Image property of ckingimages and Rapha
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Monday, October 1, 2012
Saturday, September 1, 2012
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Cycling is on the up. Thanks to the magnificent efforts of Team Sky and the British Olympic team, it seems the sport can do no wrong. No lesser publication than the Wall Street Journal carried the headline “
about the bike”. With all this success, the sport’s profile is changing. Our cycling
heroes now command front page headlines and are household names. The Sun even provided
cut out and stick on sideburns before Brad’s time trial. No doubt about it, cycling
is in serious danger of becoming the National Sport. Britain
Now all this has to be good doesn’t it? All this positive press has to help build respect from drivers, give us more clout in pushing for improved facilities, encourage more kids to take up the sport. More cyclists on the road, more love for cyclists off it – what’s not to like? Whilst I’m attracted to the sort of Olympic legacy that sees happy smiling drivers waving me through as I cycle unhindered to work, I have to confess to a slight unease. I’ve been somewhere like this before and I’m not sure I like how it all turned out.
In the1980s I loved football. To me, there was nothing to beat standing on a windswept, crumbling terrace to watch a group of mostly unknown players knock lumps out of each other as rain dripped down my neck through a hole in the roof. Crowds were small, tickets were cheap, the facilities were primitive and the star player posed in the programme on the bonnet of his Ford Capri. Football and the team I followed were deeply unfashionable. It was brilliant. Players stayed with the club for years (and not just the bad ones on fat contracts), there was a thriving fanzine culture, you felt a bond with the club that made you stick with them through the bad times and in my club’s case, there were a lot of those.
Then came the 1990 World Cup, Gazza cried on live TV, Pavarotti sang the theme tune. Football was suddenly mainstream, everyone wanted a piece. Sky TV got involved, the Premier League followed and the Ford Capri’s went to the scrap yard. The money brought improvements. All-seater stadiums were safer, attracting more women and children. The leaky roofs got fixed. An influx of foreign superstars improved playing standards. It wasn’t all good though – the development of player power and big wages saw a virtual end to loyalty. That young player you were previously able to watch develop moved after a season to sit in Stoke’s reserves. Ticket prices went up, the atmosphere got worse, the bond was broken. The sport I loved was not the same. I drifted away and found cycling.
There are some similarities with cycling’s current boom. The involvement of Sky is an obvious one and I fear the day that the Tour de France becomes exclusive to Mr Murdoch’s TV channels may not be far off. There is money to be made from the current British interest in the sport and the crowds that flocked to Box Hill despite having to pay for the privilege will not have gone unnoticed. Whilst anyone watching the articulate interviews given by our cyclists during the Olympics might think they little in common with Premiership footballers, there are similarities in their relationship with the transfer market at the end of the season. Ironically, it could be Team Sky that have to accept the consequences of this, if Chris Froome’s amazing summer continues.
this article originally appeared on Velobici.cc
Friday, August 10, 2012
Anna Meares might have broken Victoria Pendleton’s heart in the Olympic sprint final, but we won’t hold it against Australia if her compatriots Knog keep banging out great products like the Blinder 4V.
Knog always take an original approach to design, producing distinctive looking products such as the Strongman lock I reviewed in April. As with the lock, the Blinder 4V backs the style with impressive performance. Released as a companion to the square-shaped Blinder, the 4V is a rear light with 4 super bright LEDs in a straight line. Blinder is an appropriate moniker as with the help of special optics the LEDs pump out 44 lumens. Translated into lay terms, that means the light is visible up to 800 metres away – giving approaching drivers plenty of notice of your presence. There are 5 different flashing patterns available, my favourite being the “organic” mode. A lithium battery is recharged using a clever little USB plug – giving up to 50 hours of use in flashing mode.
The anodised aluminium case combined with industrial grade silicone makes the light 100% waterproof, just as well in some of the conditions we’ve had recently. The integrated strap secures the light to seatposts between 22 and 32mm diameter using a steel watch-strap style catch.
I love this light – it looks absolutely great and performs brilliantly. Expected to retail at about £30, there are cheaper options out there, but not many that match the Blinder 4V’s quality and none that match its good looks.
It was my turn to marshall this week, so I took my camera and got these shots of some of the 43 riders that raced. I think Brad Wiggins may have inspired a few to give it a go!
