Rivelo Pembridge Jersey and Honister Bibshorts

I’m seriously considering a steel frame bike for commuting and touring. With disc brakes, naturally. I’ve an Ornot bar bag on the way too. I’m considering a rack, panniers, doing the Cambrian Way and buying some Giro Republic LX leather shoes. There’s a mix of the retro, the cool, the bang up to present. But it leads me to some issues. I mean, I can’t really do Assos on a steel tourer with mudguards. It’s incongruous. So, inevitably, an entirely new type of wardrobe will be needed and I will write about that in due course.

But, actually, perhaps I don’t need to worry. For, in my view, the Rivelo range does seem to be a range which is capable of being, if not all things to all men (and women), then most things to most men. The look is both modern but stylish, understated even. At home on the lurid green Supersix as it will be on the Condor Fratello disc.

When Rivelo contacted me about this review they asked whether I’d be happy to review the green Pembridge jersey and their new blue Honister bibshorts. And, I have to say, I tried to steer them away from that. I had the old “blue and green should never be seen’ phrase running through my head. I cogitated, and relented. My thinking on reflection was that there’s too much black short going on, so, why the hell not? And, you know what, it was a pretty wise choice.

The Pemridge Jersey (rrp £90) Click here to buy

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“Made with super soft Italian fabrics for comfort & breathability during those long summer rides. Understated design but loaded with technical and performance detailing and ergonomic panelling, giving the best possible fit whilst in the riding position.” That’s what Rivelo say. It’s sage green, if you’re interested. There are 3 other colours too, navy, black and grey.

Mine is a large, cited as being for 39-41″ chest and it’s spot on. It’s race fit and, given the “High stretch Xtra Life & Sport Energy Lycra” it fits like the figurative glove. Indeed, it’s worth pausing for a moment to consider the construction. This isn’t our traditional mesh like jersey. Indeed, it’s got more in common with your lycra bibshort than a jersey. It’s a super soft material that clings to every part of you. Now, of course, that might not be the best look on everyone but even I have lumpy bits, and it’s fine. It’s actually one of the most comfortable jerseys I’ve ever worn.

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Round the front it’s all very traditional, an all round elastic gripper keeping everything sorted at the waist. And on that score, it’s a medium length jersey, long enough to cover what it should when you’re standing, short enough not to bunch when you’re on the bike. The zip is quality being made by YKK. The collar is Goldilocks. I like the branding, I like the contrast arms, I love the fit.

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The arms benefit from a supersoft gripper and that meshy panel which aids breathability. It works. It’s quick drying when it’s hot. It’s probably a little warmer than a full on climber’s jersey but it’s still entirely appropriate for the hottest of days. On that score there’s also UPF 50+ treatment so it’ll protect you too.

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It’s the back that I particularly like. The mid pocket is raised to take larger items. The other two graduated slightly shorter. The white elastic trim keeps everything in place. Inside there’s a black fabric strengthener to make sure that you won’t pull it all apart when stowing loads of stuff. There’s reflective trim, at the bottom, and a zipped valuables pocket. That pocket has some water resistant lining.

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In use it’s just spot on. Off your body it tends to wrinkle a bit, especially once washed or scrumpled up. But on your body it’s all flat and smooth. And, as I say, extremely comfortable. It makes you feel good wearing it, and that’s a real plus.

As with all of Rivelo’s kit it’s currently available through Sport Pursuit. The RRP is £90 though, at the moment, the blue version is on sale at £39.99. If you keep an eye out I suspect that the other colours will rotate through that price at some point.

And that begs this question. Is this worth £90 when it’s sold at £39.99. Normally I’d say, wait and, if you like, you still can. But, for me, this is a jersey which is worth the £90. And, if you really want to know how much I like it, I took advantage of the price reduction and bought the blue one too.

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Rivelo Honister Bibshort (RRP £120) Click here to buy

So, blue bibshorts. I took a whirl because they are different and, I have to say, all the better for it.

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You may recall that I tested the Rivelo Headley 3/4 Bibknickers last autumn and came away impressed. They’ve been used for winter rides, commuting and some frankly horrifically muddy CX races and they’ve stood up well to everything that I’ve thrown at them.

