Shutt Velo Rapide Performance Jacket Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With full rear pockets
With full rear pockets

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

With empty rear pockets
With empty rear pockets

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

Kinesis T2 complete bike – first look review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll report back in due course.

Thanks for reading.

Portland Design Works (PDW) Full Metal Fenders First Look review

For those of us with a race bike without the mounting points for mudguards, winter can be a dirty, messy and soggy affair. It’s pretty wet in the UK regularly in the winter, but I believe it can rain also in other countries too.

So if you have a bike that doesn’t have mudguard mounting points do you

  1. tough it out and get (you and your riding buddies) filthy
  2. Buy a dedicated winter bike
  3. Try mudguards that are supposed to fit on a race bike with limited clearances

I have to confess, I’m not big on option 1. I’ve tried again recently and you can see some of the pictures to prove it.DSC01079

It’s filthy business and if you don’t clean your bike regularly, it gets even nastier.

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My photos are after about 150miles of winter riding.

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There are some cheap solutions for “clip on” mudguards but most of them don’t work particularly well in my experience, often ending up rubbing, or simply falling apart disappointingly quickly. Right now, I don’t have the budget for option 2, which leaves us option 3.

Not long ago someone mentioned the PDW Full Metal Fenders as a high quality solution that didn’t rattle. I thought that this sounded interesting so I reached out to see if I could get a set to try.

The PDW Full Metal Fenders are mudguards intended as a high quality solution able to be retro-fitted to a race frame with limited clearances.

I’ve decided to try them on my steel Stoemper as it’s a bike that I’d love to ride through the winter – especially if it can be done whilst remaining a bit drier and less dirty – for both me and the bike.

My Stoemper is a steel race bike with clearances for up to 27mm tyres but no mountings for mudguards. This bike choice also seemed appropriate it was made (by Todd) in Oregon and PDW stands for Portland Design Works, so I feel like I’m almost keeping it in the neighbourhood J

When I first received the fenders and had an attempt at fitting them, I struggled a bit with the 25mm tyres I was running at the time. Fortunately I’ve just been sent some Bontrager Hard Case Lite tyres in 23mm to review so I fitted these to the bike and tried again.DSC01085

Success, this time they’ve been reasonably straight forward to fit, even for someone as mechanically challenged as I am. The fenders themselves are full aluminium and seem really well made.

DSC01088

Included are clear thick plastic adhesive patches to attach to where the “arms” attach for the connection to the axles.Also there’s another adhesive patch for where the brake bridge attachment holds the rear fender. The arms that help attach the fenders to the axles are also really nicely made and adjustable for reach with a 2.5mm allen key.

DSC01092

To fit them you have to remove your wheels and your brake calipers and your quick releases if you want to use the clever little adapters for each wheel (which I did).DSC01086

I had a slight issue on my bike at this point as my cowled Breezer dropouts at the rear of the bike made it tricky to use the supplier adapter (I had to bend it to make it work).

DSC01089

However as I mentioned the process wasn’t too tricky and I followed the helpful video here:

I’ve been out for one nearly 60km ride and whilst I have a rattle to find and remove, they were mostly silent, with no rubbing and my bike and I were much cleaner than previously.

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I’ll keep riding and report back but first impressions are positive.

Thanks for reading.

The #girodilento250 festive family challenge for 2014!

Yes, it’s back! For the last couple of years I’ve held the #girodilento250 (http://girodilento.com/the-girodilento-festive-family-250km/) – 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’m keeping it pretty simple to hopefully make it easy for you to join in should you wish to.

So here are the guidelines I’m suggesting (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 join Strava and use the hashtag #girodilento250 for each of your rides between December 24th and the 31st
  4. Feel free to join the girodilento Strava club here to log your rides: http://www.strava.com/clubs/girodilento-cycling It’ll make it easier to track them and to see how other people are getting on too. You can also use the Strava club to share your target in the comments.
  5. Photos of rides/riding are all good too – again if you can tag them #girodilento250, hopefully I can find them and share some of them. My Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/girodilento 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 – please jump in and have a go and also please share it with other people who ride – the more involved, the merrier …. And more festive.

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

Lezyne Zecto Auto LED Light review

Every now and then someone makes a tweak to a product and you think – actually that’s so obvious, why didn’t anyone think of doing this before now?

The Lezyne Zecto Auto is one of those products.

The Zecto light isn’t new – it’s been around at least a season already but some bright spark at Lezyne obviously thought one day – hey why don’t we make this light motion sensitive, so you don’t have to remember to turn it on? Brilliant – why not indeed.

I have automatic lights in my car – why can’t I have them on my bike? Well now I do.

