Shimano RC7 SPD-SL Road Shoes £114.99 (reduced from £169.99).

Towards the back end of last year it was apparent that I was in need of a shoe upgrade as my old pair had developed some additional holes; mainly around the toe area. Which wasn’t ideal.

My, now old, pair of cycling shoes were Bont Riots from around 2015. They were the shoes with the bakeable sole (although I never did that) and had a full carbon sole. I think I paid about £100 for them back then and they lasted me for 4 years; which I think is a very good return. In terms of my comparisons the Shimano’s will be compared to these.

In terms of my search critera I was looking with the following requirements:

  1. Around the £100 mark
  2. Carbon or carbon composite sole
  3. Boa dials (if possible)

Of the three criteria points the first two were the most important.

As many of you are probably aware: It is a bit of a minefield when looking for cycling items when there is so much choice (e.g. bikes, sunglasses, helmets and shoes). With that in mind I started at Bont again and had a look at their updated versions of the Riots. At the backend of last year, when I was looking, these were coming in at £150; so it was back to looking. The Riots did tick a couple of the boxes, mainly the carbon sole and Boa dials.

I looked at other brands such as Fizi:k, Giro and Sidi. I then stumbled across the Shimano RC7 shoes on the Merlin Cycles website.

Shimano RC7 Red
Shimano RC7 Red

When comparing the Shimano RC7 shoes against those of the above brands at this price point, I felt that there was more bang for the buck. The Shimano’s were reduced from £169.99 to £115 and offered a carbon composite sole, Boa dials and were around the desired price point. For this reason I pulled the trigger and bought them.

Excited was an understatement for their arrival.

My old shows were a tired, off white colour with a hole appearing in the toe box. These are a beautiful striking red.

Upon unboxing them I had a look over them and they were perfect. I was a bit anxious about setting up the cleat position on new shoes but in reality there were far more positional markings on the bottom of these then there was on the Bonts. It made setting them up a piece of cake and after a short test ride and minor adjustment we were comfortable.

Painless.

When trying them on for the first time they felt luxurious compared the Bonts. The inner sole felt thicker and softer which was a nice combination; as the Bonts could feel harsh. The Shimano shoes are noticeably narrower than the Bonts. This wasn’t a problem for me fit wise but if you are on the cusp, or do have, of wider feet then I would certainly get the wide fit ones.

I’ve covered about 1500 miles in them this year so far after swapping from the Bonts; once the weather picked up. I am not disappointed by these shoes in the slightest. The sole itself feels less stiff than the Bonts but I feel they are more comfortable; therefore that’s a trade off I’m happy with. As, I do not race I don’t feel I need the stiffest available sole. The sole has a stiffness rating of 10.

The only slight niggle, and it’s not a criticism of the shoes, is if you overtighten the Boa dial and need to release some pressure you have to completely undo the Boa dial by pulling up on it. It doesn’t unwind by moving the dial anti-clockwise.

As mentioned though, this isn’t a criticism of the shoes as on the next model up I believe the Boa dials have that feature. As you know though, I like a bargain and try to stick to a price point so that’s on me not stumping up the extra cash!

Finally then, I would recommend these shoes and at the price point that the sale discount took them down to I would say they are a steal.

Thanks for reading and happy cycling 🙂

Carnac Notus Evo Road Helmet

I have been using this helmet since the beginning of April (I think) so it has been put through it’s paces; as much as a helmet can be.

My previous helmet was a Kask Rapido and it is still in good nick but I fancied a change to something more…aero.

What with all the marketing lingo and jargon about “aero”…I finally fell for the marketing and bit the bullet. I consulted the internet and looked at the Kask Protone, Specialized Evade, Giro Vanquish (minus the plastic goggles) and the Met Rivale.

I then stumbled across the Carnac Notus on Planet X available at the following link: https://www.planetx.co.uk/i/q/HECANOTEVO/carnac-notus-evo-road-helmet . When I found this I (and my wallet) felt duty bound to purchase and review it.

The Notus, as I’ll now refer to it, was purchased from Planet X and I paid £24.99 for it. I believe on their website it has been seen for £50 or even £75. However, for as long as I’ve noticed it I can’t recall it being above £24.99.

Carnac Helmets
Many different colours!

