Cycling UK » equipment Cycling info - advice and tips Tue, 17 Dec 2013 18:15:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Speedplay Pedals Long Term Review Wed, 13 Feb 2013 08:49:05 +0000 I started using Speedplay pedals back in 2006. I wrote a review in 2008 of the pedals; this is an updated review after owning three pairs for several years.


Speedplay pedals are very good to ride on. They took a little bit of getting used to (like floating on ice is common feeling), but now I don’t want to go to any other system. They are light, small and easy to use. I’ve never had any problems when actually cycling with them, and since pedalling is so important, this makes me want to like them and overcome any faults they may have.  The main drawback of Speedplay pedals is that they have been an expensive choice. In particular, they are more prone to long-term maintenance problems. Twice I’ve had to throw away a pair because the internal bearings seized up. Speedplay say this can be avoided by regular maintenance – using grease gun and lube. But, this is something I started doing only in 2012. If you do buy Speedplay, it is really essential, you learn to grease and lube.

Why I Switched to Speedplay

My first clipless pedals were the more common Look pedals. The reason I switched to speedplay pedals was:

  1. I had some problems with my knees and (rightly or wrongly) I blamed the Look pedals and the way my movement was restricted. I liked the idea of having a large angle of float that comes with speedplay
  2. I wanted to save weight. Speedplay come in at 205 grams and 150grams for Titanium version. These were the lightest pedals on the market, at the time. However, the gap between the weigh of Speedplay and Look has been reduced with the introduction of new models like the Look Keo. At 240 grams + cleats they offer good value for money at only £39.99
  3. Very aerodynamic – pedal is small surface area.
  4. Cleats are easy to set up. I always found the Look cleats a bit fiddly to get in the right position. If they were slightly out, it could cause problems. Speedplay are much easier to set up because of the greater degree of lateral movement.
  5. Optimal power transference because pedal is encased in shoe with minimal stack height. Whether, there actually is better power transfer, I don’t know. But, it does feel good.

Speedplay X- Stainless Steel


  • Zero to 15 degrees of micro adjustable float
  • Easy cleat set up and adjustment no need to adjust any springs
  • Dual sided entry is good. Easy to get in and dismount. Never had any real problems either getting in or out. Though if you get mud on your shoes, it can become difficult until you get rid of the surplus mud. I once bought the coffee cleats, but found it required too much effort to remember to bring them and use them. They remained largely unused.
  • Very good clearance. Also, they have a low stack height, this means the shoes is closer to the pedal that many other pedal types.
  • 206g total weight. (The titanium pair are 150grams) I use the Titanium pair for racing and the stainless steel for ordinary riding.

Speedplay – Chromoly

  • When I rebuy I will get the cheaper Chromoly version, they are only a few grams heavier, but nearly £40 cheaper. The main advantage of the Stainless steel over the Chromoly is that they look better over time. So for winter training hack it’s not worth it.

Using Speedplay X

I have been very happy with the Speedplay X. They are definitely a little strange when you first test them. But, it is amazing how quickly you can get used to the large float. Cycling with speedplay feels very natural. Some might feel the large degree of float makes it harder when sprinting.

If you want Speedplay with adjustable float – try the Speedplay Zeros. Speedplay say you can use the micro adjustment float on the Zero series to adjust the float to whatever you want.


Difference between Speedplay X and Speedplay Zero


The Speedplay Zero, are essentially the same as the X series, but you can control the amount of float, offering more adjustability and flexibility than the Zero, which are always set to maximum float. The two series are not interchangeable. Speedplay suggest one option is to use the ‘Heel-In’ adjuster so that it didn’t hit the chainstay and to open the ‘Heel-Out’ to the full float. I have to say, I’ve never used the micro adjuster, but it makes sense to prevent heel hitting chainstay.

Drawbacks with Speedplay

1. Cleats Expensive The X Cleats are expensive to replace. £31 at wiggle. I think these are the most expensive cleats. To be fair they do last a long time. I’ve had to replace about three times in six years. I try and avoid walking on cleats, but I find that it is the metal spring in the cleat which wears away first. Speedplay are unique in having the attachment mechanism in the cleat itself rather than the pedal. Hence why they are expensive.



