Monday, 4 June 2018


Well it's been a couple of years since my last post, and while plenty has happened in that time, I haven't bought any new bikes, well not for myself at least.

I retired in October 2017, and was hugely busy while builders turned the house upside down building a new kitchen and bathroom. I was expecting that once I retired I'd have plenty of time for cycling, whereas the opposite turned out to be the case. Without the regular commute I got out of the habit of riding in poor weather, and when a couple of virus related illnesses (man flu type stuff) laid me low in November and December, cycling was the last thing on my mind. Then of course we had a horrible winter, so the excuses for not getting on the bike were piling up.

So I managed 62 kms towards the end of October, then nothing, until a check up at the doctor's revealed a rise in my cholesterol level, almost necessitating putting me on statins. I managed to fend that off with a promise to eat better and get fit, so on 22nd December I did something I hadn't done for six or seven years; I went for a run around Clapham Common. Must to my surprise I quite enjoyed it although I had to stop every couple of hundred yards. The cold air was hurting my lungs - my lack of fitness meant I was breathing really hard, and it hurt!

I managed 16 runs by mid March and felt a lot better for the efforts. So when a friend at Charlton Athletic mention a 145 mile two day charity ride from the Olympic velodrome in Stratford to Amsterdam (for the charity Prostate Cancer UK), I signed up, partly because I thought the motivation would help get me back on the bike.

I went for a couple of rides on the Enigma Etape 'winter bike' but something went horribly wrong in the saddle department, and a trip to the doctor revealed a haematoma, the doctor jovially diagnosing 'bony bum syndrome' as a probably cause. I'd been using my rather old Swift saddle, and I suspect it needs tightening urgently!

So I almost cancelled the bike I'd booked for our April holiday in Gran Canaria, but when I got there, decided to give it a go.

Perched on a Fabric Scoop saddle I was in agony (well, a bit), and could only manage a couple of short rides. I took the bike back to the hire shop, and they swapped the saddle out for a Cannondale one (a bit more padding), and I was in business. A bit more comfortable, aided by the fact that the haematoma was easing a little. 

Grin or grimace
As usual, the riding in Gran Canaria helped hugely. Cycling uphill for 10kms can't really be replicated in the UK, well not near London at least, and it always improves my riding, despite, or probably because, it's such hard work.

So in all I cycled over 1200kms training for the charity ride.  An 85 mile ride to Harwich on Day 1 was followed by a gentler 54 mile ride from the Hook of Holland to Amsterdam on beautiful bike lanes and paths on Day 2. They wound their way through windswept coastal regions, before diverting inland, often along canal-side paths and roads. And to be honest, I found the riding quite easy. Why, well partly because of the training, but also because my mate Nick at The London Cycle Workshop gave me a lesson in how to eat properly when riding longish distances.

Three years or so back, Nick took me on a ride from London to Brighton and back, on a day when the temperature dropped from about 14 degrees to two degrees. I bonked horribly after 90 miles, and barely made it home. I was shaking like a leaf, and it took me a couple of days to stop feeling wobbly. He told me at the time I hadn't eaten enough, but even then, the penny didn't really drop. 

But the prospect of riding with 'Team Charlton' (this was a charity ride for football clubs) meant I didn't want to let anyone down, so I asked him how much I should be eating, bearing in mind I used to take two or three gels on a long ride and would often come back with one of them still in my pocket. In fact any ride over 30 miles I'd get off the bike with jelly legs, and that got worse the longer the ride.

So his advice was to take a bite of an energy bar every ten minutes or so, not right from the start of the ride, but maybe after an hour. I tried this for the first time on 14th May when I just rode round Richmond Park and Bushy Park and the area in between, for 100kms, the longest ride I'd completed in a couple of years. I couldn't believe it when I got off the bike at the end of it feeling fine. No wobbly legs at all.

And since then it's been the same story. Even the 137kms ride to Harwich left me feeling, well, almost normal. And the next day, I felt as fresh as a daisy by my standards (I ate a couple of protein bars after the ride) and the 54 miles to Amsterdam was fine, except perhaps in the saddle area.

This to me is a major breakthrough. My average speeds have gone up a little, but it's made me realise I could probably go a bit faster if I wanted to. They say the more you ride the easier it gets, or the faster you get. Well combine that with fuelling properly and they're certainly right.It was interesting to see Nick's strategy put into effect so effectively by Team Sky at the Giro, a few days after my first fuelled ride!

By the way, rode to Amsterdam on my Condor Legerro, still my favourite bike so far for road riding.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016


I picked up the new Condor Leggero last Saturday and took it for its first coffee stop, even before the pedals had been fitted. I've ordered some (hopefully) matching blue and yellow Keo Max pedals from Italy, which haven't arrived yet. 

A Julian Cunnington bike fit was part of the deal

With pedals, a 16g bottle cage, and no saddle bag the Leggero weighs around 7.8 kgs
 I'm going to swap my Mavic SLS wheel for the Élites, a slight upgrade

So the big question: What's it like to ride?

