Rapide RC1 Disc first ride review

Earlier in the year I wrote a post about Rapide’s 2016 range after seeing them at UK distributor, Madison’s 2016 bikes launch. One of the models that particularly stood out was the new RC Disc – in the striking green and black colour.

I thought it was a smart move by Rapide to embrace disc brakes early in the development of the brand, not least because disc brakes really suit endurance style bikes (to me). Other things I thought were smart was making their carbon frames flat mount compatible – that’s the way the market’s going and also 15mm through axle on the front wheel. I also like the fact that the bikes were designed to run 25mm tyres and full mudguards – to me extending the potential audience for the bikes to include club or distance riders looking for a carbon winter or commuter bike. It’s also smart to have a clear and simple range of Tiagra, 105 and Ultegra level builds or a frameset if you fancy something different.

As luck would have it, a little while later Rapide offered to send me an RC1 Disc to review and I’ve managed to get out and get some first impressions recently which I wanted to share.

DSC03642The RC1 Disc features the new improved 2016 Shimano Tiagra 10 speed groupset hung on a black with red branding version of the RC Disc frameset. Available in 6 sizes, the RC1 Disc also features Fulcrum Racing Sport DB Disc wheels (they were also specced on the Genesis Datum I rode recently) and are shod with Continental Ultrasport tyres in 25mm.

Flat mount adapter for post mount TRP brakes
Flat mount adapter for post mount TRP brakes

The brakes are well respected TRP Spyre cable operated discs and interestingly matched with TRP 140mm rotors on the Rapide carbon disc range rather than the “normal” 160mm most brands seem to specify.  The finishing kit (bars, stem and seatpost) are all FSA and it’s topped off with a Rapide branded saddle.

Lots of internal routing...
Lots of internal routing…

Apart from the brakes and chain (KMC), it’s a pretty much full Tiagra 4700 groupset with Shifters, Mech’s, chainset, and cassette. On paper I think it’s a solid build list and the full bike retails for £1,699 compared to £999 for the frameset. The other option some might be tempted by is the striking green 105 build which moves you to 11 speed, but keeps the same wheels and tyres with a slightly upgraded FSA finishing kit for an extra £200. Whether that jump to 11 speed is worth it, is up to you and I’d suggest reading to the end before you decide.

Typically beefy bottom bracket area
Typically beefy bottom bracket area

Endurance geometry generally means a more stable, less twitchy handling, often a little shorter reach and a higher front end and the Rapide has much of this in its’ design. I love a good endurance geometry.

Flat mount fork with post mount adapter
Flat mount fork with post mount adapter

Yes, I also love my race bike but I don’t always want to ride a bike like that – a bike that’s comfortable and fast over long distances is also incredibly appealing, often making for a terrific companion, so I’m curious about how I get on with the Rapide. On the website the company says they’ve worked hard to combine great handling, fantastic acceleration and superior comfort. I’ve been sent a medium with has a reach that is pretty much bang on for me and also boasts a stack height that’s exactly the same as a Genesis Zero or NeilPryde Nazare(Alize) on paper. So for me I’m not sacrificing any front end height or reach according to the sizing chart.

Good clearance with 25mm tyres, I'll try 28's too
Good clearance with 25mm tyres, I’ll try 28’s too

In the flesh, to me, the bike looks rather masculine with the matt and gloss black frame matched with bold red graphics. The bike and frame look well put together and the new Tiagra looks a class above the old one – especially the cranks and shifters.

20151209_132131

I’ve managed to get out for one ride over one of my favourite testing loops on the Rapide, which features lots of Britain’s typically awful and broken road surfaces, chip seal, short steep climbs, long fast descents and some great views which make no difference at all to how the bike performs but I like them all the same.20151209_132111

My first impression of the Rapide upon heading out onto the road was that the ride feels very, very smooth. It seems a very comfortable bike and handled all my rotten local roads with aplomb. The handling also seemed stable but with enough nimbleness about it to keep things interesting.

Having spent a lot of time on hydraulic disc brakes with 160mm rotors the 140mm cable disc brakes felt a touch lacking in bite on the first ride but they did the job.

20151209_134920The new Tiagra groupset instantly impressed – it doesn’t just look good, it’s a pleasure to ride too. The new concealed cable shifters have a lovely feel to them. The shifting is very good and of course the new 4 arm cranks look great on the bike. If you’re worried about choosing Tiagra either for budget reasons or because you’re not ready to switch to 11 speed – don’t as this is very good indeed.

The finishing kit – including the saddle, all worked well and were comfortable.

The flipside of the terrific smoothness was perhaps it lacked a little road feel.  I’ll swap wheels and tyres during the test to see how that changes things as I’ve previously found both the wheels and tyres competent but a little underwhelming.

Interesting seat stay profiles for the disc brakes
Interesting seat stay profiles for the disc brakes

Overall it was a good first ride and I’ll look forward to spending some miles on the bike soon – including on the upcoming #girodilento250

You can find out more about the bike here: http://www.rapidebikes.co.uk/bikes/carbon-disc/rc1-disc

Thanks for reading

 

The #girodilento250 festive family friendly challenge is back for 2015!

Yes, it’s back (again)! For the last few years I’ve held the #girodilento250  – a festive riding challenge for people, with lives, families and loved ones they need to spend time with between December 24th and 31st.

I had always liked the idea of the Festive 500 that Rapha and Strava hold each winter but as someone with a wife, young kids, family commitments including my wife’s birthday all within the last week of December, 500kms is never going to happen (unless I’m angling for a swift divorce, which I’m not).