It arrived as expected and as you can see from the picture it has a matte finish. I went for the red and black with white ascents. It is also available in black, green and black, Holdsworth orange, an Astana looking blue and white. From the frontal view, below, there are 5 vents on the front of the helmet and then 4 smaller air intakes on the roof of the helmet.

cof
Unboxed

The Notus also has three vents at the rear to act as exhausts allowing the air to be channelled through the the helmet and out of the exhausts. It aims to do this in the most efficient way possible to reduce the drag that the air flow creates.

In terms of weight the Notus is listed as 300g for the 58cm – 61cm size (large). I purchased the 56cm – 58cm and the weight of that is 277g according to the electronic weighing scales (of truth). Within the helmet it did list a weight of 255g (+/-10g) so it is a touch over the claimed weight. To put that in context; I think the Kask Rapido is around 245g. In real terms that is a negligible weight difference and in all honesty I couldn’t tell the difference when I actually was wearing the helmet.

I used the Notus all through the British Summer, which was surprisingly toasty this year. I found the ventilation to be more than adequate during those balmy 25 – 30 degree C days and wasn’t craving the extra vents that the Rapido has.

The adjustment on the Notus is also very good with an adjustment dial on the rear of the helmet like most major brands and models. This offers around 100mm of travel which should be ample adjustment for just about anyone. The Notus also has anti-bacterial pads as all helmets do these days.

Safety rating wise, the Notus conforms to CE EN 1078 CPSC; which is the standard within the EU I believe. It does not have MIPS as some higher end model helmets do have. However, given the price I would not expect it to come equipped with MIPS and I’m happy with the safety standards it adheres. Given that the UK is still within the EU it could not conform to that standard.

The only negative points I can give is that I like to wear the helmet quite tightly and unlike the Kask Rapido, it can leave a “V” on my forehead due to the pressure exuded on the anti bacterial pads in the front of the helmet. This subsides after about 15 minutes but you would look a little silly if you removed it at a cafe and you appeared with these marks on your head when ordering from the Waiter/Waitress.

As you may notice from the pictures above; the Carnac Notus Evo bears a striking resemblance  to the Specialized Evade helmet. It is almost identical. As we all know, imitation is best form of flattery but I can’t imagine that Specialized will have been overly pleased that their design has been so closely replicated.

As has been widely reported the Evade is very aerodynamic. Planet X doesn’t offer any concrete claims of how aerodynamic the Notus is. I also do not have a wind tunnel so cannot test against the Kask Rapido I have. I think it would perhaps be best to err on the side of caution regarding how many watts it may save you. I feel that it is more aerodynamic than the Rapido but could not say with any amount of confidence that it “would save me “x” amount of watts”.

To conclude then, I think the Carnac Notus Evo helmet is great value from Planet X. It conforms to the relevant EU safety standards and there will be some aero gains to be gleaned from using it over a conventional helmet; no matter how small they may be. If you feel you want an alternative to the Evade due to cost then this would be my go to helmet.

 

Review – Rapha Core Jersey Short Sleeve £55.00 (Sale Price)

As I have mentioned in my previous reviews: I buy all of my own kit.

Therefore, it should be no surprise to anyone reading this review that this is my first piece of Rapha apparel that I am reviewing.

Put simply this is down to cost; not through any brand snobbery.

I actually purchased this jersey (Link: https://www.rapha.cc/gb/en/shop/core-jersey/product/COR01XXYEL) just after Christmas 2017 as my Brother and his partner gave me a Rapha voucher which was very kind and appreciated. I had always wanted to purchase some Rapha kit to see what all the hype was about but with buying a house and saving for the wedding I always had to look at the more financially sensible options.

If you haven’t clicked the link above the jersey is the Rapha Core Jersey in their “chartreuse” colour; which to you and me is Hi-Vis Yellow. At the time of purchase the jersey was on-sale for £55 + shipping. This was reduced from £75 owing to the Christmas sales. As I had a £50 Rapha voucher; this was the lucky garment that was purchased.

Rapha Core Action

Shipping, as you would imagine from a company like Rapha, was flawless and it appeared on the right date. Within the parcel there was obviously the jersey and also the shipping instructions. The shipping instructions and receipt came enclosed within an envelope. So far, so very highbrow compared to Wiggle, CRC, Decathlon, Merlin and Sigma Sports.

