically beefy bottom bracket area

Endurance geometry generally means a more stable, less twitchy handling, often a little shorter reach and a higher front end and the Rapide has much of this in its’ design. I love a good endurance geometry.

Flat mount fork with post mount adapter
Flat mount fork with post mount adapter

Yes, I also love my race bike but I don’t always want to ride a bike like that – a bike that’s comfortable and fast over long distances is also incredibly appealing, often making for a terrific companion, so I’m curious about how I get on with the Rapide. On the website the company says they’ve worked hard to combine great handling, fantastic acceleration and superior comfort. I’ve been sent a medium with has a reach that is pretty much bang on for me and also boasts a stack height that’s exactly the same as a Genesis Zero or NeilPryde Nazare(Alize) on paper. So for me I’m not sacrificing any front end height or reach according to the sizing chart.

Good clearance with 25mm tyres, I'll try 28's too
Good clearance with 25mm tyres, I’ll try 28’s too

In the flesh, to me, the bike looks rather masculine with the matt and gloss black frame matched with bold red graphics. The bike and frame look well put together and the new Tiagra looks a class above the old one – especially the cranks and shifters.


I’ve managed to get out for one ride over one of my favourite testing loops on the Rapide, which features lots of Britain’s typically awful and broken road surfaces, chip seal, short steep climbs, long fast descents and some great views which make no difference at all to how the bike performs but I like them all the same.20151209_132111

My first impression of the Rapide upon heading out onto the road was that the ride feels very, very smooth. It seems a very comfortable bike and handled all my rotten local roads with aplomb. The handling also seemed stable but with enough nimbleness about it to keep things interesting.

Having spent a lot of time on hydraulic disc brakes with 160mm rotors the 140mm cable disc brakes felt a touch lacking in bite on the first ride but they did the job.

20151209_134920The new Tiagra groupset instantly impressed – it doesn’t just look good, it’s a pleasure to ride too. The new concealed cable shifters have a lovely feel to them. The shifting is very good and of course the new 4 arm cranks look great on the bike. If you’re worried about choosing Tiagra either for budget reasons or because you’re not ready to switch to 11 speed – don’t as this is very good indeed.

The finishing kit – including the saddle, all worked well and were comfortable.

The flipside of the terrific smoothness was perhaps it lacked a little road feel.  I’ll swap wheels and tyres during the test to see how that changes things as I’ve previously found both the wheels and tyres competent but a little underwhelming.

Interesting seat stay profiles for the disc brakes
Interesting seat stay profiles for the disc brakes

Overall it was a good first ride and I’ll look forward to spending some miles on the bike soon – including on the upcoming #girodilento250

My full review is now published here:

You can find out more about the bike here:

Thanks for reading


The #girodilento250 festive family friendly challenge is back for 2015!

Yes, it’s back (again)! For the last few years I’ve held the #girodilento250  – a festive riding challenge for people, with lives, families and loved ones they need to spend time with between December 24th and 31st.

I had always liked the idea of the Festive 500 that Rapha and Strava hold each winter but as someone with a wife, young kids, family commitments including my wife’s birthday all within the last week of December, 500kms is never going to happen (unless I’m angling for a swift divorce, which I’m not).

So the #girodilento250 was born as an idea for those of us who’d like a challenge but with a less extreme level of commitment. With that in mind, I keep the idea simple to hopefully make it easier for you to join in should you wish to.

So here are the guidelines I’ve used each year (please feel free to suggest any improvements in the comments):

  1. Any riding goal up 250km is fine – you choose an amount that would be a good goal for you. 250km might be too far if you’ve got lots on, so choose a smaller amount if you’d like
  2. To join in – you can leave a comment with how far you hope to ride or tweet your goal with the hashtag #girodilento250, so we can share the riding we’re all hoping to do.
  3. A simple way to log your rides is to use Strava and tag each of your rides between December 24th and the 31st with #girodilento250
  4. Feel free to join the girodilento Strava club here to log your rides: It’ll make it easier to track them and to see how other people are getting on as well. You can also use the Strava club to share your target in the comments if you wish to.
  5. Photos of rides/riding are all good too – again if you can tag them #girodilento250, hopefully I can find them and share them too. My Facebook page is a great place to share your ride pictures, as is twitter, Instagram or any other platform of your choice. Each year it’s been great to get some of the stories from those riding and I hope this might happen again.
  6. There are no prizes for completion other than the warm glow of satisfaction of hitting your goal and still having time to spend with your loved ones. Even if you don’t hit your goal, hopefully you’ll still have got out and had a good ride or two, which is good for the soul. This challenge is all about finding a balance between normal life and riding and prizes didn’t seem to fit with that (to me anyway), although I may rustle up a few random prizes/awards

Any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment here, or on my facebook page or via Twitter.

If you like this idea – jump in and have a go and also please share it with other people who ride – the more involved, the merrier …. and the more festive.

Thanks for reading and hope to see you virtually on the girodilento festive family 250 #girodilento250

Winter training starts here…

This summer was my fourth in a row that hasn’t gone to plan. By that I mean that I rode my bike a lot less than I’d hoped to. This year the reason was a much higher workload, which is great, because as a freelancer, it meant summer was a bit more lucrative than last year and but something had to give and it was bike riding.

So rather than riding 500-600km per month during the summer, I managed just over 600km in total during July to September. Not good and as you might expect, it’s been awful for my fitness.

On recent rides, I’ve really struggled on the bike, to the point that it’s lessened the enjoyment of being out riding significantly.

So I decided to take Eddie Fletcher of Wattbike’s advice and try the 16 week Wattbike Triathlon training plan. Eddie recommended it previously as a programme that should bring a cyclist into the spring well-conditioned. Sounds perfect then.20151106_133723

I’ve written previously about my enthusiasm for the Wattbike – it helped me to the biggest performance gains I’ve made since beginning riding. See this post for more info: You’ve most likely heard about many different elite athletes using them as part of their normal training regimes, but I proved to myself last year that time starved ordinary riders (with families and jobs etc) can also make good performance improvement if you can commit to a handful of hours a week for training.

The unpleasant part of getting started again was beginning with a 3 minute aerobic test to set my training zones. This involved riding the British Cycling 20 minute warmup and then riding as hard as I could for 3 minutes to get my average power over that short period. Last time I tried it I managed 339 Watts and 180bpm, which is ok for my 68kg weight. This time it had not surprisingly dropped – I managed 316 Watts and 180bpm. I was probably lucky to only have dropped my power by 7%.  20151103_135214

The upside is that all of my training zones have got slightly easier. If you’re not familiar with the Wattbike approach it’s that you train with power and heart rate zones.

I’m now on my way through week 3 of the 16, having checked off the first 10 workouts of my 4 month journey. One of the things I liked about the last programme I did on the Wattbike was that it didn’t smash you up right away as much of the early focus was on lower intensity (Zone 1 and 2) riding to heart get your heart rate and power zones matching up. This new programme follows a similar path and frankly it’s been great as I don’t have the fitness or stamina for tough workouts right now. Riding 4 sessions a week has been both challenging and satisfying and even the low intensity has left me with achy legs.  Whilst Wattbike have updated their website recently and the training plans aren’t so obvious on it, I’ve been working out my sessions on bits of paper using the old PDF training guide. They’re the same programmes – this is now called the Winter Training Plan.20151113_134104-001

Whilst I’ve been riding all sessions indoors on the Wattbike so far, the programme is written to allow you to swap a couple of rides a week to being outdoors and I’m hoping to do that soon.

Ticking off the first 10 workouts has Strava telling me I’ve done more riding in November than in any month since June, which again reflects on how rarely I’ve been on a bike.

I’ll keep riding and attempting to hit all four sessions a week as I’m genuinely curious to see what sort of shape I’m in at the end.

If you’d like to see the plan I’m riding to, you can find it here:

If you want to follow my progress, you can find me on Strava here:

Thanks for reading.

First ride review: Kinesis Racelight Disc wheels

If you’ve been paying attention (and attended the recent Cycle Show), you might well have spotted that Kinesis UK have significantly increased their wheel range. My first look at these new wheels has been very positive – once I figured out how to get tyres on the rims!


The guys at Kinesis have built up a lot of knowledge on wheels over the last few years and their Crosslight CX Disc wheelset has been a strong seller as I understand it. Encouraged by that success and also having a very popular range of road bikes to create wheels for (in addition to the Crosslight Cyclocross bikes), they’ve been hard at work developing some road wheels (and some more ‘cross wheels too – including affordable alloy tubular wheelsets ).

The new Racelight road wheel range is quite simple – there’s a caliper braked Racelight wheelset that retails for £299.99 a pair and the Racelight Disc wheelset that retails for £399.99 a pair.

The first stock has only just arrived in the country and I’ve been lucky enough to have been sent a pair of the Racelight Disc wheels to try. It’s perfect timing as I have the Genesis Datum here to review and I’ve arranged another road disc bike to follow it as well, so I hope to be able to run them on a couple of different bikes during the review.


The Racelight Disc wheels feature a disc specific rim that’s both wide (19mm internal) and tubeless compatible and they’re laced 3x with 28 spokes front and rear. What’s very welcome is that they’re compatible with normal quick releases but also with 12 and 15mm through axles, including 12x142mm rear spacing. The Racelight disc wheels ship with a bag of adapters for all of those standards and they’re very easy to swap between each type of setup.


The hubs are centrelock, which are much easier to live with compared to 6 bolt rotors in my opinion. The hubs also feature sealed bearings and an 11 speed compatible free hub. Rim tape (non-tubeless) is supplied, as is a 10 speed cassette spacer.


I’m running TRP rotors and these were very easy to fit with the Lezyne CNC Rod and cassette lock ring adaptor I have in my toolkit.

Kinesis claim a weight of 1655 gms a pair but when I weighed the set I received on my ebay scales of semi-truth, they came in at a much lighter 1540gms a pair which was a very welcome bonus and quite a large difference. This weight is also about 330gms lighter than the Fulcrum wheels on the Genesis Datum I have here.


I had planned to run the 28mm version of Continentals GP 4000s but I have to admit, I couldn’t get them on the rims. I switched to a set of Clement Strada LGG road 28mm I also have and after a struggle and quite a few expletives, I managed to get them onto the wheels. So they’re a bit of a challenge! In fairness to Kinesis, my technique for working with tubeless rims was poor and to begin with I didn’t realise that you need to ensure that you keep the tyre in the central channel of the rim when you’re putting them on, so I made the process significantly more difficult for myself. I’m going to summon up my courage and try to swap back to the Continentals soon. Partly to see if using the correct fitting technique helps me get them fitted and because I like riding the Continentals a lot better.


So with the Clement tyres on the Kinesis wheels, the weight of the Genesis Datum dropped around 500gms which is nice. With a minor adjustment of the calipers the wheels went onto the bike easily and they look good. Kinesis have helpfully chosen neutral aesthetics for the wheels. The rims, spokes and hubs are all black and the graphics are tastefully done to match, so they’ll look good on almost any bike.


Last weekend I rode them for the first time in a sportive around the South Downs which was a typically rolling terrain with one hard climb (Butsers Hill). The Kinesis wheels behaved faultlessly on this first ride – there were no issues whatsoever, they rode well, accelerated briskly and handled well with a firm but comfortable ride. Obviously more miles will be needed to get a fuller view but after a first ride, I can’t see a reason not to take the plunge if you’re interested.


There are growing numbers of disc bikes out there and stock wheels are typically cheap and heavy (if tough).

Wheels like the Kinesis Racelight Disc look like they’re a good step up in terms of performance, will be much lighter than most stock wheels and offer a good ride without breaking the bank. Kinesis bike frames have always had a reputation for offering value and a great ride – my first impressions are that the company’s Racelight Disc wheels follow in those excellent traditions.


I’ll keep riding and share further thoughts in a couple of months and a lot more miles.

Thanks for reading.

Genesis Datum 30 first look review

Sometimes you can tell you’re going to like a bike within the first few miles of riding it. The Genesis Datum is one of those bikes.

Front 3/4 shot highlighting the graphic design and big fork clearances
Front 3/4 shot highlighting the graphic design and big fork clearances

The Datum is Genesis Bikes second carbon frame after the Zero race bike released a year ago. However it takes more of its inspiration from the classic Equilibrium than it’s carbon sibling as the geometry is very close to that of the newly revised Equilibrium. So the Datum isn’t designed as a gravel bike then, well not from the geometry at least, unless you consider a Genesis Equlibrium a gravel bike that is.

Genesis Datum 30 Headtube details
Genesis Datum 30 Headtube details

Ok, I’m being a little flippant but when I spoke to Albert Steward, Genesis’s designer about this bike he specifically told me it’s not designed to be a gravel bike – it’s designed to be a tough road bike with big clearances. It’s designed to be fun, comfortable, versatile and great for all kinds of riding, yes including a bit of gravel/bridleway if you want to, but that’s not it’s raison d’être.

Mid-ride photo
Mid-ride photo

There has been a lot of focus on gravel bikes in the last year and it’s such a nebullous category that lots of bikes may touch on it at some level or another, perhaps including the Datum. As a roadie riding on the UK’s potholed and crumbling road surfaces, I want a bike that can excel in these riding conditions – wide tyres and good frame design absolutely make a difference.

Clean lines and cable routing on this Di2 spec Datum - including neater flat mount brakes
Clean lines and cable routing on this Di2 spec Datum – including neater flat mount brakes

Because I’m a roadie and haven’t really done much “dirt” riding, I’ve just been out road riding on it a couple of times so far with friends riding their best summer road bikes and I’ve not felt disadvantaged or like I’ve picked the wrong bike to ride.

Big rear tyre clearance even while running 30mm
Big rear tyre clearance even while running 30mm

One of the reasons that Genesis chose carbon for this new frameset is that it meant they could do more with the shaping to achieve the design goals they had in mind. Looking at the bike, the most obviously place you see this is in the shaped seattube. It features a cut-out like you see on some aero bikes but that’s not the job it’s there for. But putting the cutout in, Genesis could maintain big tyre clearances (you can run 33mm tyres with 45mm mudguards) without having to lengthen the chainstays. This is good because keeping the chainstays shorter sharpens up the handling.

Shaped seattube for shorter chainstay & large tyres
Shaped seattube for shorter chainstay & large tyres

Carbon also made it a little simpler to design the top half and bottom half of the frame with different objectives. The chainstays, downtube, headtube and the lower half of the seattube are all designed with stiffness and performance in mind, whereas the seatstays, top of the seattube and the top tube are designed for compliance. Also for compliance is the 27.2mm seatpost and the 30mm tyres obviously! (They’ll be 33mm tyres on the final production bikes).

