Bax Carbon 60mm clincher wheelset, fun with science.

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“Lets face it, deep carbon wheels are just the business, they look great and sound terrific. I don’t actually care if they improve my performance or not, as I’ll be too busy looking good.” I nicked that from Drlodge on bike radar. I hope he doesn’t mind. I thought we should start with that cos, well, yep. The contrary view, of course, is that they look pretty, cost a bit and offer less/the same/marginal gains (delete as applicable).

We’ll return to the above. And we’ll do some science. Most of it unverifiable by me as I’m not a scientist. There’s going to be anecdote a plenty but remember that the plural of anecdote is not data. So take of what you read as you will. But I’ll start by telling you that I was surprised. Not only that deep section wheels were faster but that they were faster across the board, in a range of conditions and that there were very few drawbacks. Oh, and, the looks. Pretty. It’s fair to say that deep section wheels make your bike look more than a bit serious. One forum poster remarked that they looked fantastic even if they were rubbish. These things can be important. 

The science of aero is pretty bewildering. Most of the assumptions you make are true and some are not. There’s an interplay between many things such as outright weight, rotational mass, width (and therefore frontal area), tyre size and wheel shape. It’s hard to draw any real generalisations or conclusions because of the variety of factors at play. And in the absence of my own wind tunnel I have to draw on experience and the stuff that I read on the internet. And we’ll discuss some of that.

From my point of view there has to be a reference point in my own testing regime. I’ve had plenty of wheels from lightweight “climbing ones” to expensive Fast Forward F4r carbon ones (40mm alu brake track). But most of them were on different bikes so I have to use my Supersix as my testing reference point. As you may know I swapped out my original Mavic Aksium wheels on the Six and replaced them with Fulcrum Quattro. As far as reference points go that’s a good one. The Mavic were a 1700g shallow wheel with an internal width of 15mm and an external of 20.2mm. Narrow and old fashioned but a good quality wheel nevertheless. They are good wheels but they are resolutely not aero wheels.

The Quattro were a good reference point to test aero claims because they were pretty much the same weight give or take a few grams. They were wider as well coming in at 17mm internal and 23.2mm external. Crucially they were 35mm deep which is where wheels, arguably, start to have aero claims. You’ll see from my previous review that I found them faster than the shallow Aksium and, certainly, my Strava data pretty much bears that out. But that data is itself based on anecdote and makes little concession to fitness, weather etc. My view is that they are faster wheels and that is likely due to their aero nature. But, would I be faster with 1400g climbing wheels for example? There’s a load going on here. And, arguably, for most riders we are talking about wheelsets which occupy a particularly narrow weight range, say 1500g to 1800g or so if you’ve upgraded from your stock wheels. So, perhaps, for most riders this simply comes down to whether an aero wheel is faster than a non aero one as the margins in relation to weight might be said to be statistically or, at least, relatively insignificant.

Enter the Bax Carbon 60mm clinchers. That’s a deep rim. We’ll return to whether it’s too deep a bit later. But, for now, let’s just do stats. These are 25mm wide external (17mm internal) and, of course, 60mm deep. That’s almost three times as deep as my original Aksium. But the important point is weight. They aren’t lightweight (but then they aren’t expensive either) and come in at about 1830g. That’s helpful in terms of drawing conclusions from my own experience as that’s a mere 100g heavier than the Quattro. So, weight theory suggests they might be slower (but come on, it’s just 100g) whereas aero theory suggests that they should be quicker. Indeed, they should be a lot quicker. In terms of relative weight this wheel is lighter than most stock wheels and considerably so in relation to many.

So, before I rode (confirmation bias alert) I had a google and stumbled across this: Aero v Lightweight Rims and it’s an interesting one.

To condense it, weight variations have to vary quite widely for the aero rim to lose out to the lightweight rim even when there’s climbing involved. And that’s probably surprising because we expect that every gram counts when going up hills and, it seems, that’s not necessarily the case. Indeed, the article is useful because it deals with extremes comparing, for example, a 1200g lightweight climbing wheel with an aero wheel over half a kilogram heavier. The aero’s won out. Not by a massive amount. But it challenges perceptions, they’re not just for the flat road it seems.

Anyway, back to it. Let’s talk about the nuts and bolts of the Bax Carbon range before we get back to whether they work in practice. But before we do, this is what Jon, founder of Bax Carbon has to say about the business.

“The Company was officially set up late last year, but the idea for the business model was conceived quite a while before that. There comes a time as a cycling enthusiast, when you feel ready to invest in your first set of carbon, deep section wheels. When the time came for me to purchase my first set I struggled to find two important things. A source that I trusted who could offer me a wheelset at the price point I could afford. All the well known brands were out of my price range and all of the relatively unknown brands, I knew nothing about and were mostly based in the Far East which I saw as an issue with regards to warranty and returns if any problems were encountered. This led us to start investigating how we could start up a company that could offer a great carbon wheelset at a very competitive price based in the UK and able to offer the sort of reliable customer service, warranty terms and piece of mind that I was after on my quest to purchase my first set of carbon wheels. As you know, we currently have a range of Full Carbon Clincher, 25mm wide U-Shaped profile wheelsets but we do have plans to develop a disc brake compatible range and a track wheel range of carbon wheelsets.” 

Bax currently offer 4 wheelset sizes, 38, 50, 60 and 88mm. You can choose between Shimano or Campagnolo freehubs. Top tip mind, it doesn’t matter too much! If you’re running 11 speed groupsets then a Shimano cassette will work well enough with a Campag system and vice versa.

Obviously the price changes depending on depth! So the 38mm are £459 and the 88mm are £599. The ones I have been testing are a very reasonable £529 and come with a 21 day no quibble return policy and a one year warranty.

