Tag Archives | review

Vittoria Corsa Evo CX – Review

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.

vittoria-corsa-evo-cx

vittoria-corsa-evo-cx on a Zipp 404

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.

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Elivar Prepare, endure and recovery | Review

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.

I tested these over the weekend during some 4-5 hour rides whilst watching Tour de France

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.

Elivar

Elivar products I tested.

 

Elivar Prepare

  • 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.

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Zipp 808 Firecrest review

Review of new Zipp 808 Firecrest front wheel.

zipp-808

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
  • Spokes: 16
Zipp 808 hubs

Zipp 808 hubs

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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Mountain high review

Mountain High is a compilation of 50 of ‘Europe’s greatest cycle climbs by Daniel Friebe and Pete Goulding.

Mountain High arrived through the post at a fortuitous time. It was the day the Giro d’Italia was due to ascend the legendary Mount Zoncolan, in northern Italy. I went straight to the section on Mount Zoncolan to read about the mountain.

zoncolan-12542603@N07-1352319542

Mount zoncolan – Serafino

 

Widely considered one of the hardest climbs to be used in procycling, Mount Zoncaolan is one of the epic climbs of European racing. Hopefully, it will be remembered for it’s steep slopes and dramatic backdrop rather than for the ‘stupid spectators of 2014’ – who seemed to have a field day on that particular stage. (youtube video of closeup)

Mount-zoncolan.svg

Mountain Zoncolan from Priola – av.gradient 13%. Heigh gain 1,140m – length 8.9 km.

The book gives us lots of fascinating insights into the riders and climbers. For example, In 2007, Gilberto Simoni said climbing Mount Zoncolan was a like a slow, steady execution. ‘Mortifying’ was the adjective he used. He used a 34*27.

For each 50 climb, you get a good overview of the climb and also rich snippets of history and racing, which give even more drama to the climbs.

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Castelli Nano waterproof overshoes

Castelli Nano waterproof overshoes are a lightweight aero / waterproof overshoe. I’ve been using for the past two years. I’ve just bought a second pair after the first one wore away (mostly due to crash damage)

At this time of the year, I nearly always wear these, even if it is a training ride. Although quite expensive for an overshoe, I’m a big fan of this. Buying a second pair is always a good sign.

castelli-nano-shoecover-12-black

Features of the Castelli Nano overshoes are:

  • Easy to fit on shoe. I leave it on the end of the toes when taking shoes off and then just pull up ankles when putting shoes on.
  • Thin and lightweight to wear, you don’t really  notice them
  • It gives a reasonable protection from shower and spray. If it rains heavily, you feet will definitely get wet. But, then I’ve never come across an overshoe which can 100% keep your feet dry. It is useful for light showers or days when there is spray from the road. It does enough to keep the feet a bit drier and prevent wet feet for a little longer.
  • They give some warmth protection, especially in wet conditions, they help avoid the coldness from damp. They also help keep out the wind coming through cycling shoes built for hot conditions.
  • In mild conditions, it’s just a bit extra insulation, whilst remaining breathable and light – For days when a proper neoprene overshoe would be overkill, these can keep the edge off whilst it’s still cold in the morning.
  • They are easy to wipe clean and keep your shoes clean
  • They help improve aerodynamics, useful if your time trialling. If it is a big race, I will use the much more expensive Smart overshoes (£85) but for less important races, I use the Castelli Nano because they are cheaper and I can protect the £80 from overuse.
  • They are pretty sturdy for an overshoe. Over the years, I’ve tried many overshoes and find that they are prone to disintegrate pretty rapidly. I’ve tried wool based overshoes, but they tend to rip and shred quicker than this rubberised lycra. To say they get a lot of use, they have done well to last nearly two years. You can’t really expect thin overshoes to last any longer.
  • The zip is strong and sturdy – unlike many overshoe models

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100 climbs of the Tour de France – Review

100 greatest cycling climbs of the Tour de France is the 4th book in the popular series of books by Simon Warren. This book includes 100 climbs which have featured in the Tour de France, including famous climbs of the Alps and Pyrenees, such as Alpe d’Huez and the col du Tourmalet.

