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Wow. This one is going to test my writing chops. How I’m going to wrestle a blog post out of this subject I do not know. Better kick on.

To be honest I don’t give my feet much thought when cycling. This extends beyond sock choice.

My only real issue in the foot area actually manifested itself through knee pain and an under-developed set of right quadriceps (more under-developed…). The issue (and solution) was foot-related.

As part of my new bike and bike fit process in 2013 I bought Speedplay pedals and set the float up to pretty much maximum. This (and the well-fitting bike) sorted the knee.

Back to feet.

Unlike my hands, where I seem to really suffer with the cold, I am able to live with discomfort down there (at the end of the legs, not ‘down there’).

I’ve never used overshoes to keep my feet warm in grizzly weather. I’ve also not used overshoes in order to become #moreAero.

What Cycling-Specific Socks Do I Own?

Now there’s an interesting sub-heading if ever I wrote one.

I’ve actually got two pairs (fascinating). Prepare to receive some information about them.

[Hit it!]

1. “Standard” Rapha Socks

I say standard but they’re actually quite smart (mine are navy blue). And good at what they do (being socks).

I received them as part of a birthday present from this blog’s best supporting actors, my sister and her husband.

Behold the socks!

The main part of the gift was a Rapha Core Jersey (my favourite cycling jersey according to this post). If I had to guess, I’d say the socks were a top up gift, in order to hit the moneyspend they wanted to get to for the present.

Which is pretty much the level of analysis I would apply when buying a pair of socks.

For a long time, Rapha was the brand that ‘real cyclists’ loved to bag on. All mouth and no trousers. Style over substance. My experience is exactly the opposite, both with these socks and the core jersey.

Whilst the reality is that I don’t go out of my way to buy and wear cycling-specific socks, these Rapha foot coverings have come the closest to persuading me to change that (hard line) stance.

2. dhb (Dan) Merino Winter Socks

Now I think about it, my other cycling socks were bought in a similar way in a similar way to the Raphas.

I’d received some Wiggle vouchers for Christmas and had identified the main thing I wanted to buy (these GripGrab leg warmers were on offer).

Buying a set of merino wool socks (similar to these ones) allowed me to use up the rest of the voucher without adding too much of my own money (remember – Yorkshireman, deep pockets, short arms).

Anyway, they shrank.

They are warm though (as you’d hope and expect from merino). Just a little bit too ankle socky and tight on the foot-y.

If I could be sure they wouldn’t shrink (I can’t discount that my washing machine incompetence was the cause), I think I’d buy another pair.

What Factors Should We Be Considering When Buying Bike Socks?

Hell, should we even be wasting valuable brain juice on the subject?

(I’ll leave that question hanging.)

When I started writing this post (I commence scribbling before I know what I’m going to say), I would have said that for most people, the key criteria when buying cycling socks would be looks. Or at least colour.

Then I actually looked into the subject (did an internet search) and realised that there’s more to this sock thing than meets the eye. Maybe there are marginal gains to be had…

But back to appearance.

For the most part I just pick the first pair of socks that comes to hand that is a light or bright colour (essentially anything that doesn’t look like a work sock). This possible says more about my lack of thought than a particular desire for sartorial elegance.

Other velo-dandies will, I’m sure, select a sock that coordinates with the fluoro-camouflage kit that they’re sporting this ‘season’.

I always wear socks pulled up righty tighty…

I don’t know. Some people like to ‘show a bit of personality’ by going a bit more outlandish on smaller clothing items, whilst remaining conservative when it comes to the bigger garments.

That’s why you wear that comedy tie to work (that no one else realises is ironic) and why I wear a pair of bike cufflinks as a wink and a palm tickle to other secret bikemasons.

To mini-conclude, how a sock looks on your sculpted cyclo-calf clearly is important. But if high performance is what you’re after (?), what other sockfactors make a difference?

Let’s start with the material.

What Are Cycling Socks Made Of?

Good grief, what a question.

We’ve ‘discussed’ my mini merinos.

In addition to keeping your feet warm (when used for socks), merino wool is apparently good at allowing water vapour to escape the local microclimate near your foot. As a result, the socks don’t get wet, causing discomfort and further heat loss.

Since merino socks, all else being equal, don’t get as moist as other materials, they don’t provide a conducive environment in which bacteria thrives. So they’re less susceptible to becoming smelly socks.

All of which sounds like a screed from the international Merino sheep federation.

Cotton Cycling Socks

Not that I’ve had a particular problem, but apparently cotton fibres retain moisture in the sock, trapping it against your skin.

As a result, you’re cotton clad feet would be colder in winter and run the risk of blisters in warmer temperatures.

Cotton also appears to be less durable than alternative materials. It stretches and ‘bags’ easily (whatever that means).

Hmm, after a doing a bit of research (if we can call it that) into cotton, I’m starting to re-think my whole sock ‘strategy’.

Bamboo Cycling Socks

I went through a phase where every Christmas morning seemed to involve the arrival of a new pair of bamboo work socks….

In other news, you know when you think a section of a blog post will be easy to write?

Mention bamboo. Sprinkle in the odd ’eco friendly. Add a few ‘anti-bacterials’ and call it done.

Then you realise the only element of this blogsection that is eco-friendly and anti-bacterial is the can of worms you inadvertently just opened…

Turns out bamboo socks are not eco-friendly (unless they’re made from bamboo linen, which feels unlikely) and there are questions over their anti-bacterial creds as well.

Seems you’ll have to look elsewhere for your optimal cyclosock fabric.

Polyester Cycling Socks

So… it would appear that, contrary to my initial assumption, man-made fabrics are the best for performance cycling socks. Who knew?

Turns out that polyester (other elaborately-named-man-made-fabrics-that-do-essentially-the-same-thing are available) socks are more breathable, durable and better at wicking away moisture (aka sweat) than cotton.

Because such fabric tends to be harder wearing (that wool, say), they can be woven more thinly (is that how we’d say it?) and they therefore tend to be good for lightweight summer socks.

Man made fabrics also tend to be good for slightly more complex sock constructions. So you’re more likely to see grippy cuffs (to keep them in place on your calves) and extra material in the bits where they get more abuse or in order to ward off blisters.

Shoes Electric

Now all of the info above is fine but, as you know, I like to think outside the shoe box.

I’m therefore most concerned about static generation and the risk of unexpected electric shocks. I wouldn’t want one of these to upset the delicate electric motor that I’ve got hidden away in my bottom bracket…

Again not a topic oft-mentioned in the velo literature. I’ve had to research fashion websites and transpose some knowledge across domains.

Solutions if you’re experiencing static, sock-driven or otherwise:

  • ‘spritz’ yourself with some water; or
  • attach a (metal) safety pin to yourself.

You’re welcome.

What About Compression Socks?

I don’t think there is such a thing in cycling circles (possibly because they wouldn’t comply with UCI rules – see below). Maybe you’d where them on the plane home from your next Grand Tour, I don’t know?

Next!

How Much Do Cycling Socks Cost?

Given that my ‘MO’ when buying socks is to:

  1. wait until Christmas and hope that my mum buys me some; or failing that
  2. buy a 5-pair multi-pack from M&S

I struggle with the concept of even buying socks on a single pair basis.

No matter. This is the world we must accept as a velocipede with panache.

The upper end of the price range is reasonably easy to define. We just check the websites of Assos, Castelli and Rapha.

The most expensive sock (pair of) I’ve found to date (with minimal effort) is the ‘fuguSpeer_S7’ from Assos at £40.

Castelli tops out at £35 with its ‘Fast Feet’ sock, which looks to be built for aerodynamism (the name gives it away) and UCI rules rather than warmth. It’s ‘normal’ sock range (where warmth is the focus) goes up to £25 a pair.

Rapha also goes up to £25 (for it’s ‘Deep Winter’) sock, but most of the range is around £15. It even has a ‘3-for’ bundle on some of the range, which I’ll have to tell my mum about for next Christmas…

Incidentally if you want to buy some cycling-specific socks, Wiggle appears to have an excellent selection, which you can have a snozzcumber at by:

What Height Should Cycling Socks Come Up To On The Calf?

Probably worth asking the mummy cow.

I think university degree theses have been written on this topic. There is a stylistic requirement that socks come up to a certain point on your calf. This designates you a rider with panache.

Sadly I don’t know what this height is. I can’t be bothered to Google it and, to be honest, I won’t do further research on it.

Sportive Cyclist (this blog) welcomes a broad church so wear whatever height socks you fancy.

I go for ‘mainly pulled up with a slight ruffle’

(As long as you do wear socks – see below).

There is maybe an argument for the aerodynamically motivated gent requiring a longer sock.

Whatever floats your boat (though I’d prefer it if your boat wasn’t floated by socks that come up to your knee…)

Things To Think About If You Happen To Be A Pro Cyclist…

(Rather than simply aspiring to look like one).

There is, in fact, a UCI rule on the legal maximum sock height that a professional cyclist can ‘run’ during a race.

I guess this must mean that there is some aerodynamic benefit to wearing longer socks (provided they’re made of the right textile, which the UCI also legislates on). The UCI has a habit of introducing rules based on tradition and pseudo-science, though, so who knows.

Anyway, for a sock to be ‘race legal’ (and indeed an overshoe), it must come no higher than half way been the middle of the fibula head (let’s just call that the knee) and the middle of the lateral malleolus (the ankle).

So that’s that. The message is clear, kids. Say ‘no’ to excessively long socks.

What Should You Buy If You Do Want A Sock That Is Both Aero and Race Legal?

There is actually an answer to this.

UK company Rule 28 makes ‘Aero Socks’, which purport to be as aero as you can get whilst still complying with the UCI rules on sock height. They claim that the majority of national track teams use them for indoor cycling, which I suppose points to their efficacy (or that riders like feeling aero).

I think they look quite smart (check ’em out for yo’self – not an affiliate link). They also make overshoes (although, again, for the track rather than inclement outdoor conditions).

Now, I’m more interested in where the name ‘Rule 28’ comes from.

Initially I assumed it referred to the specific UCI #sockrule.

I couldn’t face wading through the UCI regulations, so I resorted to Google and another website (cyclingnews.com, so legit) suggested the relevant clause was 1.3.033 …. bis. Which is not 28.

The other source of rules is the Velominati website, where rule 28 is ‘Socks can be any damn colour you like’. So that clears that one up.

Should You Ever Road Cycle Without Socks?

In short, no.

(Nor should you wear socks that are just big enough to cover your feet, that stay hidden within the shoe).

I imagine there are practical reasons for avoiding sockless cycling (your feet get cold, greater risk of blisters) but there is a more fundamental reason. You’ll look like a triathlete.

And no one wants that.

A Rapha sock, in the wild Concluding Sock Thoughts

Now that, ladies and jellybeans, is how you write 2,200 inconsequential words about socks.

It strikes me that the Goldilocks principle should be applied. Socks shouldn’t be too warm or too cold, too thick or too thing, too long or too short. They should be ‘just right’.

If warmth is your priority, I’d start with merino or other woolly mammoths (MAMILs).

When the summer heat is on (chance would be a fine thing), technical fabrics that wick away sweat and smell seem your best bet (and I’ve been pleased with my Raphas).

For Mercx sake though, please wear some.

Support My ‘Work’

If you’re in the market for some new socks (and who isn’t), you can help support the Sportive Cyclist blog by purchasing through an affiliate link (and you pay the same price):

You can also take a look at the full Rapha selection on their own website. This isn’t an affiliate link but it does have an identifier that hopefully tells them I sent you (so please click!).

The post Best Socks For Road Cycling: A Magnificent Feet Of Research appeared first on Sportive Cyclist.

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I am one of those terrible people that wears headphones whilst I’m cycling along.

Before you throw me on the heap as a negligent husband and father, and a liability on the road, hear me out.

I have a pair of wireless Bluetooth headphones. I ride with only one earpiece in, so I’m aware of my surroundings and can hear traffic approaching over my right shoulder.

It’s not an ideal solution though. Whilst I attempt to keep the wires in place by wendling them through the straps on my helmet, the dangling earpiece has a habit of gradually slipping down and pulling the wire tight around my neck.

And one ear of sound is not ideal, whether listening to the podcast (I tend to listen to people talking rather than singing) or listening out for other road users.

The solution, a set of headphones that don’t go in your ears, leaving your lugholes free to sense the white van rapidly approaching your rear end.

Enter the Aftershokz Trekz Air wireless bone conduction headphones (so many ‘kz’, so few ‘c’s).

I’ve been meaning to get a set of Aftershokz for ages. But like most things that involve spending some money, I conveniently forgot to take any action. Finally I thought I’d buy a pair and review them for this ‘ere blog(kz).

Links To Buy The Aftershokz

If you’re that way inclined:

These are affiliate links, so I’ll get a small commission if you click and buy.

How Do They Work?

Magickery and boffinery. Next!

I’ll probably need to quote some of their marketing bumf and make liberal use of Google.

In essence it appears that rather than having mini speakers that fire sound waves directly at your ear drums (like standard headphones), the sound-emitting bits of the Aftershokz sit just in front of your lug holes.

