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.

DSC01052

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

Bontrager RL Road Visibility Shoe review

The most consistent thing about my riding this summer has probably been my shoes. My riding has been irregular as strangely I find summer the hardest time of the year to find the time to ride. For the 6 weeks of the school holidays, any day I’m not at work I’m looking after my kids. There’s also a family holiday, work, and this year we moved house too. I ridden here and there, including a couple of sportives but I’ve lost some fitness. The one thing that’s been most consistent about all of my riding is the Bontrager RL Road Visibility shoes I’ve been enjoying on almost every ride.

In action at the Wiggle UKCE Bournemouth Sportive riding the 58 Aero on my NeilPryde and wearing my Bontrager RL Road Visibilty shoes
In action at the Wiggle UKCE Bournemouth Sportive riding the 58 Aero on my NeilPryde and wearing my Bontrager RL Road Visibilty shoes

I’m a big believer in mid range shoes as opposed to the top end. It’s a bit like why I recommend people buy Ultegra groupsets over Dura Ace unless they’re awash with cash – you get much of the performance for a lot less money.

For me the RL Road come in at about as much as I’d be comfortably able to consider spending at £150 (and I’d be hoping to find them in a sale!) so they have been great to try.

The first key thing to note is sizing – I ride a 44 Shimano sizing and the Bontrager matches that perfectly, which might help you with fit.

As I mentioned earlier in the year when I wrote about a selection of other Bontrager products (http://girodilento.com/first-look-bontrager-2014-soft-goods-range-highlights/), the company has being making serious investments in the development of new products and this extends to shoes too. You’ve probably seen coverage on the new top of the range XXX Road Shoe but some of that know how trickles down to more affordable products like the RL Road.DSC00523

I absolutely love the colour of the RL Road Visibility but if you’re not so keen, normal black or white options are available. I’m not usually a big fan of hi-vis but I’m quite happy with it on my shoes as they’re moving and I think they might catch the eye – but even if they don’t I just like the colour.

For the first month of riding these shoes, they felt a bit uncomfortable riding (although perfectly comfortable when not riding) but as they loosened up a little, the got more and more comfortable.

As you’d expect the straps are easy to adjust with the two closest to the toe being Velcro and a ratchet for the top one. The ratchet clasp is split into two halves and whilst I works perfectly tightening, one is a bit idiosyncratic on the release – never to the point of being a problem to get the shoe off but not perfect. The idea behind the split clasp is to allow you to tweak the fit at the top or the bottom half of the ratchet – so you can get it just so – micro-adjustment. Certainly doing up the ratchet you almost can easily find one side tighter than the other and this gives you a way to adjust that.

The ventilation is good and we’ve had a warm summer. I’ve not once felt my feet have got too hot or too cold – although winter riding might change that!DSC00525

The upper is constructed from a synthetic and it’s wearing really well. It’s easy to clean and in fact seems to shrug off road grime pretty well when you’re riding. My previous “best” shoes are a pair of Shimano shoes (which I’m still very fond of) but the Bontrager upper seemed tougher and is already wearing better than my Shimano shoes. Hopefully that will continue to be the case – but after about 1,000 miles they’re still looking very good indeed.

The sole is a mixture of carbon and fiberglass and has a rating on the Bontrager scale of 10. The top of the range Road XXX shoe is rated at 14 to give you a feeling on how towards the top end the sole stiffness is. Let me just say I’ve been more than happy with the stiffness of the RL Road. If I get to try any of the stiffer soled shoes, I’ll update this with further thoughts.

Yep, in my favourite shoes!
Yep, in my favourite shoes!

The sole is the area showing the most wear and tear so far. I try not to walk too much on cleats but the finish on right sole has taken a bit of a beating. I don’t think I’ve been particularly unkind to the shoes or walked too much on rough surfaces, but they do show a bit more wear and tear than I’d have expected. To be frank, it’s not something I’m bothered about and it wouldn’t put me off recommending the shoes, it’s just a note. Let’s be honest carbon soled road shoes are not going to cope well with being walked on the ground – especially gravel.

