Archive | review

Chris Froome – The Climb Review

Review of Chris Froome – The Climb.

chris-froome-climbLast week I received a copy of Chris Froome – The Climb for my birthday, and have spent the past two weeks reading it. I have enjoyed the book, and have read at quite a quick pace. It is an unusual and quite intriguing cycling story. Gangly Kenyan born Brit learns to ride mountain bike with local Kenyan cyclists and despite multiple crashes, having to impersonate officials and coping with tropical diseases, manages to work his way into the European pro cycling scene.

Even if it stopped there, it would be quite an interesting story – a triumph of will and determination over adversity and an unlikely background for a pro cyclist. Of course, it doesn’t stop at just getting into a pro team, Froome has gone on to win the Tour de France twice, Olympic bronze and has come very close in the Vuelta twice. If all that wasn’t enough drama for a wannabe cyclist, Froome was fated to be the first winner of the Tour de France, since the very public expose of the greatest doping scandals in cycling (if not sport).

There was a time when cyclists were heroes, and any awkward questions were swept under the carpet. But, post-Lance – and anyone who has the temerity to win a race, is subject to the latent suspicion and, at times, hostility of those who are fed up with the unending doping scandals that have blighted the sport in recent decades. What might have been celebrated as a romantic story – “The guy who went from the African bush to the Champs Elysees podium” – has – to an extent – been overshadowed by questions of where did this guy come from? If he was this talented, why wasn’t he winning bigger and earlier?

A strong theme in the book is that Chris gets to tell his side of the story. How he started, how he became a better cyclist, how he missed out, why race performances often didn’t match training data. A cynic might say, it is a long attempt at self-justification, but I didn’t feel that. Everyone tells their story in a way to portray themselves in the best light. Especially given the sub-plots circulating around pro cycling, I wouldn’t have expected anything else.

African roots

chris-froome-mtb
In many ways the early chapters are amongst the strongest in the book. It is just a very different life – brought up feeding pet rabbits to your pet python, the only white boy training with Kenyan locals and learning to ply his trade on a mountain bike bought from a supermarket. This is boys own stuff, and makes the Otley CC Sunday run through Yorkshire Dales look like a walk in the park. Continue Reading →

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dhb Extreme Weather overshoe

The dhb Extreme Weather overshoe is a tough, rainproof overshoe designed for cold and wet winter rides.

dhb-overshoes-n

I received a free review copy in the post at the start of the month. Training has been somewhat interrupted by minor injury niggles this month, but I’ve still been out several times. Often wet, and only a couple of times cold.

The shoe is pretty impressive in being waterproof. Constant spray doesn’t seem to get through at all, which is a big bonus. Continue Reading →

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Best puncture proof tyres

No ordinary tyre guarantees to be absolute puncture free, but improvements in technology have gone a long way to reducing your chances of puncturing. For the average rider and commuter, buying a puncture resistant tyre is probably one of best upgrades to make.

Highly puncture resistant tyres usually have a trade off of greater weight and higher rolling resistance (i.e. slower) but the slight decline in speed is well worth the greater peace of mind that comes from having less punctures.

These are some of the puncture resistant tyres that I have used over the years.

Armadillo – Specialized All Condition
specialized armadillo

The tyre feels pretty tough – it is a very robust 60 TPI (Threads per inch) – which is very different feel to the racing tyres of 300TPI. It’s toughness makes it very resistant to small scratches and glass cuts. It gives more confidence for commuting on a rought canal path. A minor downside of its toughness is that it’s a bit awkward putting on rim with fingers, but then you rarely have to change a puncture. It claims to be designed for low rolling resistance; but, in practice it feels heavy – it is is noticeably slower than a Grand Prix 4000. But, I am quite happy using it on my commuting bike and have also added to the rear wheel on my winter training bike, at various times.

I have been using them for over seven years (5 days a week) During that period I have had three punctures and one was a 6 inch nail. Roughly speaking its a puncture rate of 3 / 9,000 miles or 1 per 3,000 miles. It’s also pretty hard wearing, I get maybe 3,000 miles on rear and 5,000 miles on front, which is a long time for a commuting bike. At £30, overall this is a very good value tyre which offers excellent puncture resistance.  It really is a good investment and one of my favourite.

Weight (approx)

Continue Reading →

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Dahon Vitesse review

This is a review of Dahon Vitesse, I originally published on old cycling blog. I have reposted it here, with some updates


 

dahon-vitesse

My search for a suitable foldup bicycle took me to try a Dahon Vitesse at a local shop Warland cycles on Botley Road. The first advantage of a Dahon Vitesse is that it is relatively cheap – only £400-£430. This makes it half the price of the cheapest Brompton foldup. For a relative occasional user of a foldup – it is hard to justify spending much more on a foldup.