The Zecto Auto adds in a motion sensor, so when it detects any movement of your bike, the light switches on. It’s quite a sensitive sensor too – it doesn’t take much movement at all to switch on. The Zecto Auto is designed to automatically switch off after 3 minutes and on the one I have this works quite well. I’ve been timing it with a stop watch and it’s reasonably consistent.DSC01053

Why 3 minutes? Well my theory is to allow for the length of stopping at traffic lights. Sure not many will see you waiting that long but we can probably all think of a few junctions that feel like it takes forever between phases. The 3 minute period keeps you illuminated and hopefully safer while you wait to get moving again.

The Zecto Auto is a fantastic rear light. It’s USB rechargeable, it has three bright LEDs which can be switched to flash in a range of patterns. My favourite is the one where they flash in a circular sequence …. Just in case you wanted to know. There are 4 indicator lights on the side that help tell you how much battery is left but they also give you some welcome side visibility.

Another small plus on the USB charging is that because its using micro USB, you might find (like I did) that you can use the same charging cable as on your phone, which keeps things a touch simpler.

DSC01055The design of the fitting on the rear of the light is slanted for setback seatposts, which is nice. The rubber band for fitting works easily with different size seatposts. Also nice. The only flaw I’ve found is that design doesn’t work well with aero seatposts, but Lezyne’s not the only brand with that issue. I was involved in a Twitter discussion with Lezyne a while back where they said they’re working on alternate mounts for the future, so hopefully this issue will go away in time.

I’ve found the run time to be 2-3 hours and a bit less when it’s really cold. Good for most rides, but in winter I typically carry a spare rear light with me anyway – stowed in a pocket or saddle pack. To be honest, the battery performance is my only real reservation on this product but I’ve found battery life with all rechargeable lights …. well a bit patchy or at least less than you’d hope for. Battery life is never as long as you’d like and performance deteriorates over time with more charging cycles. On my wish list would be a light like this with 5-7 hour run time. I didn’t find the claims of run time on the packaging to match real world use.

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As the battery runs low, the fancy patterns disappear and the light will run with all three LEDS lit for a decent amount of time at lower output setting that’s still easily visible – just not nearly as bright.

My previous favourite Lezyne LED rear light was the Micro Drive, but the Zecto Auto definitely tops it.

You can find more information here: http://www.lezyne.com/product-led-sport-zectoauto.php#.VICKxdWsV2I

If you’d like to buy one, you can click here & here to do so, whilst also supporting this site.

Thanks for reading

Osmo Active Hydration Review

For a number of years now, on any ride over an hour, I’ve had a drink bottle with some sort of “energy” or “hydration” product. I know people who just ride with water, but I’ve always felt that if I’m riding briskly then my body is not only going to sweat, it’s going to burn through fuel and nutrients. To offset that I’ve ridden with energy drinks.

I’m far from a scientist and don’t have any particular expertise, so I’ve trusted that the marketing claims of the manufacturers will actually deliver.

So it might not surprise you to know that this feels like a difficult product to review as I’ll explain.

I was very interested to hear that Osmo had launched. I like the idea of a energy/hydration product system for cyclists that reflected up to date science. In fairness, Osmo have taken their own interpretation of recent science – but it seemed like a great starting point.

2Pure the UK distributor, kindly suggested I try all three key products from the Osmo range for men but I’m going to principally focus on the Active Hydration Product here.

The Osmo overview of the product on their site says that this Active Hydration – is a hydration product – not an energy drink and that you should carry food with this drink on your bike.

Osmo say that their approach is to optimise hydration, which is helpful in regulating your temperature, reducing cramping and increasing power. All of these combined are to allow you to maximise performance.

Many energy drinks add in sometimes large amounts of carbohydrates but Osmo believe that this limits their ability to be absorbed as easily by the body, reducing their overall effectiveness.

I know a lot cyclists who also get stomach problems from high carbohydrate drinks and have done myself from time to time.

So in simple lay terms, Osmo have created a formula that is easy for the body to process, that aids hydration, includes essential sugars and minerals to speed the hydration process, so the body can regulate temperature and stave off cramps, and maximise your ability to perform at the highest level.

Still with me? Good. If not, Osmo explain all of this here:

http://youtu.be/tmldWk5bBWM

So why have I found this is a difficult product to review (and why has it taken me most of the year to post this review)?

Well, I’m conscious that any review of a product like this, feels hugely subjective – a bit like reviewing a saddle. We’re all different and our bodies react in different ways.

Also because to be honest, it’s difficult for me to say how much better that it works than other products.

I can however, tell you a number of things that may be of interest from small details to larger ones:

  • The flavour of Osmo Hydration is so much more subtle than any other sports drink I’ve used. So many are incredibly sickly that this was a big positive for me.
  • The jars are small and easy to store and you only need a small amount per bottle.
  • It is very easy to drink while you’re riding and my body has “processed” Osmo more comfortably than any other sports drink I can remember.
  • 2Pure kindly sent me one pot to review. I’ve since kept buying it and have purchased at least three more pots since then – so I’ve switched my own usage to Osmo for whenever I’m riding & have no plans to change as of now.