I’ve not changed the standard insoles that come with the shoes, which are Bontrager Inform Pro and Bontrager say they are an ergonomically optimised high performance fit. I’ve been very happy with them and they’re still in almost new condition after being ridden all summer.

I’m very happy to recommend these shoes. I love the colour and I’ve found them very comfortable (after they wore in a little). The upper is tough and easy to look after and the fit is good. Much like the soft goods I wrote about previously, Bontrager is not a brand that you might have previously put on your short list for riding kit – but you really ought to. They’re investing significantly in their product range and aren’t trying to charge the earth for it.

It's those shoes again!
It’s those shoes again!

I think the Bontrager RL Road Visibility is a fine shoe for the money and I’ll happily keep riding them. Every now and then I’ve gone back to my other shoes but that’s never lasted long and I’ve been back in the Bontrager’s again almost immediately. I have even been recognised by my shoes locally and I’m happy that it’ll continue to happen in the future.

You can buy them here: http://tidd.ly/ab9f48f7

Find out more about them here: http://www.bontrager.com/model/12330

Thanks for reading

Garmin Edge 1000 First Look Review

The new Garmin Edge 1000 is an additional and flagship model to the range, slotting in above the Edge 810 which continues as do the Edge 510 and Edge 200.

So far, I’ve ridden over 500km with one and have simply used the Edge 1000 as a direct replacement for my personal Edge 800 and this has already highlighted some of the key differences between these models.

Nice new packaging - Goodies lie within
Nice new packaging – Goodies lie within

The version I’m using is the top of the range performance bundle, which includes a premium heart rate monitor with a slightly redesigned strap over the version I have currently (it features a third pick-up point on the belt). This bundle also features some excellent new extras in the form of completely new speed and cadence sensors. As anyone who’s battled at times with the old GSC10 combined speed cadence sensor will know – these can be picky and annoying to get working properly and to keep working. I personally didn’t find them the most durable or reliable units.

The contents of the Performance bundle version including new extended out front mount, new sensors and HRM
The contents of the Performance bundle version including new extended out front mount, new sensors and HRM

The new sensors attach simply and easily by rubber bands to either the offside crank for the cadence sensor or with the attached rubber band in the case of the speed sensor, which then needs clipping to a wheel hub.

The new out front mount on the bike
The new out front mount on the bike

Neither new sensor has a separate magnet but each relies on accelerometers and I can already report that both are fantastically easy to use and work perfectly. They’re a great step forward. As they’re Ant+ sensors you can buy them to use with any Garmin that works with Ant+ sensors, so that’s a win for many existing owners. The down side is that they’re a bit dearer than the GSC10, retailing for around £70 but I’ve already seen them discounted fairly heavily at times on Amazon (http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00JM6DKUA/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=19450&creativeASIN=B00JM6DKUA&linkCode=as2&tag=gadgsleu-21 ).

DSC00232
As before you can configure what info you want to follow on the display in the setup

As for the unit itself, the Edge 1000 is noticeably physically larger than my Edge 800 and that’s had a lot of comment in other press coverage. The unit is slimmer though and the larger size means a bigger screen and I’m all for that as I am already finding it makes it easier to read and to see maps etc when riding. Interestingly Garmin have switch from using their own maps on the 1000 to including Open Street Maps for Europe as standard. These are great maps and I think it’s a good move as it means all Edge 1000 models come fully loaded with maps. You can run these on your Edge 800/810 and I’ve written about doing that here: http://girodilento.com/open-street-maps-garmin-first-thoughts-review/

When you switch on the Edge 1000 you’ll likely notice it works a lot faster than the older units. It obviously has a faster processor and loading routes to navigate with takes a fraction of the time compared to my old Edge 800. With my 800 I found the actual navigation along a route, I’d loaded sometimes a bit hit and miss. Some days it would give me turn by turn guidance as I’d asked, some days it wouldn’t and I could never figure out why. So far in this respect the new 1000 has been faultless – it seems much better at navigating via routes but I’ll keep testing … just in case.

