Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Yorkshire bike retailer announces 2015 Road and MTB teams

The region’s oldest cycling business, All Terrain Cycles which has superstores in Saltaire and Wetherby, has announced its road and mountain bike/cyclocross teams for the coming season.

Having supporting the sport of cycling since 1997 with its shop team, All Terrain Cycles has brought together some of the most talented cyclists in Yorkshire.  The 19-strong road team includes up-and-coming stars such as Chris Emsley,31, who last year won the Cat 4 race at Tameside and came in the top 10 of all the races he entered. 

All Terrain Cycles’ MTB/CX team comprises nine members including Chris Whitfield who is the SDA Down Hill Champion for the third consecutive year; and Jeremy Copeland who took second place in the XC Single Speed European Championships.  One of the most exciting riders is Bjoern Koerdt who, at just ten years of age, has already scooped the titles of Yorkshire Cyclocross Champion, Yorkshire Road Racing League Champion and Yorkshire Summer Cross Series Winner. 

“As cycling enthusiasts, we’re committed to promoting the sport and believe it’s vital to give talented riders the support they need to fulfil their potential,” explains Tony Booth, managing director of All Terrain Cycles.  “Cycling has become highly technical and riders need the very best professional support in order to have the best chance of success.  As well as taking part in our regular training rides, team members also benefit from expert servicing by our mechanics, and advice on everything from the latest cycling products for enhanced performance to biodynamics, the positioning of the cyclist on the bike.

“Each year, our teams have gone from strength to strength and we have high hopes for the 2015 season.  Chris Whitfield hopes to be SDA Champion for the fourth year in a row and with the addition of a couple of new riders, our road team is looking better than ever and is confident of putting in a strong performance in a number of national team events.”

Tony adds: “Great Britain has become one of the leading cycling nation’s in the world and with Yorkshire’s passion for the sport, we want to make sure that tomorrow’s cycling stars come from our region!”

Dating back to 1907, All Terrain Cycles is the oldest cycling business in Yorkshire.  It plays an active part in supporting the region’s cycling fraternity, sponsoring a number of cycling and charity events in the region every year such as the Bronte Sportive, the Lord Mayor’s Cycle Ride and the Ripley Castle Cyclocross.   Building on the success of its 10,000sq ft retail outlet at Salts Mill, Saltaire in Shipley, and its thriving online business it opened a second 10,000sq ft cycling superstore last year in Wetherby.  Selling many of the leading brands such as Trek and Cannondale, both stores stock over 1,000 mountain, road and BMX bikes, plus clothing and accessories as well as offering repairs and servicing.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Endura’s Equipe Exo Softshell

I’ve had Endura’s Equipe Exo Softshell for three months now and have very pleased with it. There’s a bewilderingly amount of clothing out there promising the moon on a stick, I wanted a jacket that could take me through the winter months and having tackled previous winters in a waterproof (and boiled in the bag) so I thought I’d see what a softshell could do.

 The jacket offers a complete barrier against wind and goes a long way in wet weather too, I’ve been out in some hideous weather recently and haven’t once reached for my emergency waterproof, layering a number of thin tops underneath makes it very versatile as the jacket itself isn’t overly insulated. 

The offset zip gives a snug and warm fit at the neck and the sizing is generous enough to allow layering but trim enough to prevent the windsock effect. The pit-zips are very useful and very easily reached whilst riding. Reflective but subtle trim gives good visibility and the stretch fabric gives good all day comfort. 

The only criticism I have is the large rear pocket, it’s easily accessible with a zipper-pull but inside it’s divided up with a mesh organiser which gets in the way rather than helping you find stuff, especially with winter gloves on but it’s only a small niggle.

  A great jacket, buy one, I did.

Friday, 9 January 2015

2015 Giant TCX Advanced 2 – Short term review.

At the end of September, after a summer of riding a Giant Defy Composite 2, it was time to choose a new bike. All the usual questions arose; do I get another road bike, or perhaps that first full suspension mountain bike??  Given that winter was coming, and most of my riding would be the daily commute I settled on the most sensible choice, a Cyclocross bike. Lightweight, nimble and ideal for canal path riding and road use alike. 

With All Terrain being one of the main sponsors of the New Years Day Cyclocross Race at Ripley Castle, this seemed to be a good choice to enter the Go Cross event on too, but more on that later.

