Lezyne L-Caddy Saddle bag – review

I bought a Lezyne saddle bag recently to replace an Altura Saddle bag that had worn away.

Firstly, it’s a relief to be reviewing a proper cycling product. i.e. reasonably priced, of interest to most cycle users and bought for it utility  and not because it weighs less than 50 grams. When buying this, no weighing scales involved – just a mater of whether it does the job or not. lezyne-saddle-bag

Simple design, fairly sturdy. Looks good on the bike.

There is the main compartment and a second layer underneath. In this lower layer, I put one inner tube and a multi-tool. It would be a good place to carry a mobile phone as it would get quite a bit of protection from rain and it would fit the thin compartment quite well.

One thing with a saddle bag is that I’ve often had multi-tools get wet and rust. This is because the saddle bag can pick up spray on long rides. I’ve started putting multi-tools in plastic bags to help protect against this. Early testing suggests that the neoprene covering on the back and bottom helps to keep spray out. I haven’t been on long 4 hour wet rides yet. But, given the qualities of neoprene I’m expecting an improvement.


Inside there are three pockets. The $ pocket takes up a bit of space, but, they are useful for keeping things a bit tidier and easier to find. Also, I once punctured both spare inner tubes with a sharp multi-tool, leaving me stranded, so it is good to keep tyre levers and inner tubes separate.

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AX lightness saddle

In the quest for marginal gains on the hill climb bike, AX lightness products are always reassuringly expensive. It is a bit of specialist market, and unless you have a good reason to save 20-30grams, you might find a better way to spend your money on bicycle equipment ( or even, dare I suggest, spending money on things not bicycle related…)

The AX Lightness sprint saddle was the lightest saddle I could find. It also looks great. I’ve been riding the sprint version for the past couple of weeks. Mostly hill climb training, but also some longer endurance riding (3 hours plus).

AX Lightness – Sprint Saddle


AX lightness saddle on Trek Emonda hill climb bike


another view of the AX lightness. I know you don’t buy a saddle for aesthetics, but it does look good. If you want a bit of bling – this is as good as it gets in the saddle department.

The Sprint Saddle has a very low weight at 69 grams. I haven’t seen a lighter saddle. The Tune Concorde comes close at 73 grams, but it is more awkward to fit. A few years ago, I had to send mine back because I couldn’t attach it to my bike.

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2014 season

The 2014 season didn’t make the most auspicious start. Getting knocked off the bike at 30mph by a kamikaze Portuguese dog. It was a shame because cycling in the Algarve was fantastic apart from the crazy dogs. It gave a taste for long European climbs, something I’d like to do more of sometime.

From early March until late October, I’ve been racing fairly consistently, though the change from doing 100 mile time trials to hill climbs is as good as rest in a way.

Early season classics

Stouts Hill - Rich Lewton

Stouts Hill – Photo: Rich Lewton

For me the highlight of the TT season are the early season hilly classics. I did the Circuit of Ingleborough for the first time and other hilly races like Circuit of the Dales. A highlight of season was doing the Bristol South Megahilly for the first time. This was a dream course for a hill climber – five long climbs of around 10%. Over 1,100m of climbing in less than 28 miles. Continue Reading →

