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Shimano Ultegra 6870 Di2 11 speed install and early riding impressions….

I’ve been fascinated by the idea of Di2 from the start and have watched it with interest. However other than a short go on a Shimano Dura Ace 9070 bike on a turbo trainer, I’ve never ridden it.

When I built up my new NeilPryde Nazare/Alize test bike recently, it seemed like the perfect moment to make the leap to Di2. After some conversations with a few people including the good folks at Madison, I had bought myself a Di2 groupset.

Excited to be making the leap to Di2!
Excited to be making the leap to Di2!

I thought it might be interesting for people to see a little about how Di2 is installed and setup, so I took my camera for the build and took some notes to share with you. I’m no mechanic so my observations are pretty general rather than an instructional guide.

Internal Junction box and wiring
Internal Junction box and wiring

The first thing done was to run the connecting cables for the gear shifting through the downtube from the stem to the bottom bracket where on my frameset the internal junction box runs. Then the wires from the junction box to the front and rear mechs were installed as was the one for my external battery under the non drive side chainstay. In fact choosing the cables to connect the mechs and battery are really the only “tricky” part of deciding what you need to order. You need a cable from the each shifter to the junction box under the stem. You then need a cable to run from the top junction box to the bottom bracket junction box. Then cables from the bottom bracket junction to the battery and the mechs. Shimano sell the cables in a range of lengths, so it’s a matter of getting your tape measure out and working out what lengths you need to connect everything together.

Front mech install...
Front mech install…

Installing a lot of the components is exactly the same as a mechanical build – the brakes and brake cables, the cranks and bottom bracket (I went for a Praxis Works conversion bottom bracket to run my Ultegra crank in a PF30 frame).

Praxis Works Conversion Bottom Bracket
Praxis Works Conversion Bottom Bracket

Also the chain and cassette and even the rear mech mounts the same way as a mechanical one. The front mech is slightly different as there is also a bracing plate and bolt to stop the mech twisting under the significant torque the motor generates shifting between the front rings.

External battery mount being attached and connected
External battery mount being attached and connected

Once everything is installed on the bike, it was connected to a laptop to ensure that all of the electronic components each had the latest firmware. It is possible that if they don’t due to different timings of manufacture that they won’t work right away – checking and updating the firmware makes sure they’re all using the same software version. The laptop interface also gives you the opportunity to adjust how the levers work in terms of speed of shift or which buttons shift which gears. I left everything as standard except increased the speed of the shifts. Once the software was all up to date, Jack from Madison then set up the gear shifting.

Firmware checks as part of the build process
Firmware checks as part of the build process

Setting up the front mech was done with both front and rear on the inside cogs (so small ring at the front and biggest cog at the back). A Di2 mech over shifts and then trims back when it goes up onto the big ring, so setting the limits correctly is key. Once this has been done properly – it should just shift perfectly on an ongoing basis and does on my bike.

Close up of the correctly mounted front mech
Close up of the correctly mounted front mech

With the rear mech, again setting the limit screws is the first thing to do and once this is good, the shifting itself is adjusted. To do this you move rear cassette into the 6th of 11 gears (i.e. the middle gear) and enter the adjustment mode using the junction box at the stem. This is then your digital barrel adjuster that has 12 micro adjustment points in each direction from the middle – so 25 points of adjustment.

Chain going on....
Chain going on….

Pressing the gear shifters adjusts the gear shift position either up or down a fraction allowing you to really fine tune the shifting. Once that bits sorted – it’s done. It’s a simple but clever design and I think 25 points of adjust for the digital barrel adjuster seems amazingly precise.

Di2 Rear mech prior to indexing adjustments
Di2 Rear mech prior to indexing adjustments

Obviously one of the great things about Di2 is no cable stretch – so the gear shifting should stay bang on. I’ve done around 350km now and it’s still perfect.  Fast, easy, silent and with a fantastic trimming noise from the front mech as you move across the cassette.

NeilPryde Alize/Nazare with Deda Zero100 stem and Di2 junction box
NeilPryde Alize/Nazare with Deda Zero100 stem and Di2 junction box

One piece of advice/warning I was given was that because of the power of the motors front and rear – NEVER press the gear shift button when you’re not riding as the motors are strong enough to bend the rear mech hanger or bend the front mech. So good practice is to remove the battery whenever you’re not riding it – if someone either accidentally or pushes a shift button or purpose it can do damage to your bike. The same goes for if you’re travelling somewhere in the car – if you go over a bump and your shift lever clicks on a gear – that can be a problem – so disconnect the battery. It’ll save you anguish, potentially cost and keep your gear shifting perfect.

During the setup of the gear shifting speed....
During the setup of the gear shifting speed….

Of course you have to then remember  where you put your battery! I haven’t lost mine yet (nearly but not quite).

NeilPryde Alize (Nazare) Di2 6870 front mech & cranks
NeilPryde Alize (Nazare) Di2 6870 front mech & cranks

Charging the battery took about an hour the first time. Charges should last up to 600km. I took my battery out after about 250km to charge it just in case and it took less than 30minutes to charge. It’s really not something to worry too much about. Obviously the more you change gear, the faster the battery will run down – bot you’ve got hundreds if not thousands of gear shifts per battery charge.

New Ultegra 6870 Di2 rear mech
New Ultegra 6870 Di2 rear mech

Di2 Riding impressions:

In action at the Wiggle UKCE Bournemouth Sportive
In action at the Wiggle UKCE Bournemouth Sportive

Out on the road so far it’s been a joy to use. It’s not pefect – nothing is but it’s very nice indeed. Your are literally just pressing a button to shift. There is some feedback through the button but that’s the bit that’s not quite perfect for me – unless you press the button just enough it doesn’t always shift and I’ve missed a few shifts as a result. If you’re resting your finger on the shift lever hitting a bump can mean you accidentally change gear – but in fairness that’s a problem I have with my Campagnolo Chorus shifters too. Maybe my lever’s are a touch off but if you click more firmly it works perfectly every time.  In the fast shift mode I’m using – the shifts are very quick – and perfect performed. The system trims itself as you move across the cassette meaning all 22 gears are perfectly usable – it also makes a cool noise as it trims which you and your riding companions will audibly hear! The front shift is impressive too and is fine under load – although I always try to lift off a bit shifting up on any bike I ride.

Having the gear shifting working so well also helps my bike run very quietly. Often riding with others when you get to a climb and people start lots of gear shifting to get to the right gear it can be quite noisy as chains clatter across cassettes but there’s none of that with Di2 – no clatter just smooth fast shifting. If you like a quiet bike – Di2 is the best thing I’ve found other than riding a steel bike for a quietness.

So apart from a few tiny niggles around the operation of the shift levers, I’m very, very impressed with Di2. Yes it’s not particularly cheap at roughly the same street price of Dura Ace 9000 mechanical but I suspect it’ll be both cheap to run (due to shifting better and looking after the chain cassette accordingly) and very reliable. This is the 4th generation of Shimano Di2 now, so it should be as reliable as any other high quality Japanese engineering!