They vibrate on the bones at this point of the skull, sending the music directly into your brain…

Okay, having written that in jest, now I’ve done the required Google search, it seems that’s exactly what they do. Except it’s not the brain (in the first instance) so much as the cochlea, with the whole process missing out the whole sound waves, ear canal and ear drum bit. Efficient!

Now the skeptic in me reckoned that whilst they likely did do a bit of vibratin’ and conductin’, they probably had a few little speakers to help boost the sound and send a few extra decibels into the ear in the standard way.

And then I stuck my fingers in my ears. (Science!)

The sound from the Aftershokz is louder and clearer when you block your actual ears (as opposed to your hypothetical ones?). It seems that the headphones do not rely on any sound waves passing down the ear canal in order to work.

Now this blog makes no claims to match the British Medical Journal for rigour, but this study of 1 is sufficient for this humble cycloblogger to be persuaded that Trekz is ‘not actually lying’ about how their product works.

What Do They Look Like?

The magic of owning a camera, a blog, and a deliciously photogenic face is that I can show you fotos, rather than having to paint pictures with words.

So have some images in your eye holes. Or maybe slapped against the bones either side of your eye holes…

They come in a number of different colour options. I chose ‘Midnight Blue’ as grey and green felt boring and the red perhaps looked a bit racy. On reflection, I think all the colours look pretty smart.

Initially I thought I might be self conscious wearing them – not so much out on the bike (head to toe Lycra forces you to suspend any sense of self respect) but when in a non-velo setting.

As it happens the Trekz Air(s) are quite subtle. Whilst they don’t blend into the background like the ubiquitous Apple earphones (wired or unwired), they certainly don’t protrude noticeably like my other Bluetooth headphones.

Aftershokz Trekz Air – “understated”
Other Bluetooth headphones – “protrudey”

The vibratey end bits are low profile and the headphones as a whole, including the neck loop, sit close to head. I’d say most casual observers don’t even notice that the ‘ear phones’ are sat in front of the ears.

Headline message: I feel comfortable wearing them out in public (and I’m as self conscious as the next buttoned up Englishman).

Are They Comfortable To Wear?

In short, yes.

The Trekz loop over the ears, with speakers positioned on the bones (obviously) in front of the earhole (is that the term?).

The loops therefore compete for ear real estate (ear-l estate) with the arms of my glasses. In use, though, the two ear tenants reside harmoniously together.

The Trekz headphones seem pretty light so I think the aforementioned loops sort of rest daintily ‘pon the glasses. Maybe next to them. Whatever – they seem to play nicely.

There is a semi-rigid loop that links the two ‘ear phones’ (bone phones?) and sits suspended an inch or so off the back of the neck. I guess this helps grip the headphones in place on the wearer’s head. In use, you can’t tell it’s there.

In fact, the Trekz are so unobtrusive, there have been times when I’ve forgotten I’m wearing them, particularly when I’ve got a helmet on.

Other Stuff You Get In The Box (Carry Case and Ear Plugs…)

In addition to the headphonez themselves, you also get a nice soft carrying pouch. Its got a touchy feely rubbery outer coating, soft material inner liner and a zip.

I wouldn’t say the case offers a great deal of protection (certainly not from crushing) but I suppose its helpful for keeping track of the fonez (assuming you keep them in there) and in preventing them from getting tangled up in stuff (in your backpack, say).

Are They Easy To Use?

The first time using the Trekz demonstrated that the headphones are easy to set up and use.

(In fairness they’re a pair of headphones – they shouldn’t require a degree in ergonomics to put them on.)

I’d already got used to pairing them with my iPhone (keep the on/off switch presses for 5 or so seconds until the small LED indicator flashes blue and red; select Trekz on the phone’s Bluetooth screen).

You hit the larger button on the side of the left ‘bone phone’ (I’ve just discovered this is the ‘multifunction button’) to start the music on your phone (or in my case the podcast).

Volume controls are on the underside of the loop on the right. Skipping to the next track/podcast is a double tap of the multifunction button.

All pretty standard if you’re used to Bluetooth tomfoolery.

Using Aftershokz Trekz Headphones On A Bike

Whilst riding, the Trekz have to compete for headspace with a helmet, in addition to my glasses.

No problem.

Once I’ve fitted the helmet and fully turned the dial at the back that tightens it onto my bonce, the Trekz go over the top of the chin strap (as it comes down the sides of my head) and rest in position without any impediment.

The only bit of the Trekz set up that could, in theory, get in the way of the helmet, would be the semi rigid loop that passes around the back of a the wearer’s head.

In practice, for almost all the time I’ve worn the Trekz with a helmet, both off and on the bike, the ‘neck loop’ haven’t touch the backworkings of my helmet.

Perhaps once or twice so far it has rubbed slightly against the plastic helmet strappy bit that grips the base of my skull. This is certainly not enough to be annoying.

Prior to the Trekz, I was using a set of Anker bluetooth earphones (wireless back to the phone, but wired between each ear bud). One earphone would always dangle down at the side of my head (because I kept it out to listen for cars), requiring regular adjustment to stop it dropping down too far.

There’s none of this faff with the Trekz. Once they’re on and in position, no further adjustment is needed. 100% better.

So What Is The Sound Like?

I guess this is pretty important to know when buying headphones.

However, whilst I am many things, I am not an audiophile. (I said audiophile). I don’t know my Bangs from my sons (sens) of Oluf. I supBose (yawn) I could do some research.

We can say, straight off the bat, that these headphones are not for listening to music in high fidelity. I haven’t seen Aftershokz claiming otherwise.

They’re for listening to music (or whatever) whilst still also being able to hear other things.

My primary use cases are perhaps slightly different to others.

I bought the Trekz specifically to be used for cases where I want to listen to podcasts (so mainly spoken word: interviews, discussions etc) rather than the National Mongolian Noseflute Orchestra.

For this they do a good job.

Volume Over Quality

For me, I care a bit more about the volume than I do the sound quality (which I don’t really know how to measure or describe anyway).

I can confirm that I can hear clearly the content of said podcasts whilst I am walking in a moderately noisy environment (average traffic in the centre of a city/town) or riding my bike where there is a reasonable amount of wind noise.

That said, I do sense that you have to set the volume towards the upper end of what the headphones are capable of (or what the iPhone – in my case – will send down to pipe).

There has definitely been the odd time when I cannot hear the output from the headphones because the ambient environment (ooh, get me) is too loud.

I can live with this though. My objective in life generally is to put myself in quieter environments (see: moving to the countryside), even if three small people in my house seem to have other ideas.

(I’m Picking Up) Weird Vibrations

It is worth mentioning that at higher volumes, the vibrations of the Trekz do become quite noticeable, to the point where you can feel them buzzing on the side of your head.

(This is not me experiencing the vibrations…)

You may or may not like this sensation. Per my sub-heading, it is a slightly strange feeling, but one I’ve got used it.

If it’s not for you, you can reduce the volume.

Like I said above, the Aftershokz are not suited to competing in very noisy environments. Neither am I, so this is fine for me.

I’ve Got A Noise Bleed

So this is one thing that I’ve struggled to test: whether other people can hear you using the Aftershokz Trekz (i.e. because not all the sound is going into your lugholes).

Mainly it’s been me wearing them and I’ve forgotten to ask other people.

My sense is that they’re not too bad. I’ve not had any comments from wife or kids as I’ve worn then about the house.

If you put them down on a hard surface (our kitchen worktop, say), you can hear stuff going on. I guess that’s the point though. They’re vibrating, which probably moves the air around them and maybe the hard surface they’re resting on.

Which is sound science.

Given that my main use case is whilst riding solo on the bike, and I’m not listening to something questionable (in my humble opinion), I’m not too worried if there is a little noise bleed.

Are They Waterproof?

This is a deficient review. I have only done a limited amount of testing of the Aftershokz in the wet. As soon as we’re done here I’m going to try them out in the shower.

The Trekz are rated as IP55. Since everyday is a school day, I now know what that means (i.e. I Googled it).

The headphones are protected from dust (the first ‘5’ in IP55) and from water jets coming from nozzles up to 6.3mm wide (the second ‘5’…). Which should mean they’re fine in rain and protected from sweat (the AfterShokz website says they are).

The headphones should also function under a top-of-the-range Hansgrohe raindance shower head (a little pro cycling sponsor reference there).

Battery Life (Or Do They Always Need Chargin’?)

I’ve been trying to work out where to mention that these headphones are rechargeable.

Soooo… you now know that (1) the place to mention it is right here; and (2) that the Trekz are rechargeable. You don’t need to keep replacing batteries (who does that these days…?).

The ‘phonez have the usual micro USB port, under a rubbery cap that protects it from the elements. A short USB cable is supplied (since you don’t already have enough of those…).

Aftershokz states that the Trekz Air will work for over 6 hours on a single charge. I haven’t done any particular testing, but my experience doesn’t dispute this. My use is occasional, often over a few days and it doesn’t feel as if I’m always having to charge them.

They’ll definitely see me right over a 1–2 hour ride and would probably work up to the limit of what I’d ride solo.

Like most rechargeable things, the trick is to get into the habit of plugging them in on a regular basis, to make sure they’re topped up.

A Short Musing On The Value Of Listening To Birdsong

One of the best bits of living in a countryside setting are the sounds (you know, birds singing, wind rustling the trees, that sort of thing).

Despite knowing this, I will often find myself in the garden or on the short walk to pick up the kids from school with my headphones in (the standard lughole blockers) listening to a podcast.

Far be it for a modern male to be left alone with his thoughts and a lack of continual stimulation (quelle horreur).

The nice thing about the Aftershokz (in addition to allowing me to sense when a tractor is approaching to crush me under its wheels), is that I can hear the relaxing bucolic English rural sounds whilst still getting by daily fix of life hacks, CEO insights and in-depth Giro D’Italia analysis.

(In writing this section, I feel there is a part of me that is broken and can never be fixed…)

When Wouldn’t I Wear Them?

On the bike, I guess the scenario where I’m least likely to wear the Aftershokz is when it is really noisy. I can see a point where they just aren’t loud enough if the wind, or the traffic, noise is just too great. In this case there would be no point in taking them out on a ride.

(In the case of too much wind noise, there’d be a reasonable argument for not going out on a ride at all.)

The other scenarios are not bike related.

Sometimes, at work or if I’m blogwriting, I’ll put headphones in and play the same few long YouTube music videos in a Pavlovian attempt to kickstart concentration and GET WORK DONE.

The Aftershokz are less effective for this because, bluntly, you can hear other things. The potential for distraction remains. It’s harder to get into, and stay in, ‘the zone’.

So when I’m searching for ‘flow’ (and other similar modern states that knowledge workers strive for), I’ll use other headphones that do go in my ears and block out other sounds.

Using Aftershokz Trekz In Bed (And Other Prone Positions)

The other scenario where (bluntly) the headphonez don’t work is in bed. The mainly-rigid-but-slightly-bendy loop that links the two vibration-emitting bits sits off your neck by an inch or so.

If your head is on the pillow (or the cushion, if we’re talking a post-ride sofa situation), then this loop is pushed against the base of your skull and the headphone bits don’t sit in the right place.

You can (if you’re planning to be absolutely still) run the ’fonez in reverse, with the loop under your chin and the vibrators (hmm) positioned carefully in the usual place but this looks daft and, simply, doesn’t seem right.

Unless I’ve missed a whole new technique for wearing them, I’d say the Trekz are not suitable for supine usage.

How Much Do Aftershokz Trekz Cost (And Are They Worth It)?

I’ll start with the ‘worth it’ point first.

It’s been a while since I’ve bought something and been so pleased with the purchase. I’ve worn the Trekz on every ride since buying them – I don’t want to go back to my previous dangling earphone ‘solution’.

They suit my needs perfectly. I can listen to a productivity-improving podcast, whilst still being aware of all the sounds and, most importantly, other motorised road users around me. They’re sufficiently loud enough for my needs and the sound quality is clear.

The Trekz Air(s) are supremely comfortable. There is no real weight to the headphones as the loops rest above your ears and the vibratey bits gently grip your skull. I tend to forget I have them on, particularly when worn with my helmet.

So, a tippity toppity set of headphones that add real benefits versus what I was using before (standard in-ear headphones). Highly recommended.

Okay I’m Sold, Where Can I Buy Some?

Well, if you want to join the bone conduction with me, I bought my pair of Trekz Airs from Amazon. You can see the current prices, and buy the ‘phonez, by clicking the links below:

(Again, these are affiliate links. If you click and buy something, I may be paid a small commission. Helps support the site, etc.)

What Do You Think?

Now, have you tried bone conduction headphones? Or are you wedded to a particularly great pair of ‘standard’ ones? Am I foolish for even contemplating riding whilst listening to something on my phone?

Let me know in the comments below.

The post Aftershokz Trekz Air Bone Conduction Headphones Review: Safest Headphones For Cycling? appeared first on Sportive Cyclist.

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I am one of those terrible people that wears headphones whilst I’m cycling along.

Before you throw me on the heap as a negligent husband and father, and a liability on the road, hear me out.