So the #girodilento250 was born as an idea for those of us who’d like a challenge but with a less extreme level of commitment. With that in mind, I keep the idea simple to hopefully make it easier for you to join in should you wish to.

So here are the guidelines I’ve used each year (please feel free to suggest any improvements in the comments):

  1. Any riding goal up 250km is fine – you choose an amount that would be a good goal for you. 250km might be too far if you’ve got lots on, so choose a smaller amount if you’d like
  2. To join in – you can leave a comment with how far you hope to ride or tweet your goal with the hashtag #girodilento250, so we can share the riding we’re all hoping to do.
  3. A simple way to log your rides is to use Strava and tag each of your rides between December 24th and the 31st with #girodilento250
  4. Feel free to join the girodilento Strava club here to log your rides: http://www.strava.com/clubs/girodilento-cycling It’ll make it easier to track them and to see how other people are getting on as well. You can also use the Strava club to share your target in the comments if you wish to.
  5. Photos of rides/riding are all good too – again if you can tag them #girodilento250, hopefully I can find them and share them too. My Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/girodilento is a great place to share your ride pictures, as is twitter, Instagram or any other platform of your choice. Each year it’s been great to get some of the stories from those riding and I hope this might happen again.
  6. There are no prizes for completion other than the warm glow of satisfaction of hitting your goal and still having time to spend with your loved ones. Even if you don’t hit your goal, hopefully you’ll still have got out and had a good ride or two, which is good for the soul. This challenge is all about finding a balance between normal life and riding and prizes didn’t seem to fit with that (to me anyway), although I may rustle up a few random prizes/awards

Any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment here, or on my facebook page or via Twitter.

If you like this idea – jump in and have a go and also please share it with other people who ride – the more involved, the merrier …. and the more festive.

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

Winter training starts here…

This summer was my fourth in a row that hasn’t gone to plan. By that I mean that I rode my bike a lot less than I’d hoped to. This year the reason was a much higher workload, which is great, because as a freelancer, it meant summer was a bit more lucrative than last year and but something had to give and it was bike riding.

So rather than riding 500-600km per month during the summer, I managed just over 600km in total during July to September. Not good and as you might expect, it’s been awful for my fitness.

On recent rides, I’ve really struggled on the bike, to the point that it’s lessened the enjoyment of being out riding significantly.

So I decided to take Eddie Fletcher of Wattbike’s advice and try the 16 week Wattbike Triathlon training plan. Eddie recommended it previously as a programme that should bring a cyclist into the spring well-conditioned. Sounds perfect then.20151106_133723

I’ve written previously about my enthusiasm for the Wattbike – it helped me to the biggest performance gains I’ve made since beginning riding. See this post for more info: http://girodilento.com/learnt-2000km-wattbike/. You’ve most likely heard about many different elite athletes using them as part of their normal training regimes, but I proved to myself last year that time starved ordinary riders (with families and jobs etc) can also make good performance improvement if you can commit to a handful of hours a week for training.

The unpleasant part of getting started again was beginning with a 3 minute aerobic test to set my training zones. This involved riding the British Cycling 20 minute warmup and then riding as hard as I could for 3 minutes to get my average power over that short period. Last time I tried it I managed 339 Watts and 180bpm, which is ok for my 68kg weight. This time it had not surprisingly dropped – I managed 316 Watts and 180bpm. I was probably lucky to only have dropped my power by 7%.  20151103_135214

The upside is that all of my training zones have got slightly easier. If you’re not familiar with the Wattbike approach it’s that you train with power and heart rate zones.

I’m now on my way through week 3 of the 16, having checked off the first 10 workouts of my 4 month journey. One of the things I liked about the last programme I did on the Wattbike was that it didn’t smash you up right away as much of the early focus was on lower intensity (Zone 1 and 2) riding to heart get your heart rate and power zones matching up. This new programme follows a similar path and frankly it’s been great as I don’t have the fitness or stamina for tough workouts right now. Riding 4 sessions a week has been both challenging and satisfying and even the low intensity has left me with achy legs.  Whilst Wattbike have updated their website recently and the training plans aren’t so obvious on it, I’ve been working out my sessions on bits of paper using the old PDF training guide. They’re the same programmes – this is now called the Winter Training Plan.20151113_134104-001

Whilst I’ve been riding all sessions indoors on the Wattbike so far, the programme is written to allow you to swap a couple of rides a week to being outdoors and I’m hoping to do that soon.

Ticking off the first 10 workouts has Strava telling me I’ve done more riding in November than in any month since June, which again reflects on how rarely I’ve been on a bike.

I’ll keep riding and attempting to hit all four sessions a week as I’m genuinely curious to see what sort of shape I’m in at the end.

If you’d like to see the plan I’m riding to, you can find it here: http://wattbike.com/uk/the-winter-training-plan

If you want to follow my progress, you can find me on Strava here: https://www.strava.com/athletes/girodilento

Thanks for reading.

6 Bikes to see at the Cycle Show 2015

I had a walk around the Cycle Show and I reckon these are a pick of some of the stand out bikes on display to check out when you visit:

  • New Trek Madone

This is one of my favourite new releases for 2015 and this exact bike is on the Trek stand for you to take a closer look at:

It’s one of the bikes that I’ve most thought if I could afford it, I would buy this year.