They are supplied with everything you need so skewers, quality rim tape, valve extenders and carbon brake pads. A few thoughts on the design before I crack on. Clearly these are sourced overseas rather than being UK built. But then, so are the well known ones. What I liked about these is that they’re not just a plain matte import, the “stickers” are actually printed onto the surface. It marks them out as being specific to Bax and that’s a bit different to the generic built up rims out there. You can also see that there’s a design in the carbon rather than them being plain. It’s nice, it works and it’s good to see a brand being built up.

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The rims are, of course, full carbon. The braking surface is basalt. I read a comment about that being “very 2009.” I appreciate that new fangled tech such as Mavic’s exalith is all very nice but even the well respected guys like Hunt Wheels are still using basalt surfaces. If it ain’t broke. The hubs are taiwanese and are the Novatec A271SB/372SB model. They’re compatible with 10 and 11 speed cassettes. A spacer is supplied for 10 speed. And, despite their relatively modest cost, they are excellent and proven hubs. The bearings are cartridge based so swapping out any worn ones is a piece of cake.

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I’d go as far to say that the front hub is a quite lovely thing. Spokes are supplied by Pillar and are made by Sandvik. It’s not the first set of Sandvik/Pillar spokes I’ve tested this year as they are the spokes on my (two pairs) Pro Lite Revo. You can find details of the spokes here. I’ve never had any issue with pillar spokes and they are good quality items.

The wheels arrived perfectly true and round. I’ve had the spoke tension checked and they’re all bang on. I won’t rehearse the old hand built v machine built discussion that I dealt with in my Pro Lite review. These are essentially hand built by their very nature.

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In terms of weight they’re bang on as advertised coming in at just over 1kg for the rear and 830g for the front. That’s without skewers. Perhaps hefty by wheel standards but still lighter than many OEM wheels. As I’ve discussed it also calls into question weight generally. Most riders have wheels within the 1500-1600g range. These are a mere 200 odd grams more. Is it noticeable uphills? Is it noticeable from a standing start? I’ll talk more about that later but, briefly, no.

The rim tape isn’t installed but that takes seconds. And it’s a good idea for it not to be installed because these are also tubeless compatible. So, if that’s the route you’re going down then you’ll be wanting tubeless tape on there. In terms of tyres I opted for 25c Schwalbe One partnered with some Conti inner tubes. These were of the 42mm variety so I had to use the valve extenders. There are two types of these. One is a simple extender which you screw over the top of an open valve and then rely on air pressure to ensure a seal. The other is the type where you remove the valve core, extend the valve using the extenders and then reinsert the valve core into the extender. The ones supplied, in a natty red anodised form, are the former. They work well. I prefer the security of the latter and had some knocking around so am using those. There’s a guide here.

Fitting the tyres and tubes was about as easy as any wheel I’ve ever used and that bodes well for tubeless. It really is a fingers only operation. The final step is to install the supplied carbon brake blocks. Since my setup is Shimano Ultegra that’s simply a matter of sliding out the old blocks and sliding in the new. I used the tried and tested business card approach to creating some toe in on the pads as, initially, they were a bit squealy. Not an uncommon thing in carbon rims it seem.

Quality wise then, all good. No issues out of the box. And onto the roads we went. The first day I used them was the hottest day of the year. Or summer as it’s called in Wales. Despite the warmth there was some wind around. So it’s not a bad time to be testing what these wheels are like in a crosswind. Bear in mind that this is a U shaped wheel and therefore pretty much like many other newer carbon rims out there. Better than V shaped by all accounts and especially so where there are crosswinds. I’ll ignore talk of toroidal, hybri toroidal, dimples and yaw if that’s ok with you. I’ll stick to the easy stuff, are they comfy, do they roll and spin up well (more of that in a bit) and are they fast, for that, really, is pretty much what we’re looking for here.

Let’s deal with the important stuff then. The first thing is that the bearings are good and the freehub is noisy. Short of Hope and King standards but a great alternative to needing a bell. You will be heard coming up from behind. I don’t mind noisy hubs. The wheels spin nicely with the bike on the stand and they keep going and going. That bodes well. Given the potential imbalance caused by the longer stem (marginal grams) there is simply no bounce at all on the bike stand further evidencing the good build quality of the wheels.

My testing has focused on a number of areas. As I’ve explained before I don’t have a power meter and the weather is often variable so conclusions drawn may well be described as anecdotal. But I’ve cycled enough to know how different things feel. So I’ve not yet focused on average speed over distance, mostly because running did my legs in this week, instead choosing to deal with comfort, climbing, speed for effort and some Strava segments. Let’s take the last first. Three KOM’s on one ride. All three were short sharp uphill sections. On one of them I averaged 30 mph uphill over 20 ish seconds. 1 of 3000 odd. Was I better? Was the bike better? Were the wheels the answer? Perhaps all of these things but in the time I’ve been trying to bag the segment I couldn’t do it. This time I nailed it with seconds to spare. Confirmation bias or new toys? Maybe. But the point really was that these heavier wheels appeared to be faster than my existing ones and, crucially, uphill. If they can do it there, then what about the flat?

Well, essentially, maintaining speeds above 20 mph is much easier. So the opportunity to set average speed bests becomes easier as well. And that’s all very well and good but what about the all important things. Are they comfy? Can you actually pootle uphill on them? What are they like over really bad road sections? Could you live with them everyday.

Well. Isn’t that the million dollar question? There needs to be some context. Let’s look at what they’re on. A Supersix Evo. You add 60mm clinchers to that bike and there are only two reasons to do so, the first is to make it look good, on that these wheels succeed. The second is to make it go fast, and they do that too. Would I use them in the Autumn in the wind and the rain? Well, no, mostly because that would be more than a little masochistic. Why sully the good weather race bike? Why not take the disc equipped bike instead (Bax are working on a carbon disc by the way). So it’s not really all that appropriate to determine whether you could live with them everyday because I don’t really think that’s what they are for.