A while back I saw a survey in Cycling Weekly that said something like 40% of all riders consider themselves ‘climbers’ – it was by far the most popular type of cyclist – (Perhaps this means we will be seeing bumper entries in the hill climb season this autumn…)

There is definitely an enduring fascination with climbing up hills. It is the thing we love to hate. Pictures of sweeping hairpin bends and looming vistas just make you want to go out and ride them. As a cyclist, there are few challenges as rewarding as conquering difficult hills. And it is the mountains of the Alps and Pyreenes which are the most iconic aspect of cycling.

Quite often you read a book – and that’s it. It sits on the bookshelf until you give it away to a charity shop to make more space. But the 100 Greatest climb books are the kind you want to keep going back to – Looking for a new hill to ride, looking at the hills you’ve just done.

I’ve probably looked at my 100 UK climbs books more than any other book in past few years (with notable exception of complete works of William Shakespeare, King James Bible e.t.c.)

The problem with 100 climbs of the Tour de France is that it make British hills look rather feeble in comparison. I know we have Great Dun Fell and Hardknott Pass, but the Tour de France is just littered with mind blowing climbs complete with beautiful hairpins and stunning scenery. I’m just jealous of all those hills and I haven’t ridden even one. Reading the book does gives me pangs of inadequacy – I haven’t conquered even one Pyrenean pass.

A while back I was researching climbs which would give maximum higher gain in minimum time frame. The magic gradient is a steady and consistent 10%. In the UK this is virtually impossible to find. But, in the Pyrenees, it seems every climb was perfectly engineered to give this magic gradient for a high Vertical Ascent per Meter.

col-du-tormalet

col du Tourmalet. Photo Will J

  • Col du Tourmalet 1,404 metres of height gain over 19 km. Average gradient 9%

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Maglia Rosa – the Giro d’Italia by Herbie Sykes

MagliaRosaCover_mediumI received a copy of Giro d’Italia by Herbie Skykes at the Buxton Mountain Time Trial. I’m not sure if it was a prize or given to every rider. It is published by Rouleur. Herbie Sykes is an Englishman who moved to Italy and became fascinated with the Giro and Italian cycling culture. The book tells the Giro through the experiences of top riders – (though not necessarily famous outside of Italy). One attraction of the book is that there are many new cycling stories. The famous Tour de France stories are all well known, but in the Giro there are many different epic cycling stories from lesser known Giro riders.

For example, Franco Balmamion the last Italian rider to win back to back Giro victories (I’d never heard of him). There are also some interesting accounts of riders who made it from the poorest social and economic circles.

With all the ups and downs of the long history of the Giro d’Italia, it also gives you an insight into Italian culture and political life as much as it does into cycling.

The one difficulty with the book was that sometimes it’s hard to keep track of all the unfamiliar Italian names. Alas, my knowledge of the Giro is quite limited apart from the famous Bartoli and Coppi.  But, it is always good to read something new. It was a timely read, with the Giro starting in May this weekend too.

Photos from Giro

Charly Gaul 1956

Charly Gaul 1956

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coppi-the-bike-show

Fausto Coppi

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sastre-goflo Photo flickr goflo

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photos-per0ni-2101406219 Photo flickr per0ni

The other problem is that, especially in the past few decades, it’s hard to read it without feeling considerable regret the Giro has been sabotaged by doping. Such a great history, but the history is tainted; the amount of pride you can get from the past seems to depend on your tolerance of doping infractions.

Pantani Bandanas

[Warning: begin rant] It’s a bit off topic, but I wanted to mention the Pantani phenomenon. Marco Pantani was a tragic life – someone who deserves considerable sympahty, but it is hard to think of a more unsuitable role model for professional cycling. I just can’t get my head around these Pantani limited edition bandanas and shirts, which are proliferating at the moment. In a way I find them more painful than a Livestrong yellow wrist band. It sums up the curious Italian approach to cycling and doping. They are cynical after years of doping, but they love to celebrate one of most prolific dopers and someone who led protests against the implementation of doping controls.

