Hammer Time – The Hammer Series returns

With four days until the Hammer Series returns, the start list for Hammer Stavanger and Hammer Limburg is taking shape with some big names put forward by the competing teams. 

Racing for Quick-Step Floors in Stavanger and having one of the seasons of his life is former Paris-Roubaix winner and current Tour of Flanders champion Niki Terpstra. With such a strong one-day racing pedigree, the Belgian team will be hoping to add Hammer victory to the successes they have recorded in the opening to their season.

For the following weekend in Limburg, Tom Dumoulin, Team Sunweb, returns, following his defence of the Maglia Rosa at the Giro d’Italia. BMC Racing Team will line up a full-strength squad including Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet and Richie Porte. John Degenkolb will lead Trek-Segafredo.

Roy Hegreberg, Race Director, Hammer Stavanger, said: “The line-up of riders taking part in Hammer Stavanger is fantastic. To have multiple national champions mixing it up with Classics riders in the forms of their lives should make for really exciting racing. I’m confident the riders will enjoy riding on the very best roads Stavanger has to offer and it will make a memorable experience for fans and viewers alike.”

I certainly think so! If you didn’t catch the Hammer Series last time it was awesomely amazing with a nail biting and very close finish which crowns Team Sky champs.

All three races taking place this year will be streamed live on social media, with Facebook, Twitter and DailyMotion all hosting video feeds. This means that unlike other pro-cycling races, fans anywhere in the world will be able to watch the Hammer Series live, on any device and without being charged for access. To watch the action from Hammer Stavanger, the first race in the season, head to https://www.facebook.com/hammerseries/, https://twitter.com/hammerseries and http://www.dailymotion.com/hammerseries

If you’ve never seen the Hammer Series before and want to know how it works.. well, you better get a cup of tea and read the below, if you have and you just want to see some nice photo’s just skip down to the bottom of the page. if all of that is just simply too much, here is a video explaining it all. Believe me, the racing is infinitely better than the video!

Teams are made up of seven riders, but they can field only five riders in each of the three races. While traditional cycling races have individual riders as stage and classification winners, the Hammer Series is all about teams.

The Hammer Climb and Hammer Sprint are points races in which riders will attempt to win points for their team.

Each team’s finishing positions from days one and two are combined to determine their starting place on day three’s Hammer Chase, a team pursuit against the clock.

HAMMER CLIMB

It takes place over multiple laps of a short circuit. On every lap, riders will earn points for their teams depending on their position when they cross the line. The higher the position, the more points. The team with the most points will win the Hammer Climb.

HAMMER SPRINT

Again, it takes place over multiple laps of a short circuit and riders can earn points for their teams by placing as high as possible at the end of each lap. The team with the most points will win the Hammer Sprint.

HAMMER CHASE

This is the decisive race. It is a team pursuit over several laps of a circuit. The participating teams will be ranked by adding together their positions in the first two races, with the lowest total being the top team.

For safety, they will then be split into two groups: the top half will go into Finalist Group, and bottom half will go into Runner-Up Group. Teams in the Finalist Group can challenge for both victory in the Hammer Chase and overall Hammer Series event. Teams in the Runner-Up Group can challenge for the Hammer Chase win, but not overall victory.

Teams in each group will set off at fixed time intervals decided by their ranking.

The team who complete the time trial in the fastest time will be winners of the Hammer Chase.

The team who cross the finish line first in the Finalist Group will be the winner of that Hammer Series event.

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Cafe Du Cyclist comes to London

Exciting news in the world of cycling clothes, premium cycling brand Cafe Du cyclist will be opening a store here in Spitalfields, London. The only other place you’ll find a Cafe du Cyclist shop is in Nice’s Old Porte on the Cote d’Azur. While Spitalfields is a far cry from the beautiful blue seas and high mountain climbs of the Cote d’Azure, Cafe Du Cyclist obviously sees something in the cycling boom of East London.

The wide-ranging collections, for both men and women, combine cutting edge technical fabrics, performance features and modern Gallic flair. Positioned at the forefront of the ‘new wave’ of contemporary cycling brands, Café du Cycliste has enjoyed rapid growth worldwide. The strength of the brand in the UK made London the natural choice for the next stage of their expansion. Before now the brand had only been available via Condor Cycles, Mr Porter, Matchesfashion, Condor Cycles and cafeducycliste.com. so to say it’s exclusive is a slight understatement.

The spirit of the brand comes from the founders shared love of riding, and its aesthetic combines inspiration from both inside and outside the sport. The outdoors lifestyle influences of Co-founder and Creative Director Remi Clermont’s background in world competition level kayaking are also evident in the DNA of the brand.