But in terms of the nice summer day, riding to the Cafe stop, coming back through the back lanes and hitting some Roubaix like surfaces. Yep, they do that as well with zero fuss or drama. They go uphill like any other wheel (ignoring any aero benefit for the time being). They go downhill very fast indeed. They’re stiff out of the saddle with zero flex that I can detect, indeed those uphill KOM’s demanded some real out of the saddle power and there was zero rub despite the fact that I run pads very close. They deal with rough road surfaces very well. And, of course, they are just so easy to move.

Any issues? Well, the brakes work perfectly well. Once I’d toed them in any squealing went away and in the dry they were as good as my Shimano block equipped Ultegra brakes but a little shy of my Swiss Stop pads. In the wet they do take a little longer to scrub speed off but they’re not particularly alarming. I look on the pads as a bonus to get you going but I’d probably invest in some Swiss Stop carbon ones nevertheless.

Quality wise I’ve put about 500 miles into them now and they’re as good as out of the box. I’ve used them in some light drizzle and while they’re a world away from my RS685 hydraulic discs in that respect, they’re not far off an alu clincher. Add some better pads and they’ll be fine. But wet weather riding is really besides the point here.

In terms of comfort they’re very good. Because of their width there’s a good volume to be had from a 25c tyre so you can get a nice shape and a decent amount of comfort. They were pretty close to the comfort of my alu Fulcrum wheels as far as I could detect.

As far as I’m concerned so far so good. For the price of mid range wheel you get the full on effect of aero, good comfort, excellent built quality and, for me, little or no real effect on climbing. Are they worth the money? Yes, I think that they are. Would I buy the 60mm? Maybe. It’s all rather interesting. The 50mm give away 10mm of aeroness but are almost 100g lighter. I don’t know where the ideal cross over is. The 38mm are almost 200g lighter. They might be the happiest medium of all. You pay your money and you make your choice. But what you get is a very good quality wheel that looks like a million bucks.

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Consider this stage 1 of the review. It’s a bit wet this week for averages but, next week, I’ll update with a few challenges. Can I break my 10 mile TT record and can I put in the fastest commute ever. I’m confident, because these wheels are very good indeed. Oh, and how fast can I climb the Bwlch? That’s a pretty good test as well. Stay tuned.

Update 1: that climbing test. How did that go? Well, great as it happened. My best time for the Bwlch was set on the Dragon Ride in 2011. To be honest I was feeling it that day and caned the second ascent. Not great by all riders standards but great by mine. So I gave it a bash despite being 5 years older and probably slightly heavier. The result? Whichever way you carve it up I was faster up, by quite some margin in fact. Was it the wheels? That’s not REALLY the test we’re going for here, we know they are faster on the flat etc, it’s just a measure of whether they hold you back on the ascent due to the increased weight and not once did I wish for a lighter wheel.

The descent was very good as well with very good braking from the pads and no obvious heating (this is not the Galibier). There  was some cross wind on parts and I think that 60mm for descending is probably not the way to go but the wheels rolled well and cornered well. If I was climbing all day long and doing general purpose stuff I’d probably opt for the 38mm because they’d be that bit better for that sort of thing. If I was doing speed and more speed then the 60 or 88. You can mix and match wheels as well if you ask nicely! Final update coming later in the week when I tackle that 10 mile TT.

Update 2: and the final one before they go back. I did the TT again. Not formally I am afraid, family commitments. But I did the course. My reference point was the last occasion with the Quattro versus this time with the Bax. Getting to the TT course requires a 8 mile ride so there was an opportunity for a warm up at least. But given the hugely gusting westerly it was much more of a slog. Conditions were poor for proper TT testing but good for crosswind testing given that much of the course was side on to the westerly breeze. The wind was a steady 20 mph or so with gusts of up to 40.

The out leg was great and I set an average of around 25mph. The back leg much harder given the wind position and ascending. Nevertheless I averaged 22.1 mph and finished in 26.30 seconds knocking almost 30 seconds off my PR. A still day would, in my opinion, have seen more gains. I should also add that there was little other concession to aero such as skinsuits, overshoes and the likes, just me in normal kit.

Once again the Bax were brilliant. So easy to hold at speed and while there was clearly an effect in crosswinds I am alive to write this. It was far less than I’d expect but, obviously, more noticeable than a shallower rim such as the Quattro. I’ve no experience of hugely toroidal rims or Zipp golf ball dimpling so can’t comment about how much better those wheels are. But these were fine. I’d not take them out in a gale as I’ve said before and to repeat it may well be that the 50’s occupy the real sweet spot.

I’ve really enjoyed my time with these wheels and I think that they’re well priced with good backup from Bax as well. I’ll be sad to see them go.

See Sense, a look into the future of cycling

I’m a huge fan of See Sense and their intelligent lights. I consider them a vital piece of safety equipment, particularly when commuting, but they’re pretty good all year round given that their so adjustable. And I sense that we’re only seeing the start of what See Sense might eventually offer. They’re a step ahead of the curve. And they’ve launched a big online funding campaign on Crowdcube which I reckon they’ll pass very shortly. With that in mind I caught up with founders Philip and Irene Mcaleese earlier this week to see what the future holds. I’m really looking forward to seeing what they come up with next.

Can you talk us through how See Sense was originally thought up? 

The See.Sense intelligent light was designed in response to a problem See.Sense founder Philip McAleese faced daily as a cycle commuter. He was living in Singapore at the time with his wife and family, working as a Director for a large multinational investment bank.

