Wednesday, 25 November 2009

2010 TRP Euro-X alloy brakes

I ordered a set of 2010 alloy TRP Euro-X brakes in the new red colour from recently. These are destined for my new Focus Mares Team, to replace the very fancy but slightly impractical (for cross) FRM V-brakes that came with it as stock.

The TRP's have been upgraded for 2010 with a very neat barrel adjuster on the left arm allowing easy adjustment. They also have the In-Place Adjust cartirdge pad holders as standard, which were an expensive upgrade to last years alloy brakes. The brakes come very nicely presented in a well paded box and are supplied with standard AND carbon specific pads. A great deal for £95 in my view. I fitted them to the Focus last night, and although not finally fettled, they have a great action and seem to pull consistently. This is a good thing, as they don't have spring tension adjusters on each arm (like V-brakes), so you need to rely on the locking straddle bridge to adjust pull. Mine pulled nice and even at first attempt. I have swapped out the pads to Swiss-Stop yellows, as they work really well and can reliably be used on both alloy and carbon rims.
Update on race performance to follow.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Bad news: bike stolen!!

Last night I had my bike stolen. Here she is in happier days -

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Review: ZipVit Energy Plus Gel

Apparently this is what Carlos Sastre has to say about ZipVit gels -
“ZipVit as a nutritional supplement is very important to us. The gels are very good and have a really good taste.”

I can only assume that you are not talking about the orange flavour caffeinated gel that I recently tried. I was attracted by the claim that it had more caffeine than 2.5 cans of Red Bull. Jeeeezus, that would be a lot of cafffeine even for my espresso-addled body!!! So I shoved it in my back pocket before the start of this year's Etape to have on the foothills of Mont Ventoux as I felt if I ever needed some caffeine, that was going to be the place. The conditions were not ideal as it was horribly hot in the forest, but I can honestly say that this gel must rank as one of the most unpleasant substances I have ever had the misfortune to eat. It has a paste-like consistency (a bit like a PowerGel), which I really dislike, preferring the more liquid gels like High5 or Torq. It is also high volume (like GoGels). So it was pretty nasty. Bad consistency, and lots of it. It actually made me gag and I had to wash very small mouthfuls down with water. It may have worked, but it was truly horrible. OK, so it was a free sample so I shouldn't be too ungrateful, but sorry, no stars!!

Ch'ti Bike Tour 29 August 2009

I haven't put any posts up for a while - hoping to be more disciplined so here goes...
The 5th edition of the Ch'ti Bike Tour took place on the weekend of 29/30 August 2009, starting and finishing in Armentieres on the Franco-Belgian border, not far from Lille. This event really must be one of amateur cycling's best kept secrets. While cyclists from all over the globe frantically rush to secure a place in high profile events like the Etape du Tour (and with good reason), the Ch'ti Tour is a real gem, and Saturday's main event is much closer to a real long distance road race than the Etape. One rare treat the Ch'ti Tour shares with the Etape though is closed roads. The only traffic we had to contend over the entire 160km distance were official cars and 'motos' trying to squeeze past the peloton.
I entered this year's event as part of a 10 rider London Phoenix team. The pace was fairly fast and furious, with the large lead group covering the first 100km in just over 2.5 hours. Not like a sportive at all! As we sped past farms and through small villages, the locals were often in evidence and were very enthusiastic and supportive. It's true it's not as scenic as Provence (and cow manure doesn't smell as good as lavender), but it was very picturesque nonetheless. Having said that, I didn't get too much of an opportunity to admire the view as the pace was high, and the field was bunched pretty tight. There were a few nervous moments but I managed to avoid the few crashes. I certainly learned a few more French expletives during the day! The terrain ranged from well surfaced roads to narrow gravelly farm roads, and hills were of the short and reasonably sharp variety. Luckily, the weather was pretty good, although the wind was also strong in places. The final 20km (during which I was in a small break trying hard to bridge up to the lead group of 30 or so riders), the route drifted over the border into Belgium, before arriving back at the start. My average speed over the full 100+ mile ditance was a pretty quick 38km/h. One of my breakaway companions (who did no work incidentally!) was Karine Saysset (see below), who I later found out is a multiple French Champion and has been first female finisher in the Etape on at least 2 occasions. She came and thanked me later while me and the boys were havign a beer (which was nice!), but didn't seem to want to share her prize for being first girl home! She was riding in the same team with Cedric Vasseur, the ex-Tour pro. Unfortunately for him, he also had to wear the pink and white team kit!
British participation in this event is small, but as it's only a one hour drive from Calais it really is a very easy trip. Entry online is (reasonably) straightforward, and is amazing value. Electronic timing, a T-shirt, certificate and (best of all) a slap up meal with local food and Belgian beer after the race is included for around £30. Beat that if you can. The next day you can take part in various less competitive events over different distances on either a road bike or MTB and enjoy more of the region's fine food and drink. All in all a fantastic event and I was happy to be in the results as first British finisher in 46th overall and 21st in my category. What a great weekend!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Herne Hill Spring Omnium 3 - 3 May 2009

Photo by Dulwich Paragaon dude

I did my first Omnium track event at Herne Hill on Sunday. This consisted of -

1. 12 lap scratch race (i.e. normal race)
2. 3 lap sprint (heats)
3. 12 lap 'Devil Take the Hindmost'
4. 3 lap sprint (final)
5. 12 lap points race

I've done quite a few training sessions and informal scratch races at Herne Hill but not a formal event like this. I was racing in the B Cats - there's also an A Cat group.

