London trip and new kit!

I love a good trip to London. It’s a nice change to get involved in the hustle and bustle of big city life for a few days, especially if you go midweek. Celebrating Charlie’s birthday we went to see a show, watch Queen with Adam Lambert, and do some shopping.

The last on the list is where the bicycle part comes in! One of my favourite little hangouts in London is Spitalfields market. It has a brilliant mix of shopping, food, atmosphere and architecture. And carefully woven into that shopping are a few outlets for us cyclists.

What cycle shops are in Spitalfields then?

  • Cycle Surgery
  • Evans Cycles
  • Swift Cycles
  • Cafe du Cycliste
  • Rapha

A couple of big chain bike shops, an independent, and two of the best cycle clothing brands. Enough to give you a little taste but not get you in trouble with your partner! (Unless they are as mad for bicycles as you are, in that case fill your boots!).

We were staying in Greenwich as it was pretty central to our plans, traveling about London is so easy from there. Now, whilst our trip to Spitalfields was sort of planned, buying new cycling kit was not. But on arrival (hopped off the tube at Aldgate and walked up) I saw Cafe du Cycliste. Now, like most, I’m not a massive fan of buying cycle clothing online as have done so in the past and regretted it. But I have been more than tempted to push the button with CdC. Now I had the chance to actually try it on.

But first we were there for the wife’s birthday and needed a drink so off into the market for some shopping and respite, stopping at the Grocer for a juice. Walking straight past Rapha, I was actual offered into the shop by Charlie so took full advantage! Quickly noticing their 25% sale and getting stuck into trying some gear on.

Having wanted some matching kit that fits for a while I was like a pig in muck. Quickly engaging in conversation with staff about what I was looking for. I prefer spray on race-esque style gear and was pointed in the direction of pro team bibs and training jersey. Also trying on the the new mid weight jersey. Bibs fitted really well, as did the pro team training jersey. They were a great match.

It was a tipping point. The moment when you release your inner feelings toward the Rapha brand and immerse. I’ve been anti (no that’s too strong) Rapha image because of the attached stigma for a while now but I’ve now succumbed. It all fitted really well. Maybe because it was the right size (now into small after my weigh loss) maybe because of the cut, maybe because of the materials. Probably a mix of all three.

But the day wasn’t over and I said to the guys in Rapha upfront I wanted to try Cafe du Cycliste before making my decision. So off there it was.

Cafe du Cycliste is tucked a road back from the main Spitalfields market on its south side. It’s a very cool little setup with a great range. I tried on the audax shorts and Francine Breton jersey. My goodness these were comfortable. I don’t just mean they were soft or well cut, I mean you could barely even feel them on you. It was like a gentle hug you would give to a newborn. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t fitted, I had no bunching when I got the sizes right, had to jump down a size of jersey over Rapha to an XS. This is probably down to the difference in materials.

Cafe du Cycliste has their target market at being the audax and long distance rider but with a racier style fit. I can’t fault it they have absolutely hit the nail on the head. Although some of the range may be just a little too lightweight for U.K. use, hence trying on their mid weight jersey, as it’s all designed and developed en le sud de France.

Weighing up the pricing. At full retail there’s not a lot of difference between Rapha and Cafe du Cycliste, and the equivalent models in each other’s range match pretty well to each other. So between the £300 and £350 for both complete kits. But Rapha have a 25% off sale. That made a massive difference. I wouldn’t put £230 for bibs and jersey in the cheap category, but I would say value for money at a 25% reduction.

So what did I go for? What was my personal preference? Rapha. The fit of the pro team gear was racier. The jersey had a lower collar and I preferred the compression of the bibs. Plus and extra £70 in my pocket spoke volumes as well. Don’t get me wrong, I reckon the Cafe du Cycliste will be the gear for me when the kids have left home, but for now I’m enjoying going fast. And the Rapha was the kit for that.

If you are in London and want some new kit at the upper end of the price range I can recommend checking out Rapha and Cafe du Cycliste in Spitalfields. You will easily get away with masking it as a shopping trip for your partner as well! But don’t let on!

Now I’m just dead keen to get out and try my new gear to see how it rides! Review coming soon then I guess…….

BC

Still Singlespeeding! Cafe Velo Drop In.