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Trek Emonda – Review

I received a loan of a Trek Emonda SLR 9 for the last week of the hill climb season, where I finished 4th in national hill climb on Pea Royd Lane.
For the national championship I customised the Trek Emonda to get the weight down from 6.4kg to 5.1kg. Details of the hill climb bike are below. This is a general review of the Trek Emonda.
The Emonda is designed for those most interested in climbing. The frame is based on the OCLV series carbon used in the Madone series – which has been Trek’s flagship model for quite a few year. For the Emonda, Trek have sought to reduce weight wherever possible, whilst retaining the strength and rigidity of the frame.
One possible drawback of the Trek range is that there are now basically three different models The Emonda for low weight, the Madone for aerodynamics and the Domane for comfort (i.e Sportives). It may leave you thinking – well, I’d actually like one which combines all three benefits. Unless you’re sponsored by a pro UCI team, you can’t have the luxury of more than one bike. But, the differences between the three bikes are not huge. It’s not as if the Madone is heavy or the Emonda has poor aerodynamics. But, it is another choice you’ll have to make. For many road riders, choosing between a Madone and Emonda will be a hard choice – especially if you ride in UCI events and you’re waiting to see if the UCI reduce the 6.7kg weight limit. The Emonda will really come into it’s own if the UCI reduce the low weight limit below 6.0kg. Until then you’re probably better off with a Madone, where better aerodynamics will make a bigger difference to improvement and speed.
Fortunately, for myself, it is a no brainer to pick the Emonda as my new bike. I’m a hill climb specialist and self-confessed weight-weenie. It’s all about knocking off grams. If you want the lightest bike, the Emonda OCLV 700 series frame is the ideal starting point. It has the lowest weight of any production bike. (690grams for 56cm model)
Emonda Range

The top of the range Emonda is the SLR 10. This is a real show-off bike, with ridiculously light and expensive components (like a Tune saddle, Tune wheelset, SRAM RED 22 gruppo and Bontrager Speed Stop brakes. It means that the complete bike, comes in at a fantastically ridiculous weight of 4.6kg. It is also absurdly expensive at £11,000. But, is undoubtedly a smart bit of marketing by Trek- weight is very easy to measure variable – much easier than aerodynamics and strength. The eye catching low weight is excellent to mention in marketing, giving a glean to the whole Emonda range.
However, if you don’t fancy spending £11,000 on the new Emonda SLR 10. There are 17 other models to choose from. Starting at the Emonda S4 for £1,200 going up in increments of quality, lightness and price. You pay your money and you get a lighter bike.

For example the Emonda SLR 6 is £4,300 which uses the same 700 series frame as the SLR 10, but has cheaper components such as Shimano Ultegra groupset. The whole bike still comes in at below the UCI limit of 6.6kg, with potential to reduce weight later. This is certainly a good starting point for a more affordable light weight bike.

Project One

Another advantage of the Emonda is that you can pick and choose combinations through Project One – if you already have light wheels you can save money there, and keep the cost down.

What’s it like to ride?

Firstly, the lightness is noticeable. On the smooth surface of Pea Royd Lane, it had fantastic acceleration.I’m used to riding the Madone (2010 model) which is no heavyweight, but the Emonda was a noticeable improvement. For me, that is a big plus.

The lower weight has not been sacrificed for any loss of strength and rigidity. Using a simple stress test, it’s hard to notice any lateral movement. Of course, rigidity is harder to measure than weight. But so far, I can Trek’s word for it that it is as strong.

Value for money

Bikes seem to be be getting more expensive as manufacturers find better ways to get us to part with cash. Still the Trek Emonda is reasonably priced compared to similar models.

Is it the right bike for you?

Certainly there is a great attraction in getting a super-light bike, it definitely makes it easier in the hills. But, bear in mind 0.5kg / 1kg weight saving is not that much, if you’re carrying around 20kg of surplus insulation. Also, bear in mind that aerodynamics can make a bigger difference to your speed. When doing flattish time trials – you learn it’s all about aerodynamics, weight doesn’t really come into it. Aerodynamics is harder to measure than a simple 4.6kg weight value, but in a solo attack, the Madone will be a better choice.

In my case, the Emonda is top of my wish list. It ticks all the boxes in what I need from a bike. I definitely want to get one, the problem is that it’s already been an expensive year with a new TT bike. After the national hill climb, my comment was that the Emonda is irritatingly good. Alas, there’s always a new bike to buy!

Trek Emonda Hill climb bike


Hill climb bike in action

Firstly, thanks to Beeline bikes Oxford for helping me get loan of bike and setting it up.

I have been riding a Trek Madone (at 2013 hill climb champs, it weighed about 6.0kg). But, with the new Emonda coming out this summer, I wanted to try and get the new specialist climbing bike for the upcoming national championship.

