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Showing posts from March, 2013

Race Report: Milland Hill Surrey League RR

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I was told that Milland Hill was a tough circuit, nothing quite prepared me for the 25 percent gradient though, nor for the fact that we had to go up it eight times. The 65 mile race was composed of eight and a half laps of the 7.5 mile circuit; a circuit of false flats, finished with a gradient that even by Isle of Wight standards was a vicious encounter.

The race started out fast, with a break of two riders getting off early. It was clear from the outset that despite there being a few large teams in the race, there were not many riders that were willing to work. As a result I seemed to find myself on the front a fair bit for the first two laps; working with a select group of others to help reel back the breakaway. Our hard work paid off, as the two escapees were brought back into the main bunch towards the end of lap two.

For most of lap three I sat back in and tried to regain a bit of strength, following the wheels of Jimbo and Si, who made up our three man Isle of Wight team. Unf…

Review: Road Rags Smithfield Merino Jersey

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I've developed a love affair with merino wool; it's incredibly breathable, it stays warm even when it gets damp, and it doesn't smell! What more could you want from a material; certainly I haven't found a synthetic fibre that comes close to it.

Road Rags is a London based brand that produces a small but beautifully designed and thought-out range of merino products for male and female cyclists. The products are made to be versatile cycling tops, that will provide incredible comfort both in the saddle and sat at the café at the end of a long ride.

Winter may be coming to an end, but there is still a definite nip in the air, and the beauty of merino wool is its versatility in so many climates; it will keep you warm in the cold air, but when it starts to heat up the breathability will come into its own. The Smithfield is Road Rag's perfect springtime cycling top; over the last few weeks I've been enjoying its quality and comfort on my spring rides, and thought I wou…

Review: Mucky Nutz Fender Set

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Mountain Bike mudguards come in many shapes and sizes, and there are varying opinions on their necessity  looks and effectiveness. "They don't look cool, dude". "You're going to have to walk through mud at the gates anyway". "You're still going to have to wash your bike off". These are all excuses that I've heard for not fitting fenders to a mountain bike, but in truth they really are a useful bit of kit; keeping you drier, keeping mud out of your eyes, and protecting components on your bike.

Mucky Nutz is a UK based company that has come up with an ingenious set of guards that are more discrete, better looking and more aerodynamic than your standard off-road fenders; yet they still do a sterling job of keeping you dry. Since I've been back on the Isle of Wight I've fitted them on the On One Whippet and have been putting them to the test. Here are my thoughts on their three incredible value guards that I reckon will change the way …

Review: Vélolove Tee and Sweatshirt

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Vélolove, that's something that I certainly have a fair bit of... perhaps too much at times, VéloObsession may be a better phrase for me. Who cares? If you are obsessed with your bike, you certainly shouldn't be afraid to hide it. Vélolove is a UK brand that is all about sharing the love; creating a bike culture and producing stunning quality casual kit and cycling prints that subtly show your deep-seated passion for the sport.

I've had two Vélolove products on test for a week or so; one of their 'Allez Allez Allez' Cycling Culture Sweatshirts, and their Paris Roubaix Monument Tee. Here's what I thought...


The Vélolove Paris Roubaix Monument Tee
There is something about a good t-shirt; they feel more comfortable, look better and last longer than others. The Monument tees from Vélolove certainly fit securely into the "great" category; they are well fitted and beautifully made. The organic cotton is clearly a high quality mix, and the tees really are a p…

Nutrition: Race Nutrition Strategy

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You've put a lot of work in preparing for your race; long hours on the bike in the winter weather, tough turbo sessions and a good attempt to iron out your weaknesses in the build up to your first race of the season. There is one ingredient that should never be forgotten though... nutrition.

In this post I look at nutrition strategy for the few days leading up to a race and for the race day itself; there is a lot to be gained by getting your nutrition right, and an even greater amount to be lost by not getting it right.


The Lead-up to the Event
In the week leading up to the race you have likely started to pare back your training a bit as you taper down to the event, and ensure that your body is in its best possible condition; fresh and ready for race day.You should also pay particular attention to your diet in this period; try to avoid foods that might upset your system, and focus on a good balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit to keep your immune system going strong.
The night be…

Commuting: Be Safe. Be Seen. Hi-Vis Commuting Gear

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Many of you will have heard about the hit-and-run accident that I had at the end of January: riding down Leamington Spa High Street, a car parked on my side of the road (but facing towards me) pulled out into my line of traffic and hit me head on.  The total impact speed must have been around 30 mph, and resulted in me laying on the road, front wheel buckled, bike in tatters, and the driver of the car nowhere in sight.

The accident got me thinking:
Perhaps wearing bright yellow team kit is not enough to be seen these days...
Perhaps Fluoro is coming back into fashion for a reason...
Perhaps my commuting gear isn't bright enough...

The more I considered these questions, the more I started observing cyclists on my daily commute into uni; poor lights, black coats, black rucksacks, black bikes... the list goes on, but what it boils down to is that some cyclists don't help themselves.

