Giro Privateer R

I own three pairs of Giro shoes, the Privateers being the most humble of the trio. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t compete. These are my do everything shoes, be that commuting, cyclocross, a bit of XC MTB stuff, that kind of thing. I also opted for a slightly different colour from the ‘norm’ and, so far, I’ve had a lot of positive comments about them. They’re nice, a bit different, and there’s some orange. Orange is good.

Let’s start with price. These are £124.99 rrp. And that’s pretty good for a pair of premium shoes nowadays. Shop around and you’ll take a bit more off. Opt for the grey, from Wiggle, as I did and you can get that down to £87.99. And that is very good indeed.

These are not the first iteration of the Privateer. The previous models were a little more ‘traditional’ overall, multi panel upper, lugs on a nylon outsole. The new Privateers follow the fresh Giro approach of being, well, a bit more walky and a bit more useful. More useful than previous Giro iterations and more useful than most other shoes. We’ll come back to that in a bit.


They’re not beautiful, a la the Empire VR90. But they are a good looking shoe in my view. The weight is pretty reasonable to 375g for a 42.5 and mine getting on for 400g. You don’t feel that weight for some reason, chiefly down to the fit. The upper is a microfibre, the sole is moulded nylon and the outsole high traction rubber. The insole isn’t the fancy supernatural fit system but it’s still a good insole with an anti bacterial treatment.

It’s all pretty standard really. Ratchet plus velcro, some bash guards, a decent toe protector and some perforations for ventilation. The bash guards deserve a bit of a mention. They’re welded to the shoe and are, in my view, an improvement on the earlier versions attached to the original Giro Code, for example. These are a bit more abrasive and hard wearing and don’t look like they’ll scuff up to badly. The upper really is wipe clean and that black interior lining means it’s easy to keep these looking as new. Even the orange outsole wipes clean too.

They’re available in black or if you’re particularly daring, blue. The outsole colour changes according to the upper colour. Fit wise, it’s all pretty normal. They do come up slightly wider in my opinion than the Empire VR90 but mostly in the toe box area. There’s also an HV (high volume) fit if you struggle to get a proper fit. The velcro strap and ratchet work very well. They’re easily adjustable on the fly. There are no hot spots or pressure points.


In common with all Giro shoes there’s no heel counter mechanism at the back. Instead you have a high section that cradles the ankle very well. There’s no issue with heel slip assuming you get the right size.


And then there are the soles. And you kind of wonder why everyone hasn’t gone down this route. It’s an all in one outsole bonded to the nylon base. It makes everything much easier to walk in as it’s a little more normal shoe like. But the rubber is also more, well, rubbery, than shoes like the Sidi Dragon and Shimano XC70 that I’ve tested previously. The result of that is a bit more safety walking on damp surfaces, rocks or even just walking on shiny surfaces when you reach the office on your commute.

There are other pluses as well. You know that thing where you midfoot strike your pedal, you slip off and bash your shin? That’s not really an option here because of the grip of the rubber. If you hit the pedal with the midsole you just stay there. Indeed, these make a pretty excellent CX shoe because you can hop on, cock up your pedal entry entirely and just pedal on the midfoot until you’ve sorted yourself out. The lugs aren’t hyper aggressive for mud but they do clear very very well indeed. And, as pictured, you can add toe spikes as well. What minimal traction they give away they more than make up for it in sheer runability.


Downsides? Well, the outsole is not replaceable. But you could walk the figurative 500 miles and 500 more many many times and these wouldn’t show much, if any, wear. Because there’s so much outsole the surface area is greater and wear is less of an issue. Crucially, it contributes very little, if any, additional weight.

I got these a few weeks before Battle on the Beach. So I started off just using them commuting, a bit of social riding etc. The one thing that they are is invisible in terms of comfort. They’re just like a pair of comfy shoes, trainers even. And you don’t always get that, even with the high end stuff. Even with the Factor and the Empire VR90 you do know that you’re wearing them, comfortable as they are. Some of the comfort comes from their stiffness or, rather, lack of it. These aren’t measured on any stiffness scale but if you compare them, by hand flexing, with the uber stiff Empire VR90 you’re left with one which is unmoved and one which is slightly flexible. But don’t think for a moment that translates to any lack of power, far from it. There’s a lovely balance to just how much spring and power Giro have got from a humble nylon sole.

So when Battle on the Beach arrived I had a choice to make, these or the Empire? The damn sexy ones or the slightly more dowdy do it alls? Given the potential for sand, a bit of abrasion, tree roots and falling off I plumped for the Privateers. And over both days (Battle in the Dark and Battle on the Beach) they were immense. On my lengthy commute, they excel. When walking on slippery surfaces, they are surefooted. You can do as many miles in them as you want with no issues. And that’s kind of what a shoe should be all about.

I’ve tried to think of what drawbacks there are. They lack a bit of weatherproofing, clearly. But, I think that’s about it. And, despite my reference to being dowdy, I’ve grown quite attached to keeping them clean and tidy. So, when the CX season comes, that’s a bit of a quandary. So I think I’ll solve that in a quite simple way. Use these for CX, give them a brush down and a clean, the nature of the upper makes that really really easy. And, for commuting and winter riding, get the blue ones for ‘good.’ Mind, I’m also eyeing up some Giro Republic and some Factor Techlace. I know you can’t have too many pairs of socks but, can one person own too many pairs of shoes? S+1 surely. Yeah, always +1.

