Endura Singletrack II Shorts Review

January 10th, 2015

Product: Endura Singletrack II Shorts
Price: £47.99 RRP (you won’t often find much of a discount on Endure kit)
Review Type: Medium Term (6 months)

A good pair of baggies are a must-have piece of kit for the mountain biking wardrobe. They need to look good, be comfortable, perform well, be hard wearing and reasonably priced and the Endura Singletrack II Shorts meet all of these criteria.

The manufacturer blurb says they are made from “Cordura nylon fabric with durable water repellent finish” which, in the hand feels good quality without being too heavy duty. In practice, the material works well too – after six months of regular use and washing, they look pretty much as new with no noticeable wear in the seat or seams and no rips or threads from brambles etc. The water repellent finish works as expected and you can get away with wearing these in light drizzle with the water beading off. Anything heavier or in extreme wet/muddy conditions, I would go for a pair of dedicated waterproof shorts although these will dry relatively quickly after a soaking.

The fit is on the more fitted side of “baggy” and perhaps a touch shorter than some other shorts. I typically wear 34″ waist rousers and am wearing a size M in these. Personally I prefer the fitted style as it makes for a much more comfortable short for rides lasting more than an hour or so. I also find the rubbing you get from shorts that come right down onto/over then knee generally annoying (unless they are a 3/4 winter short), so these are also good in that respect.

IMG_5122The leg openings have velcro adjustments so you can get rid of the knee flap you sometimes get on baggy shorts with no adjustment – particularly annoying if the material also starts rubbing on your top tube on each pedal stroke. It also means that you can adjust them if you are wearing knee pads – if they reach down long enough for this to matter – as I say, they are slightly shorter in length than some other shorts.

Other notable details that help these shorts fit well are the elastic waistband with good quality velcro adjusters on each side. The velcro adjusters combined with the elastic part of the waistband mean you can get a really good fit with no need for a belt, although belt loops are included if you prefer this. Up front is a zip fly and a single button fastening. Again, I much prefer a button fastening to poppers which can come undone. Inside, there are popper attachments if you own a pair of compatible Endura “clickfast” inners.

In terms of comfort, the shorts have “Stretch thigh and back yoke panels” which means the sections on the inside of each leg and the top of the back, just below the waistband. It’s difficult to see on the black shorts, but have a look on the other colours and you will see them as black panels. In practice, these really help with comfort and the inner leg panels definitely help prevent bunching. I can wear these for anything from a quick blast on the trails to a 3-4 hour more XC oriented ride.

IMG_5119On the front/outer edge of each leg is a ventilation zip with mesh backing to increase airflow if things start getting a bit warm – a useful feature although the shorts are not overly warm despite the quality material.

Colour choice is fairly limited to black with white detail, back with blue detail and olive green. The Endura site shows a green option but these don’t seem to be for sale anywhere. So nothing to really appeal to the current “enduro” trend of bright fluro colours.

The only area that really lets these shorts down is the pockets. There are two front hand pockets with neat, trick, magnetic spot closures. However, I wouldn’t personally keep anything valuable in a pocket that didn’t close securely over the full opening. The left hand of these pockets also has in inside zipped pocket which is more secure but not huge.

There are two further “cargo” pockets to the rear, kind of down the back of each leg, held closed with a velcro spot. I find these pockets rather bizarre and intuitively just weird as they seem completely the wrong place to have pockets! Anyway, the pocket situation is largely irrelevant for me as I always wear a backpack.

Overall, I would say these are an essential addition to any mountain biker’s wardrobe: great quality, good fit and the icing on the cake is that they are reasonably priced too.

Further reading: Endura Product Info

Gore Bike Wear Universal Windstopper Soft Shell Helmet Cap Review

January 5th, 2015

As a chap who is somewhat follicly challenged up top (also known as baldie / slap head syndrome), when the temperature gets down low, I find a little extra protection is needed under my helmet to keep the cold at bay.

