Eddy Merckx, a name which everyone in cycling knows, the hard Belgian who won Grand Tours for fun and made everyone else look like amateurs.
On top of his ability on the bike after his retirement Mr. Merckx carried on his good name by creating beautiful steel frames that were provided to teams in the peloton. These classic steel frames can be worth a fortune today, if in good condition and of the right era.
Imagine my disbelieve when I go to take the rubbish out of my East London flat and there, in front of me is an Eddy Merckx bike. Sitting there a little bit worse for wear desperate for some TLC. No quicker was the rubbish thrown out, the bike was back up on my balcony looking a bit happier to be in the sunshine. I couldn’t believe my luck. A Merckx frame and it’s just begging to be restored. Lucky me.
I quickly set about the research of the Merckx frame desperate to know what year, model, how the bike should look and how to restore it. However a few things didn’t quite add up. I couldn’t quite figure it out…
Frame numbers are on the bottom brackets of a Merckx bike, I found a really useful website that would allow me to see which classic Merckx I had. Wonderful. However, the frame number on this Merckx didn’t match. ‘What’s going on here?’ I thought, is this some sort of super rare Merckx?
A bit of history for you – in the 1970’s Eddy wanted to cash in on his name, he wanted to produce more bikes than his factory could. To facilitate this along came British bike manufacturer, Falcon. In February 1973 they released a series of frames which were ‘approved’ by Eddy Merckx, each bike sold a lump of money would go to Eddy for allowing the bike to carry his name and Falcon would get the rest, good for the goose and the gander. What was the case though is that a lot of these frames were cheap, build them quickly and cheaply, sell them for as much mark up as possible to cash in on the Merckx name. The steel was of a lower quality, it was heavy and the only thing that made this bike a Merckx, not a Falcon, was the decals which were stuck on the bike.
What I had sat on my balcony was a Falcon. A sheep in wolfs skin. A Falcon in Eagle feathers. I had been duped.
Enthusiasm knocked and feeling slightly subdued I wondered what to do. I could just take the bike back down to the bin store, no harm done, leave it there for the next person to be passionate about it. Then I realised – this is still a bike, an awesome commuting bike. A bike I could still do up and be proud of. It actually has its own little interesting story. People still buy knock off Piccasso’s thinking they’re the real thing, right?
So – over the next few weeks / months I’m going to be turning this slightly rusted, Merckx approved frame in to something I can be proud of and you dear reader can follow the story here. Right from getting the parts to its first finished ride!
I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments and ideas as the restoration progresses and of the whole idea! So tweet me, comment on Instagram, comment, like and share on Facebook and also below.
The chaps at Smith sent us pedal pushers over one of their ‘The Route’ helmets. When they did, they asked me which colour I would like, their charcoal black or bright orange. Using this for the commute I chose bright orange and I’m glad I did. I’m convinced the colour got me noticed on the road and stopped me from being hit by a car turning right and not looking. I’m not saying that is the reason you should buy this helmet, what I am saying is think what purpose you’re buying your helmet for. Be it weekend Road riding, track racing or on the commute, colour and type should always play a part.
“The Route helmet represents a movement within Smith to bring the award winning technologies found in our popular Overtake helmet to the everyday rider.” Said Graham Sours, Smith Helmet Category Manager. “We ride on the road and commute by bike and these new models exemplify all of us as cyclists in our own unique way”. So let’s see what Graham is talking about shall we?
Who are Smith?
In 1965, Dr. Bob Smith, orthodontist and original ski bum, developed the first sealed thermal lens and breathable vent foam goggles so he could get a few more powder runs on days when everyone else had to go indoors. For over 50 years, SMITH has pioneered advanced products to fuel fun beyond walls, creating innovations that amplify awesome, and crafting gear where every detail makes a difference.
This Smith helmet comes with MIPS technology, this is basically a plastic layer between your head and the inside of the helmet.
This layer helps to reduce the tension which the helmet can put on your head. When you tighten your helmet it’s not just the inner band on the helmet that tightens but the whole of this layer meaning the pressure is spread all around your head and not just at the band contact points.