Ribble is still away getting a fancy new paint job so busting moves singlespeed style again. I’m starting to notice a strange phenomenon…….. I’m running out of gear! The last few rides I’ve been able to absolutely stomp it sprinting uphill, it’s a great feeling but I don’t want to spend any cash on the thing ha ha. This weight loss and increased fitness is becoming expensive! I’ve just had to but new kit as well!

Today on the first day of the 2018 Tour de France I decided to pop into Ringwood’s cycle cafe, Cafe Velo. It’s recently changed hands and wanted to catch an idea of the new vibe. It’s ramped things up impressively, it’s now incredibly cycle focused. It has a near full time in house mechanic and very busy group rides.

I just happened to turn up as the group rides were amassing to leave, had to be nearly 30 riders there so quite impressive. As far as I can tell they split them into two pace groups to be more inclusive.

I’m having a caffeine free spell so stopped for a juice and a tea cake. Not exactly low fodmap so paid for that with bloating for the rest of the day! But needed some carbs as I’d already ridden 25 miles fasted.

Impressions of the new owners take on cafe Velo? There seems to be a great community there almost instantaneously, so I’m guessing the new owners have transferred that from existing businesses and relationships. That brings a little more buzz to the place. It’s heavily cycle focused. But at the risk of looking like a bike shop with sofas rather than a cool cafe hang out. Ringwood already has a couple of great bike shops so taking them on would be a negative approach in my opinion. It could take some styling tips from Bournemouth’s Velo Domestique and Rockets and Rascals, they have nailed the mix, but it’s definitely got more going on than before. Only having tasted a toasted tea cake I can’t really say anything about the new menu, although it was quite funny when the lady behind the till didn’t know what a toasted tea cake was or how to serve it (asking me if I wanted it toasted ha). Disaster quickly averted by her experienced colleague (iirc a member of staff employed by previous owners) stepping in. I’ll have to pop back in to check the menu as it seems the cafes website is no longer in operation, and Facebook business pages are just crap so I can’t be bothered to hunt around there for it. They have some stiff competition with the food served in Velo Domestique and Rockets and Rascals so looking forward to seeing what they can do. Maybe I’ll wait until I’m caffeinated again so I can see what they are serving in the coffee stakes as well, after all what is cycling without coffee! I’m sure it will all be good, we have some great local producers (cafe Velo have bakehouse24 on their doorstep) and there are some awesome coffee roasteries in Bournemouth as well. So no excuses!

Great to see the cafe going from strength to strength and more cyclists out and about. I’ll return again, and aim to get onto one of the group rides when I have a morning to spare.

BC

Mallorca

Mallorca is great. Straight to the point. I had the best time, and not just because of the cycling.

Why did we choose Mallorca? Well there were a few reasons. We were going to Spain to celebrate my brother in laws wedding, we have our second child on the way, and we were looking to tag on a weeks holiday after the celebrations. We needed family (2.5 year old in tow) friendly, good weather (who doesn’t want a tan?), good history/culture, close to beach, and great value. Oh and I wanted to get some cycling in. Mallorca ticked all the boxes.

We stayed in Port De Pollenca on the north side of the island at the Hoposa Villaconcha apartments. This location fitted the bill superbly, the hotel was a five minute walk from the beach in one of the islands best towns and was advertised with great facilities. Port de Pollenca has pretty local architecture and no high rise buildings, a traditional style sea front with gorgeous beaches and a nice promenade. All backed up with some good shopping and great restaurants.

Getting to and from our hotel was very easy, flying into Mallorca there are plenty of budget flights. We chose Norwegian outbound, as it fitted into our wedding visit plans, and easy jet on the return. Both in and out of Gatwick the flights were priced at under £50 a head. For Bournemouth locals Ryan air flys to Palma Mallorca airport daily between March and October, although flights are more expensive. Bike carriage is available on all operators as well as an additional cost. On arrival in Mallorca we were a little unorganised and left the option of transfers to and from the hotel open, there is a possibility of saving a little money by booking in advance here but not masses, so we decided on a hire car. This turned out to be a great decision. Going for Europcar we hired a polo for £300 for the week including child seat, as opposed to private taxi transfers at £90 each way. Driving on the island is very easy and there seems to be no parking charges anywhere! We visited Pollença town, the aquarium in Palma, and Alcúdia old town. Easily making the cost worthwhile, I really recommend this option as we were able to drive door to door from airport to hotel.

