Review: BMC Teammachine SLR01 Disc (Third Generation)

Now in its tenth year of existence, BMC’s Teammachine SLR01 has become a staple frame in professional racing, making quite the statement. It was pedalled to victory by Cadel Evans at the Tour de France in 2010 and Greg van Avermaet at the Olympic Road Race. 

The Teammachine sits as the race (or as BMC dub it, ‘altitude’) bike in the Swiss brands road range. The Roadmachine is their ‘one bike collection’ but in reality sits more at the endurance side and the Timemachine is poised as their aero weapon. The Teammachine is lightweight, race-focussed and suitably stiff, but also pretty comfortable for a race bike with its intelligent design. 

Although a fourth generation model was announced earlier this Summer, this review is of the third generation and there really isn’t a great deal to set the two apart. The new frame is more aerodynamic, has an integrated bottle cage system and an updated front end with a one-piece bar / stem system. 

BMC have always been a brand to be heavily focussed on their computer designed frames. BMC use what’s called ACE Technology, essentially a program where designers can model their bike on various factors and tune it to suit within certain parameters. Arguably, many of the current crop of heavily integrated bikes out there were inspired by this model as many seem to emulate the Teammachine’s design. 

BMC pioneered the dropped seatstay, which is almost ubiquitous on most of the brands offerings at the moment. This gives their frames a certain futuristic, boxy but clean aesthetic. The third generation Teammachine, like the first-generation Roadmachine had also done, omits the small bridge between where the top tube and seat tube intersect, on the one hand making for a cleaner look but also loses a little of BMC’s identity.

Integration is the main area where this third-generation SLR01 differs from its predecessors. Central to this is the ICS stem system. This system hides both the hydraulic hoses and Di2 wires through the underside of the stem and into the head tube where they run alongside a proprietary steerer tube and then journey down the down tube to their respective derailleurs or callipers. If you are using a mechanical groupset on this frame, you will have two cables exposed which enter a port in the down tube. They look rather unsightly on this frame as they sprout out and don’t take the cleanest path in terms of routing so if you are buying this frame, I would really look at having Di2 or eTap AXS on it. 

The ICS stem looks futuristic and clean-looking. It’s great that you can use a normal bar so you are not tied into a certain bar and isn’t as much of a royal pain as fully integrated systems are. 

Split spacers are employed so you can make adjustments to the stack height without having to take it all apart but if you want to change the headset, that will be a double brake bleed as both hoses run through the bearings. It’s not ideal and adds a lengthy amount of time onto what is a very simple job, so make sure you keep the bearings greased. 

Disappointingly, the top headset bearing is of a proprietary size. BMC say that it is a 1 1/8 but it mates perfectly with the ICS cover, preventing you from using anything else. I upgraded to a Chris King Dropset and the dimensions were perfect but the bearing will not sit in the cover. After contacting their support, they confirmed the bearing has to work with BMC’s cover. Other after-market options also won’t work. BMC also charge an exorbitant amount for a spare headset, which isn’t the best quality, so you will want to be religious in keeping this area maintained. Clearly, they bought a load during manufacture. Watch out for this nasty surprise! 

Mechanically, you will want to take care with the cabling on this bike. The Di2 wires / hoses have a tendency to rattle in the down tube so you will want to take the time to protect them during the initial build. The cables are secured with a pinch bolt on the underside of the ICS stem, just as they exit into the handlebar. You might want to get a friend for help here so they can pull the cables tight while you secure the cover that holds the cables. If they are not tight, they will also rattle! 

This frame has a BB86 bottom bracket which for a press-fit, is a pretty reliable standard and has been problem-free for me. I am just about to change the original after 10,000km – BMC spec a plastic Shimano BB86. A threaded bottom bracket would be better and is more foolproof but it’s good enough and is certainly one of the more preferable press-fit standards out there. 

On this Ultegra Di2 build, all of the wiring is well-integrated into the frame. The junction box is integrated into the top of the down tube which looks neat and means that you don’t have to have it unsightly poking from the bottom of the stem or at the bar end plug. Of course, if you’re running SRAM eTap, you would have no wires whatsoever. 

BMC utilise a D-shaped seatpost here for the seating which is both for aerodynamic and compliance reasons. The bolt to adjust the saddle height is neatly integrated into the bottom of the top tube and you can access it with most tools on the market with relative ease, unlike some other frame designs which are left wanting in this department. 

It is a different matter if you want to adjust the saddle fore-and-aft, as one of the bolts is not easy to access and it is a finicky and time consuming job as you need to align the bolt in between two O-rings. 

BMC use a direct-mount derailleur hanger which looks neat for the rear derailleur, if you’re running this standard. BMC save weight on the thru-axles that are ‘ultralight’ and ‘hollow’ which are a nice touch and have been problem-free. 

