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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Prendas Long Sleeve Anniversary Jersey : the Art of the Jersey

Many years ago I started cycling and bought some cheap team kit. I was oblivious to the rules. But there were real advantages to buying the kit that I found, it was cheap, it wore well, it was nice. The kit in question was CSC Nobili kit and I thought I was the man. That was 2005. 12 years later and I don’t think that kit has yet reached retro status yet. It’s not awfully special, perhaps it never will. But I remember it pretty fondly as my first ‘proper’ cycling jersey. A few months later I bought a white world champion jersey, knowing no better. Once again it was cheap, and comfy and I thought it looked great. Then the council resurfaced a local road. Cue the end of that jersey, a pair of tyres and some pretty hefty scratches on my chainstays. Fast forward, I learnt the rules. I eschewed team kit and went for, well, something a little more boring…..

Personal evolution is a funny thing. You start oblivious to the rules, learn them, fervently respect them, then say screw them. I really don’t care anymore, I wear what I want and what feels right. Retro for retro sake isn’t always successful but it’s fair to say that the guys at Prendas have turned the identification of what constitutes good retro into a bit of an art form.

I’ve always been fascinated by jersey design. The variation is enormous for what is essentially a fancy t-shirt with a zip. And if I’m fascinated by that wealth of design then for Prendas’ Andy Storey it’s practically a religion. He literally wrote the book on it.

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Click to buy for £15.99

It’s a fascinating read through the evolution of the cycling jersey from the first wool jerseys shorn (sic) of the rampant sponsorship of the modern jersey bang up to date. It isn’t every jersey, but it does cover all the important ones with commentary from Andy on each page. It’s an excellent read with a nod to the design ethos sprinkled with a bit of history. Within those pages lurk a variety of jerseys that were either stupidly cool to begin with or have gained cult status over the years. And it’s from those that Prendas have built a huge following in recreating iconic jerseys.

They’ve always had a knack for identifying the iconic ones, the Mapei, the (Lemond) Z, the Molteni, the La Vie Claire, the Reynolds and, my current fave, the GIS Gelati. And there’s a hell of a choice, as you can see here Prendas Cycle Jerseys

Because the majority are made by Santini and because Prendas’ size guides are great it’s easy to predict getting the right size. And, once you do, it’s then easy to order another design in that size knowing that the new one will fit.

Prendas have been doing this stuff for 20 years from that place down gravel lane in Poole. Even that has retro charm. Down gravel lane is part of the address. And in celebration of that 20 years they’ve recently launched the Anniversary Jersey. If you don’t fancy a long sleeve right now then there’s a short sleeve version, bibshorts, caps and socks (click here)

I’m currently rocking the roubaix fleece backed long sleeve version in an XL. That’s sized for 39-41 chest. It’s accurate so there’s no surprise when you order. Prendas have always been super helpful in relation to sizing, so if there’s an issue, drop them a line.

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It’s a striking orange thing. Which is nice, as it matches my new Giro Empire VR90 slippers, watch for a review of them soon. Being made by Santini and having Prendas’ name on it is pretty much a cast iron guarantee of quality. Stitching is excellent and I have no doubt that this will last for many years. It washed predictably, dries quickly and is just the perfect spring/autumn piece.

Indeed, I gave it a bit of a baptism of fire doing back to back 30 and 40 milers on one particular day into some particularly nasty headwinds and finding every muddy back lane it was possible to come across. Armed only with a short sleeve base layer underneath. And it performed very well indeed, keeping me warm, snugly and, crucially, the accumulated road grime was easy to remove with a 14 minute cool wash.

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The ska and dogtooth patterns are a nice addition to this design. The Mrs remarked that I looked like a policeman. On the roads, that’s not really a bad thing. Prendas signature stripes are all present and correct. You can see the micro roubaix fleece in the pics above. This isn’t a jersey for the coldest winter days but given how rare they are, this is something that you’ll get a lot of use from.

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Round the back and we have a tidy array of pockets including a central zipped one. There’s no weather proofing here but that makes no appreciable difference. If you’re running sans mudguards I’d always recommend that a phone be put in a bag anyway. Sleeve length is generous and will cater for those with longer arms without drowning those with shorter ones. The waist gripper is simple, straightforward and effective.

This is a good design, visible, and distinctive. It’s a suitable commemoration of a remarkable little supplier that just gets on with being great on a daily basis. If you don’t want this colour, then a Molteni, Rocket or La Vie Claire are one of the other long sleeve jerseys available. All will be similarly if not identically sized so you can buy with confidence. The price is a very reasonable £69.99 with the short sleeve (non thermal) variants being between £55-£59. That represents great value for some vibrant reproductions which are comfortable, durable and smart.