The one thing I can’t tell you is have I noticed better performance as I just don’t have a scientific enough method of analysing it. I’ve had a bunch of my best ever rides this year but that’s due to a combination of factors – mostly training smarter and I can’t say what role Osmo has played in this.  I don’t get cramps, so that hasn’t been a factor but I have enjoyed using Osmo Active Hydration enough that I’ve kept buying it.

I didn’t however, enjoy the Acute Recovery drink as much, mostly because I found it didn’t mix well and seemed to just turn to froth when mixed with water.  In fairness, I never did try mixing it with Almond milk which is also suggested. The flavour of the Acute Recovery, when mixed with water also didn’t quite hit the spot for me – not awful by any means but not as nice I’ve had before. On the plus side though, it did seem to work well but the mixing really put me off compared to other brands.

I’m going to happily continue to use Osmo Active Hydration and I’ll continue to trust in the science that it’s going to help me keep hydrated, manage my temperature and help me maximise my meagre power output when I’m riding.

If you’d like to read another review, Road.cc have theirs here: http://road.cc/content/review/121830-osmo-nutrition-active-hydration-drink

And you’d like to try it yourself, you can buy it from here and here , whilst also supporting this site at the same time

You find out more at the Osmo website too: http://osmonutrition.com/science/

Thanks for reading

Capo Cycling Autumn Winter 2014 First Look….

Capo Cycling has been one of my best discoveries in cycling clothing in the last year or so.

Recently I met up with Rhodri from Nordic Life to take a look at some of this winter’s range from the California’s company.

I covered Capo before, having discovered and been impressed with several items of Capo’s summer clothing (you see those posts here  http://girodilento.com/tag/capo-cycling/), so I was keen to take a look at some of the winter products.

For me, winter is a fantastic time to ride as you can ride slower, there’s often less traffic, the countryside changes and on a clear day it can be a wonderful way to spend your time.

What is vital to make it enjoyable though, is good clothing (and ideally a bike with full mudguards!)

I know Rhodri is with me on that one as Nordic Life equip folk for mountaineering as well as cycling, so he knows more than most of us on the importance of good kit and layering.

We met at one of our favourite local café’s – Mr T’s Deli in Fletching, where cyclists are always welcomed by the owners Jason and Sharran.

Capo Padrone Winter Tights and Jacket
Capo Padrone Winter Tights and Jacket

Rhodri started at the top of the range by showing me the Padrone Winter Thermal Jacket and matching Bib Tights. The Padrone Tights are for cold weather riding and use a range of fabrics to give both wind protection but also enabling you to breathe. The Padrone tights feature a pad from EIT and I’ve previously found these to be very good indeed. The knee area featured a Windtex triple layer fabric to provide wind protection, water resistance, thermal insulation and stretch recovery. The thermal Roubaix Dream fabric also used, has a red sheen and is designed for keeping you warm in cold conditions. When I tried them on they seemed like a substantial tight for cold weather and would appear to compare well to other top end clothing.

You can find them here: http://nordiclifeuk.co.uk/products/mens-jackets/197/546/bib-tights/P-capo-padrone-roubaix-bib-tights

As with all Capo Clothing, they’re designed to work as an outfit. So the matching Padrone Thermal Winter Jacket, uses the same selection of materials to create a wind jacket for the coldest of days.

As with the tights, the Capo Padrone Thermal Jacket feels like a substantial and high quality piece of kit. The fit like all Capo high end clothing is on the slim side and is built to last. This jacket would to me, compete with Castelli’s Espresso Due/3 high end jacket but costs less. You’re limited to black as a colour but there are reflective details to help make you more visible.  You can see the three rear pockets and the fabric on the back designed to help you “vent” excess heat as you ride.

Capo Padrone Jacket in cycling position & the fit comes good
Capo Padrone Jacket in cycling position & the fit comes good

As you can see from the photos, when you’re in “position” on the bike, the jacket fit really comes good – as all good cycling clothing should.

Capo Padrone Winter Jacket - standing. It's the right size but it's designed for riding not walking :-)
Capo Padrone Winter Jacket – standing. It’s the right size but it’s designed for riding not walking :-)

Find out more here: http://nordiclifeuk.co.uk/products/mens-jackets/198/546/cycling/P-capo-padrone-thermal-jacket

Rhodri then kindly modelled the Capo Pursuit Thermal Jacket. When I reviewed the Pursuit bib shorts, they were a revelation in comfort and quality around the £100 market. Still they’re one of my favourite bib shorts ever.

Capo Pursuit Thermal Jacket - really impressed...
Capo Pursuit Thermal Jacket – really impressed…

A good thermal jacket for winter can cost a lot of money but the Pursuit jacket retails for £100 and looks terrific for the money. It’s a simpler selection of materials to keep the cost down but it still looks very well made and with the nice details of neon to enhance visibility. Frankly it looked to me like these should fly out the door. Capo’s high quality design & manufacturing for a “cheaper” price. Not a waterproof but a solid thermal wind proofing and water resistant coating with a Proteggo Membrane adds versatility.

