So the sun has started peeping out on occasion and the evenings are getting lighter, it must be Spring! Probably my favourite time of year actually, full of anticipation of all those balmy summer evenings (hopefully!), warm sunset surf sessions in lazy waves, long days out on the bike, barbecues and beers. Here’s hoping this year gives us as much sun as last time round, if the evidence of early spring is anything to go by I reckon it could be a belter.
As for the pedaling, well I’ve not been getting out as much as I would like, largely due to playing football again regularly but when I have got the bike out it’s been in good weather, and it’s been a lot of fun! The guards are off too which has made the bike feel a little more zippy, plus it looks pretty again now. A sample of spring time snaps thus far:
Been a bit slack with the updates on the blog to be fair. Apologies. It’s been tough to fit in blog updates around work, family, the festive chaos and riding like a BOSS around the New Forest’s lanes. I’m currently at a bit of an impasse due to a football injury – it seems, now at 31, I can’t play more than a couple of games without picking up some sort of body complaint!
Good news is the SKS Raceblade Longs I fitted in the autumn have been working a treat. Staying on solidly and not producing too much in the way of annoying rattley noises. One thing you do have to watch out for is gunk getting caught in and around the clips near the brake calipers- as the clearance is so tight in this area any build up just ends up scrubbing your tyre and my rear has been squared off slightly. I guess I need to just clean the thing regularly! I’m slack with that as well.
While I have been out riding I’ve managed to take some snaps here and there so I thought I’d share these to give the blog a bit of colour on this dreary January day.
Well, it had to happen some when… the weather has turned. As late as last Friday down on the south coast of Blighty we were lucky enough to experience a sunny 20c day. Pretty unusual for late October and I pounced on the opportunity to get the bike out for the morning:
However as I write this it’s dark, raining and struggling to hit double figures temperature wise. This sort of weather change calls for a fresh approach if I’m to keep pedaling over the winter (my first winter proper as a road cyclist). Some people buy another bike – a winter one – that gets used and abused and has proper big mudguards to protect you from the winter muck. I love this approach and I do like the idea of a winter steed. I need more bikes (everyone does). But I can’t really justify getting another bike and I also have my eye on getting something more aero and possibly carbon to replace my Canyon Roadlite next spring/summer. Or, if funds can’t stretch to that, I’d like to at least get some aero wheels for the Canyon. Do you see the problem? Everywhere you turn there’s expensive goodies to entice you in… And I am being enticed.
So considering all the options and my lust for getting some go faster goodies next spring I thought a minimalist plan for winter was the way to go. Mudguards for the Canyon were obviously the cheapest route to staying dry and keeping the miles under the wheels. However having a road bike at the sportier end of things means you’re a bit hamstrung for options guards wise as there’s no mounting holes for regular mudguards. Removable clip on style jobbies are what’s needed and in reality you’ve only got two choices – Crud Roadracers or SKS Raceblade Longs. Either would probably do a good enough job but a few people had mentioned that the Cruds rattle around a bit and the fittings can tend to break after a season or two. So I was up for some Raceblades in black to limit the detrimental effect guards have to a bike’s aesthetics (I’m a tart I know). Luckily some barely used items popped up locally on gumtree and I swooped in for a bargain. The guy was selling because they didn’t fit his bike. This worried me as what makes the Canyon Roadlite, and most other newer road bikes these days, particularly difficult to fit guards to is the minimal clearances between tyres and brakes. The Roadlite runs 25mm tyres rather than the usual 23mms. You get a more comfortable ride and a better roll on the bigger tyres but obviously it makes things difficult when you’re trying to slip some guards in there. After searching around on the net I found a few incidents where people had tried to fit Raceblades to bikes on 25mm tyres and failed. I was thinking these guards might have to go straight back on gumtree but decided to have a bash first since as they were sat there in the box, looking at me.
There were no meaningful instructions in the SKS box but that didn’t matter. Dan Lloyd at GCN came to the rescue and his vid is better than any instruction set. This is all you need if you’re fitting a set of Raceblade Longs.