Thursday, June 28, 2012
I was given chance to speak to Fiona Campbell from Sydney City Council about her plans for the city. I wrote it up for the Guardian Bike Blog.
Friday, May 25, 2012
A piece I wrote for the GP's magazine Pulse:
Have you ever recommended exercise to your patients to help their mental health? A study commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation in 2008 showed that 22% of GPs had suggested exercise for mild depression. But do we practice what we preach? We’re working at a time of huge stress for GPs, struggling to cope with the NHS reforms, patient demand, pensions and changes to services. How many of us recommend exercise to help stressed out patients, then jump in the car and sit in a traffic jam on the way to a home visit? There is a growing body of evidence that exercise can help in depression and anxiety. Perhaps as doctors, we should be tapping into that, setting a good example to our patients and helping to reduce our own stress levels.
Whilst long days at the surgery leave little time to get to the gym, there is a simple solution. How about cycling to work? Jonathon Tomlinson, a GP at the Lawson Practice in Hoxton, East London rides to work every day because it is the easiest and quickest way to get to work and visit patients. But that’s not the only reason. “Exercise shouldn't be a chore. If you work long hours, the only practical solution is to make it part of your day” he says. It’s a philosophy I can identify with and the reason I started commuting by bike myself. But it’s not just about keeping fit. Riding to work energises me for the day ahead, and riding home helps to de-stress me. It appears I’m not the only one. Dr Nick Cavill is an Independent Public Health Consultant: “Anecdotally many cyclists report benefits to mental health- linked to fresh air, being outdoors and a chance to switch off from other worries.”
After five years of cycling to work, I’m known to many of my patients as the cycling doctor and whilst that initially raised questions as to whether I had been banned from driving or couldn’t afford a car, it now gives me credibility when recommending that patients get more active. Research has shown that doctors’ health practices strongly influence patient behaviour. It isn’t for nothing that they write “Most Doctors Don’t Smoke” on cigarette packets. If I know that cycling helps my stress, I’m more likely to suggest it to my patients and they are more likely to give it a go - patients become more receptive to health promotion counselling from doctors who demonstrate healthy behaviours themselves. Riding a bike to home visits is a highly visible way of showing that I believe in what I say.
Not that it’s always easy – when the rain is pouring down, it’s sometimes tempting to leave the bike in the garage. Even that might represent a missed opportunity. When Patisserie Cyclisme blogger Louise Mullagh was recommended exercise to help with her depression, she took to her bike in all weathers. “It was really good to feel the cold, the rain and to fight against it, it made me be mindful and just exist in that moment. It helped me to lose some of the numbness brought on by the medication.” The message is clear – embrace the British weather, it’s good for you.
Perhaps you have more prosaic reasons for not taking to the saddle. Perhaps you’re worried that the sight of you in Lycra might actually mentally scar your patients rather than help them. What about punctures? Oily chains? Helmet hair? No more excuses! Numerous companies now produce cycling clothing that can be worn without shame in the surgery, puncture-proof tyres keep the flats at bay and bikes are now available with carbon fibre belts instead of the humble chain. Helmet hair might be more difficult, but is a small price to pay for sorting out the rest of your head.
Still not convinced? Whilst cycling improves your psychological well-being, driving actually makes it worse. Research from the University of Sussex showed that commuting by car significantly increased levels of stress, physical tension and blood pressure, especially in congested conditions. That traffic jam again – ever felt frustrated as you sit trapped in your car as a cyclist cruises past in the cycle lane? For the sake of your mental health, you should think about joining them.
I got to test a Vulpine Gilet - very nice it was too
The high visibility gilet. Undoubtedly practical and safe, almost invariably nasty… until now. Vulpine.cc have decided that not only do we need to be seen on a bike, but that we should also want to be seen. The Cotton Visibility Gilet not only catches the eye of drivers, it also will catch the eye of the discerning cyclist.
Vulpine obviously believe you should enjoy the shopping experience. Not content with a simple polythene bag, the gilet arrives packaged in a matching musette. Matching means lime green - the high visibility part. It’s a bright colour, one that features more subtly in many Vulpine products - doing for green what Rapha has done for pink. The quality of the gilet is instantly obvious, with well finished seams and subtle logos. Constructed from Epic cotton - a fabric made by applying a silicone treatment before weaving, the gilet is water and wind resistant, but highly breathable. The cotton gives the gilet a nice soft feel – this is not a cheap, rustly, plastic mac. The back features a large mesh section to increase the breathability further. There are 3 rear pockets – a practical touch rarely seen on outerwear that certainly beats having to ferret around trying to get things out of the back of a jersey. Scotchlite trims on the pockets, shoulder seams and zip complete the high visibility package.