2. Bearing System. Speedplay say that they deliberately choose a more fiddly system to get better performance. They use three bearings and it needs more maintenance than standard pedals. But, they claim the cost of extra maintenance enables them to get a better performance. Because the bearings are more prone to have problems you need to do two things.

  • Grease at Regular Intervals. This means using a grease gun and squeezing in grease into the centre of the pedal.
  • Lube the pedal in between greasing. When it’s wet, it’s advisable to put lube into pedal and also squirt a bit on cleat.

3. Your local Bike shop will have no idea. When my speedplay pedal seized up, I asked several bike shops if they could ‘fix it’. I realised that they had as little idea as me. In the end I decided it wasn’t worth trying to fix the pedal so I bought a new one. This is often an issue more higher end road items. The average bike shop won’t get too many speedplay pedals coming through. You will have to learn the necessary maintenance yourself.

4. You Need to buy a grease gun and use it. For the first four years of using speedplay I just treated it like any other piece of bike equipment – I used it without any maintenance apart from some hopeful quirting of GT-80. I probably did quite well to get so much use on so little maintenance. But, after having forked out £130 for a new pair, I decided to take maintenance seriously. I bought a speedplay specific grease gun, and had fun pushing grease into the pedal.

more on Speedplay maintenance


  • It’s easy to have a bit of a love hate relationship with Speedplay. When they are good, they are very good. When they’re bad, they are very bad.
  • If you want low cost, low maintenance bike equipment, I strongly advise against Speedplay.
  • If you want the best pedals and don’t mind paying the cost and undertaking the necessary maintenance – Speedplay may be the best choice.
  • Pedal choice has always been a personal issue, and it’s worth trying to test out pedals and see which work for you.

Would I buy again?

Yes, I’ve committed to the Speedplay option because in many ways it works for me, and I’m reluctant to start switching over to a new system.  I complain about the price of buying new pedals, but it just makes me more determined to apply the necessary maintenance schedule.

Which is better X or Zero?

Again, because I started with the X (full float) it never made financial sense to switch to zeroes. However, if I started again, I might prefer the Zeros because I would limit the amount of float inwards to stop shoes hitting chainstay.


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Eastpak Kruizer Velow Messenger Bag Review Thu, 26 Jul 2012 04:16:45 +0000 eastpak-bag-kruiser

A review of  the Eastpak Kruiser Messenger Bag.

Usually, when commuting I use panniers. I don’t like cycling for long distances with a messenger bag. But, despite preferring panniers, I do often end up using a bag like this. So I was happy to test for the past few weeks.

It fits around the body fairly easily. The strap is quite wide and comfortable. To adjust the length is fairly easy, though at first it the locking mechanism slipped, leaving me with a long strap. It took a bit of fiddling to keep the strap at the length that I wanted for riding.

I used the bag yesterday to climb box hill with my digital camera on the back to take photos on the way. Overall, it didn’t interfere too much with the cycling it hugged the bottom of the body fairly well, and it was fairly easy to get out the digital camera with the bag still on the shoulder. That is what I look for in bags – ease of use, stuff it in – get it out. The cover of the bag is very easy to use, just flick on or off and the velcro takes care of the rest.

As well as using to carry stuff around, I also used it as a kit bag. I could throw most of my racing stuff and shoes in and took it to a recent time trial. It’s not specifically designed as a kit bag, but it got most of my clothes and shoes in there.


Sizing of Bags

I was testing a medium size. I thought this was pretty big for a messenger bag. If I was buying I would get a small bag. Unless, you really carry a lot on the bag, you will pay more for space you will be unable to use.

Small – Height: 10.2 in Width: 12.6 in Depth: 5.5 in - Volume: 11.5 l Weight: 505g- £60

Medium – Height: 11.4 in Width: 15.7 in Depth: 6.7 in - Colume: 22 l Weight: 695g – £70

Large – Height: 13.8 in Width: 17.7 in Depth: 5.9 in  - Volume: 31 l Weight: 835g – £80


East pak Kruiser

Many different compartments and pockets for the organised. To be honest, my packing philosophy is stuff it in and hope for the best, I’d be unlikely to be organised enough to use these pockets and pen holders. Good idea though.