On the mountain bike, I’m usually good down to pretty low temperatures (as low as zero degrees C) because the speeds are slower (unless the wind is very strong). However, on the road bike, the wind chill on a long, fast descent at anything below around 5 degrees C can really bring on the brain freeze.

The Gore Bike Wear Universal Windstopper Soft Shell Helmet Cap is a thin piece of Gore Windstopper material formed into a skull cap shape. It fits tight to the skull (but not too tight to be uncomfortable), is shaped to cover the ears and is thin enough for your helmet to fit over the top, even if you have a fairly tight fitting helmet.

Gore Bike Wear Universal Windstopper Softshell Helmet CapThe idea is simple: it prevents wind chill and additional heat loss by stopping the cold wind hitting your head and ears. If you own any other items made out of Windstopper, you’ll know the material is highly effective at doing this job.

The only downside with this item is that, by covering the ears, it does limit your hearing somewhat. The ear flaps can be flipped/pushed up for a moment if you are really struggling to hear someone.

Materials and quality are top-notch as you would expect from a Gore product. Available in plain black, black/white and black/yellow and in three sizes, there should be an option for everyone.

Overall, a simple and effective piece of kit to have available as an option for those extra cold days. RRP is £24.99, but it can be had for under £20 if you shop around.

Further reading: Gore Product Info

RideLondon-Surrey Classic – Surrey Section Info

August 10th, 2014

RideLondon-Surrey Classic Surrey SectionThe RideLondon-Surrey Classic is a one day race that heads through Surrey each summer. The pro race, part of the legacy of the London 2012 Olympics and one element of the RideLondon cycling festival weekend, now has World Tour status, ensuring the top teams and riders in the world take part. The race is shown live on BBC.

 

The Surrey section of the race contains the only real climbs of the route taking in some of the hills that locals and anyone who has ridden a sportive in Surrey have probably experienced. It’s always interesting to see how fast the pros go up these climbs compared to your own times!

Staple Lane

Staple Lane is a short, sharp climb from the A25 up onto the North Downs. The first, and steepest section, is used for hill climb competitions by local club Charlotteville and, although it’s only 2.5km in length in full, it has a testing ramp up to the KOM point. On a clear day at the top, you can enjoy views back to the iconic buildings on the London skyline. The current KOM for the full length segment is held by local ex-pro Dan Lloyd.

Leith Hill

The longest climb of the day, at nearly 9.5km, takes the riders from Dorking up through Coldharbour, skirting around the south side of the hill before ramping up again to the highest point of the climb. Leith Hill is part of the Greensand Ridge of hills that provide some of the best mountain biking trails in the whole of England. Leith Hill Tower claims the crown of “highest point in the south east” with the top of the Tower just breaking the 1000ft above sea level mark and, whilst the road doesn’t reach these heights, it’s sure to prove a good test and should take the pro peleton around 18 minutes to complete. The ramps up to Coldharbour hit 15-18% in places then flattens out slightly before the final 10%+ sting in the tail up to the summit. The current KOM for the full length climb is held by locally based pro Wouter Sybrandy at 18m 41s.

Ranmore

A new addition to the route this year, the riders will tackle Ranmore via Westhumble twice as part of a loop before moving on to Box Hill. Another short climb at only 2.4km with an average grade of 5% but with multiple short ramps of over 10%. It takes the riders from the A24 near Box Hill back up onto the North Downs.  There is a steep hairpin near the top after which it flattens out with a gentle uphill past Ranmore Church to the summit. The current KOM is held by Andrius Jaks at 5m 59s. With this segment not having featured in either the Olympics or any Tour of Britain stages that have been through Surrey, this is one KOM that will surely fall today.

Box Hill

The iconic zig zag climb that featured in the London 2012 Olympics must be one of the most popular Strava segment in the south east with 162,721 attempts recorded by 27,589 people at the time of writing on Strava. Not the most testing climb at 5% over 2.2km but the one everyone wants to ride. At the top, you can enjoy some great cake at the National Trust cafe and the view south over the weald to the South Downs. The current KOM is held by the mysterious “J P” at 4m 23s. The identity of this rider has fueled much speculation after he took some of the prize KOMs knocking pros off the tops spots (Cycling Weekly | The Telegraph).