In use the gilet is very comfortable due to the stretch in the fabric. During a drizzly commute it proved its water resistant credentials and kept my body dry. On a chilly morning ride out to a rural café, it proved to be the perfect extra layer over a jersey combined with arm warmers. The fit is snug, if not skin tight, with a long back suiting taller riders – I would consider sizing down if you want a more sleek appearance. One of the joys of this gilet is the little extra touches that you discover as you use it – I hadn’t noticed the hidden red storm flap folded away at the back, until my riding buddy pointed it out to me. The collar is secured by neat magnetic fixings that can be opened one-handed on the road. The brightness of the green is a bit startling at first (which I suppose is the point) but I soon got used to it and started to appreciate standing out more on my commutes.
To be honest, a high visibility gilet would not have been at the top of my shopping list. However, after receiving this Vulpine offering, I’ve hardly ridden without it – the quality literally shines through. It’s a little bit more bulky when packed down compared to some of the lighter weight options out there, but this gilet is such a pleasure to wear, you probably won’t want to stuff it in a pocket.
Excellent quality and comfort, looks great.
Does exactly what it says on the tin – very visible!
Not as light or packable as some.
If you’re not keen on green, it might not be for you.
£95 including shipping from www.vulpine.cc
Monday, May 14, 2012
Friday, May 11, 2012
Perhaps the greatest compliment I can give this bike oil that I actually don’t notice it. I applied it to my chain about 6 weeks ago, rode my bike through the horrible weather that we’ve been experiencing recently and errr… that’s it. No squeaking of said chain, no signs of rust forming on the links after I’ve lazily stuck my dripping wet bike in the garage, nothing at all. Completely and utterly boring – long may it remain so!
Developed by a small company in New York, Chain-L was spotted by Rich from Urban Hunter in the bike shops he visited. Having tried some, he loved it and decided to bring it to the UK. You probably only think about your bike chain when it starts to give you trouble – squeaks and creaks, missing gears, clattering on the sprockets. Failing to look after your chain can wreak expensive havoc with your chainrings and cassette, but cleaning and lubing a chain properly is a fairly major task. Chain-L promises to make it a less frequent chore.
The Chain-L oil claims to last for 1000 miles. It is best applied to a new chain to avoid trapping dirt in the moving parts – if applied to an existing chain it will need a thorough clean first. Applying the lube is a bit time consuming – it’s very thick and it is necessary to warm it up by putting the bottle in some hot water before using it. If it is a new chain, it is best to apply the Chain-L before fitting it to the bike. I didn’t, and even taking it slowly found I couldn’t help applying a bit too much and got a fair bit on the frame and chainset. This continued to drip out over a day or two, so my oily rag got some heavy use to begin with. After the first week or so, this had settled down and the chain no longer felt sticky – feeling more like a dry-lubed chain. And that’s how it has remained. After 6 weeks of riding in terrible conditions, it looks and feels exactly as it did after that first week.
Marks – 4.5/5
For: Very durable, apply and forget!
Excellent value - £8 for a small bottle and I only used 10% on one full application
Against: Difficult to apply
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
The Ultimate Commuter. Not some slightly off-the-wall superhero, but the bike you dream of when struggling to work on a rusty old hack with a squeaky chain and a flat tyre. A quick survey on Facebook and Twitter revealed an imaginative list of specifications for that perfect bike, most of them from the realms of science fiction and many of them designed to inflict pain on inconsiderate motorists. How about a tailwind generator or Boudicca style wheel-spikes to keep Addison Lee minicabs at bay? Fortunately, Mark Meadows of Milk Bikes has taken a more realistic approach to the challenge and with the RDA, might just have cracked it.