  • New Canyon Ultimate CF SLX

New Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 Aero

New Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 Aero

Seen here in the currently top of the range Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 Aero build with Dura Ace Di2 and Zipp 303’s – it’s a stunning looking bike  and further enhanced by the new one piece bar and stem. Well worth checking out in person – especially as you can’t see them in store.

Canyon Ultimate CF SLX complete with Zipp 303s looking very good indeed
Canyon Ultimate CF SLX complete with Zipp 303s looking very good indeed
  • New Bianchi Specialissima
Bianchi Specialissima
Bianchi Specialissima

I have to confess that Italian bikes don’t normally turn my head but in the “flesh” this Bianchi looks fantastic. If you do get to the show – pick it up too – The black bike is incredibly light.

Amazingly light - pick it up and find out for yourself
Amazingly light – pick it up and find out for yourself
  • New Kinesis 4S Disc
Kinesis 4S Disc - incredibly versatile and affordable for many at £650 for the frameset
Kinesis 4S Disc – incredibly versatile and affordable for many at £650 for the frameset

I reckon this is a fantastic real world bike and hugely versatile. I owned the original TK3 version of this bike (before it was renamed the 4S and really enjoyed it). This new one can be built with disc or caliper brakes and mechanical or Di2 groupsets. Hugely versatile and room for full guards and up to 32mm tyres. I reckon it’ll sell like hotcakes. The new Kinesis GF_Ti Disc was also getting a lot of interest:

New Kinesis GF_Ti Disc
New Kinesis GF_Ti Disc
  • Mason cycles Definition and Resolution
On an easel like the work of art it is...
On an easel like the work of art it is…

Not strictly new but it’s the first time lots of people (myself included) have got to see former Kinesis designer Dom Mason’s striking new bikes.

Mason Definition complete bike
Mason Definition complete bike

They’re well worth checking out in person to at the very least see the enormous detail that’s been considered in the design and finishing of these frames – right down to the lovely brass head tube badges. Beautifully finished and carefully considered design – what’s not to like! Also on show is Josh Ibbett’s Transcontinental winning Mason and that’s worth a look as well.

Josh Ibbett's Transcontinental winning Mason bike
Josh Ibbett’s Transcontinental winning Mason bike
  • New Cannondale Slate
Cannondale fascinating new Slate - well worth checking out on the Fabric stand
Cannondale fascinating new Slate – well worth checking out on the Fabric stand

Cannondale’s striking and intriguing new Slate is on show on the Fabric stand and I reckon it’s well worth looking at. With it’s lefty fork, it’s an unusual look but I think it’s a fascinating piece of innovation that’ll sell well.

Obviously there is loads and loads more to see but I thought these few standouts might be of interest. Find out more, including ticket info for the Cycle Show here

Thanks for reading

A family holiday in the Netherlands – observations from a UK cycling advocate

Over the last few years, I’ve been campaigning where I live for Dutch quality cycling infrastructure to help reduce traffic congestion, which needs to suitable, safe and convenient for anyone aged 5 to 95. It’s not something I write about regularly on this blog but the posts I have written have been well received by visitors (you can find out what my thoughts have been here: http://girodilento.com/category/advocacy-2/)

However, for all the reading and the watching of YouTube videos, I’d not been to the Netherlands to see it for my own eyes. When we were having our discussion about where to go on the family summer camping holiday this year, the Netherlands came up as somewhere we’d not tried. Some online research and via the Cool Camping website we booked a week at Camping de Roos, near the small town of Ommen.

Before we left my kids asked me how many people live in the Netherlands and a Google search gave us 16 to 20 million people depending on who’s figures you believe. I thought that seemed a lot given it’s much smaller than the UK and there are 60 million people (ish) in the UK. Some more Googling showed us that the Netherlands has a 60% higher population density than the UK.

On the drive over it certainly felt like that as we were travelling to our camp-site towards the German border, not exactly where it all happens in the Netherlands. Even so, the motorway was very busy and there was a surprisingly high amount of traffic.

It was a very rainy afternoon when we arrived and there weren’t many bikes around – it looked like most people had taken their cars. There was no shortage of bike paths though – even though in the rain it looked like they weren’t getting much use.

The camping ground we were staying in was very large and there were a lot of Dutch families on the site (with only about 20-30% of the campers not Dutch) and people of all ages were riding bikes around the camping ground. Cars were banned apart from setting up or packing down, which made for a fantastic environment and allowed me as a parent to breathe out and let my kids explore as they wanted to. It also made for a quieter camp-site – another bonus.

The vast majority of the Dutch were on traditional & perhaps classic Dutch City bikes – upright, with hub gears, dynamo lights and built in locks, mudguards and racks. Plenty had big front crates for carrying shopping too or childseats (front and/or rear) for kids. The bikes were made by brands like Sparta, Cortina, Batavus and Gazelle but also brands like Giant, Scott and Merida. Surprisingly to me, the Dutch kids bikes were exactly the same just smaller and there were very few “sporty” bikes like you’d see in most other places in the world. In fact my kids Islabikes helped them stand out as foreigners and looked very under-specced alongside Dutch kids bikes.

The Camping de Roos hire bikes
The Camping de Roos hire bikes

The camp-site had its own branded Dutch bikes for hire for around £5 per day. My wife and I hired some so we could take our kids on a family cycling route of 20km from the camp site. Unfortunately that 20km excluded me getting us lost and adding another 8-9km to the route, I would say no more than 4km (of the 20km) was on road, all of the rest was on fully segregated cycle paths. For my wife who won’t cycle in the UK as she feels it’s too dangerous and my kids who I won’t let cycle in the UK because I know it’s too dangerous, the cycle paths were the revelation I thought they would be.