Continue Reading →

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Proviz Reflect 360 Cycling Jacket Review

This review of a Proviz jacket is written by a friend Adam Thornton, who is a bike-ability instructor in Sheffield.


 

Proviz REFLECT 360 Cycling Jacket Review
Or, how I feel like auditioning for the next Tron film

I write this review after going out for an early-morning ride on a bleak morning. It was raining – that fine rain that I quite like cycling in because it’s soft when it hits your face. I’m now looking at my jacket drying on the clotheshorse and, despite it being on the far side of the room and away from the window (the only source of light), the jacket has an ethereal quality to it in the way it reflects light. This ability to reflect light and its chameleon-like quality is the jacket’s primary selling point, but we’ll get to that later.

First impressions

adam-Indoor-lightBack when the jacket arrived in the post I could immediately see it was well finished, with tissue paper wrapped around the zip pulls and a quality-looking product. The material has an unusual feel to it due to the technical nature of the special fabric. It’s a bit like a gore-tex jacket, but smoother.

A closer look: The inside-out test

One of the tricks I’ve learnt to do when considering buying an item of clothing I’ll be using for sport is to turn it inside out and have a good look at the sewing and the inside. I’ve found that because of the vigorous nature of training and the frequent putting-on and taking-off of the garment, if the sewing inside isn’t top notch or even if there’s a tiny thread loose then it only takes one catch as you’re putting your arm in to cause proper damage. The Proviz REFLECT 360 is advertised as having sealed seams for waterproofing so it was particularly important that the stitching is top grade. Also, sometimes I’ve had clothing with a soft cotton mesh inside which isn’t good quality, so once something snags on it in a sleeve, then it’s not long before the whole inner-sleeve becomes shredded. Throughout the whole Proviz jacket it is clear that the seams, stitching, and material quality are very good and that jacket will have a long life. In fact, the stitching is very well hidden and on the outside is completely sealed to make the jacket very waterproof. Continue Reading →

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The world of cycling according to G – Review

geraint thomasThe world of cycling according to G  at Amazon.co.uk

The world of cycling according to G at Waterstones

I received this book a couple of weeks ago. I enjoyed reading it, and it is one of the more interesting insights into professional cycling. You feel a strong sincerity in that this is how Geraint Thomas sees cycling and life, there’s no sense of pretence or writing what a pro cyclist is supposed to say. From those looking from the outside, it is interesting to read.

The story of Geraint Thomas’s career is well-timed because it neatly co-incides with the rise of British cycling. Thomas along with the likes of Ed Clancy, Mark Cavendish were some of the very early members of the British Cycling development squad run by Rod Illingworth, the squad which went on to achieve Olympic success and then perhaps more impressively success on the road.

The book is written in quite a light, easy to read format; (it is written with Tom Fordyce). It is good humoured and generally quite a positive insight into professional cycling.

It is not written like a chronological autobiography. “I won Olympics, then rode for Sky… ” But, focusing on particular aspects of cycling separated into short chapters. For example:

  • The Fringe benefits of being a professional cyclist (e.g. Being brilliant at go-karting racing, getting drunk very cheaply…)

thomas-geraintGeraint Thomas 2015 Ghent-Wevelgem

  • Rain
  • The Perfect Ride
  • Cafes
  • When the Wind Blows
  • I never take the stairs

Continue Reading →

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Bont zero cycle shoes review

A review of Bont Zero cycle shoes.

Manufacturer Features:

  • Claimed weight: 220 grams per shoe. (I’ve weighed with Speedplay cleats on, and it came to around 580grams. They were 80grams less than my Mavic Tourmalet with same cleats on)
  • “Fully Heat Mouldable Chassis utilizing Epoxy Thermoset Resin”
  • Sole: Unidirectional Carbon to improve aesthetics of sole and further reduce weight of shoe
  • Upper sole: “Durolite Outer Skin for its extremely durable nature and light weight”

I had a pair of Mavic Tourmalet cycling shoes that had lasted since 2009. They were light, comfortable and got good value for money. But, they needed replacing. In terms of cycling shoes, my criteria are:

  • Comfort
  • Weight
  • Aerodynamics
  • Power transfer (hard to measure)
  • Looks

I don’t need cooling vents (my feet are always cold not hot) Nor do I need any thing to tighten shoes before a sprint.

I did toy with the time trial specific Bont Crono TT shoe, but was put off my higher price, non UCI compliance and wondering whether that would be a problem for CTT.

bont-zero-shoes-pair

I chose the Bont Zero because they were lightweight (claimed 540grams a pair) and also claimed to be aerodynamic shape – negating the need for overshoes.

Another selling point was that they had heat moulding capacities so it promised hope of a good fit.