For several years, I’ve been commuting on two wheels to my job as a GP. Mountain, hybrid, road, fixed gear and cyclocross bikes have all been pressed into service from time to time and done a reasonable, if not outstanding job. All of them have been found wanting at one time or other – too heavy, too slow, too skittish, no mudguards, no rack. I own what my wife believes to be an excessive number of bikes. As I have explained to her, all of them have a very distinct purpose - from off-roading, through time trialling, to an incredibly niche bike used solely for hill climb races of a certain length and gradient. Despite spending most of my cycling hours commuting, I have never thought to get a bike specifically for that role (apart from a brief flirtation with an incredibly dull hybrid – the less said about that the better). Mark Meadows found many things to upset him about the bikes he rode on his 30 mile commute. With a background in sports equipment design, including an ill-fated attempt to adapt a Toilet Duck bottle as an aerodynamic drinking system for triathlons (!), he decided to use his abilities and contacts in the industry to get the RDA off the ground. Having been brought up on a dairy farm in Zimbabwe, he adopted the name Milk Bikes. RDA stands for “Recommended Daily Allowance” presumably referring to the amount of use the bike should get, rather than its calcium content.
The RDA is a good looking bike. The aircraft grade chromoly tubing is narrower than that seen on most modern frames, giving the bike an elegant air. The finish is excellent with tidy welds, a nice white paint job and subtle decals. Milk bikes provide their own branded alloy seatpost, stem and handlebars. With its compact frame, the bike has the air of a mountain bike about it, particularly when combined with the Velocity deep section rims and disc brakes. It’s the Gates carbon belt drive that will draw the eye of the discerning cyclist however. Looking a bit like a car fan belt, it is completely dry to the touch, with no stretch that I could detect. No chance of getting oil on my trousers with this system, with or without bike clips. Unable to be used with a derailleur, the belt drive is allied to a Shimano Alfine internally geared hub system, with the 8 speed version on my test bike. A dynamo hub in the front wheel for powering the lights, three sets of bottle bosses (one on the underside of the down tube holding a tool kit), full SKS mudguards and a Tubus rack finish the build.
Riding the RDA
As a roadie, I found the riding position to be more upright than I am used to. This gave me better visibility of the road around me (and I suppose made me more visible too) and made for a relaxed ride. My wife couldn’t resist taking it for a spin and found the position to be quite racy compared to her usual hybrid. With no chain slack to take up, pedalling feels very direct – a bit like riding fixed. The thing you notice most though is the silence of the belt drive. The lack of chain rattle or chattering of sprockets can be a bit unnerving until you get used to it. The Alfine gears work smoothly and efficiently, with little or no delay after clicking the thumb shifter. Another bonus of Alfine is the ability to change gears without pedalling – a boon when having to stop suddenly at traffic lights. Speaking of stopping, the hydraulic disc brakes do a brilliant job – something the drivers of Leicester gave me ample opportunity to test. The horrible weather of the last few weeks also made me appreciate the mudguards and overall stability of the ride. The Continental Tour Plus tyres give excellent grip with the bonus of top notch puncture protection. The bike is no lightweight – you won’t be winning any races off the lights – but once you get there, it holds the speed well and feels surprisingly agile on descents and round corners. After several severe soakings in the torrential rain, the belt drive ran wonderfully smoothly, without a hint of a squeak or creak.
I enjoyed my time with the RDA and was sad to see it go. It was great to be able to grab the bike from the garage and not let maintenance worries cross my mind. If you spend a lot of time commuting, need reliability and ease of use more than raw speed and want a well-designed high quality steed, this could be the bike for you. As a roadie I found the 8 speed Alfine did not offer enough gears at the top end and would recommend the lighter weight and broader range of the 11 speed hub. There are a wide range of specifications available including a drop bar version, the most popular being the 11 speed flat bar. At £1450 for a fully assembled 8 speed and £1650 for the 11, the bike falls outside the £1000 limit for the bike-to-work scheme, a fact that may put off some qualifying buyers. The excellent frameset is also available for just £400 and can be combined with a standard chain. It’s the carbon belt drive that really makes this bike though – a whole lot more practical than those Boudicca spikes.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
If anyone is looking for the video of my crash (as mentioned in Cycling Plus magazine), you'll find it here:
Look out for me riding past the camera on the right in a black jersey wearing number 40 at about 1:40 mins. Follow my progress, the crash is about 1:55 mins. I should point out, that despite appearances, no one else was badly hurt - I was the only one needing hospital treatment.