I have a pair of wireless Bluetooth headphones. I ride with only one earpiece in, so I’m aware of my surroundings and can hear traffic approaching over my right shoulder.

It’s not an ideal solution though. Whilst I attempt to keep the wires in place by wendling them through the straps on my helmet, the dangling earpiece has a habit of gradually slipping down and pulling the wire tight around my neck.

And one ear of sound is not ideal, whether listening to the podcast (I tend to listen to people talking rather than singing) or listening out for other road users.

The solution, a set of headphones that don’t go in your ears, leaving your lugholes free to sense the white van rapidly approaching your rear end.

Enter the Aftershokz Trekz Air wireless bone conduction headphones (so many ‘kz’, so few ‘c’s).

I’ve been meaning to get a set of Aftershokz for ages. But like most things that involve spending some money, I conveniently forgot to take any action. Finally I thought I’d buy a pair and review them for this ‘ere blog(kz).

Links To Buy The Aftershokz

If you’re that way inclined:

These are affiliate links, so I’ll get a small commission if you click and buy.

How Do They Work?

Magickery and boffinery. Next!

I’ll probably need to quote some of their marketing bumf and make liberal use of Google.

In essence it appears that rather than having mini speakers that fire sound waves directly at your ear drums (like standard headphones), the sound-emitting bits of the Aftershokz sit just in front of your lug holes.

They vibrate on the bones at this point of the skull, sending the music directly into your brain…

Okay, having written that in jest, now I’ve done the required Google search, it seems that’s exactly what they do. Except it’s not the brain (in the first instance) so much as the cochlea, with the whole process missing out the whole sound waves, ear canal and ear drum bit. Efficient!

Now the skeptic in me reckoned that whilst they likely did do a bit of vibratin’ and conductin’, they probably had a few little speakers to help boost the sound and send a few extra decibels into the ear in the standard way.

And then I stuck my fingers in my ears. (Science!)

The sound from the Aftershokz is louder and clearer when you block your actual ears (as opposed to your hypothetical ones?). It seems that the headphones do not rely on any sound waves passing down the ear canal in order to work.

Now this blog makes no claims to match the British Medical Journal for rigour, but this study of 1 is sufficient for this humble cycloblogger to be persuaded that Trekz is ‘not actually lying’ about how their product works.

What Do They Look Like?

The magic of owning a camera, a blog, and a deliciously photogenic face is that I can show you fotos, rather than having to paint pictures with words.

So have some images in your eye holes. Or maybe slapped against the bones either side of your eye holes…

They come in a number of different colour options. I chose ‘Midnight Blue’ as grey and green felt boring and the red perhaps looked a bit racy. On reflection, I think all the colours look pretty smart.

Initially I thought I might be self conscious wearing them – not so much out on the bike (head to toe Lycra forces you to suspend any sense of self respect) but when in a non-velo setting.

As it happens the Trekz Air(s) are quite subtle. Whilst they don’t blend into the background like the ubiquitous Apple earphones (wired or unwired), they certainly don’t protrude noticeably like my other Bluetooth headphones.

Aftershokz Trekz Air – “understated”
Other Bluetooth headphones – “protrudey”

The vibratey end bits are low profile and the headphones as a whole, including the neck loop, sit close to head. I’d say most casual observers don’t even notice that the ‘ear phones’ are sat in front of the ears.

Headline message: I feel comfortable wearing them out in public (and I’m as self conscious as the next buttoned up Englishman).

Are They Comfortable To Wear?

In short, yes.

The Trekz loop over the ears, with speakers positioned on the bones (obviously) in front of the earhole (is that the term?).

The loops therefore compete for ear real estate (ear-l estate) with the arms of my glasses. In use, though, the two ear tenants reside harmoniously together.

The Trekz headphones seem pretty light so I think the aforementioned loops sort of rest daintily ‘pon the glasses. Maybe next to them. Whatever – they seem to play nicely.

There is a semi-rigid loop that links the two ‘ear phones’ (bone phones?) and sits suspended an inch or so off the back of the neck. I guess this helps grip the headphones in place on the wearer’s head. In use, you can’t tell it’s there.

In fact, the Trekz are so unobtrusive, there have been times when I’ve forgotten I’m wearing them, particularly when I’ve got a helmet on.

Other Stuff You Get In The Box (Carry Case and Ear Plugs…)

In addition to the headphonez themselves, you also get a nice soft carrying pouch. Its got a touchy feely rubbery outer coating, soft material inner liner and a zip.

I wouldn’t say the case offers a great deal of protection (certainly not from crushing) but I suppose its helpful for keeping track of the fonez (assuming you keep them in there) and in preventing them from getting tangled up in stuff (in your backpack, say).

Are They Easy To Use?

The first time using the Trekz demonstrated that the headphones are easy to set up and use.

(In fairness they’re a pair of headphones – they shouldn’t require a degree in ergonomics to put them on.)

I’d already got used to pairing them with my iPhone (keep the on/off switch presses for 5 or so seconds until the small LED indicator flashes blue and red; select Trekz on the phone’s Bluetooth screen).

You hit the larger button on the side of the left ‘bone phone’ (I’ve just discovered this is the ‘multifunction button’) to start the music on your phone (or in my case the podcast).

Volume controls are on the underside of the loop on the right. Skipping to the next track/podcast is a double tap of the multifunction button.

All pretty standard if you’re used to Bluetooth tomfoolery.

Using Aftershokz Trekz Headphones On A Bike

Whilst riding, the Trekz have to compete for headspace with a helmet, in addition to my glasses.

No problem.

Once I’ve fitted the helmet and fully turned the dial at the back that tightens it onto my bonce, the Trekz go over the top of the chin strap (as it comes down the sides of my head) and rest in position without any impediment.

The only bit of the Trekz set up that could, in theory, get in the way of the helmet, would be the semi rigid loop that passes around the back of a the wearer’s head.

In practice, for almost all the time I’ve worn the Trekz with a helmet, both off and on the bike, the ‘neck loop’ haven’t touch the backworkings of my helmet.

Perhaps once or twice so far it has rubbed slightly against the plastic helmet strappy bit that grips the base of my skull. This is certainly not enough to be annoying.

Prior to the Trekz, I was using a set of Anker bluetooth earphones (wireless back to the phone, but wired between each ear bud). One earphone would always dangle down at the side of my head (because I kept it out to listen for cars), requiring regular adjustment to stop it dropping down too far.

There’s none of this faff with the Trekz. Once they’re on and in position, no further adjustment is needed. 100% better.

So What Is The Sound Like?

I guess this is pretty important to know when buying headphones.

However, whilst I am many things, I am not an audiophile. (I said audiophile). I don’t know my Bangs from my sons (sens) of Oluf. I supBose (yawn) I could do some research.

We can say, straight off the bat, that these headphones are not for listening to music in high fidelity. I haven’t seen Aftershokz claiming otherwise.

They’re for listening to music (or whatever) whilst still also being able to hear other things.

My primary use cases are perhaps slightly different to others.

I bought the Trekz specifically to be used for cases where I want to listen to podcasts (so mainly spoken word: interviews, discussions etc) rather than the National Mongolian Noseflute Orchestra.

For this they do a good job.

Volume Over Quality

For me, I care a bit more about the volume than I do the sound quality (which I don’t really know how to measure or describe anyway).

I can confirm that I can hear clearly the content of said podcasts whilst I am walking in a moderately noisy environment (average traffic in the centre of a city/town) or riding my bike where there is a reasonable amount of wind noise.

That said, I do sense that you have to set the volume towards the upper end of what the headphones are capable of (or what the iPhone – in my case – will send down to pipe).

There has definitely been the odd time when I cannot hear the output from the headphones because the ambient environment (ooh, get me) is too loud.

I can live with this though. My objective in life generally is to put myself in quieter environments (see: moving to the countryside), even if three small people in my house seem to have other ideas.

(I’m Picking Up) Weird Vibrations

It is worth mentioning that at higher volumes, the vibrations of the Trekz do become quite noticeable, to the point where you can feel them buzzing on the side of your head.

(This is not me experiencing the vibrations…)

You may or may not like this sensation. Per my sub-heading, it is a slightly strange feeling, but one I’ve got used it.

If it’s not for you, you can reduce the volume.

Like I said above, the Aftershokz are not suited to competing in very noisy environments. Neither am I, so this is fine for me.

I’ve Got A Noise Bleed

So this is one thing that I’ve struggled to test: whether other people can hear you using the Aftershokz Trekz (i.e. because not all the sound is going into your lugholes).

Mainly it’s been me wearing them and I’ve forgotten to ask other people.

My sense is that they’re not too bad. I’ve not had any comments from wife or kids as I’ve worn then about the house.

If you put them down on a hard surface (our kitchen worktop, say), you can hear stuff going on. I guess that’s the point though. They’re vibrating, which probably moves the air around them and maybe the hard surface they’re resting on.

Which is sound science.

Given that my main use case is whilst riding solo on the bike, and I’m not listening to something questionable (in my humble opinion), I’m not too worried if there is a little noise bleed.

Are They Waterproof?

This is a deficient review. I have only done a limited amount of testing of the Aftershokz in the wet. As soon as we’re done here I’m going to try them out in the shower.

The Trekz are rated as IP55. Since everyday is a school day, I now know what that means (i.e. I Googled it).

The headphones are protected from dust (the first ‘5’ in IP55) and from water jets coming from nozzles up to 6.3mm wide (the second ‘5’…). Which should mean they’re fine in rain and protected from sweat (the AfterShokz website says they are).

The headphones should also function under a top-of-the-range Hansgrohe raindance shower head (a little pro cycling sponsor reference there).

Battery Life (Or Do They Always Need Chargin’?)

I’ve been trying to work out where to mention that these headphones are rechargeable.

Soooo… you now know that (1) the place to mention it is right here; and (2) that the Trekz are rechargeable. You don’t need to keep replacing batteries (who does that these days…?).

The ‘phonez have the usual micro USB port, under a rubbery cap that protects it from the elements. A short USB cable is supplied (since you don’t already have enough of those…).

Aftershokz states that the Trekz Air will work for over 6 hours on a single charge. I haven’t done any particular testing, but my experience doesn’t dispute this. My use is occasional, often over a few days and it doesn’t feel as if I’m always having to charge them.

They’ll definitely see me right over a 1–2 hour ride and would probably work up to the limit of what I’d ride solo.

Like most rechargeable things, the trick is to get into the habit of plugging them in on a regular basis, to make sure they’re topped up.

A Short Musing On The Value Of Listening To Birdsong

One of the best bits of living in a countryside setting are the sounds (you know, birds singing, wind rustling the trees, that sort of thing).

Despite knowing this, I will often find myself in the garden or on the short walk to pick up the kids from school with my headphones in (the standard lughole blockers) listening to a podcast.

Far be it for a modern male to be left alone with his thoughts and a lack of continual stimulation (quelle horreur).

The nice thing about the Aftershokz (in addition to allowing me to sense when a tractor is approaching to crush me under its wheels), is that I can hear the relaxing bucolic English rural sounds whilst still getting by daily fix of life hacks, CEO insights and in-depth Giro D’Italia analysis.

(In writing this section, I feel there is a part of me that is broken and can never be fixed…)

When Wouldn’t I Wear Them?

On the bike, I guess the scenario where I’m least likely to wear the Aftershokz is when it is really noisy. I can see a point where they just aren’t loud enough if the wind, or the traffic, noise is just too great. In this case there would be no point in taking them out on a ride.

(In the case of too much wind noise, there’d be a reasonable argument for not going out on a ride at all.)

The other scenarios are not bike related.

Sometimes, at work or if I’m blogwriting, I’ll put headphones in and play the same few long YouTube music videos in a Pavlovian attempt to kickstart concentration and GET WORK DONE.

The Aftershokz are less effective for this because, bluntly, you can hear other things. The potential for distraction remains. It’s harder to get into, and stay in, ‘the zone’.

So when I’m searching for ‘flow’ (and other similar modern states that knowledge workers strive for), I’ll use other headphones that do go in my ears and block out other sounds.

Using Aftershokz Trekz In Bed (And Other Prone Positions)

The other scenario where (bluntly) the headphonez don’t work is in bed. The mainly-rigid-but-slightly-bendy loop that links the two vibration-emitting bits sits off your neck by an inch or so.

If your head is on the pillow (or the cushion, if we’re talking a post-ride sofa situation), then this loop is pushed against the base of your skull and the headphone bits don’t sit in the right place.

You can (if you’re planning to be absolutely still) run the ’fonez in reverse, with the loop under your chin and the vibrators (hmm) positioned carefully in the usual place but this looks daft and, simply, doesn’t seem right.

Unless I’ve missed a whole new technique for wearing them, I’d say the Trekz are not suitable for supine usage.

How Much Do Aftershokz Trekz Cost (And Are They Worth It)?

I’ll start with the ‘worth it’ point first.

It’s been a while since I’ve bought something and been so pleased with the purchase. I’ve worn the Trekz on every ride since buying them – I don’t want to go back to my previous dangling earphone ‘solution’.

They suit my needs perfectly. I can listen to a productivity-improving podcast, whilst still being aware of all the sounds and, most importantly, other motorised road users around me. They’re sufficiently loud enough for my needs and the sound quality is clear.

