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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My Cycle To Work Scheme – Rapha Jeans

When cycling to work, I like to choose practicality and functionality over style and no substance. When the guys at Rapha sent over their jeans, I was excited. A pair of stylish jeans cut for the commute, what could be better than arriving in style?

The problem with riding in every day jeans is that they don’t breath overly well, they’re not suitable if it rains and they’re generally uncomfortable on the bike. Not ideal for the commute but nice for the office… the jeans which Rapha sent over are designed to be good for both, so here’s what I found out.

  • Comfortable?

H1-16-DJO01XX-Premium-Demin-Original-Navy--angleKinda, yeah. Almost cyclists will share this issue I have, my thighs are generally too big for the jeans which match my waist, meaning I have to make a compromise somewhere, generally going a size or two up.

I had high hopes that these Rapha jeans would take that in to consideration and cut the thigh slightly wider. I’m not saying I have hill crushing thighs or sprinters legs but I did feel that these jeans were just a little too tight on the leg when I got them off and on. This also made them feel a little hotter once I got pushing the pedals too.

However, on the saddle, they felt much better than it does in normal jeans. No rubbing or chaffing and a little bit more breathable.

  • Weather proof?

H1-16-DJO01XX-Premium-Demin-Original-Navy-back1These jeans are a little bit smart, they let your legs breath out and do a fairly good job at resisting the wind blowing through them and freezing your thighs.

Added to that they’re slightly water resistant, able to keep the spray and light drizzle from soaking in to the denim. Instead the beads of water are visible on to of the denim which you can brush off.

As you can imagine, this is a huge plus especially on the damp days where you can be left at your destination soggy and uncomfortable in the wrong choice of jeans.

  • Rapha… they cost a fortune.

H1-16-DJO01XX-Premium-Demin-Original-Navy-half-upWell, it’s all relative really, isn’t it? Ever heard the saying ‘buy cheap buy twice’? Well that really is true. You could buy cheaper jeans over and over and end up spending more money than what you would than if you spent your money on a decent pair.

Yes, Rapha does have a bit of a mark up at being prestige and expensive. I’d say that was true in the pre-2013 years. I didn’t think they were worth the money then as their stuff just was not durable. After their work with Team Sky I think there has been a real push to improve this. You can see that from their road riding kit and it’s carried across to their city range too.

In saying this, buy within your means, don’t rack up a credit card debt then blame it on me because you can’t afford to pay it off.

  • Would I buy a pair?

H1-16-DJO01XX-Premium-Demin-Original-Navy-reflectiveMy everyday jeans are Levi’s. I buy them because they’re durable, wear well and I know I’ll get my money’s worth out of them.

Same here with these Rapha jeans, buy for purpose and durability, not cheap and twice.

 

 

 

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Merckx restoration – Part 1: The Setup

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.


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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?

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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.

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My Cycle To Work Scheme – Smith The Route Helmet

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.

  • Comfort

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.

  • Ventilation

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.

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My Cycle To Work Scheme – Gtech eScent electronic mountain bike

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.img_1599

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.

img_1601The 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.

  • First Impressions

img_1598They’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…

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Huge tyres and RockShox suspension.

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?

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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.

img_1608The 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!

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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.

 

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My Cycle To Work Scheme – Brompton

Cult status – some objects just get it handed to them on a plate, cars tend to get it quite a lot, mainly Fords – the Transit Van, Cortina, Escort and the Capri. Many musicians get it handed to them, Bowie, Prince and George Michael – all sadly passing away in 2016.

You could even say it’s been given to a bike – the Raleigh Chopper. This was the kids bike of choice back in 1970’s every kid needed one and if you didn’t have one, you were simply not cool.

There is a bike rolling around the streets which is attracting quite a lot of attention though, it’s not new with it’s first designs drawn up in 1975 and the bikes being made in 1977 the bike is 40 years old! Which on the face of it is probably the average age of it’s riders… I haven’t researched that fact, I have just made it up. Mainly because when I think of a Brompton rider, I think of a middle aged man in a high-vis cycling jacket, bicycle clips, beige trousers, ill fitting helmet, red faced and yellow teethed on his way to the city.