Another of the downsides of this frame is the front brake. BMC mount the calliper fixing bolt from the front of the fork so the calliper fits flush to the frame on the rear, saving the need for an adaptor. Aesthetically, this looks fantastic. However, mechanically, this is a low. It is very, very hard to align the rotor with the calliper. This isn’t just on my model – I have worked on other SLR01’s and they are all a nightmare. Pair this design with Shimano’s lacklustre road brakes and it is very hard to get rid of any pad rub. I’ve found that when you’re trying to put the power down or after a descent, the pads have a very annoying tendency to rub on the rotor for about 30 seconds and you get an annoying ‘ting’ sound. You’ll get this on other frames but this is noticeable on the front. I’ve seen other consumers get frustrated with this system and when I questioned BMC on their design, they insisted any pad rub was down to the brake calliper. One warrantied calliper later, this has helped somewhat but you can still get some rub. Tellingly, on the fourth-generation model, BMC have gone back to a conventional mounting for the front brake. I wonder why they did that… 

Spare parts for this frame can be obtained from the UK distributor, ZyroFisher. Many UK bike shops have an account with Zyro, so although a lot of parts have to be ordered from BMC direct, they are backed by a solid distributor. 

All in all, this is a very interesting and futuristic frame that three years since release in 2021, still looks state-of-the-art, and these are all small quirks, but quirks nonetheless, to live with. 

The Build 

This was a BMC Teammachine SLR01 Disc Three 2019 model but I have made some changes to the original spec. This has a Shimano Ultegra Di2 R8070 groupset. The groupset has generally been very good and I have been very impressed with the gears. I’ve been less impressed with the brakes though. I love how Shimano have integrated the hydraulics into the shifter and keep it the same size as their mechanical offerings but the braking is a bit on-off for my liking and lacks power. You don’t need to have powerful brakes as you don’t want to lock up the wheels but I would prefer more power here. SRAM’s road brakes are much better in terms of modulation and feel. 

The only deviation to the groupset is the chain and disc rotors. The chain is a KMC X11 SL. I find these are much quieter, much more durable and a lot lighter compared to the Shimano equivalent. the rotors are the Dura-Ace rotors which I upgraded purely for vanity’s sake – the black cooling fins match the aesthetic much better than the Ultegra ones, although they just as easily rub and ting on the calliper. 

The DT Swiss PRC1475 carbon wheels are an OEM offering but are largely based around the PRC 1400’s. They’ve been trouble-free and very good. They are shod with Continental GP5000 tyres which offer fantastic grip, speed and comfort and are a heck of an improvement over the Vittoria Corsa BMC specs the bike with. I found the Vittoria tyres to be lacking in grip and comfort, with a preposterously high minimum pressure for their size. 

The saddle is a San Marco Regale which is a very comfortable shape and its aesthetics match the bike very well. It is very light and has carbon rails. If it had a slightly bit more padding, it would be perfect. The bike came with a Fi’zi:k Antares, which I am not friends with from previous experience, so this was switched out instantly. 

The handlebar is a Zipp carbon which is a nice shape and has a short 70mm reach to allow me to run a longer stem, which I prefer as it improves the handling. The carbon bar dampens vibrations much better than aluminium although this Zipp one is a little on the stiffer side compared to other offerings out there. The BMC own-brand bar that comes on the bike felt like a cop-out considering the bike was close to £7,000, a very unremarkable aluminium offering and the shape didn’t really work well for me. 

Silca Nastro Fiore bar tape finishes the cockpit and it’s perfect in its grip, feel and durability, if on the expensive side. 

Overall, this is a pretty heady but realistic spec. You could easily get the bike lighter by running a more prestigious groupset and changing the wheels if you wanted to, so there is plenty of scope to get the most out of this frame.

How does it ride? 

Well, we have to talk about the ride, don’t we? This BMC Teammachine SLR01 Disc is a dream to ride. It is a very quick bike for its genre and really comes alive at higher speeds. The Specialized Tarmac is possibly a slightly more eager bike in terms of its handling compared to the Teammachine. The Teammachine is more comfortable than one might expect for a race bike, which often tend to be on the firmer side. Considering the integration of the front end, the steering on the bike feels telepathically smooth and reassuring. This bike has been predominantly ridden in the Chilterns and the Surrey Hills, where the road surfaces are pretty poor, and the bike hasn’t beaten me up. It has been taken on trips to the Cotswolds and Devon and has performed admirably there too. I can imagine this frame is a dream to ride in the Alps, which is what the brand have intended for it and it would likely be the perfect bike for it, as it climbs and descends with equal footing. 

The bike isn’t the lightest out there in feel compared to the Trek Emonda for example but it has a reassuring quality to its weight and is the best balance for the types of riding it caters for. In fact, the frame alone is lighter than the newer generation, perhaps signalling that the 800g mark is about as good as carbon frames are going to get without sacrificing anything. 