The Trekz Air(s) are supremely comfortable. There is no real weight to the headphones as the loops rest above your ears and the vibratey bits gently grip your skull. I tend to forget I have them on, particularly when worn with my helmet.

So, a tippity toppity set of headphones that add real benefits versus what I was using before (standard in-ear headphones). Highly recommended.

Okay I’m Sold, Where Can I Buy Some?

Well, if you want to join the bone conduction with me, I bought my pair of Trekz Airs from Amazon. You can see the current prices, and buy the ‘phonez, by clicking the links below:

(Again, these are affiliate links. If you click and buy something, I may be paid a small commission. Helps support the site, etc.)

What Do You Think?

Now, have you tried bone conduction headphones? Or are you wedded to a particularly great pair of ‘standard’ ones? Am I foolish for even contemplating riding whilst listening to something on my phone?

Let me know in the comments below.

The post Aftershokz Trez Air Bone Conduction Headphones Review: Safest Headphones For Cycling? appeared first on Sportive Cyclist.

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I have a habit of using things until well after they’ve stopped working properly.

Partly this is my profound Yorkshireness (deep pockets/short arms), partly inertia. Unless something gets really annoying, I’m unlikely to do anything about it.

Early in 2018 (yes, this is a long term review!) my rear wheel got so annoying I finally decided to do something about it.

I needed to buy myself some new road bike wheels.

Cue the intro music.

Too Long Didn’t Read

Not everyone wants to read an in-depth description of every ball bearing. Here are the headlines:

  • If you’re in the market for spending ~£300/$400 on a new set of road bike wheels, I would recommend the Campagnolo Zonda C17 wheelset.
  • They’ve held up well to the significant abuse I’ve given them this past autumn and winter, through puddles and potholes – (as far as I can tell) they remain true and continue to roll smoothly, with that nice clicky sound when freewheelin’.
  • Also they look good and are made by Campagnolo, the choice of the component connoisseur (and these things are important…)

Now back to the full review, starting with a story…

(And if you just want the links to buy them, they’re at the bottom of this post.)

Ignoring The Advice Of A Cycling Sage

Flashback. Deep in the mists of time.

My rear wheel had been running on borrowed time for months, if not years.

My friendly local bike mechanic (Mark) mentioned that I would soon need a new rear wheel when he fitted my Ultegra front derailleur and undertook a full service and drivetrain health assessment (the bike’s drivetrain…).

(Holy shizzle – this post records that that conversation took place in June 2016!)

The issue with the wheel: a rear hub close to wearing out.

At the time Mark said it wasn’t economic to replace the bearings and re-grease the hub. It would be better to start thinking about buying new wheels.

I listened, agreed, and promptly did absolutely nothing about it.

Thor’s Hammer In My Rear

(Which is apparently not what qualified bike mechanics say to describe a knackered rear hub.)

Flashback. Slightly closer in the mists of time.

The moment that the balance tipped in favour of letting the moths escape from Mont’s wallet was captured in a pleasingly random ride name on Strava:

My rear hub was fully shot and a new wheelset was required.

Since no self respecting sportive cyclist buys only one wheel or misses a glaring opportunity to upgrade something on the bike, a gleaming new wheel set was required.

Cue The Research (Hum The Montage Music In Your Head)

Like most people seeking answers I dug out my well-thumbed-through copy of Mont’s Miscellany.

This turned out not to exist, so I banged the words, “best road bike wheels for under £500,” into Google (yes, £500 – bear with me).

The new wheels would need to be sufficiently resilient to standing up to the rumpled road surface of Derbyshire roads (and beyond) in the winter.

I don’t have the time, or frankly the money, to be swapping out more robust training wheels (‘wheels for training on’ rather than stabilisers) for lighter ‘race wheels’ when the mood takes me.

The new wheels came nicely packaged to prevent damage

These wheels, whilst certainly an upgrade, would be going on my main everyday bike … and staying on my main everyday bike. For every day.

They would have to look good. I’m not spending multiple hundreds of pounds not to see at least a little aesthetic improvement on my steed. They wouldn’t need to be aero (for I am not aero) but do like (visually) a wheel with a slightly deeper rim.

They had to be somewhat lighter than what I’d ridden before – I want to feel some performance benefit from the investment.

How Much Should You Spend On New Road Bike Wheels?

Initially I set my new wheelset budget at £500 (about $650 Ameri-folk). This was based on the following A-level maths:

  1. I’m riding a £2,000 bike (£1,800 at the time, but the equivalent now is a bit more);
  2. The wheels that came with it (some Bontrager ones) will have been where Trek saved the money in speccing out the new bike, so let’s say they were worth approximately £100;
  3. I’m looking to spend an amount that makes sense in the overall context of the reasonable frame (carbon Trek Domane) and Shimano 105/Ultegra components (£500/£2,000 = 25% felt sensible);
  4. I’ve already bought a set of wheels costing £100-£150. I wanted to see what the next step up would be like.

And with this tortured logic bouncing around my brain I set about my quest.

Magic Mavics

Ever since I heard that Mavic make wheels that are more round than its competitors, I’ve wanted to buy a set.

Actually, the real reason I’ve wanted to buy a set of Mavics for a while is no more logical. I just think they look cool.

They’re the neutral service wheel on the Tour de France, handed out from bright yellow support cars and motorbikes. I even like the names that Mavic uses for its ranges: Ksyrium*, Cosmic, Aksium, Comete…

(*Huh, I liked the names so much that I’ve only just realised in researching this post that this isn’t spelt ‘Krysium’…).

Anyhoo, in looking at the Mavic range, I couldn’t quite get to grips with the different range options.

The wheelsets in my price range, whilst supposedly available, seemed out of stock at most retailers. I wasn’t yet ready to make the jump to tubeless tyres, so it wasn’t helpful that Mavic’s apparent increased focus on their ‘UST Road Tubeless technology’ seems to have reduced the number of their wheels that take inner tubes.

Back to the drawing board. Or Google as it is otherwise known.

Fast Forward (To The Good Bit…)

I don’t think we need to analyse my full Google search history (for obvious reasons). In addition to Mavic, I also considered wheels made by:

  • Shimano – the Ultegra RS700 wheels, in line with my (relaxed) strategy of gradually upgrading 105 (or equivalent) components as and when they needed replacing – discounted because they didn’t do it for me in the looks department (so shallow…);
  • Hunt – a British wheelmaker that gets very good reviews for wheels with performance on a par with much more expensive competitors – I’d have probably been looking to buy the Sprint Aero Wide wheelset at £399;
  • Fulcrum – Campagnolo’s sister company, created in order to produce components for non-Campagnolo drivetrains (without diluting the Campag brand) – I’m pretty sure they make fine wheels (the internet tells me they do), but if I’m going to buy Campagnolo wheels, I’d like them to say so.

I should probably note that the bike receiving the wheels had rim brakes, so I wasn’t looking for some of your new-fangled disc brake wheels.

And since Luddite Montgomery isn’t quite ready to go tubeless, the rims needed to be suitable for clincher tyres and inner tubes.

The Yorkshireman’s Approach To Budgeting…

… is to set out intending to spend £500 on new wheels and end up dropping closer to £300.

Plus ca change.

Having undertaken my research, and looked deep within my cycling soul, I determined that the Campagnolo Zonda C17s were the wheels for me.

The joy of unpacking new wheels… New Wheels Make You Go Faster

As long time readers will know (and short time ones will guess), my frame of reference when comparing certain bike components is limited. I don’t have a load of wheels in my, er, wheel house. The following is not based on a comprehensive peer analysis.

However.

Other reviews online describe the Zondas as ‘fast rolling’. I can’t dispute this. They felt good as soon as I put them on my bike. I felt faster (and it’s all about the feelz).

I’m on a different bike right now (my old Dawes, with lower spec Campag wheels) and I’m feeling the difference – though how much of that is due to the wheels, versus the heavier frame, is unclear.

Ready For A Bit Of Rough And Tumble

Reviews also point to the excellent durability of the Zondas. Now I can definitely confirm this.

I’ve had the wheels on the bike for the best part of a year. I’ve ridden primarily on rough country roads that see a lot of farm traffic, and have the pot holes, grit and muck to prove it.

The Zondas have endured this abuse without complaint (anthropomorphism alert!). I’ve filmed some footage of the bike chattering away as it rattles away over some of the rough stuff (maybe for a YouTube version of this review). This is a common occurrence on a ride. As far as I can see the Zondas remain true and without wear, despite all of this.

Durability and longevity (did I mention I’m from Yorkshire?) were my main criteria when selecting the Zondas, so I’m pleased the claims have been borne out in real world conditions.

My only slight caveat is something I discovered when undertaking a recent deep clean of the Trek.

After taking off the cassette, I saw that there appear to be a number of ‘nicks’ on the splines of the free hub.

Now I reckon (ok, admit) that it will have been my dereliction of duties that is the underlying cause.

Prior to my recent chain change, I’d let wear on the old chain get well out of hand before replacing. There have been a few times when it’s come off mid gear change and then the whole drive train has jammed.

Perhaps this has caused the nicks (though as I write it down, this is starting to make less sense as an explanation).

In any event, the damage is there, which is a bit disappointing. I can replace the free hub body for not too money, which I may well do.

Firm Ride

Online reviews also point to the firm ride provided by the Zondas.

Now I would imagine that you can’t really get ‘fast rolling’ and ‘durable’ without also ticking the firm ride box (but hell, I’m neither a wheel builder nor an engineer, so what do I know?).

Still, the ‘Mega-G3’ spoke pattern for the back wheel purports to provide lots of stiffness, making sure that all that power you’re throwing down gets translated into forward motion.

Which sounds like a good thing.

(Not) Tubeless Wonders

The Zonda C17s are not ‘tubeless ready’. As someone that doesn’t really understand the risks and merits of the lack of inner tubes, this doesn’t concern me.

If you have a profound fear of butyl rubber (I looked that up), you may have to look elsewhere (or start buying these plastic Tubolito inner tubes).

Although not for tubeless reasons, Zondas don’t require rim tape – the ‘MoMag Technology’ (nope, no idea) means that the spokes attach to the rims in a way that keeps the tyre bed free of spoke holes.

And just so we’re clear (according to the Campag website), the ‘self-locking nipples guarantee performance and reliability’.

I’ll just leave that there.

CAUTION! Photo of a nipple
What Width Wheel?

Apparently the Zondas are optimised for wider tyres – either 25mm or 28mm. Probably something to do with airflow, drag coefficients and … marketing departments.

Anyway, I bought a new set of 25mm tyres as a little treat (the Continental 2 Grand Prix 4000S IIs, in case you’re interested).

And here is a foto of those tyres:

Links in case you want to buy them:

(^ Affiliate links don’tcha’ know ^)

Can You Fit A Shimano Casserole (damn autocorrect) On A Campag Wheel

In short, yes.

Despite being Campagnolo (clearly), the Zondas are available with either a Shimano freehub body (9-, 10- or 11-speed) or a Campagnolo one.

This is a Shimano freehub (and it quite happily takes my Ultegra 10-speed cassette)…

Just make sure you select the right one when you buy.

What Really Matters When You Get A New Set of Road Bike Wheel

Well it’s two things innit:

  • the amount of clickiness; and
  • looks

Desired clickiness – how the wheel sounds as you freewheel along – will come down to personal preference.

For the wheel builder it’s a fine balance (I’d imagine…).

It needs to be loud and clear enough to denote there’s a pro cyclist in the group. But not too loud as to be offensive (no one likes a show off) or to suggest there’s something wrong with them.

For me, the Zondas strike the right balance.

Secondly, looks. The wheels already have a touch of the cool factor through being made by Campagnolo (as we said, the connoisseur’s choice).

Again it’s personal preference. I like the spike pattern (!) on the rear wheel (‘Mega-G3’ remember). I like the black slightly deep section inside the rims. I am not averse to having a massive ‘Campagnolo’ emblazoned on them.

For choice you might prefer a slightly deeper section to tell people you’re #soAero. I’ll probably save that sartorial selection for when I get a proper set of ‘race wheels’.

In short, a fine set of robust, handsome and clicky wheels that, after getting on for a year of riding, I’ve been very happy with.

Where Can You Buy The Zondas?

Well, Wiggle is as good as anywhere (and generally has excellent prices):

And I’ve just discovered they do a ‘value bundle’ of the wheels and Continental GP4000s IIs (tyres). Sweet. Here’s the UK link and here’s the US one.

As usual these are affiliate links. Buy some wheels (or anything) and the site gets a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Over To You

Do you ride a bike with wheels? LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS!

(Seriously), have you upgraded your original bike wheels, or consciously selected a specific set of wheels when building your new bike? What did you get and would you recommend them?

[Sings softly with a lilting Irish accent] let me know in the comments below.

The post Campagnolo Zonda C17 Wheelset Review: My Quest For A New Pair Of Road Bike Wheels appeared first on Sportive Cyclist.

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Despite the word being in the title of this blog, my guilty secret is that I haven’t actually taken part in a sportive since 2015.

