Sonder bum parts

Loving the Sonder Camino ti but the stock Saddle and seatpost for me is the weak point so far.


Love Brooks but dont really want leather on the ti gravel bike so today I ordered a Cambium C15 saddle in mud happy black.

Screenshot 2016-06-27 19.05.48

review to follow – the ones I have read have been pretty outstanding

Sonder Camino ti – first ride review

Sonder Camino titanium gravel bike

Now I grew up in South Africa and the word sonder is Afrikaans for ‘without’ but this bike is definitely ‘with’

I pedal home today with a new bike came into the flat changed and went out for a first shakedown ride on the bike – these on my quick impressions after just 30 km

Very quickly I came to think that this bike might be one of those fabled you can do it all bikes. I went down the canal which is gravely with occasional small potholes on to cobbles and then later on into singletrack path weaving through the forest – the bike seem to handle everything with aplomb 

My only niggle was perhaps that the seatpost or saddle was not as comfortable as it could be but still good for the price point. I will be changing out the seatpost for something made of titanium or perhaps something like the Ritchey flexlogic and the saddle well that’s always down to the user and I have a preference for Ritchey WCS or specialised ronin

The bike is quick very quick even on this first exploratory ride I seem to have come home and found out that on Strava I have a King of the Mountain on one section over cobbles – Paris Roubaix might be a walk in the park

The discs brakes mechanicals from avid – I’ve not used avid mechanicals before they seem to do very good job of slowing the bike with excellent modulation when braking, the tires are WTB nano 40 mm tires and the seem to be quite progressive in grip and feedback. This was in the dry and this review is just the 1st (one hour ride) review and shouldn’t really be taking for a long-term review but so far I am completely stoked by the ride of this bike. 

Brandt Richards who is also been behind some of on-one’s bikes in the past seems to have finally nailed it – this is everything I wanted it to be perhaps more than I hoped and definitely a lot lot better than I ever expected it would be

I came home and looked in my cupboard to see four other bikes standing there looking slightly forlorn.

Alpkit give the bike a 10 year guarantee which is amazing considering it’s the first bike that they are doing. this bike is built so beautifully the weld is excellent and everything seems to be is put together as well as any of my Lynskey bikes
Now if only work and kids didn’t get in the way of me doing another ride tomorrow but I will post further reviews once I have a few hundred miles in on this bike

Tyre story – Hans Dampf Evo MTB Tyre – SnakeSkin

The new tyre

It has been a while since I reviewed anything so thought I would share my thoughts on something that just seems to work. I am not very swap and try when it comes to equipment I just like good stuff that works well, it might not have the very best of the best quality but has to do what it does well. Take my brake spec on my mtb – I asked Carl at the shop what brakes to get – he was steering me towards hope when I mentioned these should be fit and forget type brakes. Hence the same XTR brakes on my bike for 6 years and apart from 1 bleed and 3 different sets of pads nothing has been fiddled with.

But tyres have had their issues. I was on the misconceived idea that I was sort of racer having tried 3 sets of racing Ralph’s over the years. But grip was pretty sketchy in scotland doing typical riding and sidewall was a painfully thin learning curve having ripped two sidewalls open riding flinty tracks a half hour for the house.

I moved onto maxxis ardent tyres and I liked them a lot more. It was only an issue with a bad thorn and dried up sealant after 2 years of no maintenance that made me think I should take more care. I refilled the sealant and pumped the tyre up hard (60psi) to seal the edges. Max recommendation is 45psi for the tyre width and rim but seriously – I had tea to make and drink when BANG the tyre had popped off the bead was stretched and sealant was on the wall.

So I started shopping for a new front tyre and I decided to go wider and bought a trail star hans dampf 29×2.35 

Fitted pretty easily on stans rim and sealed very easily. 

On the trail the HD is a step up from the ardent – incredible feedback from the front and stays planted on the trail. When railing through berms the slightly worn ardent on the back would start washing out before the front. As for trail speed I didn’t notice a huge drag factor and let’s face it the weakest link in a race setup would be still be me.

Was thinking about replacing the worn ardent on the rear in a while and whilst a HD is tempting I have read that it rips easier there and most people seem to suggest a nobby Nick is a good match. More on that later.

New Backpack – Granite Gear

I have been looking for a small light back pack for weekend trips on the trail and by plane to city break / backpacking short trips.

Have an old berghaus which is too heavy and big and a Lowe Alpine TT Amazon Carryon (which although perfect for travel and getting away with stash away straps and different handles can be tiring on the back for long carries over 10 miles.

So just found this (and bought it)


The Granite Gear Aji 50 is ideal for lightweight backpacking, day hiking or travel. A unique multi-zipper design allows you to quickly put hands on anything you need and an innovative suspension system comfortably carries up to 35 pounds.The panel loading compartment provides ample storage and delivers versatile access to the packbag from almost any direction. A full wrap-around zipper allows the pack to be opened almost entirely for ease of packing and unpacking. Multiple zipper pulls let you decide on whether you want to get into the pack from the top, the bottom or either side. Internal compression straps ensure that contents remain securely in place. External compression straps further cinch down the load and double as gear attachment points. A large zippered pocket located near the top of the pack houses internal storage pockets for ease of organization and a front stuff-it pocket serves as an additional storage space. Twin side mesh pockets are perfect for water bottles or other gear.

This pack is the perfect fusion for someone who is looking for logical, easy access to their gear yet doesn’t like or use pockets. Full round zipper allows complete access to gear while not compromising weight. Also for a frame free pack it is suprisingly comfortable and load bearing when loaded to the max recommended 35 lbs.


  • Comfortable
  • Durable
  • Great Features
  • Lightweight
  • Roomy




  • Backpacking
  • Day hiking
  • Travel

Looks good doesn’t it? In the UK we get hit with prices as always …. £199

here is guy with a beard designed to carry food explaining it all …..

Ultegra 6800 review

from – 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 (…) 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.


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.


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

Michelin pro 4 grip tyres ( or tires)


From 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.

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

a warm,wild, wet and windy winter day

Whilst the rest of the country deals with flooding and storm damage (and I have sympathy for their plight) but we in Scotland make the most of the weather and so today was Kitesurfing day. Initial plan was too leave early and get a session in before the rain came in at 1pm but the funny thing is that when the wind is westerly the island of Arran off the coast seems to deflect the worst of the weather especially when it is howling.

Barassie beach just to the north of Troon harbour
Barassie beach just to the north of Troon harbour

Kites Best TS 8m and Best Cabo 6m – Got down later probably after 12 then rigged up. Firstly pumped up the 6m kite as it felt like a good 28-32 knots …. but then the wind lulled before i even left the grass so pumped up the 8m (now officially my big kite as i hate cruising on big kite days) and went down to the beach as the clouds passed sucking in even more wind in its tail … so ran back shoved the 8m in the car and out again on the 6m.