He had taken up cycling to work to keep fit, but found that cycling through the busy traffic in Singapore could be quite scary at times. Philip explains, “Over there, they have the concept called ‘kiasu’, which is the idea of wanting to come first. It’s hard to describe – it’s not that Singaporeans are aggressive drivers, but they’re very assertive. If there’s a millimetre of space, somebody will dive into it. They think nothing of passing a cyclist and then immediately turning left into their path. That’s quite acceptable as they consider they have road position, because they’re there before you.”

Having previously been hospitalised following one collision on his bike, he started to think deeply about what he could do to improve his safety. Looking into the stats he discovered that nearly 80% of accidents involving cyclists actually occur in urban areas, in daylight, at road junctions and roundabouts. He realised that most cycle lights are simply not bright to be seen at these times, and the ones that are have a very poor battery life, or require a heavy external battery pack that is not suitable for the regular commuter. He knew he needed something to give him road presence during the commuting peak times of dawn and dusk, when most bike lights are not effective.

The inspiration to create See.Sense happened during a commute home. Philip explains: “I was thinking about the smartphone in my pocket. There was a lot of sensor technology on that device and I wondered could we use some of that to develop a light that’s bright when it needs to be and conserves energy when it doesn’t”.

It was really from there that he looked at the sensor technology that was in smartphones and integrated it into See.Sense to create the first intelligent bike light. Philip said, “I wanted to create a light that was really attention-grabbing, even in daylight. Light performance is usually a trade-off between high brightness, long runtime and compactness. See.Sense uses power intelligently, enabling it to be bright when you need it and still have a long runtime in a small package”

Philip was able to draw on his background in electronic and software engineering to come up with his idea. Prior to working banking, Philip had graduated from the Queen’s University of Belfast with a Bachelor of Engineering (Electronic and Software Engineering). Following University, Philip had spent two years designing air traffic control simulators for National Air Traffic Services (the UK equivalent of the Federal Aviation Administration).

What started off as a personal quest to make something that was more convenient for him as a commuter, started to grow as he spoke to his colleagues in the cycling club at work. Although he didn’t intent to create a product and bring it to the masses, word began to spread, and the more he spoke to other cyclists, the more he realised that they shared the same problem and were looking for the same solution.

Having thoroughly researched his idea and working closely with cyclists, Philip and his wife Irene believed they had a potentially successful idea. They decided to leave their corporate jobs and return to Northern Ireland from Singapore to focus on the development of the business and it was in Northern Ireland that See.Sense was born.

You’ve come a long way very quickly. What do you see as the reasons for See Sense’s success?

A key differentiator for See.Sense is that we love both technology and cycling – and we have deep in-house technological expertise, innovative culture and strong design ethos to carry us through from design to execution. All of our tech is designed in-house.   We feel that this is a big differentiator in the cycling product market. We also manufacture our products in a factory that is less an hour’s drive from our office, so that we can oversee set up and being able to make tweaks to production in the early stages. All of this makes us fast, and able to iterate our designs quickly. We’re constantly learning.

Additionally, we wholeheartedly believe that people want great products, not just technology, so that’s why we’ve worked with hundreds of cyclists to develop our products. We’ve had two successful kickstarter campaigns, raising over £114K from over 1400 backers and taken on board much feedback and learning throughout the process. Since launching three years ago, we’ve built a strong community of over 27,000 across our different social media platforms.

Your original project was funded by Kickstarter. How did that come about and what made you choose that over more traditional methods of financing such as venture capital?

We worked with hundreds of cyclists around the world and tested several prototypes with our local cycling club, North Down CC. We also worked with Queen’s University Belfast as well as the University of Ulster on the casing design and testing of the light, before launching on the crowd-funding website Kickstarter in October 2013.

We chose to go on kickstarter because, as a startup, finding the money up front to pay for the tooling is very expensive. We knew the kickstarter funds would help with that, but the real benefit of a kickstarter campaign is actually getting market validation. Our first campaign, in October 2013, raised nearly three times our funding goal, at over £33,000 in 30 days, with over 850 lights ordered. This market validation put us in a much better position when we subsequently spoke to potential retailers about stocking our lights – you have effectively shown retailers that there is a market waiting for your product. We also found that as a result of being on the kickstarter platform, we received amazing press in the cycling and tech media as well as some of mainstream newspapers, such as the New York Times and The Guardian. As a startup we never would have achieved that kind of coverage if we’d launched any other way. The success on Kickstarter, and the fact that we followed through and subsequently delivered a high quality product built our credibility, which definitely helped to open discussions with retailers including Chain Reaction Cycles, one of world’s largest online cycling retailers who became our first stockist.

Given the success of our first campaign we went back to Kickstarter in April 2014, with our second product, ICON – the intelligent and connected cycle light. This time we had an even bigger success, raising over £80,000 from 934 backers. We feel that the second campaign performed even more strongly because proved the company was good on its word by delivering a high quality product from the first campaign, and this contributed to the conversion rate we saw on this one. Effectively, we showed we can deliver once, so we de-risked it for a lot of people.

However, we would say that we feel Kickstarter is changing, and getting harder. For ICON, we had to work quite hard to get our message out into the media. Our sense was that some journalists were becoming slightly jaded with Kickstarter because there were companies before us that had failed to deliver. Also, larger, more established companies are moving into Kickstarter now and spending a lot of money on their campaigns, using slick videos etc which is changing things.

Now you’ve chosen Crowdcube to fund the company itself. Given the success of your product what made you go down that road?

We have some hugely innovative new products in the pipeline, and we’ve some amazing opportunities opening up with cities who are interested in our crowdsourced data. To give fuel to the fire, we want to take on investment. Rather than just go straight to a VC firm, we wanted to invite our community – the people who use and love our products – to help us grow.