[/rant over]

The magic always remains

rowena-rubber_slippers_in_italy Photo Flickr rowena

The good thing is that whatever happens, the Giro always bounces back. Whatever it goes through, there is always interest in the epic three week tour; there is an instinctive capacity for renewal.  In the past few years, the Giro seems to be undergoing another period of renewal. With the attraction of some of the big Tour de France podium riders and cycling names like Cadel Evans, Wiggins, Nibali and Quintana it seems the Giro is in a strong position.

Watching the Giro fly up to the Stormont Parliament in Northern Ireland was a magnificent sight.  Who would have thought that it would be the Giro d’Italia to see the troubled province of Northern Ireland bedecked in a sea of pink and multicultural flags?

It was particularly sad to see Dan Martin crash out. Because he is a rider who really seems to be worthy of supporting and signs of a new era.

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Kask Bambino long term review

The Kask Bambino helmet is an expensive aero helmet. Despite its price (£299) it has become quite popular, probably because of its use by Sky procycling team. The logic is that Sky must have spent quite a bit of money on wind tunnel tests. If it’s good enough for the likes of Froome and Wiggins, it must be good enough for me. I noticed Michael Hutchinson used a Kask Bambino in the 2013 10 mile TT championship. (but, I also noticed he didn’t use it in the 25, and I haven’t seen him use it since.) I’m surprised how many people are turning up to TT with a Kask in the past couple of years. I think a big reason is that they look good and much less geeky than the typical long tail pointy thing. They are also very comfortable to wear.

But, if we are a real time trial aeroweenie, should we really be basing our decisions on aesthetics and comfort? Probably not.

kask-bambino

Aerodynamics

Aero-helmets can make a big difference to improving aerodynamics in time trials. They probably offer one of the best ‘bang for your buck’ in terms of watts saved to cost.

When I went in the wind tunnel, I tested two helmets, and as a result ended up getting a Giro advantage. The Giro Advantage  However, although it came out of wind tunnel with relatively good results, I wasn’t happy with the helmet because it was uncomfortable, and I couldn’t get a proper visor to fit. I ended up gluing a visor on, which was all messy and un-aerodynamic. I liked the look and simplicity of the Kask Bambino helmet and decided to get one.

 

tejvan-201-kask-bambino

The advantage of small tail helmets is that they are said to be better in crosswinds when the wind is coming from the side. Long tails provide more surface area in a cross wind. The short tail helmet like the Kask Bambino is said to be good whatever the wind direction. This is something wind tunnels can’t replicate – they generally measure efficiency with wind coming straight on or at 7 degrees yaw angle. The second advantage of small tail helmets is that you don’t have to worry about the tail sticking up in the air. With my last long-tail helmet, I was often repositioning the helmet trying to get the tail to touch my back.

It is hard to evaluate the aerodynamic benefits of aero helmets – even if you can go to a wind tunnel. The aero benefits of a helmet depend on the riders position, body shape, wind direction. With so many variables, it is hard to ascertain exactly how much benefit this helmet is.

However, I’ve heard quite a few rumours that in wind tunnel tests, the Kask Bambino is not as good as other aero helmets. I heard someone ‘on the grapevine’ say you lose 5 watts wearing a Kask Bambino. I’ve certainly not seen any drag 2 zero rider wear a Kask Bambino. Quite a few TT riders who test aero equipment seriously don’t seem to rate the Kask Bambino.

I feel a bit bad for spending all the money on a wind tunnel and not using the most aero helmet (Giro advantage)  but choosing something which looks better. I feel the Kask Bambino may be wasting watts, so I’ve made another effort to get a visor for the Giro (from Bob Heath Visors) and I will have another go at using. However, for last two races, I still chose the Kask Bambino.

  1. Sat, there was a 16mph crosswind for a 10 mile TT, this is the conditions where a Kask should be most benefit
  2. Sun. For hilly time trial, I preferred to have comfort and not worry about long tail because in a hilly TT, you’re moving about all over the place.

However, for flat fast 10s, 25s and 50s with heading, I will probably revert to the Giro. I will save Kask for crosswinds and really hilly events.

