Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Jaguar: Ride Like a Pro

I like Jaguar's, I do, and I like cycling even more, so when I spotted the opportunity to take part in the Ride Like a Pro event, I fired off the registration form within seconds.

The idea is you register, join the Strava group for your local event and rock up on the day to ride a few miles whilst being supported by the new Jaguar XF Sportbrake. Participants who complete the ride event will then be entered into a random draw to be chosen for a 'Grand Finale' event which involves a time trial on both the bike and the XF Sportbrake. The lucky bugger to complete both in the shortest total time will win a trip to Majorca to train with Team Sky.

Now, clearly I'm under no illusion that this is a massive marketing event for the Sportbrake and I've no chance of getting through to the next round, however I'm thinking I'd enjoy the riding in a large group and, let's face it, you just never know your luck! Actually, in reality I do and it would also be just my luck that one of two scenarios is played out:

1. I'd get through to the TT stage because I've never ridden a TT, don't own a TT bike and would most likely come last! So close and yet so far sort of scenario; and
2. Whilst riding in the group, I somehow clip someone's wheel and go down damaging both me and my beloved carbon frame to leave the event with nothing but injuries and a hefty bill.

In fact, when you think about it both of those situations could end up being quite good because either way I'd need a new bike....*

Anyway, my closest 'local' event takes place this Saturday at 10.30am in Worcester, but aside from that I have no other details about distance, route or numbers. I guess the idea is less about the ride and more about getting you to spend some time considering how much you need the new Jag in your life - which is a bit poo really because I need time to prepare damn-it!

All I can do at the moment is rock up a bit hung-over with a clean bike (having eaten my bodyweight in energy gels) and hope for the best. The one thing I do know is that if I don't get through or somehow do badly, it won't be anything to do with my failures and can instead be attributed to the fact I need some carbon tubular wheels....**

*Charlotte, my beloved Fiancee, if you're reading this I want you to know this is just a silly little joke, honest!
** Charlotte, in contrast, this is not in any way a joke.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Revolights: The future has landed!

It's that time of year again and here at Thirty-something Cyclist, there's been much talk about lighting following a fast, dark Tuesday night ride this week.

Lighting for me has always been an issue, either in terms of brightness, weight, reliability or battery life. Another unfortunate problem for my Kuota Kebel is finding good lights to fit the aero profile seat-post but more on that little saga another time....

Quite a while ago, I came across a Kick-starter project for what I thought was the coolest lighting solution for the commuting cyclist -EVER. Behold Revolights!

These are now available in the UK and if you not seen or heard of these before you need to climb out from under that rock and check these out. They're pricey but maaaaan, they're cool. NEED.

That is all!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 C24 Carbon Clincher Wheelset: Review

Back in March this year I bought a pair of Dura-Ace 9000 series wheels. It's now October and about time I wrote a review!

The story of these wheels goes back to September 2012 when, on a short holiday in France, I happened across the Tour of Pembrokeshire sportive event in a magazine and promptly booked a place on the 'Epic' 108 miles route. Whilst not my first 100 mile sportive event, this one was certainly the lumpiest (10,800ft total ascent) and I'd need some new wheels for that - right?  In reality, I was relying on one pair of wheels for commuting and my social rides and the Pyrenees trip also meant I'd need some lightweight climbing wheels too! Up to this point I'd been using the Mavic Aksium Race rims that came as stock on my Kuota Kebel which, I should add, are absolutely bomb-proof!

Once loosely justified and my conscience settled, I set about researching some wheels. That was a long and, frankly, arduous process but soon I knew what I wanted. I was looking for mix of attributes but predominantly I wanted a lightweight, low profile wheel-set with aero features but would offer a good level of durability and affordability at the same time. I wasn't looking for just a climbing wheel but a good all-rounder capable of hitting some hills and making up for my poor climbing abilities! At the time I also wanted carbon (mainly because they sound epic on tarmac) but I hadn't ruled out alloy if the right wheel was out there. Eventually I whittled it down to the Easton EA90, the Campagnolo Shamal Ultra or the Dura-Ace c24's.

Unexpectedly, choosing between the three became quite an easy task: Although the Easton's were the cheapest and best looking, the negative reviews of the poor quality hub immediately put me off. This left the Shimano's or the Campags and since the latter were more expensive by nearly £200 I settled on the Shimano's. Simple!