“My father was really into road cycling, so I grew up in a family watching the Tour de France around 20 years ago when it wasn’t cool – even in France” he explains “I saw an opportunity to create a brand that was serious about technical excellence but also relaxed enough in approach to capture the pleasure of riding for riding’s sake”

Since launching in 2009 Café du Cycliste has established itself as one of a very few specialist cycling brands able to effortlessly combine both high style and serious performance.

As Clermont says “Our clothing is designed as much to be worn 2,500 metres up, in some beautiful remote places where Le Tour has never been, as on the more familiar strips of kempt tarmac.”

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ZWIFT men’s cycling academy

Yes, that’s right. You’ve heard of the women’s cycling academy where ZWIFT pick the best women from their cycling platform and give the best one a place in the Canyon // SRAM pro women’s team.

Screen Grab ZA Launch 2

Well, ZWIFT have teamed up with Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka, as they expand their mission to find the next best in pro-cycling talent. The overall winner stands a chance of racing with the Continental Squad in 2018.

On 1st September, all graduates of the 2017 Team Dimension Data | Zwift Academy will unlock charitable donations to Qhubeka, funded by Zwift. Top performing graduates aged under 22 years will then progress to battle it out for a pro-contract on the Team Dimension Data Continental Squad for 2018.

Phase 1 of the Academy consists of a six week structured training program designed by elite coaches and a roster of group rides and races. From an anticipated pool of over 5,000 successful graduates, ten top U23 riders will be selected to complete an additional two weeks of riding and training. From this group, three top finalists will continue to the Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka November training camp in Cape Town, South Africa, where one will earn the opportunity to race with the Continental Squad in 2018.

Screen Grab ZA Launch

“Zwift has proven itself to not only be a rigorous data and training platform, but also a place where cyclists around the world can come together, engage, and become better riders,” says Doug Ryder, Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka’s Team Principal. “We want to take part in this unique experience to not only identify and discover talent, but also to educate others about our charity partner Qhubeka, an organization that works to bring rural communities across Africa closer to nutritious food, clean water, schools, employment, and health care by providing them with utility bicycles.”

“Zwift has built a track record as a training tool used by top professional talent but we want to go much wider than this” says Eric Min, Zwift’s CEO and co-founder. “With 2017 enrollment in the women’s Canyon//SRAM Racing | Zwift Academy already open, we know with this expansion, we can create the largest online training community in cycling, where every participant of every ability is trained and coached into a stronger cyclist.”

So if you want to be riding for Team Dimension Data in 2018, get yourself on ZWIFT and get yourself riding! Someone has to win, so why couldn’t it be you?

Screen Grab ZA Launch 3

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Zwift academy is a Go! ZWIFT! 

In 2016 ZWIFT led a very successful campaign to find the an emerging star and throwing them in to the pro peloton with a contract with the women’s world tour team, Canyon//SRAM. Guess what? They’re back at it again in 2017 and you can sign up here

DB1X6241For many this is a dream of a life time, the possibility of racing all over the world starting from your very own living room, or spare room, or garage, or just about wherever you could fit a tablet, phone or a laptop and hook it up to your turbo trainer and ZWIFT.

If you’ve not heard of ZWIFT before or familiar with how you can ZWIFT check out my blog here where you can read all about it and also read about the Wahoo KICKR too.

So what’s this all about and how do you win a pro contract? Well, basically, if you’re a woman and think you want to try your hand at being an elite level cyclist on one of the best cycling teams in the women’s pro peloton, you need to sign up to the ZWIFT

academy and get pushing the pedals.

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Winner of the 2016 ZWIFT academy, Leah Thorvilson

At the launch of the event on Monday the 12th of July, Leah Thorvilson, winner of the 2016 GoZwift academy, spoke about how she won and what life was and what life had become. It may surprise you that Leah doesn’t come from a cycling background but a running one. After four surgeries in three years and recurring pains and more injuries, Leah turned to cycling, more specifically ZWIFTing.

What followed was months of reality checks and surprise as she found herself progressing through the rounds and all the way to he final training camp where she won her pro contract. If this shows you anything, if you’re thinking you would never win, a runner who when on her Time Trial bike for the first time didn’t know where the brakes were won and is now about to enter her first National Championships. Still think yo’ve got no chance?

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Proof, I was there.

In 2016 each of the three rounds of competition, a panel of judges narrowed riders down by carefully analyzing data gathered during online rides and workouts. CANYON//SRAM Sports Director Beth Duryea, Professional Pursuit World Champion Mike McCarthy, and TrainSharp Founder Jon Sharples were part of the selection committee who chose twelve semi-finalists before narrowing it down to the final three.

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Discussing plans for next year over a beer.