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Starting with the most important part, the pad.  Once again, it’s from elastic interface. who make pads for many of the premium bibshort manufacturers. I understand that it is once again the Bastogne Race pad good for rides of about 5-6 hours or so. Having used the shorts for rides of just short of that I can attest that it’s comfortable and gets on with the job well. It falls perhaps just short of the very best at that price but it’s still very good indeed.

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The leg grippers are of the giant elastic band type. Don’t worry, the interior branding doesn’t stamp itself onto your skin. It’s a comfortable affair. They stay in place very well.

The upper is a traditional mesh design. The belly part is pitched quite high so provides a good level of support for any cake induced baggage. The lycra is exceptionally comfortable and reassuringly premium feeling. If I had to be picky I’d say that these would be good for warm temperatures but if you’re climbing the Alps at midday they might be a little warm. That said, that slight additional thickness does mean that these are a very good all year round option too.

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There is brading present, but in a good way. The contrast black trim of the leg grippers is a nice touch, avoiding blue overload and tying in very well with the contrast trim on the arms of the jersey if you’re wearing them as an ‘outfit.’

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The leg length is pretty much mid. None of this almost at the knee business (which I’m not awfully keen on). In use they’re very good indeed. The feel is excellent.

On the subject of wearing them as an outfit…..well, that green and blue combo is, in my view, a bit of a knockout and certainly different. My wife is now a little blase about all of my kit reviews but when I appeared in the kitchen wearing this combo she actually stopped to say that the whole thing was very nice. She’s probably angling for me to get her the women’s equivalent. So I may well do. But that is a pretty good measure of this being a very good combination.

At £120 there’s a lot of competition. The Assos Mille at £100 are probably a benchmark for how good a bibshort can be. The Rivelo aren’t far off being as good but the look is certainly a little more eye catching and there are sufficient differences to be able to justify having both of them in your wardrobe.

And, if you don’t fancy the blue there are a few colours reduced to £49.99 at the moment which is, frankly, an absolute steal. In addition if you fancy one of their Hartside jerseys then you can pick up a Honister and Hartside combo for a mere £69.99.

Anyhow, I’ve settled on a green Fratello disc frameset. And once it’s built I don’t really have to worry about finding a suitable combo to ride it, because it’s already in my wardrobe.

Chapeau jerseys 2017: the Tempo and the Club

I first reviewed a selection of Chapeau kit last year and was impressed. That continued to be the case when I looked at their winter thermal jersey. They’ve refreshed their range of jerseys for 2017 and I reckon they’ve come up with a winning selection of kit.

In fact, I think that they’ve a long way in a short space of time. I was walking through a Cycle Surgery branch the other day and came across some of their jerseys from two or three years ago. They were well made, subtly styled but perhaps a little plain. Last year’s jerseys were a big improvement to something more memorable. But, I have to say, with this years refresh I think they’ve hit upon something which cements a little bit of individuality in a crowded market.

In terms of jerseys I’ve been wearing the Tempo and Club jerseys. But there’s also a new Etape jersey for those ‘special days.’ You can take a look at that here. I reckon if I were doing something like the Etape or Marmotte this year, that might be just the thing. But let’s get back to the other two.

The Tempo Jersey (RRP £49.99)

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The Tempo is available in a staggering 9 colourways! Three striped, three plain and three patterned. So there’s something for all tastes there. I opted for a medium on my 39.5″ chest as the cut of the Tempo is a little more relaxed overall. But you still get a nice fit from it.

It’s a pretty straightforward jersey overall but don’t think that means run of the mill. It’s constructed entirely of polyester and the overall effect is of a nice, meshy, airiness. It has a top quality zip and the cut is very good. So you don’t get any sagging or bulging. It wicks well, dries quickly and washes very well too. It might be simple but it’s well executed.

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The back continues the diagonal stripe theme over the three individual pockets. They’re reinforced inside and sufficiently deep for most kit. My Galaxy S7 Edge fits in the middle pocket with no issues at all. They’re elasticated at the top too so everything you carry should be held with some security.

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The waistband is pretty straightforward and works very well. For the price this is a really good jersey. It’s well made, comfortable and very good at the price. The fact that there are 9 different styles is a real plus so there should be something for you to choose from.

Chapeau Club Jersey (RRP £69.99)

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On the face of it the Club jersey doesn’t seem all that different. There are horizontal stripes instead of the diagonal ones on the club. The club ‘only’ comes in five different colourways. All are striped and there are no plain versions this time. But there’s a colour for all tastes too including a rather nice looking grey version.