Rhodri in the "riding position" with the Capo Pursuit Thermal Jacket
Rhodri in the “riding position” with the Capo Pursuit Thermal Jacket

I was really impressed by this as a great step up to high end quality without breaking the bank.

Capo Lombardia goes long sleeve and Neon!

Capo Lombardia Long Sleeve Neon Jersey
Capo Lombardia Long Sleeve Neon Jersey

Not a great photo of me modelling this, but hey that happens. The Lombardia which is simple terms Capo’s Gabba (although they insist they first made water resistant arm warmers years ago).

Capo Lombardia Neon Short Sleeve with matching neon arm warmers
Capo Lombardia Neon Short Sleeve with matching neon arm warmers

I’ll be writing a review on the Lombardia soon as I’ve been riding in a short sleeve one for a few months (when weather conditions allow). What I can say is that the Lombardia is a fine alternative to a Gabba. It’s wind and water resistant, slim fitting and a highly versatile garment. Now you can get them in long sleeves, in Neon like this as well as black and with matching neon arm warmers.

Capo Lombardia Neon fit in riding position
Capo Lombardia Neon fit in riding position

The Lombardia range also extends to shorts and bib tights. I tried on the Lombardia Bib tights which bring a roubaix thermal fabric and apply DWR protection to bring wind and rain resistance. These look like a great tight for less extreme winter temperatures that should also shrug off light rain. Again they feature a high end EIT pad and the Lombardia has a new harness system called V-Mesh 360. The Lombardia should also still provide decent breatheability and is well worth checking out:

Capo Lombardia Roubaix Bib Tights
Capo Lombardia Roubaix Bib Tights

http://www.nordiclifeuk.co.uk/bib-tights/283/584/bib-tights/P-capo-lombardia-roubaix-bib-tights

Additionally Capo make a range of high quality winter gloves (including these below featuring OutDry fabrics) and winter hats like the one in the opening image for this post.

Capo Winter Gloves ....
Capo Winter Gloves ….

As I mentioned earlier, it was a pleasure to be at Mr T’s in Fletching for this little try on session. It was actually the first time I’d ever driven there instead of riding (which is much less fun).

For more info on the Capo range that Nordic Life stock, please visit here: http://www.nordiclifeuk.co.uk/capo-home

My thanks to Rhodri for bringing a bunch of stock out to try and to photograph.

Mr T's cafe in Fletching Sussex
Mr T’s cafe in Fletching Sussex

 

What I have I learnt in 2,000km on a Wattbike?

12 learnings for Wattbike Training

Today was a big milestone in my time with the Wattbike as I passed the 2,000km milestone on it. Coincidentally it was also the first ride of a new 16 week programme for winter training.

I’ve been seeing my mileage on the Wattbike ticking up over the last month or so and I’d been pondering what it’s taught me so far and what I think there might be to come from it.

In fairness, most of the time I’ve spent on it was between February and July. In that time I learnt:

1) Indoor training IS an effective way to improve your riding.    

Until this year, my riding had always plateaued around the same average speed – 29kmh. No matter how fit I felt I’d got riding and riding in the spring and summer I never went faster. In fact over the rolling countryside where I live I’d never manage to push past this average on a 50-100km ride in 5 years of trying. After 3 months training using a Wattbike Sportive Plan, I’ve managed to bang out 3 or 4 rides averaging over 30kmh this summer. This has been a big moment. Life, work, family etc got in the way in the summer and I couldn’t keep the momentum or training going and I’ve fallen backwards but I’m still riding pretty well so hopefully I’m well placed for a sensible winter training plan. I’m someone who’s always considered indoor training as an absolute last resort – for when it was snowing or had rained solidly for a fortnight. Now it’s my first choice.

2) Training with Power AND Heart Rate indoors delivers results. 

This is the key thing about the Wattbike – training with heart rate and power zones at the same time. At first it was incredibly frustrating. I could get my heart rate to sit in say Zone 2 but if I did, my power was in Zone 1. If my power was in Zone 2, my heart rate popped up into zone 3. They were supposed to be in the same zone. It took about 6 weeks for them to “equalize”. Sticking to the programme saw me continue to improve as long as I kept up the work.

 3) It’s not all about intensity and interval training

This has been a big surprise to me, as I had thought that riding indoors on a Turbo or on a Wattbike would be mostly about smashing intervals and this couldn’t have been further from the truth. A great deal of the training has been low intensity to strengthen the training base. I’ve spoken with another sports scientist who agreed that this gives an athlete a strong platform to build from. Getting faster has involved surprisingly little interval training. So far.

