Showing posts from September, 2018

Review - Rite In The Rain Notepad and Black Metal Clicker Pen

I am a notepad addict. I do a lot of copywriting and planning, and I find making notes in ink is both natural and productive; I constantly carry a notepad. For cycling, sailing, kayaking and hiking, a waterproof notepad is a significant advantage: avoiding the need to decipher blotted and soggy pages. Rite In The Rain's Waterproof Notepad and All Weather Pen are my new go-to option.

The American brand has a whole range of big and small waterproof notepads; all utilising their patented waterproof paper. I have the small top-bound jotter notepad, which is the perfect size to stash in a jersey pocket or trouser pocket; written up with course notes, emergency contact details, waypoints, or just general musings.

To complement the Rite In The Rain Waterproof Notepad, I also have the Rite In The Rain Black Metal Clicker Pen. This might sound excessive to some, who would ask, "why not just use a bog standard ball-point or a pencil?" – well a pencil works fine, but sometimes you…

Gearing Up - The #XPDTN3Dolomites Kit Selection

The Dolomites always deliver. I have ridden in the area on a racing bike, cross-country MTB, and passed through the region on both the #7Countries7Passes and #RoadsFromRome tours. One area I have yet to explore though, is the opportunity for GRAVEL...
On my #5MaratonasChallenge I stayed at the great Ustaria Posta in Badia, and the owner Igor talked of the opportunity to create an amazing multi-day off-road route linking up alpine huts. That pipe dream is about to become a reality...
The #XPDTN3Dolomites will be a three day bike-packing trip; travelling from Ustaria Posta into the UNESCO World Heritage site, and exploring the road less travelled. These are paths normally only scouted by walkers in the summer, and alpine ski tourers in the winter; we will be taking to them on gravel bikes. My choice of weapon is the 3T Exploro.
The full story will unveil itself on Instagram over the next week — follow #XPDTN3Dolomites
For now, here is a look at the kit that is coming along on the bike-…

Review - Tune Dreckschleuder MTB Wheel Set

It is common to hear "the best upgrade you can make to your bike is a new wheel set". That is not strictly true, but undoubtedly good wheels ensure you get the most from your frame and components, and it is often the item skimped on when a manufacturer builds up a bike. I fitted the Dreckschleuder wheel set from German manufacturer Tune to my Kona Rove for the #RoadsFromRome. This, no question, was an incredible upgrade...

Understanding wheel upgrades… Before jumping into the review proper, I think it helps to consider why a new wheel set could be an upgrade to a bike:
Rolling Resistance - The first is rolling resistance, or rather the ability to reduce rolling resistance. Consider that every time your wheels rotate you are relying on the numerous bearings inside the hubs to make it as smooth and as friction-free as possible. Therefore good quality bearings, with good quality seals to keep out the friction-inducing muck, will make a huge difference to the effort-required and…

Travel More - Cycling South Tyrol's Dolomites

I have ridden many of the mountain ranges of Europe; the Alps, the Pyrenees, the Central Massif, and many lesser known but equally challenging areas. Yet, one region clearly tops them all for me — the Dolomites.

The Dolomites always deliver. The mix of single-track roads and stunning mountain passes such as Timmelsjoch and Stelvio make it a diverse and challenging place for road cyclists. The brutally steep climbs and twisting gravel paths under the ski lifts make for incredible off-road riding. Then, for the more leisurely days, the pristine bike paths through the vineyards and orchards are pure tranquillity.

I rave about the riding in the Dolomites so much that I decided it was about time I wrote a post about it. There are many great parts to the Dolomites mountain range, but in this post I decided to focus on making the town of Merano a base, and look in detail at the routes and climbs you can reach from this stunning South Tyrolean province.

How to get there… First things first:

Review - Spurcycle Bicycle Bell

Some bells are better than their counterparts. Louder, clearer, more melodic, and crucially able to deal with repeated 'dinging'. I used to destroy those cheap plastic bicycle bells every few months on my commute (I am no shy dinger). But then I got sent a Spurcycle Bicycle Bell. It is the business.