Yes, I did the RideLondon 100 last year but for some reason I have a mental block around calling it a sportive. It’s a ‘mass participation cycling event’ (whatever that means).

It feels like 2019 is the year in which this situation needs to change. Sportive-a-go-go. And where better to start than a local ride at the start of April. The RideStaffs Spring Forward Sportive.

I was encouraged to participate by the organiser, Paul, who also happens to read this blog (he tells me…).

He piqued my interest when we met and spoke about how he designs his routes (a conversation that led to my recent post about designing a great cycling route).

I wanted to test his route planning credentials in the hot crucible of a live sportive (er, what…?). So I signed up.

The Routes On Offer

The event featured two routes, short (which the lady at the start kindly called ‘medium’) and long. Neither route looked particularly scary on paper:

  • Short: 40 miles / 2183ft climbing (or 63.4km / 665m for the metric-folk)
  • Long: 57 miles / 2922ft climbing (92.1km / 891m)

This was part of the appeal for me and, I imagine, the majority of people taking part. There’s a limit to how much endurance training that any normal cyclist can complete over the dark, wet and wintry months. No one wants to beast themselves with an epic ride at the start of April.

That all said, I picked the short route.


Tranquil sportive cycling // Photo credit: http://garymainphotographer.com/

With my participation in the ride already taking me out of my kids-to-sporting-activities taxi duties, and pushing them on to my wife, I felt that spending an extra couple of hours doing the long route would be pushing my luck.

Also I needed to be somewhat compos mentis on my return. I had to put up two shelves and sign up for the village pumpkin-growing contest (don’t ask…). Safer to go short.

Back to the (summary) route analysis.

For the most part, you’d call both courses ‘rolling’. They traverse an area of mainly low farmland (primarily arable, if my keen amateur farming eye is to be trusted).

This part of Staffordshire is notable for what it is *near* (from a cycling perspective): Cannock Chase to the south (for mountain biking), Peak District to the south (for roadies and others). Part of the reason for doing this sportive was to discover what these roads had to offer in their own right.

The long route features a climb called Quarry Bank, which is relatively close to where I live but not one I’ve ridden. It was a shame to miss – it’s now top of the list for the next village MAMILride.

Croxden Abbey – half way up the climb on the long route (which I didn’t do….) // Photo credit: http://garymainphotographer.com/

Both routes ended with a nice little punch in the face some 10 km from the finish.

Marchington Cliff (which is great name from the getgo) is, according to the Strava, 470m long and involves 58m of asent. Hardly Alpine but it’s a grippy little number.

An average gradient of 12% and a stretch at 14% (that’s what the sign says) would certainly give my weary quads a good tickle.

The Ride

It was an early start (I had to get back for the pumpkins remember). My ride partner picked me up from our house at just gone 7am.

My domestique

Parking in central Uttoxeter is free on a Sunday (a factoid that will interest perhaps 0.001% of my readership), so it was very convenient to unload the bikes, get shoes on, top up the air in our tyres.

Registration was something of a revelation. Or at least the location was.

Bear Coffee is (as the name suggests) a coffee shop. And one that I had absolutely no idea existed. It’s a trendy affair, with smart decor and excellent coffee. Slightly incongruous for Uttoxeter but I will return.

Registration at Bear Coffee

The process was as simple as having a name checked off a list and the issuance of a number and cable ties. It was over in a flash. Given we turned up at 7.30, even with a leisurely coffee, it was still a bit of a wait until riders started to be released (8.30am).

Then we had to wait for a few waves to go before we finally set off. Strava records that we set off at 8.53am and we were definitely in the chute before half past. In the future, I’d be tempted to roll up later, in order to avoid the standing around.

The start ‘chute’

In any event, we gave it some beans up the few metres of ascent out of Uttoxeter just to warm up.

Describing a ride in words is possibly a bit tedious (although this blog is no stranger to tedium). I won’t describe in minute detail. Have a look at some of the photos, plus you can always scrutinise my Strava ride.

We didn’t stop at the first feed station. With it coming at mile 9 (on the short route), it seemed a little bit early to be taking on additional fuel. The stop probably saw more custom from the long route riders (at mile 21).

The second stop (which came at mile 28 – or 45 for the longies) did see us take a break.

The stop was staffed by a friendly chap from KOM Fuels and his (I assume) young son, who loudly announced riders as they approached. There was a nice selection of biscuits, Jaffa Cakes (not biscuits – ask the tax man), bananas, some sports nutrition products.

The best bit was the location – or rather the facilities. The feed stand was set up outside a village hall, with the building open to allow riders to use the toilets. I’ve done enough sportives feed stops in a facility-less car park in the middle of nowhere to know this is “a good thing”.

And just like that (after the Marchington face punch), the ride was over and we were rolling back in to the centre of Uttoxeter. The start chute had been repurposed as the finishing straight, and we duly received our cap and finisher’s medal.

Bear’s high grade coffee called out to us once again. We returned for another flat white (and noted that it was a busy with a non-cycling clientele – positive for an otherwise deserted Sunday high street).

We were also strong-armed into buying crepes from the stall that Paul had lined up for the event. He needed to justify to the stall owner why he’d been stood there, at the finish, in the cold for over 3 hours.

It actually turned out to be ‘a right shout’. Your classic pancake (let’s call a spade a spade), with lemon and sugar, could well become my ‘go to’ post-ride refuelling strategy (and Science in Sport can kiss my chuddies).

The Weather

Now, to be fair to sportive organisers, they don’t get much say over the weather. But sometimes it’s as important to be lucky, as well as good.

The riding conditions, if not perfect, were more than clement. It was a cool start, particularly as we queued up to be released onto the roads. Once we got going we warmed up.

It was ideal for bibshorts + leg warmers + Castelli Gabba + base layer + thin gilet + gloves (I get cold hands). It stayed that way throughout.

Can you smell fish?

I maybe had to unzip a little for the grippy climb towards the end, but it wasn’t a case of the day warming up and suddenly I had to strip off (and find pockets to stow everything).

It was relatively calm (wind wise) and no rain. Which has not been the case for every other sportive I have participated in…

Road Conditions and Traffic Volumes…

(… and other sexy sub-headings).

For the most part (of the short route), the surface was pretty standard for UK rural roads – a few potholes in places, smooth enough to maintain a reasonable pace, hardly manicured blacktop like you might see in Europe. Most of the roads were quiet country lanes.

In fact, that’s the joy of a well-routed sportive, particularly when it’s near your house. I’ve now been introduced to a number of beautiful rural tracks that I can explore again, knit together, form even more great ride routes. You don’t get that when you just ride the same roads you always ride.


Rolling roads of Staffordshire // Photo credit: http://garymainphotographer.com/

The only busy section (which ironically had a lovely smooth surface) was a (very) straight piece of A-road past the Rangemore Estate and finishing at the Needwood roundabout (if that means anything to you). Even on a Sunday morning there were a fair few vehicles passing at speed.

(Assuming the location above means nothing to you, just as a tidbit of interest, this section of the ride passed close by St George’s Park, the training centre for the English Football Association).

For most of the rest of the ride it was fine to ride two-abreast and chat, dropping back to single file (on narrow roads) from time to time when a car needed to pass.

If There Are Just Too Many Words….

… and you want to watch a video (a “YouTube”), those fine people at RideStaffs have you covered (and if you look closely, you can spot me…. in the coffee shop).

The RideStaffs Spring Forward Sportive in Uttoxeter 2019 - YouTube
Concluding Thoughts (Would I Do It Again?)

Definitely. I’m going to ride it again next year (assuming my family diary complies).

In stark contrast to virtually every single sportive I’ve participated in, I unequivocally enjoyed the whole ride. I finished feeling strong. I felt like I’d done a ‘job of work’ but I wasn’t totally wiped out.

Marchington Cliff climb

Immediately I wanted to come back to do another RideStaffs event, which I’m pretty sure is the reaction that RideStaffsPaul is after.

The early April timing is perfect for a gentle introduction to longer Sportive cycling. The route is relatively benign, with a little poke from time to time. A ride to enjoy and look forward to, rather than to worry about.

You can find out more about this year’s RideStaffs sportives by visiting their website.

Over To You

Have you ridden your first sportive (or gran fondo) of the season? Or perhaps a long ride with club mates or friends (guess they’re not mutually exclusive)? How did it go?

Let me know in the comments below.

The post Cliffs and Crepes: My Review Of The RideStaffs Spring Forward Sportive 2019 appeared first on Sportive Cyclist.

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Some experienced cyclists might scoff at this question (though surely not you, noble reader of Sportive Cyclist). I think it’s a perfectly valid one.

I haven’t done a survey (perhaps I should), but I can’t imagine many prospective sportive cyclists wake up one day, having not ridden a bike in 20+ years, and think, ‘I must sign up for a sportive,’ and, while they’re at it, ‘I must buy a shiny, narrow-tired road steed‘.

Many people may own a bike already, perhaps for commuting or for family cycling activities, and there’s a fair chance that this is a hybrid (or perhaps a ‘roadified’ mountain bike – fitted with less knobbly tires etc).

For those that do awaken having undergone a cycling epiphany, they’ll generally seek to buy one bike to satisfy their new-found pedal-powered needs (bit of commuting, bit of child-seat lugging, bit of fitness riding). A hybrid-for-all-seasons might prove a tempting prospect.

(Of course, then they buy it and immediately the Pandora’s box is opened and they become subject to the one bike ownership formula to rule them all.)

I knew a girl at school called Pandora. Never got to see her box though – Spike, Notting Hill

So, What Are You Saying, Can I Use My Hybrid?

Short answer: yes, of course.

I’m prepared to bet the princely sum of twenty guineas that someone (indeed, many people) on a hybrid bike beat my time at RideLondon 2013, despite the fact I was riding a ‘sportive-specific’ road bike.

Political Clydesdale Boris Johnson successfully completed the course on a Boardman hybrid.

An esteemed reader of this blog, Kristian, has even done the Étape Du Tour on a hybrid bike and claims to train by doing laps around Richmond Park with a big bag on his rear rack (note: not a euphemism).

The thing is, in using a hybrid, whilst you’re potentially saving money, you are doing so at the expense of making your sportive ride more challenging. And if you’re anything like me, doing a sportive on a well-fitting road bike is challenging enough, thank you very much.

So, you ask, what is it that makes a road bike more appropriate than a hybrid to the sportive cycling task?

Patience, grasshopper, I’ll get round to that in a second. First…

What IS A Hybrid Bike?

Hybrid: (Noun) 1. The offspring of two plants or animals of different species or varieties, such as a mule; 2. A thing made by combining two different elements.

So, a hybrid bike is the result of a mummy road bike having a little ‘how’s your father’ with a daddy mountain bike.

The resulting offspring inherits the flat handlebars and gear shifters from the mountain bike (plus a little of the sturdy construction). From the road side, the hybrid bike will tend to sport a pair of smoother, tarmac-suited tires and the odd svelte line here or there.

Not all hybrids are created equal: some will be closer to the mountain bike end of the scale; some will be a bit more like road bikes. For instance, my hybrid bike (purchased more as an accessory to a newly-acquired child’s bike seat, than for its own merits) sports a pair of low quality (rarely needed, heavy) set of front suspension forks.

The Differences Between A Hybrid And A Road Bike

As we’ve said, there is no such thing as definitive hybrid bike. Hybrids exist all along the road-mountain continuum (technical term, no need to look it up).

Also, some of the following ‘differences’ are more a result of hybrids tending to occupy a lower price point than many road bikes. For instance, if a £3,000 hybrid bike is available (I assume there is, somewhere), then we can assume it would be pretty close to the weight of an equivalently-priced road bike.

Whatever. Let’s get on with the crass generalisations.

As I see it, the main hybrid / road differences are as follows:

Weight

For an equivalently-priced model, the hybrid will weigh quite a lot more (certainly at the lower end of the market). They tend to use heavy chunky frames and heavy chunky wheels. Budget that might be used on lighter versions of these elements, is used up on non-useful components (to the pure roadie) such as a suspension forks.

Geometry

The seating position on a hybrid is more upright than even a sportive-type road bike (which will have a more relaxed upright position than, say, a time-trial bike). Over the course of 100 miles, being in a more purposeful position, reducing wind drag can lead to a much easier ride (and faster time).

Drop handlebars

Perhaps the most obvious difference to the casual observer. There are three different hand positions on a road bike: on the brake hoods; in the drops; ‘climbing mode’ (in the middle of the bars). You have more flexibility to change for different jobs and to stay comfortable. If you want to get a wriggle on on a flat section, you can get into the drops and reduce your aerodynamic drag, then move back to the more comfortable position on the drops)

Components & Materials

If there are more components on a hybrid bike versus an equivalently-priced road bike (e.g. the aforementioned suspension forks) then it follows that what components are there will have to be of a lower quality (and price) in order for the bike-maker’s sums to add up.

Gearing

The gears on a road bike, particularly one aimed at sportive riders, will have the right ratios to make ascending Leith Hill and Box Hill as painless as possible, whilst still have sufficient gear ratios available in the big ring to reach warp speed on flat and down hill sections. With hybrids, the ratios may be suited to flat city riding (with the caveat that gearing will vary from hybrid to hybrid).