I’ve been once again impressed by Prendas’ offerings. This is a no nonsense roubaix jersey that does what it says on the tin. It performs well, looks good and is great value. Here’s to another 20 years, at least.

Of course, evolution is also about moving forward not just updating and, with that in mind, I’ve just received a supply of Andy Storey’s new chamois cream, a side project he’s set up called ontherivet. You can buy some of that here. And, if you used the code StoreyRT at the moment it’ll take 20% off the RRP of £9.99. I used this for the first time on the weekend at Battle on the Beach and, can I say, that’s a damn good test of a chamois cream given the huge differences in surfaces, constant in and out of the saddle and the fact that riding singletrack on a CX bike really does cause havoc to those parts. It smells nice, goes on easy and works very well. Indeed, my only real concern, with all chamois cream, is that it may well last a little too long. So I guess I need to get out more this year so I can order more and keep what’s a fantastic new project going. Andy tells me there are plans for other things such as embrocation in due course, so keep a look out for that. And never, ever get them mixed up.

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Let’s get straight to it. This is a lovely lovely thing. And let’s also deal with the other thing. I have absolutely no knowledge of F1 and no interest in it. But, from what I can tell, Petronas Mercedes do appear to have the nicest colour scheme and that’s reflected here. So, yeah, there’s some branding on this. For me, I’m entirely neutral on it. If you’re a Ferrari fan, it might be an issue.

Anyhow, you will remember that I adore the Assos Falkenzahn Gilet. It is without equal because, well, no one else makes anything remotely like it. But it was never cheap, not even in the sales. And while the Team Vest is not a Falkenzahn and it’s still not what you could call cheap per se, there’s enough genealogy here to suggest that this is, like the new Mille Intermediate Jersey, if not a repositioning of Assos as a budget brand, then another effort to make parts of the range a little more affordable.

There’s not a lot of information out there about the Team Vest and it’s not that easy to get hold of. You can order it straight from Assos themselves (and it does come very quickly) and there are a few other UK stockists as well. It’s got an RRP of £120 which is certainly not cheap but it’s considerably cheaper than the Falkenzahn and certainly in line with the other premium brands.

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Once again Assos take a different approach. This isn’t a rain proof or even rain resistant shell. It’s not even windproof. It’s a thermal gilet and that’s actually quite a rare proposition. In some ways it’s a product that shouldn’t exist because it shouldn’t actually work. Where the Falkenzahn is high tech and proprietary Assos make no grand claims for this. And that’s fine, it’s all about the performance after all. What we have a is a 3 season thermal gilet. 4 if you count the fact that true winter has all but disappeared in the UK.

One of the sublime things about the Falkenzahn was just how springy and form fitting it was. And despite this essentially being ‘only’ roubaix backed polymix none of that incredible fit has been lost. Once again I ordered the XL (I tend to size up with most of the Assos range, new Mille aside) and it’s perfect. And not only is it a perfect fit, like the Falkenzahn it has an incredible ability to mesh seamlessly with any other garment in the Assos range. So, chuck the Team Jersey underneath and you’re sorted for spring/summer and those cooler mornings. You can get the Intermediate jersey under there and it looks like it was all designed to fit together. You can even squeeze the Tiburu jersey under and tough out some of the colder winter days. It’s also a pretty great under warmer for something like the Habu jacket. This is testament to Assos’ ALS system which ensures that all layering fits properly together.

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One of the things I particularly like about the Team Vest is the high collar. Once again it’s pretty stretchy and form fitting. The black shoulder panels are a carry over from the Falkenzahn, a waffly fabric that retains a little more heat despite their lightweight construction. The arm sections are elasticated and trimmed all the way round. It’s oh so comfy.

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The internal structure is a roubaix type fleece. It’s fairly thin but that’s all you really need. It makes it that bit more versatile as you can’t overheat in it. Indeed, you can probably get away with this into the upper teens in the summer without having to stow it. You can stow it as well, though it’s not the most packable thing out there.

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Around the back and we have three nice deep pockets and a single reflective band. Really deep pockets actually, so you can stow a load of your kit in here. It would make a pretty good audax vest in that respect. Or a cool weather sportive companion.

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I’ve been using this extensively over the last few weeks including some days sans mudguards. Being white (in places) it will pick up some road grime but it cleans very well. I’ve used it down to about 0 degrees with a Tiburu jersey (review of that coming soon) and it’s superb. Despite the lack of any windproofing you can’t feel any wind coming through and your chest remains warm. Cooler mornings that become milder days are easily taken care of as well. It’s hugely versatile, great looking and, of course, built to last. Despite the cheaper price, nothing about Assos’ quality has been lost in the transition.