 4) It’s not just about the speed – stamina improves too

After a couple of months of the training I noticed that my ability to hold efforts longer had markedly improved. Where I ride it’s unusual to need to ride hard for more than 10 minutes at a time and training on the Wattbike has definitely helped me ride stronger over a longer duration. Throughout the course of the year and it still is now.

5) It’s very time effective

A couple of years ago I spoke to a coach who said he could get me results if I committed to training for 9 hours a week. I knew I couldn’t find this much time, so I didn’t pursue the coaching. I’ve got faster than ever before on the Wattbike with only 4-6hours a week of training and that’s invaluable for anyone with a busy life.

6) It only works if you do

During the summer I’ve been very busy with family, life, work and stuff that’s just got in the way and so my time on a bike or the Wattbike dropped significantly (by over half). And guess what, I’ve got less fit and slower. You’ve still got to do the work. I do believe that the quality base building I did on the Wattbike earlier in the year “stuck around” better but I still went backwards. I hope to focus over the winter and do a 16 week plan and keep at it as it’s not going to require a huge amount of time investment each week. I hope I can manage to do it as I want the results in the spring.

 7) You’ve got to have a plan …. But if you don’t….

The Wattbike website has a range of free training plans, so there’s really no reason not to follow a structured plan. Sometimes though for whatever reason that’s not possible and I’ve found that even simply doing 2-4 one hour Zone 2 sessions a week is a good way of augmenting your fitness.

8) Trust the free Wattbike training plans … or

If you follow the free Wattbike training plans, you will get results as I’ve proved. So you can easily start with them and work your way through them. Depending on what level you’re beginning at that could take you a good way through a year. If you don’t want to use the Wattbike plans (or have finished them) there are sites like TrainerRoad or even the Sufferfest that you can access plans for and use the Wattbike as your tool for power and heart rate training. If I’m lucky enough to still have the Wattbike in the Spring, I hope to give TrainerRoad a go.

 9) Or find a coach who can work with the data the Wattbike produces

The Wattbike produces a large amount of detailed data from every ride, whether you use it or not. It records something like 36 parameters, 100 times a second while you’re using it – including your power and pedalling technique. I have to admit I don’t use that data and simply rely on my Garmin, Strava and the pedalling efficiency graphic. However if you can find a coach who can work with the data, it could provide for a very successful training programme.

 10) Sod the weather

I have always been a fair weather cyclist. I hate riding in the rain. I’m not British and I don’t get the whole – just ride anyway thing. Now I feel the urge even less – if it’s raining – great, I’ll Wattbike. Job done, in an hour, regardless of how rainy it is. I’ve moved and have gone from a very nice spot in a conservatory to being in the garage – but that’s fine and I can still get the job done.

11) Get to just enjoy your weekend rides

When you’re using a training plan,  you get your training done before the weekend, so you can just enjoy each weekend ride. Have fun with your friends, ride as hard or as slow as you feel and just have enjoy. By this point in the week, you’ve done all the actual training you need. Weekends are the fun bit and the reward for your training during the course of the week.

12) What are the downsides?

a) There’s no getting around it, the biggest challenge for many of us is the sticker price of just over £2k. Sure the 0% finance is going to help most people and that’s a good thing. I think of it more as a great second bike as I’m lucky enough to have a great bike already. I guess we each need to decide what could make us faster, a nice second bike or a Wattbike and that’s something each of us needs to work out for ourselves. After 2,000km I’m convinced it can make me faster and if it can make me faster, I’m confident it can make you faster

b) The downside of the Wattbike training plans is having to print out all of the pages and write your particular heart rates and training zones on it. I usually have at least one piece of paper with me when I get on the Wattbike and right now I have all of the pages of the Winter Triathlon Training Plan printed out so I can recalculate all of the different sessions for my own heart rate and training zone data. It seems incongruous with the sophistication at the heart of the machine …. But it’s far from a deal breaker, especially when it’s ultimately all done with software and could all be automated. 2015 …. Maybe?

You can find out more at the Wattbike site here: http://wattbike.com/uk/

If you’d like to read more about my journey so far on the Wattbike, this link will take you to all of my posts tagged with Wattbike: http://girodilento.com/tag/wattbike/

Thanks for reading

Shutt Velo Rapide Lightweight Gilet Review

The first thing that struck me about the ShuttVR Gilet is the fact that it’s a substantial piece of kit, not the sort of flimsy I’m used to stuffing in my pocket as riding days warm up. I say substantial, but not in a bulky sense, it folds down nicely to a light and compact size which can easily slide into a jersey pocket. The gilet is very nicely made and has a quality feel about it and in the best tradition, you can get it in any colour you like as long as it’s black!

As far as the bill of materials is concerned, you can get all the techs and specs from the Shutt VR website, but it features windproof, ripstop material front and back with Coolmax trim around the arms and mesh side panels for ventilation. The collar is finished with a fleece material lining. A decent, weatherproof YKK zipper is edged by reflective piping at the front. At the back there are two good-sized pockets where you might normally expect to a zip or other access to jersey pockets. There’s also more reflective piping and some subtle branding (the Shutt colour bar on the pocket and logo – also reflective – on the right shoulder).