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Is the season over yet?

I started racing back in early March. Banbury Star hard-riders if I remember correctly. Since March it’s been a pretty steady stream of races from 10 mile TT, to 100 miles and finally the icing on the cake – the hill climb season.


Chinnor hill in autumn

The day after the national championship would be a good chance to take a well earned rest. But when it’s 16 degrees and sunny in Autumn, you feel like taking your chance and riding the bike – there won’t be too many days like this, before the clocks go back.

Without really thinking, I ended up the Chilterns, the well known routes of intense hill efforts for the past 8 weeks. I couldn’t resist having a little dig on Kop hill. Old habits die hard. When I see a hill going up, I almost go on autopilot and start a good effort.

But, at the same time, the heart is not in it. Why kill yourself when there’s nothing to be gained? It was an interesting experience to do a half-hearted interval. You do really have to be super-motivated to do good quality intervals – there’s no point dilly dallying in a half way house. With the last interval of the year fading into indifference, it was time to switch mode and remember what it’s like to ride the bike for fun.

It’s great to have the freedom of cycling for three hours without worrying about form, freshness and an upcoming race. The past two months seem to have been either a slow steady recovery ride (averaging a painfully slow 14mph) or accelerating up hills with close to maximum intensity. There hasn’t been very much in between. The last time I rode at threshold or ‘sweatspot’ was a long time ago. I’m not complaining, I love the hill climb season more than anything. But even the most ardent hill climber knows you can have too much of a good thing…

Everything has it’s season and the next three months will be about getting the miles in – as long as the weather isn’t too awful and I haven’t got something better to do. Winter is a good time to prioritise things other than cycling (like earning some money to pay for all the bikes you bought last year, and need to buy this year). I will be making a few foreign trips, with or without the bike.

In fact, this week is a stark reminder of how much discipline I put into training in the past few weeks.


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National hill climb championship 2014

The 2014 national hill climb championships was held on the closed roads of Pea Royd Lane. – ably promoted by Stocksbridge CC. Like 2009, there was a strong tailwind, and this year there was also a very nice smooth, recently resurfaced, road surface. As the organiser, Stewart Smith said – perhaps the only road in the Sheffield area to be resurfaced – so we were treated very well. A bit of Tour de France fever still lingered over into this late October event. I think the crowd was quite a bit more than 2009. – There was certainly a great wall of noise up the last half of the climb.

Photo Dan Monaghan

Photo Dan Monaghan. The last section of Pea Royd Lane.


I finished in 4th place, in 3.32. Dan Evans (Team Elite) was a deserved winner in a storming time of 3.24, Matt Clinton (Mike Vaughan Cycles) once again raised his game for the national to take second in 3.26, and Adam Kenway (Team Zenith/Buzz Cycles) got onto the podium with a 3.28. In the women’s event, Markya Sennema (Kingston Wheelers CC) (4.35) retained her title (also giving great hope and inspiration to those of us approaching the better side of 40). 2nd was Lou Collins (Beeston RC) (4.42.1)  and third, former champion Lyn Hamel (Trainsharp RT) (4.42.6)

Photo Russell Ellis - Markya Senema

Photo Russell Ellis – Markya Senema

Also pretty impressive ride from hill climb stalwart Chris Myhill Peak RC – 3:51.1 – 18th place at 48 . Pete Tadros was top vet in 3.49. 17 Harry Luxton RuTrainingToday time of 03:40.6 – 9th place overall and 1st junior was also another impressive ride.

2014 hill climb season

It has been a great standard of hill climbs this year. Even setting a course record hasn’t always been enough to get a first place. Like Mow Cop, where M.Clinton held a course record for 1.8 minutes, and Horseshoe pass where I went faster than a CR (previously held by Dangerfield, Boardman and Dobbin) only to find Dan Evans had gone 10 seconds quicker in 8.52. It’s also great to see entries for hill climbs on the rise. The organiser received nearly 280 applications for 180 places – making a difficult start sheet to devise. When did hill climbs become so popular?