The main part of the jersey is, again, polyester. But it’s the arms of the Club jersey that get a little more interesting.

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They’re essentially a very thin piece of lycra type material and they are super stretchy. The arm length is mid long which is very on message right now. It’s among the most comfortable sleeves I think I’ve worn on a jersey. So I used this one on a recent 110 mile charity ride and it performed brilliantly. I particularly like the striped branding on the sleeves and that changes according to the main colourway.

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The back is essentially the same construction as that on the club jersey. The stripes only appear on one pocket. If I were being super critical it would be nice to see the stripes continued around the back (from the chest) or along the pockets as a whole.

In terms of sizing the club is cut a little tighter than the tempo so I went up to a size large. They are all sufficiently stretchy but, with this colour, I found that the medium changed colour ever so slightly when fully stretched,  whereas the still close racy fit of the large had no such issues.

The club has fast become one of my go to jerseys simply because it does what it says on the tin. It looks good and feels good. It’s very reasonably priced and those sleeves are outstanding.

It’s great to see Chapeau developing as a stylish and good value brand. If you’re a lady reading this too I’d urge you to have a look at their women’s collection which is, arguably, even more stylish than the men’s collection! Hats off to them.

Bax Carbon disc wheelsets

The disc wheelset has pretty much arrived now. The dearth of choice is finished. Regardless of discs ability to cut through skin, shoes and hardened steel they look like sticking around for a while. And they’re not just the preserve of the commuting or CX bike now. No, the premium and even super hyper premium disc brake bike really is a thing. Whether they make their way into the Peloton again (and in, and out, and in, and out again) remains to be seen. But discs make an awful lot of sense in the UK. And, if you care for them, they should last for ages given that you’re not sanding down a rim constantly. Last for ages, hmm, I wonder if the manufacturers have thought that through?

Choice? Well, yeah, there’s a lot of choice now. But there are still gaps. So, the CX, commuting and general purpose wheel is alive and well. Pay more, get lighter. My Fulcrum Racing 5 Db are still going strong. Those are circa £300 now and not especially light. Up the price a bit, get to £450 or so and you have a 1500g aluminium wheel, jump to £900-£1000 and you have the Fulcrum Racing Quattro disc and the Hunt Aero Carbon. So, despite the existence of the premium disc brake sportive or aero bike, there’s not really much in the middle of the market.

When I reviewed the Bax Carbon 60mm wheelset last year I was impressed. They came in at sub £500, were in the ballpark for weight at that price and made my bike quicker and better looking. They were durable, good on the mountains and the flats, and very effective at what they set out to do. In terms of value, they were excellent.

In thinking about that review and considering what to write for this one, I started to consider what the best depth of wheels is. Can 60mm ever be said to be an every day wheel? Almost certainly not, though they look very fine. 50mm is probably a better balance overall. Slightly lighter, almost certainly as fast, a little cheaper. And, if you’re climbing all the time, then 38mm might make a better choice. But it’s complicated, because if that all transfers quite well to a rim braked road bike, is it equally applicable to a disc braked bike?

Well, there are different considerations. It would be easy for Bax to offer the 38, 50 and 60mm rims that they already did and just add a disc hub. But we need to consider the type of bike they’re being used on. And while the rocket ship aero disc bike does exist I do think that limiting choice, for now, to 38 and 50mm is probably right way to go.

I’ve been testing the 38mm version. These are a pre production model. If you pre order then the 38mm will be £575 and the 50mm £595. Deliveries start in June. After that the prices go up to £699 and £729 respectively. Even after the price ‘rise’ these will be cheaper than similar offerings from the established brands. There will be some changes so, for example, the slight ridge that appears in the photo (where the brake track would have been) will be deleted and the graphics will extend to that section as well. Other than that, they will be the same.