Unpacking the jersey and it feels very soft and stretchy. There is very nice detailing on the Rapha logo and the band on the left hand sleeve. This band is actually quite subtle, as is all of the Rapha branding on the jersey. I am a fan of subtle branding as oppose to in your face branding. The seams on the pockets and the zipper on the valuables pocket are all expertly stitched, as you would expect. There were also no frayed edges or frayed stitches.

In terms of the sizing I ordered a medium and it came out just right. The arm length and also the torso length of the jersey were excellent. Rapha market this jersey, along with the Brevet range, as utilising the “Regular Fit” as oppose to the “Race Fit” in their more performance orientated apparel. I find this to be quite roomy when in the riding position, hunched over the bars and this means that there is a bit of spare fabric that can ride up slightly.

Rapha Fit

The pocket sizes are very reasonable and quite deep. However, their positioning is just plain wrong. Yes, they are on the back (which is obviously where they should be), however they are too far up the back which means that it is not easy to get things in the pockets when packing before a ride if you are wearing the jersey. If you struggle to get things in when packing the pockets pre-ride; then I can atest that it is just as difficult to get things out of the pockets if you are on the bike and reaching for a gel, for instance. If you are stopped and off the bike then it is easier but I don’t want to be stopping everytime I want to get something out of a jersey pocket. The valuables pocket is a useful pocket. However, it is a squeeze to get my Huawei P9 in it but for keys, credit cards and coins it’s fine.

So now for the not so good: as mentioned; the pockets. Not a fan at all due to the ridiculous placement of them. I am not double jointed in my shoulders or elbows; maybe if I was I’d find them easier to access. Along with that though the front hem doesn’t have a gripper which means that the jersey rides up at the front so I need to pull it when going from the drops to the “hands on the flats for climbing” position. Coupled with that; when you try to zip the jersey back up, if it has been unzipped for ventilation, then the jersey rides up as there is nothing for it grip when pulling the zip up. This can be quite an annoyance.

Conclusion:

This is a quality garment in terms of workmanship and materials. The breathability is good and the fit is excellent. If ever so slightly coming up on the larger side. However, it is let down by a number of small yet essential details such as the pocket placement and lack of front hem gripper. As this is the case I don’t think I would be happy to pay the full retail price of £75. To be honest, had I not had the voucher I don’t think I would have been happy to pay the £55 sale price.

In short…probably a 6.5/10 (no voucher and sale price) or a 7/10 (with voucher and sale price)

Review: Lifeline Heart Rate Transmitter

Training.

No matter which way way you look at it you need something to be able to measure your efforts against. Be that cadence, heart rate or power.

Unfortunately I am not lucky enough to have a Power Meter so I measure by heart rate (zones) and cadence. I find this method, although not precise, gives me enough scope to train by.

As this is the case it is essential I have a heart rate monitor; so after my Garmin HRM died after 4 years of impeccable service I decided to purchase the Lifeline HRM from Chain Reaction Cycles.

Links for HRM:

http://www.chainreactioncycles.com/lifeline-heart-rate-transmitter/rp-prod155469 

http://www.wiggle.co.uk/lifeline-heart-rate-transmitter/ 

There was 3 considerations for this purchase when looking at Heart Rate Monitors:

  1. Cost
  2. ANT+ compatibility (for the Garmin head unit)
  3. Cost (again)

With those strict criterion I plumped for the Lifeline Heart Transmitter. The service was top notch once again from Chain Reaction Cycles so here’s a short review of the Heart Rate Monitor itself.

IMG_20170724_095638_990
The Garmin Team in Paris. What HRM’s do we think they use?

 

The Heart Rate Monitor is a soft strap with 2 pads on the inside that you dampen with water before putting on. The strap is soft and stretchy as you would expect. One of the main annoyances of the strap is there is no “L” or “R” on the pads on the inside. For most people this wouldn’t be annoying. However, for me this was not ideal…mainly for troubleshooting (more on that later).

Pairing with the Garmin (I had a 500 when I started using the strap last July and got a 520 in the New Year sales) was very straight forward and it was always picked up as soon as it was put on the body and the Garmin was switched on.

During the rides the heart rate was transmitted without fault and never dropped out. The strap was comfortable on the skin also and could be adjusted to get the perfect fit.

