Best tubular tyres


For tyres and tubulars there is generally a well-known trade-off

  1. Low Cost
  2. Low rolling resistance
  3. Puncture resistance.
  4. Low Weight

It is impossible to have all four targets met. Even if money is no object, you still have to choose a tradeoff between low rolling resistance / low weight and puncture resistance.

I spend more time researching and choosing tubulars to buy than I do anything else. So many combinations, choices, decisions and tradeoffs!. In the good old days, I’d just shove Continental Competition on and have done with it. But, I fear I’m losing too much time with good old Continental Competition. Even now I have an increasing choice of tubulars, I can spend ages trying to work out which tubular to use. In short, there is no easy answer.

When it comes to buying tubulars, I’ve often caught in two minds. I want to use a lightweight tubular like Vittoria Chrono / Veloflex Record, but then I think about puncturing and walking along a windswept dual carriageway for 10 miles, and I think I might as well stick to Continental Competition.

The problem is that as the competition gets more intense, and you look harder for marginal gains, the idea of getting better tubulars becomes more attractive.

Front Wheel / Back Wheel

Another consideration is that the rear wheel is more likely to puncture / more likely to wear down because it is the rear wheel which transmits your power output. Therefore, it is a good idea to consider getting a slightly more reliable (heavy) tyre for the rear. I generally risk lighter tubulars on the front wheel.


In an ideal world, you would change your tubulars depending on conditions. For a dry day on a nice smooth dual carriageway, It is worth risking a proper track / timetrial tub like Vittoria Crono. Also, if you think you’ve got a chance for a PB, it makes sense to choose the fastest tubular. But, if you’re doing a 30 mile hilly time trial on rough roads in the wet, you have a higher chance of puncturing; in these conditions, it is not a good choice to go for a feather lightweight smooth tub.

I don’t particularly like the hassle of changing tubulars before every race – so tend to go for the default stronger puncture resistance. However, I am leaning more towards faster tubulars these days.

Width of Wheel

Zipp 808 and many new wheels come in a wider width making it better to have slightly wider tyres. Here I have a 21′ Corsa!. I’ve now switched to a 22′ Veloflex Record Sprinter


When I got into cycling, I made the ‘schoolboy error’ of buying 18′ width tyres. I made the assumption that the more narrow the tyre  – the less rolling resistance there will be. Nowadays, you can hear the fastest tyres are 25′ even 28′. There are conflicting reports, but I’m happy with anything – 22-25. Perhaps slightly wider at the rear is preferable. I heard Team Sky use 24.5′ width tubulars – I’m not sure how they calculated 24.5 is better than 25.  But I wouldn’t lose too much sleep if you have a 23′!

Too many models

The reason that I revisited this post is that whenever I go to buy tubulars, I always spend hours trying to find the best tubular. One problem is that companies make a bewildering array of tubulars – just as you get used to one model, you find it has become discontinued and you can’t buy it anyway. This happened yesterday with Veloflex Record Sprinter – I couldn’t find anywhere to buy it.

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Aero Water Bottles – Review


It has been hard work finding an aero water bottle. My first one kept falling out, which makes it no good. I’ve recently bought an X-Lab Aero TT bottle, which hopefully will stay put, and save the odd couple of watts.

Specialized S-Works Aero Water Bottle


This was a very cheap way to improve aerodynamics. Only £14.99 for bottle and cage. It’s quite thin and fits on to frame nicely. The capacity is 600ml, which is fine for most time trials. Though on longer ones like 100 mile time trial, you may prefer 800ml which will reduce the need to pick up bottles.

It was easy and intuitive to pick out of bottle cage and just as easy to put back in. It felt fairly solid, but then on two occasions, it jumped out on a bumpy descent. As I often race on bumpy roads (which UK roads are not bumpy?) I couldn’t trust this bottle. Also, on one occasion when jumping out, it got smashed. I think I ended up buying a second one, but this one jumped out too, so I’ve completely given up on this bottle.

 ‘X-Lab Aero TT’

I bought this X-Lab Aero TT because it had good reviews for staying in place. You can definitely understand why it stays in place – it is actually hard to pull the bottle out of its cage. The first time, I thought this is pretty difficult. However, there is a good trick for getting the bottle out, you have to lift the black cap at the top of the bottle, and then it comes out OK. Putting the bottle back in, also, requires practice. You have to put the end in first and then push it down. I’m confident of its ability to stay in place, I’m less confident of my ability to seamlessly get the bottle out during the pressure of a race (when racing, taking a drink is often really hard work). It is made in the US and comes with those outdated US imperial measurements of 20 oz (or as we say in the rest of the world 585ml.)


