Best saddle bags

lezyne-saddle-bag

A review of different saddle bags I’ve used over the years. The number of saddle bags I have bought in my cycling career is bordering on the faintly ridiculous. This is only a small selection I’ve tried and used. I really don’t know what I do to saddle bags, but they never seem to last.

I think part of the problem with saddle bags is that no matter what size I get, I always end up stuffing more stuff than is sensible. My saddle bags end up bulging at the seems. In addition, I often try to fit them around Aero seat posts, which leads to straps getting frayed. Perhaps that is where I’m going wrong.

General Points on Saddle Bags

People often seem to get attracted to buy ‘small’ compact saddle bags because they look good. But, when I get small saddle bags, I tend to regret it because I can’t fit in what I need to. Or you can fit everything in, but you need to spend ages stuffing it in and then having to take everything out to get at something. I’m also not keen with having weight in my jersey pockets, I’d rather have everything in a saddle bag and leave the jersey pockets for food only.

Read more

Bontrager R4 Tyre Review

I’ve had quite a few Bontrager tyres on new bikes I’ve bought from Trek. I’ve never replaced them with Bontrager tyres, preferring other tyres instead. But, since I’ve had four tyres in recent past. This is quick review.

bontrager-r4-tyre
Bontrager R4

The Trek Speed Concept came with Bontrager R4 clinchers. These are the top of the range Bontrager tyres with 320TPI, weighing just 230 grams, which makes them a high spec top end road tyre..

It has a super supple polyamide synthetic fibre reinforcement for added casing strength on the outside. Also, as well, has the ‘hard case lite protection’ underneath the outer tread to protect against punctures.

Making it easy to solve the tyre width dilemma, it is available in 25c only.

It is quite supple and easy to put on and off the tyre rim (even with tubeless ready rims, which often make it a little tougher). The tyre rolls quite well, though it’s hard to evaluate given that I was riding on the Speed Concept which is supposed to be a super fast TT bike. Whether the feeling of speed is from £6,000 bike or £50 tyres, take your own guess.

Read more

Dura Ace Di2 9070 Groupset review

I’ve been using the Shimano Dura Ace di2 for a couple of months now, so I thought, after extensive testing, I would give a review.

Overall, I’m very impressed. It is very good and makes a difference over mechanical shifting. It is very expensive, and initially I was regretting spending the money on Dura Ace, when I could have saved a £1,000 and got Ultegra, but now I’m glad I ‘bit the bullet’.

For many years in cycling, ‘electronic gears’ got a bad press. When electronic gears were first introduced, they were often reported as ‘freezing in big races’ and this put me off electronic for a long time. But, Di2 seems to be very durable.

whole-di-2
Dura Ace Di2 – 56*21

 

Durability

I’ve been using for a couple of months, without any issues, but to get a better perspective I asked my mechanic friends at Beeline. Mark said they have seen a lot of people use Shimano Di2, and it has been excellent for durability and easy of maintenance. He said it was a lot more reliable than other electronic gears. Mark said many people just ride their bike all year and get it serviced once a year. He said Di2 was good for those riders who didn’t want to do anything but just ride and recharge their batteries. He seemed quite enthusiastic about Di2 and would recommend it as the best groupset.

Read more

Obree Way – Review

obree-way

obree-way I reviewed the Obree Way last year, but it cost £30 (which was a bit pricey even for a good book.) But  I see it’s available in paperback for £11.99 now. The Obree Way at Amazon.co.uk

The Obree way is Graeme Obree’s unique and distinctive approach to training. It is an approach to training Obree developed himself over many years of his own successful cycling career. The book is worth reading just from the perspective of gaining an insight into the training and mentality of a World Champion, you also gain the feeling the author really put is heart and soul into the book. I think every cyclist will be able to pick up something from this training manual.

One thing I liked about reading the book is that I always felt Obree was just sat across the room talking about his training. It was like listening to an old club hand share his training secrets. But, in this case the old ‘club hand’ happens to have held the prestigious world hour record on two occasions and also is a former world champion. Obree’s pedigree definitely is important. If some of these training principles were explained by Tom, Dick or Harry you might be tempted to brush them off as being too obvious or too simple. But, if they worked for Obree, you give them much more importance.

Essential Aspects of the Obree Way.