Another segregated path, this one alongside a busy rural driving road
Another segregated path, this one alongside a busy rural driving road

Kilometre after kilometre physically separated from cars. Out in the countryside they varied in their quality but being fully separated from cars meant that my whole family could relax and ride at the pace they were happy with completely without stress in our case this was 5-8 miles an hour.

Miles and miles of paths through the countryside completely segregated from traffic!
Miles and miles of paths through the countryside completely segregated from traffic!

The path quality was generally exceptional – even in this mostly rural area – it was easy for my 8 year old daughter to waft along chatting without a care in the world as we pretty glided through the pretty countryside.

Cycle path priortiy over rural side roads - including bollards to keep cars out of cycle path
Cycle path priortiy over rural side roads – including bollards to keep cars out of cycle path

Given how few segregated paths there are in the UK and how poor designed, constructed and maintained they are, it was mindboggling to see how many kilometres of paths there were for the relatively low local population levels.

Cycle path next to a busy road leading into Ommen (note paths on both sides of road)
Cycle path next to a busy road leading into Ommen (note paths on both sides of road)

We also did quite a lot of driving in the Netherlands and with a road network designed to be largely separate from the cycling network (and a good rail system), the Netherlands is the best country I’ve ever driven in. The roads for cars are generally well designed, the separated cycle paths that are equally attractive to use seem to take enough people out of their cars to keep things moving. We drove around 900km in our week on a couple of big trips and never had to stop once for traffic congestion. Not once.

Cycle path in central Eindhoven, note the cyclists on far left who are choosing to cycle on quieter paths than this one
Cycle path in central Eindhoven, note the cyclists on far left who are choosing to cycle on quieter paths than this one

We might have got lucky and we never drove into Amsterdam but we did drive into Eindhoven.

Pedestrianised town centre - bikes welcome
Pedestrianised town centre – bikes welcome

Another surprising thing my wife and I noticed was the sheer number of older people riding bikes (by older I’d say 65 years plus). We expected to see a lot of children out riding and there was. Probably 30-40% of the cyclists we saw during our week were aged between say 10 and 18 years old. They were all out riding with friends and often riding between towns for what I’m guessing is socialising (as it was the school holidays). But as I say the big surprise was older people – probably 50% of the cyclists we saw.

Amazing quality rural path with priority over driveways into houses
Amazing quality rural path with priority over driveways into houses

They looked vigorous, healthy and happy (and much stronger and more vital that elderly people in the UK) and seemed to mostly ride in groups 2 or 3 abreast while chatting. Many looked to be retired and this looked like a way they spent days out. Amazing for someone coming from the English speaking world.  Another amazing thing was the skill level of these older cyclists. At one point we were on a narrow dirt path in a forest travelling in single file. This was on the first ride, so my kids were a bit wobbly and nervous as they got their confidence. We were passed by a couple of groups of older cyclists coming the other way, who rode confidently at and past us doing 20kmh+, with one hand of the their handlebars without stopping chatting. It was very impressive! Anyone who says great infrastructure means less skilled cyclists hasn’t seen what I have (and maybe an idiot with an agenda).

An example of the typical Dutch bike shop customer
An example of the typical Dutch bike shop customer

As an aside, in the small town of Ommen there were three bike shops that I noticed. Two in the middle and one a little further out. The customers I saw in these during the week were 60+ years old women.

Charging point for electric bikes in the main pedestrianised shopping street
Charging point for electric bikes in the main shopping street

They only sold practical Dutch bikes and there were even plugs for electric bikes outside.

Another Ommen bike shop
Another Ommen bike shop

I have to say it made it appear like the Netherlands must be one of the best countries in the world to retire in as you don’t have to worry about keeping your drivers licence and it looked great for your social life – not to mention health.

Of course being the Netherlands, almost no one was wearing a helmet. There were a handful of British or German tourists who wore them (but I think many put them away after a few days). Sports cyclists wore them. I saw plenty of road cyclists on the paths I was riding on with my family, riding in lycra in groups with helmets. I only saw two cyclists in the week in hi-vis (and helmets). It was on the last day and they were travelling together, two gentlemen in their 60’s and we saw Dutch cyclists were laughing at them as they went past. A truly different & better world.

Outside the main supermarket - bikes have closest parking but drivers also well served
Outside the main supermarket – bikes have closest parking but drivers also well served

This wasn’t a study tour – just a family holiday but it was hard not to think that the Dutch system is deeply impressive and that by separating cyclists from cars in many places, they’ve made the system work better for everyone. It was a fantastic place to be a driver and Dutch drivers were just as badly behaved as UK ones – there was a lot of tailgating and speeding wherever we drove – but the road system was fantastic. The system works brilliantly for cycling with direct and largely car free routes right into the centre of even small towns. The cycle routes are more direct than the driving routes but as well as lots of cycle parking in the pedestrianised town centres, there was also plenty of free car parking that was never full. There is a lot of traffic though and a lot of driving – more than you’d think reading about cycling advocacy from outside the Netherlands. But it looked like 20-30% of trips wherever we went were by bike and this took a big chunk of cars off the road and kept the road network moving (not mentioning trains which we didn’t use).