A carbon-alloy hybrid clincher, these were the lightest of the 3 (appealing to my obsession for lightweight ‘everything’) but were by no means the best looking. Getting the negative out of the way from the off - these are not the best looking wheels and the under-stated looks and lack of 'in-your-face' decal assault won't suit everyone's tastes - They weren't mine at first either but I have grown to like them more and more over time.
The only other niggle is the sound of the free-hub which, to me, sounds a bit cheap! I'd have liked the whisper-quiet, quality of a Campag hub (not least because it helps to not announce you're freewheeling when drafting fellow cyclists whilst breaking Rule 19 and probably 23!) and the shimano hub is disappointingly loud and crass in comparison.

From these two (fairly petty) cons, you can pretty much guess that everything else I have to say is largely positive and, like me, the first thing you'll say after frantically tearing the tape off  and pulling these from the box will be "jeeping shit, they're light".....or something to that effect. This is because they are and in fact they're so light that I was initially very sceptical that these would take the puny weight of my Kebel, let alone me, without crumbling into a mass of sharp, spindly metal and splintered carbon.
Relying on just 16 spokes for the front and 20 for the rear it would seem, on paper at least, that Shimano might be taking too many liberties in the weight reduction department! However, having used these wheels now for around a thousand miles, the only downside to so few spokes is how easily they can be knocked out of true. Don't get me wrong, they'll take a good bashing from pot holes, speed humps and other road debris (and have) but a hit from even a slight angle to any of those spokes (as happens when your cycling brethren decide to stop immediately in front of you without warning -  Paul and Fabio shall remain nameless here...) you will be left with a rather wonky wheel. Fortunately, they aren't complicated to put right, as can be the case with some rims, but nevertheless extra care is needed to look after such a lightweight wheel and I think its worth mentioning this if you're thinking you can treat them like your winter training wheels!

Lets get into the nitty gritty of weight next because yes they're light but how light and how is that weight distributed?  Being quite anal and being used to weighing every item of my backpacking gear, The first thing I did was to weight these little beauties with and without tyres.
Out of the box, the front and rear weigh  596g and 791g respectively on my digital scales. Shod with latex tubes, Continental GP4000s and a SRAM PG1070 10-speed cassette the entire set-up comes in at 2356g - which is pretty impressive at this price range. The free-hub is titanium, so strong and light, and its pretty obvious that the lack of weight at the actual rim is where this wheel excels. It takes almost no effort to get these spinning and keep them spinning - since most of the weight is concentrated at the hub and not the outer rim. Acceleration then is rapid as a result and it feels very much as though all of your power is being used correctly to propel you forwards and is immediately noticeable.  The Mavic set-up weighs 2821g so this little exercise has shaved 465g off my bike weight in one simple exercise, though the actual weight saving doesn't tell the entire story since the weight distribution is equally as important in wheel performance terms.

Quite surprisingly, these wheels are very rigid for their weight and so cornering and handling have improved at the sacrifice of all-out comfort - where the stiffness can take some getting used to.

The aero features are minimal with this wheel but at just 24mm depth you're not going to be surprised at this! I expect that if you want full aero features, you'll no doubt be looking at the deeper 32, 35 or 50mm profiles anyway, so the inclusion of aero spokes and a differential rim profile at the rear isn't going to impress all that much - though every little helps of course! Whilst you don't get the aero benefits associated with deeper rims, you also don't get the inherent handling issues on windier rides and these hold their line whilst taking a battering from cross-winds - as was the case in Pembrokeshire in April.

Surprisingly, the braking performance of this rim is (somehow) significantly better than my Mavic wheels. As the breaking service is still alloy, there's none of the overheating issues under braking that some full carbon clincher wheels experience, so if you're descending skills are lacking (like mine) and you find yourself on the brakes a lot, you're safer with this combo unless you want to go down the full carbon tubular option. In addition, there's no need for carbon specific brake pads either so for most it will be a simple, straight-forward swap from your existing wheel-set which just takes a bit of the pain away if, like me, you do this regularly.

Overall, I'm very happy with the wheels and particularly as the first upgrade to my Kuota Kebel. They have literally transformed the bike and I've no doubt it made my Pyrenees trip and the Tour of Pembrokeshire sportive a whole lot easier as a result! I've covered over a thousand miles of variable road and weather conditions and the hubs are spinning as freely as the day I opened the box. They're 11-speed compatible too so will suit those thinking of making the jump in the near-future - if this a consideration for you?

If you're heading for the hills or fancy a lumpy sportive event and are looking for some new wheels that can do it all - I can seriously recommend these in terms of function, price and reliability - just don't expect them to grab peoples attention in the aesthetics department!

Now, I'm sure I need some deep-profile, full carbon tubulars to really complete my wheel-set armoury. Hmmmm, where to start.......