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.
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.
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
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.
Veloflex Record and Veloflex Sprinters are a top of the range tubular good for track, time trials and hill climbs.
The Veloflex Record is made with a high TPI (350) which is one factor giving a potential high quality fast supple tyre . The Veloflex Record is perhaps best known tub, but the Veloflex Sprinter is also a good choice for a fast tub with an extra layer of puncture protection.
The Veloflex Record weighs 190 grams, the Veloflex Sprinter 225 grams. The Sprinter is the better all rounder choice, the Record is more of a specialist front wheel tyre.
In rolling resistance tests, I’ve heard the Veloflex Record gives good results, though I couldn’t find any studies.
The Veloflex Sprinter is a development from an older version called the servizio corse.
It is 22″ width, which would be close to my preferred choice – perhaps would prefer a 23″ or even 24″ – given trend towards wider tyres. For hill climbs 22″ is a pretty good width.
The Record seemed a good choice for a rear wheel in time trials. Rear wheels tend to wear more quickly (due to more weight on rear of bike) and also seem more prone to puncture. If you want to go all out for speed, you could put Veloflex Record on both wheels, but I tend to be more risk averse – you can’t win if you have to walk home with a puncture. I put the Veloflex Record on my disc wheel for a few time trials in the summer, and have now moved it to my Zipp 202 rear wheel that I use for hill climbs.
It feels faster than a Continental Competition (which is the tub I’ve used most frequently in TTs). It is also lighter. After doing several races over gravelly roads, the tyre still looks in good shape, without any scratches.
I’ve chosen this tyre for hill climb season, though a couple of weeks before national, I may switch to a lighter rear tyre like the Vittoria Chrono. At this stage in the season, I’d rather have the puncture protection than 25 grams of weight – even if it is rotational.
Like many high quality, low weight tubulars, it seems to lose air pressure pretty quickly. In a four hour race, this could be a bit of a problem. In four hours it can easily lose 10 PSI. It means I tend to blew it up slightly more than my targeted PSI before a race. But, since it’s a guess what tyre pressure to use anyway, it’s not such a big deal.
Tread. smooth running tubular.
It looks good – black and gum coloured. Simple design like a tyre should be. I believe there is a Veloflex Extreme which is same tyre but black sidewall rather than gum coloured – don’t know why you need a separate model for different coloured sidewall.
It’s actually slightly muddy after yesterdays race. Despite driest September on record I still managed to find a muddy puddle at the top of Walbury hill.
I bought the Veloflex Record on the recommendation of a fellow tester, and so far I would be happy to recommend too. No punctures and good performance in time trials and hill climbs.
The big drawback to the Veloflex Record is the cost at a RRP of £90, it’s a case of hoping that the price justifies it’s value. The old law of cycle racing is never skimp on a good tyre / tubular. But this still stretches the wallet a little more than I would like. Still if does offer good combination of rolling resistance, weight and puncture resistance it will be money well spent. The Veloflex Record costs £97.00 and seems to be interesting in getting record for most expensive tubular. I may try it on front wheel next year though.
I bought a Polar heart rate monitor a few years ago (Polar FT1). I didn’t use it very much because:
The strap tended to slip down. You would tighten up the strap, but during the ride it would become loose and slip down
It took a long time for the heart rate to get detected. Also I often got randomly high heart rates, especially at the start of the ride, this may have been due to some kind of electrical interference
I didn’t make much use of heart rate numbers. Obviously when you try hard, your heart rate goes up – with a bit of a lag. But, I never really looked and never thought to make too much use of heart rate numbers. I never looked at it after a ride, and wouldn’t have really known what to have made of a heart rate file after a ride. I got out of the habit of wearing it, and it just sat in a cupboard.
I did use it on the rollers in the winter as a rough guide to effort when I didn’t have a power meter, but it often took 15 minutes for the heart rate to get going, and by then I was looking forward to finishing my rollers session.
I’ve been using a Garmin 500 for a few years, but have never thought to make use of the heart rate feature. When I bought, I just bought the Garmin, thinking I wouldn’t use the HR anyway.
For this hill climb season, I’m getting some coaching from Gordon Wright. He is keen on the science of sport and says looking at heart rate can be helpful. I decided to buy a Garmin compatible strap so that I would have power, speed and heart rate all on one file.
A quick look at reviews suggested the Garmin Premium was better and not much more expensive, so I bought that.
It is comfortable for a heart rate monitor. I’ve not had it slip down chest. It is a little complicated to adjust, but once adjusted it seems more sturdy than the Polar. It seems to be made of pretty good material and has a feeling of durability and comfort. Once adjusted it will stay. Once fitted, it was quite easy to forget it was there; I haven’t had any chaffing or problems.