The Spurcycle Bicycle Bell is not cheap — it's £49.99 RRP. That means it needs to be damn durable to outlast the equivalent number of plastic bicycle bells that could have been purchased for the same amount of cash. This bike bell is a thing of beauty though, and really does tick all the boxes.

The Spurcycle bell is precision made in the United States of America. It comes in a classic pure metal finish, or in a matt black coating. Its compact all-metal construction (even the strap that goes around the handlebar is metal) means that it looks and feels like it will last a lifetime of aggressive dinging. And, that dinging is a good ding...

The Spurcycle bell sounds with a clear, …

Review - Schwalbe Racing Ray / Racing Ralph MTB Tyre Combo

Selecting MTB tyres for cross country racing and riding always seem to be a compromise to me; a delicate balance between grip and traction for technical sections, versus the need for light weight and fast rolling performance. The new Racing Ray and Racing Ralph combination from Schwalbe promises to overcome the compromise, and deliver on both fronts; through specific tread designs for front and rear wheel.

Schwalbe Racing Ray - Front TyreThe Racing Ray tyre is a new addition to the Schwalbe line-up, and a new name in the house. It is designed specifically for the front wheel, and features forwards angled tread lugs to provide improved cornering, braking, and handling.

The Racing Ray is pitched as an all-round tyre, capable of both dry conditions and wet mud. It achieves this because the open tread pattern allows debris to be quickly shed from the tyre's surface, therefore providing continued grip and confidence.

Out on the trails this late summer I have encountered both moist condi…

Review - CYCED Wall Art Route Maps

I love maps. Maps hold memories; lines across continents that tell of a journey diverse and interesting. The route maps from CYCED are a great example of a GPX generated piece of wall art, which will remind you of a past adventure.

Getting a CYCED map made is super simple — you send them the GPX file from your activity, and they turn it into a beautiful map. The black outline of Europe in my above example of the #7Countries7Passes is a little difficult to see in this photo (although unfortunately my reflection is), but it is great in real life. Your ride could be anything from a round the Isle of Wight map, to a multi-day trans-Europe tour.

The prints are made and dispatched directly to you, so you can choose your frame.

A great gift idea to celebrate great memories — just say you are asking for your friend or loved one's route GPX so you can follow it, and then go get a map made up... though I am not sure I would believe anyone if they asked me for my route file from the #7Count…

Review - Fizik X5 Terra Mountain Bike Shoes

This year fi'zi:k completely redesigned their shoe range, with fresh ideas in both road and mountain bike lines. The fi'zi:k X5 Terra Mountain Bike Shoe might be at the lower end of the price and specification spectrum within the brand's range, but it is a well built and comfortable mountain biking shoe.

New Lasts The first big change for all the fi'zi:k shoes was a change in the soles / lasts. The brand brought new technology to their design process, which looks at shaping the carbon sole of the shoe to match more closely with the contours of the foot; so providing more support and ultimately comfort for the entire length of the foot.

The change is notable. I owned fi'zi:k shoes from the previous age, and they felt flat and shapeless in the footbed by comparison. This newer design feels more encompassing and more supportive. It is a solid base, even with the relatively small contact point of many mountain bike pedals.

New Closures Going hand in hand with the more…

The #RoadsFromRome – Crossing The Continent. Connecting Capitals. Creating Memories.

What is life if not a daring adventure? A chance to discover new roads, new places, new challenges, and to meet with friends old and new.

From the hills and vineyards of Tuscany, through the mountains and lakes of the Dolomites and Austrian Alps; then onwards to the deep forests of The Black Forest, The Ardennes, and out onto the flatlands of The Netherlands. The #RoadsFromRome crossed The Continent, in a diverse and beautiful journey of discovery.

It began in the midst of a thunderstorm, in the arrivals hall in Rome airport. I built the bike surrounded by families returning home from adventures of their own. Mine was just about to begin.

After a night in a monastery in the centre of Rome, I set out the next morning in earnest; eager to begin the great ride northwards. Before long I was into the hills of Tuscany, with the sun beating down, and temperatures in the high thirties. The Via Francigena weaved its way northwards, along quiet back roads and empty sections of famous Strade B…