Showing posts from 2019

Review – IRC Tires Boken Tubeless Gravel Tyres

A gravel biking tyre is distinctly different from a mountain bike or a cyclocross tyre – it should be at least 40c in volume and have a tread pattern that is capable of handling both rock strewn trails as well as gravel and sand. The IRC Boken Tubeless Tyres are a great example.

I fitted the IRC Boken Tyres to my Kona Private Jake – set up tubeless on a set of Stan's NoTubes S1 Crest wheels. They were quick relatively easy to mount up, although I did have to put an extra wrap of rim tape on the rim to create a tighter seal. The tyres felt robust and well made from first inspection.

The tread pattern on the Boken is a fine 'micro-diamond' design, and not as aggressive as some gravel tyres that I have tested, such as the Vee Tire T-CX, or the WTB Nano. The clear virtue of this is that the tyres are notably faster rolling and better for asphalt and light gravel sections than many, though predictably it does mean traction is slightly lower on slippery and loose surfaces compa…

Explore – 5 Best Gravel Cycling Routes on the Isle of Wight

I ride a gravel bike on the Isle of Wight more than I ride any other; it is the perfect way to explore the vast network of quiet roads and exciting open trails. In this 'Explore' blog post I have tailor-made five of the best gravel cycling routes on the Isle of Wight; with suggested pit-stops and highlights.

The Isle of Wight roads, trails, and tracks are my home. I have toured all over the world, but whenever I come back to this small island off the South Coast of the UK I am amazed at how diverse and beautiful the riding is here.

The Island is very easy to get to with a bike — use one of the three car ferry routes from Portsmouth, Lymington or Southampton; or come as a foot passenger and bring your bike for free on the Wightlink FastCat from Portsmouth Harbour train station. You can get to the Island from Central London in just a little over three hours.

Once you are here, there is a plethora of bike-friendly accommodation: from hotels and B&B's, to campsites and Ec…

Making Plans – The #CelticCrossTrail Tour

Earlier this year I pulled up a heat-map of where in Europe my riding has taken me to date. It shows a spider's web of routes spanning most of the major European countries; from Denmark and Norway, to Spain and Portugal. An area right on my doorstep that is inexcusably poorly explored though, is the collective Celtic trio of Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.

I have previously made some attempt at Wales: riding the trail centres, MTB endurance races, the Ras de Cymru road stage race, and the 300 kilometre Dragon Ride in the Welsh hills. I have by no means explored its full beauty though and have yet to venture out onto the Pembrokeshire coastline, or into the heart of the Brecon Beacons.

I have ridden even less in Scotland. The most recent time was along the Scottish border during the Dirty Reiver gravel race. I have barely touched the beauty and wilderness of the Scottish Highlands— not yet venturing north of Fort William.

Ireland is completely untouched. Despite reading about and …

Review – Goodyear Eagle All-Season Tubeless Road Tyres

Road bike tyres are getting bigger, and better. The new 30c Eagle All-Season Tubeless Tyres from Goodyear Bicycle Tires are a superb endurance riding option. I have been testing them out over the last month, here is my review...

I remember being one of the first riders in Team Wiggle (back in 2013) to make the switch from 23c to 25c tyres. The added comfort and grip was an obvious benefit, and has very little penalty in terms of added weight; as well as even some suggestions of lower rolling resistance from the larger diameter tyre [read this past post for some insights].

In the following years I switched from 25c to 28c on my road bike and moved from 33c up to 40c diameter tyres on my gravel bike. The benefits of larger volume tyres when riding long hours on mixed surface terrain are huge, and far outweigh the downsides (in my opinion). With this progression in mind, I was keen to test out the 30c diameter road-focussed Eagle tyres from Goodyear; an even larger volume of road tyre t…

Workshop Focus – SwissStop Disc Brake Pads Review

There is a plethora of bicycle disc brake pads on the market, but ask professional bike mechanics what their preferred option is, and SwissStop is often the popular choice. The brand produces disc brake pads for all kinds of bicycle; from road to cyclocross, and mountain bike. In this blog post I report back on my review findings after testing the complete range of SwissStop disc pads both off-road and on-road over the last year, with close to 25,000 kilometres of riding.