All added up this makes the helmet extremely comfortable for a longer ride and you don’t have that classic head strap mark across your forehead when you take it off, that’s a plus!
The MIPS® lining also reduces rotational forces that the brain is exposed to during oblique impacts to the head. When combined with MIPS®, the helmet liner is separated from the head by a low-friction slip plan that allows the head to slide during impact and may reduce instances of traumatic brain injuries.
There certainly are 18 large air vents on this helmet and the all important vents at the back to allow the air to flow over your head keeping it cool. It also includes anti-microbial X-Static performance liners with Reactive Cooling, ultra light single layer webbing, and a VaporFit™ adjustable system for increased comfort and it works!
I have to say, the times I wore this helmet I always felt nice and cool and arrived where I needed to be a little less red faced.
Another area where The Route scores well.
Would I buy one?
Yeah, I would. I think the design is good, it cools well and is very comfy to wear.
It’s much more of a commute helmet over one for a weekend road warrior, as it’s not as sleek for some. However it’s durability, comfort and the bright orange is great for the commuter in the hot summer months!
The Route is available in many colour choices, for £129.99 with MIPS technology and £109.99 without. My advice, spend the extra £20, it could save your life.
Well done Smith.
You can view The Route helmet and find dealers here
When the guys from Gtech got in touch with us here at Pusher of Pedals, asking if we were interested in riding their brand new Gtech eScent, the answer was a resounding yes. If you’ve not seen our review on their hugely impressive road bike, you can see it here, but for now – the eScent.
First off let me tell you, I’m no mountain biker and this review is purely about the ride to and from work which I’ve been doing on the eScent, you can find one of my rides on the eScent by clicking this link here. In general, on the road, I found it comfortable, easy to ride and with the battery in it’s “Max” setting an absolute breeze.
The Gtech eScent is said to be a bike for seasoned mountain bikers or beginners to the sport whether your on the trail or using it, as I did, to commute. with a 36v high torque motor governed by a built in computer, the bike knows when you’re lacking on power and gives you that extra little boost to help you either up a climb or down the road. It has Shimano gears, big old RockShox on the front, hydraulic disk brakes and huge 27.5″ tyres add to that a 36v Lithium battery for 30 miles of cycling and you’re well on your way.
So let’s take a little closer look at what the Gtech eScent is actually like on the 9 miles from Notting Hill Gate to my flat in Bow.
They’re mixed, as a road biker, the bike looks huge, feels slightly awkward and just doesn’t feel right. However, that’s a road rider, not a bike rider. It’s impressive to look at. Just look at those huge 27.5″ tyres which are 2.5″ wide for added grip off road, the monster Rockshox and the disc brakes. I’m not a huge fan of disc brakes in the pro peloton (I won’t get in to it) but on the road commuting they can be a life saver, out on the trails equally so.
Gtech seem to have looked at what makes bikes good and applied that to the eScent.
What’s it like to ride?
One of the good things about this bike is that Gtech send it to you pretty much ready to ride. You take it out the box, twist the handle bars in to the correct position, tighten them up, adjust the saddle and away you go. This pretty much allows you to show your bike off instantly and when people ask the inevitable “can I have a go?” The quick release on the saddle means you can give them a quick yes and send them on their way.
But on to ride comfort…
Comfy, as you’d expect from a bike which has front suspension along with seated suspension. The big chunky tyres also add a good bit of bounce meaning that on the road you’ll have one of the smoothest commutes, ever.
The bike feels well balanced too, handling feels light and easy and considering the bikes length and size, it’s sharp when it comes to steering. The extra little shove from the electrical motor makes taking your hands off of the bars easy and gives you a little bit more confidence.
Hydraulic disc brakes…
These are powerful brakes, very, very good. Being hydraulic they feel very smooth, the added bite from the disc means you can stop on a six pence from the bikes cruising electronic speed.
On the trails it means you can easily snap the back end round with one of the best skids you’ve done since you were 7 years old. It’s so much fun.
On one of my commutes home I had endless joy coming across horse guards parade, letting the electronic motor taking me up to full speed before snapping the back end round and seeing the dust cloud I created. I don’t think the guards were too pleased though…
This electronic motor?