Type of rider who benefits from short tail Kask Bambino

According to this article, short tail helmets are becoming more common in recent years. The logic is that short tail helmets are likely to be good for a wider range of athletes, even if they are not the best individual choice. It also states that short tail helmets are best for riders who can ride with low back and low head in ‘turtle’ position.

In general, “riders that don’t or can’t shrug or ‘turtle’ their head as much benefit more from a longer tail, assuming, and this is the big caveat, that they can hold their head steady in the optimal position the entire time,” Yu said. “Riders that bury their head or turtle really well tend to benefit from shorter-tail helmets.”

In a similar vein, the New Giro Selector, offers two different tails –

  • It offers a short stubby tail for tall riders who can ride with flat back.
  • It offers a longer tail for riders, who are shorter and can’t keep flat back.

This suggests that the Kask Bambino is more likely to favour a tall rider like me, who can ride with a flat back in the turtle position.

Weight

kask-bambino-weight

Without visor, the Kask Bambino is 354 grams

With visor (and magnest) Kask Bambino is 395 grams

Kask Comparison

KASK-stubby-aero-20-uni-tri-sports

Source: Article at Tri Sports

Interesting comparison. Bit bulkier at the back of the head.

Fitting

kask-bambino-tt

The Kask Bambino fits very well. There is a nice leather strap and inside the helmet you can adjust the inner strap. It is close fitting, but doesn’t box in the ears like my old helmet. Very easy to wear. Though like any helmet, fitting is a very personal thing. I’d advise trying to test before buying. I use a size Medium. Perhaps it is too comfortable. If it did squash your ears, perhaps it would be making you more aerodynamic. If I did a long time trial, I might favour the Kask Bambino just for comforts sake. I certainly couldn’t face a Giro Advantage for 12 hours.

Those pesky magnets

The last thing you expect from a helmet costing £300 is poor workmanship. But, everyone I know who bought a Kask Bambino has had the experience of magnets falling off. I thought about trying to contact Kask, but thought it would be too much hassle. In the end I bought some small magnets from www.first4magnets.com. Just annoying.

Those magnets didn’t really work, so I contacted Kask, they told me to send vizor back to

Velobrands
Unit 8 Flight Way business Park
Dunkeswell
Devon
EX144RD
and I got a free replacement. This was good though it doesn’t fit as snug as it might.

Value

The main drawback of the Kask Helmet is the price. I was looking into getting another visor (with sun shade, the visor they give you is clear). But, just an extra visor is £79.99. That really is taking the mickey mouse. You could buy a new helmet for that. It remind me of Mac charging me £400 to replace a cracked screen. Despite taking the mickey on price, they have poor workmanship, with no obvious place to get free magnet replacements. I have heard Kask are improving the glue for future models, so you may be better off if you buy in the future.

Conclusion

I don’t think Sky are wearing Kask Bambinos because they all went in the wind tunnel and found the Kask to be the most aerodynamic for them. It’s a commercial decision and sponsorship. For pro teams, whose helmet choice has to fit all in the team, the short tail is perhaps the best common denominator. But, the amateur time triallist free to choose whatever he wants, could actually be more aero than pros.

I think the Kask Bambino is a good helmet if you have no intention of going in a wind tunnel to find the optimum helmet for you. It’s good in the sense that you don’t have to worry about a tail sticking in air.

I kind of like it, but at the same time, I have a nagging feeling that it may not be as aerodynamic as some other helmet. Would I recommend buying it? That’s a tough one. If you want aerodynamics for low cost, there may be many better value aero-helmets. I have a nagging feeling you are asked to pay a premium for a product well marketed. Nevertheless, there are certain benefits, which mean I’m kind of glad to have it. It is good for hilly time trials, where you’re in and out of the saddle. A short tail seems to be better for a rider with profile like me, especially in crosswinds. However, I’m sure if I go in the wind tunnel, I would come out with a Kask not getting very good results.

Related

I initially reviewed this on my old cycling blog, last year. But have updated review, after another year of using.

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Endura BaaBaa Merino baselayer

endura-baabaa-baselayer

I bought this Endura BaaBaa Merino baselayer in anticipation of some cold wet early season time trials. Merino wool offers good insulation, but really comes to the fore when wet. It can retain heat reasonably well, even when it is damp day.