One aspect I wish this frame was better in is its tyre clearance. This frame can take up to a 700x28mm, which it just about does. The newer version can take up to a 30mm but I would like to see the clearances upped a little more for versatility and to allow you to run a wider range of rim and tyre combinations. A 28 tyre on a wider rim than the DT Swiss that I am running would be very tight and you need to make sure there is a sufficient gap between the tyre and frame to stop it abrading and damaging the carbon. 

Overall, the BMC Teammachine SLR01 Disc is pretty much as close to bike heaven you could desire and there is little to criticise. It will be interesting where the fifth generation of this frame changes, given how the fourth generation is an evolution rather than a revolution of this third-gen frame. It has been a joy to live with for 3 years and 10,000km and it hasn’t lost its sheen.

Niner RLT 9 RDO with Campagnolo Ekar (First Look)

It has taken a while with my desired specifications and the parts shortages, but the Niner RLT 9 RDO is finally built up.

Having originally introduced the RLT (Road Less Travelled) in 2013 at the very beginning of the emergence of the adventure and gravel bike genre, this latest iteration of the RLT from the Coloradan brand is bang up-to-date with its features and standards that it offers.  

Predominantly famous for their mountain bikes, Niner hasn’t had a particularly large presence in the UK but since the brand has experienced a rejuvenation after briefly going bust, it has landed a UK distributor in the form of Zyro-Fisher and they are more easily available.

The RLT 9 RDO is the carbon gravel frame from the brand and this is a frameset that focuses on versatility but is equally comfortable on long gravel epics and races. This generation of the RLT is offered in three materials – aluminium, steel and carbon. I have opted for the halo carbon frame offering. The aluminium would be a sound budget option and the steel frame is an interesting proposition and a material that many brands have shied away from. Carbon frames are significantly lighter than metal and generally more comfortable, as they have better vibration-damping properties, which is why it was my pick. It also doesn’t fatigue as long as you don’t impact it and most types of damage can be repaired on a carbon frame if you damage it structurally. I’m 5’11 and fit comfortably on a 56cm frame.

It is chock-full of mounting points for bottle cages, racks and bags, Niner quoting 26 mounts in total. Niner have created specific bags that fit into the front triangle and on the top tube. I’ve purchased the bags and they fit logically and look clean on the frame. Extra points to the brand for omitting an under-the-down-tube mount as these always get clogged with mud.

The frame can take up to a mammoth 700x50mm tyre or a 2-inch 650b tyre. The RLT 9 RDO makes a compelling case as a one-bike-for-everything if you were to have a couple of wheelsets for different purposes.   

As is standard for most frames, the RLT 9 RDO routes its cables internally. What is impressive and your mechanic will thank you for it is that the internal routing is fully guided. You simply feed a cable through its designated hole and it will pop out of a hatch underneath the BB where you then route the final section. There is a little bit of ‘fishing’ required with the hydraulic hose from the hatch to its exit point, but nothing a magnet and internal cable routing kit couldn’t solve. I’m running the frame with a 1x groupset but the frame allows you to use a 2x system, should you wish, and there is also routing for a dropper seatpost and a Dynamo light. The frame uses full housing for the gears (more on that later) so once you’ve routed the cables in the initial build, it will be easy to change inner cables every so often to refresh the system as you won’t need to ‘fish’ any cables in the frame. 

The frame uses a standard 1 1/8 to 1.5 headset which is compatible with lots of different options and a PF30 bottom bracket. The PF30 BB is primarily used as it is compatible with Niner’s BioCentric system, should you wish to run the bike as a singlespeed, but I wouldn’t imagine many riders taking up this option. PF30 isn’t my favourite standard and I’d have preferred a threaded but it’s certainly far from the worst of the pressfit standards.

The colourways that Niner offer for this frame are seriously cool. There are two options for the carbon frame – ‘baja blue / sand’ which is this particular colourway and ‘olive green / orange’ which also looks rad, although until I see the frame in person, I’m not sure if the orange graphics clash with the green / black of the rest of the frame. There are nods to adventure on the paintwork with topographical lines on parts of the top tube, seat tube and fork. It’s also a cool touch how Niner include a graphic on the underside of the down tube, which inform you of the important specs of the frame if you are not mechanically knowledgeable.

The Build

Rather than buy a bike off-the-shelf from Niner, I chose to buy a frameset as I wanted to spec the the frame with a Campagnolo Ekar groupset. The builds that Niner offer are with a plethora of options from Shimano and SRAM. I have previously used a SRAM Rival 1 groupset on a previous bike which was very good but it didn’t quite have the range I’m after and remains 11-speed. Now that 12 and 13-speed options exist, this makes sense if you are running 1x. I didn’t fancy ponying up for SRAM eTap AXS as it has its quirks – it is very expensive, which I don’t see the need for on a gravel bike that is going to be caked with mud off-road. I’m rather uncomfortable with the rear mech costing almost £600 as it’s a part that can very easily get knocked! There are also the usual irritating SRAM quirks such as the DUB cranks and bottom bracket system, the XD / XDr driver body system and whilst I love the lever shape of the mechanical hoods, the eTap AXS hoods feel rather bulky and bulbous to me. Shimano also has its pluses and minuses. I believe Shimano GRX is a half-baked system in that it is only 11-speed and doesn’t go far enough in furthering itself from the road groupsets. I also, controversially, don’t rate Shimano’s current generation hydraulic disc brakes.