Australian company Knog first came to my attention when I bought a couple of their Frog bike lights. The silicon encased LED lights looked great and were highly practical, not relying on brackets to fix them to my handlebars or seatpost. Switching the lights between bikes or attaching them to a helmet was a doddle and if you looked at them through squinty eyes they really did look a bit like frogs. Having said that, although bright, they weren’t quite powerful enough to use on their own – I also had to use other, uglier and less amphibian lights to feel safe. Knog have corrected that somewhat with the release of their new Blinder light.
In common with most Knog products, this is a funky bit of kit. Unlike any other bike light I have seen, it has a flat square front with an anodised aluminium face. The 4 LEDs are arranged in a square with the aluminium forming thick go faster stripes (other patterns are available). The whole thing is about the size of a compact bike computer. There is an ingenious clip system that allows bracket-less mounting to the bike, with a metal catch – a bit like a watch strap. The whole thing feels really well made and a big step up in quality from the Frog lights.
The light is powered by a lithium battery that is charged via an inbuilt USB plug that clips out of the back of the Blinder. One charge gives up to 50 hours of battery life in flashing mode, 3 hours in constant mode. If you have a computer at work, it is an ideal way to make sure you never have to ride home with a dim light.
In use the light really lives up to its name, the LEDs giving off 80 lumens, visible from a claimed 800 metres. There are 5 different flashing modes to help catch the attention of other road users. The light is 100% waterproof and survived the recent deluges with no problems at all. Bright enough to use without additional lights, it looks great on the bike, although no amount of squinting can make it look anything like a frog.
For: Compact, lightweight, waterproof, USB charging
Surprisingly bright and looks great.
Against: Quality costs - at £30 a light it’s a bit pricey.
Friday, April 13, 2012
Knog make some original and good looking products and the Strongman lock is no exception. Fortunately, in this case beauty is more than skin deep - the lock boasts the prestigious Sold Secure Gold rating.
The lock arrives nicely packaged in a recycled cardboard box featuring Knog’s trademark quirky graphics. The Australian company have their own tongue-in-cheek security rating, which places the Strongman at level 9 –“Ghetto”, ahead of “Crack House” and “Slum”, but less secure than “War Zone”. The more sedate Sold Secure Gold and ART 3 star rating stickers also place this lock at the top end of bike security. The lock looks great with smooth lines and a great finish. Potential contact points, where the lock could rub against your precious paintwork are covered with tough but soft silicone, colour coded in one of three colours. The test lock was labelled red, but was actually a bit more orangey.
Included in the package are 3 keys, with a serial number to enable you to order replacements from Knog and a colour coordinated mounting bracket to fix the lock to your bike for transportation. The bracket is really easy to install with a waxed webbing strap that is tightened with a supplied allen key. The Strongman locks into the bracket – no chance of the lock flying out, no matter how big a pothole you ride into.
The lock is excellent in use, the soft touch silicone really does prevent scratches to your bike, although it can get a bit grubby after a while. The shackle is easy to engage and not as fiddly as some other locks I have used. The main thing you look for in a lock is security of course, not having an angle grinder to put this to a full test, I can only give it the recommendation that my bike hasn’t been nicked when I’ve used the lock. The compact nature of the Strongman would make levering the lock off very difficult, and Knog’s “interesting” test of using the lock to pick up a car would suggest it is up to the job.
For: Looks great
Easy to transport
High level security
Against: Small size means needs to be combined with a cable or chain to fit round lampposts/trees etc.
RRP £74.99, but currently available at Farnham Cycles for £57.65
Saturday, April 7, 2012
Friday, March 23, 2012
I wrote this article after coming across several cycling projects that were using crowdfunding.
Friday, March 16, 2012
This article was published on the hugely popular patisserie cyclisme website -
The existence of the Patisserie Cyclisme website just goes to prove the special relationship that exists between cyclists and their cake. A quick glance at the plates of my riding mates at any cafe stop and it’s clear that the sweet stuff dominates. Caramel shortbread, Victoria sponge and chocolate fudge rule the world. It is at this point that I stand up and make my confession. Whilst I enjoy a piece of coffee and walnut as much as the next man, I think I actually prefer something savoury.
