Category Archives: Getting Out

Riding outside is better than inside

Sportive St Andrews 26 August 2012

This charitable sportive event starting in St. Andrews, Fife, is open to all abilities with three options, from 45 miles to 80 miles across rolling roads in Fife on 26 August 2012.  The sportive event website is as follows: www.sportivestandrews.co.uk which has details of the three routes available.  This looks to be an excellent event with support, marshalling, feed stations and even transponders to give you an accurate measurement of your time.

Entries are available via Entry Central.

The event is being organised to raise funds for the excellent work carried out by the charity, ‘Chest, Heart and Stroke, Scotland‘.

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Cycling shoes

Cycling shoes are great and when they work and don’t hurt we just don’t think about them.  You can see where this is going; I’ve been getting instep pain for a bit over a year – a common problem – and didn’t do anything about it.  I’ve come to realise that it may or may not be the cycling shoes that started it, but they’ve not helped.

I’ve used my recently retired shoes for too long with regular use over 4 years the carbon sole on my Nike Poggio 3’s had started to lose its stiffness, though not that I’d notice as this is such a small incremental loss.  It was only when I went to my new Sidi shoes that it became clear that they were much stiffer.

My shoes over the years have been:

Adidas Eddie Merckx
A great pair of shoes with a resin sole. 

Vittoria – Stephen Roche
My first pair of shoes that were Look compatible.

Look Carbon
These were extremely well put together with a carbon sole and three wide velcro straps – as good as the Greg Lemond Carnacs of that era and very comfortable.

Time Equipe
A two velcro strap shoe in white. Lemond used these in 1989 with a toe-clip strap to give extra security, this made them look even more cool!

Time Pro Equipe
A very comfortable shoe that was not dissimilar to the Look Carbons but at over double the price.

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Nike Poggio II
After the expense of the Time’s I went with Nike in the Armstrong era.  These were much cheaper and considerably lighter.   The straps were a bit on the weak side and didn’t give such a secure fit.  These may be to blame for the begining of my instep pain as there was so little instep support.  Additionally, they were a signification change of position with the sole of the foot being much closer to the pedal axle compared to the Time shoes.

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Nike Poggio III
These were a much improved iteration, with a firmer, more padded heal cup that really anchored the foot and a much firmer grip offered by the velcro straps.    As with the II’s the instep support is minimal.

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Sidi Genius 5 Pro Carbon
To early to provide a long ranging opinion but they feel stiffer than the Poggios’,  have good instep support and the heel is well secured.  These were the easiest shoes to set-up that I’ve ever owned with very accurate markings on the sole making this possible.   After a bit of trial and error with the shoe plate on the right shoe, I was able to transfer the position to the left shoe and get it set first time with absolutely no adjustment necessary!  The serviceability of these shoes is also a considerable plus factor with spares available for the heal rubber and locking strap.

On the downside, the two velcro straps do not give such a clamped-in secure feeling as the Poggio III, however they are a very comfortable and well ventilated shoe.  Moving up the Sidi range to the Ergo II or Ergo III could alleviate this sense-of-security issue as the middle velcro strap is replaced with a dialed locking mechanism.

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Scottish road safety campaign

Having just blogged about cyclist safety in February, I was just made aware of a new Scottish campaign, Pedal on Parliament whose manifesto is posted on their site pedalonparliament.org.  They have a second ride, targeted at Holyrood on 28th April 2012.  The manifesto they’re compaigning for goes like this:

  1. Proper funding for cycling.
  2. Design cycling into Scotland’s roads.
  3. Slower speeds where people live, work and play
  4. Integrate cycling into local transport strategies
  5. Improved road traffic law and enforcement
  6. Reduce the risk of HGVs to cyclists and pedestrians
  7. A strategic and joined-up programme of road user training
  8. Improved statistics supporting decision-making and policy

Admirable though this is, I think its missing something.  I believe that a media campaign whose purpose is to sell ‘cyclists’ to other road users through targeted education would mitigate a number of the safety issues we see today.  Positive stereotypes  and popular figures can do a great deal in this regard  – as I’ve said before about Mark Cavendish’s fantastic success story, he’s raised the image of cycling in the UK, just as Lance did in the US.

