Michelin XC Dry 2 review

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Wear Rate:
I bought these tyres on sale at Decathlon some time last year and they have not lasted long. In fact after only a few months use, one potential client looked at the tread and rather cheekily told me “this tyre is no good for me”. It was at that point I realised these tyres have worn considerably fast. I won’t be buying them again for my rental bikes because they are just too costly. My own bikes are a different story… [Read more →]

SRAM Rival 2009 shift levers review

SRAM Rival 2009 shift levers reviewNot so much a review, this is just my first riding impressions of SRAM’s new Rival shifters for 2009. Several things bugged be enough to write this article:

Ergonomics:
Overall, the shifters feel great. The carbon levers have a relatively large section to hold on to when braking and the shift paddle is big enough. I’ve never liked shimano’s combined gear/brake lever, so that’s the primary reason I bought this set. My one single gripe is that there seems to be a soft spot just inside the levers where the double-tap mechanism is housed. It’s like the soft spot on a baby’s head… you know it’s only temporary… because this is not how the final grown up version is meant to be. Peel back the inside of the rubber hoods and you realise there is nothing but a big hollow section underneath with no support. [Read more →]

Shimano SLX disc brake review

Shimano SLX disc brake reviewThese new disc brakes for 2009 represent excellent value for money. They use the commonly available XTR pad shape so you can easily get both sintered and organic brake pads… in fact these are really the old LX calipers with a totally new levers sporting radial master cyclinders.

If you use rotors which are large enough for your intended application, the total available power is good. I used a 203mm front rotor and 180mm rear rotor for this review. With this setup, I felt that the action of the rear brake caliper was quite a bit mushier than the front and I put this down to the length of the rear brake line (both are non-braided hydraulic housing).

Regardless, modulation is spot on and I really like the adjustable reach levers. When it’s this easy to change the reach, it’s amazing how much you use this single feature. [Read more →]

Michelin Pro 3 Grip Review

Michelin Pro 3 Grip ReviewConfession: I have been using worn out tyres for quite some time now. You know the old story – they’re too good to throw in the bin but they won’t last 2 more weeks. I had half a dozen tyres like this, so on my training bike they went – until they all finally wore out one by one! Cornering at any kind of decent speed with squared-off tyres is noticeably poor (unpredictable) and several of my training partners were leaving me for dead. So with the last tyre well and truly gone, I recently decided to treat myself to a pair of Michelin Pro 3 Grip tyres.

Quite the opposite of their “Race” siblings which come in every conceivable colour combination, with the “Grip” versions, you can have any colour you like so long as it’s dark grey. I don’t mind that, because the only tyres I ever buy are either dark grey and/or black. [Read more →]

Tiso sereo rear derailleur review

Tiso sereo rear derailleur reviewThis device is exquisitely CNC machined. I refer to it as a ‘device’ to convey a greater sense of the intricacy of its construction. It’s as much a work of art and engineering as it is a derailleur.

Replaceable parts:
Firstly, it’s completely rebuildable. The inner and outer link plates are removeable as are the pulley cages and upper / lower link knuckles. The pivots are held in place by tiny grubs screws. Allen head bolts are used throughout – even the High (H) and Low (L) derailleur limit screws utilise allen key fasteners!

Materials & overall finish:
Secondly, both the derailleur body and hardware are CNC machined 7075-T6 aluminium. The pivots are made of 6Al 4V Titanium. There is no side play whatsoever in the parallelogram link mechanism. In fact I can’t see the pivots ever becoming sloppy (unlike my SRAM X7 rear derailleur which is only a year old). I reckon this derailleur will just about be breaking in when other units are wearing out… So yes, this derailleur is built to last. Overall, you can tell that the body is precision machined. There are no burrs and the anodisation process is perfect.

How does it perform?
I’ve been using it exclusively with Vertebrae ceramic housing and I have not been disappointed. The only modification I needed to do was apply some loctite to the barrel adjuster threads. I also wrapped plumber’s teflon tape around the H and L limit screws to stop them vibrating loose. That was 6 months ago. Since then, I haven’t touched it. Shifting is flawless.

The bottom line:
I hope mine lasts the next 10 or 20 years and I think it probably will. The only down side is the exclusivity; these are not easy to get hold of because almost nobody sells them. They’re definitely not cheap but then they aren’t as expensive as the new campagnolo super record derailleurs sold by online retailers…

Spirulina super-food!