I’ve used my own money to buy both the Falkenzahn and Team Vest so I’m well qualified to comment on which I would buy if I could only buy one. And, despite the F1 branding, my view is that the Team Vest is perfection. If I had to own only one, it would be this.

But, my plea to Assos is to make it accessible for everyone. Keep the team one for the diehards, get a ‘plain’ version out there for everyone else. A bi colour version aping the current Falkenzahn design would probably sell very well. It might even be, copyright issues allowing, that a checkerboard colourway without the branding would be a good look.

My perception is that there’s a subtle shift at Assos towards a larger range of products that cater for more pockets. The new Mille Intermediate Jersey is an absolute winner. This Team Vest is superb. I’m currently using the new Mille ‘entry level’ bibshorts (which have replaced the Neo Pro) and they are also amazing and cheaper than even the old Uno were. There are some gaps. A more affordable full on rain jacket and, notably, some form of Gabba. If they ever get round to making such a thing, watch out.

But, for now, this will do very nicely indeed. It might actually be my new favourite thing. But, the thing is, I will shortly have to tell you all about the Tiburu shorts, and those are very special indeed.

Funkier Merano K Pro Base Layer

You might have come across Funkier on sites such as Chain Reaction and Merlin Cycles. It’s good value stuff. Funkier actually started off as a women’s clothing brand and branched out into cycling gear. So they’ve got experience in putting stuff together and great knowledge of materials. It’s an American company, based in Wisconsin.

I’ve been testing their Merano base layer over the last couple of months. And it’s been a very nice thing to wear. Base layers vary widely between your traditional merino, to synthetic wool-a-like to the ‘Under Armour’ type compression gear. And Funkier’s Merano is very much from that latter school of base layers.

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When it arrives, you wonder how on earth it can fit you, it’s much smaller than me. I opted for a a L/XL size on my 39.5″ chest and it really is ‘poured on.’ But it’s also very comfortable indeed. The stretch on it is outstanding.

The Merano is a synthetic mix; Nylon makes up most of the material mixed with Elastane and Polyester. It stretches wonderfully and feels great next to the skin. It’s very well sized as as well. The arms are absolutely perfect on me and there’s a little added length in the body to tuck into your winter bibs or tights. There’s quite a bit of useful tech going on here but, broadly, it’s quick drying, very well ventilated and, above all, warm.

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The patterning is fairly unique. I can’t say that I can perceive any real difference between the different parts of the design but I can say that it holds its shape very well. Despite giving the appearance of a multi panelled affair the base layer is actually an all in one and absolutely seamless. So there’s no irritation caused by wearing it for long hours. And that’s pretty important as the compressive nature of the base layer means that it will be in close contact with your skin.

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Turn it inside out and you can see that it’s not fleecy but there’s a certain warmth to the material.

This is actually a very well priced base layer but there’s a slight wrinkle with current availability. It does appear quite hard to come by in the UK at the moment. Merlin have the ‘older’ model for £35.99 but in limited sizes. There are some on ebay (again the older one). So the best bet at the moment is to buy direct from Funkier themselves for $39.99. There’s a ten dollar shipping charge so that all comes out at about £39 assuming no customs charges. Alternatively an email to UK importer Bob Elliot might be in order.

Anyhow, how is it? Well, it’s pretty great actually. Although it takes a very different path to being warm than, for example, the Helly Hansen wool or the Craft Warm, it performs very well indeed. In fact, though I referred to it as being from the ‘Under Armour’ school earlier on it comfortably exceeds the warmth of one of their ‘cold’ base layers.

One of the other pluses to the Merano is that because of the close fit, it’s a tidy base layer to wear underneath a short sleeve jersey on those cool spring days. It creates the look of a jersey plus arm warmers. And despite the warmth it creates it’s never over powering. Breathability is always top notch. It’s also a pretty versatile thing. I’ve been using it under running jerseys and it would also make a pretty great football or rugby base layer as well.

This is an excellent base layer and well worth investing in even as we come to the start of more spring like conditions. I’ll see if I can find some more links to where you can buy.

Giro Factor ACC shoes

Tough crowd. Imagine breaking into new markets. It’s not easy. Yeah, it helps if you’re an established brand that’s demonstrably associated with cycling, but getting into a market segment is still a big ask.