Genesis Datum - non drive side - good for seeing how much cleaner flat mount brakes look
Genesis Datum – non drive side – good for seeing how much cleaner flat mount brakes look

In looking at the geometry, I’m not convinced that it’s even that much of an “endurance fit” in the sense of the typical shorter top tube and longer headtube – but it is comfortable and it works (for me certainly). I’ve put my NeilPryde aero bike on the geometry table below – a classic 56cm frameset – 560mm top tube, 160mm headtube and parallel 73 degrees head and seat angle. It comes out with a stack and reach of 575 and 385mm respectively. The size medium Datum has exactly the same reach at 385mm and only an 11mm higher stack. The fact that it’s got a slightly slacker (by 1 degree) head angle works particularly well for my own bike fit. It’s interesting to me as well that the headtube length on the Datum is actually lower than my aero bike (in fairness that’s offset by a number of the other frame design variables) but overall it isn’t radically different. I’ve put the GT Grade on the geometry talbe as a point of comparison and used the large size as it’s the closest to matching the reach of my NeilPryde.Datum vs other geometry

So anyway to keep up with the design features, the Datum design includes the following:

  • Geometry closely based around the well proven Equlibrium
  • Carbon frame (24/30 ton) with Internal & Di2 compatible routing and standard quick release wheel fitting
  • Full carbon fork with a tapered steerer, 15mm through axle, mudguard mounts and massive tyre clearances
  • 27.2 mm seatpost for added compliance
  • Flat mount disc brakes

The Datum will be sold in three different builds with this being the top of the range 30 with Ultegra Di2 for £3099.99, there’s a £2099.99 Datum in matt black with Shimano 105 mechanical and Shimano flat mount hydraulic disc brakes, there’s a new Tiagra 10 speed version with TRP brakes in a stunning ruby red colour or you can buy a frameset and build your own for £999.99.

Di2 looks clean and routing helps that
Di2 looks clean and routing helps that

On paper, to me, it doesn’t quite fit neatly into any particular box. Do I think that’s a bad thing? Well really that depends on how it rides.

Even though this is only a first look blog post, I’ve managed two 60km roads to date and I have to say I really liked the Datum almost immediately and I can already see why in’s review of exactly the same bike they’re saying it’s a contender for bike of the year. Out on the road, my early impression is that the geometry performs very well indeed as does the whole bike. It feels like a road bike, it’s fun to ride, it’s lively, it handles well and descends very well. It’s comfortable thanks to the frame design and the fat tyres (that I’m running at 80psi and could go less).

I think it's a great looking bike
I think it’s a great looking bike

In this Di2 hydraulic spec it’s a fantastic all-rounder – the groupset and brakes are fantastic and the flat mount brake calipers look a lot more well packaged and discreet than post mount ones. The Datum looks great in the flesh too, the cable routing (including internal fork routing) is very clean, the frame looks modern and well designed – it’s got a lovely paint job too, although I don’t think a white bike is ever particularly easy to keep looking fresh over the long term.

I’m also really enjoying the wide 30mm Challenge tyres. I’ve long since moved on from 23mm unless I simply don’t have room for bigger. I’ve spent the last few years riding 25mm and have just recently been won over to 28mm. The Challenges are perhaps a touch sluggish to initially accelerate but after that they ride really well. Good grip, good comfort, decent road feel – well as much as you can tell in 120km so far.

The finishing kit is also solid stuff too. When I test rode the Genesis Equilibrium a couple of years back, it had the best own brand bars and stem I’d ever used. The production Datum will feature a new “RandoX Flared” flared bars with the same short 70mm reach and a 125mm drop dimensions as the Equilibrium but with an additional flare at the sides  and a flatter section for riding on the tops. The review bike has the Equilibrium bars and stem, so the same short reach and drop dimensions and I’ve found  them perfect for me.

Neat flat mount rear disc brakes - blend in well. 160mm rotors
Neat flat mount rear disc brakes – blend in well. 160mm rotors

The only “negative” is that the Datum isn’t a super light bike, weighing in at about 8.8kgs out of the box for the size medium but it doesn’t ride like a heavy bike. It’s also not a bike designed to hit a weight target – it’s about the ride and because it does ride so well, I’m not bothered about the weight. I’ve had a busy summer work and family wise this year so I’m not at all fit but I’ve already managed to get some PRs on Strava on this bike – so like I said earlier, I’ve not found it wanting for speed.

The stock Fulcrum Racing Sport DB wheels (centrelock rotor fit) are not light at just under 1900 gms a pair but they roll wheel and feel tough enough to handle the tough road riding this bike is designed for. I’m probably going to swap in some lighter wheels to see how they change the ride and will report back in due course.

Huge front fork clearance
Huge front fork clearance

As I’ve already mentioned,  I can tell from a couple of early rides this is a bike that I’m not going to want to give back. Early impressions are that it’s a perfect compliment to my aero bike with aero wheels – in that it’s a bike that so far I think I could use for all of my other riding. The fact that it takes proper full mudguards too makes it a compelling winter bike too (if an expensive one in this spec) but you’d happily ride it all year round.

So far, as you’ll have gathered, I’m loving the Genesis Datum and I’ll keep riding to see how and if that changes.

Genesis look to have delivered a winner with the Datum
Genesis look to have delivered a winner with the Datum

If you’d like to read a little more about it, I recommend this very useful in-depth blog post on the Datum on the Genesis Bikes site that is well worth a read.

Any questions, please let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading

Update: I’ve now finished my full review on the Datum, which you can read here:

Rapha Pro Team Jacket review

Last winter Rapha sent me an outfit to review during the winter months, including the Pro Team Winter Jacket (see here: and as you’d hope, I spent a lot of time out riding in them.

As we get into another autumn, one of the first pieces of cycling clothing I’ve dug out to use again is the Rapha Pro Team jacket as I think it’s a fantastic piece of cycling clothing. I rode in this jacket a lot last winter, it was a regular first choice and not just because I wanted to give it a decent review.

Firstly I think it looks terrific. It’s another superbly realised design from Rapha, classy and elegant without trying too hard. I think the blue one that I have is tremendous too (although sadly you can’t get that colour anymore – other choices are available).

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

However the real reason I am still smitten with the Rapha Pro Team jacket is simply because it works beautifully in the temperature range for most of my winter riding. On the whole, it doesn’t get super cold riding where I live in the UK. It’s rare that I would ride in less than 4 degress Celsius. It’s also rare that I’d ride in over 12 degrees on a winter’s day in Southern England. In that range of 8 degrees, from 4 to 12, which is most days, the Rapha Pro Team Jacket is perfect for the temperature.

Rapha's classic "armband " detail and the reflective elements on the front
Rapha’s classic “armband ” detail and the reflective elements on the front

Its slim fit, including a higher cut waist and a longer tail at the rear, made me feel like riding at tempo even when I had no plans to and alluded to warmer weather and the accompanying race fit clothing and riding. It’s well made and still looks good after lots of use and washing. It also works perfectly as a pair with a Rapha Rain Jacket that I keep in my back pocket on days that I think I might need the extra layer (when it’s looking like raining more than a little or at the colder end of the working range).

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

The concept of the jacket isn’t unique but it’s very well executed. The Polartec softshell on the front is both windproof and water resistant but not at all bulky. In use it works very well indeed and in fact feels thinner than the Super Roubaix of the rear panels. There are reflective elements on the front, the rear as well as the collar and sleeves, which helps peace of mind a touch on gloomy days. There is a pocket at the front of the jacket where the reflective stripes are but I have to concede that I’ve yet to use it. The three rear pockets work well, providing useful and stretchy capacity with the middle one featuring an extra brace in the lining that I think is there to help hold the shape when your pockets are in use. The side panels of the Pro Team jacket stretch to help achieve the race fit and provide a good level of give for the size.

Rapha Pro Team Jacket rear
Rapha Pro Team Jacket rear

The rear of the jacket does help it breathe and manage your temperature through the operating range. In fairness though, this breathable Super Roubaix back is also why it’s not suited for really cold days (unless you run very hot or are working very hard) as it works a bit too well for the coldest of weather.

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

I’ve really fallen for this jacket and as the temperatures have started to fall, getting it back out of my kit bag has put a smile on my face and helped me look forward to winter riding. It’s become a firm favourite even though I have other conceptually similar jackets in my wardrobe – this is the one I look forward to wearing the most.

It’s a jacket that (to me anyway) just feels a bit special to wear. Pairing it with a matching Rapha Rain Jacket makes it even nicer as that’s another fantastic garment too – this is also important as the Pro Team Jacket isn’t water proof, merely water resistant, so you’ll need a waterproof extra layer from time to time when you’re likely to be caught in any rain heavier than showers. Last winter was relatively mild, so much so that I sold my old cold weather winter jacket after not using it.

For me, this jacket is a nice reminder that while good cycling clothing has to do the job it’s designed for well to succeed, it’s even nicer when you are also able to take pleasure from simply owning and using it. I’ve got a lot of riding kit in my wardrobe now and most of it is very good but there aren’t many items that I could say I love owning. This jacket is one of them.

You can find out more about the Rapha Pro Team Jacket here:

Thanks for reading.

6 Bikes to see at the Cycle Show 2015

I had a walk around the Cycle Show and I reckon these are a pick of some of the stand out bikes on display to check out when you visit:

  • New Trek Madone

This is one of my favourite new releases for 2015 and this exact bike is on the Trek stand for you to take a closer look at:

It’s one of the bikes that I’ve most thought if I could afford it, I would buy this year.

  • New Canyon Ultimate CF SLX

New Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 Aero

New Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 Aero

Seen here in the currently top of the range Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 Aero build with Dura Ace Di2 and Zipp 303’s – it’s a stunning looking bike  and further enhanced by the new one piece bar and stem. Well worth checking out in person – especially as you can’t see them in store.

Canyon Ultimate CF SLX complete with Zipp 303s looking very good indeed
Canyon Ultimate CF SLX complete with Zipp 303s looking very good indeed
  • New Bianchi Specialissima
Bianchi Specialissima
Bianchi Specialissima

I have to confess that Italian bikes don’t normally turn my head but in the “flesh” this Bianchi looks fantastic. If you do get to the show – pick it up too – The black bike is incredibly light.

Amazingly light - pick it up and find out for yourself
Amazingly light – pick it up and find out for yourself
  • New Kinesis 4S Disc
Kinesis 4S Disc - incredibly versatile and affordable for many at £650 for the frameset
Kinesis 4S Disc – incredibly versatile and affordable for many at £650 for the frameset

I reckon this is a fantastic real world bike and hugely versatile. I owned the original TK3 version of this bike (before it was renamed the 4S and really enjoyed it). This new one can be built with disc or caliper brakes and mechanical or Di2 groupsets. Hugely versatile and room for full guards and up to 32mm tyres. I reckon it’ll sell like hotcakes. The new Kinesis GF_Ti Disc was also getting a lot of interest:

New Kinesis GF_Ti Disc
New Kinesis GF_Ti Disc
  • Mason cycles Definition and Resolution
On an easel like the work of art it is...
On an easel like the work of art it is…

Not strictly new but it’s the first time lots of people (myself included) have got to see former Kinesis designer Dom Mason’s striking new bikes.

Mason Definition complete bike
Mason Definition complete bike

They’re well worth checking out in person to at the very least see the enormous detail that’s been considered in the design and finishing of these frames – right down to the lovely brass head tube badges. Beautifully finished and carefully considered design – what’s not to like! Also on show is Josh Ibbett’s Transcontinental winning Mason and that’s worth a look as well.

Josh Ibbett's Transcontinental winning Mason bike
Josh Ibbett’s Transcontinental winning Mason bike
  • New Cannondale Slate
Cannondale fascinating new Slate - well worth checking out on the Fabric stand
Cannondale fascinating new Slate – well worth checking out on the Fabric stand

Cannondale’s striking and intriguing new Slate is on show on the Fabric stand and I reckon it’s well worth looking at. With it’s lefty fork, it’s an unusual look but I think it’s a fascinating piece of innovation that’ll sell well.

Obviously there is loads and loads more to see but I thought these few standouts might be of interest. Find out more, including ticket info for the Cycle Show here

Thanks for reading

A family holiday in the Netherlands – observations from a UK cycling advocate

Over the last few years, I’ve been campaigning where I live for Dutch quality cycling infrastructure to help reduce traffic congestion, which needs to suitable, safe and convenient for anyone aged 5 to 95. It’s not something I write about regularly on this blog but the posts I have written have been well received by visitors (you can find out what my thoughts have been here:

However, for all the reading and the watching of YouTube videos, I’d not been to the Netherlands to see it for my own eyes. When we were having our discussion about where to go on the family summer camping holiday this year, the Netherlands came up as somewhere we’d not tried. Some online research and via the Cool Camping website we booked a week at Camping de Roos, near the small town of Ommen.

Before we left my kids asked me how many people live in the Netherlands and a Google search gave us 16 to 20 million people depending on who’s figures you believe. I thought that seemed a lot given it’s much smaller than the UK and there are 60 million people (ish) in the UK. Some more Googling showed us that the Netherlands has a 60% higher population density than the UK.

On the drive over it certainly felt like that as we were travelling to our camp-site towards the German border, not exactly where it all happens in the Netherlands. Even so, the motorway was very busy and there was a surprisingly high amount of traffic.

It was a very rainy afternoon when we arrived and there weren’t many bikes around – it looked like most people had taken their cars. There was no shortage of bike paths though – even though in the rain it looked like they weren’t getting much use.

The camping ground we were staying in was very large and there were a lot of Dutch families on the site (with only about 20-30% of the campers not Dutch) and people of all ages were riding bikes around the camping ground. Cars were banned apart from setting up or packing down, which made for a fantastic environment and allowed me as a parent to breathe out and let my kids explore as they wanted to. It also made for a quieter camp-site – another bonus.

The vast majority of the Dutch were on traditional & perhaps classic Dutch City bikes – upright, with hub gears, dynamo lights and built in locks, mudguards and racks. Plenty had big front crates for carrying shopping too or childseats (front and/or rear) for kids. The bikes were made by brands like Sparta, Cortina, Batavus and Gazelle but also brands like Giant, Scott and Merida. Surprisingly to me, the Dutch kids bikes were exactly the same just smaller and there were very few “sporty” bikes like you’d see in most other places in the world. In fact my kids Islabikes helped them stand out as foreigners and looked very under-specced alongside Dutch kids bikes.