The Scratch race went OK, top 10 I think (just about), all quite fast and furious. The first two in the sprint heats went through to the final and I think I won my heat (very close on the line though), so went through. The Devil was tough - all about positioning and was annoyed to go out on the last elimination lap (2 riders out per lap). Still top 10 though. Sprint final was really close, 6 of us started and 4 of us were very close on the line for the top places. Not sure where I came on that one.

I was a little worried about the Points race, with 4 sprints (3,2,1 points in each for first 3 riders), pain was going to be a fairly prominent feature. I covered an early attack and scooped 1 point in the first sprint for 3rd, and then hung on for 2 points in each of the next 2 sprints (5 total). By the last lap I was still in the front group, but fading so I sat up. Still not sure where I came, but I think I got a podium, possibly 2nd.

So overall, I ended up with 4th position overall. Pretty happy with that for my first Omnium, and you BC points fiends will be interested to know you get points for track events too! Not sure how many yet, but they are rumoured to be quite generously distributed.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Monday, 30 March 2009

London Phoenix beats Top Class Teams!

On checking the British Cycling Team Rankings this morning, I was delighted (though not surprised!) to see my team ranking well above Olympic and World Champion Nicole Cooke's Vision1 Racing and Tour de France team Barloworld! In case you don't believe me, here is the evidence

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Race Report: Thetford Winter Series Round 4

Excellent photos from
The last round of Thetford Winter Series was held on Sunday 22 February 2009. This is a very popular MTB race series at one of my favourite off-road riding locations – Thetford Forest. I’d managed 15th in the first race (out of 211), 11th in the second (out of 195), but crashed out of the third race (at Rendlesham in Suffolk) in a start line pile-up in the freezing cold and pouring ran that left me with a badly bruised leg and a sliced kneecap (leg subsequently went an alarming shade of yellow, nut fortunately remained attached).

This time I was looking for payback and a good solid result to count towards the best 3 results that make up the series rankings. Still standing 21st overall despite only finishing 2 of the 3 previous races, I was gridded near the front. Fellow London Phoenix rider and riding buddy Stuart blagged his way to the front with me, and went on to overtake me following the start (cheeky beggar). I was deliberately being a bit cautious as I didn’t want to get caught up in any more accidents! Stuart stayed in front for part of the first lap, and I narrowly avoided another crash in the first singletrack section.

The course was absolutely superb! Pretty much dry (apart from a few areas) and offering just the right amount of grip to rail through the many bermed corners between the trees, ‘speeder-bike’ style (think Star Wars: Return of the Jedi). Throw in some fireroad sections, add a couple of short but reasonably demanding climbs, and the course had just about everything (other than the usual ‘bomb holes’). My lap times for the 7.6 mile course were all in the 33-34 minute range, and after the slowish start, I started to move through the field a bit. Traffic on some sections was an issue, and number of times my earlier efforts to drop other riders came to nothing as I got stuck in a traffic jam in the very narrow sections. By the last of the 4 laps I was battling with 2 other riders who had overtaken me on a fireroad section and were clearly on a mission. Sitting ‘third wheel’ and coming into the last climb, the bumpy ‘Plumbuster’, I overtook one of them and then halfway up the climb went past the other, managing to slot in 3 backmarkers between us by the top (a good security measure). The last 2 short sections were much wider, so I put the hammer down up the last uphill section to come in 14th (out of 183). Pretty happy with that, but most of all I had a great time on the bike (which performed perfectly as usual).
Honourable mentions go to all my team mates, including Matt Webber who, with the help of some Go gels, passed me on lap 3 to finish 10th and Stuart Lockyear, who was a very creditable 10th in the Vets.

Friday, 6 February 2009

REVIEW: Victory Circle Graphix decals

I've used Victory Circle Graphix in the past for frame stickers, having seen them on some bloke's road bike at a local race in 2005. I quickly ordered some nice black 'Discovery Channel Team' style ones with my last name and the Union flag on one set, and the Stars and Stripes on the other (I'm a dual national). Even my kids' bikes have them! The company actually supply frame stickers to a number of the pro teams, including Astana and Bissell.