Schwalbe Pro One tyres

Schwalbe, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Well, for fast riding with the occasional foray off the beaten track there’s the S-One (now the G-One Speed), for fast riding on the beach and even further off the beaten track there’s the G-One (all round), if you want a pure off roader with some super traction there’s the X-One and if you need a deep mud plugger for cyclocross then there’s the X-One Bite.

It’s not that I’m a fanboy per se. It’s just that, well, when you find a make that offers something for everything you do, why change a winning formula?

I’ve had Schwalbe road tyres on the ‘good bike’ since the days of the Ultremo ZX and R. I chose those for a simple reason. They looked cooler than what everyone else was doing, with their massive lettering and availability in a variety of interesting colours. When I was in my ‘pink phase’ with my Rapha Condor saddle and Assos 6 day jersey the pink Ultremo R worked out very nicely indeed in finishing matters off. And they were lovely tyres, plush and fast rolling. Latterly I’ve been running the ‘normal’ One tyres, that is to say the non tubeless clincher version. They are quick, supple and I’ve never had a visit from you know who. They also wear well, for race tyres, and I’ve got at least a couple of thousand miles out of them. I paid around £25 each so that’s pretty good. I did move away with a slight dalliance into the Michelin Power tyres, but their fragility made me return to what I knew. I still like Continental GP4000iiS but they’re not quite as fast in my view.

The Schwalbe Pro One hails from the same series of tyres that I referred to in my opening, that is to say, the tubeless ones. You can use them with a tube but, to really sing, you need to try them tubeless. If you want to know all about what that involves then click on this link. You’re going to need some tubeless compatible rims (ideally) and some other bits and pieces. I should add that there’s also a non tubeless Pro One as well now. Those will have slightly more pliable sidewalls and a lower weight. They look identical to the tubeless ones otherwise.

In my testing of the Pro One I’ve been using them tubeless on the Pro Lite Revo (which are already set up for tubeless) and also with my Fulcrum Racing Quattro with tubes. There is a difference overall and I’ll come to that a bit later.


If you’re going to get the best out of tyres nowadays then it’s best to go 25c or, if you can, even 28c. The Pro One come in a variety of sizes, from 23-28c and also a 650b option. I tend to opt for 25c on the Supersix because that’s the most it will accommodate. With the SuperX I tend to favour bigger tyres. It’s all about the rolling resistance see, and you need to set aside what you think you know.

It’s almost impossible for mere mortals to properly test the rolling resistance of tyres. Yes, you can swap another tyre over, do that same hill drop, try and measure it. But short of a power meter and some identical conditions it becomes hard to draw proper conclusions. Thankfully, our friends over at do this work for the benefit of the cycling community. And the data that they produce is always interesting. You can read about how they carry out the tests here.

Most of the tests are carried out on 25c tyres because that’s pretty much accepted more commonly now as the de facto option. I’ve selected the GP4000ii, Michelin Power and Schwalbe One (tubeless) and you can see the results here.

It’s an interesting outcome and the Schwalbe One are better almost entirely across the board in terms of watts losing out only to the Michelin at 120psi. Of course, these being 25c, there’s little reason to run them at that pressure and, crucially, Schwalbe cite the max pressure at 110psi. In terms of puncture protection they come out at the top of the heap, but that’s hardly surprising given their thicker sidewalls. It’s an impressive set of stats. Despite their increased weight over the others they are still the faster rolling tyre and I very much doubt spinning them up to speed will demonstrate any effect whatsoever.


The tyre itself is marked out from the non Pro One (i.e. the One) by the addition of ‘tread.’ That means that they’re directional as well if only for OCD purposes. It adds a bit of prettiness but doesn’t do anything in terms of grip.


The 25c size up pretty well too. On both sets of wheels they came up at about 26.5mm height and 25mm wide. There’s still plenty of clearance on the front of my Supersix and enough on the rear chainstay.


In terms of getting them on I used the tried and trusted method of putting them on with a tube first to get them shaped and stretched (hence the valve in the above picture). In terms of ease of fitting they are part of Schwalbe’s tubeless easy range. That translates to easier tubeless rather than easy on! In terms of difficulty I’d rank them to be easier to get on than the G-One but a little harder than the S-One/X-One. It’s worth, if you are planning on running tubeless tyres, to invest in something like the Kool Stop tyre lever/grabber to pull that last section over the wheel. Remember that you don’t need to worry about pinching a tube but you do need to take care not to damage the sidewalls. It’s fair to say that these are harder to install on a tubeless rim (i.e. the Revo) than a non tubeless one (i.e the Fulcrum).

Because they are a good snug fit getting them inflated is a non issue. Indeed, it’s been a while since experiencing any frustration with inflating a Schwalbe tubeless tyre. Using Schwalbe’s easy on fluid and a track pump they inflate immediately. There will be some inevitable air loss over time but it’s no real difference from inflating your tyres weekly.