Wind was gusty but good 1908936_10152260919789993_1081725259_oyou can see the stats here 18knots gusting 32 when I got on the water and then for the next hour was 17 gusting 28 …. 17 was a bit low for the 6m but in the gusts it was great.

Screen Shot 2014-02-09 at 19.18.08I took the new board down it is a Cabrinha Tronic 137 and it is amazing in the choppy conditions and with the bigger fins (than my last board) it kites a lot flatter so the spray is a bit cleaner and not one eyeful of spray into your eyes …. i love it straight off and the H1 pads and straps are fantastic so comfy.

Out with the old Slingshot Lunacy on the left and in with the new Cabrinha Tronic on the right
Out with the old Slingshot Lunacy on the left and in with the new Cabrinha Tronic on the right

I tried a few little speed sections between the waves and the board felt fast – but only 21.7 knots max so i am sure the 8m will be quicker as the Cabo sits quite deep in the window (well it is a wave kite)



What is your fitness age?

good article from WELL in the NYT ….

Trying to quantify your aerobic fitness is a daunting task. It usually requires access to an exercise-physiology lab. But researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim have developed a remarkably low-tech means of precisely assessing aerobic fitness and estimating your “fitness age,” or how well your body functions physically, relative to how well it should work, given your age.

The researchers evaluated almost 5,000 Norwegians between the ages of 20 and 90, using mobile labs. They took about a dozen measurements, including height, body mass index, resting heart rate, HDL and total cholesterol levels. Each person also filled out a lengthy lifestyle questionnaire. Finally, each volunteer ran to the point of exhaustion on a treadmill to pinpoint his or her peak oxygen intake (VO2 max), or how well the body delivers oxygen to its cells. VO2 max has been shown in large-scale studies to closely correlate with significantly augmented life spans, even among the elderly or overweight. In other words, VO2 max can indicate fitness age.

In order to figure out how to estimate VO2 max without a treadmill, the scientists combed through the results to determine which of the data points were most useful. You might expect that the most taxing physical tests would yield the most reliable results. Instead, the researchers found that putting just five measurements — waist circumference; resting heart rate; frequency and intensity of exercise; age; and sex — into an algorithm allowed them to predict a person’s VO2 max with noteworthy accuracy, according to their study, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

The researchers used the data set to tabulate the typical, desirable VO2 max for a healthy person at every age from 20 to 90, creating specific parameters for fitness age. The concept is simple enough, explains Ulrik Wisloff, the director of the K. G. Jebsen Center of Exercise in Medicine at the Norwegian University and the senior author of the study. “A 70-year-old man or woman who has the peak oxygen uptake of a 20-year-old has a fitness age of 20,” he says. He has seen just this combination during his research.

The researchers have used all of this data to create an online calculator that allows people to determine their VO2 max without going to a lab. You’ll need your waist measurement and your resting heart rate. To determine it, sit quietly for 10 minutes and check your pulse; count for 30 seconds, double the number and you have your resting heart rate. Plug these numbers, along with your age, sex and frequency and intensity of exercise, into the calculator, and you’ll learn your fitness age.

The results can be sobering. A 50-year-old man, for instance, who exercises moderately a few times a week, sports a 36-inch waist and a resting heart rate of 75 — not atypical values for healthy middle-aged men — will have a fitness age of 59. Thankfully, unwanted fitness years, unlike the chronological kind, can be erased, Dr. Wisloff says. Exercise more frequently or more intensely. Then replug your numbers and exult as your “age” declines. A youthful fitness age, Dr. Wisloff says, “is the single best predictor of current and future health.”

and my result …?

Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 12.27.36boll*cks – in my dreams


Polar RCX5 review

The Polar HRM arrived nearly a month ago now and I have had a good chance to use it in various sports.

Firstly unboxing showed a nice little box and neat packaging. When you first switch on RCX it asks you to input basic things like sex, age, height, weight as well as the amount you exercise per week. I fall into a higher (amateur) category of roughly 5-7 hrs / week.

The RCX typically comes in 3 configurations … a gps setup which includes the excellent G5 gps. This is a very nice waterproof unit which holds charge for 20 hrs which is far from what i have had the pleasure of exceeding. The unit comes with an armband although I must confess that one month later i have yet to use it. The unit is very wee and fits into the small key pocket at the front of my running shorts as well as the back pocket of my running tights. I even used it the other day on a ride and had it jammed into a small front pocket of my jacket pocket. Being hunched over I expected the reception and subsequent track to be slightly skittish but coming back i compared the track to the one recorded by my Garmin Edge 305 which is on my stem with an uninterupted view of the sky. The comparison revealed that the Garmin recorded the ride as 51.42km and the edge at 51.62km … that is a 200m discrepancy over a huge distance. thinks it something like 0.4% (better get my calculator out) I am sure a shoulder mount or bar mount would make it perfect (that is me judging the Edge to be perfect …)

Other configurations are the Run pack which comes with the S3+ stride sensor. I have not used this but have seen side by side comparisons to the Garmin unit and from what I gather they are pretty compareable. The Polar unti is much bigger and does everything the Garmin does … the only feature useful to me would be the stride count … but then i am a slight Chi runner and my footfall stride is roughly 83-85/min.

The other configuration i have seen is the bike pack which has a cadence and Speed Censor … the cadence sensor would be the most useful to me … if you have the GPS sensor then i think you dont need the speed sensor.
One point I would say is that it is a shame that it is not the one unit like many of the competitors now do. Times and Garmin do their combined ones. I still use my Garmin unit along with the edge indoors when on the turbo trainer and having this placed on the back wheel makes it very practical.

I think that all the above configurations come with a heart rate belt although it is also possible to buy the RCX5 unit as a standalone piece which is probably only something that athletes that already own a polar belt (although not all older belts can be seen by the RCX5) On the heart Belt itself – amazingly comfortable and using Garmin and Suunto for the past few years I must confess that Polar know what they are doing when they make the belts … so comfy and you never get a strange spike or weird reading that you sometimes get with the Garmin HR belts.
Polar also do sports bras for women which have the HR receiver built into them which should make them more comfy than a standard setup for some.

what works with what POLAR

Back to the RCX unit. There are two colours to choose from a black and a red … I chose red because everyone knows that red is faster.

The square design has been criticised by some but I think it is great … it is slightly larger than a normal watch but once exercising the display is clear and very easy to use.
You can customise the display to show what you want to see .. I have gone into this before HERE

Using the Unit
Strapping the RCX on I immediately noticed how comfortable the watch was – in fact the whole construction oozes class not something i have noticed in the build of any previous Polar, Garmin or Suunto with the possible exception of my Suunto Core

Going outside for a run you can leave the gps on a wall whilst you pre-stretch – and then it latches onto the signal very quickly – the chipset inside the unit is a SIRF6 which allows for quicker lock on. the given wisdom is that cold fixing (in an area you have not been in before) will take around a minute, and hot fixes (starting in an area where you finished your last run / ride) will take 10-20 sec. From experience this seem to hold true. Of course this is a gps so switching it on when inside your house will not be good … but a sky above you should be good enough for the fix.
A tip I learnt for cold or rainy weather is to switch on the gps and leave it in your window whilst you put shoes on and it is generally ready to go when you are.