The Camping de Roos hire bikes
The Camping de Roos hire bikes

The camp-site had its own branded Dutch bikes for hire for around £5 per day. My wife and I hired some so we could take our kids on a family cycling route of 20km from the camp site. Unfortunately that 20km excluded me getting us lost and adding another 8-9km to the route, I would say no more than 4km (of the 20km) was on road, all of the rest was on fully segregated cycle paths. For my wife who won’t cycle in the UK as she feels it’s too dangerous and my kids who I won’t let cycle in the UK because I know it’s too dangerous, the cycle paths were the revelation I thought they would be.

Another segregated path, this one alongside a busy rural driving road
Another segregated path, this one alongside a busy rural driving road

Kilometre after kilometre physically separated from cars. Out in the countryside they varied in their quality but being fully separated from cars meant that my whole family could relax and ride at the pace they were happy with completely without stress in our case this was 5-8 miles an hour.

Miles and miles of paths through the countryside completely segregated from traffic!
Miles and miles of paths through the countryside completely segregated from traffic!

The path quality was generally exceptional – even in this mostly rural area – it was easy for my 8 year old daughter to waft along chatting without a care in the world as we pretty glided through the pretty countryside.

Cycle path priortiy over rural side roads - including bollards to keep cars out of cycle path
Cycle path priortiy over rural side roads – including bollards to keep cars out of cycle path

Given how few segregated paths there are in the UK and how poor designed, constructed and maintained they are, it was mindboggling to see how many kilometres of paths there were for the relatively low local population levels.

Cycle path next to a busy road leading into Ommen (note paths on both sides of road)
Cycle path next to a busy road leading into Ommen (note paths on both sides of road)

We also did quite a lot of driving in the Netherlands and with a road network designed to be largely separate from the cycling network (and a good rail system), the Netherlands is the best country I’ve ever driven in. The roads for cars are generally well designed, the separated cycle paths that are equally attractive to use seem to take enough people out of their cars to keep things moving. We drove around 900km in our week on a couple of big trips and never had to stop once for traffic congestion. Not once.

Cycle path in central Eindhoven, note the cyclists on far left who are choosing to cycle on quieter paths than this one
Cycle path in central Eindhoven, note the cyclists on far left who are choosing to cycle on quieter paths than this one

We might have got lucky and we never drove into Amsterdam but we did drive into Eindhoven.

Pedestrianised town centre - bikes welcome
Pedestrianised town centre – bikes welcome

Another surprising thing my wife and I noticed was the sheer number of older people riding bikes (by older I’d say 65 years plus). We expected to see a lot of children out riding and there was. Probably 30-40% of the cyclists we saw during our week were aged between say 10 and 18 years old. They were all out riding with friends and often riding between towns for what I’m guessing is socialising (as it was the school holidays). But as I say the big surprise was older people – probably 50% of the cyclists we saw.

Amazing quality rural path with priority over driveways into houses
Amazing quality rural path with priority over driveways into houses

They looked vigorous, healthy and happy (and much stronger and more vital that elderly people in the UK) and seemed to mostly ride in groups 2 or 3 abreast while chatting. Many looked to be retired and this looked like a way they spent days out. Amazing for someone coming from the English speaking world.  Another amazing thing was the skill level of these older cyclists. At one point we were on a narrow dirt path in a forest travelling in single file. This was on the first ride, so my kids were a bit wobbly and nervous as they got their confidence. We were passed by a couple of groups of older cyclists coming the other way, who rode confidently at and past us doing 20kmh+, with one hand of the their handlebars without stopping chatting. It was very impressive! Anyone who says great infrastructure means less skilled cyclists hasn’t seen what I have (and maybe an idiot with an agenda).

An example of the typical Dutch bike shop customer
An example of the typical Dutch bike shop customer

As an aside, in the small town of Ommen there were three bike shops that I noticed. Two in the middle and one a little further out. The customers I saw in these during the week were 60+ years old women.

Charging point for electric bikes in the main pedestrianised shopping street
Charging point for electric bikes in the main shopping street

They only sold practical Dutch bikes and there were even plugs for electric bikes outside.

Another Ommen bike shop
Another Ommen bike shop

I have to say it made it appear like the Netherlands must be one of the best countries in the world to retire in as you don’t have to worry about keeping your drivers licence and it looked great for your social life – not to mention health.

Of course being the Netherlands, almost no one was wearing a helmet. There were a handful of British or German tourists who wore them (but I think many put them away after a few days). Sports cyclists wore them. I saw plenty of road cyclists on the paths I was riding on with my family, riding in lycra in groups with helmets. I only saw two cyclists in the week in hi-vis (and helmets). It was on the last day and they were travelling together, two gentlemen in their 60’s and we saw Dutch cyclists were laughing at them as they went past. A truly different & better world.

Outside the main supermarket - bikes have closest parking but drivers also well served
Outside the main supermarket – bikes have closest parking but drivers also well served

This wasn’t a study tour – just a family holiday but it was hard not to think that the Dutch system is deeply impressive and that by separating cyclists from cars in many places, they’ve made the system work better for everyone. It was a fantastic place to be a driver and Dutch drivers were just as badly behaved as UK ones – there was a lot of tailgating and speeding wherever we drove – but the road system was fantastic. The system works brilliantly for cycling with direct and largely car free routes right into the centre of even small towns. The cycle routes are more direct than the driving routes but as well as lots of cycle parking in the pedestrianised town centres, there was also plenty of free car parking that was never full. There is a lot of traffic though and a lot of driving – more than you’d think reading about cycling advocacy from outside the Netherlands. But it looked like 20-30% of trips wherever we went were by bike and this took a big chunk of cars off the road and kept the road network moving (not mentioning trains which we didn’t use).

Rural "filtered permeability" - this road closed to cars once past driveway on right (so resident has access)
Rural “filtered permeability” – this road closed to cars once past driveway on right (so resident has access)

We didn’t see one “fat” Dutch person either and it’s not just that, as it was summer and warm, a lot of people were in shorts and t-shirts (male and female) and the Dutch have fantastically toned legs thanks to the cycling infrastructure and looked in generally good shape. The Dutch are not small people and you couldn’t help but wonder with all their dairy farming that if they didn’t cycle on average 800+km each, each year how big an obesity problem they’d have (like the UK, NZ, Australia & the USA for example).

Underpass for bikes under busy rural road to remove the danger of crossing
Underpass for bikes under busy rural road to remove the danger of crossing

I couldn’t help but think that behind all this investment in cycling might just be pragmatic common sense. If you give people a real and attractive choice to make any journey on a bike in comfort in safety by building fantastic infrastructure, then they’ll use it. As a result, that will take cars off the road and reduce congestion, it gets people of all ages moving and keeps them healthy, it reduces pollution and competition for road space and parking. Building world class bike infrastructure costs a fraction of building roads for cars or train tracks (or bus lanes). All of which are extremely important in such a densely populated county as like anywhere else but perhaps even more, the Dutch simply don’t have the space for everyone to need to drive on every trip.

A Dutch "desire line" showing a route the locals choose to take where the path isn't perfect
A Dutch “desire line” showing a route the locals choose to take where the path isn’t perfect

Having seen it in practice, I’m less convinced that it’s an idealistic “cultural” decision but I think the Dutch are happy for the rest of the world to believe this if we want to. I think it’s a rational decision with no downside and every upside.

Not all roads were segregated but most have a 40mph speed limit (which drivers mostly ignore). Not generally high car traffic volumes either
Not all roads were segregated but most have a 40mph speed limit (which drivers mostly ignore). Not generally high car traffic volumes either

A few other points that were interesting to note.

  • The cycling infrastructure seemed to mean there were a lot less pedestrians as it was much easier just to take a bike as you can cover 4-6 times the distance with the same physical effort as walking whilst also more easily carrying things on your bike than whilst you walk
  • Family trips by bike are normal – to church, to the country side to the shops, to anywhere
  • Driving hasn’t suffered because of cycling investment – it’s made driving much better but because people really do have another hugely attractive alternative to having to take the car. Cycling infrastructure also takes cars off the road, which is better for those who do want to/need to drive.
  • Cycling reduces congestion and demand for scarce resources like urban space for parking cars
  • The Dutch cycling infrastructure approach makes it simple, safe, convenient, quick and attractive to cycle for all ages, from children, to families to the elderly.
  • There were no Sustrans style gates blocking any path anywhere. Yes, this meant there were occasional motorised scooters but that’s an enforcement issue not a design one and in fact becasuse the paths are generally wide it wasn’t an issue for cycling anyway (where we were).
  • Cycle paths had access across side roads and there was even rural filtered permeability (bollards) to close country roads to cars but keep them open for bikes.
  • Where there wasn’t segregated paths, cycling was much more unpleasant and more like the UK. Dutch drivers also tailgate, speed and pass cyclists too closely. However around 2/3 of the time you are on seperate paths.
  • The increased quality of life for Dutch citizens as a result of all of the above was tangible. The political elite in English speaking countries who have failed to build this at home, have not only sold everyone else short but they’ve failed themselves as many of them are now of the age that retired Dutch people are enjoying fantastic quality of life with cycling
  • Cycle paths were wide, very well surfaced and designed for all speeds and abilities. Next to main roads they really were like motorways for bikes – it was incredibly easy to travel distances by bike with little effort (assuming a basic fitness level.
  • In one week just on holiday, my wife and kids rode 70km, which is more than they’d probably ridden in the rest of their lives combined. This is what infrastructure does – make cycling easy, safe and attractive to build in. Their bikes are now gathering dust again in the UK.

I will now most definitely be booking a place on a study tour and visiting again – and maybe even emigrating! The Netherlands was absolutely a revelation of the best possible kind. Camping de Roos was fantastic too and well worth a visit.

Thanks for reading

Rolf Vigor Alpha aero wheels first look review

Sometime ago I was sent a pair of Rolf Vigor Alpha wheels to review. In this first ride review, I’ve already found them to be fast, comfortable, roll well and are generally vertically stiff. On the downside, the ride initially felt a touch lifeless and there seems to be some lateral give in higher speed cornering. On balance, much more positive than negative though.

DSC01737If you’re not familiar with Rolf wheels, the first you notice is the unusual spoking pattern with pairs of braced spokes – 7 pairs on the front wheel and 8 pairs on the rear. This means Rolf wheels have very low spoke counts – 14 and 16. For those of us used to more conventional spoke patterns, these are a striking set of wheels in that you can’t help but notice them and they’ve got plenty of comment when I’ve been out on them – some positive, some negative.

Rolf are quite unashamedly confident about the Vigor Alpha’s performance:

“The Vigor α is the fastest alloy wheel on the market without qualification – no matter which direction the wind is blowing.

With its top-shelf aerodynamics and its scant 1450g weight, you will see why the Vigor α has become our most popular model. Years of evolution and revolution have made the Vigor α  the go-to wheel for those looking for a race day wheel that can handle the demands of everyday riding. The Vigor α is also available in a disc brake compatible version.”

DSC01742That’s very bold stuff but temper that confidence with the fact that all of the fastest wheels now are deep section carbon wheels, so perhaps it’s a claim that’s harder to challenge.

To help deliver this speed, the Vigor Alpha’s feature 33mm deep alloy rims in the clincher version I’m testing, the handful of spokes are all the venerable Sapim CX-Rays and the hubs feature Enduro ceramic bearings and a titanium freehub. The rims are 22mm wide with a 17mm brake track, so these aren’t a wide rim but the shape of them is described as a delta profile. The Vigor Alphas ship with quick release skewers and a reinforced rim tape.

DSC01740Rolf’s paired spoke design aims to neutralize the left and right outward pulling forces, which should help the wheels stay in true and means less spokes are needed, which also reduces overall weight. The rear hub features an oversized non-drive-side flange and this is intended to help transfer drive side torque to the non-drive side spokes, increasing torque absorption across more spokes.

My first long ride on the Vigor Alphas was with a friend at sportive with a rolling parcours (don’t they all!). I’m riding them on my NeilPryde aero bike as it seemed the best candidate in my stable to test wheels that are meant to be FAST. The good news was they did feel fast, we both managed gold times. The Rolfs seemed to accelerate wheel as well as hold speed well. The hubs also performed well as I found the bike to roll very well with the Rolfs.

DSC01748Comfort was also commendable and the Rolf’s seemed to soak up the bumps well, although I did wonder if this is enhanced by the spoking pattern. The rims, whilst fast and comfortable felt a touch lifeless to me on this first long ride but first impressions are just that. I’ll put some more miles in and consider this aspect in more detail.

Another aspect I’d like to investigate further is a feeling of lateral sway I was sure I felt in some faster sweeping corners. It was a gentle feeling of a little give laterally rather than anything more noticeable but as I’m a light rider, I’d like to try and see if I get the feeling again. Even if it’s simply a characteristic of the low spoke count and lacing pattern, it wasn’t something I was particularly concerned about.

DSC01750Braking was very good as you’d expect with any well made aluminium clincher wheels. I’m running Kool Stop pads, which are my clear favourite on aluminium rims. The combination was faultless on the road.

The Rolf Vigor Prima Alpha’s are not a cheap wheelset with a retail price of £999 a pair. For this money you’d expect very high end performance. Early impressions are definitely positive – as long as you can cope with the unusual looks. I’ll keep riding them and report back.

DSC01745In the meantime, you can find out more here:

If you’re already convinced and want to order some, you can do that here and support this site at the same time:

If you need new brake pads, you can order the Kool Stops I’m running here:

Thanks for reading.


Bontrager Men’s RXL Bib shorts review

Last year I tested the Bontrager Race Thermal bib shorts and I liked them so much, they became one of my favourite pieces of riding kit. As I said at the time, I still think these are the best shorts I’ve ridden for less than £100. In fairness, I’ve now worn them so much that the lycra on the chamois where it meets the saddle has “bubbled” a bit but I’m still happily riding them – they’ve worked hard.

After testing the Race Thermal’s I couldn’t help but wonder what the next model up the range would be like? So with that in mind I arranged for a pair of the £100 Bontrager RXL bib shorts to try.

Now after a few months of regularly riding in them, I think what you get is an excellent and higher performance bib shorts option over the Race Thermal. For those of us, who struggle to pay into three figures for a pair of bibshorts, I reckon you can buy these and be very happy.

DSC02152Compared to the more affordable Race Thermal bib shorts there are a number of upgrades for your extra money. These include a higher spec chamois pad, the Inform RXL, which Bontrager describe as multi-density, 3D seamless, with 4 way stretch and an anti-microbial top sheet. In practice, I’ve been very pleased with the pad, it’s a sensible thickness, giving a firm and comfortable ride. I’ve happily spent 3-4 hours out in these shorts without any discomfort. The colouring of the pad is a touch “unusual” with a red and white colour, but out on the bike – it works very well. If you can ride without even thinking about your shorts or comfort, as I did with these, then things are as they should be.

