Back from the dead

Seeing as actually cycling has been a bit of a non entity in my life at the mo I’m having to get my bicycle fix in other ways. And oh did I find the perfect way to do so recently.

Whilst at my parents house searching for a tool I found the frame from my first proper mountain bike. My first decent spec one at least. My Saracen Dirt Trax 2000 (you can guess the year now eh!).

17 years ago this bike was my world. It took me everywhere, to work, to friends, and out on regular cycling adventures to Hengistbury Head, Iford BMX track, and St. Katherine’s hill. It was awesome.

It was the first bike I owned that had suspension and a front disc brake. They were both just for show though, the forks were Zokes units and the brake was an unbranded cable job that made more noise than it provided in stopping power. But hey it had an A-Headset! And that was kind of a big deal back then.

So what do you think went through my mind when I found it? (apart from mentally skipping around with glee), the instant thought was gravel bike. I’ve been mulling over my next purchase in my head (obviously the C60 is still top of the pile) and a gravel bike has been up there. To convert this though I had a think about how suitable the frame would be, what I would like for the spec, what I had lying around, and what I would need to buy.

Starting with the wheel size it should have been my first pointer to stop, the dirt trax runs 26″, and this has never really been a mix with drop bars. These two together are normally a cardinal sin but the lines between bicycle disciplines and designs are being blurred more and more nowadays and I had some mavic d521 on lx hubs so I thought let’s go for it. I also wanted rigid forks, don’t forget the bike was specced with shocks from new, so to accommodate I needed to look into the frames geometry and see if it was all possible.

According to Saracen in 1998 (only catalog I could find) for the 17″ frame the head angle is 73′, top tube 55.5cm, and BB height is 29.2cm. All of these angles are pretty similar to a CX bike so it didn’t look like I was in for any nasty shocks. What I would have to re-evaluate is the fitting of a rigid fork, I needed to get a suspension corrected model to maintain the above figures. A quick hunt around eBay found some super light ones from China. Yes they were £50 delivered but were the correct geometry and 770g. So a bit of a bargain, biggest surprise was the delivery speed…. here in just over a week! Another eBay bargain in the puzzle were some race face evolve cranks and new Bottom bracket. Under £20 for the lot, I was well on my way.

Arrival of these allowed for the first mock up, letting me see exactly how the bike would feel to ride. Dropping it out of the stand and swinging my leg over made me feel all nostalgic, taking me back to the times this thing was hucked off of drops, forward hopped like a trials bike, and wheelied down the high street. Although in this incarnation I don’t think it will be seeing so much of my lairy side.

First thing I noticed was the drop and distance to the bars. Checking the stem out it was 120mm long! So that had to go and be replaced with something shorter with a little rise. The seatpost also looked awful, it needed a new headset, bar tape, cables, tyres, and brakes. I had a 10 speed 105 group set, but the rest was on the order list. Wanting to keep it as on budget as possible eBay was my friend again. Tyres and tubeless setup for £40, brakes for £30, cables £5, stem/seatpost/shim/seatclamp/bar tape £40, chain £10, headset £20. £210 spent on everything to rebuild. Peanuts really.

So what does it ride like? Well, last Sunday I gave it a baptism of fire and decided to take it on the woods cyclery gravel ride. Would it be uncomfortable? Would it fall apart? Would it want to throw me off at every opportunity? Would the tyres come off?

All answered with a no! In fact it out performed a few much newer bikes. No punctures and felt really solid but playful.

Only a couple of tweaks needed, the saddle and post position, and the bar height/angle. Maybe a wider set of bars?It’s a bit aggressive at the mo, it’s not far from my road bike! But hey this was a bargain build and if I can keep up and ride with the modern kit I think it’s fine for now……. but what about that paint…..

Flouro yellow? Neon pink? Matt black? So many options……

But for now let’s just ride it! More this weekend please!

The cycle show 2017

Last weekend saw the return of the cycle show at the NEC. I’ve been a regular attendee since my teens, have seen my tastes change and bicycle technology advance vastly, plus the flavour of the show change with that years latest fads.

This year really saw a healthy swing to inclusivity. Just getting everyone cycling. Because of that there was no real dominating discipline, and I thought that was great. The ebike section was bigger than before and had a myriad of manufacturers dying to shove their latest tools between your legs, and this was the only test area i tried out this year!. whats that saying about my age and family situation!

Anyway here’s a few shots…

Cinelli had a great looking selection of bikes, they are a manufacturer that make preformance and style mix.

Awesome paint job on this Deda frameset

Starley stainless bikes, rust free winter bike anyone?

Sort of breaks my heart to see Ferrari on anything other than a Colnago. This Bianchi was kinda cool, but i’d rather have a V1-R

The Light Blue had a nice selection of steel, very popular too!