The unit when setting it up can be set to auto-lap – this is something I use when running having the watch perform every 1km … i find this more useful as a pace guide and a very good nudge to the brain when i need to speed up.
the watch can be set to either follow a programme (which can be configured on polar personal trainer and downloaded) say if you were doing intervals with a 5min warm up, 10 min tempo and 3 fartleks then arm down. The watch also has a great audible warning which can be set to pace or HR. This can either be set to Loud, quieter or off. I find this more useful when doing a fat-burn ride or run when my natural instinct is to speed up and defeat the very purpose of the training.

Post exercise the RCX5 stores your last exercise in the data section fro you to review. By itself the RCX5 gives a good breakdown and review of data. You can look at individual training sessions or see a summary of the week which is useful if you need a motivator to get out the door for a run or cycle. One of the good features is that there is a very good heart rate zone breakdown as well as a neat thing were you can see what percentage of calories was in fat burn.

HR zone breakdown

Speaking of features there is something missing and that is a proper barometric altimeter. Most of the course I do aren’t that hilly and I put bike tracks into bikewithgps or other tracking websites which recomputes gps info and produces a ride profile. For those running in hilly location this lack of altimeter might be a problem but for me it is not a deal breaker.

I think the beauty of the Polar RCX5 is in the heart rate monitoring … a lot of people like myself would look at the lack of ANT+ support and the very annoying lack of integration with other platforms like map my run, bikely,endomondo and others and decide not to go with polar BUT (and it’s a big butt) polar does and has always done great heart rate monitors. The analysis that you can do post exercise is way better than polar and a bit better than the hrm software that my old suunto t6 used with movescount.

Once you have done the exercise you can upload the data using polar weblink which is a free download from their site. One word of advice make sure you click the RCX5 for PPT option as I inadvertently clicked the other option when downloading the update then tore my hair out trying to figure out what i had done)
With the Polar Personal Trainer software you can create programs as well as seeing very easily how your training load is…. This prevents you overtraining (however rare this is in my case)

Finally I would say that polar, although not integrating as well as Garmin does with ANT+, weblink does allow you to access the RCX5 and download the .hrm files and .gpx files (gps track) – it’s a shame it doesn’t use the .tcx format but i think that is a garmin proprietary format.

I may have highlighted some weaknesses in this review but I am happy with the unit and wouldn’t change it.

Bryton Cardio 30 – A Full Review

I will start this review saying I really really wanted the Bryton Cardio 30 to be a great product. On paper it seemed perfect – a small size, waterproof, gps enabled but I have been sadly let down.

Out of the box it seemed nice presented in a neat case with instructions and lead enclosed.


It is smaller and lighter than I thought it would be – the tiny face displaying 3 lines of data. The strap is comfortable which is a major point for me. The waterproof rating is very good and the construction seems robust.

In Action:

This is were I start to well up – it is hopeless as a training HRM. It may pair easily enough with ANT+ coded items and it may acquire a satellite reading in an OK time but it sucks when you want to read any info from it in a run. The display is useless – it always shows distance in the top line of the display and it will show Heart Rate / Time / Calories / Distance(rpt) but what any running watch needs to show is at least HR and Disatnce AND Time …. preferably at the same time.

The second bad point is that although it can be set to autolap at every 1km say it does nothing else … there is no lap time shown / there is no summary to read and no way to gauge how fast your last split was unless you deduct the last km from current and try work out the split …. and when you are pressing on in a training run this is the last thing you can do.

So this leaves it as a GPS tracker with which you can analyse your run when you finish …. but the disaster here is that the GPS is wildly inaccurate. I used it on the MTB marathon in Wales and it was way different from the Garmin Edge 305 I had on the bike (this is a steal these days at £170 ish)

Blue=Bryton Green=Garmin

This was bad enough but did a run on my regular river route and the Bryton came up very short again … you can see the type of track it records … this is an open park with near zero tree cover and NO tall building nearby ….

My Suunto T6 with GPS and the Garmin Edge (as well as sites like WALKJOGRUN) gave the same reading only ever differentiating by about 50m over a 12km run – but the Bryton is bad – it is out by 800m on this run which is an 83.9% accuracy according to a comparison on Sportypal…. so distance wise it was 800m out on this run and 2km out over a 52km ride. Very Very VERY poor

So thankfully Wiggle operates a good return policy and I will be buying something else that is ANT+ compliant (prob a Garmin of some sort)

BOTTOM LINE – Avoid the Bryton Cardio like the plague ….. it is faulty with bad software, bad GPS and terrible interface.

I have since bought myself a polar RCX5 which is just fantastic …. review HERE

That there Ruthin MTB marathon I did

map of the 50km route

A race weekend and I felt ill prepared. I had not bothered with the 100mile Sportive the weekend before due the remnants of the hurricane hitting Scotland’s shores. I did however make the most of it by going kitesurfing and filming it on the GoPro – see last weeks blog post for that bad video ….

I am currently working on a CH5 series which will go out in 6 weeks – I can’t give out any details but suffice to say that some of the subjects are a lesson in taking care of yourself (both in what you eat and exercise) So I was in the edit when ‘he who shall remain nameless aka NICK’ started sneezing away spreading germs by the ton.
I knew then that I would get it being confined in a small room with the sick bastard and true to my prediction come Saturday afternoon as i packed the bike and set off down the road I had a sore throat and the start of a runny nose.
In retrospect had i realised this was a 4+hr drive I might not have bothered to do it by myself. I got down to Ruthin about 9pm as the Exposure Big Night Out race was finishing … amazing to see the guys waltz in after 40km looking as fresh as a daisy.
I went to the table where they were getting tea and begged for a cup of boiling water … it was a lemsip for me then and there and quickly going off to crash. I hadn’t bothered with a tent, instead sleeping in the back of the estate which was remarkably comfortable.
bike on the roof more keen than me
Up at 8am and off to the catering tent for porridge and tea. Prepare the bike – making sure the Racing Ralph was still holding air … I ripped the sidewall out of the last one in Selkirk in August. then set shock and I was ready to race.
Porridge and tea please guv'nor
My race plan due to the cold was this:
Do the 50km race not the 75km
Keep heart rate below 150bpm
Start and better still ... FINISH
10am Start – at 10:06 hit the bottom of the hill that would only go up for the next 30 minutes, quickly wished I hadn’t started at the back as idiots all around stopped pedalling and thought about walking and in a lot of the cases did. My rohloff speedhub goes down to to about 19 gear inches so I can get up most hills as long as I have traction and can keep the nose from rising too much.
nice singletrack through moor
The weather was alright although the rain had made the course very muddy – something I regretted having the Racing Ralph on the back which held the claggy mud and made it pretty sketchy at times. Plodded along the whole way …. cleaned all the technical sections although had two very stupid falls, both times breaking on nearly level grass before a sharp turn to a technical section. A bit of back brake and the RR shot out sideways leaving me feeling rather stupid but completely unhurt.
down to the reservoir - big gaps between riders at this time
I only stopped at the first feed station but had enough to keep going through the rest. The finish was the biggest challenge trying to follow the signs through town and then not seeing the turn in to the park and the finish. Ended up down at the roundabout looking for directions before retracing my steps and eventually seeing another marker.
more mud and shorten course blob of paint for 75km entrants that did 50km
End result 3hr 54min (-2min spent looking for finish) AVE speed (a slow) 13.5 km/h
HR average 145 / 173 max
Nice to be finished – had a quick bike wash, shower for myself then treated myself to leg massage before the 4.5hr drive home.
Bontrager RXL shoes are fantastic fit and really stiff and comfy. Lost a bit of disco white with mud but cleaned right up.
proof on the speedo
Course not great – pretty boring the Selkirk event was more varied and challenging
Camping and Event site – fine and would have been good if family were along as well.
Entry fee – a bit sharp
strange man and penny farthing - my rohloff'ed ti bride 96'er