It feels like a bit of an extravagance compared to say mechanical Ultegra 6800 which is really good too – but sometimes it’s nice to be able to have a treat and this one certainly is very cool as well as working beautifully. There are more bikes out there now with Di2, so it’s not perhaps the novelty it was say 12 months ago – but Di2 bikes still aren’t exactly everywhere.

Ultegra 6870 Di2 completed install
Ultegra 6870 Di2 completed install

My plan is for this to be a long term test, so I’ll keep riding it though the year and report in on any further findings.  If you have any questions, please let me know. Thanks for reading.

 

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First Look: Redant Precision bike cleaners for matt, carbon and titanium finishes

I was recently sent some samples of the new Redant Precision range of bike cleaners to try out and see what I thought of them. I met Vern from Redant back at the Core Bike Show and found his story of wanting to bring a car detailing approach and quality of product to bike cleaning a compelling one. If you’ve not ever noticed the car detailing market, it’s full of people who take amazing care in the cleaning and presentation of their vehicles, agonising over ingredients and combinations of products for the highest quality finish and clean. It’s way too OCD for me personally, but I admire their focus and dedication and this applies to the products they use as well as the end result.

Redant Carbon Fibre products are work best for painted finishes, carbon, steel or aluminium
Redant Carbon Fibre products are work best for painted finishes, carbon, steel or aluminium

The team behind Redant come from a background in chemistry and have taken a similarly focused approach to developing their products, making sure they both clean and protect your two wheeled pride and joy. Many of us have a lot invested in our bikes, so the idea of a top end cleaning system specifically formulated for the materials and paint finishes common to bikes is an interesting one. My bikes are amongst my most prized possessions so products like this are something I was definitely keen to check out. When you think of how many £5k+ or even £10k+ bikes you can buy now – you’ll want to take fantastically good care of them.

Redant have created a cleaner and a finishing agent for matt carbon frames, painted bike frames (carbon, steel or aluminium) and for titanium frames. I’ve been sent a set of each to try. The ingredients are designed to be safe for each type of frame finish, the cleaners are bio-degradable and the cleaners are designed to be sprayed all over your bike including the drivetrain, thanks to a degreasing agent as well. The cleaners are also PH neutral to ensure they’re kind to your frame. The frame protector finishing protects are also designed for each type of bike. For example the carbon/painted frame finish has a shine enhancer for paint finishes, whereas the matt finish one has a UV protector to help protect from the effects of the sun.

I waited until my new NeilPryde (http://girodilento.com/first-look-neilpryde-alizenazare-di2-aero-test-platform/) was built and getting dirty before trying the products out. I’ll also be using the carbon frame version on my painted steel Stoemper Taylör (http://girodilento.com/stoemper-taylor-build-and-first-look/) as Redant say that the carbon frame version of the products work well on any painted finish – including, steel & aluminium. Sadly I don’t have a titanium bike to test the Titanium version on – but two out of three should give me a pretty good perspective.

Redant Matt Finish cleaner & protector
Redant Matt Finish cleaner & protector

I’ve now used the Matt cleaning system twice on my NeilPryde. The first was a very quick clean in the garden at dusk where I sprayed the cleaner over the bike, left it for 3-4 minutes then hosed it off just with cold water and used a microfiber cloth to clean over the bike with. For a start to finish clean of 6-7 minutes I was really impressed with how easy it was.

Yesterday I did another clean on the same bike. I’d ridden it three times without cleaning for about 190km of riding. The bike definitely looked dirty, if not completely filthy.

Following the instructions, I sprayed the matt finish cleaner reasonably liberally over the bike and then set my phone timer for 5 minutes. With about 45 seconds of the timer left, I decided I couldn’t wait any longer and began hosing the bike down with water. Again, I did this while wiping over the bike with a microfiber cloth. Just like the first clean, the dirt came off the bike incredibly easily.

From a first couple of goes with the matt finish cleaner, I’m very impressed. I’ll try out the carbon finish one next.

Yesterday, I also then finished the clean by applying the finishing agent, to protect the finish on my bike. It was also very easy to apply – simply sprayed onto the now clean bike onto all of the carbon parts. The frame protectors have a drying agent, so on a warm day it dryed very quickly. Once again I was wiping on the finish with a clean dry microfiber cloth to make sure it all went on evenly. Again it didn’t take long at all – but my bike looks great.

If you’d like more information, Redant are in the process of building a new website but they do have an active Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Redant-Precision/437463999719759

The products are in bike shops now and are distributed by i-Ride. I’ve checked and they’re in one of my local bike shops already. If you can’t see them in your local shop – just ask them.

 

Thanks for reading

On the 58 Aeros and my Stoemper Taylor riding the New Forest sportive recently

Wattbike Big Legs training update

It’s been a while since I’ve written a Wattbike training update. A lot of the reason for that is I’ve been too busy riding the Wattbike and getting out and doing some tough rides on the road. I had intended to write an update before Liege-Bastogne-Liege but with training, working and family life something had to give and I’m sorry to say it was this training update.

As you may know, I borrowed the Wattbike to help me train for Liege-Bastogne-Liege (LBL). The catch was that the Wattbike sportive programme is 16 weeks long and LBL was 8 weeks into the programme.

I’m just finishing week 10 of the plan now and am going to cover some of the highlights of the last 4-5 weeks in this update.

One of the many things that I’ve warmed to about the Wattbike is that it can help you get the specific training you need done in a relatively short amount of time each week, certainly less than riding on the road. Looking back at the last few months I’ve been doing 4-6hours a week including riding both inside and outside. Last year my target was 6-9hours a week.

I’ve been really busy recently and a great thing about the Wattbike is I can do my training on it and still be in the house with my family. Weekends away riding and working has been meaning I’ve been around less for my kids. When I am home at the moment I know I don’t have to get out on the bike to get some miles done- I can just ride indoors and still participate in family life (well more than disappearing down country lanes for hours).

My Wattbike training plan has still had a remarkable amount of zone 2 in the sessions and it’s been great watching my body slowly get the hang of putting out the power I’m supposed to be producing at a lower heart rate. If I’m tired or stressed it doesn’t help my heart rate, but the power is the power. Interestingly I’ve also noticed that the zone 2 session immediately after a hard ride or hard workout gives me a noticeably lower heart rate for my zone 2 power, which is great.
Looking back to the end of week three of the plan, I did a 100km ride with David Alvarez of Stoemper Bikes and really battled over the last 40km. It’s a loop I’ve done a few times and had ridden much better than this before. That ride made me worry about whether I could be fit in time for LBL but I put that to one side, trusted my Wattbike plan and kept knocking out the training hours. I had 5 weeks of training to go after all.

Towards the end of March, I rode another favourite loop with my friend Damien and although it was a great day out and a decent average speed of 28.4kmh, I felt I’d worked really hard – more than I would have thought for the speed.