One of the bikes of the show for me, a Riese & Muller cargo ebike. Great advancement in engineering.

Some cool looking cruisers from these guys, although we did test an ebike version. It wasn’t the finest ride, but hey its designed for looks not handling!

The finest collection of frames in the show went to Colnago for this

When i was told about a flouro orange colourway for the C60 I kind of scoffed. But I was wrong, this was the bike of the show.

Really happy with my BBB fullview glasses. You should get some!

On the Vitus stand we had a panorama of one of my regular Sunday routes across the forest, near the red shoot inn.

Some really tasty wheelsets on the Vision stand, Metrons please!

And my technical highlight had to be the FSA Kforce WE wireless groupset. Superlight and fully programmable because its geared, not sprung. Yes that means you could retrofit to a three speed Brompton if you wanted!

All in all a great show with some great new kit. one of the more interesting I’ve been to due to the sheer advancement in materials and manufacturing filtering down into the cycle industry. Ebikes are fully here now (get over it) and they will change the way we all cycle. Electronic groupsets seem to be the way forward, carbon is just getting even more mainstream, and everyone seems to have respect for all disciplines now. The cliques are gone and the fences down, just get out and ride!!

Now to get that C60 piggybank setup……..

The Superpedestrian Copenhagen Wheel

With the rise in ebike popularity the technology is advancing pretty fast now, with developments in all methods of motorisation. We have automatic assist drive boxes that replace bottom brackets and bolt into specifically designed frames, in frame motors used to retrofit into the seat tube driving the bottom bracket spindle(and maybe ‘motor dope’), and diy kits to modernise the old mainly via in wheel motors. The latter being something I have been looking into for a little while now, with a cargo bike on the horizon I wanted to make it super easy to ride for both Charlie and I. Yes I know you can buy cargo bikes with motors already installed but at the £2000 plus mark, it’s a lot to shell out for!

There’s a couple of ways of motorising a bicycle both out of the factory and by retrofitting. These are 1. In wheel motors and 2. Bottom bracket assist.

Having ridden both types my preference is the bottom bracket pedal assist. My reason for this? It rides like a normal bike. It essentially magnifies the effort put in by your legs rather than taking the effort away from the crank as in a wheel motor system. Both of the above types can be fitted either as a bike designed to accept all the kit, or a bulky and slightly messy retrofit.

That was until Superpedestrian came up with a really novel implementation of the ebike upgrade. The Copenhagen Wheel.

This wheel changes it all, well if what Superpedestrian are saying on their website is true. It’s a fuss free upgrade to nearly any 700c or 26″ wheeled bike, geared or singlespeed.

First thing you notice about the wheel is (bar that giant red hub) that all the motor, batteries, and controls are encapsulated inside the housing. It may not be the most attractive thing but think about it, that’s a complete ebike upgrade fitted in the time it takes to change a tyre and cassette/freewheel over.

The wheel is controlled and set up by smartphone, with different levels of assist available depending on personal preference. There’s also an intuitive feature that adjusts the assist as you ride giving more help on the hills.

The Copenhagen Wheel has a range of up to 30 miles which is perfect for most commutes, and you simply just plug it in when you get home.

Some of the built in features are really impressive as well: the wheel automatically updates its software over the internet, it protects itself from damage by monitoring riding conditions, has backpedal braking assistance via the motors magnets, locks itself without your smartphone present, and can give full feedback on your ride including power data!

This is a really exciting piece of kit that would modernise many many bikes. It’s available to fit up to 10 speed bikes with an OLD of both 120 and 135 mm.

I think this wheel is a really versatile piece of kit and, yes the hub isn’t the prettiest thing in the world but, the looks are far outweighed by the functionality. It may also not be my preferred method of motorising a bike but the sheer simplicity outweighs the bulky and ugly looking retrofit bottom bracket assist setups. I’m sure with a couple of years the tech will improve even further reducing the size of the hub and increasing the range.

Check out the Copenhagen Wheel HERE

Now all I need to do is get one shipped here! Or maybe ask my family in the states nicely………

BBB Cycling Icarus Helmet

If you get some new specs, you gotta have a new hat yeah? And if they are matchy matchy that’s even more kudos right? Well maybe……. but it means I have a new helmet as well now….

I have the BBB Icarus!

The Icarus is BBBs top of the range standard style road helmet, by that I mean non aero/tt.

In my opinion I think it’s a good looking lid, the pointed front and open back make it look very much like a race cars diffusers. It’s available in a fair few colour schemes, so you should find something that matches (if not there’s always white!), and it’s even available in the full team FDJ colours to match the guys who wear this helmet in the pro peloton.

