Review : : Up your sock game

Its that festive  time of year where socks come into the limelight for better or worse.  As far as cycling goes they are instrumental in the battle for warm feet during the cold months.  Luckily I’ve been testing a pair of Defeet Woolie Boolie on the bike and I’m pleased to report that my cold feet nightmare has drawn to a close.  This is a super warm pair of socks and when used in conjunction with an overshoe keeps things nice and toasty.  Now its been fairly mild recently (for December) so I’m also keeping a Sealskinz thermal liner socks as a back-up for the sub zero days. These can be worn underneath the Woolie Boolie for extra warmth.  Now I just need a Woolie Boolie with some colour, the charcoal is a bit dull.

Awarded | Kit Bag | for CycleTo MIPIM

 

 

Review : : Condor Super Acciaio the 10,000 mile bike

So I noticed last week that my Condor Super Acciaio had notched up more than 10,000 miles since I bought it new from @CondorCycles of London a couple of years ago.  The Super Acciaio is steel frame bike nothing like those of previous eras instead sporting carbon like geometry including a tapered head tube and stiff bottom bracket.

It’s a testament to the bike that it’s lasted this long as usually it would have gone by the way of boredom or broken.  It has survived punishing winters both in London and Yorkshire, being thrashed in road and circuit racing and munched up the miles on the daily commuting. It’s been a fantastic do anything bike and fast when I’ve needed it to be.

Its a stiff bike and is pretty sharp on acceleration with a rock solid front end spurred on by the carbon blade forks. I ran it on 23mm tyres for a long time but I’m currently rating the 25mm tyres which give a bit more comfort and confidence in the corners.

The head tube is a sculpted tapered unit, a rarity in steel, and houses a tapered 1.5in to 1.125in carbon fork..  This does however seem to attract the dirt so I’ve made myself proficient in servicing it myself.  The bottom bracket is an oversized modern pressfit design (BB30). The bearings, which press directly into the frame, are cheap to replace but they also seem to need refreshing more often than those of most bottom brackets.

The Shimano Ultegra di2 has also held up reasonably well. A failed front shifter in the early days was replaced under warranty and more a recently a worn out rear derailleur. I was a little bereaved that Madison wouldn’t replace the derailleur on the grounds it had a scratch which allowed them attribute the wear to damage – hmmm. More alarmingly access to the older Ultegra di2 groupset (6770) is now winding up as parts are at the time of writing are difficult to find now that it’s been replaced by 11 speed (6870).

The Super Acciaio is now furnished with a new set of winter wheels as the cold weather approaches.  I’m very optimistic of the Hunt Wheels which have replaced the existing; more about these later. It will also be strapped with mud guards for those wet and filthy days.  I’ve no doubt it will make it through another grimy winter into 2016 and being easily maintainable I’ve really got no excuses.

Here are some of the details of my Super Acciaio which continue to make think its a keeper;

Training : : Stages Cycling power meter

The opportunity has finally arrived to train with a power meter; a Stages Cycling Ultegra power meter which takes the form of the left hand crank arm replacing the original.  There are lots of options in the market place for training with power both more and less expensive than the Stages offering. Some are based in the rear wheel hub and others in the crank itself.  I am sure it won’t be too long before a company like Shimano actually builds it in as an integrated option.

The installation of the Stages power meter is straight forward and simply a case of removing the existing left crank arm and replacing it with the Stages power meter crank arm.  Note I have the Stages Ultegra 6800 as the colour matched my Ultegra 6770 groupset; there are no compatibility issues  The power meter includes a battery which requires a slip of plastic removing in order for it to make contact.  Note that there does seem to be an issue with clearance for some bikes so Stages offers a diagram which shows a 10mm hex wrench inserted between the crank arm and chain-stay as a check for clearance.

There has also been issues with the product and water penetration so it is clearly pointed out that the battery door must be correctly inserted and the o-ring type seal in the correct position.

After installing the crank I followed the set up instruction for pairing with a Garmin Edge 500 and ran through the calibration.  The Stages unit communicates with Garmin through Ant+  but also has Bluetooth to communicate with fitness apps on your phone such as Strava.  The first couple of rides out on the road the signal would continuously drop and the power reading would hit ‘0’ and then three dashes  (‘- – -‘)  would appear before a few seconds of nothing and then the reading would come back but only to drop off again.

Stages have a good list of potential fixes in their support section so after updating the firmware for the power meter via an app on my iPhone and updating the software on the Garmin I tried again.  Sadly no luck.

Finally I switched my Garmin ‘out front’ bracket which holds the Edge 500 in front of the handlebars to the standard bracket which holds it in place on top of the stem with rubber bands.  Hey presto no signal drop off between Garmin and the Stages and all is well with the power readings.  I would guess that due to the position of the Garmin unit with the out front bracket that the handlebar itself is attributing to interrupting the signal.

Now onto the fun bit which is to make good use of the data while training. Back soon….

Stages Cycling stages-shimano-ultegra-6800-power-meterPrint

Review : : Polar Buff

Buff PolarSay hello to the Polar Buff which is fast becoming my best winter friend whilst training during these cold months in the UK.  This winter head and neck gear is lined with Polartec fleece at the base for extra warmth.  This will keep your neck, ears, head and chin warm in a variety of guises all demonstrated in Buff’s Ways to Wear video.