Eastpak bag

Inside the Eastpak – room for metro pass and other stuff.

Medium size would easily fit a 15 inch laptop. Space for metro card, if you need to use. Would fit a few A4 folders, if carrying.

Kruizer models

Different colour choices available

Would I buy the Eastpak?

I wouldn’t have spent £60 for a messenger bag because I’m not in the market for buying a specific messenger bag. But, now I have it, I’m quite pleased; it makes a very useful bag for taking stuff to races and cycle rides. There are times when I’m carrying a bag at races and events, and it’s convenient to have this messenger bag for that purpose. I haven’t tested too many messenger bags, but this seems to be practically quite good.

I’m not a great fan of the pinkish colour, though I’m not too fussy what it looks like. If I was buying I would choose the blue. I imagine black will be popular. I didn’t test out the visibility strips in the dark, but they look limited.

Who Would buy the Eastpak.

Well obviously someone looking for a top end messenger bag, which places utility above the height of fashion. There are definitely more cool messenger bags out there. This is more to the utilitarian range. Though this is all individual choice.

Note to Manufacturers.

What would really fill a niche in the market is a pannier bag which doubled up as messenger bag. i.e. can attach to bike rack, but also easily sling over the shoulder.


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Best Mini Pumps Wed, 30 May 2012 09:57:45 +0000 A mini pump is an essential thing to carry on any ride. I have a sign by my front door – ‘Don’t forget pump’. So often I have started a cycle ride only to realise I forgot pump and rather than risk being stranded in the middle of Oxfordshire have returned to pick up a pump.

For this reason alone, I like a pump that is attached to bike frame. This means that if you leave it on, it is much harder to forget it. If you have several bikes, you will need to remember to take it with right bike – either that or buy two pumps – one for pocket, and one fitted to road bike used the most.

CO2 Cylinders

One option for those looking to save weight and space is to take CO2 cylinders. I have one of these but have never actually used it. I have to admit been worried I would use the gas to inflate the tyre, but then have to deflate and start again, but, then having no gas left to inflate. Of course, if fix a tyre correctly the first time, this shouldn’t happen. It would be good for race, when you’re trying to minimise weight. I guess you could always take spare cylinders but, it becomes an expensive way to pump up tyres. Also some mini pumps are so small and light, that the difference in weight is not that much.

Innovation Microflate Nano cylinder pump is only £12. Spare cartridges are 2 for £5. It only weighs 26 grams, with cartridge at 16g. It’s head also works for discwheels.

CO2 Cylinders at Wiggle

Mini Pumps

I find mini pumps can be somewhat unreliable and prone to breaking down. If you keep it attached to the bike in winter, check periodically it is working. Also keep the head away from dirt. A good model should have a cap to keep dirt from air hole.


This Lifeline Carbon mini pump is good value. Only £20 and weighing around 85grams. It claims it can inflate up to 120psi (though that is hard work with a mini pump.


The Topeak Rocket Mini Pump


The Topeak Rocket mini pump is probably the best mini pump available for blowing tyres up to 120psi. It comes with a flexible valve extension which you screw on to the tyre valve. Once secure, it’s very effective in converting all your effort into blowing up the tyres. With a bit of effort, you can blow tyres to over 100psi – which is more than enough for most road use.

The great thing about this mini pump is that it can replace a track pump, but still fit into your back pocket. It would be excellent for touring purposes. It’s not much heavier than small mini pumps, but does a much better job in pumping up tyres. This is a good choice, if you want a mini pump to properly inflation tryes, rather than just a 50-70psi to get home.

Topeak Rocket £22 from Wiggle | Full review of Topeak Rocket mini pump

Diago Streamlined Pump

The Diago Streamlined pump looks good and smooth. Works very efficiently. I’ve had problems with mini pumps breaking down after several months use. This seems sturdier than other models. When pumping up tyres, there is a very smooth connection within pump action. I’ve only used for a couple of months, but it retains exactly same strength and rigidity, that not all mini-pumps have. Slightly long compared to other mini pumps, which is a bit of an issue when in back pocket or squeezing into saddle bag But, overall am quite happy.




