Absolute Black Oval Chain Ring

This weekend marks the beginning of British summer time and the rolling out of long warm nights, many a winter bike will be retired to the garage/shed/store until the seasons turn again. Cyclists across the county will suddenly start adding 2mph+ to their ride speeds as the super light carbon fibre deep rimmed speed machines ride out, quickly forgetting about the reliable work horse they straddled whilst the elements were against them.

One thing I’m going to miss from my winter bike is the chainring. It’s fitted with an Absolute Black oval narrow wide item, and what a great piece of kit that is.

Maybe it’s because my winter bike is singlespeed but it has transformed how it rides. It’s given a noticeable increase in range for the same gearing, the pedal stroke ramps up to where you are strongest, effectively easing into a harder gear without changing cogs. Because the effort increases on the downward motion of the pedal stroke it also helps to smooth the action down by adding resistance later on. This is especially noticeable when spinning out on the round ring, one gear will only go so fast! Yes I still spin out but it’s not so violent, enabling me to spin faster.

How does that transfer to climbing then? Well my knees are thanking me for it and my strava pb times have fallen. I was running a 42t. The ring has an ovality of 40/44t so in the initial phase of the pedal stroke I’ve dropped down 2 teeth, effectively reducing the strain on my knee cartilage. Something I was suffering with.

Now there’s the looks, these things look awesome. Great cnc machining and strong anodising that seems to have lasted well over winter, they look good for a while as well.

I don’t want to sound like I only review things that I like or have had success with but it seems that either cycling tech is just getting better or I’m making some astute purchases. I’d wholly recommend the move to oval on a singlespeed bike, probably just in general if that translates, and now I’ve just got to decide if I want new chainrings or new kit for my birthday…..

Canyon Grail

Free from the constraints of heritage (or sense?) bicycle brand Canyon have really pulled out the stops with this one. Yesterday their new Grail model officially broke cover, and the reaction has been a marketeers dream. The exposure has been massive.

Why’s that then? Well have a look.

Looking at this bike produces probably the closest physical and mental reaction I can think of to that of watching 2girls1cup. It starts kinda racey but then goes all horribly wrong and German with people doing things they really really shouldn’t. (No comment on whether I have or haven’t watched the aforementioned video).

Here is why:

The hover bar.

Canyon have decided that everyone has been doing handlebars wrong. Forever. And I have so many questions.

How do you do a bike fit? If I was spending £2400 on a frame set I would like to be able to specify stack, reach, and bar width that fitted me. An integrated bar stem combo like this doesn’t allow for it. There are four different combos available.

How do you upgrade the groupset? Lets say you buy a frameset and want to fit your SRAM group? Nope. The bars only come with premounted (yes the bars are made with the shifter mounts on them) shimano only shifter clamps. Its a gravel bike, people will crash this, what about a snapped shifter? new bars is it??

How much shock absorption is there? Well there’s no actual data that I can find on the Canyon website only the statement ‘Compliant on the tops, the unique floating top section exploits carbon’s to absorb chatter and vibration being transmitted through the riders body’. So this new tech is to give better compliance through the tops. 90% of the pictures on Canyons website depict riders on rough terrain riding on the drops. There is one picture of people riding on the tops. Next to none are benefiting from this, my experience of gravel riding involves being nearly constantly on the hoods or drops for maximum bike control. In fact Canyon claim that your hands have a locked in position when on the drops due to the additional bar. To me that says one position, I like to move my hand positions to avoid fatigue, and that means uncomfortable. Moving the mounting section of the handlebar that much closer to the drops in fact reduces the leverage on the drops and actually increases stiffness and reduces compliance. Unless they have chosen to make this bar from chocolate…..To increased the shock absorption to the rider you need to increase the suspension to the sprung section of the bike (anything connected tyres onwards), not just to the riders wrists……oh and only to the riders wrists when they are on the tops.

Can you reach your Garmin? I understand an out front mount, but one that’s another 6 inches away?

Why didn’t they route the cables better? The Grails aero cockpit has all the looks of integrated cable system possibility but with cables running in a lopsided way from a floating bar. surely a single truck into the stem would have worked better?

How do you successfully wrap those bars? wrapping around a set of shifters is ugly enough. It also uses a lot of bar tape, now you have another ugly joint how long does the bar tape have to be!

Was the bike specifically designed to be aero? If so I think they left out a few bits. An aero fork to down tube combo would have been a great start. But hey I’m sure most gravel rides happen at 20mph+ so aero capability is a must.

How do you clean the crud out from behind that integrated stem? Its and adventure or gravel bike. They get dirty, and that will make a hell of a grinding noise if it gets something in there.

