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 Specialised when we sold it on too, which was a big disappointment.


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.

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

Hestra Tracker Gloves long term review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can find out more about the Tracker here:

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

Thanks for reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more here:


Thanks for reading

Capo Padrone Roubaix Bib tights first look review

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


You can find out more about these tights here:

Thanks for reading.

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

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

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

Kinesis 4S Disc

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

Alé Cycling Clothing

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

Gravel wheels!

Reynolds ATR carbon gravel wheels
Reynolds ATR carbon gravel wheels

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

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

Stans Grail gravel wheels
Stans Grail gravel wheels

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

Reynolds 46 Aero Disc
Reynolds 46 Aero Disc

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

Lizard Skins now make gloves….

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

New aggressively priced and specced road bikes from Tifosi…

Tifosi CK3 Giro 105
Tifosi CK3 Giro 105

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

New Effetto Mariposa Carogna Tub tape

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

Well priced Lapierre Sensium Di2 with Hydraulic discs..

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

Thanks for reading…

Bike Mechanic by Rohan Dubash and Guy Andrews Book Review

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

Thanks for reading

Shutt Velo Rapide Performance Jacket Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With full rear pockets
With full rear pockets

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

With empty rear pockets
With empty rear pockets

Find out more at Shutt’s website:
Thanks for reading.

Road cycling equipment, reviews, fitness & riding