Putting it another way, perhaps using the media to improve the public’s prevailing  view of your average cyclist-in-lycra is a second and equally important target.  We need to sell a positive image of ‘the cyclist’ as your average law abiding joe because its true.

Think Bike Think Biker

The Think-Bike Think Biker TV campaign has adverts named after people to promote motor-cyclist safety and aims to make the ‘object-in-the-road’ not just an object, not just a bike,  but a human being on a bike.  We need something similar.

Eye-wear – Oakley Doakley

On a slightly lighter note from the last two posts, ahem, have you noticed that the riders  in the professional peleton are wearing these guys more (again) in 2012?

RADAR® PATH™

These guys work

SKU# 26-214

As opposed to these newer fangled things that some guy Cavendish is sporting:

JAWBONE

Jawbone - Awe heck my peripheral vision is blocked

SKU# 04-215

A detailed review this is not, but I’ve tried them both and I never liked the Jawbone because of the frame along the bottom which obscures your peripheral vision; not a good thing when you need to check if a rider or a big metal box is coming up your flank.

I’d happily buy another pair of the Radar Path, fantastic glasses but not these Oakley-Doakley things Cavendish is wearing. Oh, and why didn’t he wear them when he won the 2011 worlds?

Back to my original point – check out the photos on your favourite cycling results site and I think you’d be hard pushed to disagree, the Radar Path is making a comeback.

Cyclist awareness and the Law

Following on from yesterday’s post, I’m now seeing more and more material on Cyclist awareness and attitude changes.

Video’s of driver aggression from the cyclist’s perspective appear to be having a a real impact as they are used as evidence in Legal proceedings.   The Times newspaper has gone so far as to post a video of a ‘driver jailed for using bus as ‘weapon’ against cyclist‘.

Our club is a small bunch of experienced roadies. I’d say we all have very good bike handling skills, we’ve all been at it for over two decades and we’re all experienced drivers.  As cyclists we know the warning signs right down to heavy tyre noise meaning its big and its coming quick.

Here’s some statistics:

I’ve been knocked off twice in the three decades I’ve been at it and consider myself lucky for such a small number and the minor injuries received.  In these incidents I was not at fault. Of the others in our group of eight, two have been knocked off more than once.

Injuries my team mates have received range from broken wrists, to a collarbone and the most serious involved broken leg and ribs after being ploughed into.

I’ve had more near misses than I can remember, heard cars locking up behind me as the driver turned his head to a forward looking stance just in time, seen caravans side swipe a rider in our group and watched an elderly driver overtake and pull in without actually going passed the rider he was trying to overtake resulting in injury – the driver didn’t stop .

Road Rage from drivers is phenomenal, I’ve had drivers drive at me, swerve and try and push me off the road with their vehicle and been buzzed by motorbikes and teenage drivers more times than I can remember, just because I was in the way.

I  think Chris Boardman’s stance in The Times could help, ultimately it has to be about education and I firmly believe that this starts from the moment young ones can speak.  So often I’ve been out training and seen a toddler out with their mother and they say, “Look mum, bike”, it should be “Look mum, man on bike”.

Road Safety Campaigns

I’ve been biking on roads since I was ten years old giving me 30 years (comprising two decades of racing) of experience both good and bad of all road users.  Being human I try to learn for the next time every time and tend to group those experiences and the people in them in several categories – like insurers do these days – and these stereotypes or ‘scenarios’ have served me well.

Just like a boy scout you have to prepare for the worst and do what you can to be ready for when things go wrong and they inevitably do. Knowing what to look out for means you are a little better prepared for when drivers don’t see you, for when its rained for the first time in several days and the roads are greasy, for when pedestrians aren’t paying attention…

However, we all know that being careful and thinking that you can in some way control events and your journey through this world is full hardy.  For most of the time close misses and minor injuries are down to luck rather than exquisite bike handling, lightning reactions or constantly scanning for road scenarios that can lead to something bad happening.