Were you there at Ruthin? …. how did your day go?


Was using the Bryton Cardio 30 on the bike as well as the Garmin Edge 305 (which is great and now around £175) and there was quite a large difference in readings.

There was a small section in woodland but not enough for this difference.

Blue=Bryton Green=Garmin
I am still testing the Bryton Cardio 30 and so far I would advise people to hold off buying … their website was playing up and there are various things missing from their functions that should be addressed.

The 300 challenge

Last week tried out the fitness test for the army – now passing wasn’t the target as that is pretty easy to allow all those obese playstation boys to get in – but I was trying to max out the test and get the fabled 100% in each discipline. At my ripe old age (41) this is 77 sit ups in 2 min 70 press ups and a 2 mile run within 13m45s.

Here are the pages that show requirements per age group.

According to Jules who serves in the US army you can not only max the test but get more than 100% and that can help in other parts of the test where you don’t fare so well. But alas Jamie our instructor said no so having never done any upper body weight exercises in my life I struggled with the press ups …. 55 in 2 min, almost maxed the sit ups with 70 and then easily did the run. I only had to do 9.3mph but pretty soon this was boring and my HR was in 145 region so upped it gradually doing the last stretch at 10.4mph giving me a run time of 12:17 beating the 100% mark by 1m30s (which would have given me 115% on the us scoring)

But failed to max have 280% so will practice press ups and max it next month.

Have a go at the test and let me know how you get on…

Review – Hope 1 LED front light

Hope’s Vision 1 LED has been around for a while now. Running off four AA batteries the whole thing is contained in a beautifully machined aluminium can. It looks lovely and well made.

What makes this light practically unique, and explains its enduring popularity, is that it runs off ordinary AA batteries, rather than a separate battery pack or internal rechargable cell. That makes it considerably more versatile if you’re about to embark on a long night ride as you just need to carry a spare set of batteries to keep yourself going. I

Controlled by a single top-mounted button the light switches on in Low requiring a single press to cycle through each of the settings (Low, Medium, Max, Flash) and then back round to Low. Sensibly, Off is removed from the cycle, requiring a long hold on the button, so you won’t plunge yourself into darkness in between settings.

Hope claim a pretty hefty 240 lumens on Max. Our beam tests confirm that the Hope is kicking out plenty of light –  On Max it’s plenty enough for off road riding, although I’d be as cautious on unfamiliar trails. Flash setting is my default for bike commuting on the roads.

Run time is dependent on what batteries you use. I used 2500 mAh rechargeables from Maplin which gave me over three hours on Max.

The light has a simple on/off/mode switch on the back. This has a new cycle programme which turns the light on in ‘low’ mode and cycles through to the higher settings. This gives better control of the light in tricky situations when more light is needed quickly.

As well as the universal handlebar clamp, a NEW! reinforced nylon helmet mount is also included, along with a wrist lanyard as well as ample velcro fastenings. This makes the light truly adaptable. Perfect for bikers, outdoor enthusiasts and people looking for a high quality, high powered light for other nocturnal activities!

USE: When it goes dark! At home, in the car, on the bike,
walking the dog…


Versatile light with hefty beam and respectable runtime. Watch out for the sharp cutoff using NiCad though.

Excellent review of the Rohloff Speedhub (from 29inches)

Great article from twentynineinches on the rohloff speed hub.

Read their article here.

Lovely anodised red

I have taken the liberty to put it all together below for easier reading:

Part 1 – INTRO: Who of you has heard about the Rohloff Speedhub 500/14? For those of you who have – it probably holds the image of German engineering par excellence – and of high pricing probably.

For those of you who haven’t I will give you a very brief wrap-up of the thing:

The Speedhub is an all German made, internally geared hub with 14 gears spaced evenly at 13.6 % resulting in exactly the same range as a standard MTB 27-speed drive train. By following extremely low tolerances and keeping the system completely encapsulated Rohloff claims to have comparable power loss by friction to an externally geared system (aka derailleur driven) and will run virtually forever with minimal servicing (only an annual oil change recommended). The hub has been in production for over 10 years And yes, it is costly, even here in its homeland.

(Before you readers start raining a myriad of technical questions, I herewith redirect your enquiries of such kind to the Rohloff website: There is tons of technical info to be read about the working, on Rohloff´s – including compatibility charts, gearing ratios, exploded drawings. They even have done a book covering the Rohloff story)


fig. 1 The ROHLOFF Speedhub 500/14 in the test – condition like it should be: spotted with dirt. The labeling is laser etched into the black anodized hub shell. Each hub is individually numbered.

What motivated Bernd Rohloff, the man behind the hub to build this? – Before the Speedhub Rohloff has been producing (and still is for that matter) premium bicycle chains including several precision tools in that area.

There is a neat anecdote about it (rephrased to keep it short): “He was doing a vacation on the French Atlantic coast, riding along the sandy beach … or at least trying to as it only took two breakers to completely foul the drive train. It was there and then that the idea for a ever-running system was born. Two years and countless hours with technical drawings and engineering later, Bernd was pedaling it away happily without a second thought to the drive train-hostile environment. That was 1998 and by now there are over 100.000 Speedhub units in use on all kinds of bikes.

