New Releases for Campagnolo

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Campagnolo have certainly had quite a good day today releasing 3 new products to the cycling world. They have announced a new groupset to rival Shimano Ultegra, an update to its Shamal wheelset and have finally announced prototypes for their entry into the disc brake world. I won’t go into too much detail as that is all online but here I’m just going to explain the most important aspects to these systems and offer my views on them.

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Hmmm, Shimano pedals with a Campagnolo groupset…???          Image by Matt Wilkstrom, CyclingTips. Article – https://cyclingtips.com/2016/12/campagnolo-potenza-mid-range-groupset-review/

New Groupset

Campagnolo have announced a new groupset that sits above Veloce and Athena but below Chorus, Record and Super-Record. It is called ‘Potenza’ and as you would expect is 11-speed. It’s mostly made of aluminium and now has the option to be used with an 11-32 cassette, something which Shimano and SRAM have offered for a while. The complete weight of the entire groupset is 2,303g which is pretty competitive. However as a groupset that is designed to rival Shimano Ultegra or SRAM Force, it costs £200 more. In terms of performance, I doubt this being able to beat its competitors in this respect and both groupsets perform fantastically. I like how Campagnolo are sticking with the four-arm spider used in Chorus, Record and Super-Record to give it more exclusivity into the upper regions of their groupsets and of course, looks are very aesthetically pleasing. However, if I were to build a bike up I would definitely opt for Chorus over Potenza simply because you get a lot more (namely carbon exotica!) and its performance is similar to Shimano Dura-Ace.

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New Wheels

First developed more than 20 years, Campagnolo Shamal’s have been a popular wheelset and the upgrade to this latest iteration is the increase in rim width to 17mm to better accommodate 25c tyres to increase comfort when riding, similar to what Mavic have done with their wheels recently.

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Image from Campagnolo copy

Disc Brakes

Campagnolo have finally unveiled prototypes for their disc brakes which they are going to be trialling. Unfortunately for all you Campag lovers, you won’t be able to get your hands on this just yet but it’s reassuring to know that it will be released in the not-too distant future. Of course, it’s hydraulic (would you ever expect Campagnolo to release a mechanical disc brake?!) and Campagnolo have been able to preserve the ergonomics of their existing shift levers although they are slightly taller like Shimano and SRAM to house the hydraulic fluid reservoir. Whilst I am happy that Campagnolo have finally entered the disc brake market, I was expecting the shift levers to look a little nicer aesthetically. Although it’s only a prototype at the moment, it looks a little bit like a MicroShift shifter (pictured below) and that’s not a compliment!

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Mechanical Doping

Although mechanical doping has been hinted at for many years, now there is finally a case. Belgian Cyclocross rider, Femke Van den Driessche has been caught using a motor at the World Championships although at the moment, she denies having used the affected bike in the race. The motor was found in the bottom bracket region of the bike. Ironically, she abandoned the race due to a mechanical fault. Whilst we will see if she is telling the truth and if she ever will be allowed to race again, this is very serious for cycling as a sport.

I don’t understand why people feel the need to cheat. Cycling is a sport, and sport is something that can be done recreationally or competitively but cheating makes the sport look like a business and isn’t a testament of natural talent. Undoubtedly, the UCI will be cracking down on checking bikes and will hopefully catch anyone else cheating. But the notion of motorised cheating has been something that for years has been dismissed now is very much a reality.

Rapha Festive 500 – DONE!

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So, it’s all over and done with – 500km between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve and boy was it hard! The ‘Rapha Festive 500’ challenge has tested cyclists since 2010 and after being caught up at work last year, I thought I would give it a go this year. I knew it was going to be hard but the last couple of rides really did put pay to my legs. It works out at 40 miles a day which in itself is manageable.

As I knew I would have problems to ride 40 miles on Christmas Day and Boxing Day respectively, I decided to make up the mileage and rode 80 miles on Christmas Eve which wasn’t too challenging. I was planning on a short ride on Christmas Day but the weather looked less than appealing and ended up putting it off and rode 25 miles on Boxing Day – already behind! Luckily, I managed to make up the mileage on Sunday with a 55 mile ride in what was originally meant to be another 80 miler, but I just didn’t have it in the legs.

At this point, I was at the half-way mark (250km) but plan-wise, behind due to not riding the 80 miles on Boxing Day. This was going to be tough! From this point onwards, my legs ached on each and every ride and the average speed of each ride plummeted – this was really tough! On Monday, I rode another 25 miler as I didn’t want to push it after putting in a big ride on Sunday. This was followed by a 65 miler on Tuesday which completely wrecked me. At this point, I had 95km left and was a little stumped how to finish this challenge. As my legs were finished, I contemplated finishing in two rides splitting the distance or just doing it in one ride with Wednesday as a recovery day. This was what I ultimately ended up doing although I did plan on riding on Wednesday but the weather was especially foul. So a final 60 miler on New Year’s Eve and challenge completed and boy, do my legs now ache!