So how was the hotel? Ideal in a word. The Hoposa Villaconcha was perfect for what we wanted. Located a five minute walk from the beach in quiet back streets in the southern half of Port De Pollença it had everything we needed and more. On arrival we were initially impressed with how new, clean, and bright the hotel looked. This continued throughout the building, and matched with excellent facilities for both sports and kids it was a real winner. For the sportsperson in you the hotel had a full gym, Olympic style swimming Poole, bike shop on site, spa area, and even a hypoxic chamber for simulated height training. For the family there were three fresh water swimming pools, water slides for kids, soft play, and various activities going on throughout the day for all the family. The rooms were very spacious and comfortable. They were equipped as individual apartments so self catering was a possibility and could sleep four people, two in the master bedroom and two on pull out sofa beds in the lounge area. We decided to go half board and weren’t disappointed, the buffet was excellent for both morning and evening meals with plenty of variety. This really helped get back on board those lost calories from the exercise and gave me enough options to stay low FODMAP all week without getting bored. They also included a gluten free section at each breakfast as well. Would I stay again? Certainly.

So for a cycling blog I’ve not exactly touched on the cycling much have I? Well I’m wanting to save a bit of it for another post but what I will say is that it was the most spectacular cycling I have ever done in my life. The views are incredible, the roads are smooth, the climbs are epic, and the descents are phenomenal. We hit up a couple of the most popular routes on the island, cap Formentor and Sa Calobra. They didn’t disappoint and I would have no problem agreeing that it’s a cycling Mecca.

So to wrap up, I can wholeheartedly recommend Mallorca as a family holiday for those predisposed to a bit of decent exercise. It has everything to keep you entertained, from decent culture to wicked weather. And if you are a cyclist? Just go there! I will be returning, anyway here’s some pics for you!

The hotels pools were just right for family

Hotels on site bike shop Bimont was brilliant

Lovely sunset over the mountains

Pollenca bay is beautiful

Even the shopping was bicycle themed

View from Pollenca steps was impressive

A happy man out early on the bike

 

The hotels impressive bike facilities

Go visit!

BC

The road to Eroica 2018

Well the cats out the bag, we are off to Eroica for my brothers Stag! Not being able to talk about this has been murder! We have a great place to stay and a great team, and plenty of surprises in store.

This does mean a rush of preparation of bikes though….. I’m currently busting my balls to get my Rotrax ready, a friends bike, and sort out everything else that’s going into it!

The Rotrax is coming on……

Nearly there though! Now to get all the plans in place and make sure all are ready for 60 miles in the Peak District.

First time for me at the Friden Grange site but I’ve heard good things and the risk of big trotting is removed!

Let’s hope this weather keeps up! It’s looking a little shakey for the weekend but I’m sure it will be on our side.

Maybe see you there! Chapeau!

Assos Chamois Crème

Out in Mallorca and realised I had left my chamois cream at home. Doh! The rides over here are know for being arduous and probably not to be ridden without some crotch lube.

I was kind of forced into this purchase as it was the only chamois cream in stock at the hotels on site shop Bimont. Not disappointed though.

I wasn’t expecting to be, this is Assos after all. Not exactly something you can get really excited over but nevertheless chamois cream is something if forgotten or of poor quality will ensure you have a solid supply in your sports cupboard. Previous experience has left that mental scar!

So the Assos Crème (not cream obviously!) is light and non greasy almost like moisturiser but it has that final protective layer feel you need. It goes on both pad and posterior well and gives a cool menthol tingle, quite enjoyable! Loads in the tub and I reckon there’s enough to do about twenty applications.

I used this for two rides in Mallorca, Formentor and Sa Calobra. I came back with zero rubbing or rashes so I rate this cream highly. Does the job well and can be for £10 on the internet, if you need some chamois cream it’s definitely worth buying.

BC

Wheel building – the myth!

You will never get it straight, you won’t get the correct tension, you will get the wrong offset, you will make it oval, it will ride bad, it will come loose, YOU WILL DIE!

All of these are tools of fear employed by the cycle industry when it comes to basic bicycle wheel building. My response? Don’t succumb to the fear!

Now don’t get me wrong there are some really tricky elements to building wheels, especially high performance wheels with low spoke counts or wheels with high demand placed on them but a wheel for a clunker or basic bike is actually fairly easy to put together.

This is by no means a walk through, just my experience of putting a wheel together for my latest Rotrax build.

