Sunday, 31 August 2014

Race Report: Malmesbury Road Race

Today was my first road race since the Ras de Cymru (far too long a gap - but this is not the place to explain the reasons for that). I came away with a top fifteen result I think, which I was satisfied with; not pleased, but satisfied given the last week...

The last week has been a long one. Last Friday I came down with flu; a chest infection and sinus infection combo. I was meant to be racing on Sunday, but instead spent most of the weekend in bed. Bank holiday Monday was a right-off as well, and I didn't touch the bike all weekend. 

Tuesday morning I went off to Eurobike; the world's biggest bike trade show in Germany. I hadn't got shot of the cold, but there was no way I was missing this. The event was an incredible experience, and there was so much to see (Link to Wiggle Blog articles). It was three very long days though; on our feet from first thing in the morning until last thing at night. By the time I got home at 1:30am on Friday morning I was pretty shattered. 

On Friday night, we drove up to Shropshire to visit some relations. Saturday was spent walking in the Shropshire hills and recuperating a bit, although it inevitably wasn't the most restful day. This morning we drove down to Malmesbury for the race. 

So, it's been a bit busy to say the least. Anyway, onto the race...

Earlier in the week I wasn't even sure I would be able to finish today, coughing up a lung and using an entire bottle of Olbas oil isn't encouraging. Given that, I was a little bit nervous on the start. Once things were underway though I quickly got into the rhythm of things, and although I certainly didn't feel on top form, I felt OK.

A two man break went up the road early on, but we pulled it back gradually. The pace of the peloton was high, but I felt reasonably comfortable towards the front of the main bunch.

It was all going fine until the last lap of the rolling circuit. The peloton split, and I was on the wrong side of the split. It took some big above-threshold turns with a select group of other riders to pull things back together. That effort cost a bit, but more crucially it placed me too far back going into the final push for the finish. I managed to move up, but probably not far enough. 

One rider went off the front with about 1.5km to go, and stayed away, an impressive move. I tried my best in the bunch kick, but am really lacking the power after so little in the way of racing over the last few months. Top 15 was OK, but I wish I had been in better form to have done better. It was enjoyable all the same though - great to be racing on the road again.

Hopefully next week's Cricklade Kermesse will produce a slightly higher placing.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Photo: Marginal Gains in a Time Trial

Spotted this on the POC Sports stand at Eurobike this week, some interesting numbers...

Monday, 25 August 2014

Review: Rokform iPhone Case and Bike Mounts

In a world where Strava and other mobile GPS tracking apps are becoming a core part of riding, iPhone and mobile handlebar cases are one of the easiest ways of using your iPhone as a very high-tech bike computer.

Rokform is an American brand, that specialises in high quality mobile phone cases and mounts; designed to allow you to take your mobile with you out on the road or trails, and keep it safe and visible throughout the ride. In this review I take a look at their V3 mountable iPhone case and their two handlebar mounting options.

Rokform iPhone 5c Mountable Protective Case

First up, the case; a thermo-moulded plastic protective layer that both protects your iPhone from knocks and bumps, but also enables you to mount it into the Rokform mounts. 

The case is quick and easy to fit, sliding onto the phone and clicking into position. It provides effective protection for all the vulnerable corners of the phone, and also from "twisting", which is one of the worst culprits of screen damage. There is no screen protection provided with this case, but there is enough room to fit a clear screen protector on (£1 from amazon), which will help to protect the face from scratches.

The mounting aspect of the case comes through a 25 degree twist mount on the rear. Provided with the case you get an adhesive mount, which can be used on a flat surface such as a car dashboard, and enables you to clearly have the case visible at all times. 

The case seems to be well made, looks smart and has already protected my iPhone from a few drops and knocks. There is no waterproof protection with it, but the benefit of that is that all the buttons, camera and ports retain all their usability.
Rokform iPhone Case
All ports remain accessible on the Rokform case
Rokform iPhone Case
The rubber fill on the back of the case is effective at reducing sliding on shiny surfaces
Rokform iPhone Case
Note: A plastic plug is also provided to fill the hole on the 25 degree mount, when not in use.

Rokform Bike Mount (Stem Mount)

This is a neat little design, and something that I was interested in from the outset, quite different from other iPhone case mounts I have seen.

The mount works by removing the stem cap, and then securing the mount to the steerer tube with the stem bolt (a longer stem bolt is provided). The result is a very secure fix, which has no hint of shaking or twisting round, like some handlebar mounted solutions.

The angle of the mount can be adjusted by a second strong stainless bolt, and enables you to tailor the screen angle to make it most visible, it also means that even with shorter stems you have room to fit the phone in place without hitting the forward stem clamp. 

The iPhone mountable case mounts on with a double secure feature: first there is the 25 degree mount, which provides a positive locking mechanism; this is backed up with an optional strong magnet, which is hidden in the rubber bung on the back of the case. This double system works very well, and there is no rattling or hint of disconnection even with off-road ventures. I would recommend using the magnet though, it seems the strength of this system is in the combination of the two, with the magnet ensuring that the case doesn't rotate and unlock.

My only discontent with the Rokform system is that there is no waterproof or dust protection for the phone. As the last picture in the collection below shows, you are provided with a waterproof case, but it is a poor solution at best, and given that you are likely to want to use this in all weather; including dusty summers and wet winters, it seems that a waterproof protection element is missing from the design.

Other than that though, this is a great mounting solution, and provides a secure fit for any phone in an iPhone case.
Rokform Mount
The Rokform mount provide a nice in-line mount for the iPhone
Rokform Mount
A 25 degree turn releases the phone from the mount, so it is worth using the magnet to keep it secure
Rokform Mount
The mount looks smart, and uses high quality materials
Rokform Mount
The angle of the mount is adjusted with a second bolt close to the stem bolt

Rokform Mount
The only waterproofing solution for the Rokform case and mount, it is a bit of a compromise at best.

Rokform Handlebar Mount

The final element in the Rokform bike mount range is the handlebar mount; which could also be used on a buggy, or any tubular design. 

This mount uses a rubber strap to secure itself around the handlebar or stem, and can be tailored to the size with the ratchet system and/or a provided rubber gripper. The mount seems secure on the bar, and even with a tapered handlebar it didn't move or rotate on rough ground.

Personally, I prefer a stem mounted iPhone solution, just because it is a bit prone to getting in the way of your knees when mounted on the handlebar. I found that you could also use this mount on the stem, if the stem was long enough.

The mount uses the same 25 degree turn system as on all the other mounts, with some added safety coming from a press-down release tab. It felt secure, and didn't once fall off during testing; the tab seems like a worthwhile addition when there is no magnet to doubly secure the case on this design.

The Rokform cases and mounts seem like a great option then; secure, well made, minimalist (not bulky), and strong. Their only downfall is the lack of waterproofing, but if you live (or only ride) in a dry climate, these are a very strong option when considering taking your phone as your cycle computer.

The mount is simple to use, and has an extra security tab to keep your phone in place 
If your stem is long enough, you can also use this as a stem mount
The only problem with the handlebar position is that it can interfere with your knees whilst riding
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