As with the Race Thermal bib shorts, Bontrager describe the fit as “fitted – streamlined for all round cycling performance” and I think this  is a good and fair description. They are fitted and streamlined for performance but they’re very comfortable on.

DSC02156The RXL do feel more like a “race” short than the thermal as they have more of a compression (higher performance) fit (including leg grippers) thanks the combination of Profila Power(compression) and Profila cool fabrics work well for warmer riding conditions and hold their position well when you’re riding. The seamless lightweight straps also work very well and add to the feeling of comfort. In fact you’ll probably not even notice them whilst riding. The Profila fabrics seem to wick well and also dry quickly after rain showers when you’re out riding.

The shorts are topped off with reflective elements for greater visibility. Additionally there are two colour choices available black (whichI have and has some white elements on the straps) and white, which is still largely black apart from bands at the base/gripper ends of the shorts and straps for greater contrast … or to match your other riding gear.

DSC02157Last but not least, Bontrager offer a 30 unconditional guarantee, so if you buy some and you don’t like them, you’ve got 30 days to return them for exchange or store credit. I think it’s unlikely you’ll want to do that – but it’s great to have the option.

DSC02147The RXL bib shorts are another winner from Bontrager, making it two out of two for my experiences with the company’s bib shorts in the last year. I happily recommend these if you’re in the market. They’re a higher performance short than the also excellent Race Thermal’s and are perfect for long or short rides and are excellent for days where the temperature is high enough that you don’t need a thermal element.

More information on them here:

Thanks for reading

2016 Trek Madone 9 Series first look + video

At Trek UK’s recent Trek World event, I got to spend some time admiring the new Madone 9 series and wanted to share some photos and observations on the bike for those interested.

Stunning race shop Madone 9 series - looks even better in real life!
Stunning race shop Madone 9 series – looks even better in real life!

The new Madone, like the new Specialized Venge VIAS, represent for me, what’s likely to be a significant step up in aero bike performance. In a lot of bike companies bikes are often designed by a small number of people but Trek committed dozens of engineers to the process and have documented the process in a whitepaper that’s well worth downloading and reading at your leisure. A couple of things that stood out to me in particular in the whitepaper were how much aero difference there was between a standard road bike and the fastest aero bikes (page 14) and also how well the Cervelo S5 still performs in a wind tunnel for what’s a reasonably old design.

Non drive side view
Non drive side view

I’ve been an aero bike fan for some years and have been riding them since the end of 2010 ( and most of my fastest ever rides have been on aero bikes. I know that a lot of other people are still sceptical and that’s fair enough – each to their own. For me, when a company like Trek commits major engineering resources to an aero bike project like the Madone, I’m confident that it should be very quick.

I’ve always considered Trek a fairly humble company so the slogan they’ve launched the Madone with: “The ultimate race bike” suggests they’re very punchy about how this bike has turned out.

Cut through to show the IsoSpeed design
Cut through to show the IsoSpeed design

You’ve probably read coverage on the bike already but some of the key features on top of state of the art aerodynamics include the incorporation of Trek’s highly regard IsoSpeed technology to add more comfort (whilst seated) through the seatpost. In the Madone’s case it means a second seat tube inside the aero outer that allows some movement for comfort. The striking new bar and stem designed as part of the Madone “module” hides the cables and is a key part of the much higher level of integration of this new bike. Bontrager’s own aero brakes also add to the integration along with the “invisible” cable routing including the Di2 junction box and battery. You might have also seen the intriguing vector wings that open when the bike turns.

High levels of integration need a new order of documentation...
High levels of integration need a new order of documentation…
Only very confident home mechanics will self build?
Only very confident home mechanics will self build?

All this adds up to, what to me, looks like a fantastic bike. It’s lucky that I don’t have the cash lying around otherwise I might have already placed an order. I certainly hope to try one sometime.

Project One Madone 9 series with Ultegra mechanical build
Project One Madone 9 series with Ultegra mechanical build

You can order Madones as complete bikes in a range of specs or as a frameset. The frameset doesn’t’ include the integrated stem and bars but I understand these will be available to buy as well. You can design your own Madone under the Project One programme and the stunning blue bike in the photos is a Project One build.

You can find out more on the Madone here:

You can read early reviews on the bike at:

Bicycling Magazine


I’ve had a go at a simple video walkaround below shot in full HD so you can go full screen for a “better” look. Constructive feedback on the video for future efforts welcome in the comments as it’s something I’m keen to do more of if readers are interested.


If you’d like to read more about the other new Trek road bikes for 2016, please click to see this post:

Thanks for reading

Trek World UK 2016 Model Year

Recently I spent half a day at Trek UK’s Trek World to check out the changes coming to their road range for 2016, including the Bontrager lines.

For me personally, there was no doubt that the star of the day was the stunning new 9 series Madone. For many attendees it was the first time to see it in the flesh and it was most definitely worth the wait. I’ve put some thoughts on that particular bike together here (including a video walk around)


Across the rest of the range, there were more updates rather than new models and some very welcome price cuts.

Officially Trek has dropped the concept of model years (which is a good move) but there were some new colours, spec changes, additional models and price cuts on a wide range bikes.

Starting at the entry level end of things, the excellent 1 series gets new colours but is reduced to just two models – the 1.1 &1.2 entry level models specced with Claris and Sora have also had their prices trimmed to £575 and £650. These great entry level bikes feature the same frame and fork as previously reviewed by me in the now obsolete 1.5 guise and have plenty of clearance for mudguards as well as rack mounts – making them a great all-rounder.

2016 Trek 1.2
2016 Trek 1.2

Stepping up a level and it’s great news as the already very well reviewed Emonda ALR aluminium bike has seen it’s range extended and the prices cut! There is a new Emonda ALR 4 with the latest Tiagra about to arrive priced at £900 for a complete bike.

2016 Emonda ALR 4 Tiagra
2016 Emonda ALR 4 Tiagra

If that doesn’t get you there are also 105 versions (Emonda ALR 5) for £1100 or the full Ultegra Emonda ALR 6 with a £300 price cut to £1400 complete. All of these look terrific options for a high quality aluminium frame offering performance and comfort without breaking the bank. Both the ALR 4 & 5 are also available in a striking matt Red called Viper red, which looks great. These bikes are a smart buy in my opinion.

The expanded Emonda ALR range
The expanded Emonda ALR range

However at around the same price, you might also be tempted to jump onto an Emonda S series in carbon. These have also had a price cut and now start at £1100 through to £1600, roughly a £200 premium to jump from Aluminium to entry level (for Trek) carbon. I asked Trek what the difference would be in riding and was told increased comfort for the carbon Emonda S but not necessarily any lighter overall. It’d be interesting to try both back to back to see.

Emonda SL WSD – fantastic blue colour

The mid-level Emonda SL range has also had a price trim and see the popular Emonda SL6 with Ultegra reduced from £2,300 to £2,100. The Dura Ace Emonda SL 8 and SRAM Red Emonda SL 8 Red both also see their price cut down to £2,900 – the right side of £3k!

Dura Ace Emonda SL 8 for less than £3k
Dura Ace Emonda SL 8 for less than £3k

The top of the Emonda range, the SLR gets a couple of price increases and some stunning new paint schemes. The red smoke of the SLR 6 was pretty amazing and I absolutely loved the Matte Powder blue of the Emonda SLR 9 and it’s also available as a frameset if you don’t fancy the £8,000 full Dura Ace Di2 and Bontrager Aeolus 3 D3 TLR carbon clinchers.

The stunning 2016 Trek Emonda SLR 9
The stunning 2016 Trek Emonda SLR 9

Here’s a short walk around video I made of both the SLR 6 and 9 bikes:

If you’re after a lightweight climbing bike – the increased Emonda range should have you covered pretty much whatever your budget.

2016 Trek Emonda SLR 6
2016 Trek Emonda SLR 6

Moving onto the Domane’s – the big news is price cuts, new colours and more frameset options. Without going through the price changes line by line, a lot of model have a decent price cut. A couple that stood out to me was a £600 cut in the price of the Domane 6 series caliper frameset now £2000, which I think is very tempting.

Great spring classics backdrop - love that photo
Great spring classics backdrop – love that photo

You can now also get a 5 series Domane frameset for £1460 and a 4 series for £1100. So lots to tempt you to build your own. You’re also catered for if you want a disc frameset with the Domane 4 series disc frameset for £1,200 or a 6 Series Disc frameset for £2,200.

Di2 Domane 5 Series for £3k looks good
Di2 Domane 5 Series for £3k looks good

In complete bikes a full Dura Ace (or Ultegra Di2) 5 series Madone can be had for £3,000 in a snazzy new paint job. The stunning top of the range 6.9 caliper Madone now features a pair of £2,000 Aeolus 3 TLR carbon clinchers wheels in the £7200 price. Expensive but looks fantastic.

Only tweaks to the cyclocross range for 2016
Only tweaks to the cyclocross range for 2016

On the Cyclocross bikes the Crockett 5 disc has had an update to 11 speed 105 and a price cut to £1250 complete. There’s no Di2 Crockett now so the range topper is Ultegra mechanical disc with a SRAM Force canti Crockett 7 priced in between the two disc bikes. It’s almost exactly the same for the top of the range Boone bikes with no Di2 but two Shimano Disc builds and a SRAM Force choice in between. Both Cyclocross models are also available frameset only with or without discs and in a striking (which means I’m not sure I could own it) pink colourway.

2016 Domane 6.5 caliper felt very light as a complete bike
2016 Domane 6.5 caliper felt very light as a complete bike

If you’ve been considering any Trek bike, the 2016 range will likely only tempt you further to take the plunge. It’s a very compelling range with something for most people and with the backup of a global dealer network and a lifetime warranty.


Rose Bikes Bike Town Munich visit

On our way to the 2016 model year “press camp”, Rose took us to their own shop in Munich. Launched late in 2014 it’s designed to help customers who would like to see a Rose bike in the flesh before ordering it online, to get help ensuring they’ve chosen the right spec – or simply to have their bike delivered and set up in the shop or getting their bike serviced. In fact for any Rose bikes order, local customers can choose to collect it for free in the Munich store.

A wide selection of Rose’s bike are on display at Bike Town Munich

Rose have a massive showroom at their Bocholt headquarters and the Munich Bike Town is relatively small in comparison. It features a selection of Rose’s most popular models each with a dedicated iPad enabling customers to choose every aspect of their build, either on their own or with help from the store’s staff. Once the build is chosen it gets transferred to a big screen for final review and ordering. The order then gets sent to the Bocholt HQ and the big is built as production schedules allow and then either shipped back to the store for collection or directly to the customers house.

The small workshop space that prepares customers new bikes prior to collection or undertakes servicing

The store manager told us that they had been surprised at how far customers are travelling to the store including Austria and Switzerland. As you’d expect, many of the visitors had arranged a trip to Munich around visiting the store and ensuring they were choosing the right size and spec before placing their order. This is particularly attractive for less experienced cyclists and I’m not surprised to hear that the store is doing well.

One of the biggest sellers at Bike Town Munich – the Rose X-Lite CRS
The other big seller at Bike Town Munich – the Rose Pro SL

The most popular sellers via the store are the entry level Pro SL, which is also extremely popular in the UK and the X-Lite CRS carbon road bike.

Bike Town Munich also features accessories and it was interesting to see a range of dynamo lights on display. Rose also feature their own clothing, saddles and shoes. They had a very cool 3D foot scanning system that measured your feet in all dimensions and then can choose the best fitting model of shoes (also digitally scanned into the system) from every model Rose stock (from all brands).

Learning about the 3D modelling of feet for choosing the best shoes for you. (Not my feet on screen!)

I think stores like this for direct sales brands are an excellent idea and it was nice to see how Rose have interpreted it for their own customers. You can find out more about the Munich Bike Town here:

Bike journalists mid shop tour

Thanks for reading

Dynamo lights - not something you'd expect to see in your average UK bike shop!
Dynamo lights – not something you’d expect to see in your average UK bike shop!


Rapide bikes embrace road disc for 2016

Rapide are a house brand of major UK bike distributor Madison that launched their initial range for 2015 without an enormous amount of fanfare.

It’s my understanding that the brand was created as a stepping up point for Madison’s highly successful Ridgeback brand for customers who want to move to a road bike but ideally one with a slightly more relaxed than a race geometry.

For 2016, the company’s second year, they’ve committed to road disc and launched two interesting looking ranges that I think roadies might find surprisingly appealing.

2016 Rapide RC disc – carbon flat mount disc road bike with mudguard mounts

Starting with the 2015 caliper braked Rapide RC road bikes, the RC disc brings the Shimano Flat mount standard into play, which gives a much cleaner look. The RC disc also brings a 15mm through axle to the front wheel only (the rear is quick release). There are clearances for 28mm tyres, endurance geometry, mudguard mounts and clearance for 25mm tyres with full guards.

The frames are produced in 24/30T carbon and in what will please a lot of people, features the dependable BSA bottom bracket standard.

The Rapide RC disc will be launched in three different spec levels and also available as a frameset only for £999, which might be quite tempting as a carbon winter bike/audax frameset for some people (including me).20150709_124616

The top of the range build will be the blue/black and white RC Disc 3, featuring Shimano ST-RS685 hydraulic mechanical shifters, the top spec flat mount calipers (BR-RS805), Ultegra 6800 cranks and mechs with a KMC chain and Shimano 105 5800 cassette. Standard gearing is 50/34 and 11/28. The wheelset is a Fulcrum 5 disc, shod with Continental Ultra Sport II 25mm tyres and FSA finishing kit. This will retail as a complete bike for £2699.99

Rapide RC Disc 2 – a compelling package at £1899.99

Taking a step down to what I suspect will be the big seller in the range is the RC Disc 2. This build features Shimano 105 5800 shifters, mechs, cranks and cassette. The only exceptions to the full groupset are a KMC chain and TRP’s highly regarded (and light) Spyre SLC mechanical disc brakes. Like it’s more expensive sibling, it also features Fulcrum disc wheels (albeit a cheaper model), Continental Ultra Sport II 25mm tyres and FSA finishing kit (the cheaper Gossamer range on this model). However it’s a lot cheaper to buy at £1,899.99 and comes in what I thought was a really striking green colour.  I think this particular version will be the star of the range and I’d be keen to try one given the chance.