For this new model Garmin have dropped the bike profiles that my old Edge 800 has, which might bother some people but to be honest, I cover per bike odometers using Strava when I upload my rides afterwards.

Speaking of uploading rides, the Edge 1000 features both wireless and Bluetooth compatibility and will automatically upload your rides to Garmin connect if you set that up. It’s a nice feature and works well and it’s just a little better again as Garmin have finally realised that lots of us want our rides uploaded to Strava. Now you can. Garmin have opened up their API to Strava, MapMyFitness and Endomondo. So now once you link your Garmin Connect account to Strava – your rides (with the 1000 and the 810) automatically sync wirelessly. This is great and seems to be working well – no need for cables and plugging your Garmin into your computer is a win. However, it just gives the date of the ride as the title and allocates the ride to your default bike choice. So some editing is required. It all seems to work quite fast. When I get home from a ride, in the time it’s taken to put my bike in my garage and walk into the house, my ride is up on Strava thanks to the wireless transfer. I like that.

Now, as a result of not having bike profiles, each time you switch on the 1000 it automatically scans for sensors as it doesn’t know which bike you’re using. I only have one set of sensors which I’ve been swapping across bikes (which is very easy thanks to the rubber band connections) but this appears to work well too. I’ve had one ride where it didn’t pick up the cadence and speed sensors automatically but I could easily “attach” them whilst I rode – it took about 10 seconds while I was riding.

The new screen features a different technology and now has a new automatic dimming feature to maximise battery life. It’s higher resolution and the colour reproduction is nicer and as a result I’m finding it more pleasant to view. Battery life seems decent, I had the unit on all day on a ride that meant being on the road for 7 hours following the mapping the whole way and there was still about 40% battery left. I think you’d get 10 hours real world battery life before you needed to start tweaking settings to extent it further. The auto-dimming is particularly good and I’m finding it’s a little feature that’s making living with the 1000 much, much nicer as it works so well.DSC00234-001

One of the things that are new to me is “Personal Records” which pops up when you’ve set a personal best (according to the 1000) after a ride. It’s been funny watching power output records popping up after a Zone 2 Wattbike session, which highlights how it only matches what you’ve done with the device – it doesn’t look at your full riding history. It’s still a nice feature – just funny when you’re a more experienced rider.

As can be the case, early adopters reported a few software issues but I’ve not experience many issues as yet and the unit lets you know when a new firmware is available.

I updated the software when the new unit was new via PC. since then it's done it via wireless and I've not needed the computer
I updated the software when the new unit was new via PC. since then it’s done it via wireless and I’ve not needed the computer

So far, I like the Edge 1000 more to live with than my 800. I’ve gone back to the 800 a couple of times just to check but for me the user experience is much better on the 1000 from these early impressions. If you’re not bothered about the bigger screen, faster speed or nicer user experience, the 810 might be the one for you as it’s a chunk cheaper. For me, though I’d be happier with the 1000 for all of those reasons. My 800 is sitting in a drawer now gathering dust and I’ve loved that device, clocking up over 15,000km with it

The Garmin Edge 1000 comes in two variations – one with the new sensors and heart rate strap for £499 and is available from a wide range of outlets including these:

Wiggle: http://tidd.ly/61951d7b

ChainReaction: http://tidd.ly/87559d01

There is also a more affordable option without the new sensors for £439 also available from a wide range of retailers including these:

Evans Cycles: http://tidd.ly/403eed9

Probikekit: http://tidd.ly/7dde568a

That’s it for my first look, I’m off to try some of the specific Edge 1000 features like live segments, sharing where you are on the road, so loved ones (or fellow riders) can know exactly where you are. I have tried to use this but internet problems at home stopped the experiment – I’ll try again though as it looks like a great feature for those of us with loved ones who’d take comfort from knowing where we are (which in fairness was launched with the 810).

If there’s anything you’d specifically like me to check for you, please leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to do that.