HRM Strap

So far, so good…

Now for the not so brilliant:

Having used this strap since July 2017 (very almost August) I have gone through two. The first one failed towards the end of November. Chain Reaction swapped this out, which was good of them. The second one failed again this last week. Around the 3/4/2018.

So; in around 8 months I have had two die on me in this period with the same issue. The issue was that the clips that the HRM Transmitter clips on to the strap. The metal corroded and rusted on both causing it to stop working. (Picture below minus the corrosion). In trying the trouble shoot I switched batteries, switched the strap around and changed the orientation of the of Transmitter on the strap (hence no “L” or “R” lettering made this confusing) and then tried to reset the transmitter by unravelling a paperclip and placing it on the metal nodes.

None of these worked so the unit was well and truly dead.

hrm.jpg

I have now decided to bite the bullet and buy a Garmin Heart Rate Monitor to replace this. Chain Reaction gave a full refund but the hassle of contacting Customer Services and then waiting for a new one to be dispatched is not worth it.

I paid £24 for the Lifeline HRM and I would have to say that due to the issues I have had I would steer clear and pay the extra for a Garmin/Wahoo/Polar (delete as applicable) heart rate strap as I believe that these will last longer. The last Garmin HRM I had lasted 4 years and was corrosion free.

Hope you found this useful and it helps some people.

 

 

 

 

Team Garmin photo and article header photo are mine.

 

Chamois Creme – Group Review

Since I have been cycling seriously I have found the need to have Chamois Creme. Now, admittedly, I am not using “elite level” cycling shorts; I’m thinking anything over £100 + e.g Assos or Rapha. (Although, if anyone wants to lend me some to review; I would, more than happily, take up the challenge.)

Chamois Creme can be a bit of a hot topic in terms of whether it should be used and how it should be applied. I won’t be going into the application; just the positives/shortfalls of the product.

Also, just for the sake of clarity, these were all bought by myself rather than being given to me so there is no bias on my part.

There are 4 different products that I have used. These are Chapeau Menthol, Chapeau Original, Udderly Smooth and Paceline Products Chamois Butt’r (Euro Style).

Chapeau Chamois Creme Menthol – £11.99 

The first of Chapeau’s two offerings. This is my local bike shops stock hence the 2 different versions that have been tried.

At £11.99 (slightly more at the LBS) this is mid range of the creams I have tried and in all honesty I was disappointed by it.

I found this cream, although it had a nice fragrance, was very thin and did not really last that long. I don’t know whether that is because it is in a tube rather than a tub but whatever the cause; it didn’t last long, And I wasn’t being overly liberal.

In terms of feel, it is very thin and was greasy more than viscous which wasn’t a nice feeling. Futhermore, the menthol flavour/feeling didn’t really come through so that was not as advertised. Or at least, didn’t live up to expectations.

This is not a product I would consider buying again and would probably rate it around a 3/10.

chamois_cream_menthol_1
Chapeau Menthol

Chapeau Chamois Cream – Original – £11.99

Another LBS special.

Now I must admit, I got this Original and used it and when that had finished decided to get the Menthol.

That, as I’m sure you will have guessed, means that I didn’t think that this version of the cream isn’t that bad.

In terms of differences between the Menthol and the Original the obvious difference is the lack of Menthol-ness. However, and the crucial difference is…it’s much thicker. Which is fantastic.

In terms of smell and feel it is streets ahead of the Menthol version. As it is much thicker it seems to last so much longer and as a result I was actually using less during application than the Menthol but was having better results.

Once again, it is in tubular form and I feel that it runs out quicker than a tub…but that may all be in my head.

Far better than the Menthol and if I was out of my preferred option and had no access to the internet/any other brands in the LBS then I would use it; but only if all else fails.

5/10

chamois_cream_original_1
Chapeau Chamois Cream Original

Udderly Smooth – £8.90 (Wiggle)

The Udderly Smooth chamois cream is an odd one. It was first developed for use on livestock, hence the name, Udderly.

As that is the case, I wasn’t sure what to really expect.

Upon opening it up it has a very distinctive, almost sterilized, surgical smell which threw me a bit. Once you get over the smell and actually dip your fingers in it is almost more solid and pliable. It is certainly less viscous but not runny in the slightest. That is comparing to the others.