As reigning national champion, it’s been a great year and I’ve enjoyed riding the national jersey at events up and down the country. Since May, I’ve done 16 hill climbs, which is quite a lot! I’ve won 13 opens and set 7 course records – not a bad record. But, it’s the national hill climb championship which is the big draw. Once you’ve won it once, you would like very much to get back on top.

2014 Race

Last night I had a vivid dream that I finished 4th in the national hill climb championship. Although I tried my best to forget, what proved to be an irritatingly prescient dream, I didn’t have the same  hope as last year – when I was virtually unbeaten in the lead up to the championship on the Stang.


Note socks – only 29 grams, thanks to Sam Clark (Buxton CC) Photo: Vilas Silverton

I got there early to get a good parking spot and was ably assisted by Sri Chinmoy CT team mate Vilas Silverton in getting ready and warming up. A couple of friends also came up all the way from London to see what hill climbs are all about. They enjoyed it so much they’ve promised to enter a hill climb next year. I shall hold them to their word…



Before the race, I also caught up with old OUCC teammate – and five times national champion Jim Henderson – my family also had come out to watch.

I had a good warm-up and felt much better after riding the bike – (much better than waiting around waiting for event to start). I felt good on the start line and made a steady start and  tried to lift the pace all the way up. It was much faster than in training and it all seemed to go in a blur. I don’t remember thinking about anything, I was just really in the flow.

Photo: Russell Ellis

Photo: Russell Ellis (Flickr)

There was a lot of noise and enthusiastic encouragement. It all seemed to be over pretty quick. The tailwind finish was different to when I’d done it in training.


Sitting at the top of Pea Royd Lane. Photo Dan Monaghan.

I sat in the grass at the top for a bit as people took some photos as I lay in the grass. I felt strangely relieved and happy to have finished my 10th national hill climb and another 4th place. Next year is Jackson Bridge and I’ll be looking forward to that. But, I might just have a piece of cake before I go out and get the winter miles in.

Also, thanks a lot to Gordon Wright who has kindly been giving me some expert coaching over the past two months. I don’t think I could have come into the championship any better prepared than I was.

The Trek Emonda was irritatingly good. I say irritatingly good because I really want to get one now, but am still paying off the loan for the last bike…


External links


Note: this is just a personal blog, not a comprehensive report. I will try upload more photos later.

Video of 2014 event



First rider off.


Rider One – 1 down, 179 to go. I took a photo of first rider, and then went off to get ready. I wasn’t really in photography mode.


Two National champions. Jim Henderson finished 3rd in 2009 – bringing his hill climb career to an end after five national titles. (He still managed the Rake in 2.33 in 2014 – not a bad time for retirement!)


Who says hill climbs need to be a serious affair?



Showing off my 100 Climbs cap



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Cheddar Gorge – cycling

Cheddar Gorge is an interesting climb through the beautiful limestone gorge of Cheddar, Somerset. Climbing gently out of the village of Cheddar, the road starts to snake upwards at a gradient of up to 16% round some twisty corners. It is a tough start to the climb, but the remaining couple of km are a much gentler gradient, allowing you the opportunity to take it at your own pace as you climb away from the gorge and onto to the top of the moor.

Cheddar Gorge understandably features in many local cyclo-sportives and is a popular destination for many cyclists. It is also popular with tourists and rock climbers. The road can be busy – especially as you leave the village of Cheddar – so be prepared to be patient until you clear the car parks on the lower slopes of the climb.

It also makes a great twisting descent. But, be careful not to get carried away as near the bottom, you can really pick up speed on the sharp corners.


Cheddar Gorge full hill

  • Distance 2.6 miles
  • Average gradient: 4-5%
  • Maximum gradient: 16%
  • Height gain. 150m
  • 100 climbs: #1
  • Cheddar Gorge, Strava


Cheddar Gorge is nestled within the Mendips in Somerset. There are plenty of other good hills and roads around here. It is just a few miles from Burrington Combe – another popular gorge and a similar climb.