The Campagnolo Ekar groupset is a real rival to Shimano and SRAM in that it is 13-speed which is excellent as you get a wide range of gears and less prominent jumps between them as there is another gear to share the load. I really like the idea that the first cluster of gears have 1 tooth jumps, so you can really fine tune your gear when you’re on the flat or descending, whereas with my previous SRAM 1x, there were some parts of the cassette ratio where you were looking for a gear in between the teeth that were offered.

The cassette is offered in 9-36, 9-42 or 10-44. I’ve opted for the 10-44 option as I will be using this bike for bikepacking, so favour the easier gear and I’m unsure on Campagnolo’s use of a 9t cog in terms of wear. The cassette itself looks aesthetically pleasing and Campagnolo have introduced a new N3W freehub, which is a shortened version of its existing freehub that is backwards-compatible with 9,10,11 and 12 speed systems. This is a real breath of fresh air, as many brands are guilty of introducing new standards for the sake of it, forcing consumers to upgrade. At this point in time, there are not many wheelsets on the market with an N3W option but there will be more in time.

The chainset is a thing of beauty with its carbon allure and attention to detail with its removable rubber crank boots, to stop the ends of the crank arms from scuffing. I’ve gone for a 40t variant, but Campagnolo offer the chainset in 38, 40, 42 or 44 narrow-wide tooth options. The crank axle still connect via a Hirth joint with the bottom bracket bearings pressed onto the axle itself rather than the frame. This is known as the Ultra-Torque system, which Campagnolo have used for many years. Ekar, however, is slightly different in that it uses a ‘ProTech’ bottom bracket, where the bearings and cups have an additional seal to withstand the abuse of gravel riding.

The shifters will be familiar to anyone familiar with Campagnolo’s other offerings and the shape of the lever is particularly sculpted. The levers are aluminium rather than carbon but have some slight texturing to the bottom of the lever to help with grip. The noticeable change with these shifters is the new ‘Lever 3’ design of the shift paddle, which has grown in size and offer you two locations to downshift from, as you can now access it from the drops of the handlebars. I won’t be surprised if this new design migrates to Campagnolo’s road groupsets.

Ekar’s brakes remain the same as previous Campagnolo’s offerings, only they are re-branded as Ekar, the rotors are steel, there is an improved pad compound, and the system no longer uses Magura’s Royal Blood as brake fluid (although you can still use this) and use a new red mineral oil from the brand. The performance of the brakes is the best out of the Big Three. They offer confidence-inspiring modulation and don’t rub as easily as Shimano or SRAM’s offerings (the former being the biggest culprit, where if you do so much as look at the brake, it will start to rub!) as the pads use a magnetic piston to retract, which is a genius solution. 

My first impressions are that Campagnolo have pulled a blinder with their first foray into gravel. The quality of the Ekar parts looks very impressive and set-up was fairly straightforward. Things to watch out for if you’re building an Ekar-equipped bike include the B-gap adjustment of the rear mech, which is particularly sensitive as it is on 12-speed systems, so you’ll want to take care here to ensure good quality shifting. I found the brakes quite difficult to bleed compared to Shimano and SRAM, despite following Campagnolo’s tutorials. After a couple of sub-par bleeds, a mechanic that has plenty of experience with Campagnolo recommended bleeding it in the vein of a SRAM system (pushing / pulling between the two syringes) and this helped no-end in achieving a confidence-inspiring result. 

A final obstacle with Ekar is that Campagnolo simply don’t believe in full housing for the gears if your frame implores this technique and you want to use the included ‘Maximum Smoothness’ cables. I’d recommend using the Maximum Smoothness cables as there is less friction in the system and a 13-speed system is always going to be more sensitive to perfect set-up compared to an 11 or 12-speed system. You can’t buy a length of full outer housing online so you will either need to visit a Campagnolo dealer and ask nicely for them to cut you off the required length from a reel or buy a 25 metre reel. This is a mad but very Italian move from the groupset manufacturer. 

I can’t wait to test this groupset in real world conditions and I’ll report on my findings in due course.

The wheels are currently Fulcrum Rapid Red 5’s which are a bombproof but unremarkable aluminium wheelset with a (wide for an Italian brand) 23mm internal rim diameter. I had ordered some Campagnolo Shamal’s but they are yet to arrive so bought the Fulcrum’s at the last minute to get the bike built up for now. When the Shamal’s eventually arrive, they will become the Summer wheels and the Fulcrum’s can be used for the Winter slop.