Here comes a bit more tech talk though:

The Rohloff 500/14 Speedhub basically consists of three units:

1, The 14-speed internal geared hub (available in a disc- or v-brake specific, and a QR or through axle version). Consisting of a hugely oversized hub shell housing the transmission unit (32 and 36 holes available in the colors silver, black and red anodized with laser etched logos), interchangeable side-plates on both sides and a screw on cog (standard is 16 teeth, 13, 15 and 17 teeth are available separately)

2, The mounting hardware: It takes special attachment systems to compensate the rotational forces induced by the internal gearing. Depending on the drop-out and frame design these can be simply a plate (if the frame is Rohloff-specific like in fig. 2), or varying torque arms (depending if the frame has disc brake bosses or not, one version shown in fig. 3)


fig. 2 This set up shows Rohloff specific dropouts, where the torque is taken up by the long slotted dropout and a special plate (only visible by the “in the know” near the lower end of the slot). Chain tensioning here is done by the sliding dropouts. The shifting commands are transferred by dual cables and the external gearbox.


fig. 3 Here a version with the long torque arm is shown. This version is needed when the frame is not suitable for disc brakes or when the disc brake tabs are not on the seat stays of the frame like on this frame. Why? -Think about which direction rotational forces will work.

3, The twist shifter proprietary to the system. This shifter is driving dual cables to the hub – usually in full length housing. The attachment to the hub can be by an external gearbox, like shown, which is recommended when running disc brakes or by an internal system which is about 100 g lighter. The shifter is not indexed like all other bike gearing systems but the indexing is happening directly at the place of shifting, inside the hub.

(Bikes with no built-in chain tensioning option or suspension bikes will need a chain tensioner) The rest of the modifications is like converting into a single chainring crankset and a specific 4-bolt disc rotor, as the standard systems don´t work with 6-bolt rotors.


Fig. 4 The shifters are like any twist shifter – only these actuate two cables. Yes, they are a bit clumsy looking.

So much for the marketing talk.

What is the Speedhub really all about? Does it work fine? How does the planetary gearing react when put through its paces? What about the total weight or weight distribution on the bike, compared to a standard derailleur system or SS? Is the system really bomb-proof and maintenance free – regardless of riding and climate?

Rohloff Speedhub part II

(First of all thanks for the patience on this follow up of the first article concerning the ROHLOFF Speedhub 500/14 and the great input by so many of you.)

So let´s get started. This winter is slowly passing for the spring (at least that´s what the
weatherman said before the recent blizzard turned all into a late winter wonderland) and I have been riding the Speedhub 500/14 in 29er set up for a fair amount of time – that is every time I had the derailleur gearing on any of my other rigs frozen or mucked up, I simply turned to my Rohloff build and rode away.

My story with the Speedhub: The last sentence pretty much states my story why I (and so many others) had turned to the Rohloff Speedhub in the first place: Because I was spending simply too much time cleaning and adjusting the external shifting, time that I wanted to ride instead. I could have turned to SS but some reluctance to self-induced suffering, and the desire to ride everything (that is everything I had been riding on my standard geared bike) made me turn my attention to internally geared systems.
The offerings of trail worthy internally geared systems are few and the Rohloff was and still is by far the one with the largest gearing range. I had been riding my Speedhub for more than 2 years in a 26” wheel but as I was turning more and more towards exclusive 29er riding, and the Speedhub was getting less and less use. Not because of the hub, but because of the wheel size it was built into … eventually, after a considerable time of neglect, I felt it was time to rebuild the Speedhub into a 29er wheel – and so I did.

One more word on compatibility: Initially I was using the Speedhub in a standard frame with vertical disc mounts and without disc brake tabs, which required me to run a chain tensioner and the external torque arm – which both worked flawlessly but looked dead ugly. Later I had the frame retrofitted with Rohloff specific sliding dropouts (incl. disc brake tabs) and I was able to use the much more elegant OE1 torque plate and leave tensioning duties to the sliders. Like I stated before almost any frame can be converted to Speedhub with one of the multiple mounting options. (again: turn to the Rohloff website and their step-by-step Speedhub finder.

II_1The build
Building a Rohloff Speedhub 500/14 is nothing spectacular but can be a bit peculiar -only two things need to be considered:
1, Spoke length: The large diameter of the Speedhub´s shell requires considerably shorter spokes than with other hubs. In a 26” configuration getting the right length spokes can be difficult at times but running the larger diameter 29er hoops puts you in the range of your standard 26” spoke lengths. For finding out your required spoke length have a lookhere (

2, Lacing pattern: The other issue is that lacing is recommended to be different. This is because the spokes can interfere with the hub shell. When doing a 26” wheel it is only possible to execute a 2-crossed, lacing. With 29er wheels and their common ERD of 600 to 605 mm Rohloff clearly recommends doing the same but there is more flexibility.
On my rebuild I had done a 3-crossed lacing with good results. (This was primarily because I wanted to use some high end Sapim CX-Ray bladed spokes that I had laying in my shop.)

Adapting the bike and gearing limitations: The changes to the bike are analogue to the steps of converting your bike to single speeding; meaning you only need a single chain ring, do away with the front and rear derailleur plus shifters, shorten the chain, ….One thing is worth mentioning and that is the ratio between the chain ring and the cog is recommended to be no lower than 2.35 / 1, which basically means in order to not exceed the maximum input torque you should not run a combination lower than 40/17, 38/16, 36/15 or 32/13. By design this also represents the same gearing range of a 9-speed 11-34 configuration. I kept to these recommendations with my 26” wheel but decided to neglect them in my 29er build to compensate for the larger wheels. During the last 7 months I was running my bike most of the time with a 36/16 configuration (yes, this is lower than recommended) and on some specifically grueling alpine trips was even doing a 34/16 combination – (you can see the double ring configuration in the front on the next picture). And this much needs to be said at this point: All without any adverse effects. (Note that this was my personal choice and is not encouraged here.)

fig 21

When confronting the Rohloff people with this they sure enough told me that this was not covered under warranty but in the same breath assured me not to worry as the hub was built to last. First of all it is built plenty strong (it is designed to handle Pro racing and tandem usage!), secondly there are several safety features built in the hub that would fail when overloaded before serious damage occurred to the hub. For example the internals of the hub are fixed to the shell by 9 small nylon pins that will shear when overloaded prior to any gearing damage. Then there are the bolts that hold the torque plate in place and the list continues …. All things that are easy to fix. GERMAN ENGINEERING at its best.

altprev_8026Weight and mounting:
The weight of a fitted Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 including twist shifter, shifter cables and cable guide is 1700 to 1825 g. This variation is mostly attributed to the way the shifting action reaches the hub. The different mounting options can vary by up to 100 g as well with the OE1 version being the lightest.