Well, my Wightlink-LCM team kit is pretty darn bright, but I decided that even I could do more to …

Race Report: Fifth Place Finish in Mountbatten E.1.2. Race

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Follow every move and one of them had better work. That was the motto I adopted in today's race over at the Portsmouth Mountbatten track: it was a tactic that hurt like hell for a lot of the one hour race.

I was kicking myself a bit after I let a break of five riders get away last week in my first Elite, 1st and 2nd Category race over at Portsmouth. So this week I was determined to make sure I made the split. As a result, from the start I tried to stick near the front of the main peloton, and with assaults going left, right and centre I was working hard (probably too hard) to make sure I either pulled a fair few of them back, or made sure I was in them.

Eventually a group of nine riders were sat on the front of the peloton and the pace began to lift, James Ebdon my team-mate, was sat the tenth rider back and knowing the field well he recognised that we might be a good mix of riders to do something in a break. As a result, when the pace lifted James eased a little and let the nine…

Review: Commuting: Lifeventure Thermal Mug

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The morning before a race, or just a standard morning in the office can be a big rush, especially when you are run down from training and struggle to rise from a deep exercise induced coma. One thing that many cyclists rely on is their coffee caffeine kick to get them up and going in the morning. To read about just how embedded the drink is in the cycling culture have a read of my blog:
Coffee - The Life Blood of Cyclists.

Coffee isn't the same if it's cold though, or if you have to gulp it down as you rush out of the house. A thermal mug is a great idea then; letting you take your kick-starter with you as you head to your destination. This thermal vacuum mug from Lifeventure is a great example, particularly suited to cyclists as it fits neatly into a bike bottle cage.

The mug has a tough metal casing and a pressure release screw top cap. It takes 300 ml of fluid, which is a perfect quantity for a good sized cup of coffee. It does a great job of keeping it warm as well; I'…

Review: Monkii Mono and Cage

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Going Touring this year? Need a bigger saddle bag? Got a fixie or old steel frame that doesn't have bottle cage bosses? Want to carry a Thermos flask or extra water bottle on your bike? Monkii has the answer!

Monkii is an an innovative range from Cycle Miles; a small Hampshire based firm that is specialising in producing products particularly suited to adventure cyclists. I recently received three of their products to review; the Monkii Mono waterproof pack and the Monkii Mono cage, which can both be fitted to any tube with the Monkii Clip. Over the past month I've been trying them out and using them in different ways and I have to say they're pretty clever...


The Monkii Mono
Those that have read my Comprehensive Lite-Touring Kit List blog will know that when you are touring you need quite a large saddle bag to fit in all the tools and spares that I have suggested. Cram it all into a saddle bag with straps and the straps will likely break, even on a good quality Topeak pack.…

Review: Phew CC Early Winter Gloves

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Phew CC is a new UK-based brand, breaking into the market with some good quality well priced kit; including gloves, arm warmers and tees. I've had the Phew CC Early Winter Gloves on test for a week or so now and they seem like a good, versatile piece of kit.

Spring is on its way, we hope, and the Early Winter Gloves are just as suited to Late Winter as well; making an ideal glove for the chilly and potentially wet spring mornings.

The recommended temperature range for the Phew gloves is 3-12 degrees, I reckon that is pretty accurate, they've kept my hands warm and dry on quite a few rides recently when the temperature has fallen to within a few degrees of zero. That makes them an ideal cross-over glove between your thick winter gloves, and your short finger summer mitts.

The top of the gloves is made of the wind and semi-waterproof Windster fabric; it is very effective at keeping the chill off your hands, whilst also being incredibly breathable and stopping you getting sweaty …

Review: Repack Berino Long Sleeve Jersey

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Repack is a new UK based brand, currently putting all its efforts into making their unique Berino jersey a success. It really is something quite special.

Most regular readers will know how much I advocate merino wool over synthetic fabrics; its warm, soft and highly breathable, not to mention it doesn't retain odours like polyester. The Berino jersey contains not just merino but also bamboo (Berino – see what they did there!). One of our team sponsors Rapanui produces bamboo tees, so I was aware of the softness and comfort that the material provides; it was no surprise then that the Berino felt like a great product when I pulled it on a few weeks ago to start testing.

Aimed at the mountain bike market, the Berino is a close fitting cut with a full length zip and a high collar. It has one small central rear pocket, and two larger zippered pockets that are big enough to stash a good bit of kit in, whilst being tactfully out of the way of a hydration pack sat in the middle of your back…

Review: Udderly Smooth Chamois Cream and Hand Cream

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Chamois cream is something that seems to be increasingly necessary for me when I ride the bike; it certainly makes those hours in saddle a lot more comfortable, and is a sure-fire way to get rid of saddle sores. For the  last few weeks I've been using the Udderly Smooth Chamois cream on my nether-regions when I go out for a ride, and have also been very impressed by their hand cream to stop cracked hands in the cold weather.