“Finding talent in cycling is a numbers game, in terms of casting the net wide and drawing performance data back in. That’s what excited us about the Zwift Academy concept. Indoor training provides the accessibility for participants, a safe environment to train and a controlled environment to analyse data, then Zwift adds the social element build a community of riders and spur them on. It doesn’t surprise us that Leah is our winner. We’re looking forward to seeing how she can develop into a bike racer,” commented Jon Sharples, TrainSharp Founder.

“When you see an idea really become something, it’s an amazing feeling,” noted Ronny Lauke, CANYON//SRAM Racing team manager. “We took a chance with the Zwift Academy and we’re very pleased with the potential we saw not only in Leah, but in the other finalists as well. Watching and seeing all these women dedicate themselves to the sport, it makes one wonder how many more are overlooked.”

The 2017 academy is already up and running and you can sign up by clicking here. Who knows you may even end up like 2016 winner Leah.

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You can sign up to the academy here

Read about my ZWIFT experience here

You can view the Wahoo Turbo Trainer range here

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Strava – Join the Club

Hello,

I just wanted to write a quick update to let you know I’ve started a Strava club, you can find the link here if you would care to join in!

I’ve only been uploading my commuting rides on there at the moment – I’d like to be able to link people together from all over and hopefully bump in to fellow commuters along the way who also commute from East London in to the City and Westwards!

As the community hopefully grows then maybe we can start organising weekend rides and further on from there, who knows. The possibilities are as far as the miles in your legs! Endless.

It’s a place for all you bike-curious lot. New, old, seasoned cyclists to mediocre lycra lovers. All are welcome, all are accepted and absolutely no one is judged!

Look forward to you joining the pedal pushing club!

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Wahoo KICKR + ZWIFT Review

What’s the point? Surely cycling is all about the great outdoors, getting out there with other riders, giving them a wave as you go by, grabbing a cheeky toe every now and again all the wind rushing through your hair?

Well, I have to say, I am a bit of an indoor cyclist. I do my fair bit of spinning, my local is at Cyclebeat. They’re based in Monument/Bank and I’ve been a member for almost two years now. I find spinning a great way of maintaining a base level of fitness and helping you build technique as well as a higher average watt pushing power, which is what we’re all after right?

The reason I mention Cyclebeat is because they’re great – their instructors are great and what they do is unlike any spin class I’ve been to. They have a Beat Bored in front of the 50 bikes in the class (Basically two big TV screens), which shows your bike number, cadence, power output and converts that in to a total number, which builds throughout the class. You’re then ranked against your other indoor cycling buddies, “It’s not a competition.” the instructors always say at the start. It is. It always is. If bike number 17 is two points ahead, I’m chasing him down. If bike number 23 is coming up after me, I’m going to turn myself inside and out to keep them at arms length and try and break them before I do.

img_0855So I completely get the point of indoor cycling. What I like about going to spin is that I have to go there, I have to get on the spin bike and after the class I can then leave. So why do I need an indoor bike trainer coupled with what is basically a game? This is the question I asked myself. Now I’m not comparing the two because that would be worlds apart, however, could I replace spin with a Wahoo KICK + a ZWIFT account… hmm… That got my head itchy.

The guys at Wahoo were ever so gracious in sending me over a KICKR to try out, a bit of background on the KICKR, you’ve probably seen Chris Froome and his mates warming up and down on the turbo before they go out and kill it in a time trial? Well Team Sky are all riding on the Wahoo KICKR, the most advance turbo trainer in the Wahoo fleet. Basically with a fly wheel, electromagnets and some wizardry, it controls the resistance you feel and it’s your job to work against that.

I must state now, I only tested the KICKR with ZWIFT – I did not test it with the Wahoo app. So that was a ZWIFT test only.

  • What was the set up like?

    img_0854
    Pram in the background is optional

Pretty easy actually, I pulled the full 28kg’s of turbo trainer out of its box and placed it on the floor, luckily enough the KICKR comes with a handle on it which makes it slightly easier to put it where you want. Unfolding the legs was simple enough and there’s even some adjustable feet on the bottom of the KICKR to make sure it’s as level as possible.

When it’s in position the KICKR puts it weight to good use and hunkers down so that it’s not wobbling all over the place as you ride.

Attaching your bike is as simple as replacing your rear wheel, which you’ll have to remove before you latch on to the KICKR, fret not, it’s 11 speed gear hub is very good and you’ll thank it for 11 gears when you’re pushing up a climb! Without teaching you to suck eggs, before you take your own wheel off it’ll be easiest if your chain is sat on the smallest cog so it just slots back on the smallest cog on the KICKR. The quick release skewer which comes with the KICKR fastens tight and secures the bike firmly in place.

As a side note, I have to admit I felt a bit nervous getting on first time as I wasn’t sure whether the bike would be nice and stable as I got on. In fact, as soon as I was on I was able to take my hands off the bars and felt instantly at ease.