Canyon have done a great job of grabbing the headlines with a quite frankly disgusting solution to a problem that isn’t there. But hey maybe that was the idea? isn’t that what Canyon do? market bikes? they don’t manufacture. The frames expensive enough to wash its face if someone buys it (and yes there’s plenty of Brewin Dolphin sportive riders who will chomp at the bit to buy this fad bike) and if not then everyone’s still talking about it.

Canyon Grail, obvious joke coming up, Canyon Fail.

Mavic Open Pro UST Rims

Trends for road wheels at the moment? Wide and tubeless. Ok then, what do mavic do? Jump on it.

My experience of Mavic’s new wide rims comes in the form of a pair of Open Pro UST for the winter bike. Although a fair few of Mavics new road wheel sets now come with 19mm inner rim width so off the peg items are readily available.

The winter bikes wheels were getting a little old, they needed a bit of a refresh so I started hunting around for some new ones. Quickly finding that getting a decent set of singlespeed wheels was pretty difficult. I needed some with a track hub rear spacing that had decent sealed bearings suitable for riding somewhere other than a velodrome, ie living up to winter use in the new forest. No one seems to make a lightweight set, they all seem to be cheap and heavy Fixie wheels. So no good for open road riding with hills!

Giving up on that I decided a rebuild on mine was the best option. The hubs I have are profile racing so it would have been a shame to replace them……..despite their purple colourway! A new set of bearings were drifted in and the hubs were like new, although retaining them limited me to 32 hole rims. So I set about the internet searching for hoops. Various brands were ticking a few boxes but only one had the whole lot covered. The Open Pro. It was lightweight at 430g, wide at 19mm internal, Tubeless ready, and 32 hole. The other that almost made the grade was the H Plus son Archetype, it lost out only by not being tubeless ready.

I had the wheels build by The Woods Cyclery in Lyndhurst, in the New Forest, using Sapim Laser spokes and they have done a great job. The complete build came in weighing circa 1.6kg, not bad for a 32 spokes and track hubs, perfect for winter training wheels.

How do these rims ride then? The first thing I noticed was how sure footed the bike felt. I hadn’t changed the tyres or tubes at that point, it was just down to the wider rim giving a squarer profile tyre. By this I mean stouter, the sidewalls of the tyre are extended outward and made more dome shaped as a cross section rather than balloon shaped. This reduces tyre roll and gives a larger tyre footprint, increasing grip. The profile is also more aerodynamic as change of shape between sidewall and rim is less pronounced (although jury is on on how much of a benefit this is with a shallow rim). It also gives the ability to run larger tyres with less roll, larger tyres and lower pressures being proven to be able to absorb more road noise and reduce rolling resistance. So the benefits are definitely there.

Weight wise I can feel the difference, I’m shaving circa 150g per rim against the previous. They climb really well and are stiff. The profile isn’t particularly aero but they don’t seem to require extra effort to keep them up to speed on the flat.

I have now changed to tubeless and I can say it’s almost a revelation. The wider profile with the drag free nature of tubeless tyres is awesome. I can’t fault them.

Setting up the tubeless wasn’t easy mind, tolerance was very tight will all manner of trouble trying to get the tyre over the bead without spraying sealant everywhere was a nightmare. I ended up having to zip tie the tyre on the rim to stop it slipping from the bead at one point!

So in summary a great rim for a custom build or replacement of old. Lightweight, stiff, and tubeless compatible. Mavic, well done. If you are looking for rim to modernise an older bike or to build some winter training wheels you should look no further.


Bespoked 2018

My favourite show of the here is almost here again!

20th to the 22nd of April at Bristol temple meads station in the old Brunel engine shed. It’s a collection of everything custom and handmade in the world of bicycles, and my god the machinery is gorgeous.

Check out the website HERE for more details.

I’ll be there poss the Friday or the Sunday so maybe see you there!


Stumbling blocks, training, and new gear

So far I’ve had a great start to my cycling year, mainly down to my inclusion of Zwift and turbo trainer into my efforts. I almost completed a full house in January (got to 20 days in a row on Zwift before coming down with an awful cold). It’s been a great training tool and my fitness levels and weight are back near their best already after having a very lacklustre 2017. I’ll be Mallorca fit in no time!

So what’s dragging me down? I’ve already completed half my total distance from last year already, but my ability to fit in turbo sessions has started to wane significantly in the last week or so. I’ve also cleared out the majority of my vintage road bike collection in aim of buying a new frame but unfortunately/fortunately I don’t think that’s going ahead. Then there’s the new kit choices…… I just can’t decide what summer gear to buy (a nice problem that can turn into a negative when you are getting fed up of choosing between manufacturers!).