Spirulina under the micrscope.Spirulina is a microscopic freshwater plant that grows in America, Mexico and Central Africa. Spirulina contains an unusually high amount of protein, between 55% and 77% by dry weight, depending upon the source.

It contains more bio-chelated organic iron than any other whole-food. Bio-chelated means that the iron will easily be assimilated into the body. Spirulina has 58 times the iron of raw spinach and 28 times that of raw beef liver. [Read more →]

Mountain Cycle shockwave 9.5 review.

Mountain Cycle shockwave 9.5 review.I bought this frame for €640 off ebay midway through 2008 and I’ve slowly built up the complete bike since then. This is my first true downhill bike so I have nothing to compare it to except other non-DH mountainbikes. I am not an expert on downhill riding, so this ‘review’ is mainly to give my impression of riding a dedicated DH bike for the first time. [Read more →]

Avid Code 5 hydraulic disc brake review.

Avid Code 5 hydraulic disc brake review. 2008 / 2009 model.Several months ago, I bought a pair of 2008 Avid Code 5 brakes which were on sale. I’ve been very impressed with the performance of these, especially considering their price, so I thought I’d write a brief product review.

The interesting thing about Avid Codes is that they don’t come standard with braided steel brake lines – that gives them a consistent, progressive feel but at the expense of some outright brute power. Nevertheless, if you squeeze the lever gently your bike silently screeches to a halt like it’s on rails. This is no doubt due to them having four pistons per caliper whereas most hydraulic brake calipers only have two. [Read more →]

Kompass 233 map of Tenerife | Teneriffa Karte MTB

MTB and hiking map of Tenerife | Kompass 233 Karte mit Lexikon und Stadtplänen. Wander Bike Freizeit und Straßenkarte.This is by far the most detailed tourist map of Tenerife at a scale of 1:50,000. The Kompass 233 map contains all the major mountainbike trails and walking tracks. Altitude contours are shown at 100m intervals so it’s ideal for both hiking and mountain biking. You can’t get any more detailed without getting one of the expensive official Spanish military maps.

There’s a multi-lingual legend showing imporant points such as: alpine shelters / refuge huts, hospitals, parking, information, lookouts, museums, monuments, climbing walls and even surf spots! Suggested MTB routes are outlined with blue dots.

This map includes the following inset city maps: Puerto de la Cruz, La Orotava, Los Cristianos, Playa de Las Américas, San Cristóbal de La Laguna and Santa Cruz de Tenerife. There’s also a Tenerife guide, but alas only in German (even so, it’s worth every cent).

As with all large-scale maps, there’s only one right way to fold it and many wrong ways… so if you’re looking for something easier to manage, one of the only other road maps of Tenerife I can recommend which is also suitable for road cycling is the Freytag & Berndt 1:150,000 Teneriffa map. It’s smaller, plastic coated and much easier to fold than this blanket.

Freytag & Berndt map of Tenerife. Teneriffa Karte

Freytag & Berndt Tenerife Teneriffa 1:150000 scale map. ISBN 978-3-7079-1079-7This is the best road map of Tenerife for cyclists; it contains all the major and secondary roads and even some offroad tracks.

Roads are laballed with the standard “TF” designations and include kilometre markings between major towns. This definitely isn’t a topographic map but there are several altitude points referenced. There’s also an inset map of the capital city, Santa Cruz. The best thing is that it’s pocket sized and plastic-coated so it won’t disintegrate in that sweaty back pocket of your cycling jersey!

There’s also another 1:75,000 version of the Freytag & Berndt Tenerife map; it has a cardboard cover but it is too big to fit in your pocket & doesn’t contain any more detail than this one (apart from the altitude contour lines). Unlike its big plain-backed brother, this mini-map contains some extremely brief tourist information on the reverse side (in ten languages!).

If you’re looking for the best MTB map of Tenerife with all the offroad tracks, I strongly recommend the Kompass #233 map instead. It’s probably too large for road cyclists though and very difficult to fold up again correctly.

Vertebrae ceramic housing review.