That’s what Giro, better known for their helmets, did back in 2011 when they decided to get into the cycling shoe market. Not just road shoes either, the whole shebang. They’re still at it today, trying to break into the clothing market. And, to date, it’s been a pretty successful transition in all cases.

When Giro released the original Factors back in 2011 I was at the front of the queue, drawn to the good looks, light weight and bling factor. So I bought a pair of the original white Factor shoes with their supernatural fit system. And they were sublime, lasted me for an age. Eventually they made way for some Rapha Condor Sharp versions which, for me, remain just one of the best looking cycling shoes ever made. I’ve owned the Trans as well, and the Treble. I’ve done commuting and CX in the Gauge and Code. Looking back, it seems I’ve owned more Giro shoes than from any other manufacturer.

And I had the Empire SLX in Orange. With the laces. And that’s the other thing Giro do. Make….stuff…..cool. So when they got Taylor Phinney to wear them in the Peloton everyone went wild. It’s not the case that they brought  laces back, others had been doing it. But Giro were the only ones to make it really work as a commercial proposition. And now everyone’s doing it. But nothing touches the SLX in terms of style. And no off road shoe looks like the VR90 either. So you might ask, why don’t I still own the SLX? It was nothing to do with fit or ability, I swapped to a CX bike on the road for a year or so and just wore MTB shoes. So off they went.

Fast forward and, when I spend my time on the road, in the dry, hot days of summer, I wanted something a bit blingier than my trusty Shimano R171. Something a tad lighter as well. So I went back, as it were, to the beginning. Personally I still prefer buckles over laces but that’s a personal thing. If laces are your style, get the SLX, you won’t be sorry.

The Giro Factor AAC are in the process of being replaced. The new Techlace version are the de facto replacement. But the shoes are very similar in terms of the last and upper fit and there are so many good deals on the Factor at the moment that I thought I’d bring you this review.

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Like most things cycling, making stuff isn’t that difficult a concept. You want a light weight shoe that breathes and that fits you well. Pulling it off is hard because we are all so very different. I take a 45 in the Giro. In terms of sizing I’d say they’re pretty normal. I’m a 44 in ‘everyday shoes’ but a 45 in most of my trainers. To that extent I’m wary of saying size up. But, in comparison with my other shoes, they are pretty much the same. They’re a nice snug fit in the main body but the toe box is, for me, a tad wider than some of the Italian brands. And that’s a good thing. They’re available in white/black, as reviewed here, white/red and all black.

Unlike the SLX this is good, old school buckle system territory. Two velcro straps and one ratchet buckle. The straps and buckles are replaceable but the top flap (where the Giro is sited) is not. But, in use, it’s a very durable system indeed. It’s easy to get the fit you want with the Factors. There’s no fancy heel system like you see on a Sidi. There are no internal grippy bits at the heels. Indeed, the heels are actually a little shorter than on comparable shoes. And you know what? It makes absolutely no difference. Providing you get the correct size you will not experience any heel lift whatsoever in a Giro Factor, which is important, given how stiff they are.

The upper is a microlight fibre. It’s not leather. It’s pretty resilient overall to bumps and scrapes. Crucially, it wipes clean very easily indeed. It’s great to see that Giro opted for a black lining, especially at the ankles. There’s no worse look than an otherwise pristine white shoe with faded or dirty inner white lining. Shoe makes, take note, it’s not big and it’s not clever.

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The upper is covered in multiple perforations. This is a good shoe for the summer as it breathes very well. There are vents underneath, which I’ll come to in a bit. It’s certainly usable in winter but, guys, keep them for the good days. The buckle operation is straightforward and these are adjustable on the fly. The bottom lever pulls out and ratchets the strap tighter. The upper level pushes in and releases the tension. Altering the velcro while riding is a piece of cake.

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But it’s the soles that are the soul of these shoes. A lightweight carbon fibre sole provided by carbon experts Easton. There are a number of different types. This is the ACC version, found in the Factor. The Techlace ditches it and uses a new SLX2 sole which is even lighter again and it that sole found in the uber light Empire model. The lesser models go for fibre reinforced soles. All are stiff but the EC90 variants are incredibly so.

The rear heel bumper is now replaceable (the original versions didn’t have this). The front one is not. But it should see you through loads of use. There are useful guidelines for clear positioning and, as stated, a nice little vent at the front. That means air in. It also means water in but, come on, these are not for rain! They’ll do rain, of course. They wipe clean and the fibre does not shrink. That can’t be said for other shoes. The sole is a work of art and always has been. In my view Giro/Easton have nailed it. The weight of EACH shoe in size 45 with Shimano cleats installed is 328g so sub 600g the pair without. If you want to go lighter then the Techlace shave about 50g off at the same size and, as you’d expect, the SLX a whole lot more.

