Archive | review

Chris Boardman – Autobiography – Review

cyclingA few weeks ago, I received a review copy of Chris Boardman’s autobiography. This week I got around to reading and enjoyed the book. In terms of cyclist autobiographies, this ranks quite highly. It is interesting story, with many different aspects of cycling from domestic time trials to wearing the yellow jersey in The Tour de France. As well as his cycling achievements (and failures) you get a glimpse into the personality of Chris Boardman, and perhaps what he has learnt in life. There is a degree of humour and honesty which make the book an enjoyable read. If I had to choose a cyclist from that period of cycling who I genuinely admire, Chris Boardman would be near the top of a very short list. There is also the added interest of the fact that I can relate strongly to his early career (riding domestic time trials and hill climbs)  I have followed Boardman’s career from the epic time trial battles with Graeme Obree reported in “Cycling Weekly” to his emergence as a sane and powerful advocate for better cycling on British roads.

If any cyclist epitomises the spirit of British cycling it is Chris Boardman.

  • Domestic time triallist, multiple national champion – from national hill climb to national 25 mile TT competition record holder.
  • Olympic track cyclist. Gold medal in 1992 Barcelona Olympics (Britain’s first gold on track for 72 years).
  • Three times world hour record holder.
  • Multiple world champion on road and track.
  • First British wearer of yellow jersey since Tom Simpson in 1968.

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Knog Oi Bike Bell – Review

The Knog Oi Bike Bell is marketed as a bicycle bell which doesn’t look like or sound like an ordinary bike bell. The most striking thing about the new Oi Bell is that it has a very slim profile. This makes it easy to fit on the handlebars.

oi-bike-bells

The sound is quite pleasing (a bit like a glockenspiel) and quieter than an ordinary bell. The ringer is also small and the first few times when I reached for the bell I missed the ringer at first glance. This was due to my reflexes being used to reach for my previous bigger bell. After getting used to the new position on handlebars it is fine.

Optimal sound of a bicycle bell

Sometimes when I ring an ordinary bell, people jump out of their skins which probably makes them think ‘Bloody cyclist using my roads e.t.c.”

But then, on the other hand, you can ring your bell three times and the people are immobile – standing in the road or cycle path; when you go past, they mutter sarcastically ‘Don’t you have a bell?’ The problem with this bell is that it is quieter than ordinary bells. On a windy day on the footpath or during noisy traffic, the sound is easily lost in the environment.

path-by-river

When using this cycle path by River Thames I often timidly ring my bell because I don’t want to sound like a menacing cyclist wanting people to jump out of the way. But, when I timidly ring the bell, they often don’t hear.

This Knog bell is quite good if you want to err on side of not ringing too loudly. The sound is certainly not threatening, but at a distance might not be heard at all. The problem is if people don’t hear, the bell becomes a mere ornament. Continue Reading →

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Cycling Climbs of South West England

cycling-climbs-south-west‘Cycling climbs of South West England’ is the latest instalment of Simon Warren’s 100 Best Cycling Climbs Series. The format is similar to previous books, such as 100 Greatest Climbs. It is the same handy size with photo and description of climbs. Some climbs are featured in the original book, but there are many more which may or may not be well-known to those who live in this area.

Cycling Climbs of South West England at Amazon.co.uk

More interesting is to review the climbs themselves. For me, the region can be split in two. The first is the ‘deep’ South West – Cornwall, Dorset and Devon. Places which I am yet to visit on a bike.

The second section is the ‘north east’ of the South West – Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Somerset. This section has climbs which feel like an extension of my own local roads. I’ve raced up Burrington Combe so often, I have developed quite an affinity with ‘The Combe’ and other roads around the Mendips. 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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Wasp Lazer TT helmet – review

Last year, I bought a Wasp Lazer TT helmet (long tail). I only used in a few time trials last year and this year.

wasp-lazer-5

It performed relatively well in my aero coach sessions at Newport velodrome. It was about equal second compared to several other helmets. But, I’m not going to keep as it wasn’t the best for me. Continue Reading →

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Velotoze shoe cover review

A review of Velotoze tall shoe covers – an aeroshoe cover designed to keep feet dry and aerodynamic.

I have had a pair of velotoze shoe covers for a long time, but have not worn them very often. They take a little longer to put on, and have a reputation for easily tearing. So I save for ‘special occasions’ Where I really need dry feet.

Last Friday, I was still in Yorkshire. It was one of those days where the rain was forecast to clear up at 2pm and by 5pm  it would allegedly be sunny. I took a chance and headed off in the rain, hoping it would stop soon, but also fearing the worst.

Putting on

They are not put on like ordinary shoe covers. You put them on over your sock first. Pull them up, put on shoes, and then squeeze back over shoes. It’s a little longer, but not much. When you know how – putting them on is quite quick.

velotoze

The idea for Velotoze is that:

  1. They provide excellent waterproofing. It seems to be made out of the same latex as swimming caps.
  2. Aerodynamic aid like lycra overshoes – except a bit more waterproof and durable.

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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Giro Selector review

Giro Selector is an aerodynamic time trial helmet, which like most other helmets on the market makes strong claims to be very aero.

Giro selector

I bought the Giro Selector because the old version – the Giro Advantage has performed well for me in both wind tunnel tests (2011) and Aero Coach sessions. I also like the Advantage because it is relatively light at 375 grams. However, the Giro Advantage has a couple of disadvantages

  • No visor
  • Gap between underneath tail
  • The helmet is faster if you tape up vents.