I wouldn’t put myself down as an expert in gilets, but these features all seem very well thought out to me and make the garment a very practical piece of riding wear. Used with arm warmers you have a decent solution for those days of indeterminate weather where long sleeves or a jacket are overkill and don’t really give you flexibility for changeable conditions.

I’ve been wearing the gilet a lot for short commutes to the office; I like the pocket space, the gilet fits me well and it keeps the morning draft off very effectively. For my part, I think it looks very smart worn with jeans and a t-shirt, but I’m no fashion guru. I also chose it during my recent trip to Yorkshire for the start of the Tour de France for exactly the reasons described above; the weather was very warm when the sun poked its head out from behind the clouds, but chilly otherwise and there was always a wind! However, in conjunction with Castelli Nanoflex arm warmers and shorts, while I was arguably overdressed, I remained very warm and comfortable the whole time (which included a lot of standing around). I even bumped into someone else wearing one!

Damien modelling the Shutt Lightweight Gilet in size Small
Damien modelling the Shutt Lightweight Gilet in size Small

I was asked an interesting question about the gilet and that was whether it was really had a place in an age of Castelli Gabba and Capo Lombardia, wet weather, performance jerseys. My answer to that is, it depends on your sort of riding, or the sort of ride you’re on. If I was charging out for a couple of hours in the rain, I don’t think that the gilet would be my go-to choice. However, for longer days and adventures, I think the gilet provides classic layering advantages and is a really versatile piece of clothing. As fantastic a jersey as the Lombardia is (it makes a great Christmas or Father’s Day gift if your family is struggling for suggestions), the disadvantage is that once you leave home in it, you’re committed – I’ve found myself almost praying for the weather to stay cool and wet.

The Shutt Lightweight gilet rear view
The Shutt Lightweight gilet rear view

That said, one drawback I’ve noticed when riding in the Gilet comes courtesy of its waterproof liner. As far as I can detect, this is not a semi-permeable membrane – no detail is provided on the company’s website. So, while it keeps water out, it also keeps moisture in; specifically, sweat. When working hard in the saddle, prepare yourself for a build-up of damp. This is not altogether a bad thing, but is does mean that clothing beneath the windproof panels can get wet. I guess this means you need to time gilet removal carefully, there’s probably an optimum window before your clothing gets too wet, but I haven’t found it so far. Obviously it’s not a particular problem if you plan to keep the gilet on all day and it does mean you cool quickly when the zip’s undone.

The zip deserves some accolade. I’m a bit of a klutz when it comes to jersey zippers, frequently jamming fabric into them as I get them on and off. The YKK Vislon zip is easy to get hold of and use single-handed in the saddle (I’m not a big lover of taking both hands off the bars whilst climbing, especially to fiddle around with garment closures – I’m just not pro enough), and I’ve yet to shut anything in it (or have to take the gilet off over my head)! The zip garage also deserves a mention and adds to both smartness and comfort, as has been noted by my riding buddies.DSC00755

Other touches like that fleece lining on the collar make for additional comfort. Its soft feel is obviously nice as the gilet goes on, but it also wicks sweat off your neck as you ride without any slickness. At the other end, the elasticated waist also features a silicone gripper which does a decent enough job stopping the gilet riding up when riding out. The back of the gilet is designed to provide a good amount of protection against rear wheel spray if you’re riding in the rain and you’re not on your winter bike (which obviously has mudguards).

The only issue I had with the gilet was in sizing. I’m 5’9” tall, 76kg, variable waist size; I wear size XL Castelli shorts and believe me, I wish I didn’t! Most of my stuff is sized large, however, the Shutt VR Gilet fits me perfectly and it’s a small. I’ve become used to “sizing up” because I like Italian cycling clothing but don’t have the frame for it (a fondness for pies, unfortunately), so going down two sizes is a bit of a surprise – although not an unpleasant or unflattering one.

Shutt’s sizing guide however, suggests that a small chest size is 34 – 36 inches (closer to my waist size). The gilet is not “racing cut” and so will accommodate most torso types. If I was to be honest, I think that more accurate sizing and a less generous cut would be more appealing. While I’m not a racing snake, I find it a little baggy around the middle and couldn’t help wondering whether the slightly elastic mesh panels would be one way of providing a closer fit. There is also an XS size that for slender, smaller or many women may make more sense.

Another small issue is that the mesh part of the gilet at the back/sides has “bobbled” a bit. I’ve been wearing it a lot but the “bobbling” if that’s a word is a touch disappointing.

