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 🙂

Harrogate Hosts the Worlds!

This post is a bit late as the announcement was made weeks ago but I feel it deserves a post; even if it is overdue!

Harrogate, my adopted home town, has been announced as the host town of the 2019 UCI Road World Championships.

This announcement came at the 2018 Worlds in Tirol, Austria.

When the announcement came it wasn’t a complete surprise due to the fact that that the Grand Depart in 2014 and the Tour de Yorkshire drew, and continue to draw, massive crowds and support from the locals in Yorkshire.

From a tourism point of view, coupled with the Tour de Yorkshire, the Worlds are a great opportunity to raise the profile of Harrogate, and Yorkshire as whole, within Europe and the world due to the televised coverage and sheer amount of varied nations competing. Harrogate has a population of around 70,000 and as the centre town of the World Champs it is expected that the number of tourists could be circa 500,000. Coupled with that the stats from the Bergen world champs in 2017 show that there was a boost of around €25,000,000 from tourists and €4,000,000 from teams and media to the local economy. If Harrogate can get close to that boost then that will prove to be a successful week of events. (https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/opinion/richard-spencer-how-harrogate-is-gearing-up-to-welcome-cycling-s-world-elite-1-9366582)

Further to that, the television coverage of road cycling through the likes of Eurosport, ITV and the European Networks, present the region and history as well as the race. This proves to be an excellent postcard for the region as a whole;  so there is a possibility that this will entice further tourism in the subsequent years.

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View from Greenhow

The Routes

As Yorkshire has hosted the Grand Depart in 2014 and annually hosts the Tour De Yorkshire there are a plethora of roads, lanes, bergs and climbs that could be used for a world championship course. The organisers could quite honestly say that they were spoiled for choice!

Mens Elite:

The Mens Elite road race starts in Leeds and ends with a 7 lap circuit around the streets of Harrogate and the distance is 285km.

The route looks as though it takes (a lot of) inspiration from the first stage of the Grand Depart of 2014 as it starts in Leeds and heads out via Otley, Ilkey and Skipton after which it heads out towards the Yorkshire Dales. At this point, the climbing begins with Cray, Buttertubs and then Grinton Moor. At this point it swings round and races through the flat-lands back towards Harrogate and the 7 circuits of the centre of town.

This route, compared to Tirol, will probably favour a one day classics type of rider such as Sagan or Van Avaermaet, maybe even Cavendish or Degenkolb if they can hold on over the climbs or bridge back after them, rather than an out and out climber as the route is relatively flat after Grinton. It could also prove to be a day for a break away if they can get away over the climbs. I’m thinking of something along the lines of Stephane Rossetto’s 115km solo breakaway win at the TdY in 2018 on the final Queen stage.

One disappointment for this route would be that it is a carbon copy of the Grand Depart stage – minus the 7 laps of Harrogate. I feel that they could have devised an original route that would have been as much, or more, of a challenge than this. However, the organisers know that the route was popular and you would suspect that they are wanting to recreate the crowds on the route.

Full details of the men’s Elite can be found here: https://worlds.yorkshire.com/the-races/men-elite-road-race/

Women’s Elite Race

The Women’s Elite Race takes place on the 28th of September and begins in Bradford. The route takes in Lofthouse climb and the long rolling descent into Masham. (https://worlds.yorkshire.com/the-races/women-elite-road-race/)

This stage is quite undulating and will encourage splits I would think. The first real test of the day is Norwood Edge, which is just outside of Otley. This will stretch the legs early on as the bottom of the climb is 16% before it reduces to around 10% near the summit. I think this will cause a few splits. It is conceivable that if a small group, say around 4 or 5 riders, is allowed to get away then it is possible that they could stay away for the rest of the day.

The first real climb of the day could decide the World Champs jersey.

Following this, the race will then take in Nidderdale; heading over to Summerbridge and along on to Pateley Bridge. They will then run along the reservoirs towards Lofthouse to take on Lofthouse climb.

Dacre
Dacre, Nidderdale

Lofthouse climb is the big one of the day. If, as I’ve previously mentioned, there is a small group that are already away and they are working well together then they would perhaps try and work together over this as there are no other real tests after the Lofthouse.

In terms of the possible winner of the World Champs; I don’t think there is enough climbing for the winner to be a pure climber. The route has been ran before and the last winner was Lizzie Armistead. This was in 2017.

The 2017 route started in Tadcaster and did not take in Norwood Edge so there is that extra element to take into account. However, as the vast majority of the route is the same as the 2017 edition, and there is the added incentive of winning on home roads, I think I would still back Armistead to win.

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Cow and Calf, Ilkley

The final thing I want to touch upon (as I’m not going to preview the U23/Juniors or Team Time Trial/Individual Team Time Trial) is the Mixed Team Time Trial Relay. (https://worlds.yorkshire.com/the-races/team-time-trial-mixed-relay/)

This a brand new concept and the Worlds in Harrogate will be the first time that it is used at World Championship level. Having looked at some of the cycling press when it was announced; it seems fair to say that this relay has received mixed feelings. I think though, that this event is a positive, rather than a gimmick as some feel. It will be a fascinating event that may require an extra dimension of strategy; such as which team member takes on which leg of the relay. As I am not a massive fan of Time Trials, in terms of spectating them, I feel this will pique the interest in the event.

I do however hope that the relay event can be held at events earlier in the calendar where the Men and Women race at the same event as it will probably need tweaking and refining prior to the use at the Worlds.

Not wanting to wish the cycling year away but I am already counting down to the Worlds in Harrogate so lets hope it can deliver the same successes as the TdY and the Tour de France.

Kirkstone Pass and The Struggle

Being from Cumbria and the Lake District you may expect that I have cycled many, if not all, of the Lake District passes.