Turbo Trainer To Obree, the turbo trainer is a key element of his training. It’s not something just to use when the weather turns icey, but even in the middle of summer. Obree wants to have the ability to very carefully monitor his progress and make sure a training session actually stretches his previous effort; the best way he feels is to use a simple turbo training carefully calibrated to measure exact performance. At this point, in the book I did think perhaps the same could have been achieved from power-meters. But, Obree’s way is largely to ignore computer data. (He says the only time he really uses a heart rate monitor is to make sure on a recovery ride, you stick to a recovery ride.)

obree-superman

Training Sessions

Obree doesn’t believe in intervals. To him the best training is to replicate the kind of race you will be doing.

“Specific training for specific events. Everything else is peripheral and less effective than the base truth of athletic performance enhancement.”

– G.Obree

If you are doing 10 mile time trials, a key training session is to do a 20 minute ride on the turbo as go as fast as you can. Later in the training cycle, after a sufficient time period to recover (could be several days). You have another go at this 20 minute ride, but aim to improve on your previous performance. The simple aim is every time you do one of these ‘key’ training sessions you push your limits and go faster than before. This is the simple training principle of ‘stress and recovery‘ You keep pushing your limits, give yourself chance to fully recover and then push your limits again.

It is beautifully simple. There you won’t find any  ’30 seconds at 95%, 1 min rest; 30 seconds at 95% type training sessions.

Another important training session for Obree, is the ‘glycogen ride’ This is a two hour ride, where you adapt the body to riding with low sugar levels to improve the body’s use of glycogen stores when racing. He says you should finish this training session really exhausted and ready to devour food (which you have prepared beforehand)

Obree also advocates incorporating a session of strength training. This involves pushing a huge gear on a gentle hill at a very low cadence.

Read more

DHB Flashlight waterproof jacket

I was offered a chance to review two products sent from Wiggle. The first thing I chose was a waterproof jacket. In the past few years, technology has improved, but for various reasons I haven’t bought one for a long time. I needed a proper waterproof cycling jacket just for commuting into town on rainy days.

The DHB Flashlight Compact-XT Waterproof Jacket claims to be lightweight, waterproof, breathable and adjustable.

dhb-Flashlight-Compact

It comes in a choice of two colour – blue or fluorescent yellow. I chose the fluorescent yellow for better visibility on the commute into work.

Sizing – I chose medium expecting it to be a little short. I’m very tall (6″31) and thin, so it’s always hard to get a good fit, but the sleeves came down nearly to gloves and it wasn’t too baggy. This was my main need – I didn’t want it to be too flappy.

Waterproofness

The jacket is definitely waterproof, it kept me dry in quite persistent rain and shows no signs of leaking at the seams. It feels quite solidly made.

DHB state the Waterproof Jacket has a waterproof rating of 10,000 mm to keep you protected, with additional rain defence from Teflon™

Breathability

It is not bad for breathability. I rode commuting into town and didn’t work up a sweat. If your training really hard, then I’m sure it will get a bit more sweaty. But, I think overall it is fairly decent for breathability. There are flaps on the back to allow some air to escape without allowing water in. The zip is fairly easy to undo, if you need to let a bit more air in the front.

Quality of build

  • The zip seems fairly solid and so far has no problems.
  • I like the adjustability of the cuffs. It is easy and quick to change with velcro and quite useful for getting on and over winter ski gloves.
  • The fluorescent jacket certainly stands out on the roads.
  • It comes with a few pockets – not that I tend to use pockets on a waterproof jacket.
  • Despite my awkward build, it is a good fit.

wearing-dhb-jacket-commuting-bike

Read more

Disc wheels

zipp-disc-wheel

Buying a disc wheel is one of the best ways to improve the aerodynamic performance of your time trial bike. They are expensive – you can easily pay over £500 (and much more). But, they do make a difference. Also, the faster you go, the more aerodynamic drag they save. Disc wheels work by smoothing the passage of side wind. Less wind turbulence means less drag and faster times.

A flat carbon disc wheel has an aero drag of 97grams. This compares to an aero drag of 154grams for a standard 18 spoke wheel (source: bsn)

The weight of a disc wheel is not as important as the aerodynamic aid. Even on the hilliest of time trial courses, you will go quicker on a solid disc wheel. Chris Boardman once used a disc wheel for winning the national hill climb championship. I don’t advise using disc wheels in hill climbs, but for nearly all time trials – aerodynamics are much more important than weight. Also if you are going to be doing a lot of hilly time trials, look to buy a light weight carbon disc – some of them are surprisingly light.