So once again, I was worrying about LBL and the fact that I’d only be half way through the programme for the toughest ride I’d ever done.
Meanwhile I was slowly ticking off the weeks of training for the Wattbike plan. The plan I’m doing is one of Wattbike’s free training plans – the Sportive, level 4. I’m putting all of my sessions on Strava if you’re interested (but I don’t blame you if you’re not).

The next key ride to check my progress was at the Wiggle New Forest Sportive in early April:

I rode this with a friend (James) on a beautiful spring day. In fairness, it wasn’t the most gruelling of courses and James did more of his fair share on the front (I did ride on the front as you can see in the photo at the top, which is from the New Forest ride). This ride was great – I felt good all through the ride. James set a sensible early pace of just over 30kmh per hour, so we didn’t burn too many matches to begin with. We ended up averaging over 30kmh for the entire ride – something I’d only ever done once before on a ride in a group of about 8 guys. This was very encouraging and I certainly felt on this ride that the Wattbike training was showing a bit more – particularly in my ability to hold an effort for much longer than previously as some of the “intervals” I’m doing mean you ride and hold a specific intensity/pace (power level) for 3-4 minutes. This was a very good day indeed!

The next challenge after that was LBL itself and you’ve probably read my thoughts on it by now: http://girodilento.com/riding-liege-bastogne-liege-challenge-sportive/ To cut a long story short, once again I felt that the Wattbike had helped give me more endurance and more ability to ride at a higher tempo for less effort on both climbs and the flat. I’ve always been poor at riding on the flat but I seem to be doing it a bit better at the moment. As it turned out I did have the endurance I needed, which was fantastic but we weren’t out to set any speed records, which helps a lot too. I believe my Wattbike training was a key part of getting this ride done (not least of all as it’s been the core of my riding for the couple of months preceding).

I had an easy week after LBL as I felt too tired and too uninterested to ride. After that it was back into the Wattbike plan again and another great road ride at the Wiggle Jurassic Beast.

I rode with Paddy from Upgrade Bikes and he was keen to get round the short course as fast as possible. Paddy literally attacked right off the start line and my body didn’t like it at all. I found the first hour very hard going but did my best to keep up and take the occasional turn on the front. It was a mostly sunny morning for us – but with 25-30mph breezes, it was very windy! For the first third of the ride we averaged comfortably over 30kmh but that was before the climbs and before a big dose of the headwinds. I climbed well enough and after about 40 minutes into the ride I was doing better, my legs were hurting less and I was able to keep pace with Paddy a touch easier. It was still hard though but all the better for it.

Last year we did the same ride with David from Stoemper, so there were three of us in a chaingang and it wasn’t nearly as windy. Last year we were also 30 seconds faster around the 58km course and I think Paddy and I rode very well in 2014 to get that close. A hard ride but a great ride and one that reminded me that keeping up the Wattbike training is extremely important.

I’ve only one more ride to do in week 10 and that’ll be an outside ride on local roads this weekend with my mate Warren, who’s the fastest rider I ride with. Riding with Warren will be good fun and will give me a useful feeling for how I’m really doing. Doing a bunch of rides away from home is fantastic but I feel that I need a good local ride or two now to check my progress against. That opportunity is now upon me and I’ll report back.

I think the Wattbike is a brilliant piece of kit, it’s really transformed my view on training. Training with power (as well as heart rate) means I just concentrate on getting the work done in my programme for each session. I know if I do that, I’ll make progress.
If I get too tired after a tough week, I have taken an easy week where I do half the training volume to get some rest. Getting my main training sessions done indoors during the week also means I can simply get out and enjoy my ride on a weekend without giving training a second thought. That’s great too.
As I said earlier, I also like the fact that I can do my training at home whilst my kids/wife are around.

Training with a power meter is a great thing and I’m enjoying the Wattbike so much as it cancels out variables like, terrain, windspeed, temperature, traffic etc that I can’t imagine owning a power meter to ride on the road. It suddenly seems like solving the wrong problem. Considering I spent about the cost of the Wattbike (perhaps more) on my last winter training bike (the Kinesis GF_Ti v2) and that a really good power meter is well over £1k – I don’t even think the £2k asking price on a Wattbike is that bad (aside from the fact I don’t have £2k right now).

I’m very fortunate in that I have a couple of terrific summer bikes. When it rains at the moment, I don’t even think about using one of them – I just do another session on the Wattbike. I can really see that for me – the Wattbike might be my perfect winter training bike.
Perhaps, I’m still in the honeymoon period? I’ll keep training and let’s find out in my next update.

Thanks for reading.

If you’d like to findout more about the Wattbike, please visit their site here: https://wattbike.com/uk/

P.S. I’m sure my legs have grown (thickness) since I’ve been training by Wattbike, so that’s where the title comes from

UPDATED: 18/05/14

I had a great ride with my friend Warren on Saturday morning and as I’d hoped it was perfect reflection point with my progress.  Warren’s riding better than I have ever seen him manage before and he’s reaping the rewards from training on his turbo at least a couple of times a week if not more for the last 4 years or so. We did one of the more challenging loops we ride. Weather conditions were pretty much perfect: warm, dry and only a little breeze.  I didn’t sleep well the night before, which isn’t ideal but can and does happen to us all sometimes.

For me it was a 114km ride including 1622m of climbing. According to Strava, I had 21 Personal Best segment times on the ride and I averaged 28.2kmh. The previous fastest average I’ve had from three goes at that loop was 26.2kmh. I rode particularly well on the flatter parts of the ride but struggled as the climbs got steeper. I felt like I’d lost my climbing legs but looking at the data, even where I’d not set a personal best, I was generally riding at a pace that was towards my best times on almost every segment. It was a bit deceiving at the time as Warren is riding so well, he was leaving me behind easily on all of the climbs, so I thought I was doing worse than I actually was. I still don’t feel like I’m riding at my best – or close to it but there’s no doubt to me anyway, some solid progress is being made. Given that since February the Wattbike has been how I’ve trained, I have to conclude it’s delivering results. I don’t think it’s a leap to think that if I keep following instructions more progress will follow? I’ll keep training and report back.

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Bellitanner bib shorts and jersey first ride review

Bellitanner is a brand that probably isn’t familiar to you. It’s a young German brand created by long time bike industry veteran and ex-pro cyclist Roger Tanner. Roger also runs the Pearl bicycle brand. Bellitanner was set up initially to build a range of fixie style bikes and one of his bikes: the New Yorker won a Bikeradar Best in Show Award at Eurobike in 2013 (http://www.bikeradar.com/road/gallery/article/bikeradars-best-in-show-eurobike-2013-38176/6/) It’s a very cool design, so it was a good winner.

Stylish Bellitanner summer jersey from the front
Stylish Bellitanner summer jersey from the front

Bellitanner is in the process of expanding their product range to include clothing and they very kindly sent me an early pair of their new bib shorts and jersey to get out and ride in. Both the bib shorts and the jerseys will be available to order directly from the Bellitanner website initially and the intention behind the product is to create products of a high quality without necessarily a high end price.

I’ve been riding the shorts in particular over the last month both indoors on the  Wattbike and also out on the road (mostly under tights as it’s still been pretty cool).