  • Easy to pair with ZWIFT?

    img_0861
    Solid blue light – you’re connected

Well, I have to admit, I was left scratching my head a little bit. I started by downloading the Wahoo Apps and fiddling about with that. I had to do a run down for the KICKR to make sure it was fully calibrated – sprinting up to 33kph and then letting the flywheel run down. Once that was done, I was clocking about on my laptop for ages wondering why, oh why, I couldn’t pair the ‘effing thing to my laptop. After about ten minutes the penny dropped. There’s a little cog in the top right corner of the ZWIFT screen, I had to click on that and choose my laptops internal Bluetooth. Once that was selected the KICKR paired instantly.

So yes, it’s very easy to pair with ZWIFT if you’re not an idiot like me.

  • What’s ZWIFT like though? Should I just ride my bike?

OK I get it, you’re riding you bike indoors, what’s the point? Plus you’re looking at a screen, who is that avatar there? It’s not realistic. The thing is, the ZWIFT avatars never claim to be realistic, they know you know you’re looking at a screen. Even the ‘gameplay’ reflects this, on the loop which I did I took a right turn ended up going down a tube station and cycling along the London Underground and ending up popping out near Box Hill… Now I need to try and figure out which those stations are in real life as I got to Box Hill in minutes!

Look – as long as you get that you’re effectively playing a game to test your fitness, you’ll love it. I did, I thought it was great, genuinely great. I couldn’t wait for my next ride. I didn’t want my ride to end but after eight weeks of being off the bike and no training (I have recently become a father and it becomes really quite tough to keep the training and riding up) I was in a pretty bad way, embarrassingly! I don’t know how Chris Froome manages it…

If you’ve not got the hours to ride your bike, ZWIFT it, you just have to.

  • So what’s the £999 KICKR like, would you buy one?

img_0870It’s amazing, when you hit a hill, you feel it just as you would in real life, the gradient builds on your gear, you feel the resistance in your legs, pulling for a lower gear. Tapping out a tempo. Brilliant.

Wahoo claim in their PR mumbo jumbo that at 61db it’s their quietest KICKR and that all you’ll hear is the pounding of your heart and breathing not the fly wheel… Erm, well… If your heart sounds like a World War II all clear air raid siren then I guess that’s true. The fly wheel does make a noise, a noticeable whirr as it goes around. However, when you’re in the pain locker you’re not hearing it, you’re focusing on your effort.

The only draw, is the noise. If your child is sleeping next door, like mine, I was constantly worried that a big effort would wake him up.

I absolutely loved riding the KICKR, it felt so realistic. It did make me think, I could cancel my spin membership and just buy a KICKR. Get my money back in the long run… However, I did find the idea of training in my living room a little bit uncomfortable, I kept glancing at the sofa thinking, I could just be on that. I lacked that extra little bit of motivation which you get from getting up and going to the gym.

As a fitness tool, I don’t think you could as for much better. The good news? There’s a cheaper option! Only £499 for the Wahoo SNAP. Bargain. Good job they do free shipping if you spend over £55!

You can buy a KICKR from the Wahoo website here

You can view the Wahoo Turbo Trainer range here

Checkout the ZWIFT website here

You can see about Cyclebeat here

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MaxiMuscle ProMax Lean

As cyclists we are run by a world of numbers, speed, cadence, watts, gradient and weight. We want to keep out weight to a minimum and power at a maximum. Reading any current professional or ex-pros book, from Tyler Hamilton to Chris Froome, they’ll all start talking about their power to weight ratio. Achieved in vastly different ways but the thinking is the same, be as light as possible and have enough strength in your legs to pump out as many watts as possible.

So, how do you assist your body in building your muscles without gaining weight? Many look to supplements, protein shakes and powders, and it can seem counterintuitive to guzzle down a shake to build muscle and keep your weight low. These shakes are packed full of calories and for the body builders, right? Well, not strictly true, not all of them, anyway.

The guys at MaxiNutrition have been developing a protein powder, which helps you build lean muscle. High in Protein and low in fats and sugars each 25g serving is after your work out. To help repair those ripped up muscles and build them without pilling on the extra pounds. MaxiMuscle ProMax Lean is newly formulated with 25 g of BioMax True Protein, a blend of whey protein and milk protein (casein) providing both fast and slow acting protein.

promax-lean-bundle
ProMax Lean also comes in a tasty bar for on the go

What on earth is BioMax True Protein? I hear you ask, and trust me I asked the same question too, but to cut through the PR mumbo jumbo, basically food protein concentrations are theoretically calculated based on the total nitrogen content, but this can cause some variances in the derived protein level. MaxiMuscle have gone one step further by validating the protein concentration in ProMax Lean by comparing the weight of the individual amino acids with the calculated factored amount, qualifying this as BioMax True Protein.