However, if you are an average triathlete or time triallist, don’t feel obliged to fork out over £1,000 for something super-light weight. If you can get a disc for £500 you will notice an improvement in aerodynamics. This is more important than doubling or tripling the amount you spend for very small marginal gain.

Zipp Disc Wheels

Zipp 900

zipp-disc

For my time trial bike, I chose a Zipp 900. It was £600 less than the Zipp Super 9, and it was lighter than the Zipp Super 9.

  • Weight: 935 g with a cassette hub
  • 11-speed compatible hub: Yes
  • Track Adaptable: Yes
  • Dimpled Surface, Lenticular shape for max aero
  • The RRP for a Zipp 900 Rear Tubular is over £1,400 but, you might be able to buy it cheaper. I got it for £1,150 from Wiggle

Review

tt-disc

I’ve been using this discwheel for the past two seasons. It helped set new pb at 10 miles of 19.02 and for 50 miles of 1.41.14. It is fast and looks cool too. Like any aero equipment it’s always hard to pinpoint how much difference the wheel has made. But, I like it.

A big bonus of the Zipp 900 is that at 935 grams, it’s not that much heavier than a deep section rear. Therefore, even on the hilliest time trials like the Bristol South CC megahilly or Buxton CC, I stick with the disc, as there is no real weight penalty and you gain a lot of speed on the downhill.

The only downside is that you need a special adaptor for a track pump, as Zipp make the hole for the pump very small.

(photo: Ken Norbury, Buxton CC)

Zipp Sub 9

zipp 900

  • Slightly heavier at 1009 grams
  • The Zipp Sub 9 combines rim technology of Zipp 1080 and Zipp 808 to try and improve aerodynamics
  • Zipp claim ’80g of forward lift at certain wind angles’
  • Zipp Disc Wheels at Wiggle

Mavic Comete Disc Wheel

One of the best disc wheel on the market. The Mavic comete is not completely flat, but lenticular shape. The manufacturer claims weight is 1160grams (tubular or clincher)

mavic-comete

  • Lenticular flange creates negative drag
  • Disc Wheel-Tyre System with full carbon dishes
  • HM carbon fibre flanges decrease weight and inertia and deliver faster acceleration
  • Weight: 1160g
  • Mavic Comete – £1,700 at Chain Reaction Cycles

 

Better value Disc Wheels

Fast Forward Disc Wheel

For those on a tighter budget, the Fast Forward disc wheel offers great value. At under £750 it is more affordable than the Zipp 900, but has excellent design and aerodynamics. However, it is a little heavier. Weight Clincher: 1445 grams. Weight Tubular: 1195 gram.

This is fine if you are doing flattish time trials. But, if you are doing many hill time trials, you might like to save the extra 200 grams.However, this weight is not so critical (for world Hour Record O.Sojenska actually chose a heavier rear discwheel for a ‘flywheel effect’ The Fast Forward disc is stiff and rigid. It comes with cork brake pads for the carbon rim.

 

When Should You Ride A Disc Wheel and When Should You Ride a Deep Section Wheel?

Using disc wheel in Circuit of the Dales (over 1,000 metres of climbing 50 miles)

  • Generally, a disc wheel is going to be quicker – even on hilly time trial courses. I have known riders use discwheels in certain hill climbs (like constant gradient of 3%) I used a discwheel when riding Crag Vale.
  • The aero benefits of a disc wheel offset the slight increase in weight.
  • At certain wind speeds, disc wheels make controlling the bike slightly more difficult (and less safe). This loss of control may lead to more cautious riding and so the disc wheel is a disadvantage. You have to get to know what kind of wind speeds are acceptable. But, be wary of gusts than can occur when you go from sheltered to exposed. However, when there are strong crosswinds the rear wheel is not really the problem; it is the front wheel which makes he tbike unstable. I can ride a disc – even with quite strong crosswinds of 25-30mph. But, as it gets windier I may take out deep section front wheel and put something with less surface area
  • Another disadvantage of a disc is that it can marginally reduce the cornering performance when riding. For criteriums, disc wheels would be a disadvantage (even if they were allowed). The extra weight makes it harder to accelerate out of corners and it is less responsive when cornering. However, in most time trials, it is very unlikely to be so technical this becomes an issue.
  • Generally, I will always try and ride the disc in a hilly time trial.