It’s the same motor which is in the original Gtech bike, why redesign the wheel? It’s high power and torque is great for assisting you up the climbs. Let’s not get this confused. This is not a bike you turn the motor on and just go, the motor on this bike is for assistance. To make it work you must pedal! Granted, you don’t have to put much power through the pedal, in fact the less power you put in, the more assistance you’ll get from the motor.
It works by a very clever little computer chip reading the effort you put in and adjusting the motors power accorodingly. All you need to know is it works and it works very well.
Gears? On an electric bike?
Yeah! Shimano gears at that! Only on the rear though, being a mountain bike, there’s only one gear on the crank and it’s relatively small.
When on the flat road, you find yourself wanting a few extra teeth to enable you to get a bit more speed.
On the rear though the derailleur makes sure that you snap in to gear quickly and with minimal effort.
The cables are also internal, mostly, so that they don’t get covered in mud when your out on the trail. Smart thinking. I say mostly because they have to pop out somewhere and they do so, near the bottom bracket. Most Road internal gears come out on the rear fork, I understand these coming out where they do though. This is where the motors cables comes out leaving holes in your frame to a minimum and not reducing its strength.
How long do you get on that battery?
Of course, that depends on how you use it. You can ride the bike like a normal, everyday bike with the battery turned off. This just means you get not assistance from the motor. But the bike is heavy, it’s 19kg. Which ever way you cut it, that’s heavy. So maybe on the downhills you’ll have the battery off but on the uphills, you’ll probably want to turn it on!
If you’ve opted to turn your battery on, there are two modes to choose from, ‘Eco’and ‘Max’. Gtech claim you can get 30 miles out of one charge. I’d be inclined to believe them if you left it in its ‘Eco’ mode. The ‘Max’mode though will drain your battery quicker.
The battery has been redesigned from the old one. It now has a much, much more user friendly LCD screen, displaying what mode the battery is in and how much charge is left. It still has a big green on button but the charging has been changed. Instead of plugging a cable in to charge the battery the battery now has its own housing unit which it stands in charging away.
I have to say, the battery is so much more easy to use, there’s no more trying to shield the lights from the sun to see what mode your in. The bright LCD display has vastly improved userbility.
Would you buy one?
The question I would ask is, what ami buying one for? The trails or commuting?
Commuting on it I always felt a bit embarrassed, it’s like driving a Land Rover Defender through central London each day. You’ve got this amazing machine fully capable of all this off road capability and I’m cycling down the CS2 fully tarmaced and smooth… a little bit pointless really.
Looking at the £1,895 price tag, this may discourage me further form the point of buying on for the commute. There is, however, no denying that this is a wonderful machine and people do buy Land Rovers and drive them in the city… I’d be very tempted.
At this years Tour de France Team Sky have taken their head protection up a notch with the help of their Italian helmet supplier KASK. They will be using KASK’s new VALEGRO helmet which will be launching later in the year.
Chris Froome and the boys will be looking to make it a third in a row and a very, very impressive fourth Tour de France victory for the Kenyan born Englishman. While doing so in the high mountain top finishes and on other key stages of the Tour, they will don KASK’s Valegro, which, like KASK’s other road helmets has been designed in combination with Team Sky. It brings cutting edge ventilation system, its super lightweight compact design, its superb fit and rider comfort.
With 36 air intakes, resulting in a head-to-pad contact area up to 70% less than some conventional helmet designs, VALEGRO’s temperature management performance is one of the best in the peloton – keeping Team Sky’s riders cool on the hottest of climbs and longest of stages on the Tour.
KASK have taken what they have learnt from the development of their Infinity aero road helmet and the time-trial Bambino Pro, add to that the feedback from the Team Sky riders on their performance and how they behave – all of this has been applied to the development of the VALEGRO. The profile of the VALEGRO’s polycarbonate shell has been tested, re-tested and then refined by the KASK engineers in a wind tunnel to get the best possible cooling performance.
By having 36 air intakes, the eight of the helmet has also been dramatically reduced, down to a measly 180 grams, it’s not only the ventilation which has allowed this though, new advanced materials and a brand new moulding technology has enabled KASK to be able to produce this helmet. Weight being high on the list for top level athletes. They don’t want to be carrying a bag of sugar on their head up the alp climbs!