Udderly Smooth are a US brand, which is available in the UK through select distributors; it produces body lotions, foot creams and most importantly for cyclists, moisturisers and chammy cream. I've been pleased by both the hand cream and chamois cream I've had on trial.

Udderly Smooth Chamois Cream
Providing some moisturising chamois cream to your under-carriage is often all it takes to overcome saddle sore.
(For more tips on how to cure saddle sore see my blog:
Hints and Tips: Saddle Sore Prevention and Cure).

This lightly scented moisturising cream fr…

Review: Union34 Clothing

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Finding clothes that can be used both on and off the bike can be a hard task; if you are just nipping into town or work you don't want to be changing outfit when you arrive; but most clothing is rather impractical for the bike.

We all know the feeling of damp jumpers that ride up your back, or trousers that get caught in the chain and sodden wet when you splash through that apparently invisible puddle. Surely there must be some clothes that can work better than wet jeans and soggy tops for your ride to the supermarket or into work; clothes that won't make you look like you've just tumbled out of the washing machine for the rest of your day? Union34 produces just the kit... urban cycle wear that is discrete, yet distinctly functional and fashionable to ensure that your bike journey doesn't have to mean a rather rough-stuff appearance.

I've recently been testing out three of Union34's products; their Elements Soft Shell Hooded Jacket, Echo Packable Rain Jacket an…

Race Report: Frozen First Race of 2013

My first race of 2013 was at the Portsmouth Mountbatten track; Elite, 1st and 2nd Cat. racing in torrential rain, strong winds and freezing temperatures.... Ideal!

Getting the legs moving took a bit of doing; a few warm up laps before the race was not enough to prepare me for the onslaught that was about to happen. Nor was my choice of skin-suit, arm warmers and leg warmers a wise choice; I should have been wearing an Arctic jacket.

The race started much as I expected it to; straight in with the attacks, and they didn't stop coming. Break after break went off the front, I latched onto quite a few, and chased down quite a few; probably too many to be honest, I have yet to know who are the workers and will make a break work, so I found myself chasing down a few that probably in retrospect were doomed to fail.

After seeing my heart rate rocket a few times I sat in for a while, not wanting to finish myself off and not be able to finish the 1hr +5 laps race. Unfortunately I sat in at j…

Weekend Watch: Rapha Continental Sapa Vietnam

The Rapha Continental: Sapa from RAPHA on Vimeo.

Another one from Rapha again this week. This really makes me want to go back to Vietnam and Cambodia - stunning countries, very friendly people. I saw a lot of these mountain roads from the saddle of a moto when I was there four years ago, perhaps I'll see them from the saddle of a push bike sometime in the future as well.

My blog from my time in Vietnam and Cambodia can be found here: Adventurous Travels

The Game Theory of The Breakaway

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If you've seen the film 'A Beautiful Mind' or you've done a bit of industrial economics or even gambling, then you might have heard of game theory. It's a science that tries to make sense of the decision choices made by individuals when they are faced with one-shot simultaneous move situations.

The application of game theory has found its way into topics from penalty shoot-out decisions, to how easy it is for two firms to collude to raise prices in an industrial market; in this blog I try to show how game theory can be applied to breakaway situations in a road race.

The classic example of game theory is the Prisoner's Dilemma; consider two gang members stuck in two separate cells at a police station, both prisoners were arrested at the scene of a crime and had no chance to discuss their alibi with the other.

Simultaneously both prisoners are taken from their cells to separate interview rooms and told:
If you confess and your partner does too, you will get 10 yea…

Weekend Watch: "It Ain't About Cav" The Film

"IT AIN'T ABOUT CAV" THE FILM from benedict campbell on Vimeo.
An atmospherically shot film for people that love British cycling by someone passionate about cycling.
Narration by Jonathan Tiernan-Locke and Kristian house.
Initially intended to be a short behind-the-scenes film about this year’s tour of Britain, ‘It ain’t about Cav’ is an hour-long, self funded cinematic documentary depicting the beauty, drama and the grit of the highest level of British cycling. From the all powerful Team sky and it's International rivals to the hard working smaller domestic teams this documentary, captures the feeling of what it's like to be in an International stage race.

Guest Blog: Riding With Another Club for the Weekend

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Fellow Wightlink-LCM Systems Race Team rider Jack Elton-Walters had a great weekend riding off the island visiting family in Bristol a few weekends back, when he joined the Bristol Road Club on their Saturday club run. Chatting to him about it when he got back it seemed like such a great idea; having the initiative to find a club to ride with when you go somewhere new has so many benefits. He kindly offered to write a blog post about his experience; I hope you enjoy it, and it inspires you to do the same.  

"Running a business on the Isle of Wight often means I’m called away for days on end, and sometimes over weekends. This time I tied it in with a visit to my sister in Bristol, but didn’t want to miss a whole weekend’s training. 

Using British Cycling’s Club Finder I found Bristol Road Club and emailed their secretary Brian. He got back to me very swiftly and said it’d be great for me to join the club’s Saturday ride. 

This turned out to be a great idea: the club was very welcomin…