equipment

Improving? How do you know?

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i suppose the answer to the above depends upon the goal and how you have decided to measure it. If I want to lose weight and I am getting lighter in the scales then success? But how can you measure your improvement on the bike. 

You could wait for a sportive and complete this year in year and see if your times are tumbling, but this is a long time to wait and we need feedback more often, well I do anyway. There are a number of measures you can use and they will all have their benefits as well as drawbacks. I have been using Strava’s Fitness and Freshness tool which is available to premium members. I am sure it has many drawbacks, but it is working for me and I can feel the improvement in the bike, where it counts.

  This is what you get! A sImple graph with a nice positive upward move the more rides you put in. You do need a HR monitor as this measures your suffer score and estimate power. If you have a power meter this will provide even more data to analyse. You cannot share this with other Starva users directly but a screenshot onto a blog post or other social media can be easy complete for those who want to do so. I have chosen only to do this for the purpose of this post as at the end of the day the day it’s used my me, and I know I am improving if the fitness number it going up over time. 

If you wish to use this you do have to be a premium member which doesn’t appeal to some. You will also need a HR monitor as previously mentioned. As it says in the site its best to ignore the numbers or not pay too much attention to them and look at the trend over a period of time, and if you have a positive upward movemnet you are getting fitter and probably finding your rides a little easier. 

I have been using this tool for about 11 months now and I find it has really helped me. Also getting out for the weekly club rides does wonders for the body, but at least with this tool from Strava as well as recording your ride you can analyse the data so see how your are improving. 

Whatever you chose to use to measure your progress you will be able to confirm the data as you will feel better or stronger on the bike, which in itself is a fantastic feeling! Enjoy your rides, safe cycling. 

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Product reviews

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From previous entries you will know of the new kit. It has now been tested and I have written some reviews:

All these reviews can be found under the products on the Evans Cycles website

Specialized Allez Sport Compact 2013 allez compact

A great value bike

Yes, I recommend this product.

Pros: Good value, Good quality, Comfortable, Lightweight
If you are new to road cycling or getting back into it after a while then you may not wish to spend over £1000 on something which could be a fad. For the cycling I do, commuting to work, and charity bike rides the Allez Sport ticks all the boxes.
It is light considering it has the aluminium frame and this helps you get up to a good speed. it is very responsive and its stiff frame installs confidence when descending hills. The compact chainset allows you to get a quick pace on the flat and enables you to get to the climbs so for the area I live in and cycling I do this is perfect for me.
Other reviews have said the saddle is uncomfortable but I have not found this to be a problem. This is an individual choice and the saddle can be easily changed.
I have attached Shimano R540 SPD pedals and use Spiuk ZS11R shoes and these really help you get a shift on. This is the first time I have used clipless pedals and I can say they make a massive difference.
The bike is available in two colours and I opted for the silver, mainly as I wanted the black handlebar tape, but this could be changed if you have the bike build in store. There could be a charge for this so please check. I however like both the colour schemes the Allez Sport is available in.
An excellent feature about this bike is the Sora gears from Shimano. These are seen on more expensive models and allow you to comfortably change gears up and down the cassette whilst in the drop handlebar position. This has been useful when you want to maintain speed on the gentle lumps and bumps in the road.
The only downside to this bike is the weight of the wheels, but you will get this with all bikes in this range as the technology is put in other areas. This is an area I might look into but it’s only a might.
Overall this bike is excellent for the money and will serve me well. I can’t see me needing to upgrade unless I get really serious about the sport.
If you’re looking at a road bike then this certainly ticks all the boxes

Or read the review here

Shimano R540 SPD pedals shimano-oe-r540-spd-sl-road-pedals

My first (clipless) pedals
June 3, 2013
Yes, I recommend this product.
Pros: Good value, Good quality, Lightweight, Looks great
The first set of pedals I have had which use cleats. Had them fitted and adjusted in store which was really useful. They look good with the bike, went for the grey/silver option to match the bike and shoes.
These are really easy to clip in and twist out off and I am quickly getting used to riding with these pedals. They along with the shoes have really helped my efficiency whilst out on the bike.
Very good entry-level pedals and the advice from Evans staff was they should last for ages. A good investment especially at £23.99!
Or read the review here

Spiuk ZS11R Shoes (silver/black) spiuk-zs11r-road-shoe

My first pair
Yes, I recommend this product.
Pros: Good value, Comfortable, Lightweight, Looks great
The decision was made to try proper shoes with the pedals on my new bike. I have had them for a week now and been on a few rides. The difference between shoes and trainers is massive. On the climbs I feel I can attack the climb and gain some speed on the flat.
They are very comfortable, and fit my wide feet very well. I tried on other shoes but these fitted me the best. I do also like the ratchet system as you don’t get any movement which is ideal on any climb. I am getting used to clipping in and out whilst on the move and in time this will become natural.
I opted for silver as these match the bike and helmet, but did contemplate the red or yellow pair. However no 44 in yellow so went with the silver.
The ratchet system is a little bit annoying when putting the shoes on, but I think this is me just not yet used to them get.
Overall a very nice pair of entry shoes and I am happy with them.