I’m glad I’ve completed this challenge as I’ve proved to myself that I’m capable of doing the distance but in all honesty, it took up a lot of my Christmas as I had to dedicate lots of time to it and I don’t think I’d be willing to do it again. But as a challenge in itself, I’m proud that I  completed it.

The lengths us cyclists put ourselves through just for a roundel!

ABLOC Bottles – First Look!

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‘ABLOC’ are an American company based in San Francisco that have recently brought out the  ‘Arrive S’ water bottle which reportedly has antimicrobial technology embedded in the body which means it is resistant to mold, bacteria and odours. A bottle may be a trivial thing but the amount that I have gone through where they have got dirty after 5 or 6 rides or so – I am hoping the ‘Arrive S’ is able to buck this trend.

The ‘Arrive S’ is a 550ml water bottle which isn’t the biggest when it comes to cycling but is certainly manageable. It weighs approximately 65g.  ABLOC are reportedly intending on releasing a larger model in Spring 2016. It come in various colours but I have chosen red to match my bike. It will set you back $12 (just over £8) however ABLOC are keen on marketing this, so look out for special offers!

I will be using this over the next couple of weeks and will review it afterwards.

There is more information on the ABLOC website.

Winter-Proof Your Steed

Winter really will take a toll on your bike, so it’s a good idea to either have your bike ready or get it ready now as the weather takes a turn for the worst. Here are my tips on how to winter-proof your beloved steed:

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Image from Dolan Bicycles

Winter Bike

If finances allow, invest in a Winter bike. This will prove economical in the long run and there’s no better feeling than jumping on the nicer bike in the Spring and having a morale boost. Opt for aluminium in a winter bike rather than carbon and go for a lower down groupset such as Shimano Tiagra / 105, Campagnolo Veloce or SRAM Apex / Rival. Put the carbon Cosmic’s away and have some reliable, steady Winter wheels such as Mavic Aksium’s or Fulcrum Racing 5’s. Websites such as Ribble (www.ribblecycles.co.uk) or Dolan (www.dolan-bikes.com) offer Winter builds with full-length mudguards fitted as standard. A cyclocross bike would do the job well too.

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Mudguards

This will keep not only your bike cleaner, but also yourself and fellow riders. Full-length mudguards work best but are a pain to fit, but even a set of clip-ons will suffice.

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Image from Mantel.com

Tyres

Stick some wider, more puncture resistant tyres during Winter for added comfort and less likelihood of having to fix punctures. Opt for a 700x25c or 700x28c tyre for more comfort. Unlike a winter bike where you go for a cheaper build, winter tyres are an aspect where you should get them right. I really like the Continental Grand Prix 4 Seasons as they have the perfect balance between speed / puncture resistance and comfort. If you look around, you’ll quite often pay much less than the full RRP.

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Image from Exposure

Lights

The days are shorter in Winter, so have a good pair of lights permanently mounted onto the bike just in case you get caught out. I like to have 2 on the front, 1 flashing and 1 static so I am better seen.

Saddlebag

It’s a good idea to free up some space in your jersey pockets for other Winter essentials so stick your tools in a saddlebag. Winter’s not a weight contest, so the extra weight here is worth it. Never use a frame bag!

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Image from TheHub

Bar Tape 

Not an essential but it’s a good idea to wrap some thicker bar tape to reduce vibrations from the road and improve comfort. I really like the Lizard Skins DSP 3.2mmm Bar Tape

Image from Park Tool

Servicing 

It’s a good idea to either service your bike or get a bike shop to service your bike before the Winter season and after to ensure your bike is in the best condition it can be. There’s nothing worse than having a mechanical during the pouring rain and freezing temperatures. Also, make sure you clean your bike regularly (I clean mine every ride in the Winter) to get rid of road spray and grit on the icy roads. This will also prolong the life of your drivetrain components, particularly your chain and cassette.

Your bike now should be ready for Winter!

Buyers Guide To Winter Clothing

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There’s been quite a few guides published recently on bike websites such as Bike Radar, Road.cc and Cycling Weekly to name a few. This guide will detail my experiences of what to wear for Winter. Whilst it will undoubtedly draw parallels to other website’s guides, I hope you can take something away from my guide.

The key thing to recognise is that if you are a novice to road cycling and it is your first Winter, Winter clothing is an expensive outlay but remember, it should last you for years and that outlay will pay dividends in the long run. From experience of working in a bike shop, many customers skimp on winter clothing. Remember – buy cheap, buy twice! The saying couldn’t be more true here.