An attempt at photographing the bobbling
An attempt at photographing the bobbling

Shutt’s lightweight gilet is on sale from the company’s website priced at £75, I think this is very much at the top end of the market, however, for the flexibility it provides to the wearer and the build quality, it’s worth the premium. As I mentioned at the top of this article, the garment feels substantially made and I think it’s something you’d wear for years, certainly it feels robust enough to take a good amount of wear and tear unlike flimsier, lower cost equivalents. Just be prepared for a little to-ing and fro-ing to get the right size.

You can find out more and order one from here:

http://www.shuttvr.com/shop/productdetail/Lightweight-Gilet/

Ebsen EBS Street Trend City Bike Mini Review

I’m all for City Bikes and think that they should be more easily available for sale in the UK. For ordinary people looking for a low maintenance easy to ride bike to go to the shops and back, City Bikes are the right tool for the job. To pop across town on a hybrid or a mountain bike is the wrong answer to me.

Ebsen EBS Street Trend Drive side
Ebsen EBS Street Trend Drive side

With my interest in cycling advocacy and in what conditions are needed for 40-60% of a population to ride bikes everyday, having the ideal everyday bike is a key factor. In fairness it is way behind fixing the UK’s hostile road design and infrastructure but we need more practical bikes for sale in the UK to go with better infrastructure.

To quality as a city bike I think you need a bike that you can ride comfortably in ordinary clothes and that requires virtually no maintenance and can easily carry your shopping etc as you ride.

I’m not the only one who thinks this as it turns out. This post from leading UK cycling advocate Mark Treasure spells it out very well: http://aseasyasridingabike.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/where-are-britains-practical-bikes/

In the small cycling advocacy group I’m a part of one of our members, a Dane called Jesper, showed up a few months ago on a Danish city bike from a brand called Ebsen. I had a quick ride around the car park and it was very, very comfortable and I was impressed. Jesper told me that when he’d moved his family to the UK from Denmark, they found it very difficult to find shops where you could buy Danish City bikes for either adults or children. So he did some research and decided to launch http://www.copenhagen-bicycles.com/ who are now selling part of the Ebsen bikes range and also some MBK bikes.

And the other side - good view of the kickstand and the key side of the lock
And the other side – good view of the kickstand and the key side of the lock

Jesper offered me the chance to try the Ebsen Street Trend and I jumped at the chance. I’ve been riding it around town for the last few weeks and have found the experience fascinating.

Ebsen have been in business for 16 years and is run from Denmark by Peter Stricker Ebsen. The company designs bikes in Denmark and has them made in Germany, Italy and Taiwan. The company has a wide range and sells 15,000 bikes a year.

Sturdy rear rack (easily strong enough for 20kg+ loads) and a view of the Nexus hub
Sturdy rear rack (easily strong enough for 20kg+ loads) and a view of the Nexus hub

The Street Trend that I’m riding is made in Germany and has a list of features I’d say are essential for a true city bike:

  • Shimano Nexus 7 Speed hub gears (3 speed is fine if you live somewhere flat) – lower maintenance than external derailleur gears.
  • Hub Dynamo and front light
  • Battery rear light
  • Coaster rear brake (back pedal to stop)
  • Front V-Brake
  • Chain guard and full mudguards
  • Reinforced rear rack
  • Kick stand
  • Integral Frame mounted lock
Shimano Nexus - proven low maintenance city bike drive train. The work horse of mass cycling countries
Shimano Nexus – proven low maintenance city bike drive train. The work horse of mass cycling countries

The bike features an alloy frame and a nice comfortable upright riding position. I know from twitter discussions that some people who have some knowledge of Dutch bikes would argue there might be a few more features missing (such as a front rack, front roller brake, steering lock and a double sided kick stand) but having spent some time both talking to Jesper and looking at the model range from some large Dutch bike brands, it’s not quite that simple.

Trelock Dynamo front light - no more worrying about if your batteries are charged
Trelock Dynamo front light – no more worrying about if your batteries are charged

What does seem to be the case is that most city bike manufacturers in Europe have a wide range of bikes and specifications and people choose and pay for all of the features they want around a similar central theme. Buyers also often customise their bikes themselves after buying them to get them just so – which most cyclists do on any bike they buy.

Easily adjustable stem
Easily adjustable stem

As an example, if you live somewhere flat like Copenhagen, a 3 speed hub gear bike will be more than enough. Also in a flat city you might not actually use a front brake, just using a coaster rear brake, so the extra expense of a roller brake over a cheaper V-brake on the front of the bike might not be something you’d look for. Also you might upgrade the bike. Personally I’d prefer a dynamo rear light too and a light that kept running when you’re stopped at lights (we don’t have Copenhagen’s green wave or the intelligent road design of the Dutch sadly, so I’ll have to waste time at lights regularly). Chances are if you have specific features you want – then there’s a bike for you. Or if there isn’t quite – they’ll be something close and you can sort the last bits out afterwards. I could add a front rack and a steering lock for carry heavy things in a basket if I wanted to (and probably would).

So what’s it like to ride and live with?