Or read the review here

Specialized Align Helmet (silver) specialized algin 2013

Fantastic!
Yes, I recommend this product.
Pros: Lightweight, Good value, Comfortable, Good quality, Looks great
I have had this product for a couple of weeks and much prefer it to my more expensive Bell helmet, which is still nice but doesn’t fit as well as this one. I went for this as it is the same make as my bike, but that is just me. Don’t be put off by the cost. It isn’t the most expensive helmet on the market but it really does do the job. Use the saving on other equipment like a better pair of shoes or pedals etc. It is very light, in fact you hardly notice you are wearing it, as previously mentioned very comfortable and fits very well. It can be easily adjusted to fit different sized heads.
When you are out on your ride in the sunny weather which has finally arrived the helmet keeps your head nice and cool, keeping up the comfort levels.
I would certainly recommend this helmet, great job Specialized thank you.
Louis Garneau 1 Calory Mitts louis-garneau-1-calory-mitts
Excellent! Very Comfortable
Yes, I recommend this product.
Pros: Good value, Good quality, Comfortable, Lightweight, Looks great
You can pay a lot for mitts, and you get (or should) more for your money. However these mitts are very light, extremely comfortable and cushion the hands well. I opted for the black pair as the white pair might look dirty quickly, but this is a personal opinion.
At this price they are a must buy item.
Or read the review here

What to wear on a night ride?

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This week I’ve been asked by a friend what should be worn on the London to Brighton night ride in July. Also how cold does it get?

Last year the ride was in May on that hot weekend, yes the one we had, the lowest temperature was 18 degrees C if I remember. However part of this ride you body is battling against lack of sleep and this is a factor, therefore 18 degrees can feel like 10-12.

Due to the weather I wore shorts (lycra obviously) and my jersey with my jacket in a back pack/rucksack. At 4am when the sun comes up its a little chilly in the Surrey/Sussex countryside. I remember a cold mist/fog on some of the rolling countryside, it really was a beautiful scene. As we know its also colder in the countryside than urban areas, especially if there is little or no cloud cover. All these will impact on your body and potential to ride.

A jacket is a must, tights optional depending upon the weather & personal choice as is a back pack/rucksack. There are plenty of jackets on the market which fold away into a pouch which reduces the need for a rucksack and you could use leg & arm warmers to keep the limbs comfortable. I used my jacket between the second and third rest stop around dawn just to keep the chill off before the sun worked its magic for a glorious summers day.

One way to find out is to include a training ride in similar conditions. Going for a 4am ride when you are cold will provide some vital experience for anyone who is completing their first night ride. You will get to find out how good your kit is before event day. I suppose a training ride in the rain better be a good idea too! For now let’s not combine the two!

Last year I researched the blogs and experiences of those who completed the Manchester to Blackpool night ride in September 2010. They all had jackets but it was September in the north west. It could well have been raining.

For this year I’m going with the following weather depending:
Base layer
Jersey (not sure which one yet)
Bib shorts (prevents a gap between shorts & jersey)
Jacket (in pouch)
Gels in jersey pockets
Two water bottles on bike (can be topped up en route)
Gloves
Lights
Security lock

Plus something I didn’t have last year a saddle bag. This is ideal for your pump, spare tube, multi tool & depending upon size & how secure its fixed keys, wallet & small first aid kit. This should then reduce the need for a rucksack, but let’s see.

Experience helps. Last year I took on too much sugar and not enough water, resulting in cramp in the calf. Whilst Haribo and Jaffa cakes are very useful water is a key ingredient too. Less sports drinks, instead water and gels (if I can find some which actually taste nice). Suncream! Not just for the beach afterwards, if the weather is good, the sun can be strong in July and the back of your neck can be exposed. Sunburn hurts.

I hope this has been useful to anyone completing their first (or second) night ride. You can show your support at my fundraising page. See you in the saddle soon.