Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Review: Intrepid Apparel Freemotion Shorts

UK based Intrepid Apparel make some superb kit. In previous reviews, I've tested gilets, jackets and shorts from the brand, and they've all impressed me with their quality, useful design features and their value for money.

The FreeMotion shorts are the brand's latest release, and are designed to be your go-to baggies for all kinds of riding and casual wear. With all of the features of the Campaign Shorts, as well as some great additions and improvements, I was looking forward to testing them out...

The FreeMotion shorts are made of the same wear-resistant, super-stretchy material as the Campaign shorts. Having tested those extensively in hot, cold and wet conditions, I can vouch that it continues to last really well, whilst feeling soft against the skin and proving highly breathable. To aid the breathability demands, the FreeMotion shorts also feature the same long thigh zipper-vents that the Campaign shorts did; allowing you to open up the airflow on the climbs, and keep your legs more comfortable.

The fabric plays a big part in ensuring that the FreeMotion shorts have a great fit, too. Its stretch properties allow it to move, as you move; whilst also meaning they fit a wide variety of leg shapes and sizes. Whilst the shorts are stretchy themselves, the waistband has an adjustable but sturdy quick-release buckle, which creates a belt-like security to avoid slippage. I opted for a size small in these, and they're a good snug fit on me (link to my measurements).

Perhaps the coolest thing about the FreeMotion shorts though, is the attention to detail...

Pocketing, for example, is extensive! Each side of the shorts, there is a zippered angle pocket; one of which has a need little karabiner to securely hold your keys. On the left hand side, there is also a spray-resistant soft lined pocket, which is ideal for your phone. Finally, on the right hand side, you get a deep zippered cargo pocket, which is fantastic for stashing passes and spares. Proper cargo shorts!

The finishing touches are nice, too. The rear waist has a large embroidered logo, and the cargo pocket has a nice rubberised Intrepid Apparel wing badge.

Some may question why there are no liner shorts in a pair of baggies that retail for £..., but I don't necessarily see that as a negative. Padded shorts are so personal, that I'd prefer to choose my liner independently of my over-shorts, and ensure that both are top-performers, rather than one impacting the other, as brands try to cut corners to meet a price point.

Overall, these are another great pair of shorts from the British brand. They're comfortable, robust and they have some great features that make them unique and highly practical. If you're after something a bit different from the mainstream brands, then these are well worth checking out!

View the Intrepid Apparel range at Intrepidapparel.co.uk (Link)






Sunday, 30 August 2015

Top Tips for Endurance Cycling Events

This year, I've taken part in a number of events that are best described as "Endurance Challenges". Events which, at five or more hours in duration, require a unique approach to get the most out of them; something a bit different from your standard weekend ride. Most have been abroad, too: including the Giro Delle Dolomiti, L'Etapé and the Mallorca312; this throws another element into the mix, with the need to adapt to foreign weather, roads and even food.

In this post, I thought I'd share a bit of experience gleaned from my Endurance Riding to date. Hopefully passing on a few useful tips, which will make your next event more enjoyable, and more successful!



'A Poor Mechanic Blames His Tools' 

Before we consider your physical preparation for an event, let alone the event itself, let's think about the tools for the job. Namely, your bike.

The first thing to ensure, is that you're comfortable. That doesn't mean you can happily ride down the road outside your house without any aches or pains; it means you can spend five or more hours riding, and not develop cramps, back pains, knee ache or swollen joints. For some, the best option might be a bike fit. I must admit, I've never had a bike fitted to me, but I've played with my position endlessly. I know that if my saddle is even 5mm lower or higher, I feel discomfort, and I know my bar width, stem length and saddle position are optimal; namely because I can do 24 hour rides, without developing aches. If you're getting discomfort, and you can't find what position tweak needs to be made to eliminate it, then go see an expert; it will be the quickest and easiest solution.

The second equipment question, is "how's the bike running?". Is it creak free, well-lubed, "run-in", and most importantly, reliable? I've fallen victim to mechanicals at a number of events this year, and while none of them were enough to end my ride, or even to require stopping; all of them hindered my progress in some way, and all of them could have been easily prevented. For me, it was a horrible creaky rear hub at the Mallorca312, and a broken free hub spring at L'Etapé; both internal problems that only materialised when I was away from my home workshop. Flying with a bike can cause all kinds of unexpected knocks and problems, even down to the effect that the extreme cold in an airplane's hold can have on the grease in your hubs. Doing an incredibly thorough strip-down service, before you do any endurance event, is well worth while!

My final note on equipment, is to consider including in your kit list an extensive range of spares for your bike. Take two spare tubes, a spare tyre, a spare mech hanger, a spare brake cable and spare brake pads. Even consider taking a small tube of grease, chain oil, baby wipes for cleaning, and of course a range of multitools that will cover every nut and bolt on your bike. At a later date, I'll compose my own kit list into a blog piece, but for now, I'll just say: "if you might need it, take it”. You don't have to take it with you on your ride, but it's a good to have back-ups.


Physical Preparation

Once you've eliminated the chance of your bike causing you problems, you need to consider how your body might. I could write a whole series of posts on training for specific events, but there is a general rule for physical preparation for endurance riding: try to replicate the conditions, before you have to ride them in the main event.

If your event contains 4,000 metres of climbing on alpine passes, then you need to be comfortable with long sustained efforts. That could mean hill repeats, 50 mile time trials, chain gang sessions or just long hilly rides. Equally, if your event is a back-to-back multi-day event, then you need to train for that: go out and do two long rides at the weekend, or even better, plan a training camp! Make sure your body is ready for what's to come.