After Box Hill, the route flattens out and heads back to London for the finish on The Mall

Surrey Cycling Strategy – BBC Radio Surrey Debate – My Thoughts

October 24th, 2013

Well, it’s been a while since I did a “proper” blog post (most of my recent mutterings being on Twitter and Facebook recently) but, having just returned from the debate on the Surrey Cycling Strategy aired live on BBC Radio Surrey, I thought I’d post a small round up of my thoughts.

I can’t possibly cover everything that came up, just the bits that stuck in my mind, but you can listen again to the whole debate here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01k5y0c

The Panel

Surrey Cycling Strategy Debate PanelNick Ephgrave – Deputy Chief Constable of Surrey Police (and former competitive club cyclist)
Simon Pratt – Regional Director, SUSTRANS
Helyn Clack -Cabinet Member for Community Services, Surrey County Council
Ian Huggins – him of the petition
David Preedy – Head of Headley Parish Council (cover Box Hill) & Lib Dem leader on Mole Valley District Council
Johnny Clay – Cycle Sport & Membership Director, British Cycling

The Debate

Closed Roads

One of the starting points was a debate around organised events, closing the roads and the impact this has on residents and businesses. IH seemed to think there were over 250 races which resulted in road closures. He was corrected as there had only officially been 1 road closure in the past year for the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 – a key annual legacy event from the 2012 Olympics (which I rode in this year and was an absolutely brilliant event). The roads were closed for one day (less than 24 hours) for this event – essential for the 16,000+ cyclists to complete the route safely – but it seems some residents of Surrey can’t tolerate this 1 day per year despite having plenty of pre-warning.

A somewhat more legitimate point was made regarding some businesses losing out on trade on that day due to the road closures. There is no doubt that this is a valid point and that some businesses would have lost a day of trade or seen a downturn in revenue on that day. It’s equally true that some businesses would have seen an upturn in trade, particularly those along the route in spectator hotspots. However, as the BC representative said, there needs to be an overall economic impact assessment of the RideLondon event on the whole of Surrey to see the net economic effect on the county.

A further good point was made regarding this by the National Trust who have adopted a progressive, bigger picture approach to cycling. Yes, they agreed footfall and therefore revenue was down at their properties in Surrey on the RideLondon-Surrey day, but they strongly believe that the huge publicity and longer term impact this has on visitor numbers to Surrey, far outweighs a dip in business on one day of the year. And cycling is seen as one of their key ways to get people out and enjoying the countryside. In response to a comment on Twitter or text that was read out from a lady who said she no longer visits Box Hill due to having to navigate the huge numbers of cyclists, the NT stated that their figures did not show this was a common view with visitor numbers overall largely unchanged.

The guy from BC summed it up nicely at the end when he said yes, some people will be inconvenienced, but it’s for the greater good of the people taking part (in reference to the RideLondon-Surrey).

Sportives

There is a reasonable point here which is that Sportives place large numbers of cyclists onto the roads and there is currently no coordination of events or regulations for those running them. Now I do agree there should be some coordination of events in Surrey as there can be days when several large events operate in a similar area. There should also be guidelines for the people who run the events, particularly in terms of briefing riders in road etiquette, with regard to some of the actual roads used for the big events, littering and removal of signage after the event.

THAT Petition

The petition by Ian Huggins receives far too much attention in my opinion and it is certainly disproportionate to his support base. At the time of writing, his petition has 3,024 signatories. Let’s compare that to the number of people who have applied to participate in the RideLondon-Surrey Classic in 2014 – 80,000 in 4 weeks. Or let’s compare that to the population of Surrey which was 1.135 million as of the last census in 2011. Or maybe let’s just compare that to the number of people who have signed the counter-petition – 3,631 signatories at the time of writing. That’s a bit of a blow, Mr Huggins.