The colour of the cream is white and if you put it on and then stick your shorts on there can be white looking stains coming through the lycra. Although, once applied the surgical smell is not present. It does however miss the tingle.

When actually in use the cream performs admirably and lasts well without a need for reapplication on longer rides.

This outperforms the Chapeau and is slightly less expensive than Chapeau’s offerings; whilst being in a tub, which is another positive.

In terms of the amount needed, there was less required which meant this goes further than the Chapeau.

Verdict: 7/10.

Udderly Smooth
Udderly Smooth

Paceline Chamois Butt’r Eurostyle – £13.99 (Wiggle)

The Paceline offering is the stand out performer and is my preferred chamois cream (not sponsored, purchased through my hard earned cash). There are a number of reasons for this.

Firstly, the smell is much more endearing than the Udderly Smooth and the Chapeau. The Chapeau Menthol does come close but the Paceline has a stronger menthol smell which I do like.

Secondly, with it being “Eurostyle” it is menthol which means that there is a tingle which is a nice feeling. Particularly on a cold winter’s morning. The consistency is also on the more formed side of viscous but it is still pliable. Also, a little seems to go quite a long way meaning that the tub actually lasts quite a while.

Finally, although this is the most expensive that I have tested, this comes with a significant increase in quality and there have been no saddle sores/need of reapplication on longer rides.

Verdict – 9/10

Paceline-Products-Chamois-Butt-r-Eurostyle-8oz-Chamois-Cream
Paceline Chamois Butt’r Eurostyle 8oz Chamois Cream

Conclusion:

Paceline’s offering is the best I have used and is now my go to product. If I was on a budget I would use the Udderly Smooth. However, the difference in quality is quite noticeable.

As Saddle Sores are a pain in the ass (excuse the pun) I would rather pay ever so slightly more for better quality. However, it is worth pointing out Udderly was better than the more expensive offerings from Chapeau.

As I have mentioned, I am not sponsored and buy these products out of my pockets. This explains why the Assos chamois cream, Rapha, Muc Off & Castelli creams have not been tested. Due to the cost of these, £15 + per tub/tube for a smaller tube/tub than what I tested, I could not justify paying more money for less product.

Basic economics, unfortunately.

Hope you find this useful!

Any questions give me a shout back.

Review: Power Race Mirage Sunglasses

New Sunnies; everyone loves a pair!

Due to an unfortunate break in the arm of my “current” (no longer) pair of sunglasses I was on the hunt for a new pair.

Being based in the UK I had quite an exacting list of requirements for these sunglasses:

  1. Multiple lenses
  2. Good looking
  3. light
  4. Under £30 (Inc delivery).

Given these requirements it meant that my choices were quite limited both in terms of retailers and brands.

In terms of retailers I narrowed it down to Planet X. Planet X are a Sheffield and Rotherham based independent cycle retailer. They pride themselves on offering good products at low prices due to their direct to consumer business model.

I, personally,  like Planet X. I do not order a great deal through them but when I have I have not been disappointed. I know that Planet X can suffer in the UK from brand snobbery but as I’m on a budget (house purchase in the process) at this current time I cannot be too picky.

Planet X do tend to have left field brands every now and then and this is certainly the category that these glasses fall in to.

Let me present: the Power Race Mirage:

Power Race Glasses
Power Race Mirage

(Apologies for photo quality)

The glasses I went for were £15.00 (inc delivery) and come with a cleaning cloth, case and 4 sets of lenses. In terms of lenses you get clear, mid level tinting, dark tinting and polarized lenses.

Box contents
What’s in the Box?

The frame itself is made of “unbreakable” (we’ll see how long that lasts) Grilamid TR90 injection moulded thermoplastic. The frame feels very light and in comparison to my other glasses, I felt like I wasn’t wearing any. Likewise, the fit is perfect and the arms do not feel like they dig in at all behind the ears; even on 3 + hour rides.

4 lenses are a bonus, however, being in Yorkshire I have only used dark tint (in the frame in the photo’s) and the clear lenses. The dark tint has a coating to reduce the glare from sunlight on wet roads and that works excellently. The clear lenses are just that, clear lenses. Nothing more to say about them really.

