Thursday, 27 August 2015

Review: Adidas Adizero Short Sleeve Jersey

It's not very often that I weigh a piece of clothing. In fact, I don't remember ever doing it before... It was the first thing that I did with the new adidas adizero jersey though; because to be blunt, it's ludicrously light.

Adidas claim that the jersey weighs in at a minuscule 65 grams; my medium sample actually came in at 62 grams on my scales, so it is indeed a serious featherweight! The thinking behind this record breaking design, is simple: lighter is faster, thinner materials are more comfortable in the heat, and a lower profile style is more aero.

In recent years, we've seen Grand Tour contenders such as Chris Froome wear skimpy (and see-through) jerseys and skin-suits on Alpine stages; the adizero jersey comes from the same school of thought, and pushes the boundaries in terms of ventilation and minimalism.

Shrouded in tissue paper, the jersey arrives like a precious piece of art. When you unwrap it, you can see why; this is a piece of apparel made of fabric that won't deal with burly handling. It's about as light as Lycra gets, and features net fabrics on key perspiration areas such as the back, under-arms and lower hem. It is about as close as you can get to wearing nothing, whilst still wearing something.

The fit is good, and my medium size jersey came up fairly well, although I would probably opt for a small in retrospect (link to my sizings). The sleeves have a longer (more aero) profile than many traditional jerseys, and the cut is very much cycling-specific; with a significant drop-tail and higher cut front. There's very little in the way of a collar, which is an intentional design, aimed at reducing weight and heat-retention. There's also a full-length zipper, and silicone grippers on the hem and sleeves; both helping to achieve a comfortable and secure fit.

As is always the case with high-end products (this jersey retails for £100), it is the attention to detail in the adizero jersey that makes it interesting. It is also what makes it a performer out on the bike. The positioning of the mesh panels seems to be spot-on, and notably help in dissipating perspiration and heat; I've tested this jersey in 30 degrees, and the lighter fabric made a significant difference to temperature regulation and comfort. Other design features are also well considered, such as the subtle reflective detailing, which is a good nod towards safety.


If I have one criticism of the adizero jersey, it is the pocketing. In a bid to reduce weight and maximise ventilation, adidas have opted for just two small pockets on the jersey. For some, that might be enough, and you could fit say a phone and a few gels in the capacity. For me though, it's a bit too minimal. I tend to take a pump, phone, a few gels and a bar in my pockets; there is no chance of fitting that in this jersey. The result, is that you'd need to fit the pump on the frame and the other things in a saddlebag; once you have to do that, you're adding weight to the bike/rider, and it rather negates the benefit of the lightweight jersey for net weight loss. Personally, I would have preferred to have seen three normal size pockets.

Aside from the minor pocketing issue (which for many may not be an issue), this is a superb bit of summer cycling kit. The lightweight fabric is extremely effective at aiding comfort in hotter weather, the fit is close, and the cut is well tailored to a bike rider's position. It's also a great looker, and would certainly appear the part as you tackle that mountain pass.

If you're a rider that suffers from overheating, or you're based in a country with plenty of warmer summer days, this is a product worth considering.

View the adidas range at adidasspecialtysports.co.uk (Link)




Sunday, 23 August 2015

Review: Swrve Cigarette Cut Durable Cotton Shorts

If you haven't read my previous reviews of Swrve apparel, then it's worth having a quick browse. This American brand makes some of the best "casual" cycling wear that you can buy.

Swrve kit is well fitted and nicely styled; perhaps most notable though, compared to other brands that I've tested, is that it is quite easily the most durable. It is without doubt, kit that is made to last. I have Swrve Indigo jeans and Swrve WWR trousers that are two years old, and they still look like new. Hours of abusive testing, both on and off the bike, shows the true virtue of this clothing...

The Swrve Cigarette Cut shorts are the first pair of short trousers that I've tested from the brand. They are made of the same great fabric as the Durable Cotton Trousers though, and these continue to be a favourite of mine, so I was expecting good things.

The 'Durable Cotton' fabric is a robust, medium-weight material; with an abrasion-resistant finish, and a level of strength that certainly stands up to some serious wear. Despite the robustness, the fabric is soft against the skin, and most importantly it is comfortable to ride in; helped significantly by the four-way stretch it possesses. The fabric is also treated with a DWR coating, which repels water, dirt and grime. There's little doubt that this is one of the best-suited materials for outdoor pursuits.

The Cigarette Cut shorts are designed for optimal comfort whilst riding. They have a lower cut waist at the front, to avoid the fabric and your belt digging in whilst you're in the riding position. They have a higher cut waist on the back, to provide greater coverage and reduce the chance of that chilly gap! The waistband itself is low-stretch, so unlike the rest of the shorts, it doesn't move as you move; reducing the chance of them falling down. Swrve have also used their gusseted seamless crotch design on these, so there's no uncomfortable chafing seams. It's these little modifications, which make these shorts significantly more comfortable for on-the-bike wear.

As well as being cut for riding, the Durable Cotton shorts also have a cut that is more suited to cyclists' physiques than most. These are a slim fitting short, so they look great on skinny riders' legs. They are also a great length, dropping to just above the knee; long enough to cover those dodgy tan lines, but not so long they catch on your knee caps whilst riding. Perfect.

Swrve have paid attention to the finer details in design, too. There are some great little additions to these shorts that are worth noting. Pocketing, for example, comes with a multitude of options: On the front, there are two standard pockets, both with useful pen holders. On the rear, you get a double reinforced U-lock pocket, and a zippered pocket for valuables and spare change; as well as a small smartphone pocket, which is cleverly positioned so you don't sit on it whilst riding. Whether you're a bike courier with pockets laden, or you're just nipping to the pub; I reckon these have got you covered!