In use they are particularly whizzy. That’s a technical term by the way. It means fast, cushioned and humming along. And that’s with pretty standard wheelsets. Stick these on a tubeless carbon rim and you have pretty much the perfect combination.

It’s hard to write an awful lot about tyres. My existing One tyres have seen probably 2-3k use and apart from looking a little ‘faded’ have very little in the way of scars or cuts. I’ve used the Pro One over 500 miles so far and they’re as new still. I’ve not experienced any ‘you know what issues’ at all. And in terms of riding them, they are an absolute dream. Fast, good ride, durable. What’s not to like?

Price? Can be a sticking point for sure. At £66 rrp they’re not far off what I pay for tyres on our city car. But there are reductions and at the moment Wiggle have them at £33.49 which is a massive 50% off. And that’s not bad at all…….

Assos ij.Habu.5 ltd edition windproof jacket

There’s something exciting coming from Assos. It’s not exactly a secret. It’s called the Liberty Clima jacket and, well, Gabba. Or something. What it actually is, when it’s coming, what it’s made of, how much it will be, that’s all under wraps. But BMC are using it in the early season classics. It’s exciting.

In this world of Gabba like things Assos have gone their own way. There are the windproofs, the jackets, but not the full on foul weather thingy. Was that conscious? Or just, perhaps, a little left behind. Nevertheless it looks to be rectified soon. I doubt that will see an end to the Sturmprinz, or, crucially, the Habu, but the arrival of the Liberty might affect their sales a little. We’ll see. Personally, for the Assos fan, and I am resolutely fine with being called one, you cannot have too much Assos.

It’s taken a little while for me to get round to this and I thought it better to get this one done before doing my final Assos winter/spring piece (the Tiburu jacket) as I find I’m not using this one as much now (because it’s warming up) but the other is getting used more often than not (even on today’s 10 degree ride). That said, this week sees the UK seemingly on a return to winter with post Easter snow showers and some really chilly convective stuff in the forecast.

So, what exactly is the Habu. Continuing my dissection of Assos’ naming strategy it’s either a) something meaningless b) a venomous asian snake or c) an acronym meaning ‘highest and best use.’ And while the colour I’m reviewing is sometimes referred to as Python green I’m still going with either a) or c).

In some ways the Habu jacket is an anachronism. That’s quite hard to write. And, in itself, an untruth. It’s not that it lacks technical or advance features, far from it, it’s just that, since being launched some 6 or so years ago, others have moved on. And that’s a weird statement too. What we have here is a super advanced piece of engineering. So can something with so much technical R&D still cut it today, especially when others are arguably more versatile? And, even if it can, is there still a place for it?


Assos state that this is an early winter windstopper jacket. But it’s not necessarily a full in windstopper insulator, as we’d see in the (admittedly aimed at winter) Castelli Espresso jacket. But it does fall in line with other manufacturers 5-15 degress windstopper ranges. Where it differs is that the windstopper parts (the black bits) don’t offer any insulation per se, they are unlined, unfleeced, lacking any Roubaix. In practice that doesn’t make any real difference as, layer this right, and you’re looking at something very versatile. Crucially, where others are heavier affairs the Habu is very light. Bordering on long sleeve jersey light.

Mine is an XL. Where the Bonka comes in two fits the Habu does not. I could probably get away with a smaller size, the Habu coming in somewhere between a Mille and Cento fit in the Bonka. It’s available in a number of different colours including the all black Profblack version.

The material is a mix of the proprietary namely 607.RXQ, 726.Stratagon Light, 220.Stabilizer. But, what that boils down to is, windproof front and sleeves and a waffly roubaix type fabric everywhere else. The 220 takes care of the pockets. There’s a DWR type water repellent treatment as well. And, I have to say, it’s easily one of the most effective treatments I’ve come across. I simply can’t wet out the fabric parts, but, of course, that treatment will eventually wear off. Like Castelli’s Alpha jersey this isn’t really intended for wet weather but if you come across some it will perform beyond expectation.


The back is pretty standard stuff. This isn’t a full on shell, so we have the jersey back here. There are three pockets, one central strengthening part, and two individual pockets with a reflective trim. Having tested a lot of gear over the years I’m coming round to the view that the ‘half shell’ approach that Assos adopt is, on balance, a better one. More breathability and very little sacrifice of warmth.


The zips are real quality items and easy to deal with even when wearing gloves. The back pockets are deep enough for all that winter gear and, as you’d imagine, construction if first class. There’s not a massive amount of reflective stuff but what there is, is effective. The waffle material is super soft and super comfortable.


And can see the waffle effect going on. Does it keep things warmer? Well, it’s difficult to test, but, subject to what I say a little later, it works very well.


There’s reflective material on the front zip as well and that helps you be seen and breaks up the pattern as well. There’s a baffle behind the zip which prevents any ingress of cold air. You can see that the black windstopper material has a white backing with a line pattern. That provides some insulating channels but it is otherwise unlined. The arms are similarly treated.


The white section on the inside of the rear adds structure to the back and keeps everything in shape.


And the back of the sleeves is insulating rather than windstopping.

