Cycle art – World Cross Champs, Hoogerheide


Great poster

CycleStuff

cyclo-cross champs

Wonderful poster from this year’s world Cross champs in Hoogerheide, Netherlands.

Copies of the poster can be purchased here. 

(and if you’re missing the cross season – and there’s a good chunk of us that are – revel in the great footage below. Allez Mr Akrigg!)

With thanks to Craig Standage for spotting the video.

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Ultegra 6800 review


from road.cc – this is my next purchase – I have old Ultegra on the Lynskey and was waiting for it to wear out but 3800km later it is still as sweet as …. well soon then – interesting point about potentially needing new wheels.

Hot Damn. Shimano’s 11-speed Ultegra 6800 groupset is really, really, really good. That’s this review in a nutshell, but in the spirit of drawing things out I’ll write a few more words on the matter. There’s lots to say. But the bottom line is: for the serious fitness rider or privateer racer, as a package, this is as good as a mechanical groupset has ever been.

It was last May when Ultegra 6800 was unveiled (http://road.cc/content/news/82237-updated-prices-shimano-unveil-ultegra-…) and now you can get a huge range of bikes sporting the gun-metal grey componentry. Ultegra always follows the lead of Shimano’s flagship Dura-Ace gear and this incarnation is no exception. It’s eleven speed, it uses the new four-arm crankset and the redesigned symmetrical dual pivot brakes, the STI levers are redesigned and so are the derailleurs, especially the front one. It’s quite an overhaul. There are even some new wheels to cope with the ever-so-slightly wider cassette. But we’ll deal with them in a separate review. Let’s take the parts one by one.

Shifters 9/10

Shimano have been doing a lot of work on the shift feel, and Ultegra 6800 takes on board what they’ve achieved with Dura-Ace. The shift mechanism has been redesigned so that, in theory, the shift from 24 to 28 at one end of the cassette feels exactly like the one from 11-12 at the other. Shimano call it Vivid Shifting (everything has to have a special name) and it’s quite noticeable that the lever resistance doesn’t ramp up anywhere near as much, although you do need a bit of extra push for the big cogs.

The action is lighter, too. That’s especially true of the front shift thanks in the main to the redesigned derailleur but both shifts are easier, and the throw of the lever is reduced, which is good news for smaller-handed riders and for when you’re shifting from the drops.

Shifting is precise and sensitive. Although it’s light you still get reassuring feedback from the lever. It’s still possible to miss a downshift if you accidentally catch the main lever as the mechanism doesn’t engage, which has been an issue for a number of incarnations of Shimano’s STI system. It’d be nice to see it fixed although it’s not a major problem.

Shifting under load is really, really good: so good that it’s almost better putting the power down when you’re shifting – especially down the block – than easing off slightly like you would with a lower-end groupset. Certainly it’s very hard to make an upshift fail even under heavy load, and it’s nigh-on impossible with a downshift.

The lever hood is slimmer, like the Dura Ace one which in turn borrowed its curves from Di2. That should make it easier to grip for smaller hands; mine are like shovels but I still prefer the new shape, which you can wrap your hands round a bit more, than the old.

Front derailleur 10/10

Shimano have done a lot of work on the front derailleur and it shows. The mech now has a much longer activation arm to reduce the shift effort, and it features a support bolt, like the Di2 unit, that comes into contact with the frame to stiffen up the structure. If you have a carbon frame you’ll want to cover the contact point with the stick-on alloy plate to avoid damage. All that work means much lighter front shifts, with an excellent pick-up from the chain and the chainring ramps on the upshift.

Rear derailleur 9/10

The rear dreailleur comes in short- and mid-cage incarnations, the latter able to handle up to a 32T sprocket for the really steep stuff. The spring rate has been tweaked to give a more linear feel to the shifting. Both mechs have been designed to work best with Shimano’s new polymer-coated cables, which reduce friction in the system. We’ve been to the launch and done the pull-this-one-then-pull-that-one test to feel the difference; in real world conditions it’s hard to say how much the reduced friction makes but it can’t be a bad thing, and the rear shifts are excellent.

Brakes 10/10

Another area to get a complete overhaul is the brakes, and the braking is perhaps the most noticeable improvement in the whole groupset.