In terms of lens performance on the bike I have not suffered from any steaming up when hammering it up steep climbs. This is down to the vents that are cut in to the lenses. They are placed perfectly to stop steaming up and you also do not feel any air on the eyes from through the vents.

The nose piece has serrations so the sweat does not build up under it and between your skin. I found this to be useful as I didn’t feel as greasy at the end of the ride in that region. The grip offered by the nose piece was also excellent as they are yet to slip off.

The frames are available in 4 other colours:

  1. Astana (Yellow and Blue)
  2. Red
  3. Red and Blue
  4. Black and Blue

I went for the Fluo Green and Red because they were the cheapest…and it also helps that I like green and red!

The only downside to the glasses are the lack of instructions about how to change the lenses. The instructions are typically Italian, flowery language that lacks actual usable information. I had a quick check on YouTube and also couldn’t find anything useful. After careful testing and practice it is done by bending the frame lightly (there’s inbuilt flex) and popping the lens out. I’ve got it down to a minute to change which is quick considering it took me 10 mins the first time!

The link for the glasses is: http://www.planetx.co.uk/i/q/CLPRMIRA/power-race-mirage-cycling-glasses

In conclusion I would give these glasses a good 9/10 due to the excellent price these can be picked up for, the build quality and the lens selection that the frames are bundled with.

Excellent for cyclists on a budget!

 

The link for Power Race’s official site: http://www.power-race.it/en/

Shimano Tiagra 4700 Groupset Review

For winter 2015/2016 it was back on to the trusty winter steed which is a Scott Speedster S55. This was actually my first road bike that got me into cycling and I kept it once I went carbon.

The Scott Speedster originally came with a mix of of unbranded and Shimano Sora 8 speed from 2012. For anyone wondering, this means that the shifters had the thumb shifters on the inside of the shifter itself to move down the rear sprockets or to the small chainring at the front.

I actually used this set up in the winter of 2014/2015 after being on Ultegra all summer. However, the whole groupset, by the end of the winter was tired and required replacement.

The first real decision was going to be whether to go for Shimano 105 5800 or Shimano Tiagra. Before Shimano Tiagra 4700 was released it was going to be Shimano 105 5800 hands down! Firstly, because the crankset on looked like a bloody silver dinner plate; and secondly, the cables couldn’t be routed under the bar tape. However; when 4700 was due for release and the first pictures were released it appeared that these two of my major grievances had been rectified. Therefore, I plumped for Tiagra, even though 105 5800 was only £30 more.

Once ordered in I got VeloHeads in Harrogate to fit it and service the bike. The finished article was this:

DSC_0356               DSC_0355           DSC_0357

IMG_20151021_221928

The first looks when picking it up after fitting were striking. The whole bike looked a lot cleaner in terms of lines and also components. The cables from the shifters and brakes being routed under the bar tape gave the bike a more cleaner cockpit. Also losing the thumb shifters was a very welcome site. Moving down the bike to the crankset and, again, the visual improvement is nothing short of fantastic thanks to the four arm spider and the black (rather than silver/grey of the previous groupset). Along with the new groupset I had some SKS Blumels installed for winter to try and reduce grit and general crap getting into the front mech and generally covering myself too.

Performance

Having been using my Ultegra 6800 equipped Cube Agree GTC Race all summer I was quite looking forward to getting back on the winter bike and with the thought of a new groupset I knew it wasn’t going to be as bad as the previous winter.

To put this into some context this groupset has been on my winter bike since November and I have ridden it through until the 2nd week of March so it has had everything that the British winter could throw at it.

The first I noticed that is a massive improvement, particularly over the old Sora, is the ergonomics of the shifters. They seemed to be far more comfortable and over longer rides this made for a far more comfortable experience. Along with that, losing the thumb shifters made the gear shifting process far easier and more comfortable.

The whole Tiagra groupset really did exceed my expectations. And it didn’t just pass my expectations in a small manner. No, it really made a great impression on me.

Over the whole winter, the only thing that I needed to adjust on the groupset was adjusting the cable tension on the front derailleur. The rear derailleur never missed a beat and I never had to readjust it. After being set up, the groupset was pretty much maintenance free. I found it to be very reliable and it ran and ran and ran.

