DHB Flashlight Thermal Gilet

Review by Garga Chamberlain

DHB’s flashlight series is all about high-visibility in darkness and low-light conditions, so it’s aimed more at commuters and those training solo rather than the bunch-rider.

flashlight-gilletThere are lots of high-viz gilets around so why would you choose the flashlight? Well number one reason would be that it’s very weatherproof. The windslam membrane does what it says on the tin – no icy blast is going to penetrate this fabric, so the core of your body will always be warm when you’ve got this gilet on and zipped up. As with most windproof membranes, it also keeps a fair amount of rain off. Not 100% waterproof on a long ride in the rain but certainly adequate protection on a rainy commute of up to an hour in my experience. A brushed micro-fleece inner fabric adds insulation so it’s ideal for midwinter riding.

The high visibility comes from the majority of the garment being a vivid fluoro yellow, but there are generous areas of reflective scotchlight taping as well, which will shine out when hit by car headlights. These care on the rear of the gilet and around the front/neck and shoulders too.

Comfort-wise, the fit is surprisingly sleek for a bit of commuter kit, but with lots of stretch in the fabric you shouldn’t have trouble getting into it if you’re blessed with a fuller figure. There are nice details too, like a gripper around the hem to stop it riding up and a “zip garage” at the neck to stop the zipper from chafing.

In all my rides in the Flashlight Gilet so far, I’ve been warm enough in all weathers and confident that I’m totally visible (through a commute that varies from unlit cycle paths to a busy city centre). The construction seems good with robust zips and stitching so I expect to be riding to work in this for a good few years.

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Training on time trial bike

Early February is time to get the time trial bike down from the loft. I last rode the TT bike back in September, and that was a short hill climb in Buxton.  I have done a few perfunctory core strength exercises over the winter, e.g. the plank for one minute a couple of times per week, 20 sit ups since Jan 1st, but nothing like enough to get the body ready for a super, uncomfortable, aerodynamic position.

speed-concept-whole-bike

Despite the initial physical discomfort of riding a TT bike – on the positive side it is always a boost to get on the time trial bike, after a few months on a relatively slow winter training bike. Suddenly you feel as though you’re flying along. In fact in previous years, I’ve joked that getting on TT bike can feel like getting on a motorbike, as you race around town at 20mph +. But, alas, that innocent observation no longer seems quite so innocent given recent shenanigans in Belgium and depressing evidence of hidden motors in bicycles. It’s both a tragedy and farce, and not much comedy, save a little related news about participants and a stolen parrot, “A Norwegian Blue” I presume.

A popular bit of banter at local time trials was for a slow ride to joke to a fast rider – “Have you got a motor in there?!” This banter is all said in good fun, but now, it might not be so funny any-more. Especially, if bike was left unattended for a long time…

Anyway, the crazy world of cycling can’t change the essential practice of cycling which is to pedal a lot until it hurts. And if you’re riding a time trial bike for the first time in five months, you can guarantee it will start to hurt in quite a lot of places you had forgotten all about.

On Tuesday, I did quite a hard 75 mile ride to Stow on the Wold. I averaged 18.5 mph, which was a high average speed, given it was quite windy. I’m trying to do some sweet spot training at around 250-70 watts. I managed this for the first two hours grind into the wind. On the way back, I eased off the power, but went faster with nice tail wind behind. It’s great fun cycling with strong tailwind, but this persistent Westerly wind is getting a bit tiresome. It’s hard work going west.

Yesterday, I did a steady two hours on the time trial bike. I’m glad it was no longer than two hours, as I felt quite sore in different parts of back, and even legs. Although, it was a relatively easy ride on power, it felt quite tiring. Moral of the story, if you want to race on a time trial bike, you have to train a lot on the bike too. Ideally, I would have been riding on a time trial bike all winter. But, I don’t like getting the new bike spoilt by salty wet roads. Anyway from now on the TT bike, will be used most rides. The good news is that once you start training on the bike, the body adapts and initial discomfort becomes much more manageable. Last year it got to the situation where I found a TT bike more comfortable than a road bike.

Training on time trial bike

  • Different position works different muscles
  • Back needs to adapt to flatter aerodynamic position
  • Neck works harder looking forward whilst being lower down.
  • Doesn’t handle quite as easily as a road bike, so it is good to practise technical aspects. Though ideally you would train with disc and deep section wheels. But, I prefer to save expensive tubulars and wheels for races, so just train on ordinary clinchers.
  • Maybe it was different power meter, but it seemed much harder to get same power as on road bike.

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Two cycle paths which don’t particularly appeal

London Cycle path

London Cycle paths.