The brakes are dual pivot, as before, but instead of using the brake bolt as a pivot the Ultegra units have two symmetrical pivots that are attached to a carrier, that then mounts to the normal point. At least that’s one option: Shimano are heavily touting direct mount as The Next Big Thing, where the two pivots mount directly to the frame. That’s been more widely adopted for brakes with chainstay-mounted rear brakes than it has at the front, or on the seatstays, but those bikes are appearing.

On top of all that there’s a new brake shoe compound, and Shimano’s new polymer-coated cables too. Shimano claim that all those improvements add up to a 10% increase in braking power. I didn’t crack out the accelerometer and the calculator, but these brakes really are excellent. The braking effort to stop you is reduced, and that means less arm fatigue on long rides. Haul them on and they’re both powerful and controllable. The improvement over the previous Ultegra callipers is especially noticeable in the wet, which is possibly down to the new brake compound rather than the redesigned body, but everything works very well together here.

Brake shoe wear is decent; they’re not the hardest pads but it’s always a trade-off between pad life and stopping power, and the Ultegra pads are in the happy middle ground of great performance and acceptable wear.

Chainset 9/10

It’s fair to say that Shimano’s new four-arm design divides opinion as far as looks are concerned. Personally, I think it looks smart, but what’s not in doubt is that it’s a very stiff, configurable, and light unit.

The idea behind the unequal spacing on the four-arm chainset is that the arms are placed to deal with the stresses that a chainset endures from your pedalling. You don’t apply equal pressure all the way round the pedal stroke, so by moving the arms and reducing their number by one, you get the same stiffness but for a lower weight.

That big gap between arms two and three wouldn’t really work with a standard single-piece alloy chainring, as the gap is too big and the ring would flex. But the outer chainring on the Ultegra 6800 groupset is two alloy plates sandwiched together, with a hollow centre. As such it’s much stiffer, and able to bridge the gap effectively.

The other thing that’s changed significantly is that the same spider can cope with all the combinations of chainrings that Shimano offer: that’s Rider Tuned, naming-things fans. There’s a 50/34 compact, a 53/39 standard and a 52/36 that we don’t really have a name for. Semi-compact? Faux-pro? Anyway, there’s that. And a 46/36 cyclocross one as well. All use the same bolt spacing, so switching from Standard to Compact is just a case of swapping the rings and nudging your mech. I’ve swapped between a compact and standard set of rings with no issues and minimal faff.

In use the chainset is very stiff, and the shifting at the front is excellent. You can choose 170mm, 172.5mm or 175mm cranks. A chainset is the kind of component you only really notice when it’s doing something bad. This one was stiff, silent and stealthy throughout testing. Examination of the chainrings after a couple of thousand miles shows minimal wear. I’ve used it with press-fit bearings and a standard Hollowtech II external bottom bracket with no issues at all.

Cassette 8/10

You can have your Ultegra cassette in one of five flavours: 11-23T, 11-25T, 12-25T, 11-28T or 11-32T. It’s ever so slightly wider than a 10-speed one which means that you need an 11spd compatible wheelset. Mavic wheels since 2001 should be fine, just lose the spacer. Other wheel manufacturers may be able to supply you with a different freehub for your existing wheels, some (Zipp for example) will want you to send them back for re-dishing, too. You might have to bite the bullet and get some new ones.

Is it possible to just bolt the 11-speed cassette on to a 10-speed freehub anyway? Well, as the new cassette is 1.8mm wider the issues are getting the splines on the smallest cog, and the threads of the locknut, to engage. And after that you might have an issue with your chain rubbing on the frame in the 11T as it’s closer to the dropout. In short: probably not. There’s no official upgrade path for Shimano’s own wheels, either.

Anyway, assuming you have the right wheels to fit it to, the cassette works splendidly well and you can bask in your extra ratio, which in all cases is an 18T cog between the 17T and 19T. Does it make much difference? Not noticeably in everyday use. If you do a lot of time trialling you might be glad of an extra straight-through jump but for most mortals that extra sprocket isn’t that significant a leap. The other changes to the groupset are much more worthy of note. Still though, incremental gains and that.