And before you start worry that while you’re drinking this you’re going to be another amateur cyclist who gets pinged for a performance enhancing drugs (why on earth are amateurs riding with performance enhancers in their system on a club TT? Blows my mind!) all MaxiNutrition products are screened for banned substances and accredited by the Informed-Sport programme. They also come in different flavours, Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry, Raspberry and everyone’s favourite milkshake flavour, Banana.

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The MaxiMuscle bundle

But don’t worry endurance cyclist – it’s not just about the recovery shakes and muscle-building protein powers at MaxiNutrition. Oh no. They also have a range of products for us endurance athletes too. With gels and electrolyte powders for your water bottle, they have a range of products, which may make you think twice before heading for the SiS equivalent. With standard electrolyte gels and gels with a kick of caffeine to help get you up that final climb. MaxiNutrition have sponsored the Brownlee brothers, who aren’t that bad at riding a bike, are they?

So next time you’re in training for an event or just training in general, why not give your body a little added help with the MaxiNutrition ProMax Lean protein powder. It could be the difference between winning and first loser.

 

You can buy ProMax Lean from the Maxi Muscle website here

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Ribble Sportiva – Women’s Road Bike Review

I think we could all agree, the only thing us British people seem to be good at is cycling. Since the Wiggo inspired revolution of 2012, we’ve seen British Cycling grow and grow. Boris Johnson introduced major cycle lanes in to the heart of London and Saqid Kahn looks to extend the cycle route with the new plans of CS11. Each morning I cycle to work, there seems to be more and more cyclists enjoying the commute in to the office.

Over the last 12 months, British Cycling have been able to draw up the following stats:

  • 2,069,200 adults in England now cycling at least once every week
  • 3,628,400 adults in England now cycling at least monthly
  • Over half a million regular cyclists are women, an increase of 2% in the last 12 months.
  • 385,600 young people now ride bikes frequently
  • Frequent cycling among people with an impairment is now at 184,000

Considering such a boom, certainly in the male market, it would be natural that the female market would follow suit. However, it seems to be that, even though there is a large proportion of female riders and enthusiasts, the help, bikes and tech may not be there for women as it is for men.

My wife – she wouldn’t of even cared for a bike race or event before she met me, in the years I’ve been with her, she has now; been to see three stages of the Tour de France, watch Wiggo go around a track for an hour and attends regular spin classes to keep fit. I know I’ve done a wonderful job. On the sofa the other night though I caught something in her eye, it was a reflection on from the iPad… She was looking at bikes and she admitted it. She wanted to take on the open road, feel the wind through her helmet on the country lanes and experience cycling on the roads. I was made up. Obviously, I started with all the questions to which I got a blank expression, talking about groupsets got me no where and when I mentioned the length of the handlebar stem I got a roll of the eyes as if I was putting in some sort of sorry cycling innuendo.

So it was a bit of a challenge as to which manufacturer to choose. However, the guys over at Ribble stepped up to the plate. They got in touch, as they too are keen to get involved with the cycling boom. One of the biggest online bike dealers in the UK, Ribble specialises in using quality, thoroughly road-tested frames from the far east as the basis of their customer-specced bike packages. They offer exceptional value, with fully built carbon bikes available for under £800. As an entry level bike, they offered up the Ribble Spotiva, an introduction to the Sportive range of Ribble bikes. With a 7005 frame, an aluminium alloy with amazing strength to weight ratio. It’s the same alloy used on the men’s frame, the only difference is this is set up for female geometry. Meaning it has a lower stand over height and a shorter top tube.

The handle bars are slightlu pointing backwars, but that is what my wife finds comfortable

The guys at Ribble were really good, what they didn’t know, you don’t need to know. They chatted my wife through all the selection options and even the length of her pedal arm. Of course when someone else starts talking to you about it, it’s then interesting isn’t it?! I could have sworn I’ve bored her to tears over cycling subjects for years…

Pedal stem chosen and handle bar tape changed to Celeste colour, the bike arrived in super quick time.

After ordering, my wife is a lover of reviews so we both did some digging to see if this outlay really meant this was the bike for her. However, the only review we could find of the bike was in The Good Housekeeping Institute. I find this slightly off, so here we go, here’s my attempt!

The bike arrived in almost one piece, all it needed was the handlebars fitting on, the saddle height adjusted and the pedals screwing on. All of which we did together, not even an issue – we were ready to ride.