Modelling the Bellitanner outfit - front view
Modelling the Bellitanner outfit – front view

I ride a medium and I’ve found the sizing of both the shorts and the jersey very good – they’re race cut but not a super thin Italian style fit – they’re definitely slim fitting but in a good way.

The construction of the shorts seems good and they feel like they should last well. The seams inside the shorts I’ve been sent aren’t flat locked but I can’t say I’ve noticed this particularly as a comfort issue. The white upper fabric is a touch stiff to the touch compared to some other brands, but it holds it’s position on the bike fine. The pad is comfortable and generous in its thickness – to me it’s perhaps a bit thicker than I’d have personally specified and it feels a bit bulky when you’re off the bike. You can also feel the extra thickness of the pad you’re riding and it increases comfort but it does isolate you a little from the feeling of the road – which could be good or bad, depending on your point of view.

Bellitanner bib shorts pad and stitching detail
Bellitanner bib shorts pad and stitching detail

Most of the bib shorts I’ve ridden in recent years have tended to have quite a thin multi-density pad so the extra thickness of these shorts has been a noticeable difference. My early impressions are that these are a decent short but they won’t knock my favourites at this price point off their perch (http://girodilento.com/capo-pursuit-bib-shorts-review/). As I mentioned though, these are early samples and the design and materials may well evolve (or may have since I was sent these). Where they’ve been best for me so far is on the Wattbike for longer sessions, where I find I get pretty uncomfortable after an hour. These shorts thanks to the thicker pad definitely help on sessions over an hour long (it still hurts though).

Bellitanner Bib shorts - upper detail
Bellitanner Bib shorts – upper detail

The jersey again is a well sized garment with a good shape and the fabric used feels good to the touch. I really like the shade of blue as well and as an outfit (bib shorts and jersey) they look smart (to me anyway). It’s a summer weight fabric and in the few times I’ve tried it before it’s warmed up too much, I know it’s a jersey I’ll wear regularly in the months to come. As you can see from the pictures, the construction is relatively straightforward: three pockets at the rear, one with a zip. There is some venting around the under arms as well for breathability.

Inside the Bellitanner jersey, some stitching and breathability around armpits detail
Inside the Bellitanner jersey, some stitching and breathability around armpits detail

I don’t have an enormous amount of technical details about fabrics and pad manufacturer, so in the meantime I’m getting out and riding them to see how they wear. Both garments are made for Bellitanner by a relatively new cycling clothing company RH77, who I know Roger from Bellitanner has a strong relationship with.

Jersey rear view with pockets alongside bib shorts
Jersey rear view with pockets alongside bib shorts

Pricing for the bibshorts is expected to be Euro 135 or about £110 and the jersey is priced at Euro 79 or about £65.

If you’d like to find out more, you can visit the Bellitanner website at http://bellitannerbikes.com/

Thanks for reading.

Outfit rear view
Outfit rear view
Ultegra 6870 Di2 completed install

First look: NeilPryde Alize/Nazaré Di2 aero test platform

One of the best bikes I’ve ever owned was my original NeilPryde Alize aero bike. I bought it when I worked with the brand as UK agent when they first arrived in the UK. It was also a great bike to test aero wheels on, like the review I wrote on the Reynolds Forty Six wheels a while back (http://girodilento.com/reynolds-forty-six-clincher-wheelset-review-or-how-i-learned-to-love-cheating/). Sadly financial pressures meant I had to sell that bike last year and it was a very reluctant sale and one I immediately regretted.

Discussions with a few different people in the bike industry in the months following and it became clear that for blogging and review purposes it made a lot of sense to try and get another one – especially as I’d spent so much time on my old one making it a frameset I knew very well for reviewing components on. Take aero wheels for example – it makes more sense to test them on an aero bike as well as my steel Stoemper Taylör, particularly as most people will put them on a carbon bike.

NeilPryde Alize (Nazare) Di2 6870 front mech & cranks
NeilPryde Alize (Nazare) Di2 6870 front mech & cranks

After a few discussions, my friends at NeilPryde found a frameset that they could help me out with. With the frameset safely stashed in my office I got to thinking about gruppos. Even after 3,000+ km on Campagnolo on my Stoemper, I’m a Shimano guy and I’ve been very keen to try out Di2 for sometime. Given that Ultegra 6870 had just been released, it’s the one I set my heart on and the good folks at Madison helped me make that a reality. They were even kind enough to build it up for me (there’s a blog to come on that). The only non-Shimano part I’m using is the Praxis Works conversion bottom bracket to allow me to run the new Ultegra crank (I’ve gone for 52/36) with the Alize’s PF30 bottom bracket (http://praxiscycles.com/conversion-bb/).

NeilPryde Alize/Nazare complete
NeilPryde Alize/Nazare complete

The Alize I have is the 2013 model year in matt black. It has some improvements over my original bike so it’ll be good to see how they work out. I rode 4,000km on my old one and I’m hoping I can notice the difference. The changes include changing from BSA to PF30 bottom bracket, which drops some weight and makes it easier to manufacture. The dropouts are now carbon. It’s now dual compatible with mechanical and Di2 groupsets. The headtube area has been stiffened following requests from the UHC who loved the frameset but wanted a little less weight and a bit more stiffness in the front end without sacrificing the compliance at the rear. I’m also curious to see if this new and improved bike can still run 28mm tyres like the old one could. All of the changes should have made what I already think is an excellent bike, just a little better. Time will tell. I may even get a TT seatpost for it. Maybe.

NeilPryde Alize/Nazare with Deda Zero100 finishing kit and Lizard Skins tape
NeilPryde Alize/Nazare with Deda Zero100 finishing kit and Lizard Skins tape

For the finishing kit, I’ve stuck with some personal favourites as the base point: Deda Zero 100 bars and stem. I love these Deda bars, so they’re a great starting point. Obviously I hope to swap them off to try and review others in time – but they’re the base case. The bar tape is my first time to try Lizard Skins highly regarded product and I have the 2.5mm version on the Alize (Nazaré). I’ve been given one of the new Pro Turnix saddles to try and that’s on the bike – they’re a new product, are very light and the one I have is the 132mm width.

New Pro Turnix Saddle
New Pro Turnix Saddle

Rounding it out is a set of fabulous Reynolds Aero 58’s including the new Cryo-Blue Power brake pads, which promise big gains in braking performance. I’ve just ridden these wheels at Liege-Bastogne-Liege on my Stoemper with the old pads, so I’m looking forward to trying the new ones out. Tyres are another old favourite now: Michelin Pro 4 Service Course in 25mm. I love 25mm tyres and I like race tyres and I find these both fast and comfortable.

Reynolds Aero 58s and Cryo-Blue Power pads look fantastic
Reynolds Aero 58s and Cryo-Blue Power pads look fantastic

I think the build looks fantastic and I can’t wait to try it out. I’ve been busy since it’s been built up so I’ve only ridden up and down my street (in my jeans and boat shoes) to make sure the Di2 gears didn’t get knocked in the car on the way here. They seem fine and this weekend it’ll get it’s first ride at the Wiggle Jurassic beast – just on the short course. I may even dust my UHC Pro Cycling jersey off for the ride if the weather plays ball (not looking enormously likely).