Having settled on a TCX, it was down to two models, the ALUXX framed TCX SLR 1 or the Advanced Carbon framed TCX Advanced 2. Knowing how good Giant are at making frames, and how good their carbon is, it was a really easy choice. Full carbon frame and fork please. TCX Advanced 2 it was.  Even better news for me was that the bikes were in stock in my size, Medium/Large for a 6ft ish rider, and would be with me earlier than any of the other models too.  

The next couple of weeks were spent eagerly awaiting delivery of the bike. Like all cyclists, I waited patiently and didn’t get like a small child at Christmas once it arrived.

With the bike built and ready to ride, the first thing I noticed was the weight. I don’t know quite what I was expecting but it was a bit heavier than I thought it would be. Looking into the specs of the bike I couldn’t find any fault. Shimano 105 11speed shifters and derailleurs, FSA Cyclocross chain set, TRP Spyre cable pull disc brakes and Giant’s own brand wheels. The “extra” weight was in the frame.

 After a moment’s thought, I realized this would be because the frame needs to be stronger than on a road bike, therefore heavier than one too. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a heavy bike by anybodies standards, just a bit heavier than I was expecting.
Having set the saddle height, fitted my Shimano M530 SPD pedals and Hope light, I was ready for that all important first ride.  Looking out of the workshop window, it was a typical late September Yorkshire evening – cold, wet and windy. Perfect weather to test a new CX bike. Canal towpath ride it was then!! Let’s do this!!
45 minutes later I get home, with a grin plastered across my face, along with about an inch of mud. 

As a first ride goes, that was well above my expectations. The TCX carried speed so easily and was so well planted that even though I’d never ridden one before, I set a few PB’s on Strava on that first ride. There are sections along my route home that are smooth, and then there are sections that aren’t. The TCX rolled easily over all of it. 

The only places it really struggled (or was it me??) were the rutted bumpy path alongside a lock, and the soggy gloopy muddy puddles. To be honest though, I find those bits a bit interesting on my Orange Crush too.

The next few rides were spent fine tuning my ride position and getting used to riding clipped in off-road again. Once my ride position was sorted, the bike felt even better. Getting used to a CX specific gearing would take a bit longer though. Having ridden a compact chain set on the Defy, with a 30T on the rear, it made short work of the hills. The TCX has a 46/36T chain set, with an 11-28T cassette. A bit of a surprise on the first few hills, and even a bit of pushing up them too. 

Maybe I’m not quite as fit as I thought. After a few weeks though, the ratios are making sense, and I’m not pushing up as many hills as before, just a couple in my local woods when the ground is wet/loose.

With us now coming out of winter, the nights will get lighter and the rides will get longer. I’ll be able to put the bike through a bit more of a test, and myself too. So far, so good though.  At this point, I’d recommend everyone to consider a Cyclocross bike for their winter/commute bike. 

It still puts a smile on my face each time I ride it.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

So, that's 2014 done and dusted for me, finishing it in style laid up in bed with a virus, time to reflect.....

The year started well, I had 2 goals, going sub 8 hours on my local sportive The Etape du Dales and having a bash at a 300 miler. I also decided to train, actually properly train using a structured programme, something I'd never done before. I decided on  Chris Carmichael's time-pressed cyclist plan for no other reason than my mate had the book. I suppose his fame is morally questionable these days, but his plan did fit nicely around my shift work. I was due to start the programme at the beginning of March, it being a 12 week plan, which would take me to a pinnacle of my cycling prowess for the EdD (positive mental attitude and all that).

Then it all went pear-shaped, well, Ford Fiesta shaped. On a ride out around Longridge Fell I was hit square on by a Ford Fiesta pulling out of a junction.

 Lots of blue lights, a very apologetic young driver and a trip to Preston Hospital on a spine board. All very exciting and bloody annoying, although whilst strapped to the spine board and being told my bike was in several pieces I did start to ponder about a shiny new bike.....

Scans showed nothing more than soft tissue damage so I was booted out into the A and E waiting area in soggy lycra with a very suspicious looking brown stain on my lower back where a chocolate gel had exploded. Several weeks of physio saw me fit to ride again but without a bike. I'd decided on a Giant Defy Advanced but it was a victim of it's own success and was near as dammit impossible to get hold of one, so the budget was blown and I ordered a Kinesis Gran Fondo Ti frame to be built up with Ultegra and some very nice Swiss Side Gotthard wheels.