While she uses SPD cleats in her spin class and is used to them, using them out on the road is another thing! They’re really good pedals to get used to a new bike and also riding on the road in cleats in. I picked them up on Wiggle for £28.99. With a couple of up charges – Tiagra Groupset, R501 wheels, Continental Ultra Sport tyres, a white handlebar steam and the all important Celeste handlebar tape – the total cost of the bike: £678.89

Even a bike which was ordered online and got delivered in a box to me, the gears didn’t need and fiddling with, changing down and through them wasn’t an issue, each gear changed was met with a satisfying ‘thunk’ in to gear.


First off, the transition from spin class to road brings in different factors; road surface, wind, weather conditions and other road users. The perfect place for us to start the full test and transition was down at the Olympic Velodrome where they have an outdoor mile long circuit, for cyclists only. For £6 you can cycle around pretty much all day, there’s toilet and water facilities on a circuit which has everything but a mega long climb (it is only a mile after all) but it does have a couple of short upward kicks.

Back to the bike – well, in short, it performs fantastically. Not only does it have fantastic weight for it’s price but upgraded the Groupset from the 105 to Tiagra gives miles better performance for only £39.99 on Ribble, it’s well worth it.


For a first time rider who is wanting to tackle road cycling head on I think its a great introductory bike. The balance of the bike is something which is very noticeable, it really gives you the confidence to ride the bike.

Gone are the days of a women’s bike just having a Top Tube which is easier to step over, Ribble have changed the geometry slightly so rather than just shifting the saddle forwards and fitting a much shorter stem, all of which could make for a twitchy, uncomfortable ride. Ribble have made the overall reach so that handling is not compromised. This is super noticeable because on the mile long circuit there are some tight twisty bits which the Sportiva glides through, with ease. Theres no mid corner twitch or worry, you can really get in to the corner at speed with confidence. To this improved handling setup the addition of a carbon front fork and you have a smoother ride that (slightly) reduces bumps and stones which may make you worry on the corners.

On this short and punchy circuit the bike performed admirably, it seemed to eat up the sprint, feeling stiff and ridged and that every pedal stoke had a purpose, to put as much power through the chain as possible. Flat out sprints were strong and sharp rising out the saddle to hammer down the power isn’t an issue and neither is negating a small bump in the road, up and out the saddle the pedals feel light enough underneath you to tap through your cadence with confidence of tackling the climb.

To a slightly longer ride – as the frame shares its build with the mens 7005 Sportive, you get the same sort of no messing from this frame. It’s great for a Sportive or leisure ride. Longer days in the saddle are comfortable and I’m pleased to say that uphill climbs are almost a joy. Almost. Having the bladed forked Shimano R501 wheels also helped here, while they’re not super light and the raciest of wheels, they are solid and they bring the weight down a bit. They’re durable and replacement spoke are easy enough to come by, they’re a welcome addition.

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To sum up, its a great first time bike, it brings together many elements; looks, durability, set up and low weight. it’s perfect for an entry level bike which will help you to decide whether you want to start taking things a little more seriously in a year or so. Easily enough to add stuff on to like better wheels, pedals or even electronic gears, we couldn’t be happier with it. Well done Ribble!

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Spotive Panic Buys!

With the “worlds greatest sportive” (not my words, the words of Prudential RideLondon) coming up, I thought it was a good time to have a look at what you might be thinking of for that all important ride. It doesn’t have to be the RideLondon 100 miler, it could be any cycling sportive you’ve got planned to train, push your fitness goals or even, push yourself for something you’ve never done before.

Clothing

With it being good old British summer time, it’s probably best to start with something… Weatherproof. I don’t think you’ll go far wrong than with a good gilet. These things are great if you’ve an early start time on a chilly winter morning with a day that will heat up or even a muggy day with rain showers. The chaps over at Huez* sent me their flagship gilet. The Starman Windproof Gilet. Fancy sounding, isn’t it?

Huez* 2
The fancy of this gilet though goes beyond the name. It packs down neatly it to its own carry bag, in my opinion it could probably pack down even smaller than its bag.

It’s windproof and even more than showerproof and will give you a brilliant extra layer in the changeable weather. But wait, what’s this, the gilet has an extra trick up its sleeve – if it were to have sleeves that is. It’s pretty nifty, you can whip this gilet off in seconds by simply hooking your fingers in to the tabs either side of the zip and tugging outwards. The zip simply peels away and you’ll be the first in the peloton to have you gilet off. Providing you can take both hands off of the handle bars that is. The slightly annoying thing about this is though, you have to have the zip done all the way up for it to work effectively. So, you could just unzip…

Huez*.png
It’s great, it really is but coming in at £115 it’s certainly got a big price tag. But you can be safe in the knowledge you’ll get plenty of wear out of it. While the fabric feels flimsy, it’s pretty darn durable and something you’ll get plenty of use out of.

