Theatre Thursday: How Far can wool take you

How far can wool actually take you? That was the question Cima Coppi, Galen Lofstedt and I debated when laying down the story for this film. Over a few Spanish pinchos and Mahou lagers Lawrence, one founding member of Cima Coppi, recounted his early days riding from Sweden to Spain on only his single speed bike and in his wool sweater. Or his adventures in Italy riding each stage of the Giro at the crack of dawn before the professionals hit the road for the day, all done in his one wool sweater. Indirectly this really served as product testing that later laid the foundation for the company that Cima Coppi has become, a humble, custom fit wool cycling garment company based in Asturias, Spain. This inspired Galen and I to create a film that paid homage to these stories and the distances wool can travel. In the film we hope that you get the feeling of never ending pursuits of adventure all in one custom made blue wool sweater.

None of this film would have been possible if it weren’t for the support from Cima Coppi. To clarify I hunted them down and demanded that we make a film together because I love what they stand for and their belief in an old but still very effective material called wool.


I have a confession

Well you know Rapha – that expensive cycle clothing brand – that is the middle class lycra lout smudge mark on cycling …. well I have a confession.

I have a few items – the team jacket is incredibly warm and i have a brevet long sleeve and vest modeled here by someone prettier than me.


I also have their 3/4 bib which serves me through the scottish winter. and ahem also a cyclocross short sleeve ….


So today I got a 30% off email so I bought some more … I find myself more attracted to their cyclocross jackets and jerseys as i think the colors and patterns are more eye-catching for road use (and being seen by car drivers)

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 3.13.02 PM.png

and as i said I got another 30% off ……

Lastly I would say it is top quality gear that is super comfy, well made and is yet to show any sign of wear …..

Theatre Thursday – Rapha Core Film

they do nice films they do


Rapha Core offers the essentials in performance and functionality. Consisting of a cycling jersey and shorts for men and women, the collection is nothing more and nothing less than the basics, perfectly crafted to set the new standard in everyday ride wear.

The fantastic cycle clothing line you have never heard of

from peleton mag

February 2, 2015 – Last summer we were lucky enough to ride the Eddy Merckx Gran Fondo in Italy. The 135km route near Veneto covered three serious climbs, including the massive 1316meter San Valentino. We learned three things – most Italian riders have three percent body fat, climb very quickly and almost universally wear fluro-yellow

We saw pretty quickly that the majority of those kits were made by an Italian apparel start up named Alé. It has the same meaning and pronunciation as the French word Alléz, and means the same thing, ‘Go!’ or ‘Come on!’ It’s the most common word heard on European roadsides as the peloton streams by.

Alé was launched at Eurobike back in 2013 and is now coming to the states. How can this start-up hope to gain a foothold in the crowded apparel market? Becasue they aren’t really a start up. Alé is the first consumer brand from APG, an apparel maker with over three decades of experience in cycling. Until now it had remained behind the scenes making apparel for some of the biggest and most well respected names.

Castelli_thumbHow big are they? The numbers are mind blowing. The company cranks out 130,000 pieces of apparel every month, they make custom clothing for over 9000 teams, clubs and events. Alé’s parent company has helped develop some of the most cutting edge technology in apparel. It’s been perfecting the latest fabric craze, carbon yarn, for more than five years.


Alé’s Entry Level Plus Kit

Not surprisingly Alé comes out of the gate with an impressive line up. It consists of three main lines, Plus, Ultra and PR.R. Plus, Alé’s entry-level gear, features fairly simple patterning and a roomier sportive style fit, while still featuring very breathable, light weight fabrics not typically seen in entry level apparel. Ultra provides a slightly more fitted cut with very technical fabrics including micro-perforated Lycra and carbon infused rear panels.


The Alé Ultra Kit

PR.R stands for Pro Race Research and, as the name implies, represents Ale’s pinnacle developed hand-in-hand with its professional squads. It’s a very fitted, race cut made with ultra light 130gram micro-perforated fabric called ‘Finezza 44’ up front and a quick dry, carbon infused rear panel. On initial fitting the standout feature of this jersey appears to be the fit. The fabric’s quality of stretch is incredible. It removes much of the anxiety from choosing which size to wear as you will likely find both your usual size and a size down will fit very well. While PR.R certainly hugs the form it is much more forgiving of a few pounds of winter weight than typical Italian race fit apparel.


Alé’s top of the line PR.R kit.