The training programme worked a treat. On a borrowed bike (cheers Andy) I managed the Etape du Dales in 7hrs 40 which I was really chuffed with. A month later I did the Open Adventure Coast to Coast In A Day sportive, a cracking event giving 150 miles of pretty challenging riding through beautiful scenery and well orgnaised too. I managed that one in 10hrs but I had an underlying problem with stomach pains, something which had niggled me on the EdD too. I'd find that after 7hrs of riding I just couldn't eat or drink, feeling very bloated and throwing up. I tried not using gels or sugary stuff (on a spin round the Fred Whitton route which ended in me bonking) but I still felt rough, in the mean time my Kinesis arrived and was built up, I decided to christen it with a 200 miler (bit ambitious), I managed the distance but had to get rescued 2 miles from home having not eaten or drunk any fluids in 6 hours, bloody guts! The answer eventaully lay in Michael Hutchinson's book "Faster" when he talked about Team Sky's nutritionist giving the team pro-biotics and sorting out their gut bacteria. A course of pills and a tentative 8hr ride, then a 12 hr ride and things were looking good, happy days!

On a whim I decided on trying my 300 miler in October, I knew I needed relatively decent weather and was running out of time if I wanted a bash at it in 2014. I picked as flat a route as possible through the Ribble Valley, The Fylde then up the Lune into the Eden Valley and then north. I evtuually turned around at Moffat and headed back south, following the Settle-Carlisle railway. After 4 punctures and 11,000ft of climbing I finally got to Kirkby Stephen with 320 miles under my wheels. The train was my way home and after 27hrs on the bike was very welcoming!

So that was the lows and highs of 2014, other gems were Great Dun Fell in a gale, hitting 101kph descending Fleet Moss and 4000+ other miles around the Dales.

Stand out bits of kit? Ultegra 11 speed is awesome, the 11-32 cassette is great for lardies like me on the Hardknott and Coal Road. The Kinesis Ti is a beautiful ride and looks the biz too. 2k+ and the Swiss Side Gotthards are flawless, running smooth and true. My Exposure Blaze rear light is retina-searingly brilliant and great for ultra long rides.

2015 goals? The Etape again, hopefully a race around Iceland is on the cards, another 300 miler hopefully  24hrs,  maybe some Audax rides and the odd TT too. The big news is I'm officially riding for Team All Terrain, so a huge thanks to Tony for what will hopefully be another good year.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Giant Defy Composite 2 2014 - a Staff Long Term Review

What can I say about this bike that hasn’t been said before?? A full carbon, Shimano 105 equipped road bike for less than £1500. Amazing performance at a great value price.

Let’s go back to March 2014.......
I am stoked to get my hands on my bike (finally). Only ever had a basic road bike before, a Giant Defy 4 – Aluxx Frame and fork, Shimano 2300 groupset. This svelte carbon bike should be fun....
Eight months later and I’m still feeling the same. The Defy has been a pleasure to ride. Comfort and compliance, a geometry that suited me and my ability, and great reliable kit. All in, a fantastic package. The first few rides enabled me to fine tune the ride position, and get used to the new gears. After that it was time to put the miles in....

So the first few rides were my daily commute, 5 ½ miles each way. Not anything super exciting, but enough to get me started. Within a few rides had my times down to under 20 minutes (just). I was impressed with the way the bike rode and handled. Even with my near 17 stone weight on it, the Defy was still lively and nimble. It climbed really well also, even with my lack of fitness at the time. With the summer approaching and that ‘little’ race coming to the area, I decided to start pushing the distances a little bit. By adding on a bit extra to my ride home, I was able to get up to 20 miles easily. Even with my level of fitness I was able to push more and more on the bike. 

No matter how hard I pushed, or how fast (and badly) I descended and cornered, the Defy never felt out of shape or control. By the time the Tour de France had its Grand Depart here in Yorkshire I had got down to 16 stone and felt much better about riding longer distances. So much so that the day of the second stage, I decided to ride out to our VIP area, and then put in a few extra miles after. By the end of the day, I had ridden nearly 50 miles. That was unheard of for me, and I felt I could have ridden more, if not for failing light, failing legs and lungs, and the wife (boss) wanting me home again.

From then I tried to get out for a longer ride once a week, which was an absolute pleasure. Usually 15 – 20 miles on a Friday evening, along roads giving some fantastic views across Yorkshire. Pure riding heaven.  As the year drew to a close, and the nights got darker it was time to think ahead to winter and 2015. 

The new Giant dealer book landed, and all of the staff started rifling through it to see what was new for the next season, but more on that in a later blog.

Overall I have been very impressed with the Defy Composite 2. It is a fantastic bike to ride. For me it opened up a whole new world of riding. For the new season I have decided to try something new.