Other ways to Improve Aerodynamics

If you want to improve aerodynamics, there are also cheaper ways than a disc wheel. Even a simple aero bottle can make a big difference to aerodynamic drag. See:

Making Your Own Disc Wheel

Some try to make their own disc wheel and save a lot of money.

Related

Garmin 510 vs Garmin 500 – review

garmin-510-500

After two years with a Garmin 500, I upgraded to a Garmin 510 – is it any better? Is it worth the extra money?

The main selling point of the Garmin 510 over the Garmin 500 are that:

  • You can upload to the web wirelessly via a bluetooth 2.1 phone connection. After my Garmin 500 had problems connecting to the computer via USB cable, this seemed attractive.
  • With phone pairing, you can have live tracking – so people can watch you on a computer screen (in the old days, people used to go and watch people do time trials).
  • The Garmin 510 has a better battery life – up to 20 hours compared to 18 hours for a Garmin 500. To me the Garmin 510 lasts significantly longer than 500.
  • Bigger screen, more functions and updated quality.
  • Garmin 500 (released 2009). Garmin 510 (released 2013)

I didn’t want to pay the money RRP £249, but I didn’t really want to buy another Garmin 500 because I was annoyed it stopped working. Here is how I’ve been getting on.

Comparison of size and weight Garmin 500 vs Garmin 510

  • Garmin 500 weight 80g –  85 x 52 x 24mm
  • Garmin 510 weight 58g – 69 x 48 x 22mm

510-vs-500-flat

As a self-confessed weight-weenie and aero-weenie. This is a bad start. The Garmin 500 is generally well proportioned for a bike computer. The Garmin 510 starts to feel a bit like a brick. It’s not that far off the Garmin 800.

22g of weight doesn’t really matter (don’t quote me on that in the hill climb season). But, I worry that the extra depth is going to cost seconds on the time trial bike. I don’t like the bulky size of the Garmin 510.
500-vs-510

510 bigger screen than Garmin 500.

Read more

Garmin 500 – long term review

garmin-edge-500-500

garmin-edge-500-500

I’ve had the Garmin 500 for two and a half years. It has many good features and represents a huge step up in terms of cycle computer technology and possibilities. The ubiquity of the Garmin 500 within the cycling community is generally well deserved. However, it is not without its faults, which I will come to later.

This includes parts of the initial review from 2012, but more of the faults which have become apparent in using it.

Read more

Brompton Folding Bike Review

brompton-bike

I’ve long had an interest in getting a fold-up bike, usually spoilt by the need to spend silly money on racing bikes. Still I wanted to get a test review of a Brompton. It is the market leader for fold-up bikes.  It came highly recommended by a few readers; some Brompton owners I know speak of their foldups in almost hushed reverent tones. There is great pride and loyalty amongst Brompton owners, somewhat reminiscent of a proud Pashley or Bianchi owner. Added to that, is the fact that, amazingly, it is a British manufacturing company – one of the few to survive the remorseless de-industrialisation and competition from cheap Taiwanese carbon fibre. I would be quite happy to buy British, but is the enthusiasm for Brompton’s worth the money? Will I be paying for an excellent bike, or will I be paying to be part of an expensive owners club? As an added complication, is buying a Brompton my only real shot at one day being a cycling World Champion?

Brompton World Championship
Brompton World Championship

My first port of call was the Brompton website. I learnt Brompton’s are based on the same base frames and equipment, but they offer you hundreds of different choices from colour to tyres and gear ratios. It reminded me of the Trek Project One bike builder (except with rather different choices, e.g. 1 v 2 speed gears, rather than Dura Ace v Ultegra)

&n

Read more

Lightest saddles

tune-concorde-saddle-500x366

Fortunately or unfortunately, I’ve spent a lot of money and time researching lightweight saddles. My excuse is that I’m a hill climber – where every gram can make a difference. My weight weenie obsession began after 2010 national hill climb, where I missed out on podium by less than one second. I’ve been through quite a few lightweight saddles (and would be open to offers to buy old ones) On the plus side I only weigh 61 kg, so I don’t have to worry about breaking a saddle with excess weight.

It is worth bearing in mind that the lightest saddle is not necessarily the best saddle. Other factors that are important include comfort, power transfer and ability to hold position.

AX-Lightness saddle

ax-lightness-saddle
ax-lightness-saddle

My current choice of saddle is the AX Lightness – Sprint. which weighs 69 grams.

Read more