Spotted in London. Two cycle paths next to each other.

Take your choice. Share the pavement with pedestrians and dogs on leads, or share the road with taxis and lorries passing close by.

Neither seem particularly appealing from this photo.

I tend to avoid shared cycle paths on pavements because

  • I like to cycle relatively fast. On shared pavements, you feel out of place going above 10 mph.
  • You often get pedestrians in the middle of shared pavements, and they rarely have a sympathetic view of cyclists.
  • The path on the left looks a little dodgy in the wet navigating the change of surfaces. At least they haven’t built a lampost in the middle of the cycle path.
    Book Cover
  • Crap Cycle Lanes at Amazon.uk
  • The main reason I avoid shared cycle paths are all the junctions which go through the cycle path. I’d never trust a vehicle to respect the cycle path. So effectively you have to give way all the time. You can see what I mean on Botley Road.

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Marlow and West Wycombe

I only got a working power meter in 2014. Traditionally, the way I test fitness is to race up the A40 climb towards Stokenchurch. 1.5 miles at 5%. It is a rough guide to 5 minute power and form.  I have times from this climb going back to 2005. In pre-Strava days, (2011) I did a best of 4.45 from the vague-ish points I measured.

Last year, I did a best of 4.55 in April (390 watts / Quark) This was the first test of the year. I did 5.25 (384 watts / Stages) which is pretty good for late January. After those five minutes of excitement, it was a more sedate ride for the rest of the day. Still I tried to keep up a good pace until about 60 miles, when I knocked it off a little.

It was pretty cold – 37 degrees, but I saw a lot of cyclists going in the other direction, and overtook a few riders from Aylesbury CC out on a club ride. After Stokenchurch I headed towards Marlow, around a few roads, I haven’t been on before. One new road was pretty waterlogged, but I kept going as it wasn’t as bad as it looks in this picture.

muddy lane

Muddy lane Continue Reading →

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Lambourne and Vale of White Horse

From Oxford, I don’t often cycle south towards Wantage and Lambourne. The countryside is relatively flat and featureless. At this time of the year, it’s a long slog through empty fields, dotted with the odd tree. When you have the Chilterns and Cotswolds on your doorstep, you are spoilt for choice and hills. Also, cycling around north of Wantage, there are many stop and starts as you turn left, right, left e.t.c. When training, I like as much possible to have a quiet road, which is uninterrupted for as long as possible. I don’t like having to slow down at give way signs. Maybe its the psychology of being a timetriallist, where you always looking for an uninterrupted way to cycle 50 miles, with as fast turns as possible.

The most interesting thing about this part of the world, is the old English place names, Goosey, Charney Bassett, Uffington, Sparsholt Firs. There are even place names around here that J.R.R. Tolkien used in his Lord of the Rings, e.g. Buckland.

The one exception to the flat, featureless plans is the White Horse, which offers a steep climb (Dragon Hill Road), offering a great view over the Vale of White Horse plain.

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Bourton on the Water

Time flies by and a rough plan to cover 1,000 a miles per month over winter have fallen by the wayside, but it was good to get back in the saddle yesterday and be able to spend four and half hours on the bike. In the end, it was 75 miles and I enjoyed the ride. The last time I rode 75 miles must have been back in September 2015.  There was a bit of wind, a foretaste of the forecast storm set to hit the UK today and tomorrow. The weather forecast for the next few days looks very much like a few days of getting the rollers out.

bourton-on-waterBourton on the Water.

Astute readers may notice the autumn tinge to the trees. It is an old photo, because it was a bit grey and dull yesterday, and mid-winter, you always feel a little time pressure before it starts to get dark. Still Bourton on the Water has often been voted the prettiest village in England, and with good reason – even in winter, you can see why. The village idyll is slightly spoiled by large packs of tourists taking photos e.t.c. but it makes quite a good destination for an Oxford cyclist. After a winding 35 miles to get there, I did a u-turn in Bourton – over the river and back. There is a pretty good climb on the way out of Bourton on the Water – towards Little Rissington. It is one of those climbs, where you can go pretty quick because it’s not too steep, there are a few corners to accelerate out of in the village. But, in the middle of winter, you settle for getting up in any shape at all. Traffic lights half way up, gave an excuse for a breather. Continue Reading →

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DHB Aeron Roubaix Long Sleeve Jersey – Review

Review by Garga Chamberlain
With this jersey priced at £60 I was expecting something functional but basic – in fact it’s a really versatile and well-designed piece of kit that I am already wearing day in and day out.