Lightest Mini Pumps

The Topeak micro Rocket pump weighs only 55 grams. An aluminium version weighs 65 grams, but is cheaper at only £17.99. These pumps are also very small. I keep one in my saddle bag, rather than attached to the bike I’ve used for 3 years, and the pumps have always been reliable. I tend to just use post puncture, but it pumps up enough to get you home.


Which one would I choose? The Topeak mini rocket is best for fitting into saddle bag. I would  advise  the Rocket for any kind of touring where you need greater reliability in pumping up to over 100psi. The flexible valve extension is definitely good because you can damage valve from vigorous pumping.



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Best Ways to Save Weight on A Bike Sun, 04 Mar 2012 17:23:51 +0000 When I was developing my hill climbing bike, I used to spend hours working out the best way to save weight on a bike. I developed a system for calculating the cost per gram saved. Among the best things to change was buying a lightweight saddle and seat post. This offered the best way to save weight for the least money. The most expensive way to save weight would be to do something like upgrade from an Ultegra groupset to a Dura Ace groupset. Here the cost is very high and the weight saving low. Make sure you prioritise and remember to do the most efficient changes first.


Hill climb bike = 5.7 kg
Seat Post:

Deda Elementi Ultra Seatpillar weight 260g only £23.99


Selle Italia SLR XP £53.99 weight 190 grams link

My favourite low weight saddle, is this Tune Kor Vumm. It only weighs 85 grams, and costs £200. However, it is surprisingly comfortable for an 85 gram saddle. So comfortable, I use it for seven hour rides! This was a good value weight saving – 200grams lighter than many standard saddles. See: Tune saddles


A good clincher pair of lightweight wheels. Mavic Ksyrium SL Wheel Set £527.40 weight 1485g link

Wheels are an excellent way to save weight. It is argued that saving weight on wheels count as double. This is due to the fact that when you accelerate rotating weight counts as double. If you can save 1kg from your wheels, it will really make a difference.

For my hill climb bike, I went for a Zipp 202 rear and Lightweight rim / hope hub (350grams). However, this did become quite expensive. Both super-light weight wheels ended up costing a total of £2,000.

Another good wheelset to consider is Zipp 404 – it is a very lightweight wheelset, but very versatile and can be used in time trials / road races.

See further reading on: Lightest road wheels

Tyres / Tubulars

Another good way to reduce weight is through careful choice of tyres / tubulars. The only drawback to getting a super-light weight tyre is that this usually means greater risk of punctures. I use Vittoria Evo Corsa tubs for racing. They only weigh 165 grams, but are more susceptible to punctures. If it’s really wet or gritty I’d rather be using the slightly heavier Continental Competition. Best road cycling tyres


Shimano Ultegra offer best value. Shimano Dura Ace will save a few more grams but is comparatively more expensive. To get Dura Ace can be several hundred pounds more.


The lightest pedals are Speedplay pedals. Speedplay Titanium come in at 205 grams cost about £125 link

Other companies have been catching up with Speedplay – Look produce some pedals which are only slightly heavier than Speedplay now.


Carbon Fibre offer a lightweight range of frames, but, some Aluminium and Scandium frames are not much heavier and are generally cheaper. Having said that carbon fibre frames seem to be coming down in price.

Low weight Cables.

Nice and easy way to reduce weight. Use specific low weight cables which save a few grams

Carbon Stems / Handlebars

If you are running basic aluminium handlebars and stems, switching to light carbon fibre components, can help save considerable weight (at least 300grams) for a relatively good value trade.

Free ways to reduce weight on a bike

  • Run single chain ring (see pic above) – or even use Fixed bike with no gears.
  • Remove handlebar tape
  • Drill holes (like 1970s riders used to do) Note: not advisable with carbon fibre!
  • Cut down stems (making sure you keep minimum height in frame to prevent stress.
  • Make your clothing lighter (not really bike, but it is same difference. (e.g. cutting off excess straps on your cycle shoes)
  • Make sure cables are not unnecessarily long.
  • You can always go on a diet!

 How Important is saving weight on a bike?

  • Alpe D’Huez 14 km distance
  • average gradient of 8.1% (max gradient 10.6%)
  • Height gain 1071 metres
  • power 400 watts
  • 1Kg saved = 24.16 seconds.
  • Save 2.2 kg off your bike and you will go up Alpe d’Huez about a minute faster!