Fuel

Now, you have your clothing sorted, let us talk nutrition. One of the biggest things people forget to do is feed effectively and feed well when riding a big sportive. Do not underestimate it. Personally, I would rather come home with pockets full of food than halfway round cramping up wishing I had another energy bar or gel!

The power of Science in Sport (SiS) and their rapid growth has been extra-ordinary, now supplying Team Sky they always have discounts and their stuff is super tasty and well known across the sporting world.

SiS 1

Maybe it’s just my body and how it breaks down the substances but the SiS stuff is fantastic, plus when you sign up to SiS they’re giving away gels. Their stuff is far superior to any out there, with SiS also supplying Team Sky this year and I think we could all agree their performance and recovery powers at the Tour de France this year was nothing short of outstanding.

SiS 2

SiS actually sent me over some figures; the nine-man Team Sky team consumed over 3,000 SiS products during the 23-day challenge. In a breakdown that is:

  • 570 GO Energy bars
  • 580 GO Isotonic gels
  • 180 GO Electrolyte gels
  • 240 Go Energy+Caffeine gels
  • 940 GO Electrolyte servings
  • 180 REGO Rapid Recovery servings
  • 210 Overnight protein servings
  • 300 GO Hydro servings

You may think that that’s all they eat on the bike, somehow during the stages they also have time for rice cakes and whatever else their chef cooks up for them!

If it’s good enough for Team Sky over 2,197 miles, it’s good enough for me over 100!

SiS 3

Ready to race? 

Hey there, hot shot. Are you race ready? Well, here is my little secret… Secret Training. I’m not on about sneaking an extra ten miles on the bike before you meet your club mates for a ride. I’m talking STRIP, or, Secret Training Race Informed Products.

STRIP 1

This little pack might set you back £50 (special introductory offer) but my god is it worth it. It contains:

  • Hand sanitiser
  • Start oil
  • Anti chaffing cream (chamois cream)
  • Hygiene wipes
  • Lip balm
  • Post race wash
  • Sun screen
  • Micro fibre cloths
  • A tin of pins

Let’s pick up on a few of those things, start oil, what’s that? Well it’s a muscle rub to put on pre ride. Word to the wise, apply after the chamois cream, it is similar to deep heat. You do not want to get that where your chamois cream goes! It also puts a protective layer between your skin and the elements, so you can keep going come rain or shine.

The sunscreen is SPF30, the size is perfect though, slip in your back pocket / saddle bag and help keep those tan lines sharp and cultivated (rule 6 of cycling).

The post race wash, many of you won’t need this as it’s for when there are no showers around. More for the racers and races this one but it is good stuff! Same with the micro fibre clothes, for personal use after a race.

STRIP 2

While the pack is too big to carry on the bike during a sportive, the essentials are perfect size and great for the ride. They all fit in the travel case perfectly and neatly. Great to give to a family member to meet you at the finish. It really is great; I am really impressed by this pack of secrets and can’t recommend it enough. It smells good and the chamois cream is a good performer for long days in the saddle.

Go get ’em

The biggest thing to remember on your sportive is to have fun. Don’t go under prepared and it’s not a race. The only person you are racing is yourself, challenge yourself but don’t ruin yourself.

It’ll be tough, you’ll probably ask yourself why you’re doing it, you’ll probably question why you’re even doing it and then before you know it, it’ll be over. You will be elated, proud and be able to say you did it.

Now, go get ’em.

 

You can buy the Starman Windproof Gilet here

You can buy the SiS Team Sky Bundle here

You can buy the STRIP Race Day Personal Car Kit here

You can follow me on Twitter

And read my other blog posts

Soul in your Sole – product review

How are your feet? Are they comfortable, right now? Have you got shoes on or are they feeling the breeze fully sockless?

Don’t worry – this isn’t some sort of weird fetish, I recently got sent an e-mail asking if my shoes fitted me correctly, I thought, “Well, they’re on my feet and don’t fall off when I walk around, so yeah, I guess they do…” However, I took this e-mail as ever with a little bit more cynicism than most, what they were really saying were what sort of profile is your foot? Are you flat footed, have a medium arch or high? And are your shoes fitting your feet as they should?

It’s not the first time I’ve come across this, we’ve all heard the phrase, being flat footed – it’s where your foot is effectively that. More of your foot is on the floor when it’s planted. A high arch means that very little is touching the floor, mainly the balls of your feet and the outside edge of your foot, the inside edge barely touching the floor at all and a medium arch… somewhere in between.

Now I know from past experience I’m like Brian Blessed, a flat footed b*stard. But, how can this affect your cycling?

Well, if your foot isn’t sitting right in your shoe, you’re more than likely causing yourself some extra muscle pain during exercise, your foot could be slipping around in your shoe, moving your joints and muscles all over the place.