20150709_124730The entry level build is the RC Disc 1, which is due to come in a black/raw/red colour scheme. This build features a big dose of the striking new Tiagra 4700 including shifters, crankset, mechs and cassette, with just the KMC chain and TRP Spyre disc brakes breaking it up. All great choices though and if new Tiagra rides as well as it looks, it’ll be terrific. The RC Disc 1 features the same Fulcrum wheels and Conti tyres as the RC Disc 2 but a cheaper FSA finishing kit.

Flat mount front fork using an adapter to run a post mount TRP disc brake – an easy upgrade when you’re ready

All the bikes feature a Rapide competition saddle, will be available in 6 sizes from XXS to XL and should arrive into the country during October 2015.

I have to say I think they look really interesting. I particularly liked the green RC Disc 2 and really like the full guards with 25mm tyres, flat mount brakes (running post mount TRP brakes with adapters on the 2 and 1) on an endurance platform. I reckon this could be a really good all rounder that is affordable to a lot of people.

But if that’s too much money for you …. read on …..

2016 Rapide RL disc – aluminium road disc bike with massive clearances for wide tyres

Earlier in the year at Madison’s Ice Bike trade show I first saw a prototype RL Disc and was intrigued. I’m glad it’s in production and that they’ve kept the striking colour schemes. In simple terms it’s exactly the same concept of the RC Disc – take a caliper braked bike and create a disc version.

It’s not as simple as that though and it’s all the better because of it. The RL disc features the same endurance road geometry but with clearance for 42c tyres! So you could throw Cyclocross tyres on it if you want or big fat road tyres and full guards as it has mounts for them and a rack. As it’s aluminium it’ll be tough. I’ve often thought lots of people who buy Cyclocross bikes for going off road on probably spend most of their time on road – so would be better off with road geometry rather than ‘cross geometry. So the idea of a disc braked road bike with really big clearances and guard and rack mounts sounds fantastic to me.

Sadly it’s not going to be available as a frameset but the three builds are all eminently sensible both in terms of component selection and price.

My pick of the RL Disc range – the RL Disc 3 at £1149.99 complete

The one I’m excited about is the terrific orange coloured RL Disc 3, which will retail for £1,199.99. This features the 6061 aluminium frame and carbon disc fork (with mudguard/fender mounts), Shimano 105 5800 shifters, mechs and cassette, TRP’s fantastic HY/RD disc brakes, a KMC chain and the Shimano S500 cranks (which I’d personally upgrade to 105). Gearing is a “generous” 50/34 & 11/32 on all models, so climbing should be fine! The wheels are what should be a tough (if not especially light) 32 spoke front and rear with Formula hubs and Alex rims. Tyres are Continental Sport Contact II in 32c and the finishing kit is Rapide’s own brand. On paper at least, this is a build that would work well for me personally.

Plenty of clearance even with the standard 32c tyres …. nice!

The next step down the range is still very good looking in blue and black and will retail for £1,049.99. The RL Disc 2 features new Tiagra 4700 including the shifters, crank and mechs, combined with TRP Spyre dis brakes. The chain and cassette are non-series Shimano 10 speed, the wheels are again 32 spoke but this time with a Shimano M525 6 bolt hub and an Alex rim. The tyres are the same 32c Contis as is the Rapide finishing kit. This should also be a great bike for the money.

The entry level RL Disc 1 which will ship in an alloy (silver) and red colour scheme features 9 speed Sora Shifters, mechs and crank with a non-series Shimano chain and cassette. Once again the hubs are a little lower down the range for the cheaper model but still use the same Alex rim as the RL Disc 2 and are still 32 spoke. The Continental Sport Contact II 32c and Rapide finishing kit once again finish off the build.

Rotors sizes on all three bikes are 160mm front and 140mm rear which seems like a good choice too.

This could be a bike that establishes the Rapide brand.

I have to be honest and say that the original caliper braked Rapide bikes (which all continue for 2015) didn’t particularly leap out at me – but both of these new disc bikes caught my eye. If you want post mount brakes you’ll need to go for the carbon RC Disc and if you want massive tyre clearance and versatility (with post mount disc brakes) the RL Disc looks really interesting too.

Keep an eye on for more information as it emerges… I’ll be keeping a look out for these myself.

Thanks for reading

2016 Genesis Road bikes – New Datum, Delta and updates galore…

Recently I visited Genesis bikes to find out what they have in store for the coming year. I’ve been a fan of Genesis for quite a few years and was interested to know what they’d been working on – quite a lot as it turns out.

Interestingly, the new models for 2016 represent 10 years of Genesis bikes, which is a great milestone and an interesting inflexion point to move into a second decade of designing and building bikes focussed around UK conditions.

Below are the highlights that stood out to me – it’s far from exhaustive but I hope you find it interesting.

The big news and the star of the show is the new Datum carbon adventure bike

Genesis Datum 30 Di2
Genesis Datum 30 Di2

Genesis say that their new Datum carbon road bike isn’t a gravel bike but more a wide tyred road bike that’s fast and versatile for UK riding. Let’s be honest, the UK doesn’t feature a lot of gravel roads (comparatively speaking) but our road surfaces are often poor, so greater comfort and the ability to handle rough surfaces is only getting more and more important. The design of the Datum began by taking the Equilibrium geometry as a starting point to create a wide tyre, lightweight, fun, versatile carbon road bike.

Genesis Datum 20 105 5800 and flat mount disc brakes
Genesis Datum 20 105 5800 and flat mount disc brakes

The end result is a really interesting bike (and frameset) available in three different complete builds.

The carbon frame at the heart of the Datum features 24/30 ton high modulus carbon with compact (equilibrium inspired) geometry, a BB86 pressfit bottom bracket, mudguard eyelets with generous clearances, a 27.2mm seatpost for comfort, Shimano flat mount disc brake and dropouts.

Genesis Datum 20 Flat mount rear disc brake
Genesis Datum 20 Flat mount rear disc brake

Genesis have shaped the seatpost much like you’d see in an aero frame but on the Datum this is to enable clearance for up to 33mm tyres and 45mm mudguards without having to make the chainstays too long. This flexibility that carbon brings was one of the key reasons the Datum is made from this material rather than any others.

Rear 3/4 view Genesis Datum 30 Di2
Rear 3/4 view Genesis Datum 30 Di2

The matching full carbon tapered steerer fork features a 15mm through axle design, mudguard eyelets and again Shimano flat mounts for disc brakes.

Big clearances on the Datum
Big clearances on the Datum

I asked Albert Steward, the designer who he thought the Datum was suited for and he told me that he thought it’s a great bike for anyone not racing. It’s a bike designed for the realities of UK riding – potholes, broken surfaces, wet and slippery as well as dry and fast. It’s also designed for those short punchy climbs we’re all used to. Versatility is a big aspect of the Datum too.

Genesis Datum visual details
Genesis Datum visual details

The builds the Datum will launch with are:

Datum 30: £3,199.99 Ultegra Di2 50/34 & 11/32, 33c Challenge Strada Bianca tyres, Shimano R785 Di2 shifters and RS805 flat mount disc brakes, Fulcrum Racing Sport DB wheelset and a new Genesis RandoX short reach, shallow drop flared bars (R70mm x D125mm).

Datum 20: £2,099.99 Full 105 5800 groupset 50/34 & 11/32, 33c Challenge Strada Bianca tyres, New Shimano mechanical shifters and RS505 flat mount disc brakes, Fulcrum Racing sport DB wheelset and the new RandoX short reach, shallow drop bars.

Datum 10: £1,799.99 Full new Tiagra 4700 groupset 50/34 & 11/32, 33c Challenge Strada Bianca tyres, TRP Hy/Rd mechanical actuated, hydraulic disc brakes, Fulcrum Racing Sport DB wheelset and the new RandoX short reach, shallow drop bars.

Genesis Datum 10 Tiagra 4700
Genesis Datum 10 Tiagra 4700

The Datum will also be available as a frameset at a compelling £999.99 price.

I think this could be a really interesting option for people and I hope to ride one.. It strikes me as more of a road bike than off road, so possibly more suited to more roadies than some of the more cyclocross influenced “gravel bikes”. It may not be your one bike to do it all – but having a Datum in your collection might on lock a lot more riding adventures than your road bike alone would.

Of course, I’ve enquired about trying one and hopefully I’ll get to do that.

Updates to the Zero bring lighter weight

2016 Genesis Zero Ultegra
2016 Genesis Zero Ultegra

The carbon race bike, the Genesis Zero has been updated for 2016. Genesis tell me the model has sold well as both a complete bike and frameset to date but the designers have been hard at work improving it anyway. For 2016 the frame and fork gets an upgrade in the carbon used in manufacture to 30/40 modulus unidirectional carbon and this helps weight of a medium frame drop by 120gms compared to last years 24/30 version. The official frame weight is now 960 gms for a medium size.

Genesis Zero Ultegra
Genesis Zero Ultegra

Additionally a completely new full carbon fork has been designed for 2016. The tapered fork design has been revised to deliver more comfort, better aerodynamics whilst also providing a good aerodynamic transition to the down tube. The new fork also drops 90gms over the old version, meaning the frameset is over 200gms lighter than the 2015 model.

2016 Genesis Zero Di2
2016 Genesis Zero Di2

For 2016 the Zero will be available as a frameset or in three different builds – Ultegra Di2 for £2999.99, Ultegra mechanical for £2099 and 105 for £1799. All models feature a 52/36 chainset and an 11/28 cassette, which to me is almost perfect for most fast UK riding. All Zero models also feature Fulcrum wheels and Continental tyres as well as Genesis finishing kit which I found to be excellent on the Equilibrium I previously tested. The frameset will retail for a reasonable £1099 and they sold out in their first year according to the guys at Genesis.

Genesis Zero Z.2 105
Genesis Zero Z.2 105

Also for 2016 the colour schemes have been updated and to my eyes, the Genesis graphic designer has done a terrific job – the colour schemes look great and I particularly liked the Ultegra mechanical colour, which is silver with a hint of gold. Very classy.

I’ve not ridden a Zero (yet) but reviews have been very positive about the ride and the quality of the framesets, these new improved models should only strengthen this perception.

A shift to stack and reach based geometry

Across the range, Genesis have revised their geometries to a stack and reach based system to bring a more uniform and incremental shift between each size of bike. It also means that in simple terms Genesis can offer fewer sizes that fit a wider range of people. Stack and reach is one way of getting around the fact that head tube or top tube length sizing approaches don’t take into account head and seat angles, which can almost cancel out changes in tube lengths. To understand this better than I can explain you can read a useful overview of stack and reach geometry here on the Cervelo site.

Genesis believe that this will help customers find a better fit on their bikes going forwards.

New sizing and more for the Genesis Equilibrium

The switch to stack and reach sizing as outlined above has meant for example that the very popular Equilibrium gets its first geometry tweak since launch.

Genesis Equlibrium Disc 2016
Genesis Equlibrium Disc 2016

The Equilibrium disc models have all been revised for flat mount disc brakes and feature a completely new straight blade carbon fork with clearances for a 28c tyre and 40mm guards.

New Equilbrium Disc fork and bigger tyres for 2016
New Equilbrium Disc fork and bigger tyres for 2016

The more expensive disc bikes also feature Challenge tyres, this time in a 27c width and two different framesets (Reynolds 931  or 725) are available at £1599 and 549 respectively.

Silver components and gum wall tyres for caliper braked 2016 Genesis Equilibrium
Silver components and gum wall tyres for caliper braked 2016 Genesis Equilibrium

On the caliper braked Equilibriums new gum wall tyres feature to fit the slightly retro styling which also extends to silver groupsets, which are back to Shimano after a dalliance with Campagnolo last year.

The Equilibrium keeps it's retro styling for 2016
The Equilibrium keeps it’s retro styling for 2016

New Genesis Delta alloy complete bikes

At the entry level it’s good to see  a new alloy Genesis Delta road bike available with the smart new Tiagra groupset for £799.99 complete or Claris for £599.99.

Genesis Delta 10 Claris
Genesis Delta 10 Claris

The new frameset features some modern tube shaping, is made from fully formed hybrid 6066/6061-T6 double butted aluminium to create both comfort and stiffness according to Genesis.The matching fork features a tapered steerer and is topped off with a zero stack headset.

Genesis Delta 30 Tiagra 4700
Genesis Delta 30 Tiagra 4700

Full mudguard mounts, with long drop brakes and clearance for 28c tyres with mudguards, could make this a good beginners bike (or commuter) that can switch to winter bike duties as and when you get the bug and buy something more expensive. This could be  a great bike to work scheme bike and looks solid value.

Genesis Delta front fork clearance (for guards)
Genesis Delta front fork clearance (for guards)

New Titanium Croix de Fer

Titanium Genesis Croix de Fer frameset
Titanium Genesis Croix de Fer frameset

The Genesis Croix de Fer has always been a big seller for the company and for 2016 there’ll be a titanium version to tempt you with. Available in either a full bike build for £3k or as a frameset £1800. The titanium Croix de Fer features a full carbon tapered steerer disc fork, whereas the rest of the range (frames made from Reynolds 725) features a straight blade cro-mo fork with newly expanded clearances and a 50mm offset.

Titanium Genesis Croix de Fer complete bike
Titanium Genesis Croix de Fer complete bike

New Genesis kids bikes …. Including a fat bike for kids!

2016 Genesis Alpha 24
2016 Genesis Alpha 24

Genesis are expanding their selection of kids bikes for 2016 with new Beta drop bar road and CX 26” disc brake models as well as a more traditional cantilever 24” Alpha hybrid road/CX flat bar bike. There’s also a brand new Caribou Junior fat bike in addition to the exisiting Core 24 & 26 hardtails. They all looked pretty tasty in person and worth considering if you’re like me and like getting your kids as nice a bike as you’d ride yourself.

2016 Genesis Beta Road 26
2016 Genesis Beta Road 26
2016 Genesis Caribou Junior
2016 Genesis Caribou Junior

For more news on the range you can also try:

Thanks for reading

2016 Rose Bikes – New road models and updates

German direct to consumer company Rose Bikes, looks to capitalise on growing success in the UK and elsewhere with three completely new models for the 2016 model year and significant updates to two more.

Rose’s well received and reviewed current road range has helped the company to a record UK sales performance in 2015. However the product development team has been hard at work developing some interesting looking new choices for customers for 2016, including a new aero road bike, a Time Trial/Triathlon Bike and a completely new Cyclocross bike. Alongside the new models, two of Rose’s best-selling models have been given a significant update.

I was lucky enough to be invited by Rose to the stunning Tirol region of Austria for a second year to see and ride some of the new models.