The Good

Road tax wasn’t mentioned once! That’s right, the message seems to have finally got home.

Surrey CC & the National Trust are clearly well behind cycling.

Surrey CC are already signed up to the the RideLondon-Surrey for another 4 years.

Surrey Police have a DCC who is a former cyclist who understands the issues and is keen on cyclists behaving correctly on the roads.

BC made the point that 9/10 of their adult members are also drivers.

The Bad

A new (to me anyway), worrying, argument that was mentioned a couple of times is that not all roads are suitable for bikes! Um, hang on a minute, last time I looked, and as the man from SUSTRANS pointed out, all roads are suitable bikes (except the obvious exceptions such as motorways). Some of the anti-cycling brigade seem to think bikes shouldn’t be allowed on single-track roads or country lanes because they get in the way of cars. I’m not making this up, people actually said words to this effect. Indeed, a lot of the anti-cycling points were framed against the unspoken assumption that the roads are for cars and cyclists are in the way.

Someone suggested all bikes should be registered – a ridiculously bureaucratic suggestion that solves what problem?

Drivers & elderly drivers are too scared to overtake cyclists or are intimidated by sharing the roads with cyclists. Um, I think these people need a re-test or should consider handing their license in if they are not competent enough to drive in an assured and safe manner.

Cyclists being blamed for spooking horses. Yes, cyclists can spook horses, as can cars, motorbikes and anything else that surprises them. IH seemed to say 3 horses had been spooked by cyclists and died, but he needs to cite his source for this statement. Most cyclists, like car drivers, will slow down an leave ample space when passing horses.

The Rest of the Strategy

Well the rest of the strategy, including proper infrastructure, health benefits, off-road cycling, getting children cycling and so on wasn’t really debated much except for a short time towards the end which was slightly disappointing as it is full of some rather promising ideas in a lot of these areas.

That’s about as much as I can remember – listen again online for the full debate: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01k5y0c

Overall

It was a useful debate, conducted in a calm and adult manner, although focused somewhat rather too much on the RideLondon and closed roads to start with. Some outrageous claims and numbers (with no evidence) were banded about by the anti-cycling brigade as well as the usual hearsay and 2nd hand stories about “lycra louts” that cyclists have, sadly, become accustomed to in this type of discussion.

What Surrey CC are trying to do is quite commendable, particularly if it results in a material improvement in road cycling infrastructure and increased participation levels.

Off-road cycling and mountain biking are in the strategy and, really, what could be safer than cycling in the countryside away from the traffic completely? It’s an area I feel should have more focus and money.

Give Your Views

Please complete the survey with your views on the strategy: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Individual-Consulation

 

Crowd-Sourced Trail Conditions

April 14th, 2013

I was at a bit of a loose end this weekend due to a chesty cough preventing me from going biking. So I spent my time doing something decidedly geeky (but also pretty cool if I do say so myself!).

Inspired by the Swinley Bog Index, I decided to create a “crowd-sourced” (that’s the buzz-word to describe it) indicator of what the current trail conditions in the Surrey Hills are like.

Basically, what it does is connect to Twitter, find tweets that are in the correct format, then works out an average rating.

You can see the resulting page here: http://conditions.surreyhillsmtber.co.uk

Use the hashtag #surreyhillstrailsOf course, these sort of things only work if people contribute. If you’re on Twitter, here’s how to get involved:

Send a tweet containing the hashtag #surreyhillstrails followed by your rating of the conditions from 1 to 10 (where 1 = worst possible and 10 = perfect) and you can follow it with some comments if you want

e.g. “#surreyhillstrails 9 Great day riding today, trails were dry, grippy and fast!”

 

Castelli Sorpasso Bibtight Review

April 9th, 2013

Product: Castelli Sorpasso Bibtight
Price: £150 RRP (but shop around)
Review Type: Medium-Long Term (7 months)

The Castelli Sorpasso Bibtights are the perfect piece of clothing for when the temperature drops too low for shorts – superb fit, comfort and performance – but at a price if you pay full RRP.