Saddle

Saddles that come as standard on a hybrid tend to be more comfortable than those on a road bike… for about 10 miles. Above that distance, the road bike saddles are more comfortable. I’ve done a day long ride on my hybrid, with cycling shorts, and been very uncomfortable… (VERY uncomfortable).

Conclusion

There’s no getting away from it. The sorts of sportives we’re interested in take place on roads. Long rides on roads are best undertaken on a road bike (and ideally one suited to sportive riders).

As you delve into the differences between a hybrid bike and a road bike, what you’re really exploring are the changes that have been made to a road bike to make it less suitable for out-and-out road cycling. A hybrid bike will always be a compromise between competing demands on the bike’s abilities.

That all said, you should definitely feel comfortable using a hybrid if you already own one and you want to try a first sportive on for size. If you have the budget for one bike only, and you need it to perform a variety of more practical duties, as well as the odd sportive, then a hybrid is a sensible choice.

If you’re serious about participating in sportives, and generally undertaking long road-based bike rides, and have the available funds, then investing in a road-specific bike is going to pay serious dividends

Please Support This Website…

Sportive Cyclist is free to read (frankly, who’d pay for this crud?).

It does cost money to run though. If you’d like to help me out, you can buy stuff through one of my links and I earn a small commission. It doesn’t cost you anything (and might even give you a warm glow inside…).

To that end, please consider clicking the following links and see if there is anything that takes your fancy:

  • If you’re in the market for a new bike: Wiggle has a fine (and well-priced) selection; Ribble Cycles are amazing value and their ‘Bikebuilder’ feature allows you to change components to see the effect on the price.
  • If you’re looking for bike components or clothing, again Wiggle is my go-to website.
  • Finally, if you buy anything on Amazon, I’ll get a commission if you do so after clicking through my link. All you have to do is click here and then forget about it!

Many thanks – every click means a lot to me!

Danke schun!

The post Hybrid vs Road Bike: What Is The Difference? (And Can I Use A Hybrid For A Sportive?!) appeared first on Sportive Cyclist.

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Everyone seems obsessed about power these days.

Chris Froome spends all his time looking down at the power figure on his bike computer (on his stem) so that he can measure out his effort over a ludicrous long distance time trial that results in him winning the Giro d’Italia.

Sticking with Team Sky, power meters are accused of being the main tool by which the Sky Train supposedly sucks the excitement out of life on every Alpine Tour climb*.

(* No I don’t believe that is the case).

Back in the (very much) amateur cycling world, I succumbed to the promise that having a power meter (I’ve got a ‘left only’ Stages crank-mounted one) would instantly transform my training approach and fire my fitness levels into the stratosphere (spoiler alert: it turns out you still have to do the work…).

The good thing about training indoors, if you’re interested in measuring power, is that there are many more options versus measuring power on an outdoors ride. And not all of them involve departing with vast amounts of moolah.

Let’s get into them.

Just Buy A Power Meter

Okaaayyy. A bit blunt but it is what it is.

If you really want to measure your power output on the bike, buy a power meter for it.

The attraction of this option is that you can measure power whether you’re indoors on the trainer or out in the real world (NonZwiftLand). So it’s the most flexible of the accurate options.

Clearly (because it’s the same decision) you have your pick of all the power meter models and locations:

  • pedal-based;
  • one or both cranks;
  • in the bottom bracket;

The one option potentially to avoid would be the Powertap power meter that is located in a rear wheel hub.

If you have, or plan to buy, a direct driver trainer (where you remove the rear wheel and mount your chain to the cassette attached to the trainer), a power meter in the hub of a wheel not attached to the bike is neither use nor ornament to anyone.

Indoor Trainer With Built In Power Meter

Talking of snazzy direct drive indoor trainers, most (actually I think all) of these have built in power meters.

With the high end models, accuracy (in terms of measuring power) purports to be higher (+/- 0.5%) that on-bike power meters.

When everyone’s not being all obsessed about power meters, they’re being all obsessed about smart trainers.

Interestingly (sort of), the bit that makes them smart is the fact that such trainers can be controlled (i.e. their resistance) by a third party app (think Zwift or Grindr). It’s not the fact that they broadcast power data.

That said, most of these expensive smart trainers do have proper power meters in them.

Now, I don’t own a smart trainer. That’ll come when I finally have a dedicated pain cave and service course (maybe a wind tunnel).

If I was buying a smart trainer, I reckon I’d either go for the Tacx Neo or the Elite Direto (no ‘c’), perhaps the Wahoo KICKR CORE (yes, capitalised)..

(I should say, if you click one of those links and buy a trainer, you’ll speed me on my journey to a dedicated Sportive Cyclist workspace as they’re affiliate links…)

Smart, Not Half

There are ‘half smart’ (or half stupid if you’re a glass half stupid kind of guy) trainers that are cheaper than fully smart ones but still broadcast power data to your Garmin or Wahoo (or indeed Grindr).

These sorts of trainers don’t tend to have a power meter secreted about their innards. Most tend to work by having a flywheel (which may well be in some sort of fluid) where the resistance tends to get higher as you try and pedal faster.

Clever trainerboffins know that this gradually increasing resistance correlates to a power curve that is the specific to that trainer model. So if the trainer knows how quickly you’re riding (say by having a magnet on the drum that measures how rapidly it spins) then it can work out the power that’s being generated.

To be clear, this methodology can be replicated for really dumb trainers (see below) but the difference is that these ‘half smart’ dudes:

  1. can be calibrated to increase accuracy – how tight you clamp your rear wheel into the train can make a difference; and
  2. actually broadcast the power data over ANT+ or Bluetooth or semaphore (maybe not semaphore).

You therefore don’t need to pay top dollar for a new trainer. Instead you can go for something a bit cheaper like the Tacx Satori Smart (not fully smart).

Bog Standard Trainer That Doesn’t Broadcast Anything

It doesn’t stop there. For many entirely dumb indoor trainers (those that neither measure nor broadcast power data), you can still use estimate your power output.

The approach is pretty similar to that for the semi-smart trainers. Apps like Zwift or TrainerRoad have a range of power curves for common indoor trainers.

I’m going to go with the big numbers on the left being power output (with left hand numbers being heart rate).

Once you’ve told the app which trainer you’re using, and connected it to a speed sensor on your bike, the app can estimate your power based on speed.

The main issue is accuracy.

As mentioned above, how tight you clamp in your rear wheel to the trainer and your tyre pressure can affect how much of the effort you put in translates to speed, which is translated to a power number output. Your actual power could (and likely would) translate to a different power figure on the screen.

Also, some trainers see their resistance levels change as they warm up. This can be solved by warming up the trainer, and yourself, for 10–15 minutes before paying any attention to the power figure.

Advice from these apps is therefore not to focus too much on the absolute power numbers you see. More you should attempt to keep the set up (turns of the clamp, tyre pressure) as consistent as possible and track the relative change in power output (according to the app) over time.

Use Strava Estimated (Guestimated) Power

I wrote this post (nearly 5 and a half years ago!) about how Strava calculates power.

Looking at the relevant article on the support section of the Strava website, I’d say that their methodology hasn’t changed at all (I can see I borrowed some terms from their article that are still there).

You can read the article (my article) for yourself for the deets (it’s very informative, even if I do say so myself).

Without being a techno-physicist, however, one issue with Strava for indoor rides is that I think it uses elevation/gradient as part of the calculation (to determine resistance).

Unless your paincave is in a lift (elevator…), your height above sea level shouldn’t be changing on the trainer. Since Strava doesn’t know the actual resistance being provided (by the trainer), it’s not going to provide an accurate estimate of the power you’re putting out.

Finally, the cyber-elephant in the virtual-room. The main issue from a practical perspective isn’t how Strava estimates power or its accuracy when compared to a power meter. It’s the fact that you only get to see it post-event.

That being the case, it’s not much help when you’re training on the bike, trying to ride to a certain power (estimate). If that’s what you need (want), you’ll need to choose one of the other options.

Some ‘Recommendations’ For Indoor Cycling Power Measurement

Okay, so you’re sold on the value of measuring your power output whilst riding a bike on an indoor trainer. What kit to get?

I hesitate before giving strong recommendations. Or even weak ones. I’m not a big power measurer(-erer) current, though like many, I aspire to use it more coherently in the future. Some thoughts perhaps.

If You Need An Indoor Trainer…

I have an Elite Crono Fluid Elastogel trainer (which is a mouthful in anyone’s language). It falls within the ‘bog standard’ category above. It does not measure power natively.

It is, however, on the list of supported trainers in Zwift and TrainerRoad where they use the known resistance curve to estimate power.

(Whisper it) I’ve never used Zwift….

[Needle scratches on record player]

… but I have used the trainer with TrainerRoad. Whilst I can’t vouch for the absolute power measuring accuracy, it was sufficiently coherent to add interest (and pain) to my workouts.

Whilst this isn’t a review (this would be the review), I can say that I’ve owned the Elite Crono Flui…whatever for getting on six years and it remains a solid workhorse. I’ve had absolutely nothing go wrong with it and have no complaints about its performance.

So: solid performance but you’ll either need a separate power meter on your bike or be happy with whatever Zwift, TrainerRoad or other software estimation.

If I was buying a new smart trainer with all the power measurement bells and whistles (that’s how the tech works: bells, whistles, steam valves) I’d definitely be looking into the Tacx Neo or the Elite Direto (based on a reasonably comprehensive investigation into the reviews online).

Mont ‘The Power (Meter’) Montor (What…?)

I do actually own a power meter. I just seem not to have written about it very much. Which probably aligns with the amount of use I’ve given it.

It’s a Stages ‘left only’ crank-based meter. When I’ve got it working, I’ve definitely appreciated it.

Power to the Mont machine

Whilst I haven’t ‘trained with power’ (worked out my power zones; built a training programme around them), using a power meter definitely gave a sense of the power I could sustain for a given period of time. So, useful for pacing, and probably useful for getting fitter over time.

The issue has been battery life. If I leave a battery in the power meter after I’ve finished a ride, and leave it overnight, by the next day it’s totally drained. New battery needed.

Presumably it’s a defective unit that I need to return and get fixed (if I ever get round to it). But for now I’d struggle to recommend you buy one.

If you’re after a power meter recommendation, you’re better off reading the DC Rainmaker website.

Conclusion

Power is interesting, both to the MAMIL that wants another fitness indicator to monitor, and to the pro (or aspiring pro) that wants a more precise training regime.

Like everything else in cycling, you can throw money at the problem, purchasing a smart trainer or a power meter.

If you are at the non-smart end of the spectrum, apps like Zwift and TrainerRoad provide usable estimates.

Strava, whilst great in many other respects, is essentially useless for measuring power on an indoor ride (clearly it’s fine for recording power, providing you have another way of capturing the data).

Over to you. Do you record your power? Do you train with power? If so, what would you recommend to record the data?

Let me know in the comments.

The post How To Measure Power On An Indoor Trainer appeared first on Sportive Cyclist.

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I should start this post by saying that I don’t have a definitive answer for this. I am, however, interested in exploring the question.

Until recently, the question of cycling route design, on a personal level, hadn’t really occurred to me, beyond an ill-formed notion floating somewhere at the back of my mind.

I know that organisers of, say, the Tour de France spend ages determining the specific route each year (although that’s as much about fleecing start and finish towns for cash as it is about making the route interesting for riders and spectators).

I assumed organisers of sportives must give some thought to route (after all, how would they know where to put those little yellow arrow signs).

But when it comes to planning my personal rides, whether solo, with my brother-in-law or as part of my nascent village MAMILpeloton, route tends be decided quite quickly, often on the hoof (cleat?) based on how much time I/we have, how tired we feel, whether its raining.

So, the question again, should we be giving this decision more thought and attention?

The Case For The Prosecution

The inciting incident that has caused this rout-rospection was a recent conversation with Paul Rowlands, organiser of various sportives and cyclo-events in the area around where I live (specifically in Staffordshire – our adjoining county).

Paul’s mission, he said, was to reveal to the participants of his sportives a delicious selection of the hidden gem roads and climbs that he’s explored and catalogued since he was a young whippersnapper.

Going further, his approach is not to select ‘classic climb A’ and then ‘classic climb B’ and then plot a pretty much direct route between them. Instead, he seeks to make all of his routes interesting and varied (and, by extension, avoid long straight busy roads).

Finally, he doesn’t set out to beast the people who sign up for his rides. They shouldn’t fill prospective riders with dread, attracting only the masochists.

Instead he aims for riders to come back with the satisfied legfeeling of having done a ‘job of work’, but still with a bit left in the tank and a desire to come back and do more.

Some of his rides go further than this. One is set up to link together notable Staffordshire eateries, which not coincidentally also act as feed stations on sportive day. But the three themes above sit at the core of Paul’s sportive route design.

The Case For The Application

So how do we make use of these considerations for our day to day ride building?

It depends (always, it depends).

For me, not every ride needs a novel route.

Sometimes my window of ride opportunity can be just an hour. In those cases I don’t want to myfanwy around wasting valuable decisions (I can only make a finite number in a day) and time.