New X-Lite CW Aero bike

DSC02073Roses striking new aero bike is also the first aero frameset that I’ve seen that will be available in disc or caliper brake versions – buyers will be able to choose which braking system they’d prefer and the company had sample bikes on display in both brake configurations. Rose say they’ve focussed on a more aerodynamic shape for the new bike and claim 8% less drag than their existing model with stiffness gains of up to 20% (at the tapered 1 1/8 to 1/5” head tube).

The caliper brake version uses direct mount brakes with the rear brake position under the bottom bracket, whilst the disc bike features Shimano’s new flat mount standard, along with 12mm through axles front and rear and 160/140mm disc rotors.

DSC02138Interestingly for an aero bike the disc version has clearances for 28mm tyres, with the caliper version 25mm thanks to a width restriction with Shimano direct mount calipers (they’re not designed to accommodate wider than 25mm tyres) even though the frame itself has plenty of room for wider tyres.

DSC02077Design features include shaping of the seat tube around the rear wheel for better aero performance, a flippable 180 degree seat post allowing customers to use the bike for TT/Triathlon riding as swapping the seat post around changes the seat angle for 74 to 76 degrees. The monolink seat clamp also enhances saddle adjustability, according to Rose, to get your position dialled in.

DSC02066There also variable bottle cage mounts on the down tube to enable you to tweak the bottle position, whether you’re using one or two bottles and the cable routing has been integrated as much as possible for cleaner looks, better aero performance as well as easier maintenance.DSC02145

The X-Lite CW will be available in 5 sizes from 51 cm to 62cm and the frame weight for a size 57cm frame is reported to be 1050 gms. Certainly even the disc build on display with SRAM Red and Zipp 303 wheels felt very light to pick up.

The Xeon Team CGF gets a significant update:

DSC02087Rose’s very popular endurance bike, the Xeon Team CGF has quite major updates for 2016. I had ridden the previous model and enjoyed it but my first impressions on the revised bike are that it’s noticeably better than the current model.

DSC02113The company has worked to lower the weight of the frameset and in part this is due to a new EPS manufacturing process, that whilst more complex and expensive to manufacturer means a much cleaner inside of the carbon frame, higher product quality as well as reduced frame weight. During the same process that meant new moulds were required, Rose have also modified the dimensions of the downtube and seat tube, modified the bends on the seat stays and widened the head tube area for greater front end stiffness. Tyre clearances have been improved and the Xeon Team CGF can now run 28mm tyres, so the fork design has been adjusted too for the wider clearances required. The dropouts have also been revised and optimised for easier handling and wheel removal. Cable mounting and routing has also been improved and the Xeon Team CGF now features the cable management system from the top of the range X-Lite Team frames for easier maintenance and cleaner aesthetics.

DSC02090Interestingly Rose said they changed the amount of bend in the seat stays as a result of customer feedback, some of whom struggled with the looks of the previous generations bent seat stays, so this has been reduced in the redesign.

DSC02096With the lower weight and boosted stiffness, Rose say there is an overall improvement in stiffness to weight of 10% over the current model.  The new frame weight for a size 57cm is 970 gms with a fork weight of 320 gms.

DSC02097There is also a new extra size for big guys and this new 64cm frame option brings the total range of sizes to seven.

DSC02111Even with only a short 30-40 minute ride on the new Xeon Team CGF in the 3100 spec (Ultegra Di2 and with DT Swiss R23 Spline wheels) and I was very impressed with the improvements in the ride that all of these updates collective provide.

DSC02117On a loop that incorporates everything from smooth tarmac, to broken surfaces and potholes, gravel surfaces with descents and climbs in the amazing Kirchberg countryside, the new Xeon Team CGF was very smooth, very comfortable, had better handling and was frankly a lovely bike to ride on first acquaintance. If you’re considering an endurance style road bike for next season, this one should go on your shortlist.

Pro-SL – Rose’s biggest selling road bike get a major makeover

DSC01985The entry level alloy PRO SL has had a significant redesign to improve aesthetics and ride quality for 2016. The down tube gets a new modern shape, the seat stays have been lowered, allowing the seat tube to be shortened, which in turn allows more seat post to be exposed. Together this improves the comfort of the bike through the rear end over the existing version. Cable routing has also been improved including a new cable guide system that makes replacing the internal cables much easier. Tyre clearances have also been expanded with space for 28mm tyres front and rear.

DSC01987For what’s a very affordable model in the Rose range, the PRO SL also features the company’s excellent full carbon tapered steerer road fork, which weighs in at 320gms. This fork is not only light but very smooth and a very good good fork that Rose use right up to their top of the range X-Lite Team bikes.

DSC01989In the flesh the new frame design looks great – particularly in the matt black finish Ultegra spec bike that was at the launch. I managed to get out and ride this updated version and it was a very likeable bike. Lively with a firm but comfortable ride, the PRO SL did everything well for an entry level bike, it climbed, descended and cornered well and even with the relatively portly Mavic Aksium wheels on the demo bike, the bike felt light to ride. This is definitely worth a look if you want a fine road bike, that rides well and won’t cost you a fortune. It’s another example of a good alloy frame. The existing bike with a full 105 groupset and Aksium wheels sells for around £800 complete. Whilst I’ve not ridden the old one, the new one should be priced similarly and looks like being a great bike for the money.

DSC02081The PRO SL will be available in 9 sizes from 48 to 65cm frames and the frame weight for the 57cm size is 1.35kg, which is very respectable for a bike at this price point.


New Rose Team DX Cross bike

DSC02050Rose are also launching a totally new Cyclocross bike for 2016 – the Team DX Cross is an alloy framed bike designed for the new flat mount disc brake standard and also features a brand new tapered full carbon fork with 15mm through axle compatibility and internal cable routing, including for a dynamo system.

DSC02051The new frame design includes modern tube shaping and a new geometry designed to be in between traditional cross racing and the trend towards gravel or all road framesets. According to Rose designer Juergen Telahr, the new geometry is perfectly suited to racing and a wide range of riding and this flexibility was a key part of the design objectives.

DSC02062In the process of the new design, Rose have worked to improve the ride quality of the bike while increasing the versatility. The new bike features mudguard mounts and mounting points for low-rider panniers, enabling customers to consider the Team DX Cross as a commuter or even randonneur bike as well as a comfortable Cyclocross racer.

DSC02059For customers looking for the versatility of a Cyclocross bike without resorting to the traditional low and long riding position of a racing frame, the Team DX Cross might be just what you’re looking for.

DSC02061As well as bikes specced for Cyclocross, I got out for a first ride on an “all road” version of the new bike at the launch. This featured 32mm tyres (there is space for up to 42mm tyres) and a deeper section alloy wheel set along with an Ultegra mechanical drive train and Shimano’s brand new flat mount brakes.

DSC02052Whilst being a bit heavier than the pure road bikes I tried, the Team DX Cross rolled along well, handled rough surfaces with aplomb and had a position that didn’t feel too stretched out (with a 110mm stem). The geometry felt a little more aggressive than the endurance bike I rode before it but it did everything well on my short ride leaving a good first impression.

It’s my opinion that bikes like this are only going to get more popular as more and more riders look for the versatility they offer. To that end, the Rose Team DX Cross looks like a very solid contender into this landscape.

New Aero Flyer TT and Tri bike:

DSC02130The Aero Flyer is Rose’s second new aero frame for 2016 that’s UCI legal for racing and the frame, stem handlebar and fork were all designed together to look like they a one piece design. Combined with “invisible” cable routing – particularly on a Di2 build the front of the bike is cable free and very clean to look at. The mechanical version only requires one short external piece of cable run, so is also clean through the front end.

DSC02136The integrated brakes on the Aero Flyer are Rose’s own design to help maximise the aero profile of the bike. If running Di2, the battery is mounted inside the frame in the seat tube as the seat post is too slim to fit it.

DSC02135The one piece handlebar and stem can be adjusted for position (vertically) using 30mm or 60mm spacers and the new slim profile head tube features a tapered steerer.

On the top tube of the new frame is a mounting system for nutrition allowing a box to be fitted and the team at Rose are currently looking at whether a second one may be able to be fitted to the stem prior to final production and they’ll have more news on this at Eurobike.

DSC02131The Aero Flyer has been designed to fit all wide rims currently available including Zipp Firecrest and Firestrike and up to 30mm wide disc wheels.

Rose poised for greater success

In addition to the PRO SL, Team CGF and the Team DX Cross bikes I tried, I also managed to get in a ride on the Xeon CDX which has been a big sales success for the company since it’s launch. It’s also been a strong seller in the UK and it’s a little surprising how fast UK riders are making the leap to discs and the Rose is a strong choice offering low weight, compelling prices and a good ride.

For me though, the star of the show is the revised Xeon Team CGF. I was really impressed with this bike. I rode the previous version and liked it but I feel that the extensive list of updates has taken a fine bike and looks to have turned it into a very good one indeed. If I’m lucky I might get the chance to review one in more detail on UK roads during the next year. The new PRO SL also impressed, especially if you’re look to spend £1,000 or less but if you’re budget can stretch higher and like me, you’re not looking for a race position, the Xeon Team CGF looks like a terrific choice.


My thanks to Rose Bikes for inviting me to the launch and thanks for reading.

Keep an eye on the Rose website for more information in due course including pricing, which I don’t have as yet. Rose will be sharing more information on their 2016 information at Eurobike.

6 Great reasons to ride more Sportives

As the days have got longer and warmer, many of us are spending more time on the bike and riding new roads.

One of the easiest ways of doing this is riding a Sportive.

Whilst there may be some readers who are “sniffy” about Sportives, I reckon for beginners and experienced riders a like, they have a lot to offer and are well worth considering adding to you schedule.

Here are 6 reasons I recommend considering adding a sportive or two to your calendar:

  • Ride new places:

Sportives are a great way to get out of your routine and ride in different parts of the country without having to spend time guessing your route. Sportive courses tend to favour quiet and scenic roads that help you find the best spots in an area,  allowing you to simply get on with enjoying the ride, whether you’re simply trying to get round or go as fast as you can.

  • Easy social riding:

Sportives can make the most fun if you’re riding with a group of friends. None of you need to know where you’re going (you’ll all follow the signs) and being somewhere different can be a leveller as you’re all riding new roads. Bikes are great for camaraderie whether you’re going for a course record and smashing out a chain gang pace or simply spending quality time together in the great outdoors.

  • They’re good for perspective…

It doesn’t matter how fit, slow or fast you are – on a sportive there will always be someone faster or slower than you. In fact even if you’re not feeling that fast, you’ll probably pass loads of people. If you’re slow on the flats, you might well find you pass people on the climbs but even if you don’t there’s always someone else to ride with, say “Hi” to or chase up a climb. It’s hard to be lonely on a Sportive.

  • Don’t discount the short route….

Even when I’m riding at my best, I have some friends who are fast and experienced riders that deliberately choose the short course rather than the “Epic” route. We ride as fast as we can for 2-2.5 hours – it’s fantastic fun and even better on roads we don’t know. Some of these rides have been highlights of my riding year.


  • Just focus on riding

The course is signed, there are feed stops, mechanical support if you need it, timing chips, it’s all there. Sportives are some of the most hassle free riding you’ll do. Turn up and ride at whatever pace you like, on your own, or with some friends, learning new parts of the country on roads that have been hand selected for your enjoyment. To me, it doesn’t get much better than this. The hardest part is getting up early in the morning to get there on time.

  • Ride some of the most iconic rides in the world

Some of the world’s greatest races also run Sportives the day before, allowing you to ride the course on Saturday then watch the Pro’s race it on Sunday. Examples are the Tour of Flanders, Paris Roubaix, Amstel Gold, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and there’s the Etape de Tour each year as well, so you can try a Tour de France stage. Italy has Granfondos, which are high speed rides over stunning terrain, or if you want more climbing there’s the Marmotte or multi-day event’s like the Haute Route. Adventures of a life time are out there if you’re ready for them.

Have fun and enjoy!


girodilento interview: James Olsen bike designer

For me, part of loving great bikes also involves being interested in how they are designed. I’m fortunate in that thanks to this site I’ve met a number of the UKs leading designers over the last few years and I thought it might be of interest to find out a bit more about the some of the people behind the bikes we ride.

Pre-production Pinnacle bikes ready for sign off
Pre-production Pinnacle bikes ready for sign off

With this in mind I reached out to James Olsen, who is currently the man responsible for the design of Evan’s cycles increasingly well regarded Pinnacle range and Sir Chris Hoy’s Bike range. Prior to Evans, James spent many years at Genesis bikes and was responsible for the terrific Genesis Equilibrium and Croix de Fer, which have been big sellers and loved by owners since their launch.

Early days and Genesis

I began my discussion by asking James how he ended up designing bikes and he told me that it was being in the right place at the right time when he was working at Madison. James had already had a couple of custom frames made and was interested in frame geometry. He was given a chance to design a frame as a side project for the Ridgeback brand around 2006/07. This work led to the creation of the Genesis range, which launched with around 6 models. Interestingly, James’s current employers launched the Pinnacle brand at around the same time.

Genesis was originally focused on mountain bikes and the Equilibrium came a little later. The idea of Genesis was to compete for a different buyer than the traditional Ridgeback customer. James explained that he put together bikes he wanted to build and ride. Then when they got dealers and their staff to try them, they liked them and bought them. In fact a number of the early models quickly sold out, which helped give Madison and the team confidence to move forwards.

James told me that the Equilibrium and Croix de Fer were big surprises in how successful and popular they were. Neither were the first steel bikes with drop bars, and the Croix de Fer wasn’t a typical Cyclocross style bike as it was more designed for exploring rather than racing. The Croix de Fer has gone on to be a big seller and a well-loved bike for Genesis but it polarised people in the early days who either loved it or hated it.

The Equilibrium emerged from some of the custom frames James had previously had made for him. Whilst James liked the idea of a titanium frame he was also keen to see if they could produce a cheaper steel frame that could ride just as well and offer comfort at a lower price. The 520 Equilibrium was the second design and launched in 2009 at the same time as re-launch for the Genesis brand.

The Genesis Equilibrium 20 I reviewed in 2014

James’s view is that brands like Genesis and Pinnacle have benefitted from the growth in cycling in the last 5-10 years bringing new riders into the sport. Not only that but the recession helped brands like Genesis and Pinnacle thanks to good price points, the cycle to work scheme and cycling being an escape from the day to day for many people. There were also more people looking for second bikes or touring/commuter bikes and this was all good for the UK cycling industry.