The external gear box (picture with the red hub, courtesy of Rohloff AG, also showing n OE1 torque plate and disc brake hub shell) is generally recommended when running disc brakes. It requires full length cable housing running from the shifters right up to the to the box and acts as a transmitting device to the hub. The two screws at the intake act as the cable tensioning devices. The box part can be easily detached by loosening a single tool-free screw for easy wheel removal, while the longer arm remains fixed to the hub. The fixture of the gear box can be rotated by 30° steps all around the hubs axis, independently of the torque arm setup – to allow for maximum flexibility. In the unlikely event of any failure of the shifter or cables this configuration allows to set any gear by a simple 8 mm open wrench.

altprev_8007z_lThe internal gearbox (shown on black hub with OE2 plate and non-disc hub shell) is about 100 g lighter by having the shifter cables run directly into the hub but requires some kind of frame mounted stop for the cable housing. In addition the cables need to have a splitting device for wheel removal. (no worry, all these parts are readily available through Rohloff or your dealer). These cables may interfere with the disc rotors, which is why it is not recommended for use with disc brakes. The proprietary twist shifter weighs in at roughly 140 g (with a very small number of tuning shifters available (e. g. by Tune called the “Rolff” or REWEL, Italy) and can be mounted on either side of the bars.

speedhub50014_bild1[1]The Rohloff specific rotors (with a 4-bolt attachment by standard chain ring bolts) weigh roughly the same as standard rotors and are available in 160 and 180 mm diameters. There are several aftermarket versions available to get the rear rotors match your front rotors if you are worried about your bikes appearance. All in all my rear wheel with Speedhub and all mounting hardware weighed roughly 2530 g (sans tires that is). This sounds like much (and it is) especially when the comparable wheel with XTR hubs (incl. cassette and rotor), comparable spokes and rims weighs at a seemingly featherweight 1380g. But keep in mind there are about 700 g of other components you get to take off when running the Speedhub (like granny and big chain ring, front and rear mech, and part of the shifters weight). So when you do the math, your bike running on a Speedhub will gain between 500 g (when compared to a SLX/XT level drive train) and ~1100 g (when compared to other high end componentry) – It can be more when considering ultralight components but these riders don´t usually look at the ROHLOFF Speedhub anyway.

Ultimately my personal bike gained ~700 g compared to my XT/XTR drive train I was running before. Was it worth it? Wait and see the riding report. This weight difference will always be there (until ROHLOFF releases a light version of the hub that has been rumored for years now) and it is one of the strongest arguments among weight weenies and XC racers against the Speedhub 500/14, but when you take a look at the internals (shown in this cut away picture, courtesy of Rohloff AG) you begin to appreciate that it is only this much.

Speedhub in Action – Riding experiences on the ROHLOFF Speedhub 500/14:

OK so now that the bike is set up with Rohloff – let´s get it out and dirty!! Like I have mentioned I had owned the ROHLOFF Speedhub 500/14 for some time now, originally in 26” but now for more than 7 months in a 29er wheel so this review is based on some serious mileage. In the 29er configuration I have been on the bike on and off – mostly in the worst of conditions.


Add-ons to the last post: The original Rohloff shifters are not recommended for Carbon bars: For that combination you will have to turn to one of the few aftermarket shifter alternatives like Tune´s Rolff.

And one more thing for those running one of those modern Post-Mount disc brake equipped frames – no adapters existing! (The only option for you is to refer to the long torque arms – not too aesthetically pleasing, but possible)


Shifting impressions: So how is the Speedhub on the trail? The first thing you will realize when coming from your standard external shifting is that you can change gears whenever you choose to – no pedaling, wheel rotation or other motion required. You can change gear with your bike standing – cool.

The downside is that shifting becomes increasingly harder under pedaling loads. It has been mentioned here in some comments that when pedaling hard it becomes near impossible to shift and you are right – it is. This might be a bummer for some but I learned to live with this very quickly and never felt like it was taking away from my performance. You simply learn to take off the pressure for this moment of shifting and then go on. This takes quite some discipline when standing in the starter block but is possible nonetheless. Not being a racer primarily I have come to love the “anytime shifting” of the Rohloff – just think of how often you needed to lift up your bike and do a pedal stroke to air shift into the desired gear when starting out or on the first steep pitch after a downhill, in technical riding, or after a crash. With the Speedhub you just shift, wherever, whenever – simple as that. Besides, Rohloff claims that you just can´t harm the hubs internals by forcing a shift, no matter how hard you pedal – good to know.

With the above mentioned case – there can be some ghost shifting, when shifting under pedal load – I have been able to force them on the hub. But they can happen only between the gears 7 and 8 and it really took me several deliberate attempts to ever make that happen. In all my time on the Speedhub I never experienced this to happen unintentionally so to me the shifting has been 100 % spot on (at any condition).

The shifting action at the shifter can feel a bit undefined, though, especially when coming from the latest crispy SRAM and SHIMANO shifters. Keep in mind that the Rohloff shifter does nothing but pull cables – all the indexing is done inside the Speedhub itself. So cable tension and cable friction do play a role in this but the shifting feel will always be less precise to high end conventional shifters. Theoretically you can shift all 14 gears in one stroke. The 21° twist per gear (273° for all 14 gears) limits this capacity though. Unless you can twist your wrist in very strange ways, it will take 2-3 strokes to cover the full range – but here again, anytime and anywhere. Additionally the large diameter barrel at the shifters make for a considerable cable throw in the hub. If I were to ask for a shifter redesign it would be to make gearing steps smaller, reduce the shifter in overall size and make it carbon bar compatible. The shifters have some strongly triangulated grip area, that has been receiving some “semi-positive” comments – to me it felt fine and despite being a bit oversize I felt OK with it.

Shifting action in respect of finding the correct gear is as simple as it can get – no dual shifters, cross chaining or double gears to consider just equal transmission steps by 13,6 % with each shift. A real no-brainer.


Riding impressions: The first thing that struck me on my bike equipped with ROHLOFF´s Speedhub was the clean looks. I like that and there are way less possibilities to get caught on rocks or branches. (I ride much in wooded or rocky terrain and so I usually have several fatalities with my rear derailleurs every year.) Just like a SS bike, pure, clean and simple but without the limitations (and, yes – more weight).

Gearing range: Like stated many times before, the gearing range is equivalent to a standard 27-spd external system. With the Speedhub it is a very easy task to modify this range in either direction. Going faster is no issue at all (just mount a bigger chain ring) – fine for those running smaller wheels. But us big wheelers are prone to peek in the other direction – choosing even lower gears. The introduction of ever more 11-36 cassettes and other 29er specific gearing are signs for that. And unfortunately here we run into manufacturer recommendations (see prior report). I am glad to say that my neglect of these recommendations and decision for running smaller chain rings (36 and sometimes 34 instead of the recommended 38 teeth) has never ever caused any issues riding (apart from voiding my warranty) but has granted me the option of riding through some climbs where with a normal 34 to 22 gearing I would have been walking.

I admit that at these speeds walking might have been just as fast but personally I love the sensation of riding all the way, rather than pushing (one more reason I could never get hooked on SS riding).