First off, I ordered a pair of 46. I put them on and they were a bit too tight, so I sent them back and got the slightly bigger 46.5 (this was same size as my Mavic’s). When these came they were still a little tight in the width. But, I didn’t really want to get longer shoes than necessary (no point getting bigger and more weight if you don’t need it) Continue Reading →

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Yellow Jersey Club – Edward Pickering

yellow-jersey-clubI was reading ‘The Yellow Jersey Club‘ during the Tour de France. Short biographies of those who have won the Tour de France in the past couple of decades. It started off in the post-Merckx era with Bernard Thevenet (1975 – 77).

I don’t think I even knew Bernard Thevenet had won the Tour de France. So I learnt something new for a start. The man who dethroned Merckx was not exactly another Merckx. He had his own idiosyncrasies and perhaps lacked the steely determination and need to win that a Merckx or Hinault had. During his career as a rider he was very popular with the French public, which is surprising given his current relative anonymity. Interesting to compare to say Bernard Hinault who only really won the hearts of the French when he started to be less than invincible, towards the end of his career. Continue Reading →

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Nopinz

Sometimes an idea comes along – and everyone thinks – why didn’t I think of that 10 years ago?

In the world of aero-marginal gains, NoPinz is a great simple idea. Reduce the aero drag from a flapping number and use a self-adhesive wallet to stick number to your back.

NoPinz

The other advantage of the Nopinz system is that:

  • It means no messing with trying to attach you number with safety pins. (even though I do secretly like the ritual of number pinning; even though I never get it right first time. )
  • Protects skinsuit from getting holes in. Big issue if you’ve spent a lot of money on a skinsuit
  • Organisers should be happy because it means no-one trying to put glue on the number to keep it aero.
  • Avoid safety pins falling out (which can happen)

I used this disposable speed wallet a few times back in April. You have to be careful in putting on. It’s a little fiddly, but about the same time as doing and undoing safety pins. It worked well from what I could experience. It stayed on 100% and definitely felt better from an aero perspective.

The only thing to watch out is that your skinsuit needs to be dry before putting on.

Wattage saving

I’ve heard claims of 3-5 watts saving for a speed wallet. I haven’t tested, but intuitively it does makes sense. You can sometimes feel the sail effect of a number which is held in by safety pins.  Even more watts claimed here

Given it has many advantages and few disadvantages, it definitely makes sense. By comparison to other aero-savings, it is quite affordable. Continue Reading →

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Dash saddle – long term review

I reviewed this last year, but I’m updating review after using it for a year, including a couple of 100 mile TT’s. It’s only when you’ve done a few hundred mile TT’s that you can really give a proper review to long-distance TT products.

Essentially, I’m very happy with product. In Nat 100, I hardly got out of aero tuck, but there was little pineal discomfort, until perhaps last 10 miles. The cut out in front of saddle avoids numbing pain in that area you would prefer to avoid. It is very comfortable, very aero, and lightweight. Also it avoids the chaffing I used to get on the Adamo (because Adamo is too wide at the front).

The only drawback is that it is expensive (and not so readily available); it’s difficult to choose which model to get – but overall it has been a good investment. I will be selling an Adamo on ebay soon.

Initial review

Dash saddles are an expensive alternative to Adamo saddles. It is a good option for those looking for the anatomic shape of a Adamo, but want something which is lighter and more aerodynamic.

Earlier this year I wrote an enthusiastic review of Adamo saddles – Essentially the shape of Adamo – with the cut out insert – makes cycling much more comfortable – especially when you are in a flat time trial position. The Adamo really made a big difference to time trial comfort. A 100 mile or even 50 mile TT used to be tortuous for squashing of the crotch area. The Adamo relieved this discomfort making long hours in the saddle much more palatable. However, as enthusiastic as I was about Adamo, I was dissappointed when putting it on the scales and seeing it go to over 275 grams. It’s also a bit of a block, creating an aero drag. For many timetrialists and triathletes this weight and shape is not such a big deal, but for a hilly time trial specialist, you don’t want to be wasting 200 grams on a saddle. Also, I didn’t like the rear lip, which is used to hang up a bike in triathlons.

adamo-lip-back

not how I would design a TT saddle

Another drawback of the Adamo that I noticed after a season of riding – was that you got superficial chaffing on the inside of the thighs, perhaps because the front of the saddle is quite wide. This isn’t really a problem when riding, but after there was a persistent irritation for quite a long time. I could live with it, but still quite annoying. However, the amazing thing about spending a year on an Adamo was not a single saddle sore all year!

To overcome ‘lip’ of the Adamo TT, I decided to buy an Adamo Podium because it looked a bit more aero. However, when I went into UBYK in Oxford, they suggested having a look at the Dash saddles – twice as expensive, but more than half the weight, and they did look a thing of beauty. Sleek, aero and slim.

Dash stage .9

Dash stage .9

I don’t like spending money on new equipment, but this did look like an expense that could be justified. Lighter and more aero and looks beautiful – the only doubt was could it replicate the comfort of the Adamo? Continue Reading →

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