Rural "filtered permeability" - this road closed to cars once past driveway on right (so resident has access)
Rural “filtered permeability” – this road closed to cars once past driveway on right (so resident has access)

We didn’t see one “fat” Dutch person either and it’s not just that, as it was summer and warm, a lot of people were in shorts and t-shirts (male and female) and the Dutch have fantastically toned legs thanks to the cycling infrastructure and looked in generally good shape. The Dutch are not small people and you couldn’t help but wonder with all their dairy farming that if they didn’t cycle on average 800+km each, each year how big an obesity problem they’d have (like the UK, NZ, Australia & the USA for example).

Underpass for bikes under busy rural road to remove the danger of crossing
Underpass for bikes under busy rural road to remove the danger of crossing

I couldn’t help but think that behind all this investment in cycling might just be pragmatic common sense. If you give people a real and attractive choice to make any journey on a bike in comfort in safety by building fantastic infrastructure, then they’ll use it. As a result, that will take cars off the road and reduce congestion, it gets people of all ages moving and keeps them healthy, it reduces pollution and competition for road space and parking. Building world class bike infrastructure costs a fraction of building roads for cars or train tracks (or bus lanes). All of which are extremely important in such a densely populated county as like anywhere else but perhaps even more, the Dutch simply don’t have the space for everyone to need to drive on every trip.

A Dutch "desire line" showing a route the locals choose to take where the path isn't perfect
A Dutch “desire line” showing a route the locals choose to take where the path isn’t perfect

Having seen it in practice, I’m less convinced that it’s an idealistic “cultural” decision but I think the Dutch are happy for the rest of the world to believe this if we want to. I think it’s a rational decision with no downside and every upside.

Not all roads were segregated but most have a 40mph speed limit (which drivers mostly ignore). Not generally high car traffic volumes either
Not all roads were segregated but most have a 40mph speed limit (which drivers mostly ignore). Not generally high car traffic volumes either

A few other points that were interesting to note.

  • The cycling infrastructure seemed to mean there were a lot less pedestrians as it was much easier just to take a bike as you can cover 4-6 times the distance with the same physical effort as walking whilst also more easily carrying things on your bike than whilst you walk
  • Family trips by bike are normal – to church, to the country side to the shops, to anywhere
  • Driving hasn’t suffered because of cycling investment – it’s made driving much better but because people really do have another hugely attractive alternative to having to take the car. Cycling infrastructure also takes cars off the road, which is better for those who do want to/need to drive.
  • Cycling reduces congestion and demand for scarce resources like urban space for parking cars
  • The Dutch cycling infrastructure approach makes it simple, safe, convenient, quick and attractive to cycle for all ages, from children, to families to the elderly.
  • There were no Sustrans style gates blocking any path anywhere. Yes, this meant there were occasional motorised scooters but that’s an enforcement issue not a design one and in fact becasuse the paths are generally wide it wasn’t an issue for cycling anyway (where we were).
  • Cycle paths had access across side roads and there was even rural filtered permeability (bollards) to close country roads to cars but keep them open for bikes.
  • Where there wasn’t segregated paths, cycling was much more unpleasant and more like the UK. Dutch drivers also tailgate, speed and pass cyclists too closely. However around 2/3 of the time you are on seperate paths.
  • The increased quality of life for Dutch citizens as a result of all of the above was tangible. The political elite in English speaking countries who have failed to build this at home, have not only sold everyone else short but they’ve failed themselves as many of them are now of the age that retired Dutch people are enjoying fantastic quality of life with cycling
  • Cycle paths were wide, very well surfaced and designed for all speeds and abilities. Next to main roads they really were like motorways for bikes – it was incredibly easy to travel distances by bike with little effort (assuming a basic fitness level.
  • In one week just on holiday, my wife and kids rode 70km, which is more than they’d probably ridden in the rest of their lives combined. This is what infrastructure does – make cycling easy, safe and attractive to build in. Their bikes are now gathering dust again in the UK.

I will now most definitely be booking a place on a study tour and visiting again – and maybe even emigrating! The Netherlands was absolutely a revelation of the best possible kind. Camping de Roos was fantastic too and well worth a visit.

Thanks for reading

Rolf Vigor Alpha aero wheels first look review

Sometime ago I was sent a pair of Rolf Vigor Alpha wheels to review. In this first ride review, I’ve already found them to be fast, comfortable, roll well and are generally vertically stiff. On the downside, the ride initially felt a touch lifeless and there seems to be some lateral give in higher speed cornering. On balance, much more positive than negative though.

DSC01737If you’re not familiar with Rolf wheels, the first you notice is the unusual spoking pattern with pairs of braced spokes – 7 pairs on the front wheel and 8 pairs on the rear. This means Rolf wheels have very low spoke counts – 14 and 16. For those of us used to more conventional spoke patterns, these are a striking set of wheels in that you can’t help but notice them and they’ve got plenty of comment when I’ve been out on them – some positive, some negative.

Rolf are quite unashamedly confident about the Vigor Alpha’s performance:

“The Vigor α is the fastest alloy wheel on the market without qualification – no matter which direction the wind is blowing.

With its top-shelf aerodynamics and its scant 1450g weight, you will see why the Vigor α has become our most popular model. Years of evolution and revolution have made the Vigor α  the go-to wheel for those looking for a race day wheel that can handle the demands of everyday riding. The Vigor α is also available in a disc brake compatible version.”

DSC01742That’s very bold stuff but temper that confidence with the fact that all of the fastest wheels now are deep section carbon wheels, so perhaps it’s a claim that’s harder to challenge.