There is a garmin connector which just clips on to the front of the heart rate strap. To wash the heart rate strap, you can just un clip the device
It was easy to set up. Just press and hold Menu on Garmin 500,
go to: Settings – Bike Settings – Heart Rate – ANT+Heart rate. Select Yes and rescan. (Garmin 500 manual) It recognised heart rate straight away.
So far I have not had any problems with heart rate interference. It seems accurate and quick to get going.
Note: I’m comparing a Polar – bought about three or four years ago. The model may have improved since then.
Using Heart Rate
One thing with heart rate is to check resting heart rate first thing in the morning. An elevated heart rate is one of potential signs of over-training. My resting heart rate this morning was around 45.
I doubt I will be looking at the heart rate whilst training or cycling. But, it may be an indication of something. I may even get to learn more about the benefits of using a heart rate monitor.
The Garmin Premium heart rate monitor strap is a nice piece of equipment. It fits well and has easy integration with a Garmin device like a Garmin 500.
12 Champions by Peter Whitfield offers twelve different chapters on the great British cyclists of the post war period. It focuses on the domestic stars of both time trialling and road racing.
I really enjoyed reading it, and is one of my favourite cycling books.
It captures the best of British cycling during the post war period. It is a time when British cyclists rarely achieved much on a global or continental stage, but there was much more interest in purely domestic racing in those days. You get a feel for the times when huge crowds were drawn to watch a record attempt or even just see the stars of the road. As Roger Bannister noted when he presented the BAR awards in 1970s saying words to the effect – ‘Such enthusiasm I have never seen for any amateur sport’. Of course, we can look back on ‘the golden age’ with misty eyes as if everything was perfect. It wasn’t. There were absurd implementation of rules such as amateur vs professionals; there was still that ridiculous secrecy about racing. Yet, there were many things which really were great about this period. For example, there is a note that huge crowds turned up to see Eileen Sheridan break a record in the 1950s. The sad thing is the record was disallowed because the huge crowds were a sign that there had been ‘advance publicity’ something against RRA rules. But, it’s great that so many people got excited about the challenge of seeing whether the great champions could break a record. Sadly, traffic conditions have made these records of London-York, London-Edinburgh obsolete. But, in that era, these road race records were very high profile.
Whitfield captures the essence of what made these diverse champions. Each rider is mostly given a sympathetic and lively portrait. Yes, the champions had their rivalries, their failings, but this is mainly a celebration of what they achieved. It is not hagiography, the results and achievements speak for themselves, and in the case of Beryl Burton – questions about the cost of dominating the sport for so long.
Overall, I got a lot of inspiration from the book. It raises many interesting questions and gives a lot of inspiration for those who like the sport.
It is a glimpse the Olympic spirit. The ideals of sport as they should be. An era not tainted by drugs (even if it did mean the Russians always seemed to put 10 minutes into the British team time trial squad)
The 12 great champions include:
Eileen Sheridan during a 12 hour time trial, but still with her trademark smile
Eileen Sheridan. The smiling record breaker. After dominating the domestic scene, Sheridan became a professional and proceeded to beat all the great road record associations. With her great talent and personality she was one of first women to make a good living from the sport.
John Arnold and Albert Crimes
John Arnold and Albert Crimes – ‘two men, three wheels and a dozen records’. The record breaking tandem trike duo! What fascinated me about this chapter was the fact for the 1950 Land’s End to John o Groats record there were 500 people involved in the record attempt along the way. All organised the attempt using public phone boxes and telegrams. The expensive aluminium bottles even had their addresses on to be returned by post.
Ray Booty was the first sub 4 hour 100 mile. As Whitfield notes, this is one of the most iconic cycling records – more so than the first sub 1 hour 25 and first sub 2 hours 50. Booty was already a legend of the domestic time trialling scene. His ride on the Bath Road 100, smashed the record and it stayed unbeaten from many years. In many ways, Booty’s ride came from the golden era of timetrialling. The days before heavy traffic and the days when the great time triallists really were the stars of the domestic season.
Frank Colden. ‘The Great Experiment’ Frank Colden’s story is the most inspiring, enigmatic and puzzling of all the 12 champions. Coming from nowhere, Cobden, in secret, rode 400 miles a week during a cold winter. He came out of this winter block with supreme form and smashed national records and in 1962 swept the floor of the national championships. His record breaking season was even more enigmatic because it co-coincided with the onset of an illness which meant he disappeared from the scene. Even now, the achievements of Colden in that 1962 season spark debate.
Les West – Casual genius. Great all rounder
Martyn Roach – An outspoken traditionalist, who excelled in both road racing and timetrialling. A keen advocate of national championships and critical of the ultra-fast BBAR courses.
Phil Griffiths. ‘Bringing showbiz to cycling’. The great talent who was at ease in both time trialling and road racing.