Basically I followed Lloydy’s advice to the letter and despite some issues with a lot of tyre rub on the rear I eventually managed to get them fitting snug and rub free! Result. The clearance is really tight and you need to allow a good 5-10 mins per wheel of faffing with the guard stays until you get the allignment right so there’s no rubbing. At one point I thought the clearances were too tight and I’d have to give up but all was well in the end. The whole thing took me just under an hour so it’s not really a quick job, but these badboys will be staying on until spring so I’m sure my bike and backside will thank me. I don’t reckon they look too bad either.
Some more advice I took from the GCN video was applying some tape to the back of the seat tube to protect the frame. If you take a look at the pic above you can see the rear guard touches the frame and I didn’t want any scrapeage. Some 3M electrical tape looks like it will do the job.
After all that faffing I was really looking forward to a test spin. I headed out on a 35 mile local loop this morning and was well pleased at the protection the Raceblades give. I went past Beaulieu River when, after the tide had come right up and partially flooded the road, it was an ideal chance to do some wet testing. I sailed right through a fairly deep section and was amazed to find I didn’t actually get wet… like not even a bit. Enjoyed. They do rattle a bit over rough roads and I can definitely feel some extra drag at higher speeds to be honest but I don’t mind that as a trade off.
So if you’re wondering whether you can fit SKS Raceblades to a racey(ish) road bike with 25mm tyres… the answer is… bloody well yes.
I’d read that punctures on road bikes, with their skinny tyres, are more prevalent than what you’d find with mountain biking but I think my experience is taking the piss somewhat at the moment. I bought my bike in late February, have covered almost 1100 miles since and have suffered 3 x punctures in that time- surely this isn’t typical?
My first two punctures came within the first month or so. Both pinch flats. I didn’t own a track pump at the time and I put this down to the pressures being a bit low. Perhaps I wasn’t vigilant enough with checking them before each ride. So I went out and bought a tower style pump and ensured the tyres were in and around 100psi before each ride. Around 700 or so trouble free miles followed until yesterday’s ride:
On a nice little steep left-hand hairpin climb out of Nomansland I heard a sudden hissing from the front but the tyre looked ok still. I carried on dancing out of the saddle up the hill, thinking if this really is a puncture I’ll sort it when I’m at the top. Unlike my two previous punctures this was a gradual affair which did allow me to finish the climb before finding a suitable place to pull in. I switched tubes and as I’m getting better at this (I’m getting a fair bit of practice) did so with relative ease. It was here that I was thankful for carrying CO2 rather than a mini pump. Previous tube swap attempts have had mixed results largely because I couldn’t get enough pressure in the new tube with a mini pump. So I picked up some CO2 canisters and an inflator from the local bike shop, this time round the tyre was up near full pressure within seconds – without the need for me to continuously pump in vain.
I inspected the damaged tube but couldn’t find anything obvious so I’ll have to test it in water later on. I then was saddened as my idea of making sure my tyres were at 100psi for each ride for puncture free fun seemed flawed. But then I realised that all three punctures I’ve had so far have been on the original tubes that came with the bike; Schwalbe Extra Lights. I’ve had the front go, which I repaired with a patch only for it to go again in the aforementioned incident yesterday. The Extra Light on the back went a couple of months ago leaving me attempting to swap tubes in the cold pissing down rain of early spring… fun.
The replacements I’ve put on are just the standard Schwalbe Road Inner tubes, a little heavier but perhaps a tad more resistant to punctures? Let’s hope so.
It’s a tricky decision to make isn’t it? Especially when, if like me, you don’t have a clue about road bikes. I was never even a fan of the idea of riding on the road to be honest. I used to see a lot of team jersey’d, looking like they’re sponsored roadie types clogging up the New Forest roads in the summer, and thought “what a bunch of benders!”. Who would want to ride on the road, breathing in exhaust fumes when you can get right out into the wilds on a mountain bike? However I’ve taken a complete U-turn from this line of thinking and I’m now one of those benders that’s in your way as you’re trying to drive to Brockenhurst (I have drawn the line at the pro team jersey look though).
There are a few reasons for my change of opinion, the main one being the mess that is caused when trying to regularly mountain bike through a sodding wet British winter. I would actually say the washing machine was doing more miles than me at one point. This year was so wet that some of the forest trails became impassable and many were blocked by trees, felled by the howling storms. Even a relatively short ride like the one below would result in most of my clothing needing to be chucked in the wash.