Chain 8/10

Shimano teased us with directional chains for a couple of years, which I always fitted the wrong way round, and now we’re back to symmetrical ones that any ham-fisted home technician can get right. The big news is that the chain has a new surface coating called Sil-Tec that reduces friction between all the moving parts. In the swing-this-one-then-swing-that-one test at the launch the difference is noticeable and impressive. It’s unclear how long that treatment is supposed to last, although I’ll wager that 2,000 miles in and several scrubbings later, it’s a memory. The chain wear is good though, with the Park CC3.2 suggesting there’s loads of life left in it even after a harsh winter. The chain joins with an extended pin that you snap off, like all Shimano chains do; I’ve replaced that with a SRAM 11spd connector as I find that a much simpler way to join and re-join a chain. It’s probably not allowed, but it hasn’t impacted on performance.

Overall

As a whole package, and assuming that you’re not going to be fuming over your wheels not working with it, Shimano Ultegra 6800 is everything you want from a mechanical performance groupset. It’s light, the shifts are crisp and quick, the braking is truly excellent. At the RRP of just under a grand it represents a significant but worthwhile investment if you’re upgrading; the fact that you can have it for not much over half that online makes it the go-to groupset for anyone building up a nice bike at home. For everyone except the true racers, the difference between Ultegra and Dura-Ace at the moment is so small – both in terms of weight and performance – that you’re effectively giving away nothing by speccing the second-tier kit and saving yourself a bunch of money. Do that.

Verdict

Top-end performance from Shimano’s second-tier groupset: great shifting, fantastic braking.

Battle on the Beach


this looks like amazing fun ….

CycleStuff

BOTB 3-0524“Look at that!” The invisible man does a trackstand on Craig’s new cross bike.

It was friendly. Great. Fantastic. It was sandy. Dry. Muddy. Wet. It was fast. Furious. Sluggish. Like my efforts through the loose sand, I?ve run out of adjectives to describe Sunday?s Battle on the Beach (BOTB).

BOTB was the UKs first beach cycling race. A branch of the sport normally confined to the coastal fringes of the Benelux, Pembrey Country Park (Carmarthenshire), played host to this lowland import. Beach racing has much in common with cyclo-cross; non-technical off road racing that hones the skill set and the fast twitch fibres. The Course was roughly 70% cyclo-cross race and 30% beach and sund dunes. BOTB also incorporated the UK fat tyre champs, so bikes varied from skinny knobblies and drop handles (cross bikes) to uber fat tyres and super wide bars. In the main we ?…

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Making Your Own Carbohydrate Gels


might have to try this one at home ……

All Seasons Cyclist

Ingredients For Making Your Own Carbohydrate Gels Ingredients For Making Your Own Carbohydrate Gels

Last a fall I was out on a long bike ride with a friend of mine when he asked me how much money I spent a month on the carbohydrate gels I use. It was a question I really hadn’t thought much about before, but after doing a few quick calculations in my head I was shocked. Most of the carbohydrate gels I use are organic (a word usually synonymous with expensive), and during most of the year I go through 30 packs a week which comes out to $180 a month (I am so glad my wife never looks at the American Express statements). After I got home I decided to see if I could find a way to cut my expenses by creating my own carb gels, and at the end of this article you will find a few recipes…

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The First Ride (or) where did that Nuclear Wind come from


Now before i set off i knew that the forecast was for a strongish wind picking up as the day went on … I didn’t know that 40km/h was going to feel so strong when venturi’d across a moor. Top that with a bike with front handlebar bar and panniers as well as a route with a long incline and we can safely say it was a bit of a slog (but then no rain either)

Started off great and wandered up through Pollock park taking a pic or two at the house.

first touring bike ride-2 first touring bike ride-3

Then out to Eaglesham and then across the moor. My legs were screaming and I had to use the triple chainring on the grandad setting. I was crawling up the road at 10km/h. Past the wind turbines WHITELEE WIND FARM – my there are a LOT of turbines …. then into the relative sanctuary offered by a pine plantation near the end of the moor.

first touring bike ride-4
windfarm – turbine tastic

At the junction where i could have looped up i chose to head back to Glasgow and with the wind on my back and a steady decline I was hitting 40km/h with nearly no effort … and no apparent wind on my face either.

look at the wind roughing up the puddle
look at the wind roughing up the puddle

How much wind …? well listen here

Route is HERE

Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 22.20.39

Touring bike test time


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Wee jolly planned today to test the touring bike – only one problem there is a strong south wester blowing so I am going to head uphill and into the wind first and then return with the wind ( and maybe rain) at my back

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Michelin pro 4 grip tyres ( or tires)


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From road.cc these look great but are only in a 23mm width…..