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I’ve opted to use the  Giro Prolight insole in mine but the Factors are supplied with Giro’s excellent Supernatural Fit System which allows you to insert different arch supports depending on your foot type. The insole uses Giro’s x-static coating for bacterial prevention. I have to say, Giro have never skimped the provided insole and other manufacturers might learn a thing or two in this regard.

Price? It’s broadly irrelevant now in terms of RRP but they were £249.99. That’s actually very good in comparison to those premium marques who charge more and from which you gain no more. They’ll last for ages and they are about the most comfortable shoes out there. At the moment their pricing varies but I’ve managed to find a bit of stock at Sigma Sport where there’s good availability in a number of sizes at the price of £124.99. That is a bargain. They also have the black if that’s your sort of thing. But, if they are out of stock of your size, then a bit of googling should show up some good results. If you fancy the bling then hunt down some SLX and if you fancy some BOA fastening goodness then the Techlace should be on your list. It’s interesting to see that in only a few years Giro not only broke into the market but pretty much owned it.

Truestart Hero Energy Bars

You might recall that I was a big fan of Truestart Coffee when I first came across their wares in the Fuelit Selection Box last year. While I am, like most cyclists, a purveyor of ‘proper coffee’ I have to say that I found their instant coffee not only tremendously effective but also great tasting coffee.

And I’m happy to say that the company has been going from strength to strength over the last year winning many awards and building #teamtruestart, a hugely impressive collection of sporting individuals. Their coffee has become widely available in all the major stockists and the brand is booming on social media, a testament to the indefatigable nature of owners Helena and Simon Hills and their team.

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But it’s one thing selling coffee, it’s quite another breaking into a crowded energy bar market. That said, it all tends to get a little over complicated on occasion, all you really need is a decent energy hit, long lasting if possible, easy to handle on the move and easily eaten. Now I’ve laid that out there it does seem a little harder I guess.

The raison d’etre to the Hero bars is the same as the coffee, a controlled, precise caffeine hit, so it doesn’t matter which flavour you choose, you’ll get 95mg of natural caffeine in each bar, the same as one scoop of their coffee. Let’s do perspective, that’s a bigger caffeine shot than a normal can of Red Bull and marginally more than a shot of Costa Espresso (other coffee shops are available). And it’s guaranteed to be 95mg every……single…..time. I won’t bore you with science but there’s some pretty good evidence out there that caffeine consumption during exercise encourages your body to use fat cells as energy rather than glycogen. So consuming caffeine before or during tends to aid endurance. And as yet no-one’s been doing much in the way of adding this level of caffeine to energy bars or gels.

There are 4 flavours available each being with each consisting of a ‘main flavour’ plus coffee. So we have Coffee and Cherry, Coffee and Peanut Butter, Coffee and Beetroot and Arabica. The observant amongst you will note that, essentially, the last one is Coffee only. Each 43g bar is pretty much the same in terms of kcals (200 or so) and each of them is gluten free. The ingredients vary but chiefly they consist of oats, seeds, nuts and TrueStart Performance Coffee, bound with coconut oil and agave nectar.

It’s quite interesting to read the genesis of the product in Helena’s blog which can be found here.

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The coffee arabica is, naturally, the most coffee tasting of the bunch. The coffee cherry is what it says on the wrapper, cherry like without being synthetic tasting.

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Beetroot has become quite a big thing in energy products now. It tastes good and defies what you might expect. But my overall favourite has to be the peanut butter version. With that hint of coffee in the background it’s spot on.

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These are easy to carry and easy to eat. There’s no stubborn packaging to wrestle with, the bar comes out easy, it’s moist, chewy and not sticky. There’s no mess in the wrapper when you roll it up and put it back in your jersey pocket. They taste excellent, the energy provision is good and that caffeine hit should provide a useful pick me up deep into that endurance ride.

Pricing is excellent. £21.48 for a box of 12 (£1.79 each). At the moment you need to make a choice in terms of flavours as you can’t mix and match.

I’m impressed. These do everything I need them to do on a long ride. They taste great, they’re easy to handle, they don’t create any mess and they’re good value. Getting that caffeine hit to keep you going is a big bonus. I’ve quite a few of them to get through so I guess I need to get out on some big rides now. That’ll also stop me eating them in the house as, actually, they’re a damn good snack as well.

Click here to purchase Hero bars

Click here to purchase coffee

Oh and, Primal make team kit as well!