However, there was something about the Brompton that lured me in. Every time I saw someone on one I thought to myself, they’re not ugly looking and they seem to make a lot of sense to someone like me, small London flat, not much room for bikes, doesn’t want his bike stolen from the street outside work when it’s locked up… So why don’t I have one? Well, because it’s a Brompton, you’ve seen the kind of people who ride them right? It all feels very W1A.

When Brompton reached out to me though and asked me if I would like to try one out for a month I could see my bank balance bracing its self at the thought of shelling out over £800 just for the most basic version of the bike. But like the Transit Van mentioned above, there are many different forms your Brompton could take – it seems no two Brompton’s would ever be the same.

The Brompton which I picked up from Brompton Junction down in Covent Garden was £955, it had an updated 3 gear hub which was £100 extra on top of the base £800 cost and £55 Version L Mudguards (which are superb and well worth the money). I found myself getting quite excited on the way down. I was about to be flying around on a brand-new bike, something I’ve never ridden before, it was very novel. When I got there, the mechanic did a quick check of the bike and when he unfolded it, it all seemed very easy he was a master of the Brompton. Leaving it in its bike form I carried it upstairs a quick adjustment of the seat and I was off!

I have to say, my first time riding a Brompton very much reminded me of trying Root Beer for the first time. It was in America and someone had bought it for me “Try that, you’ll

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Detailing on the Brompton break lever

love it.” they said. I took a swig and it was disgusting, like really bad, but I had to put a brave face on being British I couldn’t just say it was horrible. It’s curious though, Root Beer, the second swing was a lot different to the first. I was drawn back in for a third taste and each time I tried it I liked it more and more and found myself buying another declaring it was one of the best things I tasted.

Now, I wouldn’t say that a Brompton was one of the best bikes I’ve ever cycled but it certainly grows on you with each ride. There’s something about it when it all clicks and you find yourself darting about through central London, it’s fun. When you’ve got a slight incline though and you’re in between gears, it’s not so fun.

Let’s talk about those gears a little – as mentioned above, I had an uprated 3 gear hub for commuting around London. A very solid choice of hub, very reliable and relatively easy to use. When I picked it up from the shop I was given a demonstration as to how they work.

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Brompton’s even come with a pump – very handy

You have three gears on one shifter and on the other side you have (as it was described to me) an easy and a hard setting, effectively giving you six gears.

 

As ever with in hub gears, you can shift them while you’re not pedalling – great for a quick getaway, annoying when you’re climbing a hill. With the ‘easy’ and ‘hard’ gears though, it gives you an option. The annoying thing is if you’re already climbing in ‘easy’ and you need to spin a lighter gear, you have to stop pedalling to engage that gear, then you have to flick the outer hub gears to hard. It can be done smoothly but it certainly takes a bit of getting used to.

If you’re looking to buy the bike to commute on and are put off by the gearing system, you have to ask yourself – how often to you climb a hill on your commute? If you live and work in London the answer will be rarely ever and you’ll be fine.

Moving on to the bikes balance, it’s not all together amazing. Be it the small wheels or narrow handle bars, I’m not sure. You would have thought that with a low centre of gravity it would be more stable. I felt all at sea on it though for the first few rides, a bit wobbly and a little bit uncomfortable.

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Right – OK, let’s talk about it then. The putting it up and folding it back down again. How long did it take me to do it? Well, how long did you think it took me? The bloke in the shop made it look so stupidly easy that I didn’t need to do it there and then did I? I just needed to ride it home and do it then. Basically, if you don’t know ask. I asked YouTube and saw a video of a women collapsing a Brompton in 6 seconds – it did not take me six seconds. I worked out the back wheel bit – there’s a little catch underneath the bike, took me five minutes to find that. Then I collapsed the handle bars and folded the side but I just couldn’t get the pedals right, they were blocking it from folding flush. I figured they must have to be in a certain position, which they do. But once all that was sorted it only takes a couple of times to get you folding it up pretty quick. You don’t feel half as stupid when it all goes together than you do when you’re stood in the street trying to look cool while folding a Brompton…

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Rear suspension on the Brompton is a perfect touch!

Which brings me to my next question. Do you look cool on a Brompton? Well, I never felt cool on the Brompton, I always felt like people were looking at me thinking why on earth are you on a Brompton? What the hell are you riding, I felt bike conscious! Once I got over that and realised people we’re looking at me at all and no one really cared that I was on a Brompton I realised, if you look cool on a bike, you probably look cool on a Brompton. I do not look cool on a Brompton.