With Crowdcube, our community can invest from as little as £10 to as much as they like to join the company and be part of our journey. Crowdfunding for equity builds upon our ethos of involving our community, so to us it just makes ‘sense’!

How pleased are you with the Crowdcube take up so far?

We’re delighted with the uptake so far. We’ve achieved 90% of our funding goal in the first week and are well on our way to achieving our target of £500,000.   The great thing is that we recognise many of the investor names coming through as our customers, who are investing alongside institutional investors, so we are excited that we have a great journey ahead of us.

A lot is made of “connected cities.” Have you been able to use much/any of the data provided by the Icon lights yet?

See.Sense ICON is actually a lot more than a market-leading cycle light that keeps you safer on the road. ICON is also capable of collecting high quality sensor data about any crashes, near-miss events, road surface, light levels, temperature levels and more. This information is very useful for city planners who want to create better cycling infrastructure and connected, ‘smart cities’. Possible use cases include:

  • Informing cities about ‘hot spot’ areas where there are high frequency of ‘near-miss’ events and crashes – showing where the priority areas are for cycling infrastructure provision.
  • Identifying potholes, even before they’ve fully formed, so that cities can repair them before they become hazards and repair at lower cost.
  • Integration with traffic lights, so that cyclists can get a green light and be prioritised.
  • Identify where gritter trucks should be located for best results.
  • Monitor condition of off-road cycle paths – and much more!

We are delighted to announce that See.Sense was the winner of a prestigious international award, the BT SME Awards for Connected Cities (Overall Winner and category winner for ‘Smart Cities’) . The awards were run in conjunction with the Cabinet Office, MK Smart and Techhub. This award gave us prize money, but more importantly, the opportunity to work with a city to apply our technology.

We were excited to present a paper at at world’s leading cycling conference called Velo-City Global, in March 2016 in Taiwan to update on our progress. We’re delighted to say that our paper was very well received, with a number of transport planners in the audience expressing interest in being able to use this data once it is available.

We have held closed beta trials with our beta group from Kickstarter and across Northern Ireland. We are continuing to work with Professor Adele Marshall, Director of Research at CenSSOR, Queen’s University Belfast, to further validate and refine the algorithms.   We are about to start a trial with the city of Milton Keynes with hundreds of cyclists. The project will map the city’s cycle paths known as ‘redways’ in ways never before seen, generating data that can be used to encourage more people to use the redways. The project will initially focus on the 200 miles of ‘redways’ that crisscross the city, identifying popular routes taken and the speed of the cyclist over the route, and then will extend into mapping other variables. We also have another trial starting in an European city soon (can’t announce that city publicly just yet) and are planning to start one in India very soon as well. Once we are finished these trials, we’ll have a better idea of the use cases for the data, and how we can best help cities.

Data collection is NOT currently enabled on ICON lights. It is currently only enabled through a special app that our beta test groups and city trial participants have access to. Whenever we come to enable it, we will ask the cyclists’ permission first via the app. All data will be anonymous and aggregated and we’ll always protect the privacy of the cyclist first and foremost.

You’ve recently signed a distribution deal with Raleigh for the UK. Can you tell us a little more about that?

We gave much consideration to the decision to appoint a distributor in the UK/ROI. As a young brand with currently only one product, it is important to choose a distributor with real passion for your product, our brand and our future direction. Raleigh genuinely has that. They understand brands – they are themselves one UK’s best loved cycling brands, and as well they have the expertise and market power of being one of the leading distributors across both UK and Ireland. So although we are already stocked with more than 60 retailers across UK and ROI, we’re excited to be working with Raleigh to bring ICON to even more stockists.

Compared to the original See Sense how are sales of the new one going?

With the newly released ICON, we’ve built on all the good things from our ground-breaking intelligent light and delivered something even more exciting by adding connected features.

See.Sense has almost doubled its turnover year on year since it was established in 2013, now selling into more than 50 countries worldwide.

And, finally, can you tell us about where you want See Sense to be in 5 years time and what types of products you are thinking about? (If you can!)

We want to continue to focus on making great products for cyclists, using cutting edge connected and sensor technology to address real needs such as improving safety and reducing theft. We have a hugely innovative and exciting product roadmap, with a number of products planned, and we’ll continue to work with our community to help shape them. The crowd-sourced data that we can collect from the products will help cities identify where and how to make the infrastructure needed, as well as inform policies needed to promote cycling, and make our cities smarter.

 

Planet X “365” road shoes

I like Planet X. Mostly. They sell good value no nonsense kit. My XLS has served me well in cyclocross. It’s not the last word in performance or comfort but it does the job at a price that others find hard to complete. I have some jerseys knocking around as well. I think they were a tenner or so. Again, not the last word in comfort or feel, but they do. Move up the range and there’s some great stuff knocking around at some pretty great prices.

But, sometimes, it’s hard to escape the feeling that they are the Sports Direct of the cycling world. Though, slowly, Sports Direct are trying to make themselves the Sports Direct of the cycling world. It’s just that they always seem to be having a sale. That’s fine. Better prices for us, better value. Or it would be if the sale price was a) lower than that product had been sold before and b) the product had actually ever appeared at the rrp. But there we are. Unlike some on the ‘net I’m not frustrated by Planet X’s sales technique but you do need to buy at the right time.

And the 365 road shoes, their entry level, are a case in point. I would introduce this review by saying that they represented superb value at a reduced price of £49.99 against an RRP of £99. Thing is, as I write this, they’re now a rather better £40 against a RRP of £79.99. I can’t be certain that they were £99 RRP before, but I think they were, I could be wrong. But value is best dealt with in relation to price paid versus performance rather than absolute savings. So let’s go with that.