X-Lab Aero TT

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John Woodburn


John Woodburn, who sadly passed away April 15, 2017, was a multiple national cycling champion whose long-running career included several place to place records.

John Woodburn Cycling-Weekly Archive

In 1961, Woodburn became the first person to win national 25 mile champion riding a geared bike. In 1982, at 45 years of age, he also set the cycling record for the 847 miles journey from Lands End to John O Groats. His time was one day, 21 hours, 3 minutes and 16 seconds. (average speed 18.828mph)

In addition, Woodburn’s career included:

  • RTTC British Best All-Rounder in 1978 (first Vet to win BBAR)
  • National 12 hour TT champion
  • Competing in international Peace Run 1963 stage race, where he finished 14th.
  • Currently holds age group records including:
    • 21 minute 10 mile TT at age 73
    • 25 mile TT – 51-minute, at age 63.
  • Several place to place records, including London to Bath and back record – Woodburn was particularly proud of this because it involved beating Les West’s record.

Personal reminiscences

John Woodburn on Lands-End to John ‘O Groats ride

I met John Woodburn at my second ever open time trial in 2005. At the time, I had no idea who he was or anything about his lengthy and wide-ranging palmeres.

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Time trials at Weston on the Green

Yesterday was a 10 mile TT at Weston on the Green RAF field, organised by Bicester Millenium CC. I finished 2nd in 21.07.

When I got into cycling, back in 2003 / 04 my first races were at Weston on the Green. A 2.4 mile circuit around the perimeter of an airfield. It is an RAF based, sometimes used for practice parachute landings.

A blast from the past circa 2005 – On a Steve Goff Steel frame. Racing at Weston on the Green.

Looking back through my cycling archives, I noticed I won a ‘road race’ in 2003. In those early days of finding Weston on the Green, there were informal road races around the perimeter track. The first time I turned up to race I had mudguards on an old Trek 500, but still managed to break clear from a chasing pack of 5 people to win the unofficial road race. The advantage of it being such a long time ago, is nobody can remember to challenge this ‘famous’ win – mudguards and all. It was an auspicious start to a cycling career, though I did learn to ditch the mudguards and I have never won another road race.

In 2004/05, I went back to concentrate on time trials – 10 miles and occasionally 25 miles. They were excellent introductions to time trialing. Safe, closed roads and a nice relaxed atmosphere for getting into racing. Since 2006, I have rarely been back. But, this year was able to enter the Bicester Millenium 10 mile TT.

It is my first race since National 12 hour back in June. I had a lot of form at the end of June, but for various reasons didn’t do any racing in July. It is hard to remember the last time I did a 10 mile TT.

Looking at my lap splits, I set off a little conservatively. Getting faster on every lap. I made the biggest effort on the back straight into the big block headwind. Going down the fast, slightly downhill section was a little sketchy with a light drizzle on the surface. I was a bit rusty going through the corners because at 30mph, I didn’t fancy skidding off.

I never looked at computer during race. I felt as though I was going really fast. I think it’s the nature of the course, smooth tarmac and fairly flat.

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Tips for riding a 12 hour time trial

I have only ridden one 12 hour, so  there is still much to learn. But, these are some thoughts on training, racing and preparing.


  • Most of my training for past few months has been training at just below threshold. Quite fast on a time trial bike. Perhaps 80% of FTP.
  • Training on a time trial bike is really essential. It’s not just the legs but holding the position that is hard in a 12 hour. Remember in training, you move around much more than in race.
  • I hoped to do quite a few 5 hour rides / 100miles – one per week. But, I rarely got time, so mostly did 2-3 hours, with the odd 4 hour ride. However, I am able to train during the week so was often averaging 200-300 miles a week, mostly at a pretty good intensity. I had quite a few breaks this year due to injury, illness, holiday. On average one week off during every month. I could have had a higher training load, but maybe forced rest helped too.
  • Definitely worth avoiding becoming a complete mile-muncher, once a month, a lighter week will complement the heavier weeks when you push the mileage.
  • This month June has been an increase in training intensity, with 1,200 miles in the 25 days of June before the race. During this time I did no intervals, but just worked on that time trial training intensity, with the 12 hour in mind.
  • In June, I did my first 100 mile rides of the year. Two in training and one in a race. My longest ride was 103 miles.  To ride over 100 miles was good for confidence. It is also good practise for spending time on the saddle, where you learn a few things (e.g. feet becoming tight in shoes. I don’t think it is necessary to do 6-7 hour rides of slow intensity, unless you have the time and inclination. It was the plan to do a couple of 6 hour rides, but time never allowed.
  • When training, try to replicate the set up of the race, e.g. same water bottles, same feeding. I don’t use race wheels, or aero helmet, but apart from that it’s fairly similar. I try to plan routes which are flattish and minimal stopping.