I started doing a few regular road rides on the MTB and began to see a lot of people on road bikes just slipping through the air a lot more effortlessly. I looked on jealously as my big nobbly tyres roared on against the road. I can’t have this. I want to go fast too. A quick flick through eBay and a few local bike shop’s websites ignited the touch paper. Eventually, in the search for best possible bike for under a grand, I ended up ordering a Canyon – direct from Germany. Most people advise against an internet purchase of a bike you’ve never even sat on for size, especially for a first foray into roadies and I’d say that was decent advice. However, after doing my fit on Competitive Cyclist, I was confident I could pick out the right size using my measurements and Canyon’s frame size geometry chart. Plus Canyon have a 30 day return policy, so if the worst happened and I got the wrong size, there was a path to resolution.
Why a Canyon Roadlite AL 6.0?
I looked at the Cannondale CAAD8, I spent a lot of time mulling over the carbon Mekk 2G Poggio but I ended up ruling carbon out as I wanted a decent all round package and it’s difficult to get a good carbon frame with a 105 groupset (that’s the gears, levers and cogs – you pick up all this jargon after a while) or above for sub £1k.
Then I stumbled onto the Canyon website and was taken aback by all the lovely metal and plastic machines on offer. All of their bikes have a distinctive look with a lot of modern looking logos which I loved but are not to everyone’s taste. Their base level road offering (the Roadlite) not only had the Shimano 105 groupset I was looking for (which actually includes brakes and bottom bracket which some manufacturers duck out of including) but it also came with Mavic Aksium rims which are a big upgrade on pretty much any other bike you can buy for under a grand. In other words it looked like the perfect steed.
After waiting what seemed like an age (8 days) the bike was in my possession. It came with a little torque wrench so you can attach the bars, wheels and saddle along with some assembly paste which I thought was a nice touch. Having said that, the assembly is probably the only downside of ordering from Canyon as to get things totally right you have to have a bit of experience with bikes. After faffing about fitting the wheels and bars (I don’t have a bike stand so had to improvise a bit) i realised that the rear derailleur was slightly out and on a short trip up the road gears were skipping and clicking a bit at the back. This is an issue that’s very easily sorted if you know what you’re doing however I didn’t. I do have a couple of mates who do though, a couple of minutes tinkering using a friend’s stand and knowledge, cheers Switch, the gears were straight, true and slick.
My initial ride thoughts, considering this was my first time on a roadie, were alarming. The thing felt so light and lively, like an excited thoroughbred straining at the reins. The first ride was an early morning last month and there was a bit of ice about on the road, I was in mountain bike mode and threw the handlebars into a left hand corner at a roundabout. The front end immediately lost grip and slid half a foot or so across the tarmac. Luckily I recovered control and all was well but I’d nearly stacked it just a mile or so from the front door! After that my mind was focused a bit more and I started to get tuned into the finer inputs required when piloting a much more responsive machine. The rest of the ride was a revelation, the Canyon is so efficient, it feels like every pedal stroke instantly translates into propulsion down the road. It’s so easy to pile on the speed and the miles, I did 21 on my first ride out on it without even thinking about it. Previously I’d ridden 28 on my mountain bike and could really feel it in my quads afterwards.
There’s a particularly short but sharp climb that I tackle on the way home from go-outs and it’s usually a real killer on the MTB. Under a mile long but you’ll go from a steady 13mph down to 6-7mph as the climb goes from about 2% to what feels like 20% (it’s probably not) in just a few feet. The best I could manage on this climb using the MTB was an average of 11.4mph. The Canyon climbs so well that on my first spin on it I was going 2mph quicker without even gunning for it. Over the next few weeks I used this little climb as a gauge of how I’m doing and on the Roadlite I’m now averaging 16.4mph, a fair bit nippier than the MTB. The only problem with this sort of gauging is you start to become a bit too obsessed by the numbers, I often find it’s best to just get out there and enjoy the ride.
So after 300 miles on the Canyon in six weeks or so I can say that I blooming love it and I’m hooked. I’m even booked in to do my first Sportive next month, so the gears have well and truly taken hold.
Photography & Thoughts on Surfing, Cycling, Football and Some Other Crap