Let’s start with cost. This isn’t cheap and retails in the region of £230. With discounts it’s often available around the £170 mark. And that is, of course, an issue. If we accept that it’s possible to find ‘one jacket to rule them all’ then needing a Bonka, Habu, Tiburu and Intermediate is a frightening proposition. But there we are. The thing is, I’m not sure that there is necessarily one jacket to rule them all and, as such, if you can swallow the cost, is what you are paying for any good? Don’t forget, you’re paying for quality, warranty and crash protection. If you crash, Assos will try and fix it for free. I’ve had experience with that, they fixed my Mille shorts when I was taken out in a CX race. While I couldn’t say they were good as new, they were repaired to the level that I’d have to show you where the repair was.

Well, I said I’d deal with warmth and versatility and in that respect the Habu is amongst the most versatile there is. In some ways it’s really a hardcore Intermediate S7 jersey, adding windproofing to the sleeves and slightly more heft to the rear. Wear it with a light base layer and you can easily ride in temps that start off chilly and head to the teens. Put something really heavyweight under there and you can ride at temps approaching zero with ease. I’d not wear it if I had to be out for hours in sub zero temps, but it will do.

It’s decently waterproof as well. Water cannot settle on the black parts which is not something you can say for all windstopper fabrics. Because it cannot settle, it doesn’t get cold where the water sits. It will eventually get through the green parts but that’s to be expected.

Above all, it feels like a very special bit of kit. So while others may have moved on in terms of other approaches, Assos’ high tech one still has plenty to offer. Combine that with being a great looking jacket, available in a range of colours, and likely to outlast most of the bikes we ride, and it’s a pretty great option.


I’ve honestly never paid an awful lot of attention to my socks. Broadly they were white (where my shoes were white) and black (for the winter). I never did what Lance did. Socks were something to wear or keep me warm. I didn’t pay any attention to their length, per se, but, it seems my subliminal preference was for the short sock. So that’s something like a 9cm cuff at least while we are still in the Article 50 trigger period. Once we leave the EU we’ll be standardising our approach to socks of course with variables in inches only. And pounds, shillings and pence no doubt.

Anyhow, there are things surrounding socks that you may not be aware of. The first is that socks are hot right now. Indeed, they may well be the hottest piece of cycling apparel. The second thing is that there is a trend towards what Lance did. Not, not THAT thing, the sock thing. And not the black ones, no, the LONG ones. Long is cool. And we don’t stop there, colourful is good, vibrant is on message and, get this, ODD socks are a thing. That passed me by I have to say. I was aware that there were some out there but I didn’t realise that it had become widespread. So, to be in with the in crowd you need long, colourful non matching socks, got that?

With that in mind, I’ve decided to eschew the boring white sock and embrace what is now. And in doing so I’ve amassed a few new socks over the past few weeks and thought I’d do a bit of a write up.


dhb Aeron 9cm sock


I probably erred in my first selections. Each of the three socks that follow (and are pictured above) are 9-12 cm socks. In retrospect I probably would have gone longer. But they are still sufficiently long. The dhb (9cm) Aeron sock is no stranger to me, I still have the pair that dhb asked me to test last year and they are still virtually as new. That’s pretty good considering that I’ve used them for all sorts of nefarious off road purposes. They’re still as springy as they were when new and still wash really well. They’ve lost no colour. So there’s going to be no issues at all in relation to durability. dhb describe their socks as having the following features. Chief amongst them is that Meryl yarn which keeps things fresh and pong free.

  • Low weight and low bulk construction
  • Light compression support to help blood circulation
  • Meryl Skinlife yarn – durable and breathable
  • Anti-microbial protection
  • 9cm cuff length
  • Made in Italy
  • Padded footbed at the pedal contact area
  • Reinforced heel + seamless reinforced toe box

These are good socks. They’re comfy and actually pretty warm. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still use them in pretty high temps, so they’re versatile. They’re also cheap, coming in at a mere £9.00 new but are currently discounted to £7.47 if you’re a platinum customer. And, if you really want to be on message, then there is a 13cm version too. And, get this, those are currently reduced to a fiver in some colours. There are plenty of colours to choose from too.

Ale Air Light high cuff socks


These are a tad more expensive at £12 rrp but that’s still not breaking the bank. It does get hard to justify socks at more than a tenner but, hey, sock game. It’s a small price to pay to complete the look. These are more lightweight that the dhb above so these really are more of a summer sock. Fit is excellent and, well, that colour.

  • Lightweight construction
  • Breathable mesh

Umm, way to go Ale. Where’s the extensive property description? No matter. These are a 12cm sock so that big longer on the calf. There’s nothing super technical in terms of their description but they’re nice and light, comfy and seem to be fairly durable so far. No long term reports as to washing but I’ll try and report back as I wear them more extensively.

Castelli Fausto Socks


The Fausto socks are named after Fausto Coppi, of course. Though I’m struggling a little to link the design with the iconic rider, but there we are. Of my initial run of socks these were the most expensive coming out at £13 rrp. They are made for a meryl skinlife based yarn which means lots of nice little anti bacterial properties. And, once again, these are more of a summer sock than an all season one on account of their lightweight properties.