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10 Tips for Avoiding Punctures Mon, 23 Jan 2012 11:27:54 +0000 Split Tyre

This Continental 4000- split and punctured on a ride- I had to put new inner tube and ride home like this! If I had been clever, I would have founded strong leaf to improvise some protection between tyre and inner tube. But, I only thought of that after I luckily got home.

If I listed the biggest irritations of cycling, I would say that getting a puncture would be pretty high up.  Firstly the most common reasons for getting a puncture.

  • Tyre not put on properly (inner tube caught between rim and tyre)
  • Thin, cheap tyres much more likely to puncture.
  • Worn tyres with cracks in.
  • Rear wheel more likely to puncture
  • More likely to puncture in wet.

These are some tips for avoiding punctures.

1. Puncture Resistant tyres.

Unfortunately, at the moment it is hard to get completely puncture resistant tyres for road bikes. For some bikes you can get solid tyres, which offer a puncture resistant ride, but I wouldn’t want to ride them. When racing I always choose a tyre with good layers of puncture resistance, at least 1 or 2 kevlar belts. For training and even racing, I would rather choose a slightly heavier tyre and have an improved chance of avoiding a puncture. Only on very short hill climbs, will I risk the lightest tubulars.

On my winter training bike, I have an Armadillo Specialized All Condition on the rear, and a Continental Dura Skin on the front. The Armadillo is the most puncture resistant. I put it on the rear because the rear tyre is the most likely to get a puncture. Schwalbe Marathon Plus offer one of biggest resistance to punctures. (puncture resistant tyres)

2. Avoid the grit at the side of the road.

Often on busy roads grit and debris accumulates on the side of the road;  riding amongst all this grit definitely increases the chance of getting a puncture. Don’t feel pushed into the edge, keep an eye on road surface and avoid potential problems. (BTW, don’t ride in gutter, but give yourself a good distance from edge. This gives you room for manoeuvre when avoiding potholes and thorns.)

Also, there have been times, when I’ve got off and walked by  a newly cut thorn hedge which the farmer has kindly left on the road.

3. Put on the tyre properly

The biggest cause of ‘repeat punctures’ is putting on a tyre with tyre leavers. This invariably causes a pinching of the inner tube between rim and tyre. To avoid this, it is important to always put a tyre back on with your hands.

If you have to use tyre leaves, you must check after it has been fitted. When the tyre is part blown up, you can check around the rims to make sure there is no inner tube squeezed between the rim. I go around the rim and push the tyre inwards to see any sign of an inner tube. See: How to mend puncture

4. Avoid riding in the rain.

People often find that riding in the rain causes an increased chance of puncture. I think this may be due to the fact that the water reduces friction and makes it easier for grit to penetrate the tyre. I guess no body would choose to ride in the rain unless they can avoid it. But, be prepared for higher risk of puncture.

5. Correct Tyre Pressure

Not sure how much this helps but worth doing for other reasons anyway. See: Correct Tyre pressure.

6. Use New Inner Tubes

I never use a puncture repair kit. I just buy inner tubes in bulk. At least a failed puncture repair is one less thing to worry about.

7. Self Healing Inner Tubes

For MTB’s I recommend these Green slime self healing inner tubes. They are great for automatically fixing any flat caused by thorns e.t.c I don’t use them on my road bike because they are slower.

8. Check Tyres for Wear / Scratches and embedded Grit.

I frequently check tyres for wear. I prefer to replace at early signs of wear. I have seen some riders wear tyres down so much, you can actually see the outer layer is completely gone!

Another good thing to do is to check for pieces of glass that have got embedded in the tyre. I will use a sharp point (nail or similar shape) and flick the grit out. (watch out for your eyes). This prevent the grit getting pushed further into the tyre and causing a puncture at a later date. I usually tolerate one or two scratches in a tyre, but, when they start to look deep or prevalent, I chuck tyre out. Better to replace too early and avoid that puncture!

9. Make Sure there is rim tape on the wheel.

I’ve had two punctures because the rim tape slipped off the centre of the wheel; this meant inner tube was in direct contact with metal rim, and this caused a puncture.