Alé makes all its own chamois tailored to four different kinds of riders. They have a 2H (two hour) a 4H, 4H women’s and an 8H chamois. The professionals ride the 8H, which features a denser pad, not a thicker pad. All of these three lines can be made custom for your team, including wind tunnel proven skin suits. The rest of Ale’s line is extensive with base layers, warmers, jackets for all conditions, vests and a breathable, thermal, water resistant line called Klimatik.


Where Alé seems to be very far ahead of the curve is pricing. It’s Plus entry level kit is $110 and $120 for jersey and bibs respectively. The Ultra’s only increase price by $15 for the bibs and $10 for the jersey. Even the PR.R line avoids the astronomical prices we see many the brands charging at $150 and $160 for jersey and bibs respectively. That makes Alé’s top of the line kit less expensive than some brand’s bibs. If the qualiy is as good as Alé claims, this ‘start-up’ is sure to generate a fast and loyal following.

Peloton will be riding the PR.R line and some examples from the Klimatik line. Stay tuned for a full ride review.

How close do cars get? and does wearing hi viz clothing make a difference?

highvisjacket2If you feel like some drivers will pass too close no matter that you wear and that you’re being given less space on the road than you used to, a new study says you’re right, and indicates very strongly that you’re not safer if you wear high-vis in the daytime.

Researchers from the University of Bath and Brunel University found that no matter what clothing a cyclist wears, around 1-2% of drivers will pass dangerously close when overtaking. They also found that compared to Transport Research Laboratory findings in 1979, drivers today on average pass 61cm (2ft) closer to cyclists – 118cm compared to 179cm.

The researchers conclude that there is little a rider can do, by altering their outfit or donning a high-visibility jacket, to prevent the most dangerous overtakes from happening. Instead, they suggest, if we want to make cyclists safer, it is our roads, or driver behaviour, that need to change.

The research was conducted by Dr Ian Garrard from Brunel University and the project led by Dr Ian Walker from Bath University. Ian Walker is famous as the sometime wig-wearer who discovered in 2006 that cyclists are afforded more space by drivers if they appear to be female or are not wearing a helmet.

In this study, the two Dr Ians were trying to find out if drivers gave cyclists more room depending how skilled and experienced they looked. They expected that drivers would give more space to a rider who seemed inexperienced and less space to a rider who looked highly skilled.

The range of outfits worn during the research

Dr Garrard used an ultrasonic distance sensor to record how close each vehicle passed during his daily commute in Berkshire and outer London. Each day, he chose one of seven outfits at random, ranging from tight lycra racing cyclist clothes (signalling high experience) to a hi-viz vest with “novice cyclist” printed on the back (signalling low experience).

He sometimes also wore a vest that said he was video-recording his journey, or a vest modelled on a police jacket but with “POLITE” printed on the back. He rode the same bike, in the same way, every day and over several months collected data from 5690 passing vehicles.

The vest that mentioned video recording persuaded drivers to pass a little wider on average, tallying with anecdotes from helmet-cam users that drivers behave better when they know they are being recorded. However, there was no difference between the outfits in the most dangerous overtakes, where motorists passed within 50 cm of the rider. Whatever was worn, around 1-2% of motorists overtook within this extremely close zone.

Dr Ian Walker said: “Many people have theories to say that cyclists can make themselves safer if they wear this or that. Our study suggests that, no matter what you wear, it will do nothing to prevent a small minority of people from getting dangerously close when they overtake you.

“This means the solution to stopping cyclists being hurt by overtaking vehicles has to lie outside the cyclist. We can’t make cycling safer by telling cyclists what they should wear. Rather, we should be creating safer spaces for cycling – perhaps by building high-quality separate cycle paths, by encouraging gentler roads with less stop-start traffic, or by making drivers more aware of how it feels to cycle on our roads and the consequences of impatient overtaking.”

The researchers point out that while they found that wearing high-visibility clothing made no difference to the space left by overtaking drivers, they did not try to find out if it made cyclists more visible at junctions or at night.

However, they note that there is surprisingly little evidence that high-visibility clothing for cyclists and motorcyclists offers any safety benefits in daytime. This would further support the idea that there is no easy fix for riders’ safety from asking them to wear bright clothing.

The reduction in average passing distance between 1979 and today “could be a result of greater traffic volumes since the 1970s,” say the researchers, “or reduced levels of  bicycling which mean that the average motorist is less likely to have experience of bicycling themselves, and so is less understanding of a bicyclist’s needs.”