  • Meryl® Skinlife base yarn
  • Pro height with lined cuff

So far, so good, some nice pleasing new socks. But, I was after something that bit more special for ‘those days.’ So on my hunt went.

Madison Sportive Socks


And I happened on these lot. Good colour selection, good look and bang on message in terms of length, coming out at the gold standard 15cm. Now, I know what you’re thinking, they’re odd socks. And, yes, and, no. If you click on the link above you get the impression that’s what Madison are going for. But you need to dig a little deeper as you get a twin pack of socks for your £14.99. So, two pairs of socks in two colourways. I have to say, I didn’t realise that at the time and order the ‘orange pair’ and the ‘yellow pair’ at a combined price of £28 from Leisure Lakes. I was therefore pretty stoked to receive 4 pairs of socks at an average price of £7 each. And, if you want that odd sock look, you can mix and match the orange or yellow pairs. I’d not really mix the orange with the yellow though. Madison make the following claims:

  • A perfect 3 season sock, the Sportive long sock offers superb comfort
  • Made in Italy from the finest fabrics, the Sportive sock is both supportive and comfortable
  • An open knit upper gives a nice flow of air
  • The soft touch socks will last the test of time
  • Long 6.5 inch cuff length
  • Pack of 2 socks with different patterns
  • Made in Italy
  • Limited lifetime warranty

And, I was pretty pleased. They’re staggeringly good value in a twin pack at that price. Good fit, seem to be very well made. So, I was doing ok, stocked up for most days, just wanted to push the boat out for the really special days.

This is Cambridge A Bloc Socks


And I finally plumped up for these. And, I have to say, these are pretty much perfection. £13.99 each, 15cm cuffs, meryl skinlife yarn and natty colours. OK, that’s not cheap, and they’re not awfully better than the Madison ones, but they are a really soft construction and with that design I think there’s enough to justify the price.

These do come in odd. Indeed, the majority of the TIC range consists of odd colour socks. There are some matching pairs in there too, should you wish. TIC make the following claims:

  • Super soft technical yarn
  • Reinforced heel & toe for extra durability
  • Turned ankle cuff to prevent slippage
  • High-density, mid-foot elastic band for foot support and stability
  • Air Mesh diaphanous web construction for breathability
  • Flat seam toe for riding comfort

And without evaluating the effectiveness of all of that I can say that, well, they are lovely. Fit is bang on. The one thing I hate in a sock is where the heel comes beyond the heel. These are great. To be fair, all of the socks here are a good fit, I just thought these were among the best of them. Nice colours, seem to be good quality and just feel that bit special.

I think that’s probably enough socks for now but, I don’t know, perhaps another couple of pairs of the TIC ones? Polka dots next mind. Enough stripes for now. The thing about the #sockgame is that you can’t win at it. You just have to keep playing it.

Giro Empire VR90 MTB shoes

If we take the Draisine (1817) as being the first bicycle then the shoelace predates it by a good 27 years. But, broadly, the lace up shoe has been around as long as the bicycle. And when people started riding bicycles they used lace up shoes and carried on using lace up shoes until well into the 90’s. So, this is less of a new fangled thing and more a welcome return to simplicity. And it’s cool, so very very cool. Weird that, how the humble piece of string can infuse something with so much cool.

The VR90 is Giro’s MTB version of the luscious Giro Empire Road shoe which received much fanfare when Taylor Phinney brought it proudly back to the Pro Peloton. And like the road Empire, it’s available in some pretty natty colourways. The Empire is not a subtle shoe but, if you really want to, black is available. But, come on, these are all about the colour. And, if you can find them, I really do recommend the Grinduro Purple version. I mean, look at them.


I decided on the ‘orange,’ though Giro refer to it as Vermillion. For those interested in colour it’s essentially mid way between red and orange. I’m becoming a bit of a fan of orange recently. And lime. All the benefits of high vis without wearing a dayglo vest. As per all of Giro’s shoes I take a 45. I found these slightly roomier in the toe box than the equivalent road version but otherwise the fit is the same. In terms of comfort they have been referred to as slippers. That’s ridiculous hyperbole. Slippers are floppy pieces of fluffiness. But, in terms of comfort, it’s not a bad comparison. Despite their stiffness they really are  very comfortable thing.

The uppers are magnificent. A seamless one piece upper made from  Premium Evofiber Breathable Teijin Microfiber. I’ve no idea why that’s more premium than non premium Evofiber etc but it’s a hugely durable material and, crucially, wipe clean. There are a number of crucial design cues here. The first is that, like the Giro Factor I recently reviewed, Giro have chosen to make the interior lining black. That’s a good choice, it stays clean, looks box fresh for ever. The top two eyelets are reinforced, the remainder are not. That’s fine in practice as I’ll get to in a bit. Unlike the road version, these have a massive great toe bumper at the front to stop scrapes and dings. It works and adds very little to the overall weight. Mine come in at a shade over 350g for the 45. There are a number of micro perforations to assist with ventilation but, obviously, these won’t be quite as ventilated as something with mesh. But it’s a marginal observation.