I’ve ridden several sportives. Clocking up the miles, fuelled by the sickly sugariness of energy gels, I often find myself craving something that won’t rot my teeth. Arriving at feed stations is almost universally disappointing – cherry bakewells, flapjacks, more energy gels. I once did an event called “Pork Pies and Potholes”, hoping this would be the one that broke the mould. I rode up to the first stop, mouth watering, stomach rumbling... cherry bakewells, flapjacks, more energy gels. At least they had a barbecue at the end. I live in Leicester, with Melton Mowbray, the home of pork pies just up the road, surely things could be different here.
Pork pies were initially developed at the end of the 18th century as a handy and transportable lunch for agricultural workers. “Handy and transportable” – sounds an ideal combination for a cycling food. Melton Mowbray makes the Rolls Royces of the pork pie world, protected by an EU Geographical Indication – a bit like the appellation d'origine controlee applied to French wines. Eat a Melton Mowbray pork pie with its bowed sides, sliced (rather than minced) pork and its rich, delicious pastry and you’ll understand what all the fuss is about. Part of the local food heritage, their absence on the Leicestershire cycling scene seemed criminal.
Fortunately help was at hand thanks to the Leicester Forest CC inaugural Pork Pie run. Inspired by the long standing and very popular Mince Pie Run that sees members of several local clubs descend on Belton village for err... mince pies, this was a bike ride with a savoury heart. The not very grand premise was that Mat – a fellow LFCC member – had ordered a pork pie from a farm shop near Melton and we were to ride out to collect it. So it was on a cold dull day we gathered at a village just off the A46 to ride out. Being “inaugural” and midweek, the gathering comprised of just me and Mat (these traditions have to start somewhere). Making swift progress through the mostly flat countryside we arrived at the farm shop with its attendant and somewhat bizarrely, ski-chalet themed cafe, where we enjoyed a cuppa and a piece of ironic cake. In the shop, the 2lb pork pies looked impressively large and marvellous. Filled with cake, lacking panniers, and unconvinced by the pies’ handy and transportable credentials when applied to a jersey pocket, I had to make do with just looking at them. On the ride home, try as I might, I could not persuade Mat to break into his Christmas supplies to help us back. Another long bike ride, not fuelled by pork pie.
All is not lost though. A new sportive company has arrived on the block with a new approach to food. The Polocini website talks of beef goulash with pasta, Tuscan meatballs, bratwurst with spiced potatoes and the marvellous sounding “pig in a bun”. I’ve already signed up to ride the apparently appropriately named The B*stard. As I battle up Holmes Moss, it won’t be sweet thoughts that keep me going.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Back in the late 70s when I was a kid, riding all over North Derbyshire on my Viking Warlord, the only way to find out how far I’d travelled was to get out the map and a piece of string. Some of my better equipped mates had a little plastic odometer that fixed to their front fork and literally ticked off the miles with startling inaccuracy. Whilst distances were interesting, the Holy Grail for a 12 year old budding Bernard Hinault was speed. Efforts to persuade my dad to drive alongside me and clock my mph as I frantically pedalled downhill proved frustratingly unsuccessful. One day, another mate rolled up sporting a speedometer on his handlebars. Green with envy we listening open-mouthed to his tales of daring 50mph bursts down the local hills (before registering that the numbers only went up to 40). Things are a bit different now of course. The advent of GPS means that every possible cycling statistic can be recorded, logged and shared on the internet. The days of pieces of string and wild exaggeration are all in the past.
The Garmin Edge 500 was developed with input from pro-cyclists. Compared to other GPS computers on the market, it is very compact – not much bigger than a standard bike computer. It definitely doesn’t clutter up your handlebars. The pay off for this small package is the lack of anything more than the most rudimentary mapping. I suppose the pro’s don’t really worry about getting lost in the middle of the Tour de France. To make up for that, the Edge 500 can measure and display a huge range of statistics from your ride. There are 3 screens of data available, each with the potential to display up to 8 different readings. There are 45 different measurements to choose from, varying from speed and heart rate, through to altitude, temperature and calories consumed. Scrolling through the data on a ride can be done with a simple press of a button, or automatically.
Setting up the Edge 500 is a doddle, the user friendly interface allowing you to customise your display to show as much or as little as you wish. It is possible to change the data fields displayed mid way through a ride, without losing any of the information collected to that point. Entering rider information (weight, age etc.) and bike information can be done by clicking through various screens, or more easily by using the provided software and adding the details from your PC using the USB cable.