As well as preparing as best you can, in the months leading up to an event, you should also make sure that your body is in the best shape possible in the days before the event. Choose a decent hotel, where you'll get a good night sleep. Don't fly too close to your event, leaving yourself time to acclimatise. Practice good personal hygiene, stay off the booze and eat well; this will all minimise the chance of you getting ill in the run-up to the big day. Much like you thoroughly prepare your bike for an endurance ride, you also need to look after and prepare your body, as best you can.


On The Day - What To Eat And Drink?

"The best laid plans of mice and men can often go astray". Nutrition is something that can certainly throw your plans into turmoil. I've been there, and experienced the problems of poor nutrition during events: new untried energy drinks that cause stomach cramps, French breakfasts that only keep you fuelled for five minutes, even the effects of CocaCola and Oreo overdose... some haven't been pretty.

Your on-the-day feeding should be simple: stick to what you know. My formula now is pretty simple, but it ensures I've got the bases covered. The night before the event, I have something that is carb-rich, but gentle on the stomach, such as spaghetti and salmon. The morning of the event, I take Rude Health Granola with me, and have a large bowl with yoghurt, orange juice and one coffee; don't get tempted by the pastries, free coffee and bacon on offer at your hotel!

Once out on the bike, I try to stick to solid fuel, as gels and energy drink can cause uncomfortable "stomach sloshing". I use STEALTH Hydration sachets or OSMO Active Hydration, and add it to water at the drinks station; steer clear of new energy drinks that you haven’t tried before. Food wise, keep it plain and ordinary: flapjacks, bananas, rice cakes, fruit jellies, nuts and dried fruit; leave the pastries and cakes for the post-ride celebrations. I always take a few gels with me, either from High5 Nutrition or Secret Training (I know these agree with a delicate stomach); but I try to save them for the last hour or so, in the hope of avoiding too much of a sugar spike. As general guidance: eat simple, eat natural, and drink low-acidity low-sugar electrolyte drinks, in preference.


Pace Yourself. Enjoy It!

My final tip, is pace yourself. Don't go hell for leather from the start, if you know you can't hold that pace for five or more hours. Hold yourself back, and use that extra energy when the finish line is closer.

More importantly than anything though, enjoy it! You're doing it for fun. So, get out there, take your time to savour the experience, and have a good ride!

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Review: Adidas Adizero Short Sleeve Jersey

It's not very often that I weigh a piece of clothing. In fact, I don't remember ever doing it before... It was the first thing that I did with the new adidas adizero jersey though; because to be blunt, it's ludicrously light.

Adidas claim that the jersey weighs in at a minuscule 65 grams; my medium sample actually came in at 62 grams on my scales, so it is indeed a serious featherweight! The thinking behind this record breaking design, is simple: lighter is faster, thinner materials are more comfortable in the heat, and a lower profile style is more aero.

In recent years, we've seen Grand Tour contenders such as Chris Froome wear skimpy (and see-through) jerseys and skin-suits on Alpine stages; the adizero jersey comes from the same school of thought, and pushes the boundaries in terms of ventilation and minimalism.

Shrouded in tissue paper, the jersey arrives like a precious piece of art. When you unwrap it, you can see why; this is a piece of apparel made of fabric that won't deal with burly handling. It's about as light as Lycra gets, and features net fabrics on key perspiration areas such as the back, under-arms and lower hem. It is about as close as you can get to wearing nothing, whilst still wearing something.

The fit is good, and my medium size jersey came up fairly well, although I would probably opt for a small in retrospect (link to my sizings). The sleeves have a longer (more aero) profile than many traditional jerseys, and the cut is very much cycling-specific; with a significant drop-tail and higher cut front. There's very little in the way of a collar, which is an intentional design, aimed at reducing weight and heat-retention. There's also a full-length zipper, and silicone grippers on the hem and sleeves; both helping to achieve a comfortable and secure fit.

As is always the case with high-end products (this jersey retails for £100), it is the attention to detail in the adizero jersey that makes it interesting. It is also what makes it a performer out on the bike. The positioning of the mesh panels seems to be spot-on, and notably help in dissipating perspiration and heat; I've tested this jersey in 30 degrees, and the lighter fabric made a significant difference to temperature regulation and comfort. Other design features are also well considered, such as the subtle reflective detailing, which is a good nod towards safety.


If I have one criticism of the adizero jersey, it is the pocketing. In a bid to reduce weight and maximise ventilation, adidas have opted for just two small pockets on the jersey. For some, that might be enough, and you could fit say a phone and a few gels in the capacity. For me though, it's a bit too minimal. I tend to take a pump, phone, a few gels and a bar in my pockets; there is no chance of fitting that in this jersey. The result, is that you'd need to fit the pump on the frame and the other things in a saddlebag; once you have to do that, you're adding weight to the bike/rider, and it rather negates the benefit of the lightweight jersey for net weight loss. Personally, I would have preferred to have seen three normal size pockets.

Aside from the minor pocketing issue (which for many may not be an issue), this is a superb bit of summer cycling kit. The lightweight fabric is extremely effective at aiding comfort in hotter weather, the fit is close, and the cut is well tailored to a bike rider's position. It's also a great looker, and would certainly appear the part as you tackle that mountain pass.

If you're a rider that suffers from overheating, or you're based in a country with plenty of warmer summer days, this is a product worth considering.

View the adidas range at adidasspecialtysports.co.uk (Link)