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First things first, they’re pretty great looking. You can choose black and red or white and red. For a £40 shoe the one thing that they don’t look is cheap. Indeed they are actually an attractive pair of shoes whatever the price. They’re a man made fibre rather than leather and whilst not as advanced as the micro fibre effect in something like a Fizik but they are both flexible and durable. The black are clearly a good choice for keeping clean but both colours are easily wipe clean. Indeed the only thing that’s likely to ever get grubby is the white velcro on the white version. It’s good to see the liner being red as that’s easier to keep clean in my experience as well.

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Although the sole is merely a composite, rather than advanced carbon or carbon composite, they’re far from heavy. So this UK 44 comes in at 294g. Sidi wire (carbon) are roughly 600g (the pair) for a similar size so sub 600g the pair is actually very good.

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Planet X have opted for a branded Atop reel link system which pulls in the top two sections of the shoe. It’s simple enough, one way for tighten, the other to loosen. It works very well and is found on shoes of much higher prices. It lacks the fancy release system of BOA or that found on Sidi but works equally well in my view.

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The toe section is fastened by traditional velcro. The entire set up is the same as you’d find on something like the Specialized Expert Road. In fact there’s an addition here in that small guiding triangle in the mid tongue which is absent on similarly setup shoes.

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The tongue is perforated mesh at the bottom section which, combined with the perforated outsole, means that these are very breathable. It does mean that they will leak water like a sieve but there we are, you can’t have everything. They’re a great pair of shoes for summer and should probably be avoided in winter!

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The heel cups are a little industrial looking but work absolutely fine. In terms of support the rear section cradles the heel nicely with no discomfort.

So far, so good. But, it’s the soles of these which have a nice little party piece.

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See? Twin SPD bolt compatible and great to see. So you can use the standard triangular cleat (SPD-SL) or opt instead for a MTB cleat (SPD). It’s good to have that variety of choice in a shoe and it does mean that you can choose the type of engagement that you want. Is there a point to this? That depends. Generally SPD is chosen by those who want to walk on their Cafe stop without falling on their arse. The absence of side tread here (as per a MTB shoe) means that walking is still fraught with danger and, perhaps, more so given how a SPD cleat grips (or rather doesn’t). So this is simply about engagement and pedal choice rather than a more practical effect. MTB cleats can be better for the beginner and tend to be dual sided so it’s a nice addition to have and means that should you “progress” to SPD-SL then you don’t need new shoes.

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The insoles are surprisingly good quality as well and much better than standard Sidi fare. The interior is also vented along the spine of the shoe and the front making them even more breathable. Again, water can get in here but, crucially, it can also get out.

Size wise Planet X warn that these come up small. That’s probably true though I find them pretty similar to Shimano and Sidi.

In use? Well, pretty damn good actually. No apparent hot spots when riding, pretty decent support and a good amount of stiffness. Are they as stiff as my Shimano R171? Science says no, real world use says I can’t tell any great perceived difference. They certainly won’t be as stiff as a top line Sidi Wire or Shimano R321. There’s no fancy heat moulding and what you see is what you get. The atop dial means that adjusting on the fly is a piece of cake and arguably a bit easier than the Sidi Wire with their press release and do up again dial.

But they’re excellent actually, particularly for the price. They’d be excellent at that all elusive RRP as well.

I hope to be testing the Decathlon B’twin 700 road shoes soon. They add a second dial and a fancy carbon composite sole. It will be interesting to see how they compare.

Guest Report: Cycling in Mallorca, the Pinarello Experience

 

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Gareth Price for this lovely report of his time in Mallorca. Gareth’s first serious forays into cycling began in 2014 when he was coaxed into doing the Carten 100. The rest, as they say, is history with Gareth being quickly bitten by the bug and crossing off those cycling bucket lists very quickly including sportives, a first season in CX and now cycling abroad!

Tackling Sa Calobra on a Pinarello Dogma

My love affair with the Dogma F8 and Sa Calobra, as with all affairs, started by chance. In 2015 I was on holiday with my wife and parents staying in the Mallorcan holiday resort of Puerto Pollenca, trying to combine a family holiday with some training for the inaugural Velothon Wales. Two days into the holidays my Parents found, as they described, a “small bike shop”. That bike shop turned out to the “The Pinarello Experience”, it wasn’t that small and had more Dogma’s hanging off the wall than I’d ever seen before.

I hired a Dogma for the day, rode to Sa Calobra, enjoyed myself but was left with that nagging doubt in the back of my mind. Could I have been faster and made better use of the bike? And so in June 2016 I returned for another family holiday. The plan was simple hire a “normal” Pinarello for 3 days and a Dogma for 1 day.

Reams have been written about how great Mallorca is for cycling with peak activity taking place earlier in the year. The island attracts both professional teams and amateurs all wishing to make use of the quiet roads, mixture of flat and hilly training and better weather than back home. Although I prefer June/July so that I can combine my visit with a holiday.

The hire process with The Pinarello Experience is simple

I had a Razha for 3 days and a Dogma F8 Dura-Ace Di2 for 1 day.

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Pinarello Experience Shop Picture

The shop is situated close to the centre of the town, just off the sea front at Calle Temple Fielding 3 and 5, and just around the corner from Tolo’s Restaurant – home of some of Bradley’s winning Pinarellos. The Dogma was ready for collection with the seat post set to my requirements and fitted with a set of Look Carbon pedals.

The route was a simple out and back to Sa Colabra – a total of 95km and just under 1,900 metres of climbing.

Leaving Puerto Pollenca and heading towards Pollenca on the Ma2200 you begin to realise what’s so good about the roads here. Not only are they smooth but have a wide space on each side just for bikes. Not like the 2 foot you get back in the UK punctuated with manhole covers, cats eyes and general rubbish! The road is smooth but already you get the impression that the Dogma wants to go faster and is easy to ride. But I’ve got a long way to go today, and I haven’t come to any hills yet.