To help deliver this speed, the Vigor Alpha’s feature 33mm deep alloy rims in the clincher version I’m testing, the handful of spokes are all the venerable Sapim CX-Rays and the hubs feature Enduro ceramic bearings and a titanium freehub. The rims are 22mm wide with a 17mm brake track, so these aren’t a wide rim but the shape of them is described as a delta profile. The Vigor Alphas ship with quick release skewers and a reinforced rim tape.

DSC01740Rolf’s paired spoke design aims to neutralize the left and right outward pulling forces, which should help the wheels stay in true and means less spokes are needed, which also reduces overall weight. The rear hub features an oversized non-drive-side flange and this is intended to help transfer drive side torque to the non-drive side spokes, increasing torque absorption across more spokes.

My first long ride on the Vigor Alphas was with a friend at sportive with a rolling parcours (don’t they all!). I’m riding them on my NeilPryde aero bike as it seemed the best candidate in my stable to test wheels that are meant to be FAST. The good news was they did feel fast, we both managed gold times. The Rolfs seemed to accelerate wheel as well as hold speed well. The hubs also performed well as I found the bike to roll very well with the Rolfs.

DSC01748Comfort was also commendable and the Rolf’s seemed to soak up the bumps well, although I did wonder if this is enhanced by the spoking pattern. The rims, whilst fast and comfortable felt a touch lifeless to me on this first long ride but first impressions are just that. I’ll put some more miles in and consider this aspect in more detail.

Another aspect I’d like to investigate further is a feeling of lateral sway I was sure I felt in some faster sweeping corners. It was a gentle feeling of a little give laterally rather than anything more noticeable but as I’m a light rider, I’d like to try and see if I get the feeling again. Even if it’s simply a characteristic of the low spoke count and lacing pattern, it wasn’t something I was particularly concerned about.

DSC01750Braking was very good as you’d expect with any well made aluminium clincher wheels. I’m running Kool Stop pads, which are my clear favourite on aluminium rims. The combination was faultless on the road.

The Rolf Vigor Prima Alpha’s are not a cheap wheelset with a retail price of £999 a pair. For this money you’d expect very high end performance. Early impressions are definitely positive – as long as you can cope with the unusual looks. I’ll keep riding them and report back.

DSC01745In the meantime, you can find out more here: http://www.rolfprima.com/vigor-alpha/

If you’re already convinced and want to order some, you can do that here and support this site at the same time: http://tidd.ly/30b2b845

If you need new brake pads, you can order the Kool Stops I’m running here: http://tidd.ly/9ff49a31

Thanks for reading.

 

Bontrager Men’s RXL Bib shorts review

Last year I tested the Bontrager Race Thermal bib shorts and I liked them so much, they became one of my favourite pieces of riding kit. As I said at the time, I still think these are the best shorts I’ve ridden for less than £100. In fairness, I’ve now worn them so much that the lycra on the chamois where it meets the saddle has “bubbled” a bit but I’m still happily riding them – they’ve worked hard.

After testing the Race Thermal’s I couldn’t help but wonder what the next model up the range would be like? So with that in mind I arranged for a pair of the £100 Bontrager RXL bib shorts to try.

Now after a few months of regularly riding in them, I think what you get is an excellent and higher performance bib shorts option over the Race Thermal. For those of us, who struggle to pay into three figures for a pair of bibshorts, I reckon you can buy these and be very happy.

DSC02152Compared to the more affordable Race Thermal bib shorts there are a number of upgrades for your extra money. These include a higher spec chamois pad, the Inform RXL, which Bontrager describe as multi-density, 3D seamless, with 4 way stretch and an anti-microbial top sheet. In practice, I’ve been very pleased with the pad, it’s a sensible thickness, giving a firm and comfortable ride. I’ve happily spent 3-4 hours out in these shorts without any discomfort. The colouring of the pad is a touch “unusual” with a red and white colour, but out on the bike – it works very well. If you can ride without even thinking about your shorts or comfort, as I did with these, then things are as they should be.

As with the Race Thermal bib shorts, Bontrager describe the fit as “fitted – streamlined for all round cycling performance” and I think this  is a good and fair description. They are fitted and streamlined for performance but they’re very comfortable on.

DSC02156The RXL do feel more like a “race” short than the thermal as they have more of a compression (higher performance) fit (including leg grippers) thanks the combination of Profila Power(compression) and Profila cool fabrics work well for warmer riding conditions and hold their position well when you’re riding. The seamless lightweight straps also work very well and add to the feeling of comfort. In fact you’ll probably not even notice them whilst riding. The Profila fabrics seem to wick well and also dry quickly after rain showers when you’re out riding.

The shorts are topped off with reflective elements for greater visibility. Additionally there are two colour choices available black (whichI have and has some white elements on the straps) and white, which is still largely black apart from bands at the base/gripper ends of the shorts and straps for greater contrast … or to match your other riding gear.

DSC02157Last but not least, Bontrager offer a 30 unconditional guarantee, so if you buy some and you don’t like them, you’ve got 30 days to return them for exchange or store credit. I think it’s unlikely you’ll want to do that – but it’s great to have the option.

DSC02147The RXL bib shorts are another winner from Bontrager, making it two out of two for my experiences with the company’s bib shorts in the last year. I happily recommend these if you’re in the market. They’re a higher performance short than the also excellent Race Thermal’s and are perfect for long or short rides and are excellent for days where the temperature is high enough that you don’t need a thermal element.

More information on them here: http://www.bontrager.com/model/11505

Thanks for reading

2016 Trek Madone 9 Series first look + video

At Trek UK’s recent Trek World event, I got to spend some time admiring the new Madone 9 series and wanted to share some photos and observations on the bike for those interested.