It occurs to us that it could also be linked to the increased width of modern cars. A 1979 Ford Escort Mk II was 1570mm wide (5ft 2in) while the modern equivalent Ford Focus is 1823mm wide (5ft 11 1/2in). However, Ian Walker points out that there was no difference in passing distance between wide four-wheel drive vehicles and standard cars in his 2007 study.

The paper – The influence of a bicycle commuter’s appearance on drivers’ overtaking proximities: An on-road test of bicyclist stereotypes, high-visibility clothing and safety aids in the United Kingdom – will be published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.


Training for the Strathpuffer 24

Yesterday was told to do a longer ride and then taper for the race …. but surely tapering involves training i thought to myself ……

Went out in the sleet with a 2 degree C temp and my summer cycling gloves and summer shoes on. Now call me stupid but i have proper waterproof mtb boots but still with eggbeater cleats on from 2 years ago …. and gloves are gloves right.

I should have picked up the hint when my Garmin Fenix failed to lock on until I had done over half my ride …

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By the time the screen above started recording – I had lost all feeling in my thumb and forefinger … my feet were frozen and where i was stopping to open gates on the west highland way the snow had forced into the SPD pedals and frozen solid so that i was forced to bang the pedals to dislodge ice and i was even contemplating urinating on them to get them working again.

But rohloff great in all weathers as usual – bike fine … old raceface jacket warm, snug face warmer worth every penny but I was in pain on my return and my fingers took 3 minutes to thaw to be able to undo my camelbak clasp – how pathetic.


So today bought:

1 Sealskin Winter gloves

2 SPD cleats for winter shoes

3 Neoprene covers for summer mtb shoes and for road bike …..


Just got to get spare brake pads now and I will be grooving ….

Levis release the commuter range in the UK finally …..

Levi’s Commuter series of clothing for cyclists is now available in the UK.


The range, which has been available in the US for several months, comprises Commuter 511 jeans and slacks (Levi’s word, not ours), Commuter Trucker jackets and a Commuter Shirt.

Levi’s describe the commuter series as, “A multi-functional performance product designed for cyclists all over the world.”

The Commuter 511 Slim Slacks are based on the existing 511 slim cut jeans. Elastane in the cotton twill fabric adds a degree or stretch that will come in useful when you’re on the bike.

Turning up the leg reveals 3M reflective stripes for extra nighttime visibility and a utility waistband allows you to carry a U-lock easily. The crotch is reinforced to avoid ripping. These are available in black, kangaroo (khaki), sceptor (blue) and red ochre at £80.

The Commuter 511s will soon be available in a non-stretch denim version too for £85.

The Commuter Trucker jacket is based on the classic Levi’s Trucker jacket, slim cut with a slightly extended back to keep you covered up when you’re stretching forward on the bike. You get pockets in the lower back too, which is always the best place to keep stuff when you’re riding, 3M reflective tape on the waistband adjusters, and accordion sleeves – additional fabric that’s designed to expand for extra mobility when you’re riding.

The Commuter Trucker jacket will be available from May in stretch denim for £135 and in a stretch twill version for £145.

The Commuter shirt will be available in May too. It’s cotton with a pocket on the right hand side of the back and another in the sleeve. It’ll retail at £80.

The Commuter products feature what’s called a NanoSphere treatment from Swiss-based Schoeller Technologies which adds water resistance and repels dirt.

They also feature Sanitized hygiene function from technology expert Clariant, which is a treatment to protect against odours.

When the Commuter line was introduced into the US last year, Erik Joule, senior vice president of Levi’s Men’s Merchandising and Design said, “This product was born from innovation, classic American style and a personal passion for cycling – it’s about designing product for people who ride bikes, by people who ride bikes.

“We knew that our jeans were already being worn by urban cyclists across the country, including our own designers. We listened to what they wanted and created a product with performance traits for biking that also functions as daily street wear.”

For all the details go along to Levi’s website.

From the excellent road cc The manufacturers have…

From the excellent

The manufacturers have blitzed us these last few weeks with news of an ever-more-impressive selection of vests or what we have learned to call base layers in the modern layering parlance. It’s funny that; they must know us cyclists are never more motivated than the first freezing ride to rush to the bike shops for a cosy new winter warmer.

