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Ultegra di2 groupset (6770) is now winding up as parts are at the time of writing are difficult to find now that it’s been replaced by 11 speed (6870).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;
Say 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.
Beautiful sunny winters day training ride. Route from Stratford-upon-Avon to Woburn Forest taking in these villages along the way. Very picturesque and lots of wildlife including a Kestrel and Heron. One of the most quiet routes for traffic I’ve done in Central England. Lucky find Boycott Farm Shop which provided fantastic lunchtime fuelling and a sit in the sun.
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.
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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!
Training in Yorkshire is always challenging but pleasantly rewarding. In the face of tough climbing the weather can turn at a moments notice a challenging ride into a seemingly impossible one. This Yorkshire Dales Ribblehead Route is a good challenge and rewarding with epic scenery my favourite being the twisty down hills into Settle.
Wet and muddy with a puncture thrown in for good ‘getting mucky’ measure.
It’s my wedding anniversary this weekend so I won’t be training on the bike.
Since I needed an inspired wedding anniversary gift for my wife I headed down to Alex Monroe jewellery shop near London Bridge.
Mrs Bugg loves Alex Monroe jewellery specifically the beautiful bumble bee pieces. She says it reminds her of her married name. The intricate nature of the jewellery designs fascinates me knowing the skill required to create each piece. Whilst I was there I noticed the selection of bicycle necklaces which resonates with my passion for cycling.
Amazingly Alex has kindly offered to donate one of these beautiful necklaces for raffling as part of my fundraising effort. The full range can be found at alexmonroe.com and was created through Alex’s love of cycling. He has an old school yellow Bianchi with horn handlebars which he rides into work. Very cool.
Details on the raffle will be posted soon, watch this space.
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.
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.
I spend a lot of time on the bike in very static positions so a friend recommended I try an ‘all-body’ spin class to loosen things up.
I’ve put this off for a while now as I’ve never been a great fan of the spin class. However I was given a nudge to try out Psycle, so I took up their introductory offer and headed down there.
The reception has a clean modern decor with space to hang out behind large glass windows facing onto the street. The greeting was professional and friendly. Shoes, towels and lockers are all provided so its nice and easy getting started.
The bike set up was clearly explained by the instructor, AJ, prior to the start of the class. It was a prompt start with lights dimming and music pumping. The all body workout came as somewhat of a shock to the system; it’s a 5 out of 5 for work your arse off! I certainly disappointed AJ with my complete lack of double time! AJ’s popping and bursts of energy brought a very positive vibe to the class with his dance background shining through. Lots of arm work which whilst easy enough I found difficult to coordinate with maintaining a good leg speed.
Music was loud with some current tracks. Any class that manages to integrate Money For Nothing by Dire Straits needs recognition (still working out whether good or bad). Lighting was sequenced and variable throughout the session.
I would like to see a leader board display showing stats which would provide great feedback and could take this studio much further.
If you need to loosen things up or release that upper body from the static winter turbo it’s worth a visit.
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.
I recently acquired this jersey and it has now been put through a couple of hundred miles.
I love the luminous yellow mesh which conceals the Polartec Alpha fabric on the inside front panels. Wickedly breathability.
It performed amazingly on a Yorkshire training weekend two weeks where cold temperatures and bitter wind were accompanied by occasional rain showers. Not a waterproof jacket but light rain will bead on the surface rather than soaking in.
Where this lightweight jersey really excels is during brisk tempo on cold rides. During periods of higher output there’s great airflow and excellent breathability. The jersey will also dry out quickly getting you back into comfort.
Flexibility is the word which sums up this jersey.
Like the elasticated waistband and easily accessible side pocket (on addition to three regular).
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