dhb-aeron-roubaix

The thermal, moisture-wicking fabric is tightly woven with a brushed texture on the inside for warmth on the front, sides and front-of-sleeves but the underarm panels and middle of the back are a lighter and more porous mesh that lets your body breathe without allowing the chill to penetrate where it shouldn’t. I’ve found this top just right in cool to cold conditions, but the stretchy fit allows you to slip a thermal or windproof baselayer underneath for days when the temperature is right down around freezing point.
The stretchy fabric and sleek cut are what makes this jersey so comfortable to ride in – close fitting and flexible with long sleeves that leave no chance of a gap between cuff and glove, the Aeron also has an excellent gripper around the tail of the jersey to prevent it riding up when you lean down on to your drop bars or tri bars – it’s equally good whether you’re in that aero position or sitting up to recover after a
hard effort.

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First interval session of the year

With the mercury rising to a heady 38 F 4 C, I went out for the first ‘interval’ session of the year. The curious thing is that 4 degrees felt relatively warm, compared to the previous days of 2 degrees. Usually 4 degrees would be unbearably cold, but its all about expectations. Low expectations is the secret.

chilterns

I went to Watlington, and was going to do some of the hills heading into Chilterns. However, there seemed to be a headwind, so I went over the top and tried to find some climbs from the south direction with the wind behind. If you’re going to do the first intervals of the year, you want to make it as easy as possible.

The first interval was eight minutes into the wind up Howe Hill. It was OK, but on the lower slopes into the wind, I was struggling to keep the power ticking over 300 watts, which is the kind of a power I’m supposed to be able to maintain for close to two hours.

Features of the first interval session of the year.

  • You spend most of the session trying to work out how much top end speed you’ve managed to lose over the past three months
  • It can be an effort to keep your power above your FTP (300 watts) unless the hill gets really steep.
  • You remember how much more relaxing it is to ride without a power meter for the past three months.
  • Half way through, you start to think maybe it’s too early in the year for intervals.
  • Tentative plans to race in February are put back to March.
  • Despite a degree of complaining, you also enjoy it. Rather than complaining about the weather, it makes a nice change to be complaining about the bodies response to high efforts.
  • Rather than do five minute efforts, I choose eight minutes effort. There’s no particular logic to this, except the hills I chose took me eight minutes to cycle up. The fourth hill took five minutes, which was fine because the interval was already petering out into an effort better described as “a little bit more effort than usual”
  • Now a week to recover from them.

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Warmest socks – heat holders

Cycling at this time of the year is dominated by how to keep warm, especially fingers and toes. The warmest socks I’ve found are these heat holders – a thick pair of tubular type socks.

  • They have a thick layer of fibres to keep wthe armth in.
  • The length of sock means heat rises up the foot and ankle, keeping whole foot area warm.
  • There is no elastic to constrict the blood supply.

They are pretty chunky and in terms of aerodynamics, pretty useless, but for keeping feet warm, they are as good as they get.
heat-holders

Left sock (outside of sock) Right sock (inside turned inside out)

Overall Review of Heat Holders

They are the warmest sock I’ve found.

Don’t worry about sizing they are very elastic.

If you wear them around the house, they don’t last forever, and bits of fibre do start to come off. I have worn holes in the heels of some socks I’ve had for two years. But, I bought a new pair recently because they are still excellent value. If you want to keep feet warm, these are very good. As the weather warms up, they can become too hot, but they don’t get too sweaty, there is room to breath too.

As mentioned in recent post on  hotpads, I get very cold feet, so I use an inner pair of socks, a pair of hotpads and then these heatholders on top. Cold feet will never be an excuse to stop cycling.

Cycling in the 2 degrees

Yesterday, the mercury was edging just above freezing. It was just about tolerable to cycle for a couple of hours. I had several thermal layers, 3 pairs of gloves and the hot pad / heat holder combination on the feet. The feet were amongst the warmest part of the body. Continue Reading →

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Vic Clark

Vic Clark, three times former national hill climb champion (1946 to 1948) sadly passed away recently. He was aged 96.

Paul Jones interviewed Vic Clark for “A Corinthian Endeavour“, in which Vic has a starring role in the first chapter.

I’d like to post this interview with Vic because it is a great story and evocative of a very different post-war era where you could commute from Coventry to Kendal and be as quick as a van.

I particularly like the story at the end. The time when Vic was cycling a tandem on his own. He stopped to pick up a soldier trying to hitch-hike home. Vic offered him a lift but said ‘you’ll have to work for it!’ The solider accepted and cycled on the back.
Vic Clark

Vic Clark was the third person to win the national hill climb championship in 1946. Well into his nineties, he would still ride his bike on indoor rollers. He continued to take an interest in the hill climb championship in the evening of his life.

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