Damn cycling speed bumps!

A slight reassessment was needed, had a good sleep on it last night and I think I’m set. I need to not get wound up about not getting out there, I’m no pro and this is a hobby/lifestyle choice not a necessity. If I want the turbo time I need to organise myself better. As for the new bike, only a madman would warrant a new frame even though the one you already have is brand new and has been awarded several best on tests (check out the Ribble R872 here), no matter what stable the new bike was coming from. And the kit thing well…… surely the shopping scenario is half the fun and the weather ain’t here yet so I can park that for a month!

It’s very easy to get overly hyped by you interests and hobbies, they then become an obsession. That’s not healthy for anyone! Anyway here’s to getting some long summer rides in on a top bike, in a top location.


I.B.S, Cycling, and The FODMAP discovery.

Well I might as well talk about it, the reason why I cycle solo most of the time. The reason I can’t commit at a club level or even socially sometimes. I suffer from IBS. I’m not talking a grumbly tummy or feeling a little bloated. I’m talking not able to leave the house until you are ready, exhausted, dehydrated, sore, and exasperated IBS. With a high stress full time job, a house renovation, and most importantly family, any loss of energy is a killer. I had to find a solution.

It’s something I have approached my GP about before but with no luck, just being told that it’s something I’ll have to live with. At that point you kind of trust the professional and soldier on. A few years later I’ve moved house and reregistered with another surgery and mentioned it again to my new GP. He responded “have you tried the FODMAP diet?” I looked at him thinking what is he talking about? After a quick conversation I had a basic understanding of what was happening inside me and how it could more than likely be tied to things I was eating.

Essentially my bowels were being turned into a fermentation tank. And I was adding fuel to the fire every time I took a bite or sip of something. So a quick explanation of what FODMAPs are, they are fermentable short chain carbohydrates that don’t digest properly in the small intenstine. They then pass into the large intestine causing the bacteria in there to go wild, here they ferment causing gas release. This causes excess gas (Farting, I had this in spades) and bloating, the bloating causes distress to the bowel wall, distress to the bowel wall causes rushing of water to the bowel to increase bowel movements and loosen your stools (now that’s familiar). Bloating also causes a full abdomen and pressure on stomach, and for someone with a loose oesophageal sphincter (love to use that word ha ha) that means acid reflux.

So that’s a quick explanation of my IBS symptoms and causes. How does the FODMAP diet help this? Simple really it restricts the amount of FODMAPS that you eat and subsequently reduces and controls the symptoms of IBS. Most people who go onto a low FODMAP diet see an improvement in symptoms within two weeks. The diet works in two phases. Phase one is the restriction, where you cut to a very low FODMAP diet for about 8 weeks to try to eliminate the processes going on in your large intestine and allow your bowel to calm and heal. To regain some form of normal function. Phase two is to slowly reintroduce certain FODMAP food to see which are effecting you, from this you can figure out how restrictive you have to be with your diet to prevent symptoms resurfacing. For a list of high and low FODMAP foods CLICK HERE.

That’s a kind of basic overview of it, and it may not be perfect but it’s where my knowledge of it all is at the moment. And that will grow.

How has it worked for me? Without trying to be a over dramatic, it’s been life changing. I can leave for work on time, my energy levels are through the roof, my moods are better, my cycling strength is up, and I’m not waking up everyday feeling like I have a hangover because I’m dehydrated. Oh and I’m not crapping five or so times a day (sorry, but for someone who’s lived with that for the last ten years it feels cathartic).

It’s not been without its troubles this diet though. It’s been expensive, and hard work. I’m finding I’m having to cook all the time. Now that’s not all a bad thing, I can cook and enjoy it, but it’s time consuming. Trying to fit in around a full time job and being a parent is hard. Plus getting meals ready for taking to work is hard. We have had to change most of our cupboard stock, and my recipe book is a bit limited at the moment, but that will grow and costs are coming down. It’s early days.

One place I’m not finding a lot of help with though is sports nutrition. Most will be high in FODMAPS. I’ve browsed a little on the internet but there’s no definitive low FODMAP sports nutrition, it’s a case of putting together your own.

I’m going to further research, record and start to put together my own list of FODMAP friendly nutrition. Hopefully leading me to build a section on this site for pre, during, and post exercise recipes and foods that I have success with. As I hope it will give the same results for other FODMAPpers.

Maybe, just maybe, I might be able to get my symptoms under control to a point that enables me to join a club and commit to riding with others more frequently. I’m sure it’s possible.

If you got this far, thanks for reading it means a lot . If you have IBS then try the FODMAP diet. If you have any FODMAP nutrition tips then send them here.