Stunning race shop Madone 9 series - looks even better in real life!
Stunning race shop Madone 9 series – looks even better in real life!

The new Madone, like the new Specialized Venge VIAS, represent for me, what’s likely to be a significant step up in aero bike performance. In a lot of bike companies bikes are often designed by a small number of people but Trek committed dozens of engineers to the process and have documented the process in a whitepaper that’s well worth downloading and reading at your leisure. A couple of things that stood out to me in particular in the whitepaper were how much aero difference there was between a standard road bike and the fastest aero bikes (page 14) and also how well the Cervelo S5 still performs in a wind tunnel for what’s a reasonably old design.

Non drive side view
Non drive side view

I’ve been an aero bike fan for some years and have been riding them since the end of 2010 (http://girodilento.com/first-look-neilpryde-alizenazare-di2-aero-test-platform/) and most of my fastest ever rides have been on aero bikes. I know that a lot of other people are still sceptical and that’s fair enough – each to their own. For me, when a company like Trek commits major engineering resources to an aero bike project like the Madone, I’m confident that it should be very quick.

I’ve always considered Trek a fairly humble company so the slogan they’ve launched the Madone with: “The ultimate race bike” suggests they’re very punchy about how this bike has turned out.

Cut through to show the IsoSpeed design
Cut through to show the IsoSpeed design

You’ve probably read coverage on the bike already but some of the key features on top of state of the art aerodynamics include the incorporation of Trek’s highly regard IsoSpeed technology to add more comfort (whilst seated) through the seatpost. In the Madone’s case it means a second seat tube inside the aero outer that allows some movement for comfort. The striking new bar and stem designed as part of the Madone “module” hides the cables and is a key part of the much higher level of integration of this new bike. Bontrager’s own aero brakes also add to the integration along with the “invisible” cable routing including the Di2 junction box and battery. You might have also seen the intriguing vector wings that open when the bike turns.

High levels of integration need a new order of documentation...
High levels of integration need a new order of documentation…
Only very confident home mechanics will self build?
Only very confident home mechanics will self build?

All this adds up to, what to me, looks like a fantastic bike. It’s lucky that I don’t have the cash lying around otherwise I might have already placed an order. I certainly hope to try one sometime.

Project One Madone 9 series with Ultegra mechanical build
Project One Madone 9 series with Ultegra mechanical build

You can order Madones as complete bikes in a range of specs or as a frameset. The frameset doesn’t’ include the integrated stem and bars but I understand these will be available to buy as well. You can design your own Madone under the Project One programme and the stunning blue bike in the photos is a Project One build.

You can find out more on the Madone here: http://www.trekbikes.com/uk/en/bikes/road/performance_race/madone/

You can read early reviews on the bike at:

Bicycling Magazine

Road.cc

Bikeradar

I’ve had a go at a simple video walkaround below shot in full HD so you can go full screen for a “better” look. Constructive feedback on the video for future efforts welcome in the comments as it’s something I’m keen to do more of if readers are interested.

 

If you’d like to read more about the other new Trek road bikes for 2016, please click to see this post: http://girodilento.com/trek-world-uk-2016-model-year/

Thanks for reading

Trek World UK 2016 Model Year

Recently I spent half a day at Trek UK’s Trek World to check out the changes coming to their road range for 2016, including the Bontrager lines.

For me personally, there was no doubt that the star of the day was the stunning new 9 series Madone. For many attendees it was the first time to see it in the flesh and it was most definitely worth the wait. I’ve put some thoughts on that particular bike together here (including a video walk around)

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Across the rest of the range, there were more updates rather than new models and some very welcome price cuts.

Officially Trek has dropped the concept of model years (which is a good move) but there were some new colours, spec changes, additional models and price cuts on a wide range bikes.

Starting at the entry level end of things, the excellent 1 series gets new colours but is reduced to just two models – the 1.1 &1.2 entry level models specced with Claris and Sora have also had their prices trimmed to £575 and £650. These great entry level bikes feature the same frame and fork as previously reviewed by me in the now obsolete 1.5 guise and have plenty of clearance for mudguards as well as rack mounts – making them a great all-rounder.

2016 Trek 1.2
2016 Trek 1.2

Stepping up a level and it’s great news as the already very well reviewed Emonda ALR aluminium bike has seen it’s range extended and the prices cut! There is a new Emonda ALR 4 with the latest Tiagra about to arrive priced at £900 for a complete bike.

2016 Emonda ALR 4 Tiagra
2016 Emonda ALR 4 Tiagra

If that doesn’t get you there are also 105 versions (Emonda ALR 5) for £1100 or the full Ultegra Emonda ALR 6 with a £300 price cut to £1400 complete. All of these look terrific options for a high quality aluminium frame offering performance and comfort without breaking the bank. Both the ALR 4 & 5 are also available in a striking matt Red called Viper red, which looks great. These bikes are a smart buy in my opinion.

The expanded Emonda ALR range
The expanded Emonda ALR range

However at around the same price, you might also be tempted to jump onto an Emonda S series in carbon. These have also had a price cut and now start at £1100 through to £1600, roughly a £200 premium to jump from Aluminium to entry level (for Trek) carbon. I asked Trek what the difference would be in riding and was told increased comfort for the carbon Emonda S but not necessarily any lighter overall. It’d be interesting to try both back to back to see.