Onto the finishing kit, the handlebars are Easton EC70 AX’s which have a 16 degree flare to them, which isn’t too dramatic compared to other options, and are carbon fibre so should be really comfortable as they’ll take away some of the sting from surface vibrations. The stem is a generic aluminium one for now from my parts bin – I’ll upgrade it to something nicer once I’ve got the position dialled.

The bar tape is the new Silca Nastro Cuscino which is super thick and seems like it will be supremely comfortable and hard-wearing but my god, it was one of the hardest bar tapes I’ve ever had to wrap. Silca don’t give you enough in the pack and it is very difficult to negotiate the tape around the shifters. On the one hand, you have to figure-of-eight it but because it’s quite chunky, it doesn’t look right so be prepared to spend a while if you want to have a good job.

I’ve also used Silca for the bottle cages with their titanium Sicuros which are pure bike porn and offer a super-solid grip of the bottle from a couple of tests. These look set to be a lifetime item.

The seatpost is a Specialized COBL GOBL-R which is carbon fibre and has a cobra-like kink at the top where it uses a ‘Zertz vibration damper’ at the head of the post, to boost compliance. I’ve carried this post over from a previous bike and have always got on with it and the saddle that is fitted to it is a Fabric Scoop.

So as you can see, this is one very luxurious steed and I’ll be sure to report back on my thoughts on the bike once I’ve got some miles on it and can comment on the durability. I’ve completed one brief hour-long ride on it so far and my initial impressions are very positive but it is far too early to be definitive. I’m aiming to get a couple more shorter rides on it and next week, I will likely be throwing it straight in the deep end as I’m bikepacking the King Alfred’s Way, a 350km circular off-road route.

Review: Does the Sidi Shot hit the bullseye?

Note: This review was submitted as part of a test article.

Italian manufacturer Sidi’s range-topping road shoes, the Shot, was first spotted by eagle-eyed fans being worn by Chris Froome during the opening stages of the 2016 Tour-de-France. He would go on to ride them to victory that year and then again in 2017. The Shot superseded the brand’s previous range-topper, the Wire. The main difference between the two is a redesigned closure system (more on that later), otherwise there is very little to distinguish the two coveted kicks. The Wire remains in the line-up at £20 cheaper than the new offering. 

Weight is down slightly and for my pair of size 45’s, these came in at 711g on my digital scales of truth (Sidi quote 580g for a size 42, so this is probably about right). They’re certainly not the lightest out there. Specialized S-Works 7’s come in at a claimed 450g for a size 42 and Giro report a 440g weight for their Imperial shoe in the same size. But Sidi have never been one for chasing those that are weight conscious. At a somewhat eye-watering £359 RRP, something has to be special with these shoes, right?  


The ‘Microfibre Techpro’ upper material has a premium look and feel.

The key selling point of Sidi, compared to other brands, is that many of the small parts on the shoe are replaceable. This simply isn’t the case with most other shoe brands. Although the asking price for this is high compared to top-end offerings from brand such as Giro and Fi’zi:k, it’s in line with the Specialized S-Works 7 for example. With the (potential) extra investment, longevity is a key advantage for Sidi and with the right care and occasional replacement of parts, these could be fit for purpose for a very long time.   

The upper of the shoe is composed of Sidi’s ‘Microfibre Techpro’ material, which they claim is ‘not only durable, stable and light’ but ‘also repels water and has been treated to prevent the growth of bacteria and mould so your shoes remain odour-free’. This is coupled with their Vent carbon sole. The Vent carbon sole is optimised for a balance of optimal power transfer and comfort. I found these shoes are stiff but not overly so. Heck, if it’s stiff enough for Chris Froome, it’s stiff enough for us mere mortal riders! Sidi claim they use a ‘specific carbon weave’ to improve comfort. However, they haven’t elaborated on the weave or how it makes the sole more comfortable. 

Whilst I’ve been lucky not to be rained on with these shoes yet (I don’t actively seek to go out when it’s wet!), out on the road, I can certainly attest to their stable and durable feeling. As for the weight, when you’re riding, you don’t feel it and they certainly feel lighter than what they are. There are other places to minimise weight – shoes are a contact point after all and comfort should be the deciding factor. 

I also found their ventilation to be impressive. There is a small tab that with a small flathead screwdriver, you can open or close the vent depending on the weather conditions you’re riding in. This makes a big difference and riding in the couple of weeks heatwave in July here in the UK, I never had hot feet and could feel a cool breeze permeate its way through the shoes. Both the Shot and the Wire come in an ‘Air’ version if your riding will be in hotter conditions. This would be ideal if you are constantly riding in higher temperatures but I would otherwise stick to this standard version. No complaints here though. 