VALEGRO’s new breathable and quickdry padding, including a 5mm layer of fast-wicking material that takes moisture away from the rider’s head and moves it to the helmet’s outer shell, contribute to a helmet that’s comfortable to wear, all day, and especially on those long, tough, hot climbs through the Alps and Pyrenees. Along with unique features such as new frontand rear sunglasses garages, VALEGRO takes rider comfort to another level, leaving little distractions from the race itself. Like all KASK helmets, the VALEGRO is designed, manufactured and tested to the highest safety criteria, so top level racers can concentrate in the job in hand – hopefully winning Chris Froome another Tour de France title.
The KASK – Team Sky partnership is one which has been going since 2010, an amazing achievement from a company which has only been going it’s self from 2004. LEt’s not forget that Team Sky have won four out of the last five Tour de France titles. Meaning this helmet has come through a thorough bred of victory and race expertise.
The VALEGRO will be available to buy from December 2017, nice and cooling for your winter riding…
You may be aware of the lighting brand Blaze, they have been ‘blazing’ a trail now for a couple of years in the world of bike lights. They’ve got a bit of a range, the rear burner, the front burner and the one I’ll be reviewing in this write up, the Lazerlight.
Keeping safe on the roads morning and evening, on your commute is very important. The Blaze team are different in what they do to help improve bike safety with this Laserlight.
If you’re a London liver, like me, you may have noticed them on the Boris Bikes (or to give them their unofficial name, Santander Cycles) lately. In short, it is a light for the front of your bike which also projects, via laser, a green bicycle on the floor up to six meters in front of you as you ride. What’s the point of it and is it any good? Well for £125 you would ruddy well hope so, if I’m spending that much I want it to last forever and for it to shoot frickin’ laser beams out of it… Let’s see if it can do both of those things! Here’s what I found.
First impressions were good, the Blaze comes packed in a nice looking high end box and as you open it, you’re presented with just the light. It’s got some weight to it but it feels smooth and high end, which you’d expect for the whopping £125. As you get it out the box the first thing you want to do is start firing the laser, which you can’t do until the light is attached to its bike mount, you can however turn the light on. It comes with enough charge to at least test the light with, I didn’t ride it straight out the box but you might be able to get away with it if your ride is short. I would not advise this though, if you’re going to ride with your bike light in the dark, please make sure your light is fully charged, that’s just common sense.
Charing is easy, it’s a USB charger so will plug in to your computer/laptop or even a USB plug charger like that of your phone. The charger attaches via magnet to the top of the Laserlight. The Laserlight its self tells you how charged it is by LED lights, which change colour and flash or stay solid to let you know how charged the Laserlight is. Charing is as simple as charging your phone.
Attaching it to your bike is easy too, the only thing you should know is you need the supplied Allen Key to fully tighten the light mount to your bike. The light then just slots in to the mount, attaching and detaching easy. So, I guess, unless you’re constantly changing bikes, fully tightening the mount to the bike with an Allen Key should only be a one-time thing. If the light goes on the mount easy enough, which it does, it’s not that much of an issue for me. If you are going to be constantly swapping bikes and lights, keep a hold of that key!
Turning the light on confused me a bit, being a bloke I obviously tried to do things without reading the instructions. I didn’t realise there was a lock feature on the light which is turned on/off by holding down both the light and laser button at the same time. The advantage being that the light wont switch on and run down it’s battery life if you’ve dumped it in your backpack/bag – I’ll come back to battery life later it’s a claimed 13 hours… There is a couple of different settings for the LED light, 100 lumens, 300 lumens and flashing. For the laser – on, off or flashing. They’re super easy to toggle through just by pressing the respective buttons. You can have whichever combination of the lights going at any one time.
However, this leads me back to the battery life… If you have it on full 300 lumens and bike laser staying on constantly, expect it to run flat in 40 minutes. not 13 hours. Blaze claim on their website that you can get 4 hours at 95% depletion but this is a get me home measure. It seems a bit of a cop out to me, no one takes four whole hours to cycle home, I’d hate to forever be charging my Laserlight each time I get to the office and home from work, as fun as the magnetic charger is. Which brings me back to the price, if I’m paying £125 on a front light only, I want it to work all day long. Not some dim 100 lumens which I worry will get me seen as I’m on my 20-minute commute home.