Thibaut Pinot in his Icarus

It has 29 vents to keep you cool, and I have to say it does this well. I’m quite a sweaty cyclist but with the position of the pads and vents in the Icarus I’ve noticed a nice difference in sweat levels running down my face!

The head retaining band is size and height adjustable meaning a comfortable fit should be available for all, it has a dual adjuster to get it just right and allow adjustment on the fly. The helmet is available in two sizes, medium (55 to 58cm) and large (58 to 62cm).

I’ve ridden this for about three months now and have been impressed, it’s fitted my head shape well (difficult task! Trust me!) and kept the sweat levels down. It may not be the lightest lid out there, at 275g in a medium, but then you’ll be paying a bit more to shave only a handful of grams off.

Check out the helmet on the BBB website HERE

The Icarus is priced circa £130, go try one!


Life getting in the way!

Sometimes life's balances shift and you find yourself hammering away at the anvil preparing for the future. I'm currently residing in one of those periods.

The life irons in the fire at the moment are forging both metalwork for war (work) and for construction (home). Leaving very little time for recreation. Now don't get me wrong both of those are going great guns with super positive results, but looking at the importance of certain things in the hierarchy of life's cycle some things have gotta give. At the moment, it's here…..

My blog and time to generate content has been severely limited, but hey it's just a blog right? It's not providing love for my family, keeping a roof over my head, or providing gainful employment so I think it can wait. Hey I'd just like the time to cycle at the moment!

I do have plenty to write about though….. the new Ribble R872, my semi vintage gravel bike build, restoring the Mercian, a vintage bicycles that have crossed continents, the bike show at the NEC coming up, group rides, where to cycle in the Bournemouth area, shopping for bike seats for little ones, improving fitness……. it could go on for ever!

Speak soon…..

Hutchinson Fusion 5 Performance 11Storm Clincher Tyres

I've been lucky enough to get my hands on the latest road clinchers from tyre maestros Hutchinson. These guys know what they are talking about and make hundreds of thousands of tyres per year in their Châlette-sur-Loing facility in France. Even producing other big named tyres as well…..

These tyres are the Hutchinson Fusion 5 Performance with the 11Storm Infernal Compound, are are their go to race ready clinchers (also available in tubeless). So apart from having one of the worlds most protracted product names, what else do I know about these tyres? Well Hutchinson are making some pretty bold claims on their website, going up against the big competitors directly in this little info graphic:

Looks promising yeah? But hey it's just a picture and probably formulated under lab conditions. So what are they like in real world scenarios? I have a few hundred miles on mine now and I have to say I'm impressed.

Fitting the tyres up they look a fair bit smaller than the Specialized Turbo Cottons I have removed, even though there is only 1mm difference in supposed carcass size (25c vs 26c), but that's probably down to one being an open tubular and the other being a standard clincher tyre. Design wise the Fusion 5s have a slight tread pattern on them to help with water dispersal, whereas the Cottons are baby bum smooth. The tyres are also pretty light with a 25c weighing in at a claimed 205g (even the 28c clincher version is only 220g!).

The first thing I noticed was the turn in on these tyres, its sharp even when first fitted, and they hold their line. Very confidence inspiring. On dry tarmac I don't think I've ridden a comparable tyre, yes even against the Specialized Turbo Cottons, the Hutchinsons have supreme feel under braking and banking. In the wet the 11Storm compound is pretty solid too, it took yanking on the brakes to get the tyres to slide. All round A super grippy tyre.

The ride feel is pretty good too, with great bump absorption. They aren't quite up to the buttery smoothness of the Specialized Turbos but they are a larger tyre with a 320tpi fully fabric case in comparison to the Fusion 5s 127tpi case. I ran 90 PSI in both tyres and it's a close call, but the Cottons have it. As far as longevity goes I'm only a couple of hundred miles in at the moment so only time will tell on that front, so lets see if they last over the winter as well.

Ok so the ultimate question that everyone wants to ask. How fast are they? Well I can't really tell you that. I don't really have a scientific way to test it. My cycling isn't consistent enough (both time available and fitness) to be able to carry out direct comparisons to anything else. But what I will say is this, they ride smooth, roll fast, corner confidently, and are silent on the move. All of those points add up to a tyre that is faster over most distances for your average punter. I.e mixed surfaces and stop go riding with plenty of direction changes. Most don't ride velodrome!

The final thing about the tyres is that they are only available in a black sidewall, which is a small shame as there is nothing more pro than a tan sidewall. Its a classic look.

Overall these tyres are great, but I'm most impressed with the grip levels. They inspire confidence and feel effortless to push about. Go get some! I can recommend.