Fit is something that really impresses with these shoes. As with their previous Wire and other range-topping shoes, the Shot comes with an adjustable heel retention device. One can adjust this to stop your foot from slipping, helping to achieve the optimum fit. I’ve really got on with the ‘locked-in’ feel of some top-end shoes recently. I love the Specialized S-Works 6 for example, which although you have to fight a little to get your foot in, when it’s in, it’s superlative. On the Shot, having this adjustability a great idea as it can cater to a number of different shaped feet. However, I did find with the Shot that I can’t quite get it to close tight enough and there is a bit of lift.  


The gloss red rigid heel cup beautifully contrasts the matt red upper. The Italian flag by the reflective strips is a subtle nod to Sidi’s heritage.

Other features of this shoe include a ‘replaceable anti-slip polyurethane heel pad’. It’s meant to aid with walking but who really walks in road shoes for long periods? I can’t say I noticed the benefits. That said, the fact it is replaceable can only be a good thing. There are still far too many shoes out there where once you wear down the heel pad, it’s game over. Sidi also include reflective strips on either side of the back of the shoe to help with visibility when riding in lower light conditions. This security feature is a nice touch as anything that makes a cyclist a little more visible at night must be a plus.   


Two ‘Tecno 3 Dials’ on a single base work in tandem to fasten your foot in and out of the shoe. But is the positioning ideal? 

Sidi use their proprietary dial system to lock your feet in. The Shot has a ‘Double Tecno-3 Push’ closure system. It is basically as described. It consists of two Tecno 3 dials on one base that act as a pair to fasten the shoes on. The idea of this double system is to create the perfect tension to achieve supreme comfort. To fasten the dials, you simply press the ‘Push’ button on both dials which opens the dials up for you to adjust. You then interchange tightening up the dials to your liking. If you need to loosen them a little, there are two release clips on either end of the double dial where you can make minute adjustments. To get your foot out of the shoe, just hold the two releases down and lift your foot out of the shoe. 

I’ve always got on with Sidi’s Tecno system on previous models of theirs and it’s a suitable alternative to other systems like the eponymous BOA which is found on the majority of high-end shoes. I’ve had BOA wires kink on me before or outright fail, but luckily they are backed by BOA’s very useful and super-efficient lifetime warranty. I’ve not had this problem with Sidi before so haven’t tested their warranty program and hopefully I won’t need to! Ultimately, it’s swings and roundabouts. They both perform the same function using a slightly different method. 

I do have a problem with the location for these dials on the Shot’s though. They are right in the middle of the tongue. I feel like you can’t really get them that tight enough and I think a side-loading mechanism like on the Wire would be a lot better. The Wire could be a better pick if you agree with the positioning of the dual dials as it has one dial in the middle and a ratchet covering the span of the shoe. You are definitely best comprehensively trying both pairs of shoes before you buy! 

Finally, aesthetics of a shoe are important and this ‘Matt Red’ option looks, quite simply, amazing. As is course with Sidi, there are a plethora of colour options you can select from which perfectly match your frame and the rest of your kit. No excuses here. 

Ultimately, the Sidi Shot represents more an evolution rather than revolution in the brand’s current line-up of shoes. The price may be high (premium shoe prices seem to be ever-increasing at the moment) but the craftsmanship here is top-notch with their robust, ski-shoe like quality and their varied fit should suit a lot of riders, with the numerous adjustments one can make. I’m looking forward to getting many more miles on these Shot’s and I’m confident that these will be up to the task for a very long time.  

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. 

Norco Threshold C Rival (First Look)

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So it’s finally happened… After planning on giving cyclocross a go, I’ve finally managed to get myself a bike that I think is going to be perfectly suitable. Although cross season is pretty much done for, in-between and after finishing studying this year at university, I’m going to try and prepare myself for some cross races and perhaps some off-road sportives or adventure-style type of riding. We’ll have to see how things go as I’ve got some road riding plans too but that’s the plan thus far.

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The bike is a Norco Threshold C Rival, Norco being a reputable Canadian brand that are exclusively stocked by Evans Cycles in the UK. They tend to be great value for money and the bike was actually a lot cheaper for me than a lot of lower-spec aluminium offerings, specifically from BMC and Specialized. For cross, I was looking more at aluminium-framed bikes as they can be chucked about a little more but do bear a weight penalty so this was quite a nice surprise to see. The frame is made of what Norco call, ‘mid-modulus’ carbon and their top-end frames are made of ‘high-modulus’ or in some cases, ‘ultra-high modulus’. This means that the frame is a little heavier than other carbon offerings by this brand but I think Norco have done a lot of interesting things with this frame to fully utilise it for cyclocross. The seatstays are what’s called ‘ARC-Race’ which from the image, you can see arc a little to provide a bit more comfort and the frame is what is built around a particularly beefy PF30 bottom bracket – I’m not a fan of press-fit bottom brackets but so far this has been problem-free. The frame also has an ‘Armor-Lite’ coating which supposedly protects from stone chips and the like so as not to ruin that lovely frame and the internal cabling implores a technology called ‘Gizmo’ which stops the cables rattling inside the frame and stops dirt attracting into the cabling. I absolutely love the paint-job of this bike – Norco have decided to employ a chequered black and red and I think it really stands out from the crowd. Weirdly though, the bike has a whole host of eyelets to fit mudguards / racks etc… but seeing as this is designed as a race-ready cyclocross bike (the Search is their adventure model), it is a little strange but doesn’t detract from the ride.