Uploading your data after a ride is easy, using Garmin’s own Connect website or the Training Centre software that comes in the package. You can also use other websites such as Strava or Training Peaks if you prefer. Extracting the details of your ride can be a great help if you’re training for an event, especially if you use the optional Heart Rate Monitor. Combine it with the Cadence and Wheel magnet sensor and you can also use the Edge 500 on your turbo trainer. If you really take your training seriously, the unit is also compatible with power meters, including the eagerly awaited Garmin Vector pedal based system. Even if you’re not that keen, there’s something very satisfying about looking at your ride on a map, particularly if you use the Google Earth option.
The Edge 500 can also help to motivate you and make solo rides a bit more interesting if you use the “training partner” option. By creating a course from a previous ride, you can race against yourself, as a virtual partner (actually a little stick man on the screen). It’s surprising how this can fire you up into a sprint as you approach the finish just behind your mini-me!
The Garmin Edge 500 is a brilliant package, well designed, easy to use, tough and robust. With a multitude of features, it is the perfect training aid for those riders wanting to take their cycling up to the next level. I just need to find another use for all that string.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
“What colour would you like?” asked Corinne from Chrome as we discussed a test pair of their Kursk shoes. “Whatever you have available” was my cheery reply – the black or grey ones I’d seen on the website both looked great. I have to confess to a slight intake of breath as I ripped open the smart packaging that came remarkably quickly from San Francisco. I can safely say that I have never previously owned a pair of red shoes. Even in my five-a-side football days, I never strayed away from traditional black trainers. In my experience, the players who wore red boots were either exceptionally good or (more commonly) exceptionally deluded about their abilities. I was neither. As a 43 year old father of three I reasoned that red shoes had more place in the Wizard of Oz than on my feet (although the thought of clicking my heels together to magically return home had some appeal for a few of my more difficult commutes).
Colour aside, these are brilliant shoes, with loads of features to make them great for cycling. The uppers are made from tough Cordura fabric – we’ve come across this before in the bagaboo messenger bag and swrve jeans. It is exceptionally hardwearing, ideal for a bike shoe. The laces are elasticated – strong enough to keep the shoes firmly on your feet, but with a bit of stretch to avoid “hot spots” when pedalling. The aglets (those bits on the end of the laces) are made of metal, so there’s no chance of them fraying. There’s also a “lace garage” – essentially a loop in the tongue – to stop your laces getting caught in the chain. The insoles are thick, comfortable and supportive. These shoes are from the Kursk “Pedal” series, so don’t have SPD compatibility. The soles are very stiff though and reinforced with fibre glass for ¾ of their length. A reflective patch on the back of the heel completes the cycling specific features.
In use the shoes are excellent. On the bike the stiff sole really comes to the fore – transferring pedalling efforts almost as well as pure road shoes. The grippy sole is so good, I really didn’t miss my cleats. After a few commutes the shoes were showing no sign of wear – a good sign of their potential longevity. This is backed up by Chrome’s one year warranty. I’ve destroyed many a similar looking but not bike specific shoe in a matter of months when using them for riding. Off the bike, the stiffness of the soles makes walking long distances a little uncomfortable, but for nipping from the bike rack to the pub, they were fine. The red colour frequently drew second looks from passersby, but after a while, I started to enjoy their reactions. I was wearing shoes that made me (and some strangers) smile – something I’d never experienced before!
Bike to Bar
The Kursks are a well thought out and excellently made pair of “bike to bar” shoes and I would definitely recommend them. Always Riding have them in black at £64.99. As for me, I’m off to find a yellow brick road to ride on.
Monday, March 5, 2012
The latest issue contains a piece I wrote about the Somerberg road in Rutland. I'm very proud to be part of a fantastic publication. The artwork that Kathy did to accompany the piece is superb. See her website http://www.katarzynaklein.co.uk/
Last year I had a couple of articles published on the Guardian Bike Blog. Here they are -
Sunday, March 4, 2012
Certain things mark you out as a serious cyclist. Buying a skin suit, setting up a turbo-trainer in your garage and shaving your legs are all signs that you might have taken your cycling up to the next level. Despite splashing out on skin-tight lycra and making access to my lawnmower almost impossible, I’ve not yet plucked up the courage to take a razor to my varicose veins. Fortunately, the last few weeks have allowed me a hairier route to the world of the elite rider. I’ve been riding a genuine superbike – the Scott Foil R1.