Michelin’s Pro 4 Grip tyre is the latest addition to the French tyre manufacturer’s Pro 4 range, and uses a new rubber compound for increased traction in the rain along with a puncture belt to better ward off punctures. The practical upshot is a puncture resistant tyre with great traction in the wet, and little weight or rolling resistance penalty.

That makes it an ideal choice for winter riding. The roads are in a bit of state; the winter hasn’t been kind to them. And the persistent rain calls for a tyre that is grippier than the standard tyre. With a specific rubber compound Michelin claims the Pro 4 grip offers a 15% increase in grip compared to the Service Course variant of the same tyre. There is also a siped tread pattern on the shoulders that the regular Pro 4 doesn’t have.

Another change beside the rubber compound is the profile of the tyre. Michelin say they’ve shaped the tyre to offer a larger contact patch when leaning the tyre over, to increase cornering grip over the regular Pro 4.

The only way to find out is the tyre is indeed as grippy as Michelin claims, is to do a comparison test with the Service Course. So that’s what I did. On a wet rainy day, I rode a set route twice, on the same bike and wheels, first on the Service Course and then on the Grip tyres. I used the same tyre pressure and wore the same kit, to try and rule out any variables.

Firstly, the tyre showed good rolling resistance. Despite its extra weight there’s very little real-world difference, in such conditions, when riding along a straight road and fully upright. Lean over into the corners and push the tyres onto their shoulders, replicating the same lean angles, and there is a tangible increase in grip. You can push the Grip a little harder than the Service Course. But as Michelin’s claims indicate, it’s marginal and the difference between the two tyres wasn’t night and day. Yes you can certainly feel a bit more grip available, the tyre feels more secure and planted compared to the Service Course. Very steep climbs covered in rain water were also another area that showed the Grip to offer just that, more grip than the SC.

Not only is the Grip about offering extra grip, but it boasts better puncture resistance as well. Michelin have developed an Aramide reinforcing ply specifically for this tyre, and it’s located in the crown and shoulder, so that’s protection right across the tyre. They claim it’s 20% more puncture resistance than the Service Course. I’ve been running these tyre on my steel winter training bike, riding daily, for the last few months, and I’ve not suffered a single puncture.

Not a conclusive test I know, punctures have a lot to do with luck and I’m having a good run at the moment. However, inspecting the tyre shows that the surface is in very good condition. There’s a lack of holes, cuts or impregnated glass that a few other tyres on test bikes are showing after riding through the same winter weather.

All things considered, I’ve been thoroughly impressed with these tyres. I’m a fan of the regular Service Course, the Grip builds on that tyre with the extra puncture protection and grippier compound, with really no drawbacks. So it’s a bit heavier, but not so much that you’ll notice, and riding through the winter a little extra weight when it’s used to prevent punctures is no bad thing.

It’s not a slow tyre, so you could fit it to your best bike for winter riding, and take them off for the summer. Equally, they’re a good set of tyres for year-round commuting and touring, where the puncture protection and extra grip trumps outright weight and rolling resistance performance.

The only downside is that they only offer them in a 23mm width. C’mon Michelin, make them in a 25mm.

Verdict
A commendable tyre from Michelin that offers great puncture protection and increased grip in wet weather.

Top vs. average speed


After my weekend in Amsterdam I am back in glasgow and missing my 20 bikes to every car ratio ….. Aaaah if only we could copenhagenise/ amsterdamerise too….

Yes we can do (almost) anything by bike!!!

For the first time since almost a month I used the car again. I did 50 minutes over a distance of 6 km in Antwerp and 2h40 over a distance of 115 km. And there’s a good side to this… It made one thing very clear. Again! Motorized traffic has got nothing to do with top speeds, but all with average speeds. When will a majority of people finally get this? Traveling at a low, but constant speed is far more efficient then doing 120 km/h plus on a short part of your trip. So people with power, please start introducing a low, contant speed for cyclists and cars in city centers. But make sure they don’t have t stop at every traffic light. And please optimize traffic outside of city centers. Why not introducing a visualization of a kind road code? E.g. integrated in the road, on lamp posts…

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