The Street Trend is aluminium framed bike and the 7 speed Nexus gears give a good range of choices for steep hills through to descents and in between. The complete bike weight is about 17kgs, which has been fine for me. It’s not as comfortable as Jesper’s own Ebsen bike (the Habana), which is steel, so both heavier and more comfortable but the Street Trend is still comfortable and the riding position has been great (sitting up).

Front V- Brake, light and mudguards
Front V- Brake, light and mudguards

The coaster brake took a bit of bedding in but works well and reminds me of when I was a kid when I had the same type of back pedal brake on my first bike when I was about 5. I loved that bike and the skids I could do. I’ve been restraining myself and not doing skids on the Street Trend though as it’s not my bike but it is tempting.

Battery operated rear light - not super bright but works well with good sized reflectors
Battery operated rear light – not super bright but works well with good sized reflectors

Jesper also kindly loaned me a pair of Basil Panniers (Basil are a Dutch company that makes a great range of panniers and baskets http://www.basil.nl/).

I took advantage of the panniers immediately to ditch my rucksack and ride in my normal clothes on my admittedly short 2km commute. Being around twice the weight of my other race bikes it takes a bit more to get up to speed but the bike gets along very nicely. I love being upright on the bike, my visibility is better, I’m more comfortable and the number of stupid passes from motorists seems to have significantly decreased. I feel very comfortable on the bike. The Nexus gears are great and I’ve gotten used to the roller rear brake. The knack is to get your pedals into the position you want to push down backwards to brake (and to me that’s about 10 o’clock.) I find I don’t really use the front brake unless I’m holding position on a slope.

The built in lock is fantastic (although I’ve been using a second lock when locking it to a bike rack all day). That second lock just sits in a pannier the rest of the time, which makes life very straightforwards.

To work the lock, put the key in the other side then push this lever down. Work very well
To work the lock, put the key in the other side then push this lever down. Work very well

The Dynamo light works well but do switch off when you’re stationary. The battery powered attached rear light is fine too – not super bright but has good reflectors built and seems clearly visible. The kick stand is very handy but if I put too much heavy stuff in the pannier – it’s not strong enough to stop the bike from tipping. A kickstand is such a simple addition that means you no longer have to find somewhere to lean you bike against (great for stopping outside a shop).

Full chainguard makes riding in normal clothes the easiest thing in the world
Full chainguard makes riding in normal clothes the easiest thing in the world

We only live about 250-300m from a corner shop, which is a distance I’d usually walk (although I have neighbours who’d drive) but I’m now zipping up on the Ebsen. It’s easy, fast and convenient – especially when I can lock the bike right outside the door and put my shopping in the panniers.

The Ebsen Street Trend is a very easy bike to live with and everything seems to work well – but it should given it’s based on a very well proven city bike concept. Yes, you can buy cheaper bikes (you always can). But when you start look at the cost of the 7 speed hub gears, dynamo hubs and wheels and lighting. The built in lock, heavy dutry rack as well as full mudguards and chain guard – it’s not too bad. Also consider that bikes like this are designed to need almost no maintenance and last for many years – it’s not expensive transport. And that’s the thing, this bike is mostly about transport as any good city bike is. You could take it on bike paths and tow paths and maybe even a well surfaced Sustrans path (narrows it down a bit) but it’s an urban workhorse first and foremost and designed for years of weather and very little maintenance.DSC00198

I’m probably even more convinced about city bikes after spending a few weeks on one than I was before.

Oddly the only thing I’ve been wondering if I would choose differently spending my own money is would I go for an open frame instead of a traditional mens version with a high cross bar? For a bike that’s all about convenience, comfort and ease – lifting your leg over the cross bar when you’ve got the panniers full is actually quite awkward. There are certainly some more unisex models and when you look at cyclists in the Netherlands and Denmark, lots of men are riding step through frames and now I understand why.

Quality Schwalbe tyres that haven't needed pumping up in a month
Quality Schwalbe tyres that haven’t needed pumping up in a month

In time, I’d probably also upgrade the lights but as Jesper said that’s what people do – choose a spec that’s going to get them the basics of what they want and improve it over time.

The front Shimano Dynamo hub - fantastic bit of kit
The front Shimano Dynamo hub – fantastic bit of kit

I hope that Jesper succeeds and that more city bikes come onto the market as they’re a pleasure to ride and live with. They’re not too slow either. I’ve certainly not found a lack of speed to be a problem when I’ve needed it and I can keep up with slow moving urban traffic easily (and have a better view ahead than before). I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Ebsen Street Trend and I hope you’ve found this interesting. I’ll be sad to give it back.

You can click to find out how to order one if you’re interested: http://www.copenhagen-bicycles.com/products/ebs-street-trend

For more on why Upright bikes are great, you might find this an interesting read: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/brent-toderian/upright-bike-vancouver_b_5831752.html

Thanks for reading

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