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Emonda SL WSD – fantastic blue colour

The mid-level Emonda SL range has also had a price trim and see the popular Emonda SL6 with Ultegra reduced from £2,300 to £2,100. The Dura Ace Emonda SL 8 and SRAM Red Emonda SL 8 Red both also see their price cut down to £2,900 – the right side of £3k!

Dura Ace Emonda SL 8 for less than £3k
Dura Ace Emonda SL 8 for less than £3k

The top of the Emonda range, the SLR gets a couple of price increases and some stunning new paint schemes. The red smoke of the SLR 6 was pretty amazing and I absolutely loved the Matte Powder blue of the Emonda SLR 9 and it’s also available as a frameset if you don’t fancy the £8,000 full Dura Ace Di2 and Bontrager Aeolus 3 D3 TLR carbon clinchers.

The stunning 2016 Trek Emonda SLR 9
The stunning 2016 Trek Emonda SLR 9

Here’s a short walk around video I made of both the SLR 6 and 9 bikes:

If you’re after a lightweight climbing bike – the increased Emonda range should have you covered pretty much whatever your budget.

2016 Trek Emonda SLR 6
2016 Trek Emonda SLR 6

Moving onto the Domane’s – the big news is price cuts, new colours and more frameset options. Without going through the price changes line by line, a lot of model have a decent price cut. A couple that stood out to me was a £600 cut in the price of the Domane 6 series caliper frameset now £2000, which I think is very tempting.

Great spring classics backdrop - love that photo
Great spring classics backdrop – love that photo

You can now also get a 5 series Domane frameset for £1460 and a 4 series for £1100. So lots to tempt you to build your own. You’re also catered for if you want a disc frameset with the Domane 4 series disc frameset for £1,200 or a 6 Series Disc frameset for £2,200.

Di2 Domane 5 Series for £3k looks good
Di2 Domane 5 Series for £3k looks good

In complete bikes a full Dura Ace (or Ultegra Di2) 5 series Madone can be had for £3,000 in a snazzy new paint job. The stunning top of the range 6.9 caliper Madone now features a pair of £2,000 Aeolus 3 TLR carbon clinchers wheels in the £7200 price. Expensive but looks fantastic.

Only tweaks to the cyclocross range for 2016
Only tweaks to the cyclocross range for 2016

On the Cyclocross bikes the Crockett 5 disc has had an update to 11 speed 105 and a price cut to £1250 complete. There’s no Di2 Crockett now so the range topper is Ultegra mechanical disc with a SRAM Force canti Crockett 7 priced in between the two disc bikes. It’s almost exactly the same for the top of the range Boone bikes with no Di2 but two Shimano Disc builds and a SRAM Force choice in between. Both Cyclocross models are also available frameset only with or without discs and in a striking (which means I’m not sure I could own it) pink colourway.

2016 Domane 6.5 caliper felt very light as a complete bike
2016 Domane 6.5 caliper felt very light as a complete bike

If you’ve been considering any Trek bike, the 2016 range will likely only tempt you further to take the plunge. It’s a very compelling range with something for most people and with the backup of a global dealer network and a lifetime warranty.

 

Rose Bikes Bike Town Munich visit

On our way to the 2016 model year “press camp”, Rose took us to their own shop in Munich. Launched late in 2014 it’s designed to help customers who would like to see a Rose bike in the flesh before ordering it online, to get help ensuring they’ve chosen the right spec – or simply to have their bike delivered and set up in the shop or getting their bike serviced. In fact for any Rose bikes order, local customers can choose to collect it for free in the Munich store.

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A wide selection of Rose’s bike are on display at Bike Town Munich

Rose have a massive showroom at their Bocholt headquarters and the Munich Bike Town is relatively small in comparison. It features a selection of Rose’s most popular models each with a dedicated iPad enabling customers to choose every aspect of their build, either on their own or with help from the store’s staff. Once the build is chosen it gets transferred to a big screen for final review and ordering. The order then gets sent to the Bocholt HQ and the big is built as production schedules allow and then either shipped back to the store for collection or directly to the customers house.

DSC01961
The small workshop space that prepares customers new bikes prior to collection or undertakes servicing

The store manager told us that they had been surprised at how far customers are travelling to the store including Austria and Switzerland. As you’d expect, many of the visitors had arranged a trip to Munich around visiting the store and ensuring they were choosing the right size and spec before placing their order. This is particularly attractive for less experienced cyclists and I’m not surprised to hear that the store is doing well.

DSC01971
One of the biggest sellers at Bike Town Munich – the Rose X-Lite CRS
DSC01972
The other big seller at Bike Town Munich – the Rose Pro SL

The most popular sellers via the store are the entry level Pro SL, which is also extremely popular in the UK and the X-Lite CRS carbon road bike.

Bike Town Munich also features accessories and it was interesting to see a range of dynamo lights on display. Rose also feature their own clothing, saddles and shoes. They had a very cool 3D foot scanning system that measured your feet in all dimensions and then can choose the best fitting model of shoes (also digitally scanned into the system) from every model Rose stock (from all brands).

DSC01967
Learning about the 3D modelling of feet for choosing the best shoes for you. (Not my feet on screen!)

I think stores like this for direct sales brands are an excellent idea and it was nice to see how Rose have interpreted it for their own customers. You can find out more about the Munich Bike Town here: http://www.rosebikes.com/content/about-rose/the-rose-stores/rose-biketown-munich

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Bike journalists mid shop tour

Thanks for reading

Dynamo lights - not something you'd expect to see in your average UK bike shop!
Dynamo lights – not something you’d expect to see in your average UK bike shop!

 

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