10. Tubulars over Inner Tubes and Tyres.

There is anecdotal evidence tubulars are less likely to cause punctures. There is certainly no chance of the ‘pinch puncture’. But, it really depends on the quality of the tubular. For racing I use tubulars, not so much for better puncture resistance, but they are lighter. However, when you do puncture it is more expensive. So road tyres and inner tubes are better for training.

11. Never Blog About How you never Get Punctures

see: the time (I got 5 punctures in a week)

See also:

Originally posted July 2010, substantially updated Jan 2012.

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How to Improve Aerodynamics Cycling Thu, 03 Mar 2011 14:14:34 +0000 alex dowsett

Alex Dowsett in 25 mile Time Trial

These are a few simple ways to increase the aerodynamics of your riding position. They are primarily intended for time trials, although, some may also be appropriate for road racing as well. Improving aerodynamics can make huge improvements to your times, as I found out after visiting wind tunnel.

  • Oversocks - Oversocks are a lycra fitting for your shoes. These help improve airflow by creating a smoother covering of the shoe. Try the Smart oversock from drag2zero, expensive at £60 but one of the best. Also Pro oversock is pretty good.
  • Single Chainring – For many time trial courses, it is not necessary to have a double chainring at the front. If you are averaging 25mph, you will not need the inner ring, unless the course is very steep in places. A single ring enables you to remove the front mech changer as well. However, if you do this be wary you don’t enable your chain to slip off.
  • Dropping your handlebars just a few cm. Dropping your handlebars a few cm, will make the biggest difference to improving aerodynamics because your frontal position incurs the biggest aerodynamic drag. However, be aware that dropping your position will eventually compromise your power output, through making breathing more difficult. This requires experimentation. The best is to use a power meter and controlled testing to see different speeds from different position.
  • Taping up holes. The secret to aerodynamics is taping up any holes and making a smooth airflow stream. For example, if you have a disc wheel you can place some tape over the gap for blowing up the tyre.
bradley wiggins
Bradley Wiggins in British Time Trial Championship 2010. A very aero position. UCI legal
  • Aerodynamic Helmet. Aerodynamic safety helmet can make a big difference through making the airflow easier to pass over the cyclist. Aero Cycle Helmets
  • Helmet Position. A simple tip is to make sure you position your aero helmet so tail is closer to your back. If it is sticking up in air, you will catch more aerodynamic drag. Push the helmet up your forehead so the tail gets closer to your back. This is a really easy way to improve aerodynamics and has a big impact.
  • Helmet Visor. Fitting a visor on a helmet improves aerodynamics. It is also good to keep sun and flies out of your eyes. You might need to get two – one for sunny days one for overcast days.
  • Shaving Your Legs. – There’s got to be some reason for doing it! – Best ways to shave legs
  • Aero Bottle. For £15, you can get a Bontrager or Specialised Aero Bottle. People have claimed it saves 4 watts in a 10 mile time trial. Definitely reduces frontal drag and so makes sense. Probably the cheapest way to improve aerodynamics. Specialised Aero bottle at Evans. Best aero bottles
  • Aero Gloves. Your hands are one of the first things that ‘hits the wind’ so to speak. Aero gloves can smooth this airflow at the front of your riding position. Try the Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Aero Glove. It removes the velcro strap and reduces another barrier to the wind. I like this Mavic aero gloves because they are also quite stylish.
  • Disc Wheel. This will improve aerodynamic drag, but is expensive. You can easily be spending £700 for a Fast Forward disc wheel. For a top of the range Zipp disc it can be up to £1,500. However, for most time trials don’t worry about weight, it is the aero disc that will really help. Disc Wheel for time trials
  • Hand position. Keep hands close together on the bars. Minimise wind space in between

A nice aero position. In particular, this position bring the arms close together, almost in parallel with the knees.

  • Lifting up Aero bars. Often lifting up the aero bars, into a praying mantis position makes you more aerodynamics. When I went into the wind tunnel, I found significant gains from this praying mantis position. It is not UCI legal. For British Time trial championship, I have to lower tri bars to be horizontal. praying mantisBut for  CTT events, I do lift up aerobars. However, it is not necessarily more aerodynamic it can depend on your body type. But, it is worth experimenting.
  • Riding Style. For time trials, try keep the body stable. Where possible stay in the saddle, and avoid wiggling your upper body around. In training work on keeping this steady position. You will get more power from it and it will be more aerodynamic

 My Time Trial Position

time trial

This is my position before wind tunnel testing. My head is lower and hand higher.