When extended over the head it will keep the warmth in and the wind off the ears whilst fitting snugly under your helmet.

A great product for its versatility and warmth keeping you comfortable to get on the with the hard work of pushing the pedals.  This will be an essential piece of kit on the colder days when cycling from London to Cannes.

Awarded | Kit Bag | for CycleTo MIPIM

Review : : Rapha Deep Winter Base Layer

Rapha Deep Winter Base Layer MerinoI like warm clothing.

Don’t get me wrong I prefer cycling in warm even hot climates but there is something about beating the elements of a British winter that elevates the cycling experience. Get it wrong though and you’ll just get cold, wet and grumpy.

To battle the cold I have long owned an Icebreaker Skin 200 Merino base layer from my adventures in New Zealand. It’s a great bit of kit but recently I have tested the Rapha Deep Winter Base Layer which is a Merino hooded cycling top created for the very coldest days. It is made from two different weights of merino blend fabric which Rapha says provides the optimum balance between insulation and breathability.  That means the hood, chest and arms are made from a heavier material while the lower front body and back panel are lighter. Needless to say the fabric is high wicking, breathable, and extremely soft against the skin. Since its Merino it also won’t hold bad odours.

This base layer is extremely comfortable and the hood adds another level keeping neck and ears all wrapped up.  I have worn this jersey on several rides in temperatures from -3 to 7 degrees and more recently on a brisk 6o mile ride in an average temperature of 6 degrees.  Its breathes very well and held out the cold even when I had stopped for a coffee outside.  I would say 6 degrees sets the upper benchmark in the temperature range and I would pull this out for anything below (assuming a long sleeve jersey worn over the top).

Compared to my existing base layer the sleeves are more comfortable while riding due to a two piece construction which creates a better shape when riding. They are also cut long with thumb loops which I find great as you have a secure cold proof interface with your glove..

Now to the hood. It’s designed to fit under a helmet and features a ‘frogman’ or ‘bank robber’ face which can be worn over the mouth or under the chin.

Other points to note are that I sized down for this base layer from a Medium to Small.  I felt this gave less ruffles and a better fit against the skin which equals better wicking and thermal insulation.

Also be careful when you take it off as you can easily pull and stretch around the neck – you’ll here the stitching complain.

The white reflective tabs on the hood are a nice touch.

Overall this is great for super cold days when its cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.   Its sadly very pricey but the way I look at it is that you’re opening up the potential for more comfortable rides in colder conditions with a base layer that will stay in your wardrobe for many years to come.

Awarded | Kit Bag | for CycleTo MIPIM

The evolution of this product could only be a jump suit version which takes in the feet and legs too.  Lets see it Rapha, a Deep Deep Winter Onesie!

 

 

Review : : Sigma Sport Mechanics Course

Sigma Sport mechanic course

Riding all year round in all weather conditions brings higher maintenance requirements on your bike.  The mechanics course at Sigma gave me an opportunity to get to grips with some of the basic servicing myself.

The day long course is held in the workshop facility at the Hampton Wick store.  I suggest arriving early to allow some browsing time through the expansive shop floor or hang by the coffee machine if you want to give your wallet a break.

Mark Haylett (workshop manager) introduced himself to our group of 6 and outlined the days activities.  His relaxed manner throughout the day enabled an interactive workshop with plenty of opportunity to get the hands dirty.  There was scope for everyone to steer the course a little with their particular interests and a good Q&A at the end.

The course covered; tool awareness, chain technology, cassette, headset, wheel basics, transmission, cleaning, gear tuning, di2, wheel truing, brakes and bottom bracket.

It was a mentally exhausting day with a lot to take in however I took away exactly what I needed and with some hands on practical experience to boot.  The workshop facility is impressive and seeing the other mechanics at work was a great added bonus.

The winners for me were:

  • Complete understanding of headset removal and reassembly.
  • Hands on reassembly of rear cassette.
  • Product knowledge for greases and lubricants.

A great relaxed day with lots of knowledge and practical experience.  Perfect for an enthusiastic novice liek myself.  Interestingly no hard sell on workshop tools at the end of the day; refreshing.

Review : : Foam Roller

Foam Roller by TriggerPoint

TriggerPoint Grid Foam Roller 

An aching muscle in my thigh (ok a bit higher… more like butt cheek) reminded me this week just how much I have come to rely on the Trigger Point Grid Foam Roller. This is probably my most used piece of kit other than the bike and helmet.

This is foam roller is used to massage the muscles.  The lumps and bumps of the grid pattern work into the muscle which I am told promotes the flow of blood and oxygen for recovery.   It does hurt!  Like hell! Especially if you haven’t used it for a while.

I use it mostly after exercise while the muscles are still warm.

It comes with me on most excursions away.  Its easy enough to travel with if you place your clothes and socks inside it.  It measures 33cm long by 12.5cm.

Here is a link to the TriggerPoint videos showing how it can be used in different positions.

Awarded | Kit Bag | for CycleTo MIPIM

Purchased from TriggerPoint