It’s important to make the right choice as, second only to your shorts, the right base layer being next to the skin will have a huge effect on comfort. There are now 100% synthetic, pure natural and clever blends of both and all have their pros and cons, not least on price where the range runs from £25 to nearly £60. Our selection of eight here are all so new they haven’t been reviewed yet but they’re all in the works and in the case of the Scott Next2Skin Base Layer, due to be posted any day now. Watch this space but meanwhile in alphabetical order…

Altura Second Skin Base Layer £24.99


The Altura basic cycling garments are at the lower end of the price spectrum but tend to offer the really useful technical features without the bells and whistles.The brand tends to be stocked by big bikes shops with lots of fancy clothing which then display Altura as a good value ‘house’ offer. Apart from this cosier Second Skin base, there is also a lighter weight summer option called Transfer for £20 but we’re naturally going for the warm option here and there are both men’s and women’s cuts. A fairly high percentage of elastane – that’s the stretchy component in Lycra – 8% + 92% nylon means this base has a snug fit and we expect it to be a whiffier garment that needs a cool wash after every ride out but soft cottonish feel and seamless construction also means we hope it’ll be super-comfortable.


Bontrager B3 Base Layer £29.99


The Bontrager base layers are numbered B1 to B3 with the warmer B2 and B3 making it to these UK shores presumably assuming our cyclists could do with the help in our dank winter climate. To be honest the £27.99 mid-weight B2 is all we’ll mostly need especially as they only come long-sleeved but we can personally vouch for earlier versions of the B3 which make excellent warm base garments for all outdoor activities including just loafing around in the winter outdoors with appropriate sweaters and coats layered on top. Soft to the touch in 100% polyester, the fabric is knitted to feel cosy inside and to wick away moisture with a smooth exterior to slip against top layers for comfort and easy removal.


Craft Zero Extreme Crew Neck Base Layer £35


Not a well-known brand here but providing the kit for the Leopard-Trek professional cycling team raised the profile of Craft no end and it turns out they’re a Swedish company that started off making warm winter base layers for all those icy, snowy sports the Scandinavians love so much. Craft kick off by saying that their Zero Extreme is “guaranteed to be the best fitting, best performing and most comfortable base layer yet,” so that’s encouraging. Craft say, “A hexa-channeled fibre against the skin enhances moisture transport and cools the body down, whereas a hollow fibre on the outside of the fabric offers insulation and transports moisture to the next layer.”


dhb Merino Long Sleeve Zipneck Base Layer £40.99


dhb is the house brand of online retailer Wiggle and they’ve gone full-on into luxurious 100% merino wool, offering crew and zip necks, long and short sleeves for men and women and even colour choices; the latter of which might be an issue if you’re wearing your base layer as a leisure top. The first impression here is that the fit being long and fitted is more ‘performance’ orientated than ‘leisure’ – see Howies – but that’s no bad thing. The feel is certainly nice next to the skin and fantastic claims are made for the natural anti-bacterial qualities of fine merino wool making it relatively sweet-smelling after exercise.


Frankly Mens Basic Crew Tee £59


Now here’s an interesting one; a new Anglo-Australian company offering baselayers made from all-natural Neobi; “an organic cotton merino wool mix which wicks perspiration away from the skin to the outside of the fabric, keeping the wearer cool in the heat and warm in the cold.” They say the 200-grams per meter weight will feel like a mid-weight tee shirt and is excellent for warm to temperate climates and for underlayers in winter months. Also claimed is minimal odour, long life and no chemicals; got to be worth a try although the more complex garments with polo necks and half zips range up to £85.


Howies NBL Classic £55


OK, no introductions needed for Howies here but the NBL Classic in 100% merino wool has had a facelift and the slightly looser fit and colour choices suggest garments you’d be happy to wear indoors and layered out for leisure. Howies is one of those premium brands that attracts a Marmite reaction, some saying that £55 for a vest is ridiculous and others that for a garment you wash and wash over many years, it’s good value. We forgive them a lot for their branding being quiet and understated; plus in the case of the NBL Classic, it’s made in Fiji which has to be a first.


Scott Next2Skin Base Layer £49.99


Three different weights and textures in Meryl Microfibre are employed in complicated shapes; partly to help with articulation but mostly to do with being warm where you want warm and breathability – around the armpit area for example – where you want moisture to wick and evaporate fast. The flatlock seams and utilitarian appearance suggest a technical, performance-orientated garment; our Mat is just on the verge of posting his report. There are short sleeved and sleeveless options as well as fits for men and women, the latter a big issue for comfort if a base is to be worn with a sports bra.


Levis go a fixie gaga

If you are a bike commuter in the city, you might realize how binding and uncomfortable jeans could be when riding. You might also sweat and worry about being seen by other vehicle when your commute extends to after dark hours. Levi’s is always coming up with new ideas for their jeans with innovations you didn’t even know you needed until their here.