James sees the UK cycling market as becoming less race oriented over time. Wider tyres and disc brakes are helping people see that they don’t have to a have bike like pro racer to have fun, go fast, be comfortable and have adventures on. James advice to us all is to buy a bike that works for you than necessarily what you see pro cyclists racing on.

Sportives also continue to increase demand for non-race bikes and whilst the race side is still there, there is a big swing to making great bikes for people focussed on enjoyment rather than pure speed.


Pinnacle Dolomite 6
Pinnacle Dolomite 6

Pinnacle had begun back around the time of Genesis’s launch with a big range of bikes and had perhaps brought a different mindset to the Genesis strategy. James said that after moving from Genesis where they’d designed bikes they wanted to ride, he had to get his head around a different approach at Pinnacle. This meant looking through the range and designing bikes for other people.

Pinnacle were working on a re-brand when James joined the business and his first focus was to simplify the brand, which is also reflected in how the bikes look now – with strong colours and simpler aesthetics.

James focussed on designing Pinnacle bikes that are fun to ride, good value and suitable for everyone from beginners to experienced riders. Once again, as well as making them fun, James worked on making the Pinnacle range bikes that he wanted to ride too.

Proof of the success of this, James told me that there are now a large number of Evans staff personally buying and riding the Pinnacle bikes and that they don’t get extra discounts over other brands the shops stock – they’re simply liking them enough to buy and ride them.

James told me that working with Pinnacle has got him enthused about aluminium as a material and the quality of ride and comfort they’re able to engineer into the bikes now. Pinnacle frames for 2015 feature more extensive butting, with thinner walls and lighter weight but also have an enhanced ride quality.

2015 Pinnacle Arkose 4
2015 Pinnacle Arkose 4

It used to be that it was more expensive to build with aluminium than steel but that’s now reversed and with aluminium James says that they’re able to produce a lot of the comfort of steel but at a lighter weight.

James told me he’s been very pleased with the reviews the Arkose and Dolomite have been receiving from the press and customers and that he’s very happy with how these bikes ride and are specced now. The model that suits James own riding preference is the Arkose and he told me that he happily has these in his garage and that he chooses to ride a lot more miles on them than he expected.

Hoy Bikes

James told me that he felt it had been a real privilege to work with Sir Chris Hoy to design the range of Hoy bikes. He also said that it was the first time he’d felt like a custom builder as his task was to take what Sir Chris wanted for the bikes and create designs that brought this to life in the riding. Sir Chris’s key criteria was performance and one particular aspect was getting the bikes to corner just right.

One of the memorable moments of working towards the launch was taking some bikes to a track and riding with Sir Chris and following him to learn how to corner as they made sure that the bikes were exactly right for the Hoy name.

Hoy Fiorenzuola track bike
Hoy Fiorenzuola track bike

Sir Chris’s attention to detail went as far as making sure that each size frame has a level of stiffness right for the size of rider and that the resulting bikes are something that James is very proud of.

Hoy Kids bikes

Designing bikes for children was hard as James had no personal point of reference. They started with the 650B bike as a scaled down adults bike. The goal was to make the best kids bikes they could and do them in the way that they believe will be best for the kids who ride them. An example of that thinking was using push button shifters as they felt these would be easier for kids to use. Feedback so far is that this is the case.

James said that they feel that Evans should be a great family bikes retailer but the success of the Hoy children’s range has surprised them in a good way as parents have really taken to the products. Great kids bikes help kids feel good about riding, so it was a satisfying part of the range to design for. The Hoy childrens bikes are made to the same quality and in the same factory as the adult bikes, which is something a lot of potential customers will be interested to know.

A photo from Jame's solo ride to Eurobike last year. Better than flying!
A photo from Jame’s solo ride to Eurobike last year. Better than flying!

I asked James what bikes he was personally most fond of and he told me that he’s really enjoying the current Arkose 2 and 4 with the Equilibrium a high point back in 2010. James also told me that he’s been really pleased to find that the Evans Cycles senior management are all keen cyclists and have completely supported in him in building quality bikes at good price points rather than solely focussing on profit. High quality is key to the growing success of Pinnacle and Hoy and James is delighted at how the staff at Evans have also got behind the product, choosing to buy and ride the bikes themselves and becoming enthusiasts too.

Interestingly, Evans Cycles have just released a video featuring James as well:

Great aluminium bikes that are fast, fun and affordable*….

Over the last few years I’ve been fortunate enough to try bikes in almost every material. Aluminium, steel, titanium and carbon fibre across a variety of price points.

As someone who has budget challenges and can’t spend as much as I’d like on bikes, I’m always trying to work out what will give me the best bang for my buck on bikes and I figure that there’s lots of us in this position.

I seem to have got to the point that if I could share the knowledge I have now with the me when I was beginning I would have pointed them to a post like this.

It’s my view that there have been some terrific aluminium road frames released in the last couple of years that provide fantastic performance for the money and my list of these follows.

Some I’ve ridden, some I’ve not but they all should make for a fantastic road bike that is light, fast, comfortable and won’t require a second mortgage…. for many of us (myself probably included) they’re all the bike and performance we’ll need to really enjoy our riding.

Rose Xeon RS 3000


I was lucky enough to try a new Xeon RS 3000 at the Rose Bikes press launch last summer. Lucky also that I got lost when out on this bike, so spent a bit longer riding it. I was blown away with how good it rode in this build with full Ultegra and Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheels. Light, fast, smooth, comfortable with a really nice ride feel – it did everything well. Rose say that a size small frame is around 1,000 gms making it super light for an aluminium frame, with a matching fork that weighs in around 300 gms. Impressive. Only available as a complete bike but amazing value at around £1400 delivered to you, considering that the wheels and groupset alone will cost you around £1,000 if you shop around. This is a seriously good bike for the money:

It’s a bike I’d be very pleased to own. The only catch with Rose is you have to be comfortable buying online. On the plus side you can tweak almost every aspect of the build, but the standard spec is good enough that you might not feel the need. A terrific choice (and particularly fetching in the anodized black finish)


Bowman Palace


Another very fine aluminium frameset I’ve been lucky enough to ride is the Bowman Palace (you can read my review here). Selling for a competitive £650 as a frameset (frame, fork, headset and seat collar), buying a Bowman is a chance to support a small new company, which most of us don’t normally get a chance to do. If you choose to, you’ll be rewarded with a frame that’s light, fast, comfortable and fine handling. I thoroughly enjoyed riding the Palace and was sad to see it go back as I think I’d still be happily riding it. For a first frame to market for Bowman, it’s an impressive and fine riding debut that gave a good ride quality and road feel, terrific road manners and a lightweight at around 1200gms for the frame.  The only downside I could find with the Bowman is that it’s externally routed, so no Di2 compatibility. It’s a minor issue as most people would build this up with a great mid range mechanical groupset like Ultegra or SRAM force. One plus for the Bowman most others on this list will struggle with, is clearance for 28mm tyres (no mudguards though). Wider tyres will make a big difference to comfort although on the bike I tested even with 23mm tyres, I was really impressed by the comfort.

Find out more here:

Kinesis Aithein


Kinesis have over many years of designing great all weather aluminium race bikes for UK conditions built a well-deserved following and fine reputation. The Aithein is their own super light alloy frameset that’s had terrific reviews. I have to confess that I’ve never ridden one but I know owners who love them and I’ve been impressed with the ones I’ve seen in the flesh. I was originally led to believe that it was a frameset designed for riding flat out for a couple of hours with no quarter given to comfort but I’ve seen reviews and spoken to owners who’ve said they’re actually surprisingly comfortable.

DSC00663Available in some fantastic colour choices including Sweet Orange Metallic and Sick Green Metallic as well as an attractive anodized black, the Aithein, weighs in at 1200 gms for a 56cm (with a 330 gm tapered carbon fork), retails for £650 and includes a matching tapered carbon fork and a headset. The only catch with the Aithein is the weight limit of 14 stone or 89 kgs. I’ve heard of a few people being caught out by that. If you are, but still fancy a Kinesis – the 4S is also a terrific all-rounder (I owned and reviewed the 4S when it was called the TK3)

More info on the Aithein here:

Trek Emonda ALR


A new entry to the high end lightweight aluminium frameset market is the new Trek Emonda ALR, available as a frameset for £700 retail or as a complete 105 build for £1300 or an Ultegra version for £1700. Like it’s super light carbon cousin, the aluminium ALR drops weight to an impressive 1050 gms for a size 56cm frame, complete with a lifetime warranty and 275lb (124kg) weight limit for the rider. Trek say they’re using an invisible weld technique that reduces the amount of metal needed but increases the strength. I’m tempted to believe them given the weight limit and the lifetime warranty. The Emonda ALR also uses Trek’s excellent H2 geometry which I’m a big fan of. It’s a good choice for all but the fastest and most aggressive riders and fantastic for a weekend warrior like myself. Comfortable, fast and fine handling, it’s a geometry many riders will quickly be at one with. Personally I’d build it up from a frameset but it’s great to see a couple of solid build choices available. It’s a new model, so I’ve not ridden one or seen one in the flesh yet, but I was excited to see it launched. I expect to read good reviews on this bike in due course.


More info here:

You can order one here and here

Canyon Ultimate AL SLX

ultimate-al-slx-9-aero_c1044Another highly respected lightweight aluminium frameset is from another German direct brand – Canyon. The Ultimate AL SLX is available as a frameset or in a number of builds. With a frameweight of around 1200 gms – it’s once again bang on as a super light contender. Currently the frameset is on special offer at £560 and there’s even a tasty Dura Ace build featuring a pair of £1300 Reynolds Assault carbon clinchers for £2475 including delivery (and not forgetting a Dura Ace groupset is the best part of £1000 on it’s own, you’re getting the frame and build for a couple of hundred pounds! It’s also a complete bike weighing in at under 7kgs! Even the more modestly specced Ultegra version (similarly specced to the Rose above) weighs in at 7.25kgs complete (according to Canyon).




You can find out more about the Canyon here:

Cannondale CAAD10


The CAAD10 is somewhat of a modern classic and can perhaps be argued was the frameset to start it all. It’s looking a little long in the tooth now as the design is a few years old and most of the contemporaries here are much more modern. However it’s still got a fine reputation, it’s light and the price for the frameset has got cheaper over the years to now be  £700. The geometry is a little low in the front end, so check that’s going to work for you – it’s a bit aggressive for me personally but I see plenty of happy riders out on them. Even if it’s getting on a bit, it’s still a fine, well-respected and well-proven choice. Also available in a number of builds including 105 for £1299 and Ultegra for £1699.


You can find out more about the Cannondale here:

Any of these fantastic aluminium frames will give you a bike that you’ll absolutely love riding. They’ll be fast, fun, engaging, involving and you won’t have to worry so much about looking after them as you would a carbon bike. For those of you out there that only consider carbon frames, you’re missing out. Ignore these and it’s your loss.

Thanks for reading, and please ask any questions in the comments.

*I appreciate that we all have definitions of what’s affordable.

Islabikes Beinn 26 Small Review

As I did more cycling, I soon realised that it was much more fun to ride on a good bike than a bad bike. I also learnt that within reason you get what you pay for and that buying better may not cost you more over the lifetime of the investment.

I’m far from wealthy but I take this same approach to bikes for my family as I know that better bikes will mean they enjoy cycling more and that we as a family will ride more.


When my son got big enough for his first bike, my searching for the best kids bikes led me to Islabikes. They had a reputation for being light, easy and fun for kids to ride, well-proportioned including the controls and appeared to have terrific resale value.  We duly placed an order for a CNOC 14 back in 2009 and it was a tremendous kids bike. Our son learnt to ride on the CNOC and it became one of his prized possessions.

When he outgrew it, I worked out that I should get around 70% of what I paid for it back thanks to the popularity of Islabikes, which I was over the moon about. I ended up selling it to some family friends and we reinvested in a new Islabike, this time a Beinn 20 Large, which again provided sterling service and in fact still is, as this bike has recently been passed onto my daughter. She moved to it after beginning on a Specialized and she tells me the Islabike is much, much better to ride. Sadly we lost 2/3 of the money we’d spent on the Specialized when we sold it on , which was disappointing.


My son is about to turn 10 and this time I did look around the marketplace and saw that there are some more good choices out there. We were quite impressed and tempted by the Hoy bikes for example.

However, there were two key reasons that helped us decide to buy yet another Islabike.

  • We know they’re great bikes: light, well designed, relatively light and the kids have loved riding them. For our family, they’re well proven.
  • We know that resale values are high, so we can buy with confidence knowing we’ll get a decent chunk of our money back (Islabikes will even do a buy back). This means they don’t cost nearly as much over time, especially if you reinvest back into another Islabike each time.

Using the sizing chart and a quick confirmation by phone with Islabikes customer service, I placed my order for a new Beinn 26 Small.


Yes it’s a big investment in a kids bike but I’m confident I’ll get at least half my money back and maybe as much as 70%, so the cost of what should be two years riding, won’t be that much. We know this is true from our previous Islabike purchases.

My son is nearly 10 and around average or just above height for his age. Whilst the size chart says from age 8, he’s got plenty of room to grow and actually I wouldn’t have wanted to try him on a bigger size as he found the change up from 20 inch wheels to 26 inch, a little tricky as it was. He loves this new bike though.

Most other bikes we looked at for his age were 24 inch wheels and the only other 26 inch bike we tried (a Trek) was just a little too big.


This bigger bike certainly weighs more than his old one at just over 9.5kgs but my son is very happy on it and for him it’s really just a scaled up version of his old bike. The gears and brakes work the same, the bike look similar, it’s just much bigger.  This made it a learning curve of about 20 minutes to adapt to the new bike.

As a parent, I’m delighted we’ve made the investment in another Islabike, it’s nice to support a specialist company that’s a big part of why kids bikes are improving in quality each year. Islabikes started that move and all three of the ones we’ve bought have been completely trouble free to own. I take great pleasure in knowing that I’ve invested in great bikes for my kids (as I do for me). I couldn’t imagine not choosing bikes as good as I want to ride for my family, even if it’s meant saving up to buy them each time.

You can find out more here:

Any questions, please leave me a comment and thanks for reading.


Trainerroad first look review

Last year was a revelation to me in that I discovered indoor training. Thanks to the folks at Wattbike, I trained indoors consistently and rode better than I ever have (you can read an overview of that story here:

Until that point, my turbo was just an expensive thing that gathered dust in my garage. However now I’m a convert to indoor training all year round and a little while back the folks at Trainerroad got in touch and asked if I’d like to try using their system. Obviously I said yes.

I already knew of Trainerroad and had friends who are using it and I think it’s a clever idea.

