Italian bicycle component kings FSA have launched their first group-set. Not any ordinary one though, it’s wireless and electronic. Hence it’s name WE.

Since seeing a preview of it at the BikeShow in Birmingham late last year FSA have been dragging their heels a little and the press launch was only two weeks ago. So I don’t know how that now positions it in the market place against it’s now well established competition, Di2 and Etap, or when a muggle like you and me will be able to get their hands on it.

So I was quite surprised to see it on a bike at Bespoked. Here it is on a custom painted Argon18.

The Argon is a pretty bike and very well finished, not my choice of colour but can’t fault the work.

The WE groupset is semi wireless, the shifters use ant+ technology (powered by plip batteries) to signal to the front mechanism as that has the brain for both front and rear derailleurs in it. It’s also connected to the battery hidden in the seat tube that powers them both. So there are still some wires, but a frame prepared for electronic groupsets will hide these easily.

Operating WE is user friendly by all accounts, difference to other electronic groups is that apparently you have to power it on and off each ride. No standby like others, this is probably to preserve battery life. Not really a hardship is it? Shifters felt pretty ergonomic and shifting switches are of a rocker type, light but with a satisfying click.

What I found interesting about the WE though was the way the mechs work. As far as I am aware neither of them have a return spring in them, meaning positioning is purely motor controlled. This opens up a whole world of adaptability, with a phone based app that can program them. Does this mean it can be modified for any speed of cassette? Could you use this on a vintage five speed with a change of jockey wheels? Can You use it on campag spaced cassettes?

It all looks pretty cool too, nice carbon and titanium elements and classy decals. I’d run one. Apparently rim brakes and disc are both going to be available, plus shifters will be available in two hand sizes. Neat.

All in all it looks like it will be a great piece of kit with some nice touches. But the big problem I can see here is it’s launch date, I think it’s a year too late. People who are already into the electronic groupset vibe will already have one, who’s going to rush out and change for something that’s not overly different? Also the price, the WE is circa £2k, you can buy an Etap setup for £1.2k online. There’s a set of carbon wheels in the difference.

I hope it goes well for FSA! What do you think?


Bespoked 2018

The U.K handmade bicycle show rolled out again last weekend in Bristol and it lived up to it’s usual impressive standard. The levels of workmanship, passion, and community were through the roof and together they produce bicycles to die for. Fantastic.

2018s flavour was clear, Gravel/adventure was in the house. Most builders had a solution with 1x drivetrains being the order of day. The mix of steel and larger tyres must lead to some pretty comfy cycling, I know from my winter bike how good this combo can be. Here’s a few shots of gravel grinders for you, from both established stables and fledgling welders.

Mecredi building some lovely tough steel, built to be ridden hard.

Metier with super cool 3d printed titanium lugs and carbon tubework.

Winter bicycles all year round bikes to live with.

New builder Himalaya with that battle ship vibe. Tan walls are so pro.

Dorset based Sven Cycles make bikepacking look easy. Ebike was sweet as well.

This belt drive commuter was sublime with so many built in details. Very custom.

I got to have a chat to some builders as well, Filament bikes, Karussell, Sven, Stanforth, and Merrivale cycles. All were super passionate about what they do and in the pursuit of their own version of cycling perfection. Some of their bikes are pictured below.

Merrivale is Bournemouth based like myself. Charlie is a true gent of the cycling world. He believes in just riding a great bike all the time so his builds are high quality with carefully chosen components. Usable, simple, smooth and easy to ride all day any day.

Karussell’s track bike was one of a kind. that down tube had some interesting construction. The down tube remained but the outer plate was formed and wrapped around it, it was then welded into place. rendering the bike stiff enough to remove the seat tube!

Speaking of track bikes and singlespeeds, what would bespoked be without them!

Demon Frameworks fixie was a head turner for sure…. if Snoop Dogg had a bike!

Then we had the road bikes, still my favourite. Fast.

Staal picked up a rosette for their short wheelbase disc equipped model.

Lovely frames from French carbon pros Cyfac. Would love one.

Look at those seat stays on this beauty.

Rapha Prestige frame had nice paint inlays and frame detail.

Field Cycles had lovely detail. Excuse my finger in the shot but the paint line identical to the seat tube cap. nice.

FiftyOnes brace of super fast looking carbon bikes from Ireland. Great colourways.

Isen Workshop are pumping out real classy machines. Those carbon seat tubes in steel lugs are awesome.

Hartley cycles to finish off, these things look like you cold ride them for a week solid and you would still be comfy. Great workmanship.

To finish off there were a few oddities as usual. Here’s a couple.

On Spray bikes stand was this monster tyred gravel bike! With front rack and eggs to show how smooth it was. For me it just looks a little odd!

And this fully integrated evoke from Taurus. Direct drive bottom bracket motor and cleverly disguised controls and battery indicator in the stem. Batteries were hidden in the top and downtube giving the appearance of a normal bike. My only issue is that it looks like it was built by someone who’s not seen a bike before! Geometry looks well out. Ebike functionality was impressive though.