Vertebrae ceramic gear housing review. Vertebrae ceramic brake lines review.Imagine cable-operated dual-pivot calipers or v-brakes with the modulation & power of hydraulic discs. Imagine the most reliable gear housing on the planet outlasting everything else attached to your bike, including the frame. Have I got your attention? Good. Then read on… [Read more →]

Mavic aksium review.

Mavic aksium wheelset review. Mavic rim profile cross section.I spec these on my largest 3 rental bikes and after a full year, I have not seen one single spoke failure on any of them. Know that some of these people measure 2.00m plus. They go out training all over Tenerife for up to two weeks. I’d estimate they climb 10,000 cumulative metres or more and descend around the same amount. The last thing cyclists want to do is true wheels while they’re on vacation. So I get the bike back, check these wheels, and find that they still run almost perfectly straight! Other wheelsets would surely need re-tensioning after this kind of abuse. Mavic aksiums barely even need a few 1/4 turns of the spoke wrench on a couple of spoke nipples. Incredible.

I attribute their strength to numerous factors: [Read more →]

Decathlon Clever 9000 track pump review.

Decathlon Clever 9000 track pump review.For the last two years I’ve been using a clever 9000 pump made by Decathlon. I use it more than once every day (I routinely inflate road bike tires to 7 or 8 bars). In all that time, I haven’t changed the seals once and it keeps on working flawlessly. The only maintenance needed is a little lubrication on the pump shaft.

One of the best features of this pump is that it uses a glass-fibre reinforced plastic pump hose. Result? More air goes into the tyre with each stroke compared to a normal floor pump. This is most evident at high pressures around 100psi or more. Think of it this way: a bicycle inner tube is restrained by the tyre (with its densely woven carcass); however, a simple rubber hose is free to expand with additional pressure increase.

Okay, so what exactly is so “clever” about it? [Read more →]

Pinarello F3:13 review

Pinarello F3:13 review (F4:13, FP3, FP5, FP6)Intro:
I’ll be totally honest and say that I buy most cycling components based on their looks. Mainly because I just don’t see the point in buying something that is ugly. But I also believe that a truly great design will be reflected in the overall shape and style of an object. Over the years, I’ve learned to appreciate products which are designed & manufactured with this principle in mind. If something looks good and works well I can practically guarantee you that I’ll keep it and use it to its full potential for a very long time indeed. My aim is to take care of my possessions as well as I can and then hope they last me a lifetime.

This frameset was no exception. I fell in love with Pinarello from the moment I laid eyes on the Dogma way back in early 2000. But I’ve since been reminded that you can’t judge a book by its cover…

Pinarello F3:13 frame and fork review.Ride Impressions:
Everyone has commented how it’s such a beautiful bike, but beneath all those sexy curves, it seems to behave differently than its looks would have you believe. On the bike, it feels very raw. Power delivery is instantaneous which is always a good characteristic when climbing. But likewise, the transference of shocks from the road directly into your body seems almost as quick. Coming half way back down Mt Teide on one of the first rides, a 14km descent, it felt like my kidneys were going to shake loose!

I came back from a shorter 20km ride today. Like all the roads in Tenerife, half are up and half are down. Going up was fun. When you want to put the power down it seems like there is no energy loss. The frame is just that rigid. The return journey coming back down was not so great. The tyres were at 90-95 psi and yet my arse was going numb after a quick 5km descent from all the vibrations!

On this bike, I feel all the bumps in the road pulsating straight through my shoulders. I’ll probably have to lower the tyre pressure a tiny little bit more, but that was something I never had to worry about on the other bike. Most of the structural components (wheels, bar, cranks) were essentially transferred straight over from my Mrazek road bike, a good way of eliminating them from the equation.

There are two words which are located just above the Italian flag, located on the seat tube “adrenalina italiana”. I think that sums up the handling nicely.

Pinarello onda review. Onda means “wave” in Italian.Onda Seat Stays & Fork:
Nothing seems to polarise cyclists more than those wavy Pinarello onda seat stays & fork blades. You either love them or you hate them. I think they’re very sexy, but some people say they look like the bike has partially melted in the sun! One thing is clear after riding the bike. I’m not convinced the Onda seat stays damp vibrations more effectively than straight seat stays. When you think about it, if the chain stays are oversized, how can the seat stays move to any great extent? The curvy fork blades may have slightly more merit, because given the same diameter, a metal spring is definitely more flexible than an equivalent straight wire. Even so, I didn’t notice the fork tips moving while riding along.