You may wonder how you stop the laces getting caught in your chain and the answer is that little Giro ‘pocket’ half way down. It’s an elasticated bridge and you thread your tied laces down and through it keeping them neatly out of the way.


Round the back we have a nice high ankle. Again, like the Factor and road Empire, there’s none of Sidi’s fancy heel retention stuff going on here. But, subject to what I say below, there’s simply no heel slippage at all. The microfiber upper moulds itself to your ankle really nicely so these are something you can wear for many miles without any rubbing.


The underneath is essentially an off road version of Easton’s EC90 carbon sole with a Vibram outsole bonded to it. There are bolts for XC or CX spikes (which are supplied).


And you even get a nice pretty bag in which to keep them, some spare laces, the aforementioned spikes and additional inserts for Giro’s supernatural insole system. It’s a pretty impressive package overall but then you expect that for an RRP of £229. Shopping around should see you nab them for £179 or so.

Now, you may wonder, why laces? Let’s be clear, velcro, rachet and BOA dials are the answer to how tight you can get a cycling shoe and still be able to adjust it on the fly. Those things are not fashion statements, they have a purpose. So can the humble lace still cut it?

The answer to that is an almost unqualified yes, almost. The qualification is that you simply cannot mess around with these once you’re on the bike, so you have to do them up properly to start with. If you’re on a very long ride, and your feet will shrink during that, you may have to stop to do some adjusting. So, on my first few rides I did them up as tight as I thought I needed and found that I needed to stop to do them a little tighter. Once that learning process was out of the way I experienced no issues at all. And, further than that, I found that these are simply the most comfortable pair of shoes I’ve put on. That includes the Factor, the Sidi Drako and others. Indeed, the only shoe that pushes it close is, well, that review will be coming soon, and it’s also a Giro………

There is a bit of art to getting them on. You need to loosen them to the half way, pull tight, then do up and tuck away. The only other issue that could be improved is the abrasive property of the laces. They are a little too slick so getting them tied is simultaneously utterly easy and also potentially a bit slippy, causing you to try again. And that’s two paragraphs on how to lace your shoes. It sounds like an issue but it’s really not. It’s just my reflection on tying your shoelaces the right way. Get it right and these are an absolute dream. Get it wrong, it’s just slightly less brilliant. And, let’s be clear, even broken a fastening part on a shoe? Then you have to find, order and wait for a spare. Not these, just get any old correct length lace. Hell, jazz it up a bit as well, chuck some lime yellow in there.

The stiffness is superb. The EC90 is one of Easton’s stiffest soles but, for me, the difference is largely academic. What really sets these aside from other really stiff MTB or CX shoes is that sole. Giro happened on a superb partnership with Easton, but the tie up with Vibram really pays off. So there’s none of that semi hard rubbery plastic here. This is full on cushy, vibration cutting lushness. Want to get off and walk? Piece of cake regardless of stiffness. Grip on rocks, mud, dirt and grass is excellent. And, unlike others, their catwalk looks don’t make you wince about getting them dirty. Run them under the tap and they look good as new. There’s a bonus as well in that all over vibram plate, you won’t dent the midsole when you cock up a remount. Durability seems good so far, I haven’t truly hammered them, but I’ve racked up some decent miles.

I’m pretty pleased with these. The looks are just a bonus overall. It’s the comfort that’s really outstanding. No fatigue, no hot spots and, providing you get that tieing right, they just mould to your feet and get on with being invisible. They’re not cheap, but, well, look at them. So, that’s two for two from Giro and my feet recently. And it got me thinking of whether a ‘cheap’ pair of Giro could cut it for commuting, getting really dirty, wet and cold. Could Giro make it three from three? Well, stay tuned, potential hat trick incoming…..


Band of Climbers Cycling Prints

Click here to visit the Band of Climbers website

Ride like a Belgian. I do that. I mean, I cycle in muddy fields in the winter and follow up with frites and beer. Well, chips and beer anyhow. Ok, sometimes chips, mainly chocolate and wine. CX is very Belgian. So, yes, I ride like a Belgian, just quite a lot slower. However at the time of writing this review, a mere hours after the 2017 Paris-Roubaix BMC’s Greg Van Avermaet really has ridden like a Belgian, a strong, powerful and dust ridden ride and become the 40th individual Belgian (and 56th Belgian victor) to win this most wonderful of races. An average speed of 28.1mph over 160 miles. Just let that sink in. Faster than Spartacus, faster even that that other strongest of Belgians Tommeke.

Cycling is iconic, legendary, memorable, emotional, evocative, full of imagery, full of fable. And having something up on the wall to remind you of those things is a must for the serious cycling fan. Enter Band of Climbers and their quite lovely range of prints (and other things).


A week or so I received the “Ride like a Belgian” and “Jerseys of the Tour de France” prints, the former in A3 and the latter 30cm v 30cm. They arrive extremely well packaged in a cardboard tube. They will require some flattening on arrival, I rolled them the opposite way initially then buried them safely under some next directories for a few days. Once that’s done, you’re ready to mount and display them in whatever method you want.