If you can’t wait and want a really thorough review – pop over and read this one from DC Rainmaker’s highly respected site: http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2014/06/garmin-1000-depth-review.html

Thanks for reading.

What’s a bike press launch really like?

If like me, you’d always wondered what it was really like to attend a bike launch, I thought you might find it interesting to hear about how I found attending my first ever press camp.

Just the facts - all of them
Just the facts – all of them

Rose Bikes have now facilitated a number of firsts for this blog over the years: They were the first brand to lend me a bike to review, back at the end of 2010. They were the first brand to lend me a disc braked road bike for review in 2013 (http://girodilento.com/rose-xeon-dx-review/) and they’re the first brand to invite me to join them at a bike launch in 2014.

However, jet setting off to Austria to find out and ride bikes wasn’t something I’d done before so when I saw my friend Dave Arthur from Road.cc was also on the guest list, I gave him a quick call just to check the basics out. The basic advice was to pack plenty of riding gear (for wet & dry weather) and to remember to take your pedals. Because the weather forecast wasn’t looking great, I did pack quite a bit of wet weather riding gear – more than dry weather gear to be honest. Obviously I also packed my camera, notepad and laptop.

My logistics were to be at Heathrow Terminal 1 in time for a 0650 departure on July 24th. This meant a 0330 alarm call, which was a struggle as I’m not a morning person. I got to Heathrow just after 5am and found absolute carnage in the check-in area. Four different airlines were trying to get flights checked in and baggage processed but the baggage carousel had broken. So there were about 300 people in a queue and flights were being called one at a time. After not moving in the queue at all after 30 minutes, my flight to Munich was called. I put up my hand and someone took me to a special queue and finally got my bags checked in. Then a stressful wait in a queue for security and x-rays meant I finally got to the flight about 90 seconds before the other UK guys boarded the flight. Nice one Heathrow!

Our early morning ride out of Heathrow
Our early morning ride out of Heathrow

Flying Lufthansa meant typical German efficiency and the flight to Munich was very pleasant. We all had instructions to head to an airport transfer service for a shuttle bus for the hotel in Austria. We had a short 20 minute wait for a connecting flight from Stockholm to deliver 2 Swedish journalists and we were on our way to our destination. Rose split their press camp into two halves. We were the second group but in total there were around 70 journalists from about 15 countries who attended the event.

I think we’d only driven for about 5 minutes before I was being impressed again by the quality of German infrastructure – including segregated bike paths which I saw regularly out of my window in the minibus on the way to Austria.

Home for the duration of the trip
Home for the duration of the trip

Upon arrival at the venue, a very nice hotel in the beautiful region of Tyrol (http://www.tyrol.com/) we checked in. Dave and I were sharing a room, so we dropped our bags and popped down to check out where everything was. A quick lunch was followed by the product presentations, where the Rose guys talked about their new BikeTown Shop opening in the second half of the year in Munich (they already have 6,000sq m shop in their home town of Bocholt. http://www.rosebikes.com/content/about-rose/the-rose-stores/rose-biketown-bocholt). In the new shop customers will be able to see all of the bikes, configure them on an iPad next to the bike, choosing exactly what spec they want and to place their order. Rose offers a high level of customisation options on their bikes and they told us that their customers greatly value this. I would too.

At that point the product designers introduced their new models. First Mountain bikes, then Road. Notes were made, photos taken and questions asked. We were then invited to get changed and go riding.

With the presentations over it was time to get out and ride
With the presentations over it was time to get out and ride

The new disc braked road bikes were in big demand with the press, so I put my name on the new super light aluminium race bike (Xeon RS) instead. I put my pedals on, set my saddle height, grabbed a drink, switched my Garmin on and pedalled off into Austria! I had no real idea where I was going. What I thought was a fully charged Garmin switched off with a dead battery 30 seconds after I started. So I started recording my ride via Strava on my phone. One of the Rose guys had suggested, I turn right then the first major left and follow the road around towards the right. So I followed my nose for a while and was surprised how busy the roads were. Lots of Austrian traffic. Most drivers were very polite and careful around me on a bike though, which was appreciated. It only took about half an hour to realise that I didn’t really know where I was and couldn’t remember the name of my hotel or the village we were staying in. I’d found a nice little climb with a view of the mountains and I started trying to work my way back in a loop to the hotel. This worked ok until I reached a right turn into a tunnel that was motor traffic only. So I decided just to retrace my steps back to the hotel and made a mental note to research routes a bit more before setting off next time.