Sid Barras. A star of 1970s British road racing, he won over 200 races, making himself a well paid star. Even showed signs he could have mixed with the European greats.
Alf Engers. ‘ The King’ Engers name pops up in timetrialling circles with great regularity. The ‘bad boy’ of timetrialling, Engers had frequent run ins with the RTTC officials, but he also lit up the time trialling scene with epic performances at 25 miles. Engers really gave some glamour to the ‘blue ribband’ of domestic time trialling and finally posted the first sub 50 minute 25 mile TT.
Ian Cammish. Another legendary star of timetrialling. Cammish took the 100 mile and 50 mile records and put them on the shelf – until the revolution of aerobars e.t.c. Cammish trained 3 or 4 times a day, short intense rides – which gave him tremendous speed at 100 and 50 miles. Ian Cammish won the BBAR throughout the 1980s. He still races today, though not as frequently.
What can you say about a female athlete who won 25 consecutive Best British All rounder titles – and was the only female athlete to once hold a record that beat the fastest time of men (her legendary 12 hour ride of 197 where she rode 277 miles)
Some riders I had already heard about, but I was glad to fill in the many gaps. Some I barely knew (Sheridan, Cobden) but I was glad to be acquainted.
The only thing about 12 champions is I would have loved for the book to be bigger. More champions like Webster, Lloyd, and the recent stars like Hutchinson, Dangerfield, Obree, Boardman and Andy Wilkinson.
I tested a different Dash Tri 7 saddle and thought it was great. However, by the time it arrived, I’ve decided its wrong saddle for me. It won’t be so good for 12 hour time trials. I saw a rider use one in ECCA 100 and he said he was quite happy.
One-piece construction (No after-bonding)
Dual density padding
55mm clampable x 7mm round Carbon/Kevlar rails
Measurements: 190mm L x 115mm W
Dash Tri 7 Trial.
* Triple layer padding, standard reinforcement.
Dash saddle offers excellent comfort for time trials where you are flat out, relieves pressure in groin. Unlike Adamo, these are super lightweight and aero.
A time trial bike will be significantly faster than a road bike. If you want to get faster times in a time trial, then a time trial bike becomes essential.
The best time trial bike to buy depends on your budget. But, bear in mind, an entry level £700 time trial bike will still be much faster than a £6,000 road bike. To go faster you don’t necessarily have to spend a fortune.
Generally with bikes – as you pay more, you get better performance, but the gains become increasingly small. The difference between a £500 bike a £1,000 bike is quite noticeable. But, the difference between £4,000 and £6,000 (to say get Dura Ace Di2 vs Ultegra Di2) is very small.
General principles on buying time trial bike
A bike only accounts for 10% of the surface area which hits the wind. 90% is you. Getting a better position will offer bigger gains than getting a more expensive frame / groupset.
Always remember, you don’t have to spend a fortune to go faster.
Weight is important in time trials, but in flat time trials, aerodynamics counts for much more. You don’t have to get super-lightweight to go fast. If you do mainly flat time trials, weight isn’t so significant. You will notice time trial bikes tend to be heavier than road bikes. This is because often the frame is thicker and wider. A bigger surface area can give aero benefits, though the cost is extra weight. I guess one day they will make TT bike which meets UCI limit of 6.8kg, but you’re doing quite well if you get a TT bike below 8.0 kg.
If you’re buying a time trial bike, don’t blow all your budget on the bike, you can get bigger returns from buying accessories, such as: skinsuit, helmet, overshoes, aero bottle. See: Ways to improve aerodynamics for time trials.
When I bought a Project One time trial bike, I chose cheap clincher wheels to use as training wheels. I later upgraded and bought a disc wheel and deep section front wheel. Don’t worry too much about the wheels, if there’s a chance you’ll want to upgrade later.
Do you need to upgrade to Di2 (electronic)? Unsurprisingly I find the time trial community equally split. The consensus seems to be it gives some advantage, but it’s fairly minimal. It’s only on hilly and technical courses that electronic shifting becomes more beneficial. I’ve been riding mechanical for years and I don’t feel it’s been a handicap. However, I dug deep and ordered it with the new bike.
Position and comfort are important. One of the most difficult things I found when buying a TT bike was trying to find out whether tribars could be lifted upwards in ‘praying mantis’ position. This is non-UCI legal, but for me was faster in wind-tunnel. Some bikes have limited adjust ability in tribars. It means if you do want to adjust you will have to buy separate tribar unit later, which is a bit of a pain.
It is really quite hard to decipher all the rival claims of manufacturers. They all say that their bikes have been in a wind tunnel and it’s the most aero, e.t.c. To be honest, I don’t feel there is a big difference between the bikes, if there is a difference it is quite hard working out what it is. It’s not like if you buy a certain brand you are going to be noticeably faster. There’s something to be said for going to good shop that you like, and see what they have, what fits, and what meets the criteria you need.