I thought it would be good to get some for my Club,
London Phoenix, so put the word out to see who was interested. Initial feedback was good, so I asked the folks at VC Graphix to design us some custom stickers using our club logo instead of a national flag. With a bit of feedback and fine tuning, we soon had a great looking design (no extra charge), and ordered up about 20 sets. Feedback on the club website has been very positive, and the service from VC was brilliant. They also offered a good deal on the order as it was reasonably large.
The stickers are extremely durable (they are not thin) and providing you clean the frame beforehand (I use a little isopropyl alcohol), they will stay firmly put. They even seem to resist mild jet-washing (although not the kind of jet-washing my riding buddy Stuart does, which tends to remove the paint!). No signs of UV fade either (some of my original ones are over 3 years old now).

All in all, a great service, well priced and best of all it makes you look like a Pro (alas, no performance enhancement noticed yet). If you want some, email Holly ( and she'll get you sorted.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

First visit to Hog Hill and I won!!

Hog Hill from the air.

I made my first visit to the Redbridge Cycle Centre (a.k.a. 'Hog Hill') on 31st January 2009 to try out the road circuit by racing in the Cat 4 race. I'd been following the banter on the London Phoenix forum for a while, and there had been plenty as this was the 8th race in the series. Unfortunately I hadn't managed to make it to any of the earlier races due to a number of frustrating circumstances, including kids' swimming lessons, waiting for parts for my new road bike, and generally not wanting to push my luck too much with my long-suffering wife when I had another event on the following day!

I got the all clear to go this time provided I took my five year old and here pal to a gymnastics party in East Ham(!) later in the day. Sounded pretty fair to me. Luckily the weather gods were smiling, with blue skies but a fairly brisk cold wind. I was seriously impressed with the facilities at Hog Hill. It felt very strange to be at a cycling event where the toilets were actually clean, and the rooms warm. Race numbers on (very fiddly), I did a couple of practice laps in the 'direction du jour', anticlockwise. Immediately apparent was the strong headwind going up the first rise and down the main descent. Serious effort would be required to break away down the hill. Next, through a series of tight, swoopy corners, and back into the wind for the run up to the fabled 'Hoggenberg'. From some accounts, it almost seemed as if someone had made a serious miscalculation with the plans by putting in a "really nasty" climb on a relatively small circuit. As it turns out, I found it a little anti-climactic. OK, the top bit kicks up a little, but it was not too bad. In fact, I kind of liked it!

Off we go then! The first few laps were fairly uneventful, and I stayed out of trouble while I got used to the course. Soon though it became clear the wind was going to cause a few problems, particularly on the climb out of the top part of the circuit to the long descent (not to mention the 'Berg). Sure enough, pretty soon the field had splintered, and a group of 20 or so out of the original 32 formed at the front. There were a few half-attempts to attack on the 'Berg', but I got the feeling these were just testing the legs (and the field). Anyway, I made sure I was near the front on each ascent, and felt pretty comfortable considering my bruised (and curiously yellow) knee from last weekend's crash on the MTB, and the 2 bottles of Bordeaux my Dad and I had shared the night before! I think a few more people dropped off over the next 20 minutes, leaving a group of about 12-15 riders. We started to lap a few of the slower riders once the '5 laps to go board' came out, and I started to feel reasonably confident of a good placing. I was finding the 'Berg to be no problem and was riding it in the saddle most laps while the guys beside me were huffing and puffing a bit.

At the start of the last lap, somebody tried (there's always one!) to break away on the rise to the long descent and powered down the hill into the wind and got a bit of a gap. I was near the front and had to decide whether to be the sucker to chase him down (and drag the rest of the field up to him) or hold my nerve. I held back though as I needed to have the legs for the last sprint up the 'Berg, and someone else took the plunge. I immediately latched on and we made the catch, although, he didn't get too far to be honest. We all regrouped after the curves, almost forming an echelon against the wind, and again I resisted the instinct to hit the front. Going into the last climb we were three abreast, and I positioned myself at the front on the right to allow myself the tightest line around the right-hander to the finish line. We all watched each other closely. My heart rate monitor had given up the ghost by this point, but I could feel my heart anyway. Suddenly I sensed someone moving up on my right so I hit the gas, all out, with just 50-60m to go. Out of the saddle, my back wheel skipped a few times as I gave it everything I had. I looked back and could only see one other rider within striking distance (see below), and luckily the line appeared quickly (unlike the old Eastway, when it seemed to take an age to arrive up the last drag). Phew! I then saw we were just about to catch another London Phoenix rider (Paul Wixon), so in my excitement I blasted up the next climb to tell him the good news, before peeling off to head back to the clubhouse!

The sprint for the line!
Photo taken by Taka Wu. For more visit
I think I won a couple of novice road races at Eastway in 2005, one of them with a similar tactic, and one on a solo break, but I had forgotten how good it feels. It felt even better because it was on my first visit to such a great new facility, and there were actually a few people watching! And.. (apparently) I have now been upgraded to a Cat 3 Licence. Woo hoo! I think.....?

Monday, 19 January 2009

Gorrick Spring Series Round 1 - mudfest!

My trusty Dekerf Elysium Ti after 3 laps of the Yately Heath course. Another hour later, and normal service was resumed!
Stuart during the race -