Trainerroad is a computer training platform that allows you to take speed, cadence and heart rate information from your turbo trainer (or power meter) and it then gives you a dashboard with power output and cadence targets to ride using one of their now hundreds of training sessions.

It’s a clever idea to create an online platform for this, but even better they’ve gone and measured the power curves of lots of common turbo trainers to give you a proxy power output when you train. So this means you can train with a power meter even if you don’t have a power meter, or the funds to buy one.

Some of the nearly 1,000 workouts available on
Some of the nearly 1,000 workouts available on

To get started with Trainerroad, what you need is:

  • To sign up for an account (US$10 per month or $100 per year)
  • A computer or iPad/iPhone
  • A turbo trainer or Power meter system (like a Wattbike in my case)
  • A speed and cadence sensor
  • Optionally a heart rate monitor
  • An ANT+ dongle to read the data from the sensors above for the Trainerroad application to use.
  • An appetite for suffering indoors to go faster.

You’ll need to download the Trainerroad software or app once you’ve signed up and created your account to run when you’re riding.

Given that many of us have most of the items on the list above, all I needed to buy was an Ant+ dongle (amazon link) to get my data from my sensors to my laptop.

In practice you can either choose a pre-selected plan, base or build, triathlon or…. Or choose from any one of around 1,000 workouts.

If you have sufferfest videos you can drop them into the Trainerroad app and it will enable you to  ride them to power outputs, which is cool and probably a more precise way to train for greater benefit.

The strategy I had in mind for trying Trainerroad has not gone to plan so far. I had been going to use it to train for the first quarter of the year to ride the Paris Roubaix sportive but two back to back chest colds that each took me off the bike for 3+ weeks at a time, ended my training and saw me lose almost all of my fitness.

So now I’m trying to get fit again and am using Trainerroad as part of this process. For the cycling training plans there are low medium and high volume plans for how much time you can commit to each week. For base training there is traditional base (longer, lower intensity) or sweet spot base training (higher intensity based around your FTP threshold) – you choose your preferred approach.

To begin with you need to do a fitness test to establish your FTP. If you’ve not done one before, they’re pretty horrible. You right as hard as you can maintain for the duration of the test. Not pleasant but it establishes the baseline to train with.

You then work through your chosen plan doing workouts each week to start building strength, power and fitness.

When I trained with the Wattbike, it uses both power and heart rate zones, which in simple terms begins with workouts that are relatively low intensity to try and equalise your heart and power zones. I started off riding in zone 3 or 4 heart rate when riding zone 2 power. If I droped my intensity to bring the heart rate down to the right level, my power dropped out of the zone it was supposed to be in. It was frustrating but over 4-6 weeks everything aligned and I noticed that I was already faster on the road.

A peak into a training plan but you can also create your own from the workout library
A peak into a training plan but you can also create your own from the workout library

Trainerroad somewhat surprisingly to me after that experience ignores heart rate completely. It’s just about riding to the power output and cadence required by the session. In that way it feels more like a blunt instrument and now that I’ve lost fitness, I’ve had situation where riding a sweet spot session (based around intervals at 88-94% of my FTP (not max power) where my heart rate is at 90% of max (or more). I think I got to 93 or 94% or Max heart rate on one base training session.

To me this has felt a bit too full on, given my lows levels of fitness so I’ve been mixing it up (and going off programme) by also putting in some of my zone 2 equaliser rides, where I’m riding at the top of my zone 2 power output and trying to keep my heart rate in the vicinity of where it should be.

I suspect that Trainerroad would say that my heart rate should come back down as I get fitter and I would agree that this should be the case. I just haven’t expected to feel beaten up by base training.

In fairness to Trainerroad I should probably re-test my FTP which has no doubt dropped, so I’m probably riding to a power output above where I physically am right now.

My patchy progress to date, showing the career views each rider gets
My patchy progress to date, showing the career views each rider gets

So my first impressions are that it’s a fantastic idea and the platform itself works really well for me. Now that the platform is up and running there’s no end of the kind of programmes they can add (and I hope they continue to). If you’re not fit, you’re going to find it hard though. Even the base training can be very demanding.

When you’re riding, most workouts have a text commentary telling you to what cadence to aim for when to ride one legged etc, etc, there seem to be quite a few drills within workouts. Personally I find the drills a bit annoying but that could just be me. I’m working hard enough just to keep up, I don’t need the extra brain teasers.

A friend and colleague who’s also using it has also moved to mix up his workouts too. This decision maybe slowing down or reducing the gains we make but my body isn’t in a place to try harder or hasn’t been. I’m struggling a little to get my head around high intensity base training.

In summary, in the early days or my time on Trainerroad which has been stop/start, I love the platform and how it connects your turbo time to a data system, I’m just not as won over by the actual training plans personally, but the sheer volume of workouts is fantastic for the USD$10 per month. I have no expertise as a trainer, so my thoughts on the plans are just an opinion. Regardless, I’m going to stick with it and update you as I go.

Any questions or comments, please let me know.

Thanks for reading.

Trek Domane 4.5 Disc First Look Review

Update: April 2016, Trek have announced the new Domane SLR, you can see what’s new and different here:

Trek have been kind enough to send me a Domane Disc to review and it’s a bike I’ve been looking forward to riding. It’s the first time I’ve tried the Domane with it’s now well known IsoSpeed Decoupler, designed to soften the ride over rough surfaces whilst still ensuring sufficient stiffness and responsiveness in all riding conditions. The 4.5 Domane Disc I’m riding also has what I expect to be a fantastic spec in the form of Shimano’s excellent R685 hydraulic disc brakes, combined with Shimano’s well proven Ultegra 6800 mechs front and rear.

Top tube detail
Top tube detail

The Domane Disc I’ve been sent to try also features through axles front and rear for greater stiffness, with in this case a 142x12mm rear axle and a 15mm front. By combining the post mount disc brakes with the through axles  the result offers, according to Trek, maximum stiffness, steering precision and rigidity – something my 68kg weight and skinny legs will find difficult to prove to be frank. It’ll be interesting to ride them none the less, as they might well make a difference that I can notice in cornering and descending.

IsoSpeed Fork and cable routing details...
IsoSpeed Fork and cable routing details…

The IsoSpeed fork is another interesting aspect of the Domane design with a curve and shape designed to increase compliance and smooth the ride quality, with a dropout design and positioning to “optimise wheelbase”. Given the smoothness effect the IsoSpeed Decoupler offers in the seat tube, the fork has a challenge of providing an equivalent enough smoothness through the front of the bike so that the ride feels balanced between front and rear.

Plenty of rear tyre clearance. Shod with 25mm as standard
Plenty of rear tyre clearance. Shod with 25mm as standard

The Domane features Trek Endurance geometry but this is not a sit up and beg sportive bike, it’s still designed to be fast enough to race. Fabian Cancellara loves his and seems to do pretty well on them. In the 56cm size I’m riding the stack height is only 7mm higher than the Kinesis TK3/4S that I used to own, or 1.4cm higher than Trek’s H2 geometry. The stack height is just over an inch higher (27mm) than on my “race” bike.  The point I’m trying to make is that it’s not a super high front end and it’s designed for endurance racing/riding over rough surfaces whilst looking after you and your back. Yes, it’s higher than an out and out smooth surface race bike but it’s quite a bit lower than a Specialized Roubaix (which is 15mm higher again in a 56cm) and for most of us, higher is most likely better than lower for comfort over long rides. One of the upsides of a higher front end is you don’t need any spacers and I’ve already rearranged the stack on the bike I have to test.

Also big clearances for tyres under the front fork
Also big clearances for tyres under the front fork

The 4 Series Domane is made from Trek’s 400 series OCLV carbon. In simple terms this is towards the entry end of Trek’s carbon range and the next step up for disc bikes would be the Domane Disc 6.2 which costs £1,700 more as a result of the more expensive 600 Series OCLV carbon and a few other spec upgrades. The more expensive OCLV variants offer lighter, stiffer and more compliant frames according to the information on Treks own site but perhaps lose the bang for buck of this 400 series bike.

Downtube view into bottom bracket... chunky!
Downtube view into bottom bracket… chunky!

For those of you interested in weight, this bike (size 56cm) straight of the box weighed 8.95kgs on my ebay scales of semi-truth and 9.35kgs with my pedals, a bottle cage and Garmin mount. It’s not light, there’s no hiding from that and there are a number of other Domane options including the 5.2 at around the same price that weigh quite a bit less ( circa 1.5kgs).

However, even for a lightweight like me, weight isn’t everything, it’s getting out on the road and riding it that’s key. Working out how the bike feels through the seat of your pants.

In the flesh, I really like the look of the bike. The matt carbon with red highlights works really well and personally I’ve already been won over to the look of disc bikes. Some of my riding companions have been less effusive (I’m being diplomatic) about the look, particularly of the rotors and disc brakes – especially at the front of the bike. Me, I like it, but I know that’s also influenced by the time I’ve already spent riding the Shimano disc brakes and I think they perform fantastically.

Front Shimano disc brake and rotor
Front Shimano disc brake and rotor

The specification of the bike is solid, with good dependable kit and components from the bars and stem down to the tyres (25mm by the way, although there’s loads of clearance for 28mm or perhaps even wider). You can tell this is a bike designed and specced to last well, from the through axles to the choices of most components. Strength, toughness and durability are, to me, writ large on the spec sheet. It’s a bike that in just looking at, you know that you’ll break well before it will. It’s a bike that looks like it’s ready smash some cobbles or what we call road surfaces in the UK in this age of Austerity (some local roads make Flanders cobbles look good).

Initial riding impressions:

In action on the Domane Disc 4.5
In action on the Domane Disc 4.5

I’ve put in a couple of rides on the Domane 4.5 Disc so far, totalling in around 150km. So these observations are first impressions only and I’ll write more once I’ve got more time in the saddle.

This is definitely a smooth bike, you still feel the big hits when you ride over rough surfaces and potholes (and I’ve aimed for quite a few so far), but the impact is definitely dulled and more by the rear than the front. That being said the fork still does an impressive job of smoothing rough surfaces.

There’s no question either about the IsoSpeed Decoupler, it works, you can feel the seatpost move a little as you ride across rough ground and it definitely makes for a more comfortable ride. The movement is just enough to not make it feel like it’s too much or that your position is shifting too far. Obviously when you get out the saddle, the bike feels very stiff as you’d expect as you remove the impact of the IsoSpeed Decoupler.

The disc brakes and through axles give a real feeling of solidity and strength through the platform and seem to work well together.

Ultegra mechs, 105 cassette and chain with non-series R500 compact cranks
Ultegra mechs, 105 cassette and chain with non-series R500 compact cranks

Ultegra mechanical works as well as you’d expect and is easy to adjust, should you need to. The brakes are fantastic unsurprisingly but I’ve had some pinging from one of the rotors coming out of bends, so I think I’m going to need to tweak the front disc brake position a touch.

The bars are comfortable as is the Bontrager Bar tape, the saddle perhaps a touch overpadded for me, has been absolutely fine to ride so far.

Wheel detail
Wheel detail

The wheels, whilst not super light roll wheel and are shrugging off me riding them over most of the roughest ground I can find. The tyres too, whilst far from the top of the range that Bontrager make ride nicely and grip well.

The only negative thing I can find to say so far is that at 9.3kgs all in, for me, the bike doesn’t feel especially spritely or snappy as the relatively heavy build dulls the performance a touch. That being said I did manage a gold time on a sportive on the first ride but I found the extra weight over some of my lighter bikes felt like it made it a little harder to ride fast. Heavier bikes of course bring more training benefit  and as I said, weight’s not everything.

Early impression are that the Trek Domane 4.5 Disc is a smooth, comfortable and strong bike, that’ll shrug off whatever poor road surfaces you encounter. However, it’s carrying a little extra weight compared to some of the rest of the Domane family and this has an impact on liveliness and the general feeling of the bike on the road.

I’m off to get more mileage in and will write more once I have.

Any questions, please let me know and thanks for reading.

You can find out more about the Domane Disc 4.5 here:

Another view of the bottom bracket area and rear tyre clearance
Another view of the bottom bracket area and rear tyre clearance

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The next big news in road disc brakes is here – Shimano Flat Mount!

On March 31st, Shimano also announced the next big step forward in the move to the road disc market – the first flat mount hydraulic disc brakes.

Shimano released their first generation post mount disc brakes to the road market in 2013 with the Di2 only R785 hydraulic disc brakes. In 2014, the company released the same brakes with mechanical shifters (R685). Both of these brake combinations work amazingly well – they’re the best road brakes I’ve ever used by some way.

However, on the downside they were:

  • Expensive
  • Bulky
  • Heavy
  • Really just an adaption of Shimano mountain bike technology.

But – they work fantastically well. I have a set of the R785 on my Stoemper Darrell Di2 disc (reviewed here: They’re an absolutely joy to ride – particularly in the most expensive Di2 guise.

In a way the original disc brakes were a touch over engineered for the road market but completely reliable (unlike some others we could mention!) as Shimano’s not a company to take risks on product reliability or performance.

The game changer for disc brakes was always going to be when they slimmed them down for better packaging (and aesthetics), lighter weight and created something more specifically suited for road bikes.

Shimano Flat Mount BR-RS805 front Ultegra level disc brake
Shimano Flat Mount BR-RS805 front Ultegra level disc brake

This is where the new flat mount products announced come in. They’re designed for road bikes from the beginning and are going to help disc bikes (running smaller 140mm rotors) look a lot cleaner but still offer fantastic braking in a lighter package.

Here’s another thing, flat mount is neater for bike designers too – not more need for sticking out bits on the back of you carbon fork because the mounting is now ….. flat!

Shimano BR-RS505 105 level flat mount front disc brake - note how much cleaner it mounts to the fork
Shimano BR-RS505 105 level flat mount front disc brake – note how much cleaner it mounts to the fork

This also means that for some manufacturers (e.g. Kinesis as mentioned here: will be able to design a frameset that you can run either caliper or disc brakes on giving us as consumers maximum versatility.

The New 105 level hydraulic brake, mechanical STI ST-RS505
The New 105 level hydraulic brake, mechanical STI ST-RS505

Don’t worry about the differing standards either as in the short to medium term there’ll be plenty of adapters available to run 140 or 160mm rotors using either Flat Mount or Post mount disc brakes. However I expect the number of frames being made for post mount disc brakes will rapidly decrease over the next year.

This is very good news for those of you considering making the jump to discs but had been hoping for something slimmer, lighter and more discreet. They’ll be here around July.BR-RS505_zz_F_STD_S1_draft

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

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