I have a stock local loop that ticks all the boxes (it takes an hour, quiet roads, relatively mud free). No design required.

When do I consciously take time to plan a route then?

Montle Maps

Now I think about it, I have enjoyed planning routes when I have visiting cyclo-friends or velo-tives (now there’s a new word that I hope I’ve just invented).

Most of the time, I’ll be riding with said regional interloper. Sometimes (if it’s my brother-in-law), I’ll plot a route for them to ride solo (and even go so far as to load it into their Garmin).

I guess the first factor is to think about is fitness and ability, including my own.

To Paul’s point, there’s no point me planning a route for someone that will make them thoroughly miserable or which they’re simply unable to complete. Much as it’s tempting to throw in all my pointiest climbs for those southern flatland folk….

But I do like to put in a bit of climbing. If people are visiting the area, I’m not going to have them crisscrossing the rolling farmland around my house. They’ve come for the hills (whether they know it or not).

So I’ll aim to hit a couple or three of my favourite climbs, ideally in some sort of logical order. Then we’ll wendle between them on some quiet country roads, so that we can have a chat.

Ride To Fuel or Fuel To Ride

If me and my guest have the luxury of a bit of time, then next on the list, after the climbs, is a suitable cafe stop.

Unfortunately I haven’t had the opportunity to build my own brain-based cafe-wiki for cycling-friendly coffee stops. Most of my cafe rides (i.e. the relaxed sociable ones) don’t often include, er, cafes.

Off the top of my head (for the eight or so of you that are reasonably local), I do like to stop at the cafe in Tissington (this also works if you’re, whisper it, not road cyling and instead riding up the Tissington Trail).

I’ve also been known to stop at the Carsington Water visitors centre where, in addition to seeing how poo gets processed (the reservoir is owned by Severn Trent Water and they have this weird little exhibition involving rats, sewers and nappies), you can sit outside at the cafe and gaze ’pon the water.

And… actually that’s about it. There are nice cafes in Ashbourne, some of which serve excellent coffee. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen cyclists at them. Never done that meself though.

It rather seems like I’m in the market for a few good Peaks/Derbyshire/Staffordshire cafe stop recommendations, if anyone has any?

I Just Dropped In To See What Condition My Condition Was In

Potential ride conditions have to play a part in selecting a route. Certainly in terms of deciding the general area to ride.

It’s hardly like I live in the Alps, but there are certainly cases where there is snow on the roads up in the Peaks but it’s clearer down here in the lowlands.

Fat bike anyone?

More likely the issue can be wind. A recent ride (which, yes, my brother-in-law had planned) in our Yorkshire trip after Christmas was delayed because the wind was gusting 40 or 50mph even at my parents house. We had no desire to be blown off the road up in the Yorkshire Dales, our intended destination.

We amended the route to somewhere less exposed and went later in the afternoon (my daylight-extending new bike lights helped here).

It’s not just the primary meteorological factors that can guide route selection. The mix of wet weather and tractors can turn some of our local lanes into little more than muddy tracks.

Similarly, some roads have puddles that are potholes (that are puddles). Who knows what wheel-crunching joy lies beneath those murky waters.

I’ll tend to avoid these sorts of roads during the winter months (though I can’t be too stringent in enforcing this rule, or my only route would be up and down the hard shoulder of the A50).

The Marquee Climb

I’m not really a driven kinda guy (you’ll have noticed). I don’t have an overwhelming urge to complete a high profile and time consuming challenge.

(‘Everesting’ anyone…?)

I do however quite like ticking off ‘100 Greatest’ climbs when the opportunity presents itself.

If I’m planning a route, for me or others, and we can slot in a climb from the list (so I can mark it off in the book), I’ll generally pencil it in.

I have not ridden a load of climbs in the south west…

The windy Yorkshire Dales ride I mentioned above was going to do just that (though as I wasn’t the route architect, I can’t remember which one it was!).

Even if there’s no ‘100 Greatest’ climbs on the docket, sometimes I’ll make a particular climb (a longer one or a particularly hard one… or both) the centrepiece for the ride.

Whilst we have (so-called) ‘100 Greatest’ climbs, the UK isn’t blessed with many ‘must do’ ascents with global cachet. Maybe a few in the Lake District and Scotland. When I’m near one, I’ll try to bag it.

On a family holiday to the Lakes few years ago, I took my bike in order to tick off something with vertical challenge (Honnister Pass and Whitlatter Pass, thanks for asking).

Around London, cyclists will make an ascent of Box Hill the main reason for a ride and then build a route around it (the primary reason for RideLondon existing perhaps).

Which reminds me, if there are few notable climbs, there are even fewer stretches of smooth UK tarmac around which to build a route. Box Hill meets that criteria as well.

It’s All About The Distance

Sometimes planning a route is about hitting some arbitrary measure. A total distance, or time in the saddle, or metres climbed.

I’ve tended to plot this sort of route when I’m proving to myself that my training is on track.

A hilly-ish 100k ride at some point in June last year suggested I was on course to get round RideLondon at least.

Or maybe you just want to prove (to yourself?) that you can complete a ride with 2000m of climbing.

Less finesse is required for this sort of route design. It’s more about dropping the markers on RideWithGPS until you hit the magic total than crafting a fine balance of interest and challenge.

Over To You

After having said I don’t give route planning much thought, I spend some time writing about it and suddenly discover I apply more brain cells than I previously assumed.

Go me!

(Now you.)

How do you plan your routes? Are they solely a means to a training end? Or is it more about the journey than the destination fitness gain?

Let me know in the comments below (please…)

The post How To Plan A Great Road Cycling Route appeared first on Sportive Cyclist.

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Gweetings. In this post I’m going to talk about the bike tools I use the most on my magical cycling adventures. Or ‘bike maintenance’, as normal people might call it.

No particular science was applied (plus ça change). I took a mental canter through my memory banks and tried to think about the implements I’d had most cause to use in recent years.

Then I wrote them down. Hopefully this will prove useful if you’re starting your own cycling tool collection, or wondering what all the cool grease gurus are tinkering with.

Or something. On with the show!

The Joy Of Hex Keys

My most commonly used cycling tool is not even cycling specific. I’m pretty sure it was my nascent interest in bikes that compelled me to buy it though.

I say ‘it’. Perhaps I mean ‘they’.

They are a set of good quality of Allen keys (hex keys as they may be known internationally) made by Wera. The hex keys are made of high quality steel and have nice long handles wrapped in rubbery plastic (so they’re easy on the hand).

The handle ends have ‘ball ends’ – sort of hex-shaped balls – so you can tighten and loosen hex bolts at awkward angles if necessary.

This is the equivalent set on Amazon, although I mine aren’t colour-coded (more’s the pity…)

Wait, I guess I should tell you what I use them for.

I bought the set because I really needed the big one. There was something bike-related (it was a long time ago) that needed a really big allen/hex key head with a nice long handle.

I might even have used it to dismantle a rear wheel freehub. I fancied myself as a bike mechanic and planned to clean and regrease the bearings. It didn’t work. I had to buy a new wheel (in fact a set of wheels – they’ve got to match…).

I came away from the experience with a good set of hex keys though.

The Hex keys in use (they’re are at the front of the table…)

Now I use them for general hex boltery:

  • For all cases where I need to loosen a bolt (taking apart chain rings, jockey wheels, releasing brake cables);
  • For some cases where I need to tighten a bolt and I don’t have to be too careful with overtightening (e.g. the seat post bolt on my kids’ bikes, securing brackets to the handlebars)

(The ‘other cases’ for tightening hex bolts should generally involve my torque wrench).

A Good Lever

After concerns over plurality in my previous entry, now I’m questioning whether the next one (er, ones) is a tool at all.

Time to talk tyre levers.

If something is made entirely of plastic, is it a tool? Maybe these should be classified as utensils.

No matter. Tyre levers are an important part of my arsenal, and should be in your quiver too.

I’ve got a set of the Park Tool TL–2 Tire Levers (it’s an American company), which (i) are blue); (ii) clip together so that they all stay in one place; and (iii) get the job done (at a reasonable price).

Tyre levers – blue, clipped together – d’ya see ’em?

Park Tool (other tool makers are available…) also make tyre lever sets that are plastic but with steel tips (not sure of the use case, other than perhaps wanting to cause more damage to the rims of your wheels?) and heavy duty ones made entirely of steel.

My levers live in my saddlebag, so they’re always at hand if I have a mid-ride flat. Being plastic they don’t add much weight (certainly not in the context of all other weight we MAMILs carry).

I Am A (Multi-) Tool

Another resident of the saddlebag is my trusty multi-tool.

Every ‘craftsman’ seems to have one item for which ‘trust’ is the key metric. For carpenters, it’s (I don’t know) their saw (their hammer?). For firemen, their trusty hose (ahem). For crusading knights, their keen-edged sword.

Every recreational cyclist therefore needs a trusty multi-tool.

It’s another cheat tool, as far as this list goes. It’s multiple tools in one (as the name might suggest). My one has a number of different levers with various shaped ends – hex (again), Philips and flat screwdriver heads.

There is even a chain link tool, although it’s more for use if you find yourself in a mid-ride broken chain pickle rather for sizing a new chain in the workshop. For choice, you’d want to use a proper, more accurate chain tool, with less risk of squeezing the links together as you push in or out the bolt.

Cut To The Quick (Link)

If you want to eschew the chain tool entirely*, you might want to consider fitting quick links to your chain.

(* Wait, don’t do that. If you break your chain with all that massive pedal power you’re applying, you’ll need a chain tool to remove the broken link.)

Whilst aware of quick links in passing, I was introduced to them (in person?) by my friendly local bike mechanic (who sadly appears to have shut down operations) when he fitted me (my bike) with a new chain.

Quick links (pre-cleanage)

His reasoning for having them was to aid and encourage regular cleaning of the bike. By having a quick link, it is ‘dead easy’ to remove the chain, allowing me to:

  • clean the chain thoroughly in a bath of degreaser; and
  • clean the chain rings, derailleurs, jockey wheels etc

all without the chain getting in the way.

It almost makes it easier to remove the chain when cleaning, than leaving it on and trying to clean it in situ.

Once all that is done, you can reinstall the newly-cleaned chain on the newly-cleaned bike just by reinserting the quick link and pulling the two ends of the chain apart until it clicks into place.

(After you’ve realised that you don’t know what direction the chain passes through the rear derailleur so you have to watch a YouTube video whilst getting grease all over your new iPhone and then still not being sure so having to get grease all over your copy of Zinn And The Art Of Road Bike Maintenance book).

As I mentioned above, unclipping the quick link is ‘dead easy’ (i.e. not at all easy) unless you also get a dedicated set of quick link pliers. With the quick link pliers, removing the quick link is actually dead easy (and quick).

PS. Make sure you buy the right sort of quick link for your chain. It should say if it’s for 10-speed, 11-speed etc…

A Hastily Added Extra Section

You might want to get a set of quick link pliers.

These are like normal pliers but the end bits (the bits that ply?) are narrow and sculpted and fit into the gaps between the font and back faces of the chain link.

You use them to squeeze the two ends of the quick link together in order to release it. You could use normal pointy-ended pliers but these risk squeezing and bending other links in the chain (not advised).

I’ve see YouTube videos of people using bits of string (or maybe gear cable), pulled together, to release the link. But that straight up doesn’t work (certainly not for me).

If you do buy some, get the ones that are shaped both to push together and pull apart the bits of the quick link. I’ve seen some pliers that just do one of the jobs (which is a little pointless).

I can’t seem to find the ones I’ve got online any more. If I was buying a new set, I’d go for the Park Tool MLP 1.2 pliers. Which I’ve linked to just… about… here:

Now Watch Me Whip, Watch Me Nae Nae

Once upon a time, I wrote a post that made far too much play out of the fact that if you search for ‘chain whips’ on Amazon, you get… (ahem) … results that will not help you when removing the cassette from your rear wheel.

I also made the profound observation that lock ring rhymed very much with c…

[vinyl record scratching noise]

I have grown up at lot since the very immature days of my mid thirties.

So now I will talk briefly about chain whips and lock ring tools without letting so much as a brief smirk flit across my face.

This is my lock ring, this is my whip. This is for fighting, this is for fun.

In the same way that a quick link makes for easy chain removal and more effective cleaning, having the ability to remove the lock ring that holds the cassette on means that you can slide off the cogs (the sprockets) and clean them individually (at least for the bigger ones that come apart).

You need the chain whip to wrap around the cassette, holding it firmly in place whilst you turn the lock ring (using a lock ring tool). When unlocking the locking ring, you’re essentially rotating it in the same direction as the freewheel. So without something stopping it from doing that, turning the lock ring does precisely nothing.

You could try holding the cassette with your hand. You’ll then need to to try driving to A&E with one hand in a greasy rag, wondering whether they have a cure for blood poisoning.

I’m pretty sure you could make your own chain whip (of sorts) with some old chain but I’m kind of a ‘spend a little bit of money on the right tool’ kinda guy.