The prints don’t ship with any sort of frame which is a deliberate policy, they’d spend more time compensating you and chasing up the Royal Mail. It’s also a very sensible policy as it leaves how you want to display your print entirely up to you. IKEA do a pretty sensible (and cheap) range of frames and, for example, the 50cm x 50cm Ribba Frame would be the ideal choice in which to mount the Jerseys of the TDF print. On the website you get an idea of how these things might look in certain framing methods.


The Band of Climbers collection is split into different categories so, naturally, the former is from the Belgian range and the latter from the Grand Tour range. There’s quite a lot to choose from and much of it comes in different sizes according to your needs. They’re all printed on 300gsm cardboard and the quality of the printing is of an extremely high standard. So, the photo below is actually a photo.


The range is an impressive one, from the flag inspired legend above, to simple wordplay on black backgrounds and also some photographic prints of legendary riders such as Tom Boonen, Bradley Wiggins and Phillipe Gilbert all taken by photographer Chris Auld. If you fancy something a bit different you can design your own print. There’s pretty much something for all tastes from the Pave to the Grand Tour. You can even have some natty pillows if you like. I guess the only omission is, well, a bit more CX…..but, I guess, there’s not much more to say than the below (disclaimer, us vets are allowed only 40 minutes now because we’re getting on a bit).


Prices are good too. £13 for the Belgian print, £17 for the TDF. £1.99 shipping per order (and that includes both postage AND packaging). Free international deliveries over £35. That’s not just reasonable, that’s excellent. They’re impressive. Good value, excellent quality, packaged with care and striking.

So, if you’re the type of person allowed to put cycling memorabilia on the wall then I can highly recommend picking up some stuff from Band of Climbers. Sadly, I am not one of those people, Mrs Roubaix permitting only soft pastels and flowers. But, in the office, my own office, my personal space, that’s all me. So when I’m bashing away at the keyboard, writing my latest legal classroom opus, I can look up and remind myself that, on the way home, I will ride like a Belgian. Because, if I do, there will be biere and frites at the other end, and that is reward enough.

Assos : the Tiburu and the Mille Bibshort #4seasons

In this review I’ll be looking at two of Assos’ bibshorts. The Tiburu, which are the go-to spring/autumn/winter thermal bibshorts and the Mille which are the ‘replacement’ for the ‘entry level’ Neo Pro.

You may know from my previous review that the Assos tk.607 were one of my favourite things. They existed in both winter short and bib knicker form. And, a few years ago, Assos replaced them with the Tiburu short and bib knicker. Given my love for the tk.607, I ordered some of the new Tiburu from Wiggle, tried them on, hated them and sent them back. Consider that a kneejerk reaction on an epic scale. The reason was a simple one or, perhaps, two. Assos lowered the belly line and moved the straps outwards. That was quite the revolution at the time. The experience taught me two things; the first was to try something and decide then if it works (though that’s quite hard if you need to send it back) and the second is that what felt great before can colour how you feel about something new. I’m still not awfully convinced about that lowered waistline, it’s better when you lose a few pounds, but I am coming round to the conclusion now that the straps are perfection. And the thing is, those are pretty minor things overall. What’s important is fit, feel, construction and comfort. Assos always understood this and they continue to excel.

Assos S7 Tiburu bibshorts

The Tiburu bibshorts are quite remarkable things. They are properly usable all year round and that’s not just testament to how dull UK weather is, it’s testament to how properly good the Tiburu bibshorts are. Now, you have to choose what to do with them. Clearly, they won’t work all that well at subzero temps without, at the very least, some knee warmers. But that’s a given with all thermal bibshorts. If you pick up some decent knee warmer and leg warmer combos then you have something very versatile indeed.

The Tiburu shorts are, once again, an exercise in high tech proprietary features, as you’d naturally expect from Assos. So, there’s a combination here of the 610.RX fabric (the waffly stuff we’ll get to later), a windproof front section and some water repellency. What’s immediately apparent is they are lighter than the previous version, so achieving something warm becomes even more of a challenge.


Let’s deal with pad first. The Tiburu carries the Equipe pad found in the, well, Equipe version of the S7 bibshort range. So, it’s the second pad up in the range and designed for all day comfort. All the new tech is present such as the Golden Gate pad attachment which separates the pad from being sewn into the shorts all the way round so that it moves around with you. It’s a supremely comfortable pad that should suit a wide range of body shapes. There’s no fancy kuku penthouse present here but, in practice, that makes no appreciable difference. It’s also a good choice for 4 season wear when you might go that bit slower, spend more time in the saddle, less time out of it.

You can quite clearly see the 610.RX fabric above. It’s very warm indeed and seems to trap the warmth in very effectively. As such, with suitable knee or leg warmers, I’ve been able to use these below freezing and remain comfortable. Indeed, they pass that most important of tests, not thinking at all about the clothing you are wearing.


The 610.RX fabric is much less pronounced on the outside but still visibly waffly. There are some reflective trim inserts at the back as well. It’s put together with the quality that you expect from Assos.