 A cyclocross bike. A bit of a change from the road, but more suited to my needs. Most of my riding is commuting, with the occasional longer ride, often with my Wife, along quiet roads and the canal towpath. The Defy was fantastic on the roads, but that’s not where most of my riding will be. If I was out for longer rides every weekend, or entering Sportive rides, the Defy would be perfect.  

It didn’t work out as the ideal bike for me, but it proved to be a blast to ride and I would recommend it to anyone looking for an endurance/sportive bike.

 With a TCX on order for me now, all I have to do is not look at the catalogue for 2015 and fall in love with road bikes again. At least not yet.....

Monday, 17 November 2014

A Cumbrian Cracker

Sunday the 16th November saw nearly 900 riders setting off on the annual Cumbrian Cracker sportive run by Epic Events.

All Terrain Cycles at Cumbrian Cracker
Starting in Grasmere the 57 mile route climbs steeply up over Red Bank before settling down to a delightful run south alongside Coniston before crossing the A590 and down to the half-way feed at Cartmel before climbing back north and into Grizedale with a final plummet into Hawkshead and a fast run back to Grasmere.

All Terrain Cycles at Cumbrian Cracker
The event was really well organised with a comprehensive pre-ride e-mailed briefing which covered, in great details, all the requirements and the route was well signed and marshalled. Timings were courtesy of front hub-mounted timing chips and results were published the evening of the ride.

A good spread of riders from beginners on mountain bikes to well-practiced club riders meant the times varied from 2hrs 54 to 8hrs+, but of course, it’s not a race is it…………?!

The weather was brilliant with mist lingering in the valley bottoms, patchy sunshine and calm lakes, with the autumn leaves still clinging on it was a real belter of a day.

This was my first run of this event and I was pretty happy with a 3hr 50 time especially as my riding partner for the day managed a 3rd place in her Cat.

Overall a great sportive for riders of all levels and at £20 good value.

The SwissSide Gotthards worked at treat !

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

PDW FULL METAL JACKETS – Are these the most expensive road bike guards we have ever seen?

When I first saw these guards and saw the price tag I nearly had a heart attack, I thought wow these may be the most expensive guards I’ve ever seen.

One year later and I’ve managed to finally fit a set of these beautiful PDW Full metal jackets mud guards to my winter bike. PDW also known as Portland Design Works make these guards in house in Portland and have pretty much thought of just about everything when it comes to design.

Whether you have mud guard eyelets or not PDW full metal jackets will fit pretty much any top end road bike along as you are using 23c tyres. They do say that 25c tyres can be used on some bikes, But if your bike is a full on race bike with standard road callipers you will need 23c tyres to get them to work beautifully. Most high end road bikes don’t have the ability to fit full length guards due to not being designed with mud guards in mind and this has always caused problems in fitting to my trusty winter stead.

I can hear you say “well if you were riding a proper winter bike you would have mud guard eyelets and 57mm drop road callipers” This is true and you are not wrong. But myself and another team rider bought our Giant TCR aluminium winter training bikes for one simple reason to emulate our race bike position, so when spring finally shows it’s head we wouldn’t have to re-adjust to our racing bike position quite as much. Not only that the bike would handle and ride similar even though it was aluminium rather than carbon.

Fitting these guards was an absolute pleasure and that is saying something. If you have ever fitted mud guards on a weekly basis, you often find it drives you up the wall. The amount of times you have to re-adjust the guard or it rattles or consistently rubs or sometimes won’t fit due to the callipers or space as it passes through the frame/fork. Most of the time you just want it to be summer all year round, so don’t have to deal with the stress of fitting guards.

The weather has finally turned here in Yorkshire and in the last few weeks I’ve been able to test these guards in some pretty nasty conditions. If you have ever road in Yorkshire throughout the winter it can be pretty wet. These guards really do protect you from the elements. Not only that they don’t rattle like most plastic mud guards or rub even under hard pedalling. These guards really do inspire you to get out ride no matter whatever the weather.

Once fitted these guards are so stiff and even without the guides to hold them in place they hold their shape. Quality is written all over these guards from the build and finish to the design, everything has been thought about and no stone unturned. The bracket that passes over the rear brake to hold the guard in place is perfectly designed not to interfere with the brake even when using standard drop road callipers. These guards are very easy to adjust up and down with a 2mm Allen key. The guide arms are designed beautiful and fit with ease and hold the guard in place. The guards come with protective stickers that stop the mounts marking the guard itself.

I honestly cannot find a bad thing to say about them. The only grumble is they only come in one colour, a gun metal grey.
These guards are worth penny of the £75 price tag and will keep you dry and make your winter bike look and feel great.