Ten Products I Loved In 2018

2018 was an interesting year in the cycling industry, with many interesting new products and developments. These included an influx of aero bikes from many different bike brands, the continued rise of disc brakes and more road bikes geared to venture slightly more off-road to name but a few trends.

Here I will detail ten products that I loved last year, products that are well designed and that I will use for years to come. In no particular order, here are my picks for the products that I loved most in 2018.

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Image from Castelli’s website.

Castelli Inferno Bib Shorts

I’ve always got on well with Castelli bib shorts as the padding in them is generally excellent and they are well made but last year year, I bought an Inferno for hot weather and it really comes into its own in hotter conditions and has become a favourite. The best compliment I can give these shorts is the cliched argument that you forget you are wearing them. They fit perfectly and after many uses, have proven to be impressively durable given the lightweight materials used.

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Image from Osprey’s website

Osprey Syncro 15

This bag is excellent both for commuting and for riding. With well-placed pockets and clever integration of storage, it feels excellent when commuting. I used the bag on a 70 mile ride down to the coast this year and whilst I could still tell I was wearing a bag, it’s better than a lot of other options out there that would be far more cumbersome.

BMC Teammachine SLR01 Disc

I upgraded to (one of) my dream bikes last year and I am very impressed with this bike. Aesthetically, this is one of the cleanest looking bikes on the market and the red paint job is just stunning. BMC have cleverly focussed on integration and there is barely a cable in sight. Whilst this is a hard bike to work on mechanically, at least BMC have designed the bike to be fairly logical to work on. The Teammachine SLR01 is a perfect blend of lightweight, stiff and aerodynamic and has proven to be an excellent all-rounder.

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Image from BikeRadar’s first-look at the Shimano Ultegra R8000 series groupset

Shimano Ultegra Di2 R8070

This one is a bit of a cheat seeing as it’s part of my BMC but I have been equally impressed with this groupset. Although more an evolution than revolution of the outgoing 6870 series, Shimano have integrated the hydraulic reservoir into the shifter impeccably and the shifter feels like a normal road cable-actuated shifter. It works very well and gear changes are more noticeable than on previous models, which was a common complaint for feeling a little vague.

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Image by Dave Rome, CyclingTips. Original article – https://cyclingtips.com/2018/03/silca-t-ratchet-ti-torque-tool-kit-review/

Silca Ti-Torque and T-Ratchet

The first (of many) Silca products that I bought last year when I discovered this brand. Silca are a brand whose ethos I strongly get behind who take a pride in engineering exceptional quality tools with no corners cut. This T-Ratchet set with the Ti-Torque beam is a masterclass as it combines pretty much every single bit you’d need on a beautifully crafted ratchet and has a torque bit to boot which displays live torque as you are tightening bolts. I use this day in day out where I work at a bike shop, it gets taken with me on every ride for any eventualities and it’s perfect on holidays when I hire bikes and don’t need to worry about working on carbon components. A masterpiece.

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Image from Kalf’s website

Kalf Flux Jersey

Kalf, exclusive to Evans Cycles, are a clothing brand that launched in 2017 and for the reasonable prices for their kit (generally everything is less than £100), it’s all really well-thought out items that rival other clothing brands that target the same demographic. This Flux jersey is their more race-focussed product (Club products are a more relaxed fit) and it is brilliant – great on hotter days due to lots of ventilation and the fit is spot-on.

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Image from Pedro’s website

Pedro’s Tyre Levers

The only set of tyre levers you should own. Perhaps a rather boring item to pick, these are perfectly designed and get most tyres off with ease or with relative ease if a difficult tyre. No tyre lever I have used compares to this. The shape is just perfect for real world conditions. And what’s more, they have a lifetime warranty to boot with no quibbles if you break them.

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Image from Clif’s website

Clif Energy Bar

The only food I look forward to eating when on the bike, these always hit the spot. They’re an impressively big portion so you could have one bar in two goes when on the bike and they taste very nice. The best compliment that I can give is I would be happy to eat these off the bike! The ‘Crunchy Peanut Butter’ is my pick of the bunch with the ‘Cool Mint Chocolate’ hotly contesting second place.

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Image from KMC’s website

KMC X11 SL Chain

I was fed up of having to replace Shimano chains after not a lot of mileage so I thought I’d give this uber-lightweight chain a go. This chain is sensational and you can really feel the difference when you ride. I’ve also found it a lot quieter to ride than Shimano and shifts remain silky smooth. The only chain to have!

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Image from Castelli’s website

Castelli Arenberg Gloves

Whilst now updated in 2019 (and now not quite as good), the previous version of the Arenberg gloves were excellent. The padding is in the right place, they fit very well and these are very comfortable to use on the bike, combined with quality bar tape.


What kit have you enjoyed using on the bike? Let me know your picks in the comments. 

First Bike Build Project

It’s taken a while but I’ve finally managed, for the first time, to build up a road bike from a bare frameset. This has been one of my bike-related dreams for a while and I feel very proud to have fulfilled it…and I’d happily do it again.

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First, a bit of context behind this build. As a Winter bike, I’ve been riding a B’Twin Alur 700 for several years which has mostly been fine and has made for a reliable Winter / university workhorse. It’s fairly light and comfortable and has served me many miles, embarking on many club rides, sportives and the odd TT here and there. However, the rear brake is chainstay-mounted which has caused many problems particularly in the Winter months with all the mud and dirt getting caught into it and odd headset bearings. So I have been looking for a while for something that will do the job a bit better and also who doesn’t always envy a new bike?!