To find out I headed off on a ride to Box Hill via Richmond Park and Esher, a trip that I'd completed a couple of times in recent weeks on the Enigma.
So I headed off through Battersea at warm up pace, and right away I noticed how smooth the ride was.But it wasn't until I approached Richmond Park along the rough section of Danebury Avenue that I realised just how smooth. 
I've graded every bike I've ever owned over that strip of low budget, buzzy Tarmac.
The pre-Leggero results:

1. Enigma Étape
2. Vitus 979
3. Rossin Record
4. The rest

I'd almost finished cycling over this rough road surface when I realised where I was. I actually hadn't even noticed it. 
So that was one box well and truly ticked. The Leggero moved into first place.
This is a bike with 'race geometry', but as you can see from the photos, I had spacers stacked under the stem to give me a relatively relaxed riding position, with the hope to gradually remove at least some of them.
I headed out on my route through Kingston and Hampton Court, to Epsom via Sandown Park. I glanced at the Garmin at the hour mark. 25 kms/hr, nicely up on my average. 
And no stiff arms, shoulders or back.

On arriving at the Box Hill café (just under 50Kms in just over two hours) I bumped into James from Condor who greeted me with "I recognise that bike!"

After cake and coffee I headed back down Box Hill, retracing my route home. Right after Box Hill railway station there's Bagden Hill which touches 17%, offering a nice little climbing test.

Disgracefully, after 90Kms, I fell apart in Richmond Park, requiring an emergency stop at the café for lunch. I clearly need to up my mileage.

But the good news is that despite my inadequacies this was clearly the best bike I've ridden. The stiffest for sure; as comfortable as the very comfortable Synapse, and smoother than the super smooth Enigma. It felt really quick too, but to test that I needed to load the ride onto Strava.

Whenever I buy a new bike the predominant feelings I experience are those of guilt and doubt. 

Will it be any good? Will it be worth the money? Have I messed up again!?

So after the ride I knew the Leggero was comfortable and smooth. And it felt fast.
I was hoping to have set a few personal bests on a course that I had 'attacked' just seven days earlier. Praying might be more accurate than hoping.
But I really wasn't expected 54 PBs.
Up Bagden Hill I clocked a pretty slow 6.17, but this was a whole minute faster than my previous week's effort.
Considering how I had crawled home from Richmond Park my average speed of 23.6 kms/hr was decent for me, up from 21.8 the week before when I rode a much shorter route.

But bike riding is about much more than times and segments and data. It's about how you feel on the bike and how the bike looks when it's propped up against a wall while you sip your well earned coffee or tea.
And this Condor Leggero ticks every box for me. 
I have to say, I love it, and I can't wait to get out on it again. And that's the ultimate sign that you've bought the right bike. 
And yes it's nice to go a bit faster.

If all goes as well as I hope, I intend to keep this bike for as long as possible. 
I can have it resprayed in the same livery if it gets too tatty. 
I can upgrade to Dura-Ace eventually.
And maybe get some Mavic Cosmic Carbones to add some extra bling.

And you don't see too many of them around, which for me is a real bonus.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016


Last year I bought my first pair of upmarket bibshorts. I´d been struggling on longer rides and thought maybe a decent pair of shorts might make all the difference. And with L´Éroica coming up I went for this pair of Vélobicci ´Victor´ bibs.
P.S. Not modelled by me obviously.

So I set off for a ride (L´Éroica) a few days later on the the Vitus 979, and about half way through  realised that I hadn´t even noticed the saddle. Now this was a first. Normally by this time I'm spending half the time out of the saddle trying to give my rear end a rest. Wow, I thought, the shorts are amazing - my worries are over!

But only a few days later I wore the same bibs on the Enigma with its Fizik Aliante, and the difference was far less marked. An improvement perhaps, but not the magic carpet ride I´d experienced on the Vitus.

So I assumed it must be the saddle. For the Vitus I bought a beaten up old Brooks Swift on eBay for about thirty five quid.

I´m not sure how old this Swift is. On the Brooks website they say the Swift is ´the youngest gentleman's racing saddle in the Brooks range´, and ´On introduction the Swift was offered only with lightweight titanium rails. However, due to popular demand, since 2008 we also offer the Swift Chrome, with traditional steel underpinnings, finished to our usual high standards with bright polished chromium plate.´

But this saddle looks way older than that, unless it was used every day since 2008?
Maybe it was.

So anyway, I was lucky enough to be offered a titanium railed Swift at a special tester price. 
And it´s now on my comuting bike (the Surly Crosscheck) getting broken in.

It´s a decent 384 grams on my kitchen scales, the lightest saddle in the Brooks range I believe.
So far, as you'd expect with a new leather saddle, it´s nowhere near as comfortable as the ´vintage´ Swift, but is already improving with use.

So with bikes getting lighter and lighter it'd be perfectly possibly to have a Brooks on your super light road bike and still be under the UCI's 6.8Kgs minimum. 

Below are some other classic or well known saddles and their weights. 

The Turbo was considered lightweight back in the day....

Above: The trusty Brooks Professional from my commuting bike.
Weighty, but comfortable!