Would I part with £800+ for a Brompton? I’m so torn it’s untrue, I thought using one for a month would help me with the answer and it’s undeniable – it’s great in my flat I can put a bike in there taking up minimal room. On the road, it’s a little trooper too, there’s a little shock absorber on the rear wheel, while it doesn’t exactly glide over bumps and divots, it’s fairly smooth. So why am I still torn? Well, I still have the image of that more than middle aged banker, in high vis and yellow teeth puffing his way about town on one. On the other side, if I had one with straight bars (S type) opposed to M type then I think it would look better and I’d feel more comfortable on it.

I suppose I should sum this whole ‘review’ up now.

If I had £955 to buy a bike then there are much nicer road bikes out there which I could spend the money on, it’s a lot of money. If I had £955 to buy a commuter bike though, there would be no hesitation. I would buy one in a heartbeat, they’re perfect for commuting in the city.

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My Cycle To Work Scheme – Blaze Lazerlight

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Wahoo ELEMNT – An alternative to Garmin

Wahoo! Finally, an alternative to Garmin and it’s from the aptly named people at Wahoo – may I introduce you to the Wahoo ELEMNT.

Now, I’m not going to do a side by side review, I’m just going to tell you straight what this Wahoo has to offer. It’s up you if you want to go Android over Apple, I’m not here to tell you that you should do this or that, what I am here to tell you is the Wahoo ELEMNT is great. I’m not going to make you read all the way through to find that out, I’m telling you from the off, it’s brilliant.

For £249.99 it does go head to head with the Garmin Edge 520 – that’s the only comparison I’m going to make – it’s up to you to make the choice but hopefully you will gain some insight from this post.

Let’s talk a little about Wahoo Fitness because you may not know too much about them, it’s a tech-fitness company that has created a whole raft of sensors and devices for runners, cyclists and fitness enthusiasts. Founded in 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia – they’ve gone on rapid growth and over the past three years have supplied Team Sky with their KICKR for warm ups, cool downs and indoor sessions. Not only do they supply Team Sky with the KICKR, Wahoo Fitness also supplies Team Sky with the TICKR (always missing out letters these Americans…) to track the heart rate of the Team Sky riders. So already, in six short years, supplying arguably the strongest team in the Pro Peloton, right now – impressive.FullSizeRender

So, now we know that Wahoo Fitness come with credentials, what does the ELEMNT come with?

Well, opening the box you have three mounts, cable ties, a micro USB charger and of course, the Wahoo ELEMNT it’s self. First impressions are good, it’s not huge, coming in at 105 grams you wonder as to how they’ve managed to put a whole GPS unit, battery which will last for around 7 hours and all the electronics to make the Wahoo tick over. Incidentally Wahoo claim on the box that the ELEMNT has a week worth of battery, surely that depends on how much you ride in a week.

FullSizeRender[2]On powering up, Wahoo Fitness are obviously very proud of their KICKR as there’s what looks like a team sky rider pedalling away as the ELEMNT ‘warms up’ and searches for any updates. If it’s the first time you’re turning on your ELEMNT and you’re keen to get riding, you need to sync this powerful little tool to your phone first. This is so easy to do, you need the Wahoo ELEMNT free App and to go to ‘Pair Phone’ in the ELEMNT menu. This is easy enough to do in the Wahoo ELEMNT App, you scan the QR on the phone and hey presto, as long as your Bluetooth is on, you’ve got yourself a fully paired phone and sensor. Simples.

Functionality and ease to use on the ELEMNT must have been in the mission statement because I have never been able to navigate my way around a device so easily and comfortably. Within seconds, my phone was paired to the ELEMNT and I could of gone off on a ride there and then.

However, I wanted to try out the ELEMNTs trump card, the Turn by Turn (Or TBT as Wahoo are calling it, obviously) Navigation.

This is the Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT trump card, it offered riders an easy navigational system that can be followed by prompts, while this is only available for rides you have either downloaded or built on RideWithGPS. You can still download routes which you have made on Strava and follow these with the on screen mapping system, it doesn’t give you the same prompts as you get with RideWithGPS, best of all you don’t even need a paid for membership! You can use your free membership, how cool is that?