So you’re getting the following spec:

  • Material – Toray T700 Full Carbon – U-shaped Aerodynamic Profile – UD Matte Finish
  • Width – 25mm
  • Depth – 38 mm or 50mm
  • 38mm Wheelset Weight – 1674 +/- 30g 50mm Wheelset Weight – 1745 +/- 30g
  • Rear Hub – 135mm axle, Shimano/SRAM 11 speed freehub, 24 straight pull, Pillar,Aero bladed spokes.
  • 6 bolt disc standard. Front Hub – 100mm axle, 24 straight pull, Pillar, Aero bladed spokes. 6 bolt disc standard. Spacer provided for 9 & 10 speed compatibility
  • Free 5mm Quick release skewers
  • Free 12mm Through Axle converter end Caps, to convert from 5mm quick release set up to 12mm through axle.
  • Free Rim Tape
  • Free Valve extenders
  • Warranty – 1 year

The rims are full carbon and, as discussed, on the production version that brake track will go. So they’ll be a smooth U shaped profile with no bumps. It’s a wide rim so you’re going to get a better profile with wider tyres. In terms of fitting on your disc brake frame, given the nature of most of them, clearance should not be an issue with 25c tyres.

They’re compatible with 10 and 11 speed cassettes. A spacer is supplied for 10 speed along with a shed load of other bits and pieces such as valve extenders etc. QR skewers are supplied and the wheels are QR as standard. But they are convertible to thru axle and all the necessary parts are present for that, though you will need to obtain some thru axle skewers if that’s your thing. They’re also tubeless compatible. You will need to fit your own tubeless rim tape. They still have a hooked rim but that’s fine. There’s a move now towards hookless rims on some tubeless wheels. We’re a way off from that being a new standard.

The hubs are Powerway CX32. That’s a 24 hole straight pull hub with 4 seal bearings. There’s the option, if you wish, of sticking some ceramic bearings in there but, really, they spin ‘forever’ as it is. Spokes are once again supplied by Pillar and are made by Sandvik. As I previously noted those are the same spokes as on my Pro Lite Revo and, 1 1/2 years later, they are still going strong. Out of the box the wheels are true and spoke tension appeared uniform. I’ve used them for over 1000 miles to date and they’re still in the same condition as they came out of the box. In the event that you break a spoke, sourcing a new one should be relatively straight forward. Bax have now branded the hub with their own design which adds a little to the overall look. Aesthetically they are  good looking hub.

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The weight is pretty much as expected. My pair came out at 1681g. I’d imagine the production version will shave a few grammes off that. In terms of weight, that’s not bad. My Fulcrum 5 DB are 1715g and only 27.5mm high. Fulcrum’s similarly profiled Racing Quattro save you about 75g but the RRP is £1199. These are even lighter than my Racing Quattro which, despite being in excess of 1700g are very rapid indeed. In short, weight isn’t everything.

I’ve fitted three types of tyres to the Bax and they’re a pretty normal wheel in relation to fit. Conti Gp4000ii S went on by hand, ditto Schwalbe S-One (now the G-One speed) with only the Schwalbe Pro One needing a little teasing, fluid and the use of a lever (that’s pretty much the case with all wheels I try them on). Obviously you will need to use the adapters to extend the valves or buy longer inner tubes. If you want to go tubeless you will need to look at your tubeless valve length. I’ve not tested these with tubeless tyres (I ran inners in the Schwalbe) mostly because a) they need to go back and b) it was easier to keep swapping the tyres over to get a sense of what the wheels were like with a larger variety of tyres.

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And, once they’re all happily set up. It’s time to add the discs, of course. These are the 6 bolt standard so I partnered them with a set up Shimano XT rotors in 160mm diameter. With all that done, let’s take a look at how they look, for that is, surely, for many, a very important consideration!

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They’re a pretty purposeful looking wheel. Obviously, if you plump for the 50mm version then the effect is a greater one. For me, given what a disc brake is generally all about, I think that the 38mm version makes the most sense. But, if you have an aero disc braked bike (and yes, that’s fast becoming a thing) then the 50mm version adds a mere 75g. From my experience with the 60mm rim brake versions I have to say that overall weight is far from the issue that you might expect. I set one of my fastest climbs up the Rhigos on the 60mm versions. Much depends on what you plan on doing. For every day riding the 38mm are probably the sweet spot but without testing them back to back with the 50mm, it’s hard to say. Given that the 50mm add very little weight, are probably slightly faster and will look exponentially nicer(!) I might be tempted to plump for those.

