Monday, 31 October 2011

Winter Treads

The Green Stripe

Yes, that’s treads, not threads – this ain’t no fashion blog, and you’d all look stupid having me advise you on what to wear this winter… *ahem*, where was I?…

Winter tyres – what are the options then, now that we’re heading for that time of year? Here’s my take…

It will surprise… well, probably very few of you that my winter tyre of choice is the Vittoria Pavé – I love Vittoria tyres and run Open Corsa CXs (much to the dislike of a few of my riding buddies) most of the time on my Baum. When it turns to winter it seems logical to continue my allegiance and run the Pavé, and in recent years that’s exactly what I’ve done. I like the extra volume (I run the 24c version, although there is a 27c too), low weight and the compound is nice and tacky so there’s grip a-plenty, regardless of conditions.

That’s not to say they’re perfect though I have to say. When they’re new they’re great and resist punctures perfectly well. But that tacky compound equates to a fast wear rate, and when the tread gets low they become quite puncture-prone. Being Vittoria means they’re not cheap by comparison either.

4 Season

The fall back for me, and many a roadie’s winter favourite is the Continental GP 4Season. And rightly so. Available in 23 and 25c – the latter of which offers a sofa-like ride – these aren’t far off bombproof for a lighter weight tyre. They’re plenty grippy enough and wear much better than the Pavés… except they’re not as pretty…

Sticking with Conti, there’s also the Gatorskins – not a tyre I’ve personally used, but I know many a rider who uses these for their commute. Slightly heavier, but also offer an extra bit of protection even compared to the 4Seasons.

DD

Schwalbe offer their Ultremo now in a ‘DD’ version. Stop sniggering you filth-mongers – it means ‘Double Defence’, and refers to the extra puncture protection on offer. It uses the same compound as the normal Ultremo so it should still be nice and grippy, and despite the extra protection there’s not a significant weight penalty. There’s also the Ultremo Aqua, designed purely for extra grip in wet weather. I’m told the compound is so sticky you can hear it sticking if you use them in the dry!

Of course the likes of Hutchinson, Michelin and others all offer alternatives worth seeking out too.

But do you really need to switch to an all-out winter tyre? I’d argue not. Sure, you might not be running tyres that are necessarily designed for winter, but on that basis and when you think about the UK weather, shouldn’t we all be running year-round tyres with extra puncture protection anyway?

Last winter myself and a couple of other ride buddies ran Conti’s GP24s – the same tyre we’d been running all season. It’s a slightly bigger volume tyre and so offers an extra level of cushioning and comfort, whilst not compromising on grip and offering only a small penalty on weight (over the GP4000S at least). They’ve proved to be pretty resilient too – I’ve recently been commuting on the very same set that I spent most of 2010 on, and I’ve just put that same set on my winter bike.

So there it is. Want the best and not worried about the need to replace them a bit sooner than others (not to mention the pose-factor of that lairy green stripe), then go for the Pavés. Something more resilient and a little heavier, then Conti offer a number of options. Light weight with extra defense or extra tacky and Scwalbe might be worth a look. But don’t rule out continuing to run your normal treads and saving yourself the need to switch.

I have a set of Pavés sat in the wings that are vying for attention – do I fit them, or stick with the GP24s?…

words: Rich

Friday, 14 October 2011

Kurve

kurve

So as luck would have it I seem to have blagged a ride on one of the latest Fizik 'Kurve' saddles - they're of a curious form and design, the basis of which can be seen in this video.

There's also a lot of detail about the construction of the saddles here on the Extra website.

What is it like to actually use though?

Testing the 'Bull' version - with the basis of its design coming from their Aliante - I was both curious and skeptical... except it was instantly one of the most comfortable saddles I've parked my backside on.

Anyone who has followed my 'Saddle Experiment' blogs in the past will know there's not many high-end saddles I haven't yet tested, and despite suffering quite a lot from a certain kind of numbness I've even reverted to saddles without cutouts in an attempt to find something that works. More recently, saddles with a kind of curvy hammock shape to them have offered a level of comfort that has pleasantly surprised me. The Bull version of the Kurve range is designed along these lines - it was this more than the Fizik theory behind their saddle shapes that made me go for it (I can touch my toes quite readily so in theory I should actually use the 'Snake' / Arione shape, and I've been running an Antares on and off for a while now).

Of course it helps for someone as fussy as me that I also consider the Bull to be the best looking of the Kurve saddles - this, despite the fact that I find the Aliante by far the ugliest of the standard Fizik range! I do still wish the new 'Mobius' aluminium rails on it were black though...

Anyway, back to the saddle-tush interface, what we have here is a perch that feels like it moves with the backside and seems to soak up the last of the road buzz making a ride on my already very comfortable steel bike feel like a magic carpet ride with extra cushions thrown in for good measure. I've been skeptical about the Fizik 'thigh glides' in the past, but on this saddle they do actually seem to work and make the saddle feel narrower than it's looks would indicate. Probably worth noting at this point that I'm running it on it's 'soft' setting, but to be honest I'm not sure I'll bother changing that.

One point to note is that it's quite a 'deep' saddle from top to rail so those with integrated seatposts might need to keep an eye on their saddle height - I'm yet to try it to check, but on my own ISP I'm pretty sure I'd need to trim it to get this saddle to fit at my normal saddle height.