So what do you need?

  1. hub
  2. Spokes
  3. Nipples
  4. Spoke wrench
  5. Flat bladed screwdriver
  6. Bike or wheel building stand to true it in.

That’s a pretty simple list I admit but hardware wise it really is that short. The most expensive part (depending on you rims and hubs of choice… Chris kings may overstep this!) is the wheel building stand but for cheap and reliable general use wheels it’s not necessary, chucking it in the bike it’s intended for is fine. Don’t forget that shops don’t often have the bike the wheel is going into, hence the invention of the wheel building stand.

There is a little more science in wheel building than just getting some parts though. You need to find out the specifics of the individual components, how they relate to each other, and how you want to build the wheel. Ie what size and distance the hub flanges are away from each other, what the rim dimensions are, and finally what spoke lacing pattern you want to use. Ie how many time the spokes cross over each other. This is the most difficult part.

There are a few good guides on the net for both stages of wheel homebrew, the pre build science, and then the assembly.

For the pre build info I suggest looking into the following:

For calculating your spokes you can head to THIS SITE (Leonard) or THIS SITE (ProWheelBuilder).

Then for actual assembly instructions I recommend THIS SITE (Sheldon Brown) or THIS SITE (Patric Taylor).

Personal preference for sites used were the Leonard for spec and info and the Patric Taylor for wheel build instructions. They are both very easy to use and were perfect for what I was putting together.

All you need to do is practice. Why not try getting an old wheel, dismantling it and then rebuilding it? What’s the worst that could happen? It’s not a loss if it goes wrong and you may end up learning a pretty cool skill. Something that may come in handy or you’ll find pretty fun. I enjoy it, it’s very satisfying knowing that you can assemble pretty much anything on a bike from complete component parts. Therapeutic in some circumstances!

Anyway here’s a few pics of how I got on:

First I had to dismantle the old wheel for its donor hub.

Hub removed pretty easy, left the spoke nipples soaking in some oil the night before.

Parts together and time to build.

Then it’s a simple job of going round and tightening the spokes until you have even tension and a straight wheel. This steps easiest in the bike and using a pair of zip ties around the seat stays cut to the same length as a guide. Use the instructions in the guides above and you’ll be rolling in no time!

Realistically what’s the worst that can happen? Use that calculator to figure out the spoke lengths, lace it all up. If you struggle with the last step take it to a cycle shop and they will finish it off. Go on, have a go!

BC

Frame straps – WTF

Seriously who thinks it’s a good idea to strap your spares to your frame with a bit of Velcro? What’s going on with this massive fad……?????

This is the item under scrutiny:

What are people thinking? Let’s look at and list what people are trying to achieve first.

  • Want to carry some spares or tools on my bike.

Well that was a long list.

Let’s examine the first picture above. This dickhead has strapped his inner tube right behind the front wheel. It’s wider than the frame so will act as a mudguard and catch all the shite. First thing I look for when changing inner tubes is one with a good coating of possible puncture causing material on it. If you want the same then this solution is for you. The other benefit of this mounting position is the proximity to the crank arm. You have every possibility of catching it with your foot, loosening it and jettisoning has canisters and tubes of the trail.

Second picture. This one is what looks like a shitty old watch strap just enough to hold one tube. Great. You have one tube and no way of pumping it up. Oh you do have a pump? It’s in your backpack. Wanker.

Number three. This is prize cock territory. You have strapped an inner tube and gas canisters in one of the most dirt vulnerable spaces on the bike. “Yeah but the strap let’s me get to the tube really quickly” yes but then you have to spend five minutes washing the tube off with isotonic drink (squirted with all the power of a 80 year old man with a prostate problem) from the mouthpiece of your camelbak. Where you could have put your tubes. Not only that, saddles and rails are designed to flex, those canisters will wriggle loose in no time. This bundle also takes up just as much room as a saddle Bag. WHY WOULD YOU NOT JUST BUY A SADDLEBAG!!!! Prat.

I really can’t see anywhere that one of these straps is a good idea, or at best better than any type of bike bag. What’s next cellotaping energy gels to your spokes? Spare hydraulic fluid in your handlebars? Spare grips around your seatpost?

Do us all a favour and retire this rubbish to a bin, it’s worse than parcel taping a banana to your forehead. At least that’s close to where it should go……

BC