Given that I started cycling a year or so before I moved away means that, unfortunately, I have not. I am keen to do all of them, if I can; as I have a base up there thanks to my Parents living up there. So I will be ticking them (slowly) off.

This June, when I was visiting the Parents, I took the bike up and decided to do a loop from Penrith over to Windermere and Ambleside. This meant I would be taking in Kirkstone Pass (which I have done before), down the A592 to Troutbeck Bridge, round to Ambleside, up The Struggle to Kirkstone again and then back down around the lake.

The Struggle
The Struggle

The route started out in Penrith and twisted along banks of Lake Ullswater through Pooley Bridge to Glenridding. The views along the lake road are stunning and it is relatively flat. It is better to head out earlier due to the tourist traffic but the views reward it.

Once you are through Glenridding you hit Patterdale and then Hartsop. Hartsop is where the climb begins properly with Brotherswater on your right. As you follow the road snaking along the valley Kirkstone Pass suddenly comes into view; in all of it’s glory.

When you look up Kirkstone, two things strike you:

  1. This looks steep and long.
  2. If we were on the continent this would have multiple hair pins instead of being a road that literally goes straight up.
Kirkstone Pass
The road that doesn’t have hairpins.

The road signs as you begin the climb of Kirkstone show 20% to be the gradient when ascending but I think that is a touch optimistic as the Garmin didn’t go above 16%. Either way though…that’s still steep; as you can see from the pic above. The pic was taken mid-descent after being held up by a car. Definitely worth it for the picture though!

I like the climb from Hartsop to the top of Kirkstone for a couple of reasons:

The first being that it is the best side of the climb to take in the magnificent views. The climb is quite open and there are excellent views of Brotherswater at the bottom, the beck that feeds Brotherswater to the right of the climb and the scree filled fells either side.

The second reason would be that the end game is always visible. There are no nasty little surprises around corners waiting. I find that this really helps with pacing the effort.

Having said that the hardest part of the climb is towards the end, particularly the section from Red Screes car park to the summit, so make sure that you keep something in reserve.

As you crest the top of the climb there are views available out towards Lake Windermere and the Kirkstone Pass Inn on the left.

Lake Windermere in the distance...behind the bike
Lake Windermere in the distance…behind the bike

I then decided to descend via the Windermere road rather than The Struggle, as I would be attempting that later in the day. The descent via the A592 is a nice bit of respite after Kirkstone but the road isn’t in the greatest condition so there is a lot of road buzz. The descent is pretty safe and not technical so it is possible to work up a good speed when descending it. Using it as the ascent to Kirkstone Pass rather than the The Struggle is the easier option too as the gradients are relatively shallow. I also prefer the views from this ascent when comparing it to the The Struggle.

Arriving at the bottom of the descent, it is then a case of following the lake road round to Ambleside. Ambleside is a very bustling little tourist town, nestled on the edge of Lake Windermere. There are plenty of nice cafes to drop; but most importantly: Ambleside is where the ascent of The Struggle up to Kirkstone begins.

Waterhead, Ambleside
Waterhead, Ambleside

The Struggle begins properly at the round about on Smithy Brow, which then merges with Kirkstone Road. I must admit, I wasn’t 100% certain what to expect with the climb. Being born and bred in Penrith I knew what The Struggle was and how steep it is from when I have driven it; but nothing ever prepares you for when you actually tackle a climb on a bike.

Leaving Ambleside and it is immediately steep. At this point, I was thinking “what am I doing?”. However, once I settled in it became easier.

The climb itself is full of peaks and troughs (the widget for the segment is below):

The Struggle

As you can see there are three(ish) troughs and 4 peaks so the key to the climb is take the first part steady and then plug away. When I reached the top of the third peak I thought I was pretty much there but then I saw the final peak, which led to the main road and pub.

The final stretch of the climb is possibly the steepest, it certainly felt that way anyway! It is a real slog to get up to to the summit; and to top it all off there is a double switch back at around 14% or 15% just to remind you who’s boss.

Once at the top there is just the descent from Kirkstone to Ullswater to go. This affords great views of Lake Ullswater and Brotherswater again. I’ve never managed to get a clear run on this descent, there’s always been a car/caravan or LGV tootling down. As it happens I stopped due to the traffic to take in the scenery and grab a picture.

Down Kirkstone Towards Ullswater
Down Kirkstone Towards Ullswater

I was lucky with the weather as it was nice and warm with very little wind. Almost ideal conditions. I’m looking forward to getting back up in 2019 to take advantage and do the ride again; along with a few other passes.

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)

What happened to the Blog, Man?

So; what happened to the Blog, Man?

What a long story that would turn out to be! So I’ll keep it short.

Around July 2017 there was a big change within my Family and since then things have escalated, twisted, turned and got crazy. Whilst this was going on I did try to upload the odd post here and there. I think there was a couple after July.

However, cycling became my escape. This gave me a chance to make sure I wasn’t going crazy under the stress and the pressure of what was happening externally and the forces that were being placed upon my shoulders. It never got a point where it was depression but it was certainly very draining both mentally and physically.

It all started in July(ish) and everything came to a head a few days before Christmas 2017.

As such, I just cycled and enjoyed cycling for the freedom it gave me between July and Christmas.

Thirlmere

I did no events last year. Which is unheard of for me. I try to do at least one big event as it is a focus; but, as mentioned my cycling was escapism. I didn’t structure it and try to train.

I just cycled (and took the occasional picture).

Sunset near Norwood

Last year was not all bad though…In April myself and my Girlfriend bought our first house and in July (at the TdF) my Girlfriend became my Fiance.

Paris

Hopefully there will be more blog posts, events, review posts and a wedding this year too!

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All photos are my own.