NeilPryde Alize/Nazare with Deda Zero100 stem and Di2 junction box
NeilPryde Alize/Nazare with Deda Zero100 stem and Di2 junction box

I’ll be doing a long term test on Di2 and will also write a review on the Alize/Nazaré which I didn’t do on my old one as I was working with NeilPryde and I didn’t think it was a fair thing to do as I had a commercial interest in saying great things about it. I really, loved the bike but didn’t review it. Now I have no such commercial interest and will write a review but I’d be shocked if NeilPryde had dropped the ball with it. I’m expecting it to be very good still – perhaps a touch more race bike than before.

Ultegra 6800 brakes have been highly praised - looking forward to trying them out
Ultegra 6800 brakes have been highly praised – looking forward to trying them out

The great thing for me about changing to Shimano 11 speed on the NeilPryde is that now things are more interchangeable with my Stoemper which is 11 speed Campagnolo. I’ve been running the Aero 58’s on both bikes using an Ultegra 6800 cassette. My Campagnolo Chorus just needed a barrel adjuster tweak and it’s been working very, very well.

IMG_6974The complete bike as you see here, sans bottle cages and pedals is 7.4kgs which is pretty respectable for a bike with 58mm deep carbon clinchers on it.

I also have some Rolf wheels here to try and again they’ll be run on both bikes starting shortly.

New Ultegra 6870 Di2 rear mech
New Ultegra 6870 Di2 rear mech

Actually, the only things I’m missing are new bottle cages, perhaps a Garmin Outfront mount (thanks to the Di2 junction box under the stem) and maybe new pedals – also made of carbon to match. Minor details and not ones that’ll stop me from getting riding.

IMG_6981Thanks for reading.

More information here:

http://www.neilprydebikes.com/bikes/nazare/overview.html

http://cycle.shimano-eu.com/publish/content/global_cycle/en/nl/index/components/road/ultegra_6870.html

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First look: Bontrager 2014 – soft goods range highlights…

On a recent visit to Trek UK as well as spending time talking about bikes and racing and all kinds of stuff, we spent some time talking about Bontrager.

Bontrager might be a brand that you think is simply the finishing kit on a Trek bike and whilst that is undoubtedly true, you may not realise that the company is now putting as much R&D into the Bontrager range of products as they do into bikes. I didn’t to be honest, but it was a very interesting thought – especially when I reflected on the fact that I believe Trek have been doing some fantastic product development on their new bikes for the last few years.

Trek are a company that fascinates me in many ways, they have a well-deserved reputation of quality for their bike lines (ask anyone in the bike trade) but they’ve not been  a company (if you leave the whole Lance thing to one side) that has typically marketed themselves as loudly, boldly or aggressively as some of their competitors.

What they do like to do is look at the science behind the products from design, to materials and how best to bring them together and they’ve now significantly upped their game on this aspect of the Bontrager soft goods range.

Take saddles as an example: Trek/Bontrager has spent time researching physiology for saddle design with a white paper on this you can download and read if you wish on their website. This kind of rigour is being applied across the product range and part of the logic behind Trek Factory Racing is to combine the science with the pounding that the pro riders give the products – not to mention their fussiness about what they like and don’t like. This logic was used by Cervelo with the Cervelo Test Team but Trek with Bontrager have a much, much bigger range of products to test and trial with their pro teams.

Another interesting thing about the approach with Bontrager is that for all of this investment they are making in science, design, materials and testing, they’re not look at charging premium prices, which is very interesting for us recreational riders and something I find personally compelling.

So after talking through a range of the products, I’ve been lucky enough to be given a few to try and share my thoughts on and they are as follows:

Bontrager Paradigm RL Saddle retail £89.99

Bontrager Paradigm RL saddle
Bontrager Paradigm RL saddle

This is a mid-range saddle in terms of market pricing, but was recommended as being comfortable and a good all-round saddle. I went to the medium of the three widths and have put it on my Stoemper, replacing a Prologo Scratch Pro. The first thing I noticed was that the Bontrager saddle was lighter than the Prologo 220gms versus 250. I boldly went for a 100km initial ride and that was a bit of a challenge for my backside. However, it did break the saddle in as on each subsequent ride I’ve felt more and more comfortable. I’m now very happy on the saddle. It’s a good looking piece of kit to me as well  with a clean and modern design. It’s also a good price point and so far after a few hundred kilometres on board, I can’t see a reason why you shouldn’t check this particular model out if you’re looking to try a different saddle.  I’m certainly very happy and am not thinking of taking it off my bike.  I must confess though to having some minor saddle sores after 170+km at Liege Bastogne Liege but that was my longest day ever on a bike.

Bontrager Paradigm RL Saddle
Bontrager Paradigm RL Saddle

http://www.bontrager.com/model/09860

A link to purchase from Evans Cycles: http://tidd.ly/eb6a5910

Bontrager Race Thermal Bibshorts £74.99 retail

Bontrager Race Thermal Bib Shorts from the front
Bontrager Race Thermal Bib Shorts from the front

When we were talking about garments to try, Chris from Trek was positively glowing in her praise of these shorts. I hate the cold, so the thought of some shorts with a thermal fabric seemed like a winner for the spring (and autumn). Again I was told how much effort is going into the design, fabrics and pads in the design of these products but without seeking to charge exorbitant prices. After riding in these shorts a few times now, I have to say I share Chris’s enthusiasm. I would go so far to say that these are the best shorts I’ve ever ridden for less than £100 retail – they really are terrific. The thermal Profila fabric that Bontrager use on these in these bib shorts feels fantastic to the touch – really nice. The pad in the shorts is also very, very good and again I’d say the best pad I’ve ridden for under £100. The fit is excellent, the seams are all flatlock stitched around the pad and legs (not on the upper and straps) and they seem very well finished. I’ve been wearing them a lot and they are holding up well to regular use and washing.

Bontrager Race Thermal Bib Shorts - rear view
Bontrager Race Thermal Bib Shorts – rear view

So far, I can’t see a reason why these shouldn’t go straight to the top of your shopping list. I think they’re a fantastic buy for £75 and I can see that I might need more of these in my wardrobe. It’s also got me wondering about some of the other bib shorts in the range. I’d call these a star buy (if I had such a rating system). The Race Thermal bibs were also my choice for riding Liege-Bastogne-Liege and I was happy all day in them.