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The groupset is a full SRAM Rival 1x groupset, something which I really wanted to have on this bike due to the added security of the clutch-mechanism in the rear derailleur and the narrow-wide chainrings to perfectly match the X-Sync PC1130 chain. For cross, I don’t think Shimano are even remotely near the level that SRAM have come to, they’re onto a winner with their CX1 systems. The levers are a little bulbous as they contain the reservoir for the hydraulics but I actually quite like the look of them and they feel very snug and secure when handling the bike. In terms of gear ratios, the bike came with a 42t chainring which is a little on the big side but at least it means that you get a harder gear with 42-11. Cassette-wise, an 11-32 is specced but I instantly changed this to an 11-36 so the bike is more suitable for road-riding. Off-road a 32 would have been fine but it would have been hard work getting up the short, steep climbs of the Chilterns on the road.

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The wheels are Alexrims A-Class CXD4’s which are pretty unremarkable but roll nicely and they don’t weigh too much. It’s a shame they’re not tubeless-ready but I might have a go at converting them to ‘ghetto-tubeless’ at some point by using electrical insulation tape and sealant which seems to work. Clement MXP tyres are specced which I’ve been impressed with off-road so far but I have punctured already and this is why I think tubeless is ultimately the way I’ll go on this bike as not only will it reduce the risk of punctures but also I can run lower pressures off-road. You can’t really do this with inner tubes as if you go too low, you could pinch-flat. A feature that I was very keen on having was thru-axles as opposed to quick-release skewers for added stiffness and better disc rotor alignment and Norco have specced DT Swiss Thru-Axle’s front and rear. You really can tell the added stiffness they bring and after riding my road bike after this, it’s very noticeable to perceive this added benefit.

The stem and handlebar are own-brand Norco which again are unremarkable but have a good anatomical shape. The bar tape is nothing special but easy to replace in the future. I also instantly changed the seatpost and saddle, the saddle to a Fabric Scoop as I get on with this and it’s very easy to clean which is always a bonus. The seatpost is a Specialized S-Works COBL GOBL-R which has a Zertz-insert at the head of the post which gives it a cobra-like shape but I’ve been mightily impressed with it so far. The bike came with a Norco carbon seatpost which I will put on another bike.

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So that’s the bike and over my Christmas holidays, I’ve managed to get a few rides in around the local trails and even went on a club CX ride. Unfortunately I won’t get a chance to do any more until Easter as I’m at university but once I have put the bike through its paces, I will fully review this bike but so far on a handful of rides, I’ve been very impressed. It handles very nicely, the Rival 1x groupset is excellent and it has ample clearance for mud which it has certainly experienced so far. It may lack technical features such as Trek’s IsoSpeed or Cannondale’s SpeedSave technology but this is an unashamed, Canadian-flavoured off-road powerhouse that I am very positive about so far. In terms of cyclocross as a sport, I think it may even be more fun than road riding as you can take the bike just about anywhere and it will handle it. The only downside is constant cleaning of the bike if I head off-road and I would suspect the bearings on the bike will need to be serviced / replaced more frequently. But in terms of the ride, it’s potentially the best fun you can ever have on two wheels!

Stay tuned for my full review soon

Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 Ultegra (Review)

 

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⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)

+ Great all-rounder
+ Flawless groupset and great wheels
+ Surprisingly good finishing kit

– Quite generic in the looks department
– White hubs!
– Poor tyres
– Inability to test-ride before buying

Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 Ultegra (£2000)

It’s been rather a long time since my holiday so apologies for the delay in getting this review up for the Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 Ultegra road bike that I rented for just over a week.

Canyon’s Ultimate  is a race proven road bike that has been wildly popular and is its race bike in its road bike line-up with the Aeroad being its aero offering as the name would suggest and the Endurace for the endurance / comfort category. It’s a great all-rounder that is suitably light (unfortunately I didn’t have scales to hand but Canyon have this listed at 7.1kg but I would estimate it to be in the mid-to-high 7’s as it didn’t feel quite as light as my Trek Emonda) for a Large frame. The model that I rented was the CF SL which is its second-rung frame with the SLX being its lighter frame made of a higher-grade carbon fibre and having a one-piece handlebar/stem combo. It is specced with a Shimano Ultegra 6800 mechanical groupset and Mavic Ksyrium Pro Exalith wheelset with finishing kit being provided by Canyon and a Fi’zi:k Antares saddle.