The selection of brand new Rose bikes available for the press to ride (first come first served)
The selection of brand new Rose bikes available for the press to ride (first come first served)

Because there were lots of bikes I wanted to ride – going out for 40kms like I had, didn’t seem like a great idea. So I made a plan to work out a 15-20km loop with some climbing for the next day.

Enjoying the Austrian scenery and the new 2015 Rose Xeon RS with Ultegra
Enjoying the Austrian scenery and the new 2015 Rose Xeon RS with Ultegra

Dinner was in the Hotel and very pleasant followed by beers in the hotel bar that evening. After a 3:30am start, I was fading a bit by midnight and I turned in at the point I felt that the next beer might be a game changer (if you know what I mean).

The next morning after breakfast, Dave said that he was going to spend the morning on mountain bikes (they had chairlifts to the top of the mountains and apparently some great trails) but asked if I fancied joining him for a road ride in the afternoon. It’s always good to ride with company, so that sounded good to me.

I worked out my short route and got out to test it on the new top of the range road frame the Xeon X-Lite (800gms for a 57cm frame). With a bit of exploring and wrong turn or too my loop included gravel, tarmac, flat roads, and climbs. It was perfect for what I wanted and also had some beautiful spots for taking photos.

New Rose X-Lite Team Ultegra Di2 at rest
New Rose X-Lite Team Ultegra Di2 at rest

A second lap of the new loop on the new 11 speed 105 Xeon RS got me to lunch. Having been too busy to ride a lot recently, I was finding the climbing pretty hard going and I was riding nowhere near the big mountains that surrounded us.

Aboard the new 2015 Rose Xeon RS 2000 with 11 speed 105
Aboard the new 2015 Rose Xeon RS 2000 with 11 speed 105

Dave Arthur had been eyeing up the biggest mountain around us – the Kitzbüheler Horn which rises to just on 2,000m. After lunch Dave and I picked out the bikes we wanted to try, then Dave asked about the Horn. Thomas from Rose told us that a couple of guys had ridden it yesterday and said it was the hardest ride they’d ever done.

The view towards Kitzbüheler Horn from the hotel
The view towards Kitzbüheler Horn from the hotel

Thomas also told us that it was the hardest climb in Austria. 7km at an average of 14.7% with kicks to 22%. I think that pretty much decided that it had to be done for Dave – I wasn’t feeling so keen. I’m going to write a separate post about this, so you’ll have to wait to read that. What I can say though is that that was the afternoon sorted out.

The 2015 Xeon Team CGF most of the way up a very high and steep mountain
The 2015 Rose Xeon Team CGF most of the way up a very high and steep mountain

That evening we were all driven to restaurant high up in the mountains with fabulous views and authentic Tyrolian food and entertainment – including Yodelling! It was a beautiful spot – good food and the music was fun – even if the two musicians had a slightly unnerving habit of staring right at you as they sang.

A stunning location for a bar ... and Saturday evenings dinner
A stunning location for a bar … and Saturday evenings dinner

Once we were back at the Hotel, I partook in another few beers in the bar before turning in – again not too many as I wanted to make sure I could get as much riding as I could on as many bikes as possible. For me, this was a rare opportunity to ride a lot of bikes in a range and I wasn’t going to risk it with long nights in the bar.

Saturday was the final day of the trip and our shuttle bus left for Munich Airport at 11.45am. I’d had breakfast by 9, so was torn between starting writing up the visit or getting one last ride in. One last ride won and I took out the completely new Xeon DX road disc bike for about 15km. I’m glad I did too – it was very nice.