“Rohloffing”: When riding a Speedhub you will be aware that there is something going on in the rear of the bike under you. In some gears you can hear a whirring sound and sometimes feel minimal vibrations at your cranks. Nothing serious but it can be irritating at first. These noticeable gears are the lower 7 ones with a definite climax in gear 7 (which is where the third planetary gear is kicking in). It certainly feels a bit strange to not feel anything in higher gears (8 to 14) and suddenly with the switch from 8 to 7 have these sensations coming. Once you get accustomed to the hub it kind of fades away in your perception – at least it did with me. When being really sensitive you will notice this sensation increase just so slightly under high torque. To me these sensations are what kept me away from going ROHLOFF all the way and never looking back. More on that further down. While the noises and vibration can be more with a new Speedhub, it usually becomes lesser with time. It is a mere effect of all the precision crafted gear wheels adapting to one another and running smoother. The manual states that it will take between 500 to 1000 km to reach its equilibrium and has not been detected to change anymore after. So far I can fully back up that statement.

Besides these lower gears the hub is running mostly unnoticeable. The gear No. 11 is the direct gear with every rotation in the cog is translated directly to the wheel.

One thing that will get you wondering is the fact that when your take off your feet off the pedal when coasting, you likely will see your cranks starting to rotate. Ever seen that happen on your external shifting system? I have and it always has been a sign of some malfunction in the freewheel. “Friction” is the inevitable thought that will cross your mind, which brings us to the next big issue with the ROHLOFF Speedhub:

Efficiency: Rohloff goes through great effort in explaining why their system is near identical in efficiency to a well kept external gearing system – with a multitude of scientific and semi-scientific explanations which I will spare you (have a look for yourself if you have some extra hours). Basically I concluded that efficiency under pedal load and when riding is a different matter to spinning your wheel in the stand. And you know what: I have come to believe them (even though I haven´t been able to understand everything). I have read of reports by riders, who had abandoned using the Rohloff because of the sensation of resistance and friction some gears had given them (and from the above mentioned sensations I can even understand this mental connection). There is probably truth to both sides and I agree this whirring sensation does make you wonder about friction and can lead to the subjective feeling of slowness. Being a tester I can´t just get away with these thoughts and so I went through the effort of looking at the recorded speeds and lap times on my usual rounds and I came to realize it was merely going on in my head (or too minimal to detect by my simple means).

Ignore that suspicion and chances are you will become a Speedhub fan. Give in to that nagging voice and chances are you will always wonder if you might not be faster with standard shifting systems.

Additionally I just want to throw in that efficiency is one side of the coin but being able to shift freely under any circumstance and trail condition might be the other one. In that respect the Speedhub has never let me down. For me it was: When conditions turned really nasty and my externally geared bikes were quitting on me, the Speehub equipped bike remained completely unimpressed.

One more tangible difference is the distribution of the weight with a Speedhub. Here you have much more weight concentrated in the rear of the bike. Lift up your bike and you will immediately notice. Since I was riding it on a light rigid bike the front was plenty light already and having even more weight shifted to the rear it made some adjustment necessary to succeed on some of the steeper climbs. Again, a bit of body english was all that was needed and maneuvers like wheelies and technical riding became natural again. Only Bunny-Hopping just wouldn´t work out for me like before – blame my lack of bike handling skills for that. I am not too fond of big-jumps and air-time and on those small jumps I have been doing it never became an issue. Through other riders I hear that the Speedhub is actually quite popular with gravity driven riders for so the weight distribution can´t be this much off there either.

Maintenance: That has been a very easy one for me – NONE but the frequent lubing of the chain. I have completely neglected the hub, none of the yearly recommended oil changes (though I will do one after completing the test just because it is cheap, simple and it cannot hurt). It is reassuring that Rohloff recommends the yearly oil change (or after 5000 km, whichever comes first) as the only service for the Speedhub 500/14.

When talking about maintenance it is important to note that your chain will be lasting considerably longer (because it will be stressed evenly) and with the cog being reversible you can get twice the mileage out of them (besides being high grade stainless steel anyway) So practically the cost factor grows smaller over time when compared to standard shifting.


I really love riding the Speedhub on epic adventures, tours, especially in adverse conditions or whenever reliability was key, but whenever I was doing XC-style riding with lots of acceleration it only felt 95 % right. It might have been the additional weight or potentially lower efficiency of the system or my mental inability to separate the whirring sensation from actual performance – my means didn’t allow me to distinguish – but for XC-kind of riding the Speedhub just never “klicked” with me. Like I said my basic measurements don´t back that up and so I must call that a purely subjective sensation.

If you are only riding in decent weather and don’t ride through winters the Speedhub will probably not catch your admiration but if you are the kind, who wants to ride anytime, anywhere the Speedhub might just be the ticket.

So my conclusion for the Speedhub is an ambivalent one; on the plus side you have perfect reliability, low maintenance, reliability and … did I say reliability – which to me means riding without any limitations. The bad side (consisting of added and concentrated weight, less crisp shifting and high cost) is longer but much less significant – at least to me. (Plus the whirring sensation in the lower gears I simply had not been able to ignore 100%.)

For epic rides and touring I give it two thumbs up and I favor it over any other transmission currently out there. For XC-racing, jumping and such I know it does work, it just wouldn´t be my first choice.

A few words on the future:

Rohloff and Gates Carbon Drive:

This combination seems like a very logical one (get away with the last bit of frequent maintenance by replacing the often to be lubed chain by the CARBON Drive) and some have already asked about it.

Since I don´t have any first hand experience with it (and no frame that would work anyway) I addressed Rohloff product manager Marco Rauch about it and believe me, they have spent serious time working on it and doing in-house testing with it. But the Rohloff guys wouldn’t be themselves if they didn’t expect near foolproof perfection (and 200 % reliability).

Technically the specific parts do exist and given the perfect chain line it does work just fine. Did you read my constraint? While our proven system of chain rings, cogs and chain does handle minor misalignment quite well (SS-riders know what I am talking about), the carbon drive belt system is very sensitive to these things.

It seems that one of the major limitations to the systems working perfectly in sync is the frame design and production (perfect alignment and minimal flex, plus very low tolerances). These things are more or less out of the hands of both Rohloff and Gates but when something does not work perfectly in the power transfer sector, these two will be among the first to be asked for explanations. So understandably they are not easily jumping on that horse before the basic requirements have been met and are executed in frame design.

Additionally I have been told that the testing by Rohloff has shown a recommended smallest cog of 20 sprockets, thus requiring a chain ring 50 sprockets or larger. And that is the least thing you want to do place the Carbon Drive belt closer to potentially harmful things like rocks ;-) . test report Brompton S2L-X

There are three types of folding bikes. On one end of the scale, there is the folding bike that concentrates completely on the fold and ride quality is therefore a secondary consideration. At the other end of the scale is the bike that is designed for riding but that you can also fold if you have enough time and the right tools to hand, in other words a bike that you wouldn’t want to fold multiple times per day.

