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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rapha Core

P1000605

Training is hard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading

Lezyne Alloy Digital Drive ABS2 track pump review

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

P1000620

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

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

P1000619

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

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

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

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

P1000636

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More info at can also be found at http://www.lezyne.com/

Thanks for reading.

Zipp skewer and hub recall, what customers need to know

2015 Quick release recall:

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

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

Zipp qr ID

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

Zipp 88 hub recall

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

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

Zipp 88 hub silver large

Zipp 88 hub grey and black

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

flange rings

hub in wheel

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

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

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

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

http://www.zipp.com/support/recall-information/index.php

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

Thanks for reading

Trek Crockett 9 Review

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

Mid ride muddy-ness
Mid ride muddy-ness

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

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

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

Geometry Comparison
Geometry Comparison

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can find out more here: http://www.trekbikes.com/gb/en_GB/bikes/road-bikes/cyclocross-bikes/crockett/c/B242

You can buy one from here: http://tidd.ly/16542a37

If you’d like to go back and read my first ride review as well, you can find it here: http://girodilento.com/trek-crockett-9-cyclocross-bike-first-ride-review/

Thanks for reading

Specialized & Mavic go shopping for faster wheels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/02/news/specialized-partners-with-hed_395522

http://www.bikeradar.com/road/news/article/specialized-licenses-hed-aero-wheel-patent-46397/

Here’s more info on Mavic’s acquisition of ENVE: http://www.bicycleretailer.com/international/2016/02/22/mavics-owner-amer-sports-buys-enve-composites-50-million#.VtdOVVuLQdU

Thanks for reading

Genesis Datum 30 review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Huge front fork clearance
Huge front fork clearance

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

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

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

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

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Who/What the Datum is for:

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

What the Datum isn’t for:

Racing, Cyclocross

More info on the Genesis site here: http://www.genesisbikes.co.uk/bikes/adventure/multisport/datum-30

If you’ve not already read it, I recommend checking out my first look post too as that covers more of the technical side of the Datum: http://girodilento.com/genesis-datum-30-first-look-review/

Thanks for reading

Bontrager AW3 Hard-Case Lite Road Tyres review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can find out more here: http://www.trekbikes.com/gb/en_GB/equipment/cycling-components/bike-tyres-tubes/bontrager-aw3-hard-case-lite/p/10961

You can buy some if you’re interested here and they’re on special at the time this post was published:  http://tidd.ly/d13a61da

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Thanks for reading.

Ten interesting things to see at the London Bike Show

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

Scott’s list:

New Schwalbe tubeless tyres … and clothing

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

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

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

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

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Bowman Cycles – new colours and models….

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

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

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

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Bowman’s stand is LB 1404

Cannondale’s Slate plus new Evo and CAAD12

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

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

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Cannondale are at stand: LB 330

Cervelo C series “gravel” disc bikes

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

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

Books, books and books…..

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

Bloomsbury are at stand: LB 1416

Damien’s list:

X-Bionic

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

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

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

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

Hope Technology

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

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

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

Drayson Technologies

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

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

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

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

Engineered Bicycles

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

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

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Elephant Bike

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

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

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

Find out more about the show including booking tickets here: http://www.thelondonbikeshow.co.uk/

Thanks for reading

Sportful R&D jacket and bib tights first look review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

P1000289Thanks for reading.

The full R&D tights review is now posted here: http://girodilento.com/sportful-rd-bib-tights-review/

 

 

A selection of road cycling reviews, news, fitness & rides