Bontrager Race Thermal Bib Shorts Pad
Bontrager Race Thermal Bib Shorts Pad

http://www.bontrager.com/model/09692

 

Bontrager RXL 180 Softshell Jacket £89.99

Bontrager RXL 180 Softshell Jacket
Bontrager RXL 180 Softshell Jacket

This garment is perfect for spring and autumn riding. It’s long sleeved, with a windproof front but not back, so it breathes and lets you vent heat through the back of the garment. If you know your Castelli range, it’s similar in concept to the Trasparente jersey (but the Bontrager one is £50 cheaper). It’s not a winter jacket but it’s a jersey for changeable conditions. I’ve unintentionally ridden in this down to just under 5 degrees with a winter base layer and been fine (whilst riding) and I’ve also gotten it wrong and ridden in it on a day the temperatures got up to 18 degrees and it was a bit hot. However because it has a full length zip, it’s reasonably easy to regulate the temperature. The sleeves on the jersey feature cuffs that go over your fingers, which is great when it’s cooler and they enhance the transition between your sleeve and your gloves. For warmer days, you could possibly do without gloves and ride using the cuffs on your handlebars.

Bontrager RXL 180 Softshell jacket rear view & Bontrager Velocis helmet
Bontrager RXL 180 Softshell jacket rear view & Bontrager Velocis helmet

The windproof front of the jersey works extremely well at allowing you to keep warmer in a medium weight garment and I think it’s a terrific product. The fabric’s not particularly thick but because it blocks the wind it doesn’t need to be. Riding at a reasonable tempo and it seems to manage heat pretty well at temperatures lower than I thought I’d be able to comfortably ride in. It’s an excellent autumn and spring garment that might even work in the winter if you run hot.

The styling is a little conservative but again it’s modern, well thought through, has reflective bits and the colour works well with any black lycra bib shorts. Yes, it’s a little more restrained than if the Italian’s had designed it but it’s a garment that looks good and is well made and a pleasure to wear.

I have to be honest and say it’s another garment, I’ve really fallen for. For those days where you don’t want to ride in arm warmers, it’s a great product and again at a good price for the quality and performance you get. I really like this.

http://www.bontrager.com/model/11343

A link to purchase from Evans Cycles (it’s on sale at the time of posting): http://tidd.ly/cdf750b0

Bontrager Velocis helmet £159.99 retail

A good shot of the Bontrager Velocis helmet at work on the bike (from LBL)
A good shot of the Bontrager Velocis helmet at work on the bike (from LBL)

The Velocis is Bontrager’s new top of the range road helmet and has been designed with input from and is ridden by Trek Factory racing. Whilst it’s far from a lightweight price – it’s a competitive price compared with other top of the range offerings.

It was designed to meet the requirements of the race team and it features an accessory suggested by Jens Voigt no less – a detachable, cap style peak that velcros on to the front of the helmet but because it’s just a peak – doesn’t compromise ventilation through the top of the helmet.

Bontrager Velocis Helmet
Bontrager Velocis Helmet

The mounting system is intuitive and effective for adjusting and it only took about 15 seconds to perfect the fit for me. According to Bontrager the new composite inner skeleton used in the design allows them to create bigger vents and keep the weight down. It’s light at 200gms (on my scales), which is less than advertised and unusally Bontrager offers a free replacement crash guarantee in your first year of ownership, which is something I hope to not need! The styling is very modern, with a relatively flat profile and as far as helmets go – I think it looks great on.  From asking around (in the trade), it seems that it’s a helmet that is deservedly pro level in its quality, design and fit.  The padding system works well and I’ve been comfortable in it in all of the riding conditions I’ve tried so far. I have used Jen’s peak and the thing I particularly like about it is that it’s very easy to put on or off as the light changes. Because it’s compact it doesn’t take up much more room in your pocket than a gel, so I’ve found myself riding with it more often than I thought – it just adds a touch of versatility that I hadn’t thought I’d appreciate. I’m thoroughly enjoying the Velocis and it’s definitely my go to helmet now and I rate it as better than my old S-Works which was my best helmet.

Here’s a link to the product info:  http://www.bontrager.com/model/11626

A link to purchase from Evans Cycles: http://tidd.ly/10f9cedb

So from trying four different types of the latest Bontrager kit, there’s not one I wouldn’t recommend or buy with my own money.  These are well designed, well made products, that are reasonably priced that are all performing exactly as I’d hoped if not better. I have every confidence they should wear well and continue to perform at a high level and honestly I reckon it’s time to make sure Bontrager is on your list for soft goods. Bontrager has gotten serious about their range of products, bringing science, R&D and attention to detail to them and they should absolutely go on your shortlist. The 2014 range is very good and it should only continue to improve.

Thanks for reading and apologies for the less than perfect photos – I wasn’t home before dark when getting this post ready. I will replace them as I can.

IMG_3689

Genesis Equilibrium 20 review

Since my first look review (http://girodilento.com/2014-genesis-equilibrium-20-first-look-review/), I’ve spent around 600km out riding the Genesis Equilibrium before writing this review.

In this time, my view on the bike hasn’t changed. My affection for the bike has only increased and I feel that I’ve learnt more about who the bike would suit and where its strengths and weaknesses are.

The Equilibrium has been a terrific success for Genesis and deservedly so. It’s also helped bring steel bikes back into consideration for many people in a road bike market that’s become obsessed with carbon and to a lesser extent aluminium. The Equilibrium has been a reminder of why so many people speak so fondly about steel bikes.

Genesis Equilibrium 20 2014 visiting Westerham, Kent
Genesis Equilibrium 20 2014 visiting Westerham, Kent

I’ve yet to meet anyone who hasn’t enjoyed riding an Equilibrium, they’re a bike that engenders positive feelings in the vast majority of people who’ve spent time on them and I think there are a number of reasons for this.

Firstly, they look great – a terrific fusion of old and new. Slim-ish steel tubes with a modern geometry, packaged with 32 spoke wheels and really, very good finishing kit. Of course looks aren’t everything, especially if there’s not the substance to back up the looks, but it’s a pleasing starting point.

Secondly, they have a personality in the way they ride. I’ve named the one I have on loan and I’ve never named a bike before. Steel has a reputation for being heavy and for having a springy ride quality that soaks up a lot of the lesser bumps on the road. This is true of the Equilibrium although when you ride one for the first time , you might well be surprised that the ride is stiffer than you were expecting – it certainly was for me. It’s a comfortable, brisk and pleasant bike to ride. The geometry seems to be bang on for all kinds of recreational riding. It’s a bike that feels like it’s working with you and enjoying the adventure as much as you are.

Genesis Equilibrium 20 on the Ashdown Forest
Genesis Equilibrium 20 on the Ashdown Forest

The one “weakness” of the Equilibrium if you’re looking for faults is the weight. The complete bike in the 20 spec I have been riding is 10kg. For me, that’s over 2kgs heavier than my own steel bike and nearly 3 kgs heavier than the carbon bike I have. To be fair to the Equilibrium, you can’t or shouldn’t just look at the weight. My lighter bikes are race bikes. The Equillibrium isn’t and isn’t designed or intended to be. When I have gone out riding with my friends on their race bikes, I have tried and failed to keep up but to complain about that would be as unfair as complaining that oranges aren’t apples.