IMG_9621Once you’ve created your route you simply pull it to your ELEMNT, it’s super easy as you can link many different accounts to your ELEMNT; Strava, RideWithGPS, iPhone Health App, even Garmin Connect. The next time you power up your ELEMNT and pair it with your phone, it will automatically update the maps and you can choose them for your next ride! It really is that easy, there’s no plugging in to your laptop / PC it just uses the power of your smart phone.

What’s best about the Turn by Turn navigation, even if you’ve turned the wrong way, it can think, it will bring up new prompts to bring you back on to the road you should be on. The prompts appear differently depending on which page you’re on, on the map page they display as a banner mid-way across the screen, whereas on the elevation plot and regular data pages they’ll appear on the bottom.ELEMNT_TurnByTurnMap_Rd2

If you go the wrong way, the LED’s across the top of the ELEMNT flash read and you get what can only be described as a whimper, not a BEEP! Which is what it should be. Wahoo have said though that they’re looking at making the audio prompts louder, which they need to be because when you’re on a busy road or chatting with friends as you cycle along, you can’t really hear them.

ELEMNT on BarsSee those LED light’s I just mentioned? Not only do they indicated when you have to turn and if you’re going the right or wrong way, but the ones down the left hand side really help you train. They start playing on you, you can set them to your average speed, average watts or average heart rate and they will tell you how you are performing on that ride. They really make you push your fitness goals and also make you feel really disheartened when you’re climbing a hill and all of a sudden you see your speed dwindling down from a floating 18mph to 7mph in no time at all! These lights also help you train when you have the ELEMNT paired up with the KICKR, I did not have the luxury of having the KICKR for this test though. All signs from other reviews report that it works well though.

It’s of course not just about the flashy lights and knowing which way to go. The ELEMNT just seems to be able to have Bluetooth add on after add on, you can link your Heart Rate Monitor to it, your gears – so you can see which gear your in at any one time. Your watt reader or even your KICKR – you can even see the elevation that’s coming up on the routes which you’ve loaded in. That really helps you when you are trying to figure out how much pain you have to shut out up the climbs. It seems to have all the bases covered, if your device is ANT+ or Bluetooth, you’re pretty damn certain that the ELEMNT can connect to it!

IMG_9627You will notice in my pictures I have the Backlight on for most of them, this isn’t on because I need it to be on to read the screen. The screen on the ELEMNT is super crisp, so easy to read, at a glance, in direct sunlight, at night – I have never had an issue with the screen.

While we’re on the subject of the screen, you’ll notice while you’re riding along with the map page up, people’s names popping up and seeing where they are on the map. These are other Wahoo ELEMNT users, this really helps bring a cycling culture about, you cans see their user name and where they are on the map, if you’re lucky enough it might be one of your friends and you can go join them. If they’re not on an instructed solo from the missus that is!

ELEMNT_SegmentGoThere is a little more to offer, the latest update on the ELEMNT allows you to take full advantage of Strava Live Segments. You do this by simply starring a segment on Strava.com. Then, whenever a starred segment is encountered on a ride, the ELEMNT will then bring up a dedicated Strava Live Segment page showing segment progress, distance remaining, as well as the segment’s full elevation profile. Additionally, the Strava Live Segment page can be customised via the ELEMNT companion app to display other key metrics such as power and heart rate.

When riding a Strava Live Segment, the ELEMNT’s LEDs come in to play again, especially for riders searching for that KOM or personal best. The top row of LEDs indicate a rider’s progress within the segment, lighting up sequentially, while the side row of LEDs indicate the whether the rider is over or under the pace for the KOM, their personal best, or the pace of a pre-selected opponent.

ELEMNT_SegmentFinalPushWhen a rider enters the final 200m of a segment and is within 2 seconds of their target (KOM, personal best or opponent), a helpful ‘Final Push’ page takes over the display to alert and motivate the rider. Once the segment is completed, a segment history page allows riders to review all Strava Live Segments ridden up to that point in the ride, rather than having to wait until the ride is finished to see how they performed.