Enjoying the 2015 Rose Xeon DX and the fantastic  Austrian countryside for one last ride
Enjoying the 2015 Rose Xeon DX and the fantastic Austrian countryside for one last ride

A quick shower, packing and a few final technical questions for the bike designer followed by a coke and ice cream in the sunshine with my fellow UK travellers before we left for the airport.

The flight back to the UK was a pleasure – more Lufthansa efficiency & our UK group said our goodbyes at the baggage carousel of terminal one. Even the M25 was unusally kind to me with a quick trip home to Kent.

If you hadn’t already guessed, I had a fantastic trip. As a blogger who typically doesn’t get this level of access to bike brands it had been an absolute treat. The guys (and girls) at Rose had been very welcoming and professional, whilst also leaving you the space to get on with the riding you wanted to do – no hard sell on the brand or the bikes, which in fairness they didn’t need. The venue had been fantastic and so was Austria.

I know that for the seasoned journalists on the trip, it was more just a normal part of their job. Even in what many of us would call a dream job, the novelty does eventually wear off and it becomes just another part of your routine. For me though, it was a complete pleasure and I’m very grateful to Rose for inviting me.

One of my biggest challenges for this blog is getting new product to test, perhaps especially bikes, so the ability to ride 5 different bikes over 3 days (even for short rides) is enormously helpful. We were also very lucky with the weather and that helped make the trip more enjoyable and productive too. The forecast had been for lots of rain and there’s no question it would have been very different in that case. However for everyone, the sun meant more riding and that’s good for Rose too.

I hope that Rose’s lead will mean that I get an opportunity like this again – time will tell.

My thanks again, particularly to Fin who looks after Rose in the UK, for the invitation!

If you’d like to read my thoughts on the new Rose road bikes range for 2015, please click on this link: http://girodilento.com/rose-bikes-2015-four-new-road-models-first-ride-reviews/ or of course, visit Rose at: http://www.rosebikes.co.uk/

And thanks for reading….

Capo SC-12 Bib Shorts and Jersey review

Towards the end of last summer I received a pair of Capo Cycling’s upper mid-range SC-12 Bib shorts and a matching SC-12 jersey to review. By the time I’d spent enough time riding in them to feel confident in my opinions, we were well into autumn and it seemed too late to post. Obviously we’re now in summer again and whilst it’s later in the season than I would like, here are some thoughts.

Capo SC-12 Bib shorts & Jersey - an excellent combination
Capo SC-12 Bib shorts & Jersey – an excellent combination

Right from the first few rides and now many hundreds of kilometres later, this combination is the best summer riding kit I’ve ridden in. Both the jersey and the shorts are fantastic and a different kind of product (and a different level) to the also terrific Capo Pursuit bib shorts I’ve reviewed previously (http://girodilento.com/capo-pursuit-bib-shorts-review/).

The SC-12 bib shorts are a more technical product than the Pursuit with more materials, more panels, aspects of compression fit and they’re simply more of a race short than the pursuit. The detail and quality of manufacture are first rate and these are my go to shorts for when I’m riding fast or in hot weather. As yet, I’ve not found anything I’ve enjoyed as much in the 7 years I’ve been riding. I’ve done a lot of riding in these shorts and they’re also holding up well to regular washing.

SC-12 Bib Shorts - rear view
SC-12 Bib Shorts – rear view

To be more specific, the SC-12 are a part of Capo’s Super Corsa range which is inspired by European Race Design but still great for long days in the saddle. The fabrics are a range of technologically advanced textiles combined to create stretch where it’s needed and control where it’s needed. According to Capo their Warp Knit Carbon E and hydrodrop fabrics hold the structure of the garment and ensure the breathability. The bib shorts feature high-gauge lycra with single layer power leg bands. In simple terms there is a compression element to help reduce fatigue but but the single layer leg band does this without affecting line and the fit and they’re very comfortable on the bike.

Outfit view from the front
Outfit view from the front

In fact the funny thing about really good bib shorts is that they can feel restrictive when you’re off your bike but as soon as you get onto the bike and move your body into the right place with your hands on the bars and start pedaling you’ll feel really comfortable. The SC-12 is one of those kinds of shorts.