In terms of the shifting performance, the shifts were crisp and precise. Never missing a gear or mis-selecting. In terms of the feel it was positive but quite a heavy gear change, particularly on the front chainrings. (I am only comparing that to the Ultegra that  I had just come off.)

The one thing that I was really looking forward to testing out was the Tiagra brakes as I had read that they increased braking performance by a whooping 30%! Unfortunately the brakes were too short in the caliper arm by 5mm for my frame and I needed the long drop version. Therefore, I cannot pass any comment on these.

Conclusion

Shimano Tiagra 4700 has had a massive leap forward with this latest release and in all honesty it is not a million miles away from Ultegra 6800. A lot closer than i was expecting in fact.

If I was to buy a winter bike again I would definitely look for it to come with Tiagra 4700 because it just keeps going and it is economical. It would not cost a great to replace parts if I threw the bike down the road on some ice for instance.

Obviously, for a summer bike I think I would prefer something slightly lighter and quicker shifting. This would be Ultegra but for winter I really can’t fault the Tiagra.

 

The Castelli Gabba 2 (All Hail The Gabba)

Wow.

That is the verb I would choose to most fully describe the Gabba 2.

At this point I feel it is important to nail my colours to the flag regarding kit and cost. Firstly, having moved to Yorkshire 2 years ago the county has rubbed off on me as I look for value for money from my kit purchases. Secondly, I will look at reviews of multiple similar products to try and ascertain whether or not there is something on the market that does a comparable job at a cheaper price.

Anyway now that is out of the way back to the review.

Having ordered the Gabba 2 for a good price around the Black Friday sales. The perfect time of the year to put it through it’s paces.

When it arrived it was delivered in it’s own separate box (?!).

It is clear that this is not just a jersey.

DSC_0388
Rosso Corsa – Castelli’s Premier Line

When I ordered the Gabba 2 I went up one size from what I normally wear (in cycling terms). This for me meant I was going for a size Large. When I was opening it up the Gabba looked very small so I was a bit apprehensive and thought, for a split second, that I should have gone for an XL.

When I put it on those worries were allayed as it was the perfect fit. The Gabba 2 is cut in a performance fit and is the best fitting jersey/jacket I have. There is absolutely no excess material on the arms, shoulders or body that flaps about in the wind which makes for a reduction in drag. In terms of fit I cannot fault this jersey at all.

For the first real test of this jersey I waited for it to rain and be windy. In other words, foul weather. That wait did not prove to be a long one being based in Yorkshire. In November.

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Rosso Corsa – Castelli’s Premier Line

As I left the house and got on to the bike my first thought was “wow, this is cosy”. As a result of the windproofing absolutely nothing was getting through. I only had a long sleeve base layer on underneath and it was the perfect temperature. The ambient temperature outside was around 7-8 degrees C to put that in some context.

My main concerns on the first ride were A) not being warm enough but as I was rolling down the hill that was never going to be an issue. And B) getting far too warm to the point where I would boil.

The first ride, and subsequent rides that I have used this on, have been undertaken at a good tempo as they have been training rides. As the first ride went on the idea of taking off the long arms never crossed my mind as I was at a very comfortable temperature and during any efforts the Gabba 2 was breathable enough for me not to overheat.

The rain repellency  was very good during the intermittent showers and hail that I encountered. These were not for prolonged periods (only around 30 – 40 mins) and it coped admirably with the water hitting the material and beading dripping off, or staying stationary, but not absorbing.

Obviously, this is not a fully waterproof garment and as such will not keep you dry in heavy persistent rain. When this has been the case I have worn a rain cape over the top of it. Even in 2.5 hours of heavy persistent rain, when the rain cape was breached, the Gabba 2 kept me dry and warm.

The storm flap on the back of the jersey would be very useful if I did not have full mudguards on my winter bike as it fully covers the behind when on the bike.

Having been on subsequent rides, particularly, in changeable conditions and unseasonably warm conditions (14 degrees C in December?!) this jersey is immense with the breathability and ability to remove the arms. It really does give it an excellent window of usability in terms of both temperature and also weather conditions.

In conclusion then:

The Gabba 2 convertible is an excellent jersey that really is (almost) do it all. It feels like excellent value for money as it can be used in many conditions and may just be the only jersey that is required during the winter.

The only word I can use to describe it is wow.