The wheels arrived about 2 weeks ago with the express purpose of doing an 85 mile sportive around the hills and dales of Newport and Monmouthshire. I don’t have a disc ‘sportive bike’, but two CX ones, the SuperX and a CAADX. Now, clearly, for such an ‘endeavour’ one must put the good wheels on the good bike. This presents an issue of comfort. CX bikes really aren’t intended to be comfortable for such long distances given their aggressive set up. But it’s a tidy test to carry out nevertheless, given the mixed nature of the surfaces and, most importantly, some pretty steep descents. I wanted to test a number of things really, comfort, climbing, durability. The sportive provided all of those things so it was a very useful introduction.

So, we had the short, sharp climbs, the flaky surfaces but also some of the good stuff too, long sections of fresh, black tarmac. And the wheels coped with everything that I could throw at them. They were sufficiently fast on the flat, easy to keep up to a very decent speed. Good on the hills with no sensation of being held back, good when out of the saddle with absolutely no perceivable flex. In terms of comfort, very good indeed. The SuperX is a bit crashy, where my Supersix has a much plusher ride. So the wheels took a bit of a sting out of the ride overall. I hit about three hidden potholes with no issues caused. On the downhills, naturally, they fly and where those downhills really pitch steeply there was no twisting or torque of the wheels under pretty hard braking. They did what they said on the tin, stiff but comfortable. Oh, the freewheel is a loud one too. Campag level. Very useful on shared paths for telling people you’re coming. I finished the day with a number of Strava PR’s (the previous ride having been carried out on a Canyon with Ksyrium wheels).

With that ride done, I put them to other uses. Over my 18 mile each way commute with 25c tyres on, they were fast and comfortable. Swapping them out for the 30c Schwalbe S-One saw comfort levels increase further, the vibration damping combination of the carbon wheels and greater volume tyre working well. There was still a little bit of harshness with the SuperX over the absolute worst surfaces but less than with comparable aluminum wheels and the same tyre setup. They’re probably not the last word in outright dampening but still good overall. Then I swapped the wheels onto the CAADX to see how they dealt with the aluminium frame and that created a very nice setup indeed. In some ways the CAADX is a less harsh frame than the SuperX so the added damping was welcome. I’ve used them in the rain too, with mudguards. It does create a very interesting looking bike, particularly since the wheels are worth more than the bike!

I’ve not tried them for CX. The conditions don’t warrant it (it’s absolutely bone dry) and there are no events at the moment to try them on. I have tried them on some short off road surfaces and they handle that too. But, here’s a thing. There’s no reason, cost aside, that you couldn’t use these for CX. Being tubeless you can run tyres at a lower pressure so the only issue is whether you’d ding or dent the rims if you hit the inevitable stone. Being laterally stiff they will be very effective for CX. There’s also the added advantage that deep section rims may track better through mud and sand, chiefly because the section will remain above the surface of the mud or sand and cause less drag. I say may because there are competing theories that the added weight and the greater surface area to which mud can stick, will slow you down. On this matter, the jury is out. For CX I’d probably say no. But for a long, off road gravel type event? Yeah, I don’t see why not. But, as I say, if you do take a chunk out of them, you might be a bit upset. I think the natural home for them is as the sportive disc brake wheel.

Overall? They’re very good, particularly at the current price. So if you want to jump on that, jump on now. They’re still very good at the more expensive price but that does move them into the territory of other brands there. Still cheaper, clearly, but verging into “for £200 more…” I’ve stuck a very decent amount of miles onto them and they’ve come out well. As a sportive wheel, they’re excellent. If you’re TT’ing on a disc brake bike then the 50mm are well worth the investment. Sure, you’re still getting drag from your disc brakes, but you’re offsetting what the previous wheels did or did not do. And, quite clearly, the 50mm are very sexy beasts.

 

Assos ij.Tiburu insulator jacket

As I was finishing this bit of writing another website ‘got there first.’ Their conclusion was that the Tiburu was great, but limited in the wind and rain, ergo 3 1/2 stars. And that got me thinking about how such things are reviewed. I’ve made no apologies for putting pieces of kit through more than they were designed for in the past. Where they pass, that’s to their credit. But, if they fail at something they were patently not designed to do, does that diminish them?

And if it seems that we’re all reaching for our Alpha jerseys, Gabba jackets, rain repellent wear or water resistant summer jerseys because, well, they do everything, does that mean that the place for the traditional piece of kit that does one thing is under threat? Should our cycling wardrobe essentially be 3 season with a few additions for the very hottest and coldest of days. I can see some merit in that. But it would also be oh so very boring.

