Sunday, 29 May 2016

Bike Profile: Planet X Pro Carbon - Wet Roads Training Bike

The Planet X Pro Carbon is my 'wet roads bike'; a.k.a my 'winter bike', or 'training bike'. It has done more miles than most road bikes will do in their lifetime (around 25,000km to date), and it is still going strong. Admittedly, there isn't an original part left on it; except for the rear derailleur, shifters and handlebars; but that is testament to the number of miles that it has been ridden, often in inclement weather.

The build is centred around reliability and comfort, as well as an effort to minimise expensive maintenance. As you'll see from the photos below, it's a heavily modified bike; with tweaks, bodges and customisations galore. It also has numerous scars and knocks; alluding to its lifetime of use and abuse.

The set-up in terms of geometry, is almost identical to my Eastway Emitter R0. Because I am doing endurance miles in the winter and summer, it doesn't make sense to have a more relaxed geometry on my winter bike; which would often be the case with an athlete doing 'base miles' in the winter, and shorter rides on their 'best bike' in the summer.

She is rather well worn, but this bike has a special place in my heart. She's been through a lot!


Bike Specification:


The drivetrain on the Planet X is a 6700 Ultegra 10 Speed


The crankset is a newer addition - the 3D Rotor cranks and Rotor Q-Rings


The bike came with FSA's Gossamer Brakes - they're still going strong


Mavic Askium wheels are renowned for their durability and smooth cartridge bearings


Some well-worn Shimano 105 pedals (original) and also a glimpse of my extended front mud flap


The rear mudguard flap fell off some time back, so this is a cut-down bottle riveted in place


The Selle Italia Monolink saddle allows a more forward saddle position. The Wee Cog bag is a great accessory.


Fluorescent pink bar tape from Lizard Skins is mainly for added visibility in low light conditions 


A LifeLine Chain Catcher is a good addition for Oval chainrings


The neat Lezyne Alloy Road Drive Cage has an inbuilt Lezyne pump strapping position


SKS Raceblade Long Mudguards protect from road spray front and rear


Modifications such as cable-tying the mudguards in place for added security on rough roads; as well as gear cable boots.


Lighting up front comes in the form of the Lezyne Mega Drive and Macro Drive


She's not the prettiest bike around; but damn she can rack up some miles, no matter what the conditions


Critical Measurements:

  • A. Effective top tube: 560mm
  • B. Stem length: 120mm
  • C. Saddle tip to bar: 565mm
  • D. Saddle tip to brake hood: 730mm
  • E. Saddle to floor: 1020mm
  • F: Bar to floor: 900mm
  • G: Saddle height: 785mm
  • H: Saddle setback: 35mm
  • I: Saddle length: 280mm
  • J: Saddle offset: 10mm
  • K: Crank length: 172.5mm



Thursday, 26 May 2016

Planning the 'Coasts and Cols Tour'

In front of me lies a map. The spiderweb of roads, signals opportunity. The swathes of green, suggest beautiful places to explore. The shadowy contours of mountain ranges; they, call out to me. I have started plotting a route.

In fact, this route has been plotted for many years. It is a touring trip idea that enters my mind whenever I see Grand Tour coverage from the Pyrenees; or photos of France's beautifully barren west coast; or images of secluded roads twisting through the Bretagne region. I have been plotting the route of my 'Coasts and Cols Tour', for some time.  

The idea is relatively simple. No planes, no cars, no trains; just a boat and a bike. I'll board the ferry in Portsmouth, and cross to Santander on the north coast of Spain. Rolling off the boat, I'll head south east; over the Sierra de Urbasa, and towards the Pyrenees.

On reaching the iconic mountain range, which separates France from Spain, I'll traverse south east. As I go, I'll tick through a list of Cols: including famous names like the Tourmalet, Aubisque and Peyresourde; as well as less well known climbs, such as the Col de la Pierre St. Martin, and the Col de Portet d'Aspet.

I will leave the mountain range just north of Andorra, and head towards the walled city of Carcassonne. Just south of the city, a good friend of mine, Gus, has taken ownership of a stunning french townhouse. After my traverse of the Pyrenees, I'll take a few days rest with him; to recuperate and reflect.

On leaving Carcassonne, I'll head north west; towards Toulouse. From there, I'll pick up the Garonne river, and follow the river valley all the way to the western coast, and the city of Bordeaux.

From Bordeaux, it will be onwards to La Rochelle; then up into the Bretagne region, and its beautiful rolling hills. Then, heading due north, I'll finally reach my return transport to the UK; in the form of the St. Malo ferry.

On my current mapping, the route will be around 1800 kilometres, with around 27,000 metres of ascent. With a planned nine days of riding, it equates to an average of 200km per day.

The aim is to ride the tour on the Kona Private Jake; equipped with bikepacking luggage and front panniers. I will go into far more depth on the kit I will be taking, in later blogs; but in short, I'll be carrying a tent, cooking equipment and sleeping kit; as I plan to wild-camp for the majority of the time.

It is set to be an adventure; and a challenge, of genuinely mountainous proportions.

Stay tuned for more updates, coming soon...

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Bike Profile: Pivot LES 29er Mountain Bike

The Pivot LES 29 is my do-it-all mountain bike. It is stiff and fast enough to race XC; yet capable enough to take to the mountains. Set up with a 1x10 drivetrain, tubeless alloy wheels, and a mixture of carbon and alloy finishing kit; it is a reliable, light and fast machine!

If my Eastway Emitter has a certain Italian finish to it, then the Pivot LES 29 has a definite British (or rather Lancastrian) vibe. It features wheels, brakes, headset, cranks and grips from Hope Technology; a brand that I am a huge fan of, for their no-nonsense, durable and reliable approach to components.

Meet LES...


Bike Specifications:



The Pivot LES 29 is a lightweight, but durable build


The 1x10 drivetrain offers simple, effective gearing


There is a definite British theme - with lots of Hope Technology products


Hope Technology Crankset and Look S-Track Pedals


The Hope Tech 3 X2 Disc Brakes are incredible stoppers


Hope Technology Floating Saw Rotors, fitted to Hope Hoops wheels


The RockShox Reba fork uses a 20mm front axle, for added stiffness


Beautiful machining on this Hope X2 Caliper


Tyre choice up front - The Vittoria Peyote


Tyre choice out back - The Vittoria Barzo


An Italian saddle-seatbag combo - The Scicon Hipo and fi'zi:k Tundra


Finishing touches - like these Lizard Skins Carbon Leather patches to protect the top tube in case the bars swing round in a crash



Critical Measurements:

  • A. Effective top tube: 620mm
  • B. Stem length: 85mm
  • C. Saddle tip to bar: 560mm
  • D. Saddle tip to brake hood: n/a
  • E. Saddle to floor: 1050mm
  • F: Bar to floor: 1000mm
  • G: Saddle height: 780mm
  • H: Saddle setback: 20mm
  • I: Saddle length: 290mm
  • J: Saddle offset: 0mm
  • K: Crank length: 175mm
  • Bar width: 750mm