I was extremely impressed by this bike – it is suitably light, very comfortable and feels quite fast when out on the roads – it does have some aerodynamic features in its seat tube towards the bottom bracket shell which is a little truncated. There’s nothing screaming out in terms of interesting tube shapes here – it’s just a great all-rounder that is a good climber but equally fast when on the flats. The bike felt very planted on the road and I was never uncomfortable on it. It’s even capable on gravel – there were a few times where I found myself on gravel tracks and the bike managed to handle it ok.

The Shimano Ultegra mechanical groupset was as expected, flawless and the 52/36 paired with an 11/28 cassette was adequate for the Sardinian hills which were long but never too steep – I normally ride a compact. The wheels supplied by Mavic are the Ksyrium Pro Exalith and I was extremely impressed by the Exalith braking surface which gave me plenty of confidence when descending down twisty roads. Just a shame that the hubs are white which get dirty very quickly and detract from the bike’s stealth black colour scheme. The tyres supplied by Mavic not so much though, I would upgrade them once they’ve worn but at least they were 25c so they were fairly comfortable however I understand Canyon’s need to spec this as the tyres will have came with the wheels from their stock.

The bike is finished with a Canyon-branded stem, handlebar and carbon seatpost which were all surprisingly sublime – the handlebars had a really nice shape to the, the stem felt plenty stiff and the carbon seatpost helped improve comfort. The Fi’zi:k Antares saddle was decent as well but for me, a little long in the nose –  I personally prefer an Aliante.

For the money (£2000), this bike is extremely well-specced and to have wheels of this calibre at this price point is testament to Canyon’s unique online selling model and I suppose that is the real downside to this bike, you can’t really test-ride before buying it (unless you travel to their German headquarters).

The bike is also a little Germanic in look and doesn’t really offer much in the way of an exciting paint job – it’s plain black with its logo’s in white. I suppose if you are after the stealth look, the bike’s a winner but I am a little bored with the bike industry and particularly the Germans sticking to black.

Other than a few cosmetic quibbles, with an upgrade in tyres the Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 Ultegra is a versatile all-rounder that can be used for anything. It is a great blend of comfort, speed and aerodynamics and if you wanted to adapt the bike for either these needs, you could do. If you wanted an endurance rig, stick some wider tyres on it and perhaps some thicker bar tape likewise if you wanted to make the bike more race-orientated, stick some deep-section wheels on and slam that stem! I was really impressed with this bike and I didn’t want to give it back!

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)

 

Continental Grand Prix 4 Seasons (Review)

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Image from Mantel.com

So now that I’ve pretty much put my Winter bike away and bring out the Summer steed, the Continental Grand Prix 4 Season tyres that I have used all Winter also go away and I have to say that I have generally been pretty impressed. Previously on my Winter bike, I have used the stock tyres that came with it, Hutchison Equinox which proved quite a sketchy ride and Vredestein Fortezza TriComp tyres that were fantastic but unfortunately not available in a 25c format. So the 4 Seasons were quite a big upgrade but after having them constantly recommended to me and also as my Vredestein’s had completely worn out, I thought I’d give these a go. I went for the 25c version to see what all the fuss was about with wider tyres bringing more comfort and now that I have used 25’s, I will never be reverting back to 23’s.

The 4 Season’s roll extremely well and are very reliable tyres. You do lose some speed as they are more heavy duty than the Vredestein’s but for the puncture protection, it’s a drawback I’m willing to accept. However, my rear tyre was completely ruined after about 3,000 km which is a bit of a shame considering the fact that they were quite expensive but there is a lot of flint in the Chilterns and I do ride on some pretty bad road surfaces so I think this is more down to pot luck than the quality of the tyre. However, the front one is still fine so come next Winter, I’ll just replace the rear one. The tyres are pretty easy to fit but I do have fairly wide rims on my wheels and the 25c size is perfect – there is a noticeable increase in comfort from the 23’s but I don’t think I’d go up to 28’s as they would probably be a little sluggish.

A lot of people that I know or ride with also swear by Continental Gatorskins and the GatorHardshell’s which are even more durable and offer better puncture protection. I might try these in the future but my initial thoughts are that I did feel a decrease in speed on the 4 Season’s so I would hope that the decrease in either of those tyres wouldn’t be too dramatic.

Overall, I’ve been very impressed with the 4 Season’s – apart from me ruining the rear tyre, they have been pretty much puncture resistant (1 puncture before multiple ones when the rear tyre was worn) but they do lose a star for the price of them – only buy these when they are on offer. £49.95 is an absolute rip-off and if you’re lucky, you can find these for slightly under £30 if you know where too look. They are brilliant for using in the Winter and you won’t regret making the change.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)

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.