SwissStop make four different models of disc brake pads: Green Organic, Yellow RS Racing, ExoTherm, and Silver Endurance. All of these pads are organic (not sintered) formula pads; providing a low noise and rotor-friendly contact with the disc brake rotor. All the pads are also designed to be stable at extremely high temperatures, such as those encountered on long mountain descents. The pads differ in the composition of the organic formula though, and also in the case of ExoTherm there is a different back panel.


Review – Rapha Core Cargo Pocket Bib Shorts

The first iteration of the Rapha Cargo Bib Shorts were one of the two pairs of bib shorts I chose for last year's #RoadsFromRome adventure. The storage capacity, robust fast-dry fabrics, and comfortable endurance specific seat-pad made them a top choice for the 2500 kilometre tour. The latest version—the Rapha Core Cargo Bib Shorts have been on test for the last few months; they offer some interesting developments over the first edition.

Rapha have retained the three core product attributes found in the original Rapha Brevet Cargo Bib Shorts—including the fast drying fabrics, side and back mesh pockets, and the endurance level chamois pad. However, other areas have been developed and altered to bring the product up to date with current trends and preferences.

The Rapha Core Cargo Bib Shorts use a new dense-knit fabric, which has a degree of weather and water repellence, and a fast-dry nature; bit it is lighter weight than the Brevet fabric in the predecessors. The bib section of…

Bike Review – Quella Bicycle Varsity Single Speed Bike

There is a beautiful Zen-like feeling to riding a single speed bicycle. The Quella Varsity Single Speed is a British designed and built single speed / fixed gear bike; perfect for city life or running errands around countryside lanes. My Quella Varisty Cambridge has just clocked over 5000 kilometres — so it seemed timely to write a review of the ride.

My first road bike was a steel framed Peugeot, for which I paid £50 to a family friend. I have a great emotional connection to that bike and frame — to the simplicity and retro looks that it has, and the adventures that it has taken me on. Yet, when the bottom bracket seized in its shell and the forks were mangled by a white van man, I decided it was time to look for another classic looking steel frame commuter bike that would uphold the Zen and do the 'Steel is Real' club proud.

My search led me to the London based company Quella Bicycle. Their range of urban inspired single speed bikes came to my attention because of their ele…

Review – Hutchinson Tires Overide Tubeless Gravel Tyres

I have a fond association with the Hutchinson Tires brand; in 2014 I spent a week in Provence with the product development team testing their Toro and Squale MTB tyres. The French brand has evolved their range significantly over the last few years, and the release of the new Overide gravel-specific bike tyre promised to be an interesting and (from past experience) superb mixed-surface bicycle tyre.

Hutchinson Tires were the pioneers of tubeless technology and designed some of the world's first tubeless road tyres; capable of taking the high pressures required for asphalt riding. Tubeless tyres have really come into their own with the growth of 'Gravel' riding though; because of their inability to pinch-flat, and the dramatically increased grip and comfort that can be achieved even on low volume tyres.

I have been testing the Hutchinson Overide 38c gravel tyre on my 3T Exploro for the last few months, and they are proving to be a superb summer gravel riding option.

The Ov…

Kit Care – Washing and Rejuvenating Cycling Base Layers

A base layer is the foundation of any layering system—it keeps you cool and dry in the summer, and warm and dry in the winter. Over time though, the fabrics become saturated by sweat and can breed bacteria; there is a simple solution—washing them with a tailor-made fabric detergent and conditioner, such as those from Nikwax.

Base layers are designed to wick perspiration away from your skin; this means absorbing the moisture and transferring it to the outer air for evaporation. Unfortunately, over time the absorbing nature of base layer fabrics means they also collect bacteria, which can breed and smell.