Pinarello F3:13 review (F4:13, FP3, FP5, FP6)Quality of Construction & Overall Finish:
Really, I can’t find fault in this department. The paint job is immaculate. The masking & spraying has all been done by hand as you can see on this Pinarello factory tour video. The head tube badge & all the Pinarello decals are squarely applied. Fittings such as cable stops and bottle cage mounts look good and are secure. The gap between fork crown and head tube is minimal. The headset’s top cap fits the headtube diameter perfectly also.

Pinarello F3:13, F4:13, FP3, FP5, FP6 ride reviewFrame Geometry:
As you are probably aware, each frame manufacturer has differenct characteristics, including sizing. Pinarellos are no exception – from what I’ve been able to determine, they tend to have relatively long top tubes and short head tubes for any given seatpost length. What this means is that they are built for racing and/or suit riders with longer-than-average torsos.

I found it hard to get my position right on this frame and it turns out I have longer-than-average legs. I’m best suited to a frame with a tall seat-tube to accommodate my long legs and a relatively short top tube for my shorter-than-average torso.

Normally I choose my frame size based on the seat tube length. This time, I decided to base my choice on the top tube length (as is commonly advised, because it’s the more important measurement). The theory is that it is much easier to change the height of the seatpost than it is to alter the horizontal reach to the handlebar (doing this also affects the steeering geometry negatively). What this approach fails to take into account is the head tube length. I.e. the final height of the handlebar position. Had I known this earlier, I might not have bought this bike.

On most road racing bikes, you can’t add more than 30mm of spacers without looking like a tw@t. So you also need to compare head tube lengths between bikes. I completely neglected this when buying the Pinarello. It turns out they have short head tubes.

Frame Sizing:
I measure 180cm, hence I opted for the 55cm, with its 56cm top tube. I felt that the next size up (57cm) would have been too big since it has a 57.5cm top tube length. I’ve ridden other bikes with 57 and 58cm top tubes and they always feel too long for me. I end up too far forward, hunched over with a sore back.

The reach on the size 55 (the distance to the handlebars) feels good using a 90 or 100mm stem, another indication that a 57cm is too big for me. The only problem now is that the head tube is shorter than I’d like and the handlebar drops end up too low down for me to be comfortable using them on the extended descents here in Tenerife. Solution? I’ve recently ordered an FSA wing pro handlebar with a compact reach and shallow-drop. Hopefully that will allow me to install a 110mm stem, flipped if necessary, and still achieve the right reach & drop that I’m accustomed to. If not, I’ll reluctantly have to consider selling this frameset and chalk it down to experience. Ultimately I’m “trying to get a non-racing fit on a very race-y frame”.

Oversize Bottom Bracket (BB):
The bottom bracket on the Pinarello F3:13 is humongous. I remember when steel down tubes used to be half the width of a 68mm BB shell. On this frame, the oversized carbon down tube takes up the full 70mm width of the BB shell. The down tube has a triangular cross section, so the junction into the seat tube is absolutely massive. Another oddity: this frame uses Italian BB threads. They are tapped with 36 mm x 24 tpi threads instead of the standard 1.37″ x 24 tpi English threads. Be careful because they also use normal right-hand thread on both drive side and non-drive side cups.

31.0mm Seatpost Diameter:
The F3:13 frame has a rather unusual 31.0 seatpost size. Before you commit to buying this frame, know that seatposts with a 31.0mm diameter are almost impossible to find. Apart from the original M.O.S.T brand, other manufacturers that make 31.0 mm seatposts are Selcof, BBB and possibly WR composites (please post a comment below if you encounter others). Another option is to install a seatpost shim which will reduce the diameter to something more conventional like 27.2mm.

Note that I have fitted this bike with a 30.9 seatpost, are a far more common size, but so far I’ve had to use a thin piece of paper to shim the tiny gap. A piece of aluminium foil from the kitchen had the ideal thickness, but proved to be too delicate.

Formula 220mm disc rotor review.

Formula 220mm disc rotor review. 9″ disc brake rotor.I recently bought a front Formula 220mm disc rotor for downhill only use. Coupled with the Avid Code 5 hydraulic disc brake lever & caliper, stopping is very powerful, consistent and progressive. Braking action is not at all grabby as you might expect. At no time during a continuous 2000m descent I felt that the brakes were either too powerful or too weak.