The road is steepest at the bottom after leaving the car parks

I rode Cheddar Gorge in October, 2014 after racing Burrington Combe hill climb. There was a helpful S.E. tailwind making the climb relatively enjoyable. It would be a different proposition with an easterly climb. The wind seems to get funnelled down the gorge – making it strong in either direction.

2007 National Hill Climb Championship

In 2007, the national hill climb championship was organised on Cheddar Gorge. Somehow they managed to get the road closed and it made a great venue for the hill climb. A steep section and a long drag – a bit for everyone. James Dobbin won his second national hill climb championship in a time of 6-51.5. 2nd place was David Clarke (Blue Sky Cycles) Matt Clinton 7.08, (Mike Vaughan Cycles) was third. I was 6 seconds off the podium with 7.14

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Burrington Combe hill climb

Sunday was the penultimate hill climb and race of 2014. Organised by Bristol South CC, it was a 2 mile hill climb up Burrington Combe.

Burrington Combe was one of the first open hill climbs I ever did – way back in 2004, I did a time of 7.12 in my first season – 2nd to Danny Axford; and perhaps was something that encouraged me to take hill climbs a bit more keenly.

Since 2004, I’ve been back several times, and always enjoy the climb. It’s a pretty good view and nice part of the country. In recent years, there’s been an explosion of interest, with the event attracting nearly a full field. Credit to Bristol South and the other local clubs for encouraging people to take part. The WTTA have put on a good season long hill climb competition, which seems to encourage more entries.

Burrington Combe HC course

  • Length 2.2 miles
  • Average gradient: 6%
  • Max gradient: 10%
  • Height Gain 183m

My Race


Yesterday, I took delivery of a new bike – a Trek Emonda on loan for the week. A big thanks to Beeline Bicycles for helping to get the bike and get it ready. When it came in the shop, it weighed 6.4kg. But, within 15 minutes, my hill climb weight weenies talent came to the fore and we had it down to 5.5kg, with perhaps a little more to come. It’s sad to look at a bike and immediately work out how you can take 1kg off – but that’s being a hill climber for you. (weight loss on hill climb bike)

It meant no riding with a power meter, but at this stage of the season, it’s not so critical. I’ll do a full review of the bike later, but it rides well, I haven’t noticed a big different to my current Madone yet.


Burrington Combe

Another balmy October day meant warming up in 16 degrees plus, there was also quite a strong wind – which was the subject of a surprisingly large amount of conversation – all the riders seemed to struggle to work out where the wind was coming from. The forecast suggested crosswind. Some claimed a tailwind, others a headwind. It was just one of those days.


I was confident to ride without power meter. I’ve been doing this climb for several years without one. It’s rather nice to ride on feel and not worry about numbers in a way. Anyway I got off to a steady start, but still caught up with my two minute men.

The Burrington Roar


You don’t expect a big crowd on a long 2 mile climb, but just over half way, you go past a car park and there were lots of spectators and riders giving a huge cheer to their fellow riders. It was a lot of noise, and much appreciated – it definitely helped add to the atmosphere. After this section, there is a sharper incline, where I struggled a little to keep it in the big ring. I lost my nice fluid rhythm, but I didn’t want to go down into the inner ring. After the cattlegrid it is just a minute or so to the finish, so you can dig as deep as you can and hope you hold onto the finish. I caught my third minute man just before the finish, and stopped the clock in 6.57 – not a course record, but the 2nd fastest ride and nice to get under the 7 minute barrier.

Ben Davis (BH Solidor) took second, with Joe Norledge (Procycling Magazine) third. Julie Marazzi (Somer Valley CC) was the quickest woman up the climb.

Going back down the hill I continued to try and work out whether it was a fast day or not. I think the consensus was that it was a little helpful, but not a block tailwind.