In the middle are the folding bikes that try to achieve a compromise between folding and ride quality. They are easy to fold; they ride well enough, but the folded package is not as small as others. Bromptons are very much at the first end of the scale, with Airnimal Joeys at the other. Dahons and Birdys fall in the middle.

A Brompton is one those products that is quintessentially British, both in the way it looks and in the way it’s been put together. Brompton designs and builds in West London and they are also reassuringly honest and transparent about their offering. Brompton weights, for example, are known to be the actual weight of the bike including pedals and mudguards and such like (between 9 and 12.5kg, if you want to know).

Bromptons, in terms of how they are built and how you order them, are best described as “a bit different”. Three quarters of the 1,200 parts that make up a Brompton are unique to them. On the one hand, this means that everything is engineered specifically for the job it needs to do. On the other hand, you can only get the spares from Brompton. An example of this potential issue is when the lower jockey wheel fell off the chain tensioner on our test bike because the bolt that holds it on had worked loose. This is a non-standard bolt, which means my part box couldn’t fix the problem and a trip to the bike shop was necessary. With a good dealer network across the UK, luckily this isn’t usually a problem.

Ordering a Brompton, you can either buy off the shelf from one of the key models or you can use their custom route, called Bspoke. This allows you to specify handlebar type, number of gears (and even the gearing, to a certain extent), saddle, seatpost, luggage options and so on. This, of course, means that the bike has to be made to order and you’re looking at a lead time that is likely to be in the order of 2-3 months. Colours can be chosen from a fairly long list at extra cost. Brompton are a one size fits all – different rider heights are accommodated by moving the saddle up and down while a telescopic seatpost is available if the standard one is not long enough. Of course, seat height is not all there is to bicycle geometry – if you’re tall you might want to test ride to make sure you can live with a reach that is going to be relatively short for you.

The particular model we have is the 2-speed Superlight (titanium forks and rear triangle) with mudguards. You can get it with a titanium seatpost too.

There are a few things that seem a bit peculiar at first, like the combination of a 3-speed hub gear with a 2-speed derailleur to achieve six gears. Or the very recognisable shape. Or the ingenious fold. None of these things are wrong, just a bit odd. This ingenuity and oddness has rightly earned the Brompton lots of design awards as well as a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in both the Innovation and International Trade categories.

The fold seems to be what gets talked about most when Bromptons are discussed. And rightly so. The fold is what it is best at – it’s a “killer feature”. The Brompton fold takes four steps (and the order is important): flip rear triangle under frame, fold main frame tube back on itself to hook onto folded rear triangle, slide seat post down to lock the previous two folds in place and, finally, fold steerer tube in half and click into latch to hold it in place. If you have a folding pedal, there’s an extra step to make the package even more compact.

Doing the steps in the right order takes a little bit of getting used to – not very long. And it’s worth it. This is the most impressive fold I have seen: the most ingenious (it neatly hides vulnerable cables and greasy chain and gears), the most compact (58.5cm x 54.5cm x 27cm), the most solid (everything is locked in place) and the easiest to carry when folded. Important, that last one, as I know from experience with my Dahon Helios that you actually end up spending a lot of time carrying the bike folded. Because the inside pedal is folded away (if yours has this option) and the weight is centred to the right of the saddle, this bike is remarkably easy to carry. This was a very pleasant discovery. The saddle ours came with has little ridges under the nose for your fingers to fit in which is a handy detail.

In fact, Brompton are quite good at nifty little details. The shifter and bell combination for example, or the aforementioned folding pedal. The fact that the fold is locked and won’t come undone, not even a little. The rear triangle is locked in place when unfolded on our model as well, which means carrying the bike unfolded – down a flight of stairs, for example – doesn’t mean the rear triangle keeps kicking into you like it used to on older models. The first part of the fold – flipping the rear triangle under the frame – allows the bike to be “parked”. Brompton have the best thought out luggage options out of any folder too: there’s the bag that clips onto the (custom) bracket on the steerer tube and the custom rear rack. “Custom” meaning: “buy from Brompton” and “not cheap”. Robust, though.

If you are planning on buying accessories for your Brompton, such as bar-ends, or lights, think carefully where you are going to put them before you buy. Everything on a Brompton – and this is true of any folder – is positioned where it is for a very good reason: so as not to hamper the fold. You might find that your bar ends or lights will not fit quite where you’d like them.

The ride, then. As I mentioned above, this is where I feel there’s a bit of compromise. Having 16in wheels enables a tighter fold, but they don’t roll over irregularities as easily as larger ones. Sure, this is soaked up by the rear suspension, but this and the stemless design do make for a slightly twitchy feel. This is especially noticeable if you’re going slowly – low speed manoeuvring feels different than on other bikes. At higher speeds this is hardly noticeable; you can quite happily zoom down hills with confidence. Just to put this in context, one bloke has successfully ridden Paris-Brest-Paris on a Brompton – a 1,200km (750 mile) ride that has to be completed in under 90 hours; it’s a fully functional full-size bike.

In terms of components, in my opinion their quality does not reflect the price of this bike. This is obviously not where the money goes. Gear changing is a bit sloppy and lacks immediacy, braking is adequate but not impressive, the brake levers don’t feel ergonomic and are quite far away from the bars for somebody with relatively small hands like me. I can’t comment on the build quality of the wheels – while I had no problems, I didn’t have the bike for long enough to make a judgement on this. As a side note, the version with 2 gears (74in and 54in) is not really appropriate for hilly areas. I would assume that the six-gear version, especially in the -12% variation, would be more than adequate.

I also have to say that I had a couple of mishaps with this bike. The first was that the nut and bolt that holds the shock dampener onto the rear triangle came loose, and “unheld” the aforementioned. Not a big problem – the local bike shop had a nyloc nut that fitted.

The second problem was that the nut and bolt that holds the jockey wheel on the chain tensioner came off, sending the jockey wheel flying. Unfortunately, this is not a standard part and required a trip to a Brompton dealer. Both incidents rendered the bike unrideable for the rest of that journey. In its defence, the test bike we were sent was not new and, I would imagine, has been shipped around the place for various people to test it. I will put the jockey wheel issue down to the lack of a regular service and assume this wouldn’t happen to a regularly bought Brompton.

On the whole the Brompton is a really neat package – especially if the fold is as important to you as the ride. I would recommend the Brompton to anyone who wants to speed up their journey to and from train stations or wanting to cheat the traffic by driving part of the way and doing, for example, the inner city bits by bike. The Brompton has the smallest fold out there, so if space is at a premium, this is the folder for you.


A really neat package – especially if the fold is as important to you as the ride

Shoe review

Bontrager RXL race shoes

Survived the kirroughtree 10 and 20+ hellish mud miles and still look disco White.

Stiff with carbon sole but once on I never notice them once in the race – super comfy and very light. Bought them reduced from £139 to £65 but would have been good at orig price (and maybe in black)