Sizing

Although 6 foot 3 – 38″ chest, I choose size S. I wanted it to be tight fitting to go under a skin suit. If anything, Merino wool can stretch a little over time with use, so I’d rather go for a slightly small size rather than large. It fits well, though a little short in the arm, which is to be expected given my height.

The recommended sizing is

S-36-38, M-39-41, L 45-47, XL -42-44,  XXL -48-50

Review

endura-baa-baa-merino-l-s-base-layer

Merino wool makes a good base layer because it is reasonably soft against the skin (though not as amazing as some Merino advocates claim). It is also excellent at wicking away sweat. It never seems to get heavy with sweat, which some other materials can.

A surprising number of people have told me that you can wear Merino wool unwashed for two months, and you still don’t get any untoward smell.  I can’t say I’ve ever dared test this to the limit. But, you can see how that is possible.

It can be put in the tumble dryer, which is good. When you take it out, it seems dry already. Whereas other clothes take longer to dry.

It offers a good layer of insulation. It is quite warm, without being too heavy. I’ve used it on quite a few damp and cold rides this summer, and has always performed well. Continue Reading →

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Best road tyres

Now the winter is  officially and very firmly behind us (cue return of rain, sleet and snow) it’s time to take off the winter road tyres and choose the best summer road tyres for all the upcoming halcyon days of riding on dry smooth tarmac in temperatures approaching the mid 30s.

Depending on the tyre you choose, there can be a big difference in terms of rolling resistance –   up to  30 watts worth between best and worse performing. Also, The faster you go, the more you will notice the difference.

Over the years I’ve tested quite a few different road tyres. To some extent it becomes hard to choose between different models. But, the good news is that I feel the technology of tyres has improved in recent years, giving cyclists a really good choice of tyres. Because I have so many sets of wheels, I’m often riding several different types of tyres / tubulars at the same time, which gives an idea of how different tyres compare.

I would say the golden rule of buying tyres is don’t penny pinch. It is invariably worth getting a relatively expensive tyre. The cheapest models of tyres tend to be poor value.

When choosing tyres, it is always a trade off between different factors

  1. Low rolling resistance
  2. Low weight
  3. Puncture resistance
  4. Aerodynamics
  5. Grip on the road
  6. Ease of maintenance – changing in case of puncture e.t.

Generally racing tyres will be light, low rolling resistance, but you sacrifice some puncture resistance. I’m often torn between using the lightest tyres and risk having to walk along a dual carriage way because of puncturing. It is only on hill climbs that I really throw caution to the wind and ride track tubulars which are ridiculously light. For my general road bike, I tend to go for a good all-rounder, like Continental Gatorskin / 4 season. For racing, I use tubulars – either Continental Competition (Good puncture protection, but definitely not best rolling resistance) or Corsa Crono Evo)

Fastest tyres

When buying tyres, it is hard to know the rolling resistance that the tyres offer. From trial and error and testing, you can notice a difference between different tyres – especially when doing time trials, but it is always tricky to measure exactly. The graph below shows the power required for different tyres, which were tested at Continental in Germany Link. If it was tested at Continental, it’s interesting that Continental tyres don’t come out so well on the rolling resistance.

The test shows the rolling performance at 7 bar (101psi) and the power needed to overcome rolling resistance of the tyre. This shows, there is over 20 watts difference between the worst performing tyre (Hutchinson Top Speed) and the best performing tyre. With a threshold power of 300 watts, 20 watts is a lot to give away to a slow tyre.

tyre-rolling-resistance

Source: Link

Vittoria Open Corsa Evo CX

vittoria-open-corsa-evo-cx-clincher-tyre-black

I have used the Vittoria Open Corsa Evo, but I was probably put off re-buying by the relatively poor puncture protection. However, looking at the rolling resistance, it is a tyre which is really focused on performance, with very low rolling resistance. If you want one of the fastest tyres, this is a very good choice. The weight is just 210 grams for the 23″ option.

Vittoria open corsa evo at Wiggle RRP £49.99 on offer at £29.99

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