Archive for the ‘kit’ Category

Product review: Campagnolo Neutron Ultras

My new Campagnolo Neutron Ultra wheels have now been properly road tested and deserve a post all to themselves.

Branded wheel bags.

Branded wheel bags my friends.


Clean styling and bladed spokes.


On the rear wheel, the spokes connect with the rim asymmetrically on the non-drive side.


Freehub body and carbon fibre hub casing.

As Joe predicted the Ultras’ understated looks and colour scheme match the Wilier perfectly.

On the road, the Ultras spin up much quicker than my Fulcrum 7s, and this is noticeable on the flat as well as when climbing. The front wheel is so feather-light that on fast descents it can feel a bit skittish, but for the weight saving (400g total) this is worth it. The rear wheel doesn’t seem to weigh much less than my Fulcrum rear, which is disappointing, but I blame the beast of a cassette (Centaur 13-29) I’ve fitted with La Marmotte in mind. This is one component that will be worth its weight penalty…

I bought the Ultras on Kompressor Bike, the super-cheap Luxembourg-based site offering big discounts over Wiggle and CRC.

Update @ June ’09:

The rear hub developed play after only 3 months use. It turned out a small part had broken inside and had to be replaced – not that great really, but it didn’t cost much and apparently these things happen?

Update @ September ’09:

A spoke on the rear wheel snapped without warning while I was out riding. I’ve been using the wheels consistently throughout the summer, but this isn’t heavy use. I do pump up the rear tyre to 110 psi, but that ought to be fine. So I just don’t think this is good enough for a £700 wheelset at 7 months old. Disappointing.

Update @ May ’10:

Another spoke on the rear wheel snapped 4 hours in to a sportive, bringing my event to an end. I’m afraid that’s the final straw for this wheelset. Clearly, they are not durable enough to withstand the rigours of UK roads. I didn’t ride these all winter, so it’s not like I’ve really hammered them, and I’m only 10st 8, so I’m not too heavy. Will now upgrade.

Update @ September ’10:

I had the rear wheel repaired by Brixton Cycles. According to them, some of the spokes had been incorrectly tightened by the previous repair (i.e. by Condor) – but they assured me that the wheel was now ready to ride again. I took the wheel back to Condor and asked for an explanation. They couldn’t really do much apart from check over the wheel once again and give it back to me. Since I bought a new set of wheels to replace the Neutrons, I’m still going to sell them – but at least it looks like whoever buys them will get plenty more life from them.

Rapha kit

My recent birthday brought with it a couple of choice new items for my cycling wardrobe. The first was a Rapha long sleeve jersey


Basically, everything you’ve heard is true: exquisite detailing, great fit, good looks. Every serious cyclist would love to own some of this kit. I haven’t worn it yet because I refuse to subject it to winter grime (so maybe in June, then). I mean, you have to like this:


A Pantani homage in the back pocket. Unreal.

Product review: Rema Tip Top Hand Cleaner


Get some. It works.

Wilier Mortirolo 08

I was in a happy relationship with my Wilier Mortirolo Veloce 2007 for a year after we got together. Then I went to France and picked up / rode / stroked Joe‘s Trek Madone 6.9. Suddenly the Wilier felt decidedly hefty…

The trouble with cycling is that the more you ride the more you demand from your bike, and the more performance you realise can be delivered by a lighter, more expensive machine.

But for sure I still like my bike. At 16 months old the drivetrain is getting a bit sticky, but other than that it still feels stiff, responsive and flickable. The time is ripe for a series of upgrades to take the Wilier to the next level – so it’s heartening to read the review of the 2008 version of my bike.

2008 model

I quote (note the ‘Veloce version’ refers to my bike):

The Wilier’s frame is absolutely first class…

Although it doesn’t perform quite as well as the Veloce version we tested last year, our Mirage-equipped Wilier displays most of the same fundamental traits. The overall ride feel is fairly aggressive and when you push harder you get an instant response whether you’re on flat roads or climbing. Put the hammer down for an all-out sprint and the Mortirolo is up for that too, and it takes on corners in the same assured manner. On top of all that, descending is sure-footed enough to inspire bags of confidence, the steering is bang on and it smooths out rough surfaces without ever a second thought.

If we do have a negative comment, it’s that the Wilier is under-specced for the quality of its frame. The positive spin on that, though, is that if you do decide to buy this bike, you could gradually upgrade the components as they wear out without much danger of out-classing the chassis.

Product review: Continental Ultra Gator Duraskin


I’m replacing my Ultra Gators, which I’ve been running since June-ish. I’m getting more Ultra Gators, because they’re:


  • cheap
  • pretty light
  • pretty fast
  • pretty puncture resistant
But I am having to replace them after 6 months. Is that as good as it gets?
Basically once the tyre is ripped, the rip sucks up tiny shards of flint that mean flatting in the same spot again and again. Apparently the way to avoid the rip in the first place is to always inflate to 110-120 psi…

The Howies Merino base layer: one year on

Last Christmas I was the lucky recipient of the above Merino wool base layer from Howies. It saw me through last winter, and it’s seeing me through this one. It’s an awesome product: comfortable, warm when dry, warm when wet. The most amazing thing is that you can wear it for a week and it doesn’t smell. Other tops hum after 30 minutes – this just defies belief.

Buy one. Wear it. Never take it off.

Product review: High 5 energy gels

I’m mid-way through a box of 20 High 5 energy gels, so I’m qualified to reveal that… they aren’t that good. While some may favour the fairly diluted juice-like consistency over other, thicker gels, my first priority is an energy kick. You just get the feeling with these that they aren’t giving you much.

It says on the pack that you should consume ‘1 sachet 10 mins before, then 3 sachets per hour during activity’. So, for a 5-hour ride, that’s 16 sachets? Are they crazy?

Energy stat breakdown per 100g:

  • Carbohydrate – 56g (of which sugars 26g)
  • Energy – 224 kcal

Well I’m out, they don’t deliver. To be continued by the way – if this blog does nothing else over the coming months, it will definitely identify the best nutritional products for endurance riding!