It seems that Swrve have done it again with the Durable Cotton Cigarette Cut Shorts. They've produced a product that looks great both on and off the bike, but also a product that feels great to ride in, and has a significant amount of useful functionality. Built to last, and built to ride; these are sure to become a staple part of my wardrobe for a while to come.

View the Swrve range at Swrve.co.uk (Link)

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Nutrition: The Pursuit of Leanness

Most of us could do with losing a few pounds. Travel to even an amateur mountain event, and you realise that yes, sadly, it is the super-lean Italian, Spanish and Columbian climbers that dominate the top spots. Their vein-strewn legs glistening in the sun, as they fly past you on the climbs.

Even if you're not racing up mountains though, shifting a bit of excess weight will likely make you faster in almost all areas of riding. Power to weight ratios remain the overarching performance indicator in cycling.

Before you start starving yourself though, there is a serious caveat to consider; it is not actually weight loss you're trying to achieve, it's fat loss. Welcome to 'The Pursuit of Leanness'.


Weight Loss versus Fat Loss

Fat is a vital component of our body composition; it is an insulator, it is a protector and it is a fuel source. However, fat is also added weight, and unlike muscle weight, it is weight that makes little significant contribution to performance. Lose too much fat and your body will start to struggle to perform vital tasks, such as immune support; carry too much fat, and you'll feel it whenever the road or trail turns skyward. There is a balance to be achieved…

Most sports scientists reckon that the optimal amount of body fat for an enthusiast cyclist, is between 5-15% for males and 12-20% for females. Less than this, and your body will struggle to perform normally. More than this, and you're carrying excess baggage.

The best way to monitor your body fat percentage, is either with skin-fold callipers or a body-composition scale, such as those from Tanita. Keep a record, and you'll be able to track improvements and avoid problems.


Getting Lean – Diet is King

Before I start talking about supplements and sports nutrition to help in the mission to get lean, the primary thing you should consider is your day-to-day diet.

Diet is king. No matter how many low-sugar drinks or green tea supplements you take; what you eat the rest of the time, will have the over-ruling influence on your body.

If you're thinking of stripping fat, then you should focus on stripping saturated fat and refined sugar from your diet, as the primary objective. No more fizzy drinks. No more crisps. No more deep fried food…

I've recently started making key changes to my diet, and incorporating a lot of influence from Hannah Grant’s ‘Grand Tour Cookbook’. The focus is on fresh produce, simple recipes and ensuring that your diet contains all the elements that your body needs, whilst leaving out those that it doesn't. If you need some inspiration on how to improve your diet for cycling, then this book is a great place to start (click here for the book review).



Lean Recovery

Cutting back on unneeded calories is what fat-loss primarily demands; however, in doing so you need to make sure that you're not negatively affecting your recovery regime. If you're training hard and trying to lose weight, then it is vital that you still get enough protein in your diet (as well as vitamins, minerals and other food groups). Protein and amino acids are the building blocks of recovery, and if you're not taking them on board, your performance will suffer.

I've converted to using MaxiNutrition's ProMax Lean powder in my recovery shakes. I put a serving of the powder, a few tablespoons of Drinking Oats and a banana in a Nutribullet; top it up with water, and blitz it together. It provides a recovery shake that has a complete nutritional profile: containing protein, low-GI carbohydrates and a bit of instant energy from the banana. The MaxiNutrition Lean mixture also contains caffeine, which some research has suggested helps to kick-start recovery. It also includes Guarana extract and CLA, both of which can help to boost the metabolism, and help your body start the process of using energy from fat, to fuel the protein synthesis process.

In addition to this post-exercise shake, I also use MaxiNutrition's ProMax Lean bars; primarily as a snacking option between meals. Again, these contain caffeine, so you probably don't need a large coffee with them! They also contain 23 grams of protein, as well as B vitamin supplements (also in the shakes), which help to encourage a healthy metabolism.

A combination of these two low-sugar recovery products, is a good way to ensure you're getting the right amount of high-quality protein in your diet; helping to fuel proper recovery.



Supplements

If you're really taking the battle for leanness to the next level, then there are also supplements available to aid the process. One such supplement, is MaxiNutrition Thermobol.

Thermobol contains similar ingredients to the rest of the MaxiNutrition Lean Definition range, so you don't necessarily need to take it if you are also using Lean Definition shakes and/or bars. It contains caffeine, green tea extract, B vitamins and chromium; all of which may help to boost metabolic rates and fat burning. Supplements like this may be useful on non-training days, when you're not using other sources of these minerals/stimulants.



Discipline. Perseverance. Diet (again!).

To sum up, power-to-weight remains one of the most important measures of cycling performance. One of the key components of this, is your body's muscle percentage and fat percentage. Leanness is key.

Targeting fat, to get you down into the optimal bracket for performance, will certainly help your riding. Diet should be your primary focus, and eating healthily is fundamental to sporting performance. In addition, switching out sugary recovery drinks for diet Lean Definition versions, can also be a useful and effective change; the MaxiNutrition range is one of the best I've found.

Adjust your diet to cut out "bad" foods, whilst ensuring you keep up your high-quality protein and your fresh fruit and veg intake, and you'll soon see your lean definition improve!

View the MaxiNutrition Lean Definition range at Maxinutrition.com (Link)