So, as you have probably now read, Wahoo’s first foray in to the GPS market seems to be a successful one. They have come out with a few new ideas and certainly thrown the gauntlet down to Garmin. There are features on the ELEMNT, which Garmin does not have, such as Bluetooth Smart sensor support or loading of routes from third parties (Strava RideWithGPS, etc.) that could persuade buyers toward the ELEMNT instead.  On the other hand, it could be the slightly crisper ELEMNT screen. Who knows. All I know is that the ELEMNT is a very strong riding partner and I was very lucky to have it in my life for a month.

Bravo Wahoo!

The Links!

You can Buy a Wahoo ELEMNT here

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You can ‘Like’ me on Facebook here

And you can see my other blog posts here

RideLondon – Surrey

So there we have it, my first RideLondon and I’m pretty chuffed with myself to be honest.

100 miles completed in 5 hour 43 minutes. Rode the whole way with my brother alongside me – no cramping up and feeling like I was going to explode, until the last 50 metres when I realised I couldn’t sprint for the line!

I have to say, it was a really enjoyable ride, once it got going – it was a bit of a stop start morning for me, I didn’t think I’d make it to the start line! Here is why, my brother had come down from Birmingham with his partner on the Saturday, they had endless delays and didn’t get down here until late. We made a dash to the Excel, to register, missed Poplar tube stop where we had to change for the next tube to the Excel but got there with half an hour to spare to have a quick look around after registering. Here was me hoping that that, was it. No more bad luck please, Nice easy ride to the start and a safe ride around in sub six hours, please! However, my brother had other plans.

Not only did he struggle to get himself up in the morning for the ride but as we were carrying our bikes down the stairs (I live in flats, it’s only one flight, what could go wrong? Done it a hundred times) he somehow manages to slip and find his middle finger pointing in the wrong direction.

A sharp pull and with a satisfying click, it was back in place. Both looking at each other and thinking, ‘you are fine to ride. We are not going back, or to the hospital. You are doing this.’

The stream of cyclists on the way to the start was enough to get anyone ready to ride. It was exciting to see that many people in the cycle lanes of London and finally, the dream come true cycling London on closed roads. I have to interject myself here and say, well done to the organisers for getting everyone going pretty much bang on time! Amazing achievement.

I’ve never been from East to West London so fast, the combination of the closed roads, excitement and an ever changing peloton made sure we whipped through. Finally through Richmond Park and on to Kingston I was happy to leave London behind and get out towards the dreaded climbs…

One thing I did find is that there wasn’t that much chatter between riders, in sportives I’ve competed in of old, there is a good nitter natter, passing the time. The only thing I heard people do in this one in generally bitch and moan about other riders on the road. It’s the biggest sportive in the country, there’s going to be other riders on the road and yes, some of a different ability to you. So shouting “LEFT! LEFT!” at someone who is already riding in the gutter when there’s loads of room on the right just makes you look silly.

I did get slightly disgruntled at how seriously some people took this, everyone has their own agenda and that’s fine. Everyone wants to get around as quickly as possible, but please, give those going slower than you a break and enjoy yourself! It’s a sportive, not a race. At the bottom of Leith Hill, we pretty much came to a stand still, the bleep off Garmin’s going in to Autopause almost managed to drown out the amount of people complaining. Two chaps to my left summed it up, one was just getting really angry and almost started doing a Froome by running (this time with his bike) up Leith Hill, the other just started laughing and thought it was brilliant. I’m in the latter camp, however, starting Leith Hill from pretty much a standing start was not a laughing matter!

Then, came the descent, two completely separate incidents – and again a bit chapeau to the marshals here – ended with two people who were both being put in a neck brace and both of which needed the fantastic medical attention that such a sportive brings. Again though, people were getting annoyed that they were being told to slow down and stop. Bigger picture guys.

On a less moaning note though, the support! Wow, riding through Dorking, I sat up and had a look around at everyone lining the streets, cheering, getting excited at a load of completely unknown cyclists pedalling through their village. It was fantastic, I wanted to pull over and buy a burger and have a beer! My brother wouldn’t let me though, said it would slow us down for going up Box… Pft. The beautiful Surrey Countryside ahead of you and a wonderful looking town, thank you so much to every single supporter. Your support was greatly appreciated and helped, a lot! Not just in Dorking but along the whole course!

It’s amazing how your mind finds the smallest things funny when you’re out on a long ride. Short of my brother dislocating his finger, the thing that really tickled me was a conversation I overhead while going up Box Hill. A very short conversation between what I think was a couple. He wasn’t getting up as easily as her, the conversation went like this:

Her: “Just put it in a lower gear and spin it out.”