But it’s the front section that’s most interesting. That ‘cod piece’ effect that you see there is an entirely separate windproof panel. So, all your important bits benefit from additional shielding. And it really works. The rest of you is kept warm, but breathable. The bits that need protecting are given the benefit of extra shielding. The construction of this section is double shielded as well, so windproof on the outside, soft material inside and then, of course, the chamois section. It all adds up to something like winter armour for your groin.


The termination of the leg sections remains utterly traditional with silicone grippers. Not too tight and a perfect fit. The Tiburu are, compared the the Mille, compressive in nature.

The water repellency is superb. Water beads, runs off and keeps you relatively dry. It will eventually get through, of course, but it is a very useful addition to have. So far, after many many washes (about 20 in all) it still seems to be present and working.

It’s the wide range of temperatures though that mark these out as being special. Despite being able to wear them at sub zero you can also happily wear them at 20 degrees as well. That makes them a proper 4 seasons piece. Assos claim that they’re also designed for the Nordic summer. Well, yes. But I’d wager Nordic summers in the Tundra region are often better than the UK. So, if you’re in a temperamental climate, you will get use from these all year round.

The price? Well, yes, that’s expensive, as you might expect. £175 rrp. For context that’s only £30 more than the summer version of the Equipe and given how durable and useable they are it is a good investment bearing in mind Assos’ legendary quality and their repair policy. I won’t upset you too much with how much I paid as I stumbled on two pairs in a clearance store but they were only £’s more than some of the more budget brands offering thermal bibshorts. But, yes, I would buy them at full price and be very happy with my purchase. There’s a longevity to them, so I know I’m going to be wearing them for an awful long time to come.

Funny thing first impressions. If I’d have stuck with them I never would have tried these again. My second and ongoing impression are that these are better than what they replaced. Given how fond I was of the 607 range, that’s high praise indeed.

Assos S7 Mille Bibshorts 

The ‘old’ Mille S5 were my favourite of Assos’ bibshort range despite being ‘only’ the second model up and not the most expensive one. The Uno were good but always felt a little less special than the Mille overall. Still great, just not quite as nice.

But with the introduction of the S7 range the name Mille fell by the wayside for a little while. It’s been making a bit of a comeback with the Mille S7 Intermediate jersey and the like and now makes its triumphant return to the bibshort range.

Assos describe the Mille as an evolution of the S7 Neo Pro bibshorts, which was the previous entry level model. Replacement or evolution? I don’t suppose it really matters all that much. But that evolution is our gain for a variety of reasons and not least the price. The RRP of the Neo Pro was around £120 and the new Mille £100. Leverage in a discount voucher or a platinum discount at Wiggle and you’re looking at something under £90. That’s a hell of a saving on the old ones assuming there’s been no cost cutting.

I’m happy to confirm that not much has really changed. You’re still looking at some damn silky lycra, the pad is the same, the straps the same. So, apart from the price the only other headline is the fit, and that’s the really good news for some of us. There’s a bit more ‘width’ to accommodate the more athletic or robust physique. Assos generally sell on height. So, at 5ft 10 I usually opt for a large in all their shorts. With the Tiburu there’s a bit of an art to getting them on, a bit of a routine, but the fit is sublime. With the Mille they are noticeably easier to pull on at the same size. There’s still some compression, fit is still superb, the straps still sit where they should. It all just works. For your average day out, coffee stop ride or 100 mile sportive, you won’t know you’re wearing them. They disappear.


While the Mille pad is also ‘entry level’ it still incorporates a variety of different density pads underneath and retains the Golden Gate technology. Obviously, like the Equipe pad, there’s no Kuku Penthouse. It’s a massively comfy thing on which to sit. Indeed, I gave it a bit of a baptism of fire alternating between some daily commutes, 50+ milers and then using them off road for Battle on the Beach. That’s a great test of a bib as it turns out. 2 hours of in and out of the saddle, bouncing up and down, getting hammered by poor surfaces. And they handled every discipline with aplomb. Just like the Equipe and Tiburu there’s also no sign whatsoever of any abrasions or wear.


There’s nothing shouty about the Mille bibshort, even the contrast leg trim colour is missing here. A simple, non fussy, black bibshort that you can match to anything.


Once again the grippers are traditional, as in the Tiburu, and none the worse for it. Sizing on the thigh, despite the ‘up sizing’ of the rest of the short remains perfect.

There’s a lot to love about the Mille bibshorts. Stick them next to the more expensive Equipe and you’d be very hard pushed to perceive any real difference. I’ve already said that for every day riding I considered the Equipe level to be more than enough bibshort finding it hard to justify, personally, moving up to the Cento let alone the Campionissimo. And given that bit more width in the Mille I wonder if it might be slightly hard to justify the Equipe too. But, they do have that nice pink line. And I do like the colour pink so very much. That aside, Assos’ more expensive bibshorts, while the may be that bit better, could see themselves being a real target of the Mille.

The Mille are, yet again, a pretty good example of Assos subtly altering the price points that their products are appearing at and giving a bit more choice to the more robust rider. £100 is still an awful lot of money for bits of sewn together lycra, but there’s an awful lot going on here with which to justify that investment and, as I’ve already said, with a bit of discount, these also offer excellent value in addition to performance, quality and durability. It’s pretty easy therefore to give them my unequivocal recommendation.