A lot of my advice is – be wary of spending extra money for little performance gain. But, I’m the worst offender and spent silly money on a new TT bike. But, I do get close to National championship medals and I know I’m going to use it a lot. So that’s how I try justify it to myself.
UCI legal or non UCI legal? UCI rules are quite strict about what they allow (e.g 3:1 aspect ratio). It keeps the bike looking more like a traditional bike and less exotic. A big pain for domestic time triallist is do you get a UCI legal bike for possibly riding one race a year – the UCI British Time trial championship? I missed out this year because my bike was non-UCI legal. In my new bike I’ve gone for a compromise in choosing a UCI legal frame and illegal forks. If I do ride BTTC next year, I’ll still have find some legal forks. For most people doing triathlons / domestic TT, you don’t have to worry about UCI rules. Then you can choose non-UCI versions of Cervelo P5, Specialized Shiv.
Names of bikes can be a real pain and somewhat confusing. For example the Specialized S-Works Shiv frameset is completely different to Specialized S-Works Shiv Triathlon version.
One of the top end road tubs, the Vittoria Corsa Evo CX is a good all round tubular, which is a popular choice for road racing and time trials. It is my second most used tubular after Continental Competition, and has been pretty hardy so far.
It has a tpi of 320. This high thread count helps offer smooth ride with low rolling resistance. The puncture resistance is helped by a PRB 2.0 puncture resistant belting. At 245 g it is not the lightest tub on the market. It’s ideal performance would be on a tough road surface. If you are riding on pancake flat tarmac, you might get away with a thinner tyre – like the Vittoria Chrono or Veloflex Record.
I was sent some samples of Elivar – Sports nutrition specially formulate for the over 35s. Firstly, I wasn’t entirely enamoured of being reminded that I was edging towards the ‘veteran’ category. The young and sprightly can take anything, but apparently us old fogies need special nutritional requirements.
The basic principle behind Elivar is that ‘older’ athletes do better with more slow release carbohydrates, and less ‘simple’ / high GI index food.
The main difference of Elivar brand of sports nutrition is that it contains a higher proportion of protein, and no fructose – but more complex carbohydrates.
The Elivar website states:
The plain fact is that your physiology (not to mention your work life balance) does change. It gets harder to maintain muscle mass, absorb and synthesize vitamins or maintain strong joints and bones. That’s why it can take longer to recover after a hard session or you pick up more coughs and colds.
One 65 gram serving provides
27 gram of carb
– 14g of which is sugar
27 gram of protein
I do like taking energy drinks pre race because it’s a way to stock up on energy without overloading the stomach. For pre-ride, you definitely want slow release carbs, and I would avoid too much fructose at this stage in the day. Often I take a recovery drink pre race as I assume that is a better pre-race drink. This seems to do a good job pre-ride
The only thing with prepare is that it does seem quite similar in protein carb ratio to the recovery drink. I’m not sure how it differs too much.
I’ve had a pair of Zipp 404 since 2006. They are a good versatile wheelset. They are lightweight 1,250 grams – so I was able to use in hillclimbs for several seasons (Until I got some Zipp 202s).The deep rim profile is also aerodynamic, making the 404s a good all rounder. The Firecrest 404s are said to be a significant improvement on the old 404s.
I decided to get a Zipp 808 Firecrest front wheel because:
Aero tests suggested there was less drag on a Zipp 808 Firecrest to my old Zipp 404 front wheel. Some aero tests suggest the front wheel can be as important if not more beneficial than a discwheel on the back.
It’s one potential marginal gain for quicker time trials.
I haven’t bought a new front wheel for time trialling for seven years
It looks good. (the least important of course, but it does look good.
Amazingly I had the necessary £850 in the bank account
Front wheel 808 Firecrest
Weight: 745 g (including skewers). Note I’ve seen different weights advertised, but that’s what it weighs on my scales!
Rim depth: 82mm
Max width: 27.5mm
The first observation about the wheel was that I had to adjust the brakes. The rim is significantly wider than most standard wheels. The rim profile is (27.5mm) The wheel didn’t actually fit into the brake blocks when I first tried to put it in. This was a bit irritating. I often swap wheels when training. I’m not keen on having to adjust brakes every time. Secondly, it seems counter-intuitive to improve aerodynamics by increasing size of wheel. But, this seems to be a recent development – finding that wider rims can actually give improved aerodynamics.
Zipp claim that Firecrest is the first aero profile that effectively controls airflow around the back half of the wheel. They do this by maintaining a near constant width all the way to the spoke bed. I’ll have to take their word for it.
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