So, with the battery life and cost in mind, is this light just a gimmick? Well, Blaze have released some numbers on the light apparently tests by TRL (Transport Research Laboratory) when a Blaze Laserlight is fitted and the laser is turned on, visibility to a bus driver went up from 72% to 96% compared to an LED light alone. That’s very impressive. Very, very impressive. And TFL (Transport for London) wouldn’t have put 12,000 on them on their Santander Cycles if they didn’t believe in the light.
The safety is there for all to see, six meters in front of you. It’s cool and when I was cycling around with it on, it’s not only bus drivers who notice you, pedestrians, car drivers, scooters and other cyclists all knew you were coming. It did make me feel a lot safer on the road and can you really put a price on your own safety? If you’re Blaze yes you can, it’s £125.
You can buy a Blaze Lazerlight and check out their range here
So if you’ve not been, or you don’t know, the design museum in London has a fantastic exhibit on at the minute. It’s devoted to bikes. What could be better than that?
Impressive line of bikes to greet you.
From the original diamond frame bike which broke the mould, to Chris Boardmans 1992 Barcelona bike, which, erm… Broke the mould.
It really is fantastic to see such a wide collection of bikes there. Not just road bikes either, no. Someone has hung some ugly, chunky mountain bikes up there too… Why, I don’t know. I skipped past them quite quickly…
‘What’s so ground breaking about these bikes then?’ I hear the already underwhelmed ask. Well, underwhelmed pushy peddler – the 1992 Boardman Lotus bike changed track pursuit riding forever. Working with complete cycling novice and self confessed know it all, Boardman developed not only a bike but a new riding style, the superman, which would give him 6-9 seconds over a pursuit distance. Those sort of figures couldn’t be ignored, changing not only his style but the way bikes were made and rode over this distance. Impressive.
The Broadman Lotus, from 1992.
Moving ever so slightly to your right another icon defining bike is sat proudly on the wall, complete with the riders helmet. Arguably the best British rider we have ever seen. Yes, Sir Bradley Wiggins’ hour record bike. I mean the man needs no introduction, his style, his bike riding, his personality and ego all speak for him. And there’s his bike. I couldn’t write this post without mentioning it. There was just something about it that almost made you bow your head and apologise for gorping at it. Christ, don’t mention it while you’re in there and most certainly ask permission before you take a photo, just to be respectful to Sir Brad of course.
You can almost see Wiggo’s grimace in his helmet and the superman position still strong even after 23 years!
Wonder with me down the line and we come across something which every kid of the time had to have and something which is still so retro cool today. The Raleigh Chopper. I mean how cool was this little thing? Gears on the top bar, sit back seat, the handlebars, it even had a speedometer on it. Come on, who doesn’t want that today?!
Still a very, very cool bike. The Raleigh Chopper.
I’m going to skip a few bikes now, not because they’re dull and boring (well, some of them were mountain bikes) but because you need to go yourself! On to The Splinter Bike, come on, keep up.
This bike is well worth a mention. Made completely out of wood, no nuts or glue, it was built for a £1 bet and even broke a land speed record. Imagine, how can a bike made from wood do that? Well, look at the size of that gear! No doubt there’s more trickery to it too…
Look at the size of that gear! Probably part of a three cog fixed gear system to get the speed.
So. Before you read all this and say, ‘Well there’s no point going now, you’ve shown it all.’ Don’t be so bitter! Of course you should go, it’s fantastic!
I thought to end on my favourite bike there. While I’ve dreamt of riding Wiggo’s hour bike, Meckx’s bike and many others which hang there, they’re not my all time favourite. It’s actually this one:
A trades and bike. Originally built on Coventry. Why this one? Well, look at how cool it is! Plus, you don’t need a van, car or other mode of transport. This was it, back in the day if you wanted to get your goods from one place to the next you put it in the basket at the front and you delivered. Even after that you could still ride home and enjoy it. I love that.