Part of the ‘issue’ of reviewing Assos’ tiburu jacket is just that. Jacket. But Assos are not alone in declaring that a winter weight jersey is a jacket. So that preconception of heft should be jettisoned. The Tiburu is simply, if one can call Assos kit simple, a roubaix jersey. And I like those things so very much.

It’s worth adding that I’m testing the ‘old’ model. But the new one differs very little other than ditching the arm patterns and, crucially, coming in at a much more reasonable price. For where this tested version has historically sold in the region of £180 despite having a £145 rrp (I paid £90 in the sales) the new one starts at £145 rrp and is available for quite a bit less. Obviously, that’s not cheap, but it’s worth noting that it’s high quality and Assos will try and fix it if you try too hard and end up breaking it.

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It is a striking thing. I actually own two. The python green above and a black front version. The new model adds orange, yellow and an all black version, profblack even, but the new model ditches the asymmetric sleeve design.

It’s made of proprietary fabrics much like its ‘matching’ Tiburu bibshort.  In this case the tech is Assos’ RX607 low volume, high permeability, thermal fabric, flat on some parts and raised/patterned on others. The idea is that you get something warmer than a regular thermal jersey, hence the jacket moniker. But also something that won’t overheat you. For something that weighs so very little, that’s a huge challenge.

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The collar is mid height and also made from the waffly RX fabric. For me the height is spot on with just the right amount of protection awarded. The zip is high quality and the grabber makes it easy to operate with even a decently thick winter glove.

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The sleeves consist of two types of material. The outward facing section is the waffly type and the inner facing a smoother fleece type. The theory here is that what you ‘lose’ in windproofing you gain in warmth. It’s not just theory, it does just that. Like the Bonka jacket this older design, with it’s geometric shapes, is very useful for catching the eye when moving and, crucially, when indicating.

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The back is the usual setup. So you get Assos’ structural support down the back which makes sure that things don’t sag. There are three open pockets. The middle one is slightly thinner than the other two so that makes a good mobile phone pocket. They’re all sufficiently deep. There’s a zipped valuable pocket which is fairly easy to access on the go. It’s not waterproof, but it’s still an effective ‘filter’ for your goodies if wet. There is a lack of reflective material, the only concessions being two small tabs at the side.

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Like a lot of Assos gear, the Tiburu is very versatile. Because Assos take great strides with their ALS approach (Assos layering system) you can be sure that the other bits of kit that Assos offer will integrate. So, chuck this under a Falkenzahn or a Team Vest and you can be sure that it will fit and operate seamlessly. Alternatively, on those very cold days, you could wear a Tiburu under the Habu jacket turning the ensemble into something very warm indeed, though perhaps that’s overkill. The lengths of the arms, collar and waist sections will always mesh.

But, in general, you’ll be wearing this with a long sleeve base layer in spring and autumn or, at the most, with a gilet in winter. And in the absence of windproofing, is it realistic to recommend the Tiburu when something like the Mille jacket with a heavy base layer could do a similar job? Well, that’s a question.

It’s nice to have a choice. It’s nice to be able to put this on when it’s chilly and get warmth. And in that respect it’s very effective indeed. When do I wear it? Well, overcast days, chilly days, breezy days. Much like the Castelli Potenza Long Sleeve Jersey it’s useable in a wide variety of conditions providing it’s not wet or damp. The lack of windproofing isn’t an issue. In terms of value, is it worth more than the Castelli? Well, actually, it’s priced less at RRP, quite a lot less actually. It’s just that the Castelli ended up at around the £100 mark, similar to what I paid for the Assos. It’s not quite as warm because it’s much less bulky. But there’s only a few degrees in it.

One of the great features is just how comfortable it is. There’s a little bit of pulling when standing upright but, that usual but true cliche, on the bike it snaps into position. No bulging, just a bang on fit.

It’s another great piece from Assos. It’s not quite a jacket on a figurative construction but pretty much there on any literal one. Sure, if it’s cold, windy or damp, get the Habu. If it’s freezing, get the Bonka. But for all those other days this and the Mille are nice things to swap around. It does the job that it’s intended to, no point moaning about the stuff it’s not intended to do.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 www.bicyclerollingresistance.com 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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

#Sockgame

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.

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dhb Aeron 9cm sock

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.