Helmet

Your normal helmet is fine, but if you own an aerodynamic helmet, Winter’s a great time to wear it as it will keep your head even warmer due to a lack of ventilation!

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Cap / Skullcap

These are two brilliant, cheap investments and will really keep your head warm. You don’t need to spend masses here – just something nice and simple and your head will thank you for it. Wear a skullcap when it gets below 5 degrees.

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Buff

Another good, cheap investment – this will cover the opening between your jersey and your neck and stops the cold from getting in.  A buff can be substituted in transitional weather (as Autumn changes to Winter) as a bandana for your head and can also be used in the Summer as a replacement for a cap.

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Eyewear

I personally do not currently use any eyewear when cycling as I find it distracting, but I can understand the reasons why you should. It stops your eyes from watering up and improves vision, so these are important. Swap your Summer lenses for a clear lens if you can.

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Base Layer

A very important component of winter clothing, a good base layer will help wick away moisture. You don’t need to spend masses here, although the more you spend the better the base layer is at wicking away moisture.

TIP – Base Layers from Decathlon (an all sports shop) are fantastic value and cost £2.99 per base layer. I have a mountain of them as they’re so good! (https://www.decathlon.co.uk/300-longsleeve-cycling-baselayer-black-id_8217439.html)

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Jersey / Jacket

Definitely wear a long-sleeved jersey, ideally one made of merino wool to help keep you warmer. When it gets really cold, try experimenting with wearing another base layer or maybe wear your thinner, more breathable Summer jersey underneath your Winter one.

A jacket is not essential, but is a very worthy piece of clothing. For transitional weather, something like an Endura Packajak (http://road.cc/content/review/46972-endura-pakajak) will do the job and you can just pull it out when it starts to chuck it down. You can also buy Winter jackets that could be used as jerseys as well which are extremely good, but you will pay a premium for them. It’s very hard to buy a cheap winter jacket that is windproof, waterproof and breathable – the Castelli Gabba for example (http://www.cyclingweekly.co.uk/reviews/jerseys-tops/castelli-gabba-2-jacket) is designed to do all three at a premium but does the job excellently.

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Gloves

Gloves are an essential piece of clothing as they keep your hands and fingers warm. Gloves are a pain because they take a bit of experimenting to get right (you may find you’ll buy three pairs before you find the right one) but gloves should be used all year round anyway. Perhaps experiment with a thin layer and then a thicker glove over the top in very cold conditions.

Image by Henry Robertshaw, Cycling Weekly article – https://www.cyclingweekly.com/reviews/gloves/castelli-diluvio-gloves

Bib Tights

An extremely important piece of clothing – DO NOT skimp here. In conjunction with the correct saddle, a quality pair of bib tights will improve comfort massively. Definitely buy ones that are padded. In transitional weather, you could buy some 3/4 length ones (I don’t) or use arm / leg / knee warmers. Articles such as the Castelli Nanoflex Bib Tights even protect you from rain to a degree as they trap particles in the middle of the garment – but it’s not fully waterproof. It’s a good idea to have a couple of pairs so that you don’t end up washing your kit all the time.

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Image from Scott-Sports

Arm / Knee / Leg Warmers 

An alternative to 3/4 length bib tights are knee or leg warmers. These are great for transitional weather and in the height of Winter, you could even use these as an extra layer under bib tights. A very worthwhile purchase.

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Image from Moose.Eu

Overshoes 

Wear these over your shoes to keep your feet and toes warm. You could even buy a dedicated pair of Winter cycling shoes, but these are probably a more cost-effective option. If possible, buy multiple sets of overshoes for different weathers – I find mountain bike overshoes better as they’re thicker and thus warmer. Some brands, such as Castelli have introduced a “Toe Thingy” which is essentially half an overshoe – a good idea for transitional weather. (http://road.cc/content/review/69980-castelli-toe-thingy)

TIP – Try wrapping silver foil around your feet before putting your shoes in. Your feet have the effect of a baked potato and this is a simple, inexpensive way of keeping your feet even warmer from the elements.

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Image from Road.cc

Summary 

So you should now be on your way to a warm, comfortable Winter period on the bike with the right clothing. Yes, it will cost you if this is your first time but remember, this should all last you a long time.

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I got into road cycling in March 2013 through a friend and since then, I have really got the cycling bug. I joined a local club in June 2013 where I attend their club runs and organise an Annual Hill Climb challenge. I have taken part in many Sportives and Time Trials over the past couple of years. At the moment, I don’t aspire to race but I would like to have a go at Cyclocross. My interest in road cycling was further heightened when I secured a job at a bike shop in September 2014 and working at a bike shop has allowed me to get a deeper insight into mechanics, the cycling industry as a whole and learn more about new technological innovations. I’m also fascinated in the culture that cycling has ingrained on the world since its inception.