Over these 30 years I’ve watched how the mainstream media and politicians have so often missed the point when it comes to cyclists safety.  There is little doubt however that there has been a step change in momentum for improved cyclist safety in the last decade.  Here in the UK cycling has become more mainstream and coupled with the no-win-no-claim legal culture there is now much more statistical evidence of cycling related injuries from cars.  I still believe that a financial penalty will have more impact in changing attitudes than blood and gore road safety campaigns.  I also think, perhaps naively, that the Manx Missile’s 2011 World Road Race victory has significantly raised respect for cyclists in the U.K.

Every effort is worth making and I’m glad to see the likes of The Times is part of the step change in momentum as they take up the campaign on behalf of their injured journalist Mary Bowers, here’s hoping she makes a good recovery; you can visit The Times campaign at the following address: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/cyclesafety/contact/

Jason McIntyre was one of the many statistics who was not so lucky and having raced with him on several occasions, there was no doubt about his phenomenal physical ability and exemplary bike handling.

Here’s hoping we all stay lucky.

Two bikes or one

There have been a number of posts about this topic across the globe and there is little doubt that two bikes are required if you live in  Scotland.

A winter bike will very quickly become trashed by the harsh wet and salty conditions in just a couple of years and this comes at a cost.  For the last couple of years I’ve been riding a single speed winter bike to keep these costs down and make maintenance as simple as possible.  Its also because I adhere to the two decent bikes for summer principle – one for beating the hell out of commuting and training in wet summers and the other for those nicer days (the other 50% of the time).  I also think you benefit from the leg speed and strength gained from riding a single speeder over the winter – I’ve a 46 x 16 which is around a 76 inch gear.

Fixies and Single Speed road bikes have become increasingly popular (especially in urban areas where they are seen as a fashion item)  in the last 5 years and this post looks at the offerings in this re-born strand of the cycling retail market.

Off the peg steel framed – Giant, Specialized and On-One £400 to £800

Giant Bowery 72 Steel RRP £450

Giant Bowery 2012 RRP £450, Specialized Langster  RRP £400, On-One Macinato RRP £799

When comparing the frames there is not a lot of difference between these steel offerings, the Bowery used to come in Aluminium but has gone over to steel as has the Langster in 2011.  The Langster’s frame does stand out however but only because it uses branded tubes – Reynolds 520 – which certainly beats the Bowery on quality.

Specialized Langser Steel 2012 RRP £400

The Macinato does not use branded tubes.

They are all claimed to be strong and lightweight but anyone who has ridden a 4130 chrome molybdenum frame like the Macinato will know this is not the case and is merely marketing jargon.

Finishing Kits

The Bowery comes with largely proprietary finishing kit that is not really fit for purpose as a club level winter bike due to its poor quality; for example it is provided with a 3 x 32 chain and running gear which will wear more quickly than a heavy duty 1/2 by 1/8 chain.

The Langster is again better than the Bowery, as it’s Specialized branded parts are in this reviewer’s opinion, better quality such as the chainset and flak jacket tyres and it tops this off with Mavic rimmed wheels.

In contrast Macinato has largely branded parts, Weinmann wheels, Selle Italia saddle and Sram brakes that should last a couple of winters if maintained.

On One Macinato RRP £799

Is the Macinato’s frame and finishing kit worth the extra £400 pounds? Definitely not, those brake levers look awfully cheap for an £800 bike.

Indeed, these bikes are all disappointing from a value for money perspective and this is even more evident when they are compared with  comparatively priced road bikes that are running derailleur gears.

Same money on a bike with gears

If you want to spend your money on an out of the box winter bike with gears then you’d be hard pushed to get better value for money from the likes of the following, the Trek 1.1 RRP £550, the Giant Defy 4 RRp £599 and the Specialized Allez RRP £599.  These are sound winter bikes.

It is quite shocking when comparing the functionality and componentry of these geared bikes with the lack of componentry and sophistication provided by the Bowery and Langster (admittedly the Macinato does a better job at this) – you get a lot less single speed bike for your money.  If I’m spending the same money why am I getting quality that is so much poorer?

In my opinion off-the-peg single speed bikes are over-priced because of two factors, their target market being the fashion conscious urbanite and secondly the relatively small number of people in this market strand.

I think you can build a good base winter bike out of these single speeders.  I  have built a bespoke (cheap) but reliable single speed winter bike based on a Bowery and this will be the topic of another post.