To rejuvenate a cycling base layer, or a technical running tee, you simply need a fabric detergent that is stronger than most. Be careful though, as technical fabrics and wool fabrics are delicate in their nature; Nikwax produce a dedicated 'Sweatproofing' range, including BaseWash and WoolWash to clean the fabrics.

After you have cleaned the fabric, it is a smart move to use …

Review – Rapha Brevet Insulated Cycling Jacket w/ Polartec

Can you really fit your whole life into a seat-pack the size of a small rucksack? When you do, it calls for specialist lightweight kit; the Rapha Brevet Insulated Cycling Jacket features super-light Polartec insulation, and has a tiny pack-size—making it ideal for cooler temperatures on your bike explorations.
Let us get straight to the point... this jacket is ludicrously lightweight; weighing in at just 74 grams for the Medium sample I have on test. That weight is thanks to a super-light weight Nylon windproof outer, and high level Polartec Alpha insulation; combined together, these create an impressively protective and insulating layer, with absolute minimal bulk. 
Polartec Alpha is a unique market-leading insulation fibre, which provides both great breathability when you are working hard, as well as effective insulation when you are more sedate in your movements. 
I used the jacket on my recent #XPDTN3Dolomites bikepacking trip, and for the early morning ride-outs, up above 2000 m…

Review – Goodyear County Touring / Gravel Bike Tyres

I have been searching for the perfect tyre for mixed surface touring for some time; something that offers low rolling resistance on asphalt, but a good degree of grip and puncture resistance on gravel roads and bike paths. The new Goodyear County 35c tubeless tyres looked to tick many of the sought-after boxes, so I fitted them to the Kona Rove to test them out…

Last year, I reviewed the Goodyear Connector Tyres; those are 40c tubeless tyres aimed at the gravel rider—with a fine tread pattern offering impressive grip on off-road trails, but still with a fast rolling speed on asphalt. The Connector's remained on my cyclocross bike for the whole of the winter, and were impressive in their durability, and versatility. With that in mind, I was interested to see what the Goodyear brand could offer in the more road-focussed touring tyre category.

The County is a 35c diameter tubeless tyre, designed to be used on the road and on light off-road paths. Previously I have used 30c tyres for…

Review – Absolute Black Oval Chainrings (CX Narrow-Wide)

I have been using oval chainrings on my road, gravel, and cyclocross bikes for six years now. I have tried multiple brands, and the offering from AbsoluteBLACK is one of the best designed and best value elliptical chainrings out there. I fitted the Narrow-Wide Absolute Black CX Premium Chainring to my Kona Private Jake to give it a thorough test.

Oval chainrings claim a number of benefits: such as reduced fatigue, higher cadence, and more efficient power output. I have tested them on everything from ten mile time trials to my ultra-distance rides such as the Ride the Trafalgar Way and #BlackForest400; for me, the biggest notable different is a higher average cadence, especially when fatigued. A higher cadence means reduced strain on your muscles, a more efficient engine, and a faster ride; considering these notable benefits, I have taken to using oval chainrings on all my road and gravel bikes.

The Absolute Black oval chainrings are a well thought out, and well-designed option in the…

Behind The Brand – CeramicSpeed

On the west coast of Denmark lies the small city of Holestbro; quiet and calm on a chilly morning dawn.

At CeramicSpeed HQ, energy is flowing though: at 6am the production team arrive, many by bike. Breakfast and laughter are shared, before the delicate work begins…

The CeramicSpeed Heritage Jacob Csizmadia founded CeramicSpeed 13 years ago, in the building that still houses the company. Back then it was his family home, and the company operated from a small workshop. Now it is a world-reaching world-class production facility.

CeramicSpeed is all about bearings. The little balls that enable so many components and machines to run smoothly; both on your bike and in the world as a whole.

Bearings are an intricate product. For them to run at precision smoothness, for a maximum life, each ceramic ball within the set must be an identical size, and perfectly spherical. Every seal must fit to the micrometre, and the components housing the bearing must match exactly.

Produce a faultless beari…