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Profile Sonic CSX Carbon Aero Bars Wed, 18 May 2011 08:28:42 +0000 Aero Bars

I wanted some ultra-lightweight aero bars for my road bike. The idea was to use for just two or three hill climbs which have a low average gradient.

The Profile Sonic CSX aero bars are one of the lightest I could find. The small version weigh only 286g (very rare that equipment actually weighs less than advertised weight of medium version).

The profile is also very low, the armrests are not stuck above the handlebar like on some models. They are also very adjustable, you can put them anywhere on handlebars. This enables me to have them quite close together. Bringing the arms close together is one of the main aerodynamic advantages of aerobars.

Although they were intended just for one or two races, I haven’t got round to taking them off. When I am on a ride, I often like to use this position, especially when you are fighting a tough headwind.

Aero Bars

If I went on a chain-gang or ride with others, I would take them off. But, on your own they are really quite useful to have. If nothing else it gives your hands a rest as you can put the weight on your forearms. I know its not fashionable to have aerobars on a road bike, and I’m sure UCI commissioners in Zurich and shaking their head in dismay, but I happen to like using them. Probably the cheapest way to make your bike 10% faster.

The Profile Sonic  look sleek and are easy to fit. They also have the ability to have internal cabling. I won’t do this and because of the holes, they tend to whistle in the wind. I’ve used some Sellotape to tape up the hole for cable and make them more aerodynamic.

Overall, I’m very pleased with these aerobars. At £228, they are not cheap. But, for what you get, they are also good value.


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How To Fit a Bike Helmet Thu, 10 Mar 2011 10:17:57 +0000 The great debate about cycling helmets is not likely to disappear. But, when cycling around Oxford, I am often surprised to see a lot of people who wear a helmet, fail to wear it properly. If you do make the effort to wear a helmet you might as well wear it properly.

Incorrect Fitting of Helmet


from: flickr

In particular the most common problem is to wear the helmet too far back on the head. If you were to land on your forehead the first thing to hit the ground would be your head rather than your helmet. It is important to fit a helmet so that if you did land on your forehead, the first thing to hit the ground is the helmet.

The other mistake is to wear the helmet too loose. It is suggested that badly fitting helmets can actually cause injury when you fall because they can twist your neck. Take time to tighten up the different straps so that it is a snug fit (but not too snug to restrict your breathing.

Tips for Correct fitting of Bike Helmet


photo by Zimpenfish

  • Measure circumference of head about 3 cm above eyebrows. Match your headsize to helmet. It doesn’t have to be exact fit as there will be some leeway with straps and padding.
  • Place your head squarely on your head so front protrudes above forehead. Then adjust inner padding and inner straps so the helmet is snug. Not loose, but not too tight. It should not be possible to have more than one finger’s width between strap and chin.
  • The front strap should be as vertical as possible.
  • The buckle should be under the chin on the back of the lower jaw against the throat. It should not be on the jaw.
    If you try to move the helmet, it should only give a slight movement on the head. If it is easy to roll the helmet around the head, it is not tight enough.
  • The helmet should sit level on the cyclist’s head with only a couple of finger-widths between eyebrow and the helmet brim.


Other tips for using a helmet.

  • If you crash, or have a heavy impact on helmet – get a new one.
  • Just because you are wearing a helmet doesn’t make you ‘safe’ on the roads. At the best it will minimise impact of head injuries. The most important safety feature is to ride with awareness and care.


  • Cheap cycle helmets - I can recommend the Specalized Align helmet. It is only £30, but has a very nice and simple system for fitting all head sizes. It feels very snug and is quite lightweight.
  • Cycle Helmets at Evans
  • Giro helmets
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GPS Cycle Computers Fri, 02 Jul 2010 16:46:37 +0000 A GPS can give a cyclist much more information about his ride and also suggest routes. For those long distance touring it can be much easier than carrying innumerable maps around. If you’ve ever tried reading a map, whilst cycling at same time, you will know benefit of a GPS. As well as providing directions, GPS models can give an accurate level of total climbing distance. This can be as intriguing as knowing how many miles you have covered.