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Aero coach arc chainring



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.”

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National 12 hour time trial – 2016


Yesterday was the National 12 hour TT championship in South Wales, promoted by South Wales District.  A 12 hour is a bit different to your average time trial, requiring quite a big set up and 10 timekeepers to get the finish distance. I’ve been thinking of doing a 12 hour time trial, for about 25 years since I first read Cycling Weekly, which in those days, still gave big coverage to BBAR tables and all the seemingly amazing distances people did for 12 hours. But, despite 25 years of good intentions it’s very easy to think of a reason not to do a 12 hour – not least peaking for the national hill climb. But, this year, with Nat HC on bank road, I thought if I don’t do it this year I never will.


I think the Welsh 12 hour course is very good. It is fairly fast, but still a bit of up and down and minor roads to make it interesting. I did 1,630 m of elevation during the 283 miles. In the morning, you do a 90 mile loop including a long lumpy trek to Hereford. Then there is a main 25 mile circuit around the A40 with some dual carriageway and some minor roads.

The lead up to the race was a little curious, with the country been thrown into a self-imposed chaos. I have spent more time watching the news in the past two days than I have in the past two decades; in this climate, a cycle race seemed of little importance. But, if you’re depressed from politics, a 12 hour time trial is a very good way to clear the mind of all the frustration. A little extreme maybe, but it was good to get away from it all.

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ECCA 100 – 2016

Today was the ECCA 100. I have won the event in the past two years, and this year promised to be faster times because the course had been moved to all dual-carriageway on the A11 and A14 south of Cambridge. I was looking forward to the event because in recent weeks I’ve had good form, set some pbs, made some significant aero improvements and the weather forecast looked very good with low air pressure and low wind.

In fact, I tried to add up all the potential time savings in the past 12 months – watts of drag saving, faster course, better form, low air pressure, new special waxed from watt shop. On the back of an envelope, I calculated all these factors, using the formula of  ’20 seconds gain per 40km per watt of drag reduction’  and I came up with a time of 3.14. Marvellous! perhaps I should have just stayed at home and stayed with my virtual time. It’s wonderful what you can learn from the internet and a bit of ‘positive thinking’. If only riding a 100 mile time trials were as easy as writing a  ‘back of a fag packet’ calculation.

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Converting to a single chainring


For both hill climbs and timetrials I have been tempted to run a single chainring in the pursuit of a few marginal gains. From an aesthetic point of view it also looks good. The only downside is a potential risk of chain unshipping and undoing any marginal gain you may have benefited from. Therefore, it is not just about taking everything off; you need a sufficiently good mechanism to stop the chain unshipping. Also, the loss of gears are a problem for some courses and training.

Single chainring

The important thing for running a single chainring, is to make sure you get a chainring designed for single chainring use. A specific chainring will:

  • Lack ramps and pins (which help with shifting).
  • Also its teeth are taller its geared counterparts, which aids in chain retention.
  • Narrow-wide chainrings have alternating widths between teeth to help with chain retention.

Even, if get  a specific single chainring, you might still want to consider a chain guard (e.g. front derailleur / chain catcher) to be 100% sure against chain slip. Though opinion is mixed. If you have a special single ring use chainring – some will say you don’t need a chain-catcher, others will say ‘better safe than sorry’.

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Redmon CC – 25 mile time trial

In recent years, I haven’t done many 25 mile time trials. But, this was the second of the season. The previous one was Newbury RC H25/1 (51.54)

Like last week, conditions were very good. Warm – 21 degrees, very low wind and low air pressure; it would have been hard to have better weather conditions. I have been training quite a lot in past two weeks with National 12 hour TT and National 100 in mind. Two century rides in the past 8 days. Although a lot of miles, I haven’t been doing any hill intervals for quite a few weeks.

Last week, 15 mins pre race, I was scrambling around in the car for an allen key and had to dig one out of a saddle bag, right at the bottom. So I went to local bike shop and bought a set of allen keys – specifically to live in my car boot. It was a great idea, though I managed to leave this set of allen keys at home and I didn’t have any allen keys to hard. I warm up on training wheels, then with 20 mins to go, put on racing wheels. The problem is that the Zipp 808 are much wider than any other wheels, so the brakes were rubbing. I looked for a fellow competitor who might help. Number 71, my minute man was making a last minute change to his shoe cleats (so it wasn’t just me), but he still found time to dig out a small multi-tool and I was able to undo the brakes and was free to ride.

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