The Scott Foil R1 really is a serious bike for serious cyclists. With an RRP of £6300, it’s clearly not aimed at the average sportive rider, but does the performance of the bike justify the hefty price tag? I had the ideal opportunity to put that to the test.
The National Hill Climb marks the end of the British racing calendar. Held on the last weekend of October, it attracts the best climbers in the country to pit themselves against the clock and gravity in front of large and enthusiastic crowds. This year, the event was to be held on the appropriately named Long Hill, just outside Buxton in the Peak District. It was a controversial choice, quite different to the traditional short sharp blasts up nasty gradients. Long Hill goes up 4.4 miles with an average gradient of just 3.2%. There was some debate amongst the top riders as to whether a Time Trial bike would be the best choice for the race. I had ridden in the open event on the same course in September on my normal road bike with clip on aero bars. It didn’t really suit me. What I needed was a super-light road bike which would give me an aero advantage without needing to hunch over the tri-bars. Step up the Scott Foil.
The Scott Foil was designed to take the best aspects of the Addict and Plasma TT frames and combine them in a UCI legal road bike with exceptional stiffness and light weight. With the help of Formula 1 aerodynamicist Simon Smart, and extensive wind tunnel testing, Scott developed the almost triangular tube shape, removing the trailing edge normally seen on aero-frames. This has kept the weight down whilst still producing what Scott claim is one of the most aerodynamic road frames available – saving up to 20% of drag compared to the Addict.
The result is a bike that is visually stunning, from the large, sculpted head tube to the swooping chainstays. This bike turns heads, from spectators on the hill climb to the pro-rider I caught up with on a training ride. The black and white finish subtly emphasises the aero properties and looks great combined with the weight saving Naked External Tubing – no fancy carbon weaves here. Mavic Cosmic SL wheels, a full Dura Ace groupset, Ritchey WCS carbon finishing kit and a carbon-railed Fizik Arione are added to the 840g frame. With a total weight of 6.96kg it feels amazingly light. Most road bikes, when picked up by a member of the non-cycling public, produce incredulous gasps. This bike produces the same response in experienced riders.
On the road I expected an uncompromising ride, but there’s a surprising lack of road buzz and I felt no discomfort, even on long weekend runs. Handling is sharp and responsive, yet reassuringly stable and sure-footed. I soon found myself throwing the bike into corners at silly speeds, coming out with nothing worse than a massive grin! The Cosmic wheels get up to speed quickly and hold it well, but are a bit susceptible to crosswinds, the bike’s general stability compensating for that somewhat. The whole package feels faster than my normal bike, particularly on the hills, where the light weight and stiffness of the frame really comes into its own. I beat my personal best on a seven minute training climb near my home by over a minute, helped by the lightning fast gear changes of the Dura Ace (for electronic Di2 you need the Premium model and a further £3000). Fellow members of Leicester Forest CC who tried the bike on our local hill climb course were impressed by the lightness, stiffness and acceleration.
And so the big test, the National Hill Climb. Riding the Foil definitely gave me a psychological boost and made me feel that I could do well. Sure enough, I managed to beat my previous time for the course by an impressive 22 seconds. Unfortunately, against a very strong field including such legends as Rob Hayles and Michael Hutchinson, that was only enough to lift me to 118th. A top level bike that my legs and lungs couldn’t quite match.
If you want a unique piece of brilliant engineering and design and can afford the Scott Foil R1 you should seriously consider buying one. A dream bike that will almost certainly make you faster, I’m sure you will not regret your investment. As for the rest of us - Scott are releasing some lower spec models for 2012, including the 105 equipped Foil 40 for about £2200.
I’ve enjoyed my brief foray into the world of the top rider, I think it might even be time to get out my razor.
Performance 10/10 - 5 stars
Performance 10/10 - 5 stars
Quality 10/10 – 5 stars
Desirability 10/10 – 5 stars
Value 6/10 - 3 stars
Overall 9/10 – 4.5 stars
Overall 9/10 – 4.5 stars
Fantastic bike but prohibitively expensive for most riders