Something important to note though is that the Equilibrium frankly defies it’s weight most of the time once you’re riding. It climbs and descends beautifully. It’s also a terrific bike to munch up the miles on. You can ride it briskly all day and I’ve felt on many a ride that of all bikes that I’ve ridden and reviewed to date, the Equilibrium feels most like a bike that was designed for whiling away the hours exploring the British country side. To me, it really does feel like a British bike designed for British roads and countryside – it’s perfect for riding and exploring on.

The Equilibrium is also an incredibly versatile bike: you could audax on it, you could ride Sportives on it (as long as your not looking to ride them as a race), you can do clubruns on it, you can do social or solo rides on it. It’s a terrific winter bike. You could commute on it. You can ride to the shops on it. You can ride with your kids on it. You can ride bike paths on it. All of this makes it a fantastically useful bike to have in your collection.

In the Equilibrium 20 spec that I have been riding, you have Shimano 105 as the groupset, which is a perfect choice for a bike like this – effortlessly reliable, cheap and dependable to run. A pleasure to ride and the 105 components even extend to the wheelhubs which roll beautifully for the money and should for many, many thousands of kilometres.

I have also been really impressed with the finishing kits on the bike. The Madison Prime saddle is terrific for the money and is well worth considering to buy on its own if you’re looking for a cheap but good saddle.

The Genesis own brand handlebars are the best stock own brand bars I’ve ever used. They’re short reach at 70mm and a fantastically shaped 125mm drop. I would buy and use these bars if they sold them – they’re very, very good.

Genesis Equilibrium 20 on the back roads of Kent
Genesis Equilibrium 20 on the back roads of Kent

Whilst I haven’t been personally wowed by the colour of the bike I’ve been riding (having much preferred last years copper colour), I’m been surprised by how  many people have said how much they like it and certainly the tan saddle and bar tape work terrifically with it.

It’s rare that I get to review a bike where even after 600km on board, I think I wouldn’t change anything about the bike and the Genesis Equilibrium 20 is has got closer to this than most. The only things I would personally change are the brake pads (to Koolstop Salmon) and the Continental tyres, which I haven’t especially enjoyed. They decent enough but I think they are plenty of tyres out there that are nice and ride better for not too much money. I have enjoyed that they are 25mm which I think it perfect for this bike. Genesis rate the Equilibrium as being able to take mudguards with up to 28mm tyres. I feel that with the SKS Chromoplastic mudguards I’ve been running, it might be tricky particularly on the front wheel. I’d stick with 25mm personally which works very well indeed.

The Equilibrium was designed for a 3 point rack for light touring so, if you want to you can run a rack as well as mudguards on it.

I’m not looking forward to the day that Genesis ask for the bike back – it’s a fantastic companion and I’ll miss it. It’s a bike that makes sense for so many situations and so many types of riding. I’m sure it’ll continue to delight new and old owners for many years to come. Even if you like

If you’re not looking to race but want a bike that’s a great companion, that does everything well, that’s comfortable but sporty then the Equilibrium is a terrific bike. If you’ve been thinking about trying a steel bike, then you’ll struggle to find a better example for the money.

For information on the Genesis Equilibrium, you can visit the Genesis site here:  http://www.genesisbikes.co.uk/bikes/road/sportive/equilibrium-20

Or you can even just order one from Evans Cycles here (& this site gets a very small commission): http://tidd.ly/e8faca5d

For more information from this blog on the Equilibrium 20, I’ve also posted these posts:

http://girodilento.com/2014-genesis-equilibrium-20-first-look-review/

http://girodilento.com/genesis-equilibrium-2014-updates-evolution/

Thanks for reading

FC-5800_L_53-39_01

Shimano 105 5800 – big news for lots of us

Unless you’ve not been paying attention for the last day or so, you’ll have no doubt heard the announcement of the new generation of Shimano’s 105 groupset that will launch in the second half of 2014.

Mmmm, 11 speeds
Mmmm, 11 speeds

I think it’s fantastic news for those of us who don’t have as much money as we’d ideally like to be able to spend on cycling. Why? Well it brings 11 speed technology to a new and lower price point than Ultegra 6800 did (or Dura Ace 9000 before it). You may not be bothered about 11 speeds but frankly I’ll take all the gears I can get. In fairness, I don’t think the 11 speeds are the biggest news here.

New improved and lighter front shifting is good news
New improved and lighter front shifting is good news

One of the big improvements is going to be the front shifting, which should be a lot lighter than the current 105 gruppo. It’s the end of the legacy of what began with Dura Ace 7900 and Shimano concealing the shifting cables under the bar tape. Whilst it tidied up the front of the bike, shifting quality decreased in my opinion and I still think that when I ride 5700 105 – the front shifting takes too much effort. Well that’s going to be fixed with 5800. The new design for the cranks with the 4 arms is a big step forward too as it  standardises the BCD size and means you just change the chainrings if you want to move from double (53/39) to semi-compact (52/36) or compact (50/34) – no more having to buy a new chainset for a trip to the Alps.

Silver remains an option too - alongside black
Silver remains an option too – alongside black

Braking is improved too and the new standard calipers will now fit wider rims and tyres – which is important as that’s where the wheel and tyre market is shifting.

New caliper brakes with more width for wider tyres and better performance
New caliper brakes with more width for wider tyres and better performance
Hydraulic disc brakes compatible with mechanical shifting gruppos - this could be big!
Hydraulic disc brakes compatible with mechanical shifting gruppos – this could be big!

More big news is mechanical hydraulic disc brakes. I spent a bit of time on disc braked bikes last year and good disc brakes are really, really good but I don’t think they’re a solution for the high-end of the road bike market. For me they make most sense at the mid-range of the market – bikes you ride a good chunk of the year and in all weathers – not your lightest best summer bike. So I’m excited about these brakes. Right now, if you want hydraulic road brakes you’ve got to stump up for an Ultegra Di2 groupset to fit R785 calipers – nice if you can, but most of us can’t.

Very sleek looking hydraulic brake shift levers
Very sleek looking hydraulic brake shift levers

These new brakes will work with mechanical gruppos including, 105, Ultegra and Dura Ace – now you’ve just got to find your frame to go with them. Expect to see them on quite a few 2015 road and cyclocross bikes. A bike like the Rose Xeon DX (http://girodilento.com/rose-xeon-dx-review/) that I tested last year would be perfect for these. As would a bike like the Kinesis 4S, which is something I’ve been saying to Kinesis for a while now (and I’m won’t have been the only one). That’s just a couple of examples but I reckon they’ll be loads of interesting bikes with discs at Eurobike in September – now at a price point more of us can afford as this should also make good disc brakes a more economic option for bike manufacturers too.  These brakes could be the tipping point for the disc brake market. Personally I think they’ll be best with road frames with clearance for wide tyres along with mudguard and rack mounts – all rounders, let me know if you agree?

105 5800 will bring direct mount brakes down a price point too...
105 5800 will bring direct mount brakes down a price point too…

So – I’m excited about Shimanos new 5800 105 groupset – it’s going to bring a higher level of engineering and performance to a lower price point, making it applicable to more people and more bikes. Sure there’s going to be a weight penalty over Ultegra, but you’re unlikely to be talking about more than 1lb on a complete bike. We’re going to get a wider range of gearing (thanks to 11 speed), better braking and shifting and more choices in how we run it. To me, it’s looking like a home run for Shimano as no doubt it’ll also be reliable and cheap to run/service.