I stopped in the Burrington Combe cafe and talked to quite a few of the locals. Some will be going up to Pea Royd Lane next week, others are wisely calling it the end to their season. A pretty good way to go out either way. Continue Reading →

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Rake hill climb


Jim Henderson on the rake

The Rake hill climb is a short and steep ‘classic’ British hill climb through the Lancashire town of Ramsbottom. It has featured in the Tour of Britain and has been the location for three national championships (1999, 2005, 2012) A wide variety of riders have attempted to ride the rake including Chris Boardman, Malcolm Elliott, Graeme Obree, Chris Newton and Michael Hutchinson.


Photo PJ. 2012 National championship

The hill climb course is only 875 meters long. But, though short, it makes up for it in steepness – reaching a maximum gradient of 22%. (1 in 4.8)

  • Length – 0.9 km
  • Average gradient: 12%
  • Max gradient: 23%
  • Height gain: 98 m

In 100 hills, the Rake is no. 72

I’ve ridden the Rake twice in two national championships – 2005 (11th) and 2012 (12th).


CTT Course Description:

START at lamp post No. 3 outside the public library in Carr Street, Ramsbottom. Proceed via Carr Street, Tanners Street, Rawson’s Rake and The Rake to FINISH at the lamp post opposite Exeter Cottage, Chapel Lane, Holcombe Brook approximately 120 yards before the junction with Helmshore Road.

  • Length 875 metres (956 yards)
  • Height gain 98 metres (321 feet)
  • Average gradient 11%
  • Max gradient 22%


The climb begins with a gradient of around 10% for the first 300 metres, then there is a false flat for 100 metres until about half way where you turn right onto Rawsons rake and the climb starts to get really steep increasing to 20% with some sections around 22 – 23%. Right at the end there is a short 40 metres of almost flat. The road surface was not great. (though it has been resurfaced in 2012. Very smooth now).

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Mow Cop hill climb 2014

Sunday was the Lyme Racing Club hill climb up Mow Cop. Mow Cop makes a spectacular hill climb as there is a real sting in the tail with a 25% uphill finish. It makes it quite a challenging mental as well as physical test. After coming out of the lower section, you can see the hill looming up above. Deciding how much to leave for the final section is a difficult decision. I fancied going down a gear just before the start of the steep section, but like last year, I was already in the lowest gear. Probably just as well, as the only thing to do is grin and bear it and hope you keep the momentum up that 23% slope. In hill climbs it’s always a difficult balancing act to get the right pacing, but Mow Cop presents a particular challenge.


Great view looking down. You get a different kind of experience cycling up it.


Mow Cop Hill climb stats J9/14

  • Distance 0.9 miles
  • Average Gradient: 11.7%
  • Maximum gradient: 23%
  • Elevation gain: 170 metres (560 feet)

Last year, there was a persistent drizzle. This year, the weather was much better, though the hill was still wet, providing some minor wheel slip on the steepest sections. On the hill, especially at the top, there were quite a few spectators cheering the riders on. It was good to have a crowd to cheer you on.

In the men, Joe Clarke   (Team Zenith www.buzzcycles.co.uk), who is having an excellent season, finished in 3rd with 4.28. Next came M.Clinton (MikeVaughan.co.uk) who shaved o.1 seconds off the old course record from 2013 with a 4.22. The course record lasted just one minute 58 seconds; I managed to squeeze in front  with a 4.20, to make another close finish. Like so often, another hill climb decided by a couple of seconds. In the ladies, Nicola Soden (GBcycles.co.uk) was first and Helen Eborall (Born to Bike – Bridgtown Cycles) second.

My race

My memories from last year are quite vague. It’s interesting how you can quickly forget about what it was like to ride a hill climb. When you’re racing, you’re on the limit, but when you reflect afterwards you always think about how you could have gone faster. In particular I had the idea next time not to be intimidated by the steep section but go harder all the way into the last section. This is all wonderful in theory, a bit different in practise.

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