In my experience, this rotor with its central alloy carrier also copes with extreme heat better than an all-steel rotor. After bedding in the disc & pads, I went down my standard steep street run and there was no sign of warpage due to heat buildup (the route drops 400 metres in 1.8km for an average 22.2% gradient). Steel rotors on the other hand tend to accumulate heat in the outer perimeter while the central splines remain relatively cool; the differential rates of expansion sometimes leads to severe warping. When it does occur, this happens immediately – rotors have all the lateral stiffness of a spinning pancake. [Read more →]

Dakine cross-X review

Dakine cross-X gloves review.From the moment I saw these gloves, I had to have them. They feature a durable, double-stitched synthetic suede palm, breathable nylon mesh backpanel, neoprene wristcuff and knuckle panel, terrycloth thumb panels, silicon gripper fingertips and lycra finger panels. They also have a rubberised Dakine backpanel with the Dakine logo, which looks cool but only adds to the price.

Turn these gloves inside out and only then you realise that they’re extremely well made. Stitching is accurate and precise everywhere you look. What does that mean? Well, the stitches themselves look perfect and Dakine accurately controls their position w.r.t to all the different panels which are sewn together. They leave an adequate, equi-distant hem in all places to allow for some fraying of the material. In plain English? This means that they’re fare less likely to fall apart with prolonged use. Look at another cheaper pair of gloves and you’ll probably see the stitches all over the place. [Read more →]

Selle Italia X2 Trans Am Kevlar saddle review

Selle Italia Official Company LogoSaddle choice is a very personal thing indeed. Regardless, I’ve tried dozens of saddles over the years, so I thought I’d share a brief recommendation with readers. You need to sit on as many different ones as possible to figure out what works best for your body size & shape. Often you can’t get a good impression about saddle comfort until you go for a proper test ride for a few hours, so trying them out before you buy is never easy. Hence it may take years to find the right saddle… for some it’s a life-long search.

Selle Italia X2 Trans Am Kevlar Saddle Seat ReviewEnter Selle Italia. Selle Italia is one of those design-oriented companies that never stagnates. Each and every year, they revitalise their entire product line. One of their budget models -the Selle Italia X2 Trans Am Kevlar saddle- is probably the best value for money saddle on the market which (for me) is also comfortable. With its black cover and matching black-finished rails, the Selle Italia X2 is one of the better-looking budget saddles. It features a cut out centre and sufficient padding. Most importantly, they got the shape right with this one. At 290 grams, the seat is neither lightweight nor overly porky. [Read more →]

FSA K Force brake calipers review.

FSA Full Speed Ahead Logo.I recently purchased a pair of FSA K-force dual pivot brake calipers. I hadn’t heard much about them and nobody seems to have them… anyway I have been very pleased with their performance over the last few weeks so I decided to write this quick review.

FSA K Force brake calipers review.Contrary to what other people have said about FSA products, I think these work brilliantly! I have found that both modulation and power are excellent. They’re on par with another set of highly-rated dual-pivot brake calipers: Mavic SSC. They feel stronger overall than shimano ultegra calipers, possibly due to the I-beam shape of the arms. I can’t be 100% sure of that, because I’ve been testing the new vertebrae ceramic brake housing (also pictured). [Read more →]

Continental Ultra Sport Tyres – review

Continental Ultra Sport Tyres -Review.One of the consumable parts which I go through more than most are road bicycle tyres. There are 12 road bikes in my fleet and I own two more myself. That’s a lot of tyres being constantly used, so I have a pretty good idea of how to choose a tyre for maximum duration & performance…

I discovered the Continental Ultra Sport model earlier this year. In a word, they’re excellent. [Read more →]

Another seatpost recommendation…

Da Bomb seatpost the mortar review.This seatpost by DaBomb comes in the following seat tube diameters: 27.2, 30.0, 31.4, 31.6. I was forced into buying the 30.0mm size because of a recent Viper frame I bought. Nevertheless, I was very suprised by the simplicity of the clamp mechanism. If you swap saddles regularly or get easily peeved doing so, this is the one post for you. [Read more →]