I’d say I’m more likely to do a bike clean where the chain comes fully off, but I clean the cassette without taking it off. So said chain whip and lock ring tool are not used super frequently. But when I do need to use them, they’re super helpful.

Super.

Some Tools Are Better Than Others

Some tools’ mothers are better than other tools’ mothers*.

(*Howsabout that for shoehorning in a 1980s indie music reference)

The go-to brand in cycling tool world is Park Tool. If you’ve watched one of the pro team bus tour videos on, say, GCN, you’ve probably have noticed the array of blue-handled tools in the mechanics section.

I’ve got a few Park Tool tools (it’s clumsy that you have to say ‘tool’ twice, but whadyagonnado): my big pedal crank; a nice chain whip; the aforementioned plastic tyre levers.

But like many people, by collection of tools is a hodge podge of brands. My multi-tool, which is generally kept with tyre levers in my saddlebag, is made by Crank Bros (who do a fine selection of multi-tools by the way).

Good grief…

If you want to be colour coordinated and have every tool you can think of, then Park Tool sell a master kit comprising 278 tools (at the current count). For the princely sum of (I think) £7,000, you get everything but the kitchen sink. And whilst there may not be a sink, there is a stool. Money well spent.

Conclusion

So that brings us neatly to the end of my brief rummage through my tool box and saddle bag.

Recommendation: get a decent multi tool and tyre levers. Your future cold, wet and tired self will thank you when you next have ‘a mechanical’, mid-ride.

If you’re planning ever to clean your bike (I suggest you don’t close your mind to this idea), some quick links and dedicated set of pliers is a cheap and easy way to make the cleaning process easier and more effective.

A nice set of rubberised hex/Allen keys will improve both your cycling and wider personal lives (!).

(I could – maybe should? – have mentioned a torque wrench in this post. I didn’t, as I don’t actually use my one all that much. Nonetheless, if you want to know more about cycling torque wrenches, then please to read my most comprehensive post on the subjectmatter.)

Right, over to you:

  • Are there any ‘must have’ tools that I’ve missed that every self-respecting velocipede should own?
  • Do you have a favourite tool? (What a question)
  • Are you vehemently anti-Park Tool (dunno why)?

Let me know in the comments below.

The post The (Bike) Tools That I Use Most: 6 ‘Must Have’ Implements appeared first on Sportive Cyclist.

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I’m very fortunate, as a cyclist, to live where I do. I live on a quiet country lane which sees as many tractors as it sees cars. In fact, on a nice day, more bikes will pass by (with people on them) than motorised vehicles.

Unlike when I lived in south east London, I don’t have to ride for 30 minutes just to leave suburbia and traffic.

I thought I’d share a little about my local cycling environs, and the sorts of rides I do in them. I doubt the Peak District needs much extra publicity (even if it is not the second most visited national park in the world), but if I can encourage a few more cyclists to ride in this part of the world, I’ll be a happy yellow jonny.

By the way, this post isn’t meant to come over all self-congratulating. After all, it’s not like I live in the Alps, Majorca or Calpe (which seems to have gone to the top of my family holiday/training camp visit list).

I’VE JUST DISCOVERED I LIVE ON ROUTE 68

Actually that’s not true. I just said (nay SHOUTED) it for effect.

I’ve known our house sat on one of the National Cycle Network routes since before we bought it. That was one of the attractions.

Loads of cyclists pass by each day (admittedly the majority aren’t riding an NCN route as such – they’re local road cyclists doing what local road cyclists do).

I’ve harboured for years a vague idea that I should create a ‘pop up’ cycling cafe in our front garden, serving locally roasted coffee and homemade cakes to passing trade.

What I hadn’t quite realised was:

  • we are on National Route 68, otherwise known as the Pennine Cycleway
  • not only that, but we are right at the start (or end) of it – the start proper is in a village called Etwall, from where we occasionally get a Chinese takeaway (which may or may not be relevant)
  • you can ride Route 68 all the way from here to Berwick-upon-Tweed, on the border with Scotland, a distance of 327 miles.

What I now know, deep within my bones, is that I must buy a gravel bike (there are some off-road trail sections that would not be comfortable on a pure road bike), some expensive bike luggage, and ride the first section of the route to Holmfirth (God’s Own Country; Last of the Summer Wine).

Not Quite The Peak District

The Sportive Cyclist Service Course (my house…) is located in a village that’s sort of in the middle between Ashbourne and Derby.

It’s a farming area, set on rolling countryside with a network of quiet country lanes.

It’s certainly not steep climbs and hill farming. That is saved for the Peak District.

The attraction of having quite a concentrated network of quiet roads is that there are loads of options for building a route whilst I’m on the hoof (not that I do that much, being a creature of habit – see below). There is constant variety. I can take a new turning and have a little explore, safe in the knowledge I won’t be inadvertently committing myself to a terror climb to make it back to my starting point.

The only slight downside to my location (and this probably depends on your viewpoint) is that before moving here, our rented house in Ashbourne gave 15 minute access to the Peak District and a first proper climb.

(I had visions of this climb becoming my equivalent of Armstrong’s Col de la Madone test ride for the Tour).

Don’t feel too bad for me though. Now we’re talking probably 30 mins to get somewhere proper grippy.

My 60 Minute ‘Training’ Loop

My general window of opportunity is for a one hour ride.

Taking into account the time needed to don my battlelycra, crank up the Wahoo and fill my water bottle (plus the same in reverse, post ride), and the inertiafaff phase before and after, we’re talking 1hr 20 total.

Which seems just about acceptable to my wife and kids on a busy Saturday or Sunday.

I’m a creature of habit. I tend to do the same loop each time. Sometimes I’ll go crazy and ride it in reverse.

I’m not totally stuck in my ways. Oh no!

As my fitness has improved, I’ve added little bits on, to increase the distance a little, to keep total ride time at about an hour as I’ve got quicker.

Having a standard route works for me for these sorts of rides. They’re generally about maintaining fitness, getting some fresh air, sparking up a little dopamine boost to improve my mood. For those times when I want just to get out on my bike.

Not having one more thing (a route) to think about helps make the ride happen.

The other good things about this loop (and things you could consider when designing your own ‘standard route’):

  • It involves no main roads – they’re all quiet country lanes. The main hazards are mud and pot holes. There is the odd car, tractor or horse.
  • It is not a route that is hard intrinsically. The barometric alimeter in the BOLT and Strava/RidewithGPS underlying map data both agree there is ~210 metres of climbing. I can either ride the loop whilst giving it full beanz, or I can relax a little and coast round.
  • The aforementioned extra bits can be missed off if I want to cut the ride a little bit shorter (e.g. if I’ve miscalculated the available time window and I need to be back sooner, or if I’m really just not feeling it).

In an ideal world, my standard ride wouldn’t be limited to an hour. Over the Christmas holiday period, rides were around the 1hr 30m mark and this certainly felt sustainable from a fitness perspective. Just not from a time perspective as we move back into ‘term time’.

Medium Length Rides

If I can muster up the time, say two hours, then a wider range of riding options present themselves.

Two hours of riding gives the opportunity to get out, if not into the Peak District proper, at least into the foothills.

This past Sunday’s ride was a good example (of the species). I struck out with one of the other village MAMILs (I’m not the only MAMIL in the village) westbound towards Staffordshire. Having done a gradual grinding climb near to Rocester (where the world HQ for JCB is located, digger fans), we dropped down towards Ashbourne.

Ride of the Valk… MAMILs

We then did a climb which I was totally unaware of, to a village called Stanton, two thirds of the way up the ridge that forms the start of the Staffordshire Moorlands (so almost the Peak District). I’ve ridden another (much less interesting) route up that hill numerous times without realising what I was missing.

In order to continue our route to Ashbourne we had to descend into a small valley on a 14% gradient road (according to the sign) and then… ride back up the other side on a 14% gradient road (according to my legs – and another sign).

So two more really great roads to add to my local road lexicon.

The attraction of a two hour ride is that I have time to get to more interesting and longer climbs, and make it back. I can pretty much push myself to ride anywhere and up anything within that radius, giving the satisfaction of a challenging ride, without the slight nervousness that comes from doing a longer ride (4 hours, say) on such ‘grippy’ roads.

Which brings me to…

Longer Rides Near My House

Now I suppose I could pootle around for 4 hours, criss crossing local lanes, not going too far from the house.

That would be a bit of waste though, considering the opportunities on my (almost) doorstep.

Four hours, a 100km ride say, allows for a nice challenging ride in the Peak District. I did a few of these (I think) as training in the run up to RideLondon 2018.

With this sort of time window I’m within striking distance of longer (Strava) category 3 climbs (wooooh…).

In May 2015, just before I returned to the world of paid employment, I wrote this post about an interesting ride (though I’ll let you be the judge of that). It also included the bagging of two additional ‘100 Greatest Climbs’.

Point To Point Racing

One thing I did in 2018 that I’d like to do more of are ‘point to point’ rides. Rides where I travel to a location (for a summer/outdoors activity) by bike, whilst my wife and kids go by car.

In last year’s case, a few families with young uns arranged to meet in a Peak District village called Monyash (not Montyash) one Saturday morning. The plan was to have a short country walk followed by a picnic (followed by walk back to pub for a drinky).

I managed to turn it into a ride opportunity by setting off early and meeting everyone at the rendezvous.

The trick was to make sure my wife brought me a change of clothes (easy when it’s summer shortsweather) and that the roof rack was attached to the car (I wasn’t quite ready to ride back home at the end of day).

Sportives In and Around The Peak District

My record in local sportives is inauspicious to say the least.

My first decent ride in the Peak District was the Igloo sportive, which took place only a few weeks after we moved up from London (April 2013). The route started in Chesterfield, climbed up into the eastern part of the Peak District including through the Chatsworth estate.

It was a rude awakening. Cramp. Crosswinds blowing us into oncoming vehicles and having to lean over at a 45 degree angle, just to stay upright.

It did offer the opportunity to complete my first ‘100 Greatest Climb’ in the area though (Rowsley Bar in case you’re interested).

#EpicFail

The next one I signed up for (the Peak Epic), the weather (miserable) and my fitness level (poor) meant that I dropped down from the medium route that I’d signed up for to the shorter one.

It was another good route (to be fair they all are round here), starting in Bakewell and taking in climbs like Longstone Edge and The Rake.

The highlight (lowlight) of the ride was the climb out of Millers Dale. The Strava segment (a category 3 climb) is actually called Hollow O’ The Moor, evocatively.

The actual lowlight wasn’t so much the climb. It was the fact that the peloton of keen lycra clad uphill warriors was passed casually by a family clad in civvies that had hired (I assume) e-bikes. They just cruised past us as we suffered. I remember being in pretty poor state as I staggered back in to Bakewell by the end of the ride.

There’s Always Tommo-row (?!?)

The year (this was all in 2013) closed with probably my worst Sportive failure. Having completed RideLondon at the start of August, I promptly got straight off the bike and didn’t really get back on again until mid-September when I attempted the ‘Tommo Sportive’.

The ‘Tommo’ (which I don’t think is run any more) started at Carsington Water, a small reservoir on ‘my’ side of the Peaks. It followed many roads I was (and remain) very familiar with. It was also the ride where my legs gave way with 20km to go, at the bottom of the longest climb (the long schlep out of Cromford, if you’re familiar with the area).

I can’t remember precisely, but I’m pretty sure I ground to a halt at the steepest part, stuck into my pedals with electrifying cramp coursing through my quads.

After a little walk and a little talk (to myself), I remounted and ground my way up, missing a bit at the top and taking the direct route back to the finish.

Greatest Of All Time…

More recently (though not that recently) I aborted part way through the Grindleford Goat sportive. It’s a(nother) great sportive route and follows the day after what is, by all accounts, an entertaining hill climb event (to watch…).

The Grindleford Half A Goat

It took place in September 2015, a few months after I started back at work. The first half of the year was characterised by regular riding and gradual fitness gains. The second half of the year was… not.

It’s surprising (not that surprising) how quickly you lose fitness when the frequency of riding drops. When it became apparent (to me at least) that my legs weren’t going to last out the final few climbs of the designated Goat route, I elected to ride the straightforward and relatively flat route back to the start.

Not that this stopped it being the hardest ride I’ve ever undertaken (apparently…):

Conclusion

There is no conclusion. Other than perhaps to note that it is over 3 years since I last complet… took part in a local sportive. For a blog that has ‘Sportive’ in the title, you do have to wonder…

My new cyclo-contact Paul, owner of RideStaffs and organiser of this sportive in Staffordshire in early April (amongst other organised rides), has kindly proposed I take part in the event. With the start being some 15 minutes from my house (and very convenient for dropping my daughter for her gymnastics training!), I’m very tempted.

I hope this post is useful if you’re considering riding your bike in this part of the world. I’d be very happy to answer (if I can) any questions on riding in my part of the world (southern Peak District and Derbyshire Dales).

Now over to you:

  • Where do you ride?
  • What’s your ‘go to’ training loop?
  • What route are you looking forward to tackle come Spring or Summer?

Let me know in the comments below.

The post The Roads I Ride: Road Cycling In Derbyshire appeared first on Sportive Cyclist.

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