Outfit view from the back
Outfit view from the back

The pad in the shorts which I’ve also found to be excellent is the Elastic Interface Technology (EIT) Anatomic DP Carbon pad, which is dual density, compact size with antimicrobial carbon micro fiber to help keep you clean and dry.

Capo say this about the SC-12 on their website:

European race-inspired design with strategic panels for comfort in the riding position. Powerful muscle compression reduces fatigue, keeps your legs fresh. Anatomic EIT insert provides excellent protection with optimal fit. Push yourself your hardest in the SC-12.

Looking inside the jersey at the panelling and general construction
Looking inside the jersey at the panelling and general construction

For fit, I’m riding a size small. I’m just on 6ft/180cm tall and weigh 68/69kgs, so I’m moderately tall and relatively thin. I could get away with a medium too (and tried one) but prefer the snugger fit of the small size. It’s the same with the jersey, I have a cyclists physique (not a massive upper body) and again I find the small is a good race fit whereas I found the medium a bit loose. You can decide if I made the right decision from the photos!

Rear of the Jersey - 3 pockets of course
Rear of the Jersey – 3 pockets of course

The red colour of SC-12 jersey is particularly lovely, it’s a proper tomato red and works beautifully with the shorts as an “outfit”. The jersey is SPF50 rated so it’s a great jersey for a sunny day and I find that the fabric breathes very well. If I’m riding on a hot day – this is the jersey I’ll hunt out of my wardrobe above all others. The feel of the fabric is thinner than a lot of the other jerseys I own and that’s obviously an aspect of its warm weather performance but I haven’t only ridden it in the summer – that’s just where it’s at its best.

One of the things I particularly like about the Capo approach is that whilst style, quality and fit are all vitally important, Capo also work to create matching “outfits” which look terrific together and the SC-12 is a great example of this. A lot of cyclists aren’t especially coordinated in their look out on the bike and with Capo – there is an easy way to sort this. Simply choose the range that works for you and buy a matching pair of bib shorts and jersey. Job done. The bib shorts and jersey are designed to work together as a combination and you can’t help but look well turned out whenever you ride in the set.

Another big plus in the UK of riding in Capo is that you’re riding something that’s great quality but there aren’t loads of other people in it, which can be a plus. So if you like high quality riding kit, that’s well designed, constructed, and meant to help you look good as well as ride well – Capo should definitely be on your short list.

Outfit side view
Outfit side view

The combination of California and Italian style works terrifically well and Capo deserve to be a lot more visible and successful in the UK. As I said earlier, this combination (and the Capo Pursuit bib shorts I also have) have become my favourite cycling kit off that I own (in fairness, I love my Castelli Espresso Due Winter jacket as well).

Jersey arm detail
Jersey arm detail

Capo’s SC-12 range is available for both men and women and jersey colours also include black, neon yellow and pink. The SC-12 bib shorts retail in the UK for £125 and the SC-12 jersey is £90.

Capo’s clothing selection is extensive and each sub range offers slightly different characteristics in fit, performance and function. In simple terms the more technical the product becomes, with more technical materials, panels and typically more race fit they become and the price point rises according to the additional complexity. The simplest way to buy Capo, is to try an outfit, bib shorts and jerseys. Capo also make an excellent range of base layers and their socks are some of the best on the market too.

If red's too bright - other choices are available. The styling remains constant
If red’s too bright – other choices are available. The styling remains constant

There a number of retailers across the UK who sell Capo and they’re worth seeking out.

For more information visit Capo here: http://www.capocycling.com/

Here is another review of the SC-12 range that’s also worth considering:

http://www.bikeradar.com/road/gear/category/clothing/jersey-and-bib-shorts/product/review-capo-sc-12-italia-jersey-and-bib-shorts-13-47476/

Any questions, please let me know via the comments.

Thanks for reading.

Road cycling equipment, reviews, fitness & riding