When the weather turns wild

I think it was Billy Connolly who said “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothing.” When the weather takes a turn for the worst you often see numbers at the Sunday club ride plummet. Only the strong (or maybe foolhardy) turn up and tackle the elements, but if you’re going to turn up be sure to dress accordingly! Here’s one piece of cycle clothing I rate highly when the rain sets in…

Sportful Hot Pack 5 Packable Jacket

The club ride last Sunday was one of the wettest I’ve experienced in a while. Single digit temperatures combined with a deluge of heavy rain all night continuing through the day created testing conditions for cyclists AND cycling gear! I’ve been through a fair amount of kit in order to find gear that works and one piece that always come up trumps is my Sportful packable jacket.

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It may seem a little pricey at first, but the Sportful Hot Pack 5 really comes into it’s own in the wind and rain. On the weekend just gone I spent over four hours in the saddle through non-stop, sometime torrential rain and my upper half was still dry when I got home. That’s saying something right there!

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110113514p-02-651Wx651HAt around 85 grams you hardly notice it stashed away in a jersey pocket, but you’ll be glad it’s there once the rain starts hammering down! It’s got a sleek race/tailored fit, is totally windproof, waterproof, ventilated along the back and stuffs down into it’s own sack to the size of a tennis ball.

Even when it’s not raining the Sportful Hot Pack can be incredibly versatile. It efficiently traps body heat  and defends against bitter wintry winds. Be sure to keep it in your jersey pocket on those sweat inducing Alpine climbs before donning it for the high speed descent!

Personally I love riding in the rain, I find it fantastically fun! But to really enjoy a wet ride though you need to be dressed in quality kit that keeps the elements out. The Sportful Hot Pack 5 ticks all those boxes and more. It is always  at the top of my list whenever the rain clouds hang heavy in the skies!

Trivial fact: Sportful is owned by the same parent company as Castelli. I own a few pieces of Sportful kit and find you get a similar level of quality but for significantly lower prices.

Power never lies…

“Power never lies to you.
It is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver.
Friends may come and go.

But two hundred watts is always two hundred watts.”

The above quote is a modified version of one by Henry Rollins who at the time was talking about lifting weights. It’s a quote often thrown around in bodybuilding circles, but one that can easily be adapted to cycling when looking at power data.

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Your heart rate, average speed, perceived effort and Strava segment times are subject to so many variables that it can be difficult to accurately gauge progress from month to month or even year to year.

1387214112155-108t6xppkov9l-700-80Were you stronger along that particular segment today? Or was there a slight tailwind. Heart rate higher or lower than normal? Is that good? Knowing your power data would conclusively answer those questions and many more.

Sure, all the factors I’ve listed can be used to train effectively and before the advent of the power meter it was more than enough. But if you want to know exactly what’s going on, exactly what you’re putting through the pedals, then there is only one metric worth worrying about. Wattage. Because at the end of the day…

Two hundred watts is always two hundred watts.

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Ten miles per day

At the beginning of the year I set myself a fairly loose target of averaging 10 miles per day for no other reason than it seemed like a nice round number.

I don’t commute so all my miles are “recreational” rides. These vary greatly and are made up of anything from racing time trials, fast paced club rides, solo missions, social rides and of course relaxed cycling journeys with my wife.

Just looked at my stats and I’ve ridden 3850 miles so far this year.

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That’s my 10 miles/day sorted so now I can slack off (or not).

I’ll easily surpass 4000 miles this year and hopefully a lot more than that, depending of course on how much snow and dangerously icy mornings we get. Anyway, that was my little milestone this week.

Enjoy your time in the saddle! :-)

Yellow is the new black!

Winter is fast approaching. The days are short and dull, wet weather is more frequent and the nights close in quickly. One of my pet hates when out on a ride is seeing a fellow cyclist dressed head to toe in black and with no lights, especially early in the morning or late in the evening!

It’s really not that difficult (or expensive) to throw a set of lights on or wear something bright. After all, how much is your safety worth to you?

There’s no need to look like a health and safety officer either. Plenty of high end cycling brands are cashing in on the hi-vis market, producing brightly coloured and reflective clothing tailored to the serious road cyclist. Just check out some of this gear from the likes of SIDI and Castelli.

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A set of hi-vis overshoes can go a long way in increasing your visibility. A pair of brightly coloured feet whirring around at 90rpm will catch the attention of most drivers! Thanks to BikeSwanky I’ve got a pair of Northwave waterproof overshoes that really stand out amidst the grey scenery of November and December.

Photogram-20141103044250Just check out my hi-vis feet! :-) It’ll be pretty hard to miss these pistons smashing it up the road this winter…

Be safe.

Be seen.

….and enjoy those winter miles!

Conti GP 4 Season Tyres: First Impressions

As you may know I recently swapped out my “summer” GP4000S tyres for some winter rubber, namely Continental’s Grand Prix 4 Season offerings. I’ve had a chance to test them out on a few rides including some fast paceline efforts, a bunch of hilly Surrey roads and the odd wet and greasy route. Here’s my initial thoughts.

Out of the Box

4SEASON_00Placing both these 23mm tyres on my digital scales gave a weight of exactly 450 grams, equating to 225 grams per tyre. The Continental website quotes 220g. For comparison (on the same set of scales) a new GP4000S tyre weighed 208 grams and a bottom of the range non-folding 23mm Ultra Sport 330 grams. Swapping to the winter tyres incurred a negligible 34 gram weight penalty. Interestingly if you’re upgrading from Ultra Sports to GP4000S tyres you’d save almost 250 grams.

On initial inspection, the body of the tyre feels less supple than the GP4000S summer tyre. This is partly due to the second “Vectran Breaker” puncture protection layer and the more durable “Max Grip Silica” rubber compound. The tread pattern is also more pronounced than on the GP4000S.

continental-grand-prix-4-season-700c-folding-duraskin-road-tyreTwo “Vectran Breakers” (yellow) plus a “Duraskin Wrap” (brown).

Fitting was a breeze. They slipped onto my Fulcrum rims as easy as the GP4000S tyres they replaced. One thing I hate more than an ice cold winter puncture is a tyre that takes an inhuman amount of effort to get on/off the rim! I have a pro cyclist’s upper body don’t you know… Once on the rim and inflated the tyres looks the business.

4SEASON_01Logos perfectly lined up to the valve stem. If yours aren’t, go fix them, NOW!

The biggest visual difference over the GP4000S is the brown cross-hatching on the side walls. According to Continental this is the “Duraskin Wrap” protection. Not the prettiest, but function wins over fashion here. I’ve destroyed one nearly new GP4000S because of a fatal sidewall penetration so this is a welcome addition for the winter!

On the Road

So far I’ve only ridden 220 autumnal miles on the tyres. Not enough to form a solid conclusion but enough to get a good “feel” for the them. The 4 Seasons come across as sturdy and well balanced, while still fairly responsive when pushed hard. It may just be the placebo effect, but when on the rivet they do feel ever so slightly slower than the GP4000S. Nothing huge, more of a subtle bit of extra drag when going flat out. For winter I can live with that.

As for the extra grip, while leading a bunch around one particularly wet and oily right hander I momentarily lost the back wheel as the bike stepped out sideways. It was was a “heart-in-mouth” moment, but I regained control and kept the bike rubber side down. Did the 4 Seasons contribute to keeping me upright? It’s impossible to say for sure, but at that moment I was glad to be riding them!

Now to see how they hold up long term over the winter…