However, I managed to find a Specialized Allez DSW SL frameset, brand new too, for a very reasonable price. If that all sounded completely confusing, the Allez DSW SL is Specialized’s higher-tier aluminium frame featuring their D’Aluisio (named after the designer) Smartweld technology making for a lighter, stiffer and stronger frame.

I bought the frame around Christmas time last year but as I had my B’Twin up at uni, I didn’t get a chance to bring the old bike home until May. I then managed to transfer a lot of the parts over from the B’Twin and changed a couple of other parts in the meantime as to me, it made sense to. I ran into a couple of snags though, for example when I broke a stem bolt and had to wait ages to get a replacement and also holidays and work got in the way. I have only just completed it earlier this month and went out on my first maiden voyage the other day. I’ll do a full review and write up once I get to know the bike more but so far, so good. Here it is:

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Here’s a full list of specs for those interested:

Frame and Fork: Specialized Allez DSW SL

Groupset: Shimano 105 5800, 50/34 chainset, 11-32 cassette (I will change this to an 11-28 when it wears out)

Wheelset: Mavic Aksium Race (these are still going strong from my original bike, once these are worn, they’ll be replaced)

Tyres: Continental Grand Prix 4 Seasons, 700x25c

Pedals: Shimano 105

Saddle: Fi’zi:k Aliante (this will probably be changed at some point)

Seatpost: Specialized S-Works Carbon

Handlebar: Specialized S-Works Carbon Handlebar, 42cm (I upgraded this from the 3T Ergosum Pro handlebars I originally had as they were the wrong shape for me and I was so impressed with the carbon handlebars on another bike, I thought I might as well bite the bullet now if I have to tape them and mount the shifters / sort out cables etc…)

Stem: Bontrager Race Lite 100mm (this will be changed soon as well. Part of the reason why this post is so late was because I broke a bolt on the original Deda stem I fitted to the bike but I need to see how the bike works size-wise before upgrading.

Headset: Tange Seiki, 1 1/8 to 1 3/8 (these will be upgraded when they wear out)

Bottom Bracket: Unbranded BB30 (this will be upgraded when it wears out)

Handlebar Tape: Specialized S-Wrap Roubaix Wide (Black)

Bottle Cages: Elite Cannibal

I’m not sure on the weight yet but I would imagine it to weigh in the low 8’s region. I’ll update this article when I know.

I would definitely recommend building up your own bike if you get the chance as you get to pick and choose all the components you want and also it means that you haven’t got to buy something you don’t want (ie. if a bike you buy is not specced how you want it and then have to spend money to upgrade). I would definitely do it again and over the years, as I have worked with bikes and know a lot more of how they work, I can upgrade or change sections at a time rather than just buying new bikes. I’ll say it again, building your own bike is an EXTREMELY rewarding process.

 

Cycling In Sardinia

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Despite cycling for three and a half years now, this Summer was the first time I ventured abroad and had the opportunity to ride on foreign roads. Earlier on this month, I went to Sardinia for 2 weeks and managed to rent a Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 (I’ll review it soon) in the middle of the 2 weeks for a week. Now Sardinia may not be as famous for its cycling as say, France or Spain are but looking online beforehand, many cyclists were shouting praise for the cycling on this island for its smooth tarmac and variety of climbs. I have been to Sardinia before about 10 years ago but that was just on a holiday so knew that the country had some beautiful views but was unaware of what the cycling scene was like there.

Cycling in Sardinia is stunning. The main roads are generally much smoother than in the UK but when you go off the beaten path, some of the roads can turn into gravel rather quickly which luckily the Canyon was more than up for! There are plenty of long climbs with an awe-inspiring view at the top but nothing that’s ever too steep – the UK’s hills are a lot shorter but the gradient is much bigger. One particularly impressive climb was the SP3 / 50 out of Siniscola, a town between Olbia and Nuoro which had an elevation of 600 metres followed by the best descent I have ever done into Torpé.

My favourite place to ride in the area that I was staying was a small town called Posada between Siniscola and Olbia which had some great roads circling the old town which was on a hill – I went through here on all of my rides bar one. There is a great café in the main square which is always moderately busy but keenly priced and has a great atmosphere. The old town is also nice but on a bike, all the roads are cobbled which is interesting for an experience but is sketchy when descending back down into the main town.

Italian drivers are notorious for being rather erratic but I actually found them to be nicer to cyclists than they are to cars and they give you plenty of room when overtaking. In terms of other cyclists, I didn’t see that many but most people who passed me would always greet me so the impression I got was that the cyclists are quite friendly. Of course, Italy wouldn’t be Italy without the café’s and the coffee on offer was stunning. My two joint favourite café’s was the one in the main square in Posada and the other one was in Bodoni about 5 miles north of Posada which not only served a range of coffee’s but also ‘cream di café’ which the best way to describe it would be a coffee-flavoured Mr Whippy that was amazing.

I was very downhearted when I had to give the bike back as cycling here is just so wonderful and the atmosphere is great too. I suppose the only negative for cycling here was that I did get chased by two dogs in the space of 6 rides but you can’t have everything! I would definitely recommend cycling here if you can as the views are spectacular and there is a bit of everything for everyone – mountains, coastal views and roads off the beaten tracks thrown in with excellent café’s. I suppose the only negative for cycling here was that I did get chased by two dogs!

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!