The newly improved 5800 rear mech has new springs for better shifting
The newly improved 5800 rear mech has new springs for better shifting

Thanks for reading and as always I’d welcome any comments

The standard 5800 STI levers
The standard 5800 STI levers
Feedback Sports Rakk bike stand holding a road bike

Feedback Sports Rakk bike stand

Bike stands are an incredibly useful piece of kit and probably something you needs multiples of if you have more than one bike in your family. Sure you can lean your bike up against a wall but it’s generally not that stable and can scuff your shifters and bar tape – not to mention just falling over.

Feedback Sports Rakk - folded for storage
Feedback Sports Rakk – folded for storage

For the last few months I’ve been using a Feedback Sports Rakk bike stand and have been thoroughly impressed with it.

Firstly it takes a bunch of different wheel sizes no problems, it also works with disc braked bikes and caliper bikes. You can attach several of them together to store several bikes close together (making a more efficient use of space) and when you’re not using them – you can fold them flat for storage. The ability to fold flat also makes them useful for travelling with as they don’t take up a lot of room.

Feedback Sports Rakk stand ready for a bike
Feedback Sports Rakk stand ready for a bike

To use you simply roll your bike backwards into the stand and then wheel it forwards again to remove. It couldn’t be much easier.

Feedback Sports Rakk stand holding a 20" wheeled Islabike
Feedback Sports Rakk stand holding a 20″ wheeled Islabike

It’s not a work stand but you can easily oil your chain before you ride using the Rakk.

Feedback Sports Rakk holding a disc braked Kinesis Pro 6 cyclocross bike
Feedback Sports Rakk holding a disc braked Kinesis Pro 6 cyclocross bike

There’s not a great deal more to add. It you want a well-made, highly versatile stand that can be put away when not used or connected together to store a bunch of bikes, the Feedback Sports Rakk should definitely go on your list. They’re not the cheapest of stands but they’re built to last and I have really valued the versatility. For me it’s a keeper and I’ll be adding more over time.

For more information visit: http://feedbacksports.com/shop/RAKK-Black-P17.aspx

They’re widely available for sale including here at Wiggle: http://tidd.ly/7a63e263

Feedback Sports Rakk holding a caliper braked Stoemper road bike
Feedback Sports Rakk holding a caliper braked Stoemper road bike

Thanks for reading

The Feedback Sports Rakk in action
The Feedback Sports Rakk in action
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First look Hestra Tracker and C-Zone Gauntlett gloves

Recently I took a decision to upgrade my gloves for cool and cold riding. I had been recommended Hestra gloves before and ended up ordering both a pair of the Tracker and C-Zone gaunlett gloves to cover my riding from around 10 degrees Celsius down to below 0 degrees.

Hestra are a Swedish company established in 1936 and they only make gloves – now about 2 million pairs a year! Hestra is a family run business, now with the 4th generation of the family calling the shots. The company is probably best known for it’s ski and outdoor/mountaineering style gloves but now makes some cycling specific gloves as well.

The nice thing about going to a manufacturer who specializes in a particular product is that, for them, the stakes are higher in a transaction.  By that I mean that when I bought my Hestra gloves, if I didn’t like them, then that’s a challenge for a company that only makes gloves to overcome. The positive side for Hestra is that, they’ve spent about 80 years just making gloves and I’d wager they’d be confident they’re as good as anybody at it.

Fortunately for both Hestra and myself – first impressions are extremely positive. The gloves look great, the materials feel fantastic and they feel terrific on my hands. I’ve done 3 or 4 rides on the Tracker gloves now with temperatures between 2 degrees and 10 degrees and they’ve been superb. The Tracker are windstopper gloves (Gore fabric) with neoprene cuffs. I choose the Yellow/Black colour scheme as I thought the yellow would be a plus when I’m indicating and you know, flouro is all the rage.

One of the things I learnt when I got the gloves from NordicLife is that, I’ve typically bought gloves too small. You need to have enough room for air to fit around your fingers as it’s the air that’s crucial to keeping you warm. If your gloves are too tight, when you grip the handlebars you’ll be forcing warm air out and be defeating a lot of the purpose of the gloves. With that in mind I’ve sized up a touch and I’m reaping the benefits of warmer hands. Of course the other bonus of wearing gloves with more room in them is that you might be able to use a liner glove for really cold days.

Hestra Tracker glove - yellow/black
Hestra Tracker glove – yellow/black

For me the tracker is now my go to glove for Spring/Autumn riding when the ride starts cool and warms up a bit as you go on. That 5-10ish degree range needs a good glove that works well when it’s at the colder end of things but doesn’t make your hands too hot and sweaty when it hits 10 degrees or so. So far, the Tracker has been perfect for this kind of riding.

Hestra Tracker palm side up
Hestra Tracker palm side up

You can find out more about the Tracker here:

http://www.nordiclifeuk.co.uk/products/gloves/109/555/bike/P-hestra-bike-tracker-windstopper-gloves

https://hestragloves.com/en/gloves/mtb-bike/windstopper-tracker/440100/

Hestra tracker packaging
Hestra tracker packaging

At the time of writing there’s a good special offer on the Trackers at Nordic Life, which is an even better reason to get some J

I also got a pair of Hestra C-Zone gauntlet gloves for cold days out on the bike (or for walks). Rhodri from Nordic Life suggested that these come into their own at below 5 degrees (unless you suffer from really cold hands) and to date, the weathers warmed up and I’ve not had a chance to ride them yet – I sure that’ll change soon enough though.

Hestra C-Zone gauntlet winter cycling gloves
Hestra C-Zone gauntlet winter cycling gloves

The C-Zone gauntlet are a softshell, waterproof and windproof glove that’s also designed to be breathable. Once again the build quality is superb at first glance the materials feel very high quality. I went for the gauntlet version over the regular cuff to give me a bit more coverage at the wrist and with my riding/winter jacket. A pleasing aspect of the C-Zone gauntlet is that they’re not bulky. My last winter gloves were quite thick and padded and that restricted movement a touch and feel. The C-Zone gauntlet is surprisingly thin given it’s cold weather credentials so there’s very good movement while you have the gloves on.

Hestra C-Zone palm view
Hestra C-Zone palm view

You can find out more on the Hestra C-Zone gauntlet here:

https://hestragloves.com/en/gloves/mtb-bike/czone-gauntlet/

http://www.nordiclifeuk.co.uk/products/gloves/108/555/mountain/P-hestra-czone-bike-gauntlet

My first impressions of both of these gloves is excellent – really high quality, well designed, great looking and a pleasure to own. Gloves are another important part of winter riding and these gloves give me confidence that they’ll be essential companions from now on.

No doubt the British weather will give me some opportunities to test the C-Zone gauntlet soon as well as spend some more time in the Tracker !

Thanks for reading