Bike at beach

Straight on at Pollenca on the Ma 10 heading towards Luc. The road is flat for a while until at around 12km you start the climb of the Coll de Femenia. The average gradient is 6% but at 7.5km in length is over fairly quickly. Half way up I catch a group who have come over from Leeds and we discuss the pros and cons on bike hire vs. bringing your own bike. From the summit of Coll de Femenia it’s another 10, lumpy, km’s to Luc and the right turn towards Soller. Follow the road until you see the right turn for Sa Colabra. You’ve got another 3km’s before you reach the top. But the climb has given me time to remind myself how much I like the bike. Changing gear, sometimes just for the sake of it, showed just how good the Di2 was. But then coming from a 105/Ultegra mix it’s bound to be.

Sa Colabra isn’t actually the name of the mountain – it’s the name of the small seaside village at the bottom of this dead-end road. The mountain is actually called Coll dels Reis. Unlike other climbs there is only one way to ride up it, and that is to ride down it first as the road stops at Sa Colabra.

A quick look at any map will indicate it’s the usual mix of hairpin and shortish straights – the proverbial spaghetti dropped on a plate road. If you want to get a feel of it look at the video on YouTube of the Sigma Sport cycling team decending, at speed. Although best not to show any of your loved ones before you do it.

As you’d expect the road, at times, can get busy especially with coaches taking tourists down the mountain. Best to arrange your descent to happen in the morning as, after lunch, the coaches will start to come back up the mountain. And whilst the road is wide enough for two cars you don’t want any near misses with a coach on its way back up.

I started the descent and quickly came to the 270 degree turn, which signals the start of the real descent. Unfortunately I caught some cars and coaches, but managed to slip passed them as they stopped at one of the hairpin bends. And so my descent started – once past the coaches I started to pedal hard.

Hairpins

The Dogma came with Mavic Ksyrium SLE’s carbon rims. It’s the first time I’ve ridden on Carbon wheels but as the first hairpin loomed I applied the Dura-Ace brakes, the pads bit into the Exalith coating on the wheel and the bike slowed down. Changed down a few gears then off to the next Hairpin. The brakes were as you’d expect. Loads of feel but very light, pull a little you slow down, pull a little harder and you slow down faster. All very progressive. One observation about the wheel/brake combination was the strange whirring sound they made when applying the brakes. It’s something to do with the pattern of the carbon weave. Nothing worrying, in fact as I got used to it the sound became an audible confirmation the brakes were working. I never got fast enough to see how well they deal with fading.

Generally speaking the descent and road surface is good. But an early hairpin reminds you that you need to respect the descent. All that separated me from going over the edge was what can only be described as, a raise kerb. And on the other side of the road is a hard, sharp and unforgiving rock face. Yes that’s right – you’ve been warned.

One thing I did notice was the lack of cars trying to pass me. I’m no great decender but if you’re a half decent descender you’ll stay in front of any cars. The only thing you need to watch out for is other cyclists passing you.

As you get lower down the descent the hairpins reduce and you get in to a series of faster left, right, lefts. And so you’re at the bottom – take a little care here as you go through the coach/car parks with the inevitable tourist wandering around the road.

At the bottom there’s the obligatory over priced cafes, so take extra cash with you for drinks, probably best not to rely on your “contactless” payment methods here. And the phone coverage is not great either.

And so for the climb. The Strava segment is called “Sa Calobra – Coll dels Reis (official)” all 9.4km and 668m of climbing and remember it stops at the very top, not at the under/over bridge near the top. The average gradient is 7.1% with a maximum of 12%. The current record holder is the Sky rider Sebastian Henao Gomez who completed the ride in 24:54. Despite being on the same bike I’d set my target a little lower.

The best way to describe the climb is challenging. Not because of the gradient or the length but the fact you can’t really see where the end is. The early few km’s are in the trees but when you get out of them all you see in front is a wall of rock. You just can’t see where the end is, you know it’s up there somewhere, you’re just not sure where. Occasionally you’ll see a coach on a road high up and all you can think of is “how the hell do I get there”. With this lack of visual clues as to where you are you need a plan. I’d set a target of not being under 10kph at any time – in that way I’d manage the climb in around 50 minutes. If I managed that it would be 20 minutes faster than last time.

Strangely on the climb, one of the things I liked most about the bike was the Carbon aero bars. Not for the time it saved me cutting through the air, I wasn’t going fast enough. It was the comfortable place to put your hands on the top of the bars for the climb. Kilometre post after kilometre post ticked by giving a visual clue of where I was. It was lunchtime and the sun was fully overhead. I was glad I bought the Tolo’s jersey – by now I’d have been cooking in the Rapha “Classic” jersey I’d brought over. Merino wool and sun doesn’t really mix. The other advantage of the Tolo’s jersey was the service you got at the restaurant later.

1. Front Jacket Tollo's Kit

With every hairpin came with the usual temporary increase in gradient only adding further to the burning in my legs. But it was then, as you applied all of your power, you appreciated the stiffness of the frame and the bars. Then all of a sudden the under/over bridge loomed and I put in an extra burst for the last 2km’s. I’d done it. Under 50 minutes. But let’s put this in to perspective.

28,000 Strava users have recorded times, Sebastien Gomez went up twice as fast as I did – but he’s probably half my age. My time put me in the top 50% so it wasn’t that bad.

Coll dels Reis signme at top

After a short break – the ride back. The descent from Coll de Femenia to Pollenca is very very good. Fast, cambered, smooth corners add to the excitement but the final, flattish, run into Pollenca is the best. It was at this point, on top of a high gear, I really felt like I could do anything on a bike. That’s the confidence it gives you and how good it makes you feel. For that time I was Geraint Thomas leading a stage in the Tour!