I also find that standard cycle computers are often less than accurate in measuring distance. GPS gives a much higher level of accuracy. If you are doing a 10 mile time trial, this kind of accuracy can be very beneficial.

GPS  Edge 500

This is a relatively small and lightweight GPS cycle computer, designed specifically for cyclists. It comes with all the most useful functions – speed, distance, time, Average speed, cadence, power meter compatible, elevation and heart rate monitor. It is pretty comprehensive without being prohibitively expensive. It is easy to use and you can customise the screen to focus on what interests you in the ride – e.g. focusing on heart rate information. Battery life of 18 hours, is fine, as you can easily get into habit of recharging every day. It offers better value than more expensive Polar GPS computers and is really quite easy to use.

Garmin Edge 500 Wiggle.

Note, if you don’t want Heart rate monitor and cadence sensor, the Garmin Edge 500 can be bought for £180 e.g. at Evans cycles.

Garmin Edge 705.

The Garmin Edge 705 offers similar features to the 500, but has better direction capabilities and can give turn by turn directions. However, you will want to download an open source map guide such as Open Street Maps, but, this is quite easy to do. If you love statistics, the Garmin Edge 705 has much to offer and data can easily be downloaded. Battery life is only 8 hours, but, should be sufficient for all but longest rides. Because it has so many functions it can take a while to get used to it.

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How Often to Change the Chain on a bike? Fri, 04 Jun 2010 10:09:29 +0000 Different methods for knowing when you need to change the chain on your bike.


worn chain

worn chain

1. Finger Test

  • A simple test  is to use your finger and try to lift the chain away from the chainring. If the chain can be pushed quite a bit away from the chainring (like above), this is a sign that the chain needs changing.
  • For this test, I put it biggest gear (biggest front chain ring, smallest rear cassette, e.g. 53*13)

If the chain is badly worn, you will probably need to change the cassette block at the same time. (and possibly front chain ring)

2. Chain Measuring Tool

chain measure wear

You can also buy a chain measuring tool which will tell you how worn a chain is. Such as this Lifeline Chain measuring tool for £6.00 from wiggle

3. Measure with Rule.

Put a tape measure a the centre of a chain pin. At 12 inches, a new chain will be exactly at the centre of a pin. If the centre of that pin is 1/8 past the 12inches, the chain needs changing.

  • If the centre of the rivet is less than 1/16? past the mark, your chain is ok.
  • If it’s between 1/16? and 1/8? past the mark you’ll likely need a new chain, but your cassette should be ok.
  • If it’s more than 1/8? past the mark, you’ll probably have to replace both the chain and cassette.

Chain on My Commuting Bike.

With my commuting bike, I usually wait until the chain starts to slip and then change the chain, cassette block and front chainring altogether. It means that it can be 1 or 2 years between changing the chain. Towards the end of the chain cycle, it is probably becoming inefficient. But, the hassle of changing it is greater than the decrease in inefficiency. However, if it starts slipping, it is definitely a sign it needs to be changed.

Recently, I kept putting off changing the chain on my commuting bike and really notice the difference now I did it at the weekend. I wish I had done it earlier because it makes a much more pleasant ride.

Time Trial Bike / Road Bike

On my road bike and time trial bike I have a Dura Ace groupset, and so want to try and

  1. Extend the life of the cassette blocks
  2. Not lose any inefficiency in the drive mechanism.

Therefore, I will try and change the chain quite frequently, before it needs replacing. This is because a worn chain can lose efficiency in the drive mechanism; therefore, for optimal performance it is worth changing frequently – perhaps every 1,000 miles. This means you can use a couple of chains per cassette block.

Note I prefer to replace with a cheap chain frequently than replace with Dura Ace infrequently. Also when replacing the block I tend to go for Shimano Ultegra. The price is about 50% of Dura Ace and only a slight difference in performance.

Tip: Keep a record of when you change a chain and note the mileage. This will give you a guide to when you need to change the chain.

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