I do use a innersole in my shoe currently, made by Curex, these were a purchase I made with my own hard earned cash. The ones I got an e-mail about to try out though, they’re made by Sole and they’re called the Sole Thin Sport Custom Footbeds.

The difference is simple, CurexSole are pretty much pre made, claiming if your flat footed you need the low arch innersole, have a medium arch? You need the medium inner sole and you guessed it, if you’ve a high arch, you need their high innersole. With Sole you have the task of moulding your innersole a to your feet. So, do I prefer the upgrade? Well…

  • First off, what’s the point?

Since you asked… When you’re pedalling away, during your downward stroke the power from you leg muscles goes through your main point of contact with the pedals, your feet. The more power you exert the more pressure through your foot, this brings about pronation (your ankles leaning inwards) in your foot, which isn’t great, too much and it twists the bottom half of your leg causing knee pain, ankle pain, more muscle ache and just complete uncomfort.

Innersoles help to reduce the pronation and their job is to try and stop it all together meaning more power through your stroke and less muscle and joint aches and pains.

  • Do I need an innersole?

I’ve used one for a good couple of years now, I wouldn’t ride without them. My foot feels more comfortable in the shoe and it helps with aches and pains.

My battered old shoes with my old innersoles inside

Also – let me put it to you this way, Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Team Sky – they didn’t get to where they were without looking at every single area, making ‘marginal gains’ which then added up to one whole massive major gain and three Tour de France victories.
I’m not saying innersoles are going to transform you in to a grand tour winner, but they could possibly be your secret weapon! Helping you to cycle more comfortably for longer periods time time.

If you’re buying a new pair of cycling shoes, maybe an innersole should be something you consider. Ask the man in the shop.

The Sole Thin Sport Custom Footbeds will set you back a further £38

  • So I just put them in my shoe?

These Sole Thin Sport Custom Footbeds don’t just slide in to your shoe, they take a bit of work.

 

They do fit in much better than this photo shows, honest

First off, put your oven on and allow it to heat up. Yup, these things are going in to the oven!

To mould them to your feet properly, they have to be heated up, the only way to do this is in the oven, the microwave is not recommended.

While the oven is heating up take out the soul, sorry sole, of your current shoe. Yes, it more than likely will remove without any fuss or glue marks. Match the Sole to your, erm, sole and make sure it’s the correct size and fit. If it’s too big, just trim around the top with a pair of scissors.

Is your oven good and hot? Then you should put the Sole in the oven.

When I did this, there’s a little temperature marker on the sole which tells you when it’s at the correct temperature to mould the sole. The marker indicated they were ready pretty much straight away. I left them in a few seconds longer to be sure but I was worried that they would melt in to a gloopy mess on the bottom of my oven and that the inner soles and my oven would be ruined, forever.

There’s still more to do… I know that a nice expensive pair of carbon fibre shoes are moulded in a similar way. So if I were worried about these Footbeds ruining my oven, imagine what I’d be like with a load of carbon fibre in there!

Quickly take the Sole’s out the oven put them straight in your shoe and then put your feet in to your shoes do them up and stand up straight and still for a good couple of minutes.

This then sets the Sole’s to your feet and gives you the correct fitting for your foot type.

 

I moulded mine barefoot

Finally the process is complete. Relax. Providing you’ve not singed your Sole’s or ruined the oven or scolded your toes.

  • After all that, do they work?!

Well, I did notice them in my shoe, yes. I felt my feet were in a different position, not necessarily a more comfortable position mind. I did think this is probably just because the new position was likely the position my feet should be in.

During my ride, I can’t say my legs felt more or less comfortable – but my feet! My feet were in pain. I felt like they were being pinched and pushed inwards, they hurt.

I was able to finish my ride and it was a similar similar maybe slightly better ride than usual but nothing significant, maybe just marginal.

My mind isn’t made up here, I mean, my feet hurt a fair bit. Maybe that was down to me moulding them? I possibly could have left them in the oven for a bit longer just to be sure that they were soft enough to mould but they certainly seemed soft enough when I tried them.

  • Am I going to buy a pair?

I’m not going to trade my CurexSole in for them, no.

I’ll be sticking with the innersole on the left, I’m afraid. 


I don’t think they performed very well, all that effort to make sure I’d mould we them correctly and my feet still hurt up to four days later after feeling like they’d been crushed from the sides. Maybe that’s something you get used to but it’s not something I want to put my feet through. I want to be able to perform as best I can as comfortably as I can, not feel like I have to get off my bike just to give my feet a rest.

Sorry, but for me, I’m not going to be buying a pair of Sole This Sport Custom Footbeds.

  • The links

If you’d like to buy them for yourself, you can do, here

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