Him: “Yeah. Thanks, love.”

Just the advice you need as you’re struggling to get along.

The ride back in to London was so very enjoyable, I even enjoyed Wimbledon Hill! It’s true, I knew that after that, it’s plain sailing straight to The Mall. However, I think I was praying for it too quick as every time I glanced down at my Wahoo ELEMNT (blog coming on this shortly) the distance rarely seemed get closer to the magical 100!

A really enjoyable day, and then as I type this out, there is also the very sad news of Robin Chard suffering cardiac arrest around the 25 mile mark. My thoughts go out to his family and friends, such a tragedy. The money which Robin raised and continues to raise on his Just Giving page is fast approaching the £30,000 mark. Chapeau Robin.

See you again soon RideLondon.

The Links!

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My Cycle To Work Scheme – safety first. 

When you cycle in to the office, if you’re a gentleman who is proud of the hair on top of his head, the choice of helmet can be tough. Not only does wearing a helmet squash your tidy hair do, it also traps in the heat, making your head sweaty, further endangering what you’ve just spent a good half hour preening.

For a lady who has longer hair, the challenge can be doubled, more hair equals more heat. That’s a mathematical equation which will have you scratching your follicles over which helmet to buy and why.

The answer, of course, isn’t not to wear one, if you’re on a bike you need a helmet. The answer is getting the right one. It needs to look good, be light weight, breathable and if possible be able to enhance your hair do – side note, no helmet will enhance your hair style.

I’ve been very lucky, because the chaps at Bern sent me over their best-selling commuter helmet,the Bern Watts. So over the next few paragraphs I’m going to proceed to tell you about it.

  • I’ve heard (or not heard) of Bern, why are they so popular?

It’s easy to see why so many people like the Bern helmet, its got simple style, it’s very functional and it doesn’t empty your bank balance or compromise on function over form.

They appear to be the commuters helmet of choice and over the next few paragraphs in going to try to explain if that is the case…

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  • What’s so good about this helmet then?

Well, kind of, everything, really…

What’s more, it’s lightweight because it’s a thinSHELL, meaning protection is not compromised as weight it dropped. 460 grams this helmet weights, just a shade over a pound in weight, or a bag of sugar.

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There’s that thinSHELL label and the dial at the back helps you adjust the size.
It also means that the helmet is no bigger than it needs to be, so you don’t look like you have a huge eight ball on top of your head as you cycle down the street.

But weight is not all, the helmet is also well ventilated, reducing heat under your lid, reducing sweating and hopefully meaning you haven’t wasted that half an hour in front of the mirror this morning.

The ventilation on this helmet makes it the perfect summer commuter helmet.

 

The peak at the front of the helmet is not only stylish but helps keep the sun out your eyes and also the rain if the weather were to change.

  • So it’s good for the summer, what about the winter?

Well, funny you should ask that question, it’s almost as if I teed it up in the closing sentence of my previous paragraph.

The good thing about the Bern helmet is that you can add a winter lining. No need to wear a wooly hat under your helmet as you can fix one securely in place on this helmet.

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You can see where the lining can be replaced by the ‘popper’ style buttons on the summer lining
So not only do you get a helmet for all four seasons but you can just pop the lining in and out when you feel it’s too cold on your top two inches.

  • How much does it cost and is it worth it?

Whether or not you’re willing to part with the cash depends on how much you value your life, or hair do.

The Bern Watts costs £54.99 and for a helmet which you can wear for four seasons, that’s a right steal!

Personally, I think it’s a right good price. I’d much rather spend the money on this than wear a £20 Bell helmet from five years ago.

  • Why should I choose this one over the rest?

As if I haven’t gushed over this helmet enough, jeeze.

In short, the colour combinations are great, it’s functional, lightweight, not overly pricey and it suits the commuting style.

The ventilation is enough to keep you cool but not too much that if it were to rain you’d need an umbrella, not that they’re much use when you’re cycling anyway.

I really do think it’s the perfect commuter helmet, from the moment you put it on, it just feels right.

  • The links

You can buy a this Bern Watts helmet here

Follow my Cycle to Work blog theme by looking at my review of the G-Tech e-Bike here

You can read my other blog posts here

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