The blurb says they are made from a mixture of “Thermoflex and Thermoflex Core Due” fabric – in the real world, this means they have a kind of micro-fleece lining to them which is extremely effective in keeping you warm but also keeping you dry by wicking sweat away from the skin. I’ve used these in temperatures right down to around zero degrees with no problems. In the rain, they still perform well when wet and dry fairly quickly.

The most extreme test these have been through was a 3 hour ride in cold, torrential rain – the bibtights were soaked through but they performed admirably (my hands were so cold at the end, I couldn’t brake or change gear!) as long my legs were still working. They did get cold quickly when I stopped at the end though.

The excellent Proteggo X2 padThe “Progetto X2” seat pad in these tights is amazing – the best out of any cycling shorts/tights I own in terms of fit and long-ride comfort. When on the bike, it feels like it’s almost not there. With a lot of pads, you know they are there – they feel like an obvious layer between you and the saddle – this pad somehow manages to almost mould to your bum like it’s part of your body but still perform the job it’s intended for. The blurb suggests this is due to its construction with the layer closest to your skin being able to move independently to the remainder of the pad. Whatever the reason, you just need to know that it just works – it really is that good.

In comparison, I also own a pair of Castelli Velocissimo Due bibshorts with their Kiss3 pad (one step down on the Progetto X2 pad). The Kiss3 is a good pad on which I’ve done a large number of kilometres and some long rides. If I didn’t have these tights with the Progetto X2 pad, I would be perfectly happy with the Kiss3. However, in comparison, the Kiss3 now feels more like a noticeable pad between you and the saddle and is more uncomfortable over the longer distances than the Progetto X2. I’m such a fan that, when I buy a new pair of shorts, I will be specifically looking for a pair with the Progetto X2 pad.

In terms of other features, the straps are waffer thin, comfortable and you barely notice them They do take a bit of straightening out initially when you put them on as they twist easily but stay in place once sorted out. The zips on the ankle opening are the one small area I think could be improved – there is no protection between the zip and your skin so there is a noticeable feeling of the zip on your achilles when they are done up. However, if you have the leggings over the top of a pair of socks, this problem goes away.

There’s some reflective piping on the zips, Castelli logos on the back of each calf and Castelli letting down the side of each thigh. There is a choice of red, white or yellow detailing with the bulk of the material being black/grey. The combination of slightly different coloured panels with understated decals makes them look good without being over the top or too in your face.

Thigh detailIn terms of fit, again, superb for tall, fairly skinny guys like me! I suppose you would call the fit “euro” or “race” i.e. slim! They feel quite tight, but supportive when you first put them on and take a bit of tugging to get them over the thighs. I’m 6’4″ tall, 34″ inside leg and size L is perfect. Once you’ve got them on, there’s no restrictions and they feel like a second skin. On the bike, they tend to stay in place. There’s no bunching thanks to the dedicated knee panels and there’s very little movement anywhere else either, just needing the odd small adjustment every couple of hours or so if at all.

In terms of quality, again, these are top quality tights as you would expect at this price level. I’ve used them a least once a week on average over the past 7 months and they have been washed after every ride. They still look as good as new – all the decals are in place with no peeling (as always, wash inside out), all the seams are still intact. Some of red lining is showing through the seat pad area if you look closely, but I don’t think this is due to wear, more to the way they bed in as I first noticed this quite early on after I bought them.

Value – well this is difficult to assess. It really depends on how often you use them and what price you place on quality and the comfort of such a good pad. At the RRP of £150, these are an expensive purchase, there’s no getting away from that. However, you can usually pick them up for a significant discount on RRP e.g. at the time of writing, Wiggle are selling them For £97.50. Considering a cheap pair of bibtights will set you back around £50, then I would say at £100 or less they are a no-brainer. Even at full RRP, and 3x the price of cheaper bibtights, I would say there is still a case to be made for spending the extra on these, they are that good.

Further reading: Road.cc Review | Castelli Product Info