I did buy a visor for the Giro Advantage and stuck it on. But over time, it came off, so I taped up with electrical tape. But, it always had an impression of being a bit scruffy and never really secure. Perhaps for aesthetic reasons, I stopped using, which is a shame because it would probably have been faster than other helmets I bought. Taping on a visor isn’t great because it could start to come loose and it’s harder to rip off in misty conditions. Continue Reading →

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Sport and meditation – book review

sport-meditationSport and meditation is a book by Sri Chinmoy on how meditation, concentration and other techniques can be useful for sport. The book also examines aspects of the spiritual side of sport – for example, the quest for self-transcendence rather than competition. As well as writings by Sri Chinmoy, there are also perspectives from other top athletes, such as Carl Lewis, Tatyana Lebedeva, Tegla Loroupe, Bill Pearl and Paul Tergat.

Spiritual marginal gains

One aspect of this book is the spiritual approach to sport. For example, how to compete with full commitment, but detachment to the result. The other aspect of the book is some practical aspects of how an athlete can seek to get more out of himself. Not so much the well known nutrition or training techniques, but the inner dimension of going faster, such as: meditation to clear the mind, remove mental distraction and seeking to tap into that inner source of energy.

Even practical tips, like smiling to yourself, trying to feel grateful – keeping in a better consciousness, where you can get the best from yourself.

Does meditation make you go faster? I don’t know and it would be very hard to prove, but I think it can help you to enjoy sport more. If you feel 100% in the moment, which can come from meditation, it is easier to get into that sense of ‘flow’ and rhythm where everything goes well.

“In sports we need energy, strength and dynamism. When we meditate, we make our mind calm and quiet. If inside us there is peace, then we will derive tremendous strength from our inner life. That is to say, if I have a peaceful moment, even for one second, that peace will come to me as solid strength in my sports, whether I am running or jumping or throwing. That strength is almost indomitable strength, whereas if we are restless, we do not have strength like that.”

– Sri Chinmoy (1)

There is also a brief overview of Sri Chinmoy’s own sporting endeavours which range from being a sprinter in India, to ultra running, 24 hour cycle races and then taking up weightlifting aged 54. A practical example of how meditation can help sporting endeavours later into life.

Personal experience

I have written before about the National hill climb championship. In particular eight attempts which led to just missing the podium. In these years, meditation and a detached mindset where helpful for shaking off the disappointment of missing off. It also made it easier to come back the next year and keep trying. If at first you don’t succeed… and all that.

-2014-Tejvan-Pettinger-4th-4-630x419

However, in 2013, I really wanted a different experience to just being detached at missing out. I felt somehow, I hadn’t realised the potential at hill climbing, so I approached that year a little different. There was certainly more training and taking every precaution with equipment, but also I wanted to be more careful about other aspects of preparation. In the middle of summer I read a talk Sri Chinmoy gave about swimming the English channel. He addressed it to members of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team who have successful swam or just missed out. For me the interesting thing is Sri Chinmoy was saying to those who missed out, you should have more faith in yourself, have a good preparation, concentrate more on speed, but in the event itself, feel a grace coming from within. It wasn’t what I expected – just detachment from failure, but really having faith and determination you can do it. In my case, it was not a motivation to swim the English channel (too cold!) but to aim for the top spot in national hill climb championship. This 100% focus was perhaps something which hadn’t always been there in the past, taking short cuts in preparation and things like trying something different in the race. Read ‘A Corinthian Endeavour’ if you want the more humorous explanation of failed attempts.

Also, in the few weeks leading up to the big race, I read “Sport and Meditation”  quite often. Certain sections seemed very pertinent and reading helped to qualm any nerves and anticipation of the big event. It also helped give a good focus to training and preparation. I made a single page of notes I took to the race, where I had about 10 bullet points from the book.

The race went well, I’d like to be able to say I had some transcendental experience during race, but my main recollection was that it was just really hard, cold and wet, but I managed to keep it going all the way to the top. But, looking back I do feel the meditation, concentration and awareness of the inner dimension of sport was integral to the whole experience.

Related post at Cycling Uphill

Overall review

The book will give an insight into a spiritual perspective of sport. You don’t need any particular belief system to get some benefit from it. But, a broad sympathy to the inner aspect of life would be helpful. If nothing else, it will be quite thought provoking on a different way we can view sport and our approach to it.

Buy online

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Aero coach arc chainring

aero-coach-ring

On Sunday, I used a new single chain ring. The Aerocoach Arc single chainring.

I explained in ‘converting to single chainring‘ the advantages of removing front derailleur, and inner chainring. For most time trials you only need one chainring, and it looks smoother.

This is specifically used for single ring use and the teeth are longer than normal to prevent chain slip. I don’t know if it is possible to slip the chain, but from my experience this year, I’ve had more chain slips using front derailleur and 39/56 chainring combination than with just single chainring without any front derailleur.

The shape of the Aerocoach Arc single chainring is not completely round, but is designed to provide more power at the start of the stroke when you need it most, before gradually decreasing down to a minimum gearing at bottom dead centre. See Aerocoach Arc for full explanation. Aerocoach claim “The unique time trial specific design will help increase power output by 3-5w, and allow a smoother pedal stroke than normal.” Continue Reading →

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