All in all another great year, the workmanship was fantastic as always and I don’t think anyone will be running out of ideas or enthusiasm soon. I’m yearning for sporty road bikes to become the flavour again but I was far from disappointed with what was in attendance. Get yourself to the show next year, you will love it.

LBS – Service is Everything

This post comes about for a bit of a disappointing reason, this week I received easily the worst service and experienced the most dreadful LBS visit of my life.

I’ll start with a little background, I know and have shopped in nearly all bike shops in Bournemouth area and try to use them as often as possible. It’s the right thing to do, they need your support and are all pretty reasonable. Yes prices aren’t always as cheap as the internet but weighing in convenience they will be there or there about, and a quick open question will normally render a little discount. It doesn’t hurt to ask! I’ve also worked in both big chain bike shops and smaller independents so understand the pressures and influences in both. Although having moved house in the last year my local bike shop has now changed to this outfit, I’m now located in Highcliffe, and there are no others to choose from within a 3 mile radius. My position at work is that of a multi site manager running business with turnover of £10m+ a year in an extremely competitive marketplace, where customer relationships are everything. Keeping staff focused on that is key, and that is driven by my passion for it it. I’ve been driving customer service for 10+ years and I know what I’m doing. Which is why I found this experience so outrageous.

With the disc conversion on the Saracen in full swing the only thing left to do was connect the calipers up, only thing I needed was new inner cables and a couple of short sections of outer. Local bike shop it is then, its only two cables. Anyway here’s how it went………

Walking into the shop I noticed a nice pre-war Selbach for sale outside so made enquiry about it as small talk, remarking that it was pretty. You would expect the shop worker (who I believe is the owner) to return polite conversation, all I received was “what the pre war one? yeah but I’m looking for offers. Its worth some money, just depends on what someone will offer me and what I decide. It’s not mine I’m selling for someone else. would have to be serious offers. Most of his collection went to Lord Montague so….”. I didn’t even ask the price, and I was already feeling unwelcome! Anyway I pressed on to ask about the brake cables, two inners and outers please. “yeah that’ll be £4 for the outers sold in metre lengths” thought ok sound a little expensive but couldn’t be much more for the inners and asked for two metres of outers. I asked to offer the cables up to a bike so I could work out exactly what I would need to which I received “well don’t you know? no outer is longer than a metre on a bike. How many ends do you want?” to which I replied how I was running the outers and four ends should do it. He grunted sarcastically. The guy then fumbled with his till for a couple of minutes claiming it was playing up (we have near identical units in my company, and this was clearly user error) then rang me up my total. £18. Obviously that’s a ridiculous price for two standard brake cables with two metres of outer so naturally, bolstered by his use of the till, I politely challenged it. This was taken with massive umbrage and unleashed a barrage of ‘justification’. “Yeah that’s what they are, I’ve got even more expensive ones than that. That’s just basic ones.” again asked if he was sure and if he could help out on price, conveying price comparisons with other products I have bought previously. This was a little much to ask apparently , the now incredibly grumpy owner decided to bring out his finest negotiating skills ” well that’s what they are take it our leave it. if you don’t want them leave them”. That was too much for me so I told him there was no way I was paying £18 for two brake cables, and left.

I carried on with my day and popped into Halfords Christchurch, next to a couple of other shops I was visiting. Now say what you will about Halfords, yes they are a national store selling BSO to the general public, but what they do do is ensure a base level of customer service. This is a practice I’m familiar with. I entered the Bikehut section and was immediately asked if I needed any help, so I asked for the price of the cable kit I wanted. £9. Half the price of the local bike shop, and twice the kit (Clarkes kit with cable ends, ferrules, outer, teflon coated inners, and frame rub protectors), and service with a smile. Its not hard to be competitive and its even easier to be polite. The Bikehut member of staff and I chatted for a bit about my previous shop visit and he laughed saying they see a lot of business from that shop and that he had received similar service when he had visited before. Repeat offender it seems!

I want LBS to succeed but they have to have great customer service. Bad business is bad business no matter what sector you are in. Just because you have a captive market (and no competition in a three mile radius) doesn’t mean that you can treat customers new and old poorly. Its a fast track to failure. I surely will not be supporting anyone visiting Lawsons Cycles in Christchurch, in fact I would advise people stay away from there. Christchurch town centre needs another bike shop with good, honest, knowledgeable, and passionate service. Now there’s an idea………………………


Pro cyclist in IBS shocker!

Unfortunately for Tom Dumoulin the most memorable moment of the 2017 giro d’italia won’t be his win, it will be the fact that he had to take a crap mid race just before Stelvio.

Yep there he is whipping off all to relieve himself. Something I have wish I could have done on a few passed rides.

Old news I hear you say. Yes it is but he and his team have released new info this week about why he had to stop. Because it’s not normal in the pro peloton for people to poop mid race.

Fructose and Lactose malabsorption apparently. Well for all of you fellow IBS sufferers that’s a small comfort and also something you can relate to instantly. Both of those sugars are high FODMAPs and are not absorbed well into the body. So when shoved into a body already on the limit it’s no wonder he had to answer nature’s call.

Sounds to me like Tom needs a FODMAP friendly diet for his training! Lactose free milk and cut out the apples would be a great start. Unripe bananas is a tip for you my friend!


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.