The jeans brand has come up with the 511 Commuter Jeans just for the urban commuter that come in four styles. Full length, cropped, denim and non denim are the styles picked to be commuterized with water and dirt resistant fibers that are sanitized against odor and made with a a reflective fabric that reflects light in the dark. The raised back construction hides your sweaty crack too and is reinforced with pockets galore for added storage, including your ‘swagger clink’ mini D-lock.


The jeans feature:

  • Stretchable fabric
  • Utility waist band for u-lock storage
  • Higher back rise for additional coverage
  • Fabric treatment to improve water and soil resistance
  • Antimicrobial treatment
  • 3M Scotchlite Reflective Tape on interior cuff
  • Reinforced fabric in the crotch, back pockets and belt loop

We think it’s a good sign for bike commuting when a mainstream clothing brand like Levi’s starts producing products specifically for our market. Available this summer at $78 for the jeans and $128 for the matching jacket.

Traditional Leather cycling shoes Dromarti

When I saw the Dromarti Race Shoes in a photograph I thought they were the answer to my prayers, a shoe made of real leather looking identical to those worn by my heroes of yesteryear, Merckx, Coppi et al, but updated to suit modern pedals.

Suffice to say that, when I got my hands on these hand-made Italian leather cycling shoes, my prayers were more than answered.

So on to the shoes.

Opening the shoebox for the first time I dicovered the contents were wrapped in a protective fabric drawstring bag, I knew they were going to be special.

Once out of the bag the quality of the shoes was obvious, the rich brown leather is soft and supple; inside the shoes are lined in soft hide, including a leather lining bonded to the supportive dense foam insole. The finish to the leather and the quality of the stitching all point to this being a shoe that is made to last.

Leather has long been accepted as the material of choice for high quality shoes, but has been overtaken by man-made materials for high end cycling footwear over the last couple of decades. Leather has many natural qualities that make it the ideal choice for performance footwear, it breathes, neutralises odours, softens and moulds to fit. It is warm and wind resistant in cold weather yet breathes enough to be cool and absorbent in summer. Add to this the fact that these shoes will look better with age, and just an application of dubbin or polish will restore them to looking their best. Contrast this with modern man-made fabrics which tend to look best when new and deteriorate from then.

Turn the Dromarti Race shoes over and you see the modern technology that updates them to the 21st century, a very thin but very stiff carbon sole, drilled to accept modern 3 bolt pattern cleats (Shimano SPD-SL, Look etc). There is no gimmicky aesthetic carbon weave surface treatment here, just a high quality carbon sole that looks as understated as the uppers.

With cleats fitted it was time to try them on. My test pair were a size 45- the same as I wear for cycle shoes – and these were just right for length but felt a little tight width-wise. As with leather gloves, where you are best buying them slightly tight and letting the natural properties of the leather give in the right places to create the perfect fit, the same appears to apply to these shoes. After a few hundred miles and a few hours wear, the Dromarti Race shoes have broken in, they now feel just right, not tight but snug fitting and very comfortable.

Shoe closure is via the superseded but not improved upon system – laces. The waxed brown laces tighten over a soft padded leather tongue, which make it easy to loosen and tighten areas to suit your foot shape, and have stayed tied and tight over several hundred miles.

The fit of the shoe has become almost perfect and there is no heel lift or slip when pulling up hard on climbs or sprints.

With a slim-line profile that minimises the clown footed look of many cycling shoes, they are the perfect accompaniment to a Merino wool jersey and cotton cap. They exude quality in both looks and build, yet this is by no means a case of style over substance. The high quality carbon sole ensures good power transfer to the pedals, and the snug fit means they stay securely attached to your feet, whilst being very comfortable by merit of the supple leather of both the shoe and its lining.

I really cannot think of anything I could suggest that would improve them, but aesthetics will of course play a large role in any potential purchasers decision. For me the styling is absolutely perfect; a faithful reproduction of cycling shoes of a bygone era, yet incorporating the best of modern materials where they are appropriate and can add value.

These go back in their little cloth bag after each ride, just to show them I care…


A beautifully crafted shoe, that combines retro style and the best of modern technology

going retro

I have my bike – it may not be retro as it is only from 96 but it has the classic looks and is steel. Now dayglo modern tops and weird mtb outfits I have collected over the years are not going to cut it ….

So top

A nice Campagnolo classic black shirt

But was looking at these oldies – but may be a bit too retro

and then a nice set of leather shoes as well

dromarti sportivo

Do you match your clothes with your bike? tell me I am not being precious