So far so good then, although as yet I've only covered around 30km on it so I can't yet confirm the longer term affect on my regular numbness. I hope to get a decent length ride in on it later this week and I should have covered a couple of hundred kilometers on it by the time the week is out so I will feed back more then.

Given the comfort it's offered so far though I can see me handing over the readies necessary to add it to my collection...

Fancy trying out a Kurve saddle? You can try one of our test saddles at Pearson Performance, Sheen or buy one here.

Words: Rich

Thursday, 6 October 2011

The Fix

In the past few years, cycling (and fashion) has seen a massive rise in the popularity of fixies, or fixed wheel bikes for those of you who don’t know. I first encountered such steeds in my BMX days, when I was living in Vancouver back in 2007. Frequently when weaving through the human traffic of East Hastings, barrages of twenty-something year olds would steam past me, scabbed legs spinning smoothly along the asphalt. Fast forward four years and fixies are every where, but more often than not, they’ve been confused as some sort of fashion statement; the new, must have accessory for the Mark Ronson, electro fan in their studio flat on the fringes of Hoxton.



This may be a half truth; however, fixies are also an excellent tool for training…

Long before my knowledge of their existence or my existence what so ever, fixed wheels have been the tool of many enthusiasts to improve almost every aspect of their riding; pedal stroke, strength, efficiency etc. Ridding yourself of a generous cassette and freewheel puts you in a new state of control, a state of unity in fact, with your bicycle. Granted it takes some getting used to – particularly if you’re clipped in - but riding fixed brings an exciting edge, not just to training, but to cycling in general.



My first long bout of fixed riding came this winter past, as I found myself on the cold commute, a bit bored and continuously caked in grease from the inevitable on going cleaning process.. Not one for aluminium, I decided to do the ‘pop’ thing and convert a vintage racer, in this case a Raleigh Record Ace (bought at Pearsons in the dark ages) with Pista hubs and a rather proud Miche Primato track chainset. It certainly isn’t the prettiest steed on the road but boy, does it fly… Following my fixed winter, I’m feeling as strong as a mule after some of the most intense climbing I’ve ever experienced; down hill isn’t too much of a picnic either, balancing cadence rather than coasting is just as tough but it definitely makes you a smoother rider. I would warn you when you’re starting out to approach steep descents with a bit of caution, as if you go jetting down you’re likely to tear your legs off as quickly as a well cooked lamb shank.

It’s not just I who have felt the benefits; I frequently saw Pearson brain box, Alex about Epsom Downs on his Touché, training for his recent cycle tour of Vietnam. Also, Luke after recently inheriting a Hanzo, has been riding to and from his various climbing centres and he’s now fighting fit for the Pearson 150 and Ride For Life (Saver) this month - admittedly we won’t be doing either of these events on a fixie, although it could be a challenge for the future.



Even if you’re not an avid racer, constant spinning adds an element of excitement to rolling into work every morning; as time goes on you can judge the viability of gaps in the traffic, think ahead to possibly precarious situations and master the art of track-stands/standing starts at traffic lights and junctions. Consequently, even riding fixed for your daily commute will make you a safer, more efficient cyclist.

So what are you waiting for? No matter what discipline you follow, what circumference of wheel you subscribe to, sort yourself out a fixed wheel soon. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it doesn’t have to look like it’s just come out of a cereal box and you don’t have to be sporting a moustache to ride one… Just make sure you’re committed, because once you’ve got your fix, you’ll never go back.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Cycle Show 2011 - Aftermath

Bicycles, sunshine, fresh coffee and the occasional tipple; they’re all traits of a long and difficult weekend at the Cycle Show. As usual there was an impressive array of bicycles and gear on offer, from the simple and beautifully crafted to those at the forefront of engineering in our sport.

It was a weekend of excitement in the land of blighty; soaring temperatures, success for our rugby boys and most important of all, the unveiling of the 2012 Pearson range. Those lucky enough to attend the Cycle Show could see the zesty fleet with their very own eyes as well as test ride a few selections on the Cycle Show Test Track. Those of you who missed the show, you can visit either Sutton or Sheen for your first look at the machines; those who are just too giddy with anticipation need only look below.

MINEGOESTOELEVEN

As I mentioned last week, we’ve had a bit of a facelift; trading-in the traditional Pearson logo for a touch of flamboyance and eccentricity that we feel better represents the heart and soul of this company – from our staff to our customers. Following on from the weekend, we’ve already had some positive feedback from London Cycle Sport, Bike Radar and finally, up and coming clothing company and bloggers, Vulpine who gave us Bike of the Show award as well as the From Ming to Bling award – I’m not quite sure how to take the last one, but thanks very much Nick.

You may have heard of our recent venture with bicycle tailoring experts, Cycefit. Well, we felt that the show would be a perfectly good opportunity to exhibit our latest toy for use at our own Cyclefit studios at Pearson Performance, Sheen. We didn’t quite expect the wave interest it received and after a weekend of one on ones turned group demonstrations, bookings are coming in thick and fast so call in and enquire soon.

Thank you to all who came up to see us, we hope you had as great a weekender as we did.

Photo credits: London Cycle Sport, Vulpine