So how good was the bike?

Like most of us, I read bike reviews. Wishing that I could get the chance to sample some of the rides they do. And I did. But all I can say was – it was very good. Yes Dura-Ace Di2 is bound to be better than 105, and the Pinarello asymmetric frame better than my Scott. I’m sure sometimes reviewers are being picky – what really is the difference between a rating of 95% and 96%, apart from 1%.

The thought that summed it up was not so much how good say the gears were, but that nothing stuck in my mind as being bad or annoying. No rattles, no squeaks, no wandering offline – nothing wrong. And in my book that gets 100%

To hire or not to hire?

I’ve taken a bike on holiday once only because I was just about to do my first sportive, the Tour of Pembrokeshire, and wanted some time on “my” bike. The costs add up. £45 to hire a box, £60 for the plane and the extra £20 the taxi charged – £125 in total. Not to mention the collecting/returning the box, packing/unpacking the bike etc etc. It’s so much easier to hire and for £125 you can get descent enough bikes.

Was it worth it?

I’m bound to say yes aren’t I, but let’s look at the numbers. The bike costs €100 per day. Convert that to pounds and its £84 (Ed, this was written before that bloody vote) – already a two digit number so psychologically it’s moving in the right direction. You’d be hiring a bike anyway and that would be £22 a day – so your marginal cost is only £62. Why that’s less than a descent night out. So it’s a no brainer really.

And the service you get from The Pinarello Experience is second to none.

But ask yourself what other sporting experience could you have for that money? A round of golf at a famous golf course – unlikely. But then I got more than that – I got to ride a bike that’s used in the Tour de France, what other sport could you say that about? “I drove Lewis Hamilton’s car” – think not.

So sitting in Tolo’s back in Puerto Pollenca, watching the admiring glances my bike (for the day) is getting from other cyclists, enjoying my recovery drink/beer and looking at the Bradley Wiggin’s Pinarellos hanging from the ceiling, I begin to add up all of my thoughts from the day.

Would I go back again next year and try again? You bet. Would I buy one? Probably not, but that’s the attraction of hiring – its having something you don’t normally have. Shall I give up my day job to be a Pro cyclist? Nope

On my own bike, with some more training and losing some weight, I’d have probably got similar times to those I achieved on the Dogma. But to look at it in this way is missing the point. It’s not about what you achieved; it’s about how you feel doing it. About the experience of riding a Dogma – and on that day it was my Pinarello experience.

Some links

Tokyo Fixed Classic Jersey

I don’t necessarily rush out and buy stuff once I’ve reviewed it, though most of the time I’d like to. It’s just that funds don’t really allow it. And I have to reserve funds to ensure a nice breadth of reviews for you guys. So the fact that I don’t write a huge amount of follow up pieces on specific brands is no slight on them. When I choose to do one, you can bet there’s a reason.

And this review of the Tokyo Fixed Classic Jersey follows on from my previous review of their really rather lovely Tokyo Fixed Second Wave Jersey and Bibshorts. I was impressed and I was enthused. Indeed, I was about to order the Arrows jersey (and I probably still will) when  I came across the Classic Jersey reduced to £49.99. That’s a steal, frankly. Though, unless you’re quick, it’s about to be sold out entirely and is only available in XXL (so good for about a 42″ chest).

I wanted this jersey because, well, the review one had to go back and I really rather liked it. Loved it in fact. So when I got the chance to get all that performance at almost half the price I jumped at it. Turns out, this one’s even better.

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It’s not necessarily a colour way that I’d automatically go for. But it’s definitely classic and not showy. It’s a very clean design. The fit is exceptional. I still ordered an XL and it’s still rather race fit (I’m down to about a 39″ chest now) but it’s not like body paint. Indeed it’s very comfortable indeed. So comfortable in fact that it’s supplanted the Assos Mille jersey in my go to for comfort stakes. That’s impressive.

The detailing is subtly different from the wave jersey. For a start the arms are unique. I don’t think I’ve come across this sort of thing before.

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It looks like it might be scratchy. It isn’t, not in the slightest. It’s sufficiently well sized to grip well. You can see that the under arm segment, which extends down the arm, is made of a more ventilated perforated fabric. It’s lush.

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The collar is a nice height and the one thing I really like about the Tokyo Fixed jerseys is that you can do them up all the way to the top without cutting your circulation off. Indeed they  look best done up all the way. Even when done up on a climb you don’t feel like you’re overheating. The zips are excellent.

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There’s a giant elastic band up the front, silicone round the inside of the back whilst the back itself is just elasticated. It’s interesting how different makes use different methods. The Assos Mille reverses this setup but both work equally well in my view.

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The back is pretty standard fare. The white section is more meshy, like the sides and underarms. There are three pockets and no zipped ones. There are no reflectives, but this is a summer jersey through and through. It does everything with the minimum of fuss.

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Quality is first rate. Not just for a £49 jersey. Not even for a (RRP) £69 jersey. It’s great full stop. The stitching is arrow straight and it feels like it will last.

I’ll be honest. I ordered it because it was half the price of the Arrow jersey that I wanted. I figured it would be as good. And it is. Indeed, it might actually be slightly better but that’s a marginal thing.

What I do know is that it’s the best jersey I own in terms of comfort, fit and feel. Indeed, it’s beyond Assos in relation to all of those things.

Short review? Yeah. But that’s fine. This is my go to jersey now. The one that I wear on the special days. It’s great value, it fits perfectly and feels special. For now it’s top of the tree. I think I’ll probably get that Arrow one anyway. Just in case there are two special days in a row.