Wednesday 30 November 2016

Proviz bags the glowing market!

REFLECT360 rucksack

Proviz has established itself as a well known brand of super visibility jackets. Now they are producing various other items that will make you stand out at night.

The latest item that I have been testing is the REFLECT360 rucksack. We all get that slightly uncomfortable feeling when you're all set to go out, you've put on a high vis jacket in the hope of being seen at night, only for everything to get obscured by a big black rucksack! So how well will motorists approaching from behind see you now?

You can cover it with a high vis cover, but it's not guaranteed the cover will fit. Sometimes I wear an oversized high vis gilet on top of the rucksack - not very pretty! And it may not do the job anyway.

So when I was sent the REFLECT360 rucksack to try out I was quite impressed with it. It would only have been a matter of time before this latest accessory was produced. And it is the logical solution when you think how many people cycle commute now, particularly through London.

Judging by the numbers of people on the Cycle Superhighway there's no sign of the dark streets and the sub-zero temperatures deterring people from circulating through London by bike. So a super-reflective rucksack was a logical addition to the array of Proviz items, considering how useful and popular the jackets had become.

So what do I make of the rucksack? Well, it does everything it says on the tin! It's a rucksack, and a rather spacious one too. Capacity is 30 litres, meaning there was room in it for my change of clothes, my lunch, and a book, which I usually carry in case I get on public transport, plus a bit more space in reserve.

There is a front pocket in which to put smaller items like your wallet and phone etc. Then there are deep side pockets in which I put things like tools, puncture repair kit and maybe an extra drink.

Then I like the little touches such as a loop to hang a light from, a mesh ventilation system to help reduce dampness on your back, and additional loops to attach a strap if you want to carry the rucksack as a shoulder bag.

The thing I like most about the REFLECT360 rucksack though, is that addresses the things that concern me most as a commuter - will I be seen, and will my stuff get all soaked if I get caught in the rain?

Well those reflective beads are ever present in the fabric and there are no worries about you not being seen at night, and you stand out like a spaceman! Also during these autumn days motorists have on their headlights during the day so the reflective properties take effect even in daylight, so you can still be spotted on the road.

The fabric is waterproof, and furthermore all the zips on the rucksack are Aquaguard(R), meaning that they completely seal up when closed.

So there you have it, a rucksack that I can feel comfortable (literally and metaphorically) when out on my bike.

Proviz Sports


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Tuesday 29 November 2016

Christmas Gifts for the Cyclist - 2

If you're looking for new wheels for next year here are a few ideas based on bikes I have tried and bikes I just like:
Raleigh Mustang Sport
I have tested out the Raleigh Mustang Sport gravel  bike quite a lot this year and it's been good to me.  Some people have been a little sceptical about the point of this style of bike. But I just consider it to be a great all-round bike that can be used on and off-road. Think of it as something that can work well on slightly more rugged terrain than a forest trail, but without the chunkiness of a mountain bike.

It is also great for carrying bits and pieces if you are carrying your provisions for multi-terrain cycle touring, or just commuting. And of course if you are just going to be riding on tarmac you can always put on thick slick tyres. There are other bikes available in the Mustang range if you are looking for something harder core or lighter.

The Trott range of bikes from Laura Trott Kenny have been gradually making their presence known on the streets and lanes around the country. I have been testing out the RD2, and have found this good value for money. It's a decent entry level bike if you are making the step up to cycling as a sport. I found it nice and light on the hills and you can pick up a decent speed on the flat.

My old favourite is the Boardman Team Carbon women's bike. I have ridden different incarnations of this bike since when they were first publicly on sale around 2010, and they have never failed to disappoint.  The latest version still has the same basic geometry, though with small tweaks to give comfort when riding long distances such as in a cyclosportive event or a long training ride. These are perfectly good bikes to race with as well.

Visually I like how this bike doesn't have any pink or flowers or anything girly about it, but everything in the form is female specific. Boardman have also managed to keep the cost well within the £1,000 mark (In fact it is currently retailing at £799, down from £999) so it can be purchased on the Cycle to Work scheme, meaning you only end up paying £400 for the bike. Now that's good value.

Liv Fluorish FS
Finally, I wanted to add in the Liv Flourish FS hybrid. I am always on the look-out for a nice sit-up-and-beg hybrid for when running errands or going on picnics. These bikes really make cycle riding a pleasure and I feel I can take life easy, and enjoy the environment around me.

What I particularly like about the Flourish FS is that although it looks like an old fashioned "Call the Midwife" bike, it has got a bit of performance, as city bikes go.

The frame is made from lightweight aluminium, there's a triple chain ring giving a choice of gears from the 21 speeds available, and the fork even has suspension, with 40mm of travel. Get you! Liv as a brand is not so well known in the UK, but just think Giant and that should give you a better idea of them. Liv is the women-specific arm of this well established name in bike gear, so you can't go wrong on quality. I look forward to seeing more of their gear in 2017.

Related Posts
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Thursday 24 November 2016

Christmas Gifts for the Cyclist - 1

Happy Thanksgiving! Ok, so now I have paid deference to that great American tradition and the bun fight also known as Black Friday let's talk about things that mean more to me closer to home. Christmas - crikey it's just one month away.

The John Lewis advert is out, the lights are sparkling brightly on Oxford Street, so I can't get away from it, and neither can you dear reader. In case you're stuck, here are some ideas for your cycling (and even non-cycling) friends and family.

This is part 1 of a series so if you don't see anything you like today, there may be something tomorrow.

Protect your extremities

I love this Vulpine Merino collar. I had previously been making do with an old acrylic scarf. It does the job of keeping the breeze away from my neck and chest, so I can't complain too much. But the downside can be that if I put on a spurt when riding to work it can get a bit damp from my sweat.

Being 100% merino wool means that this neck cowl not only keeps me warm but keeps moisture away from my skin and feels soft on my chin.

I particularly like the subtle red one (which they call tangerine). It also comes in light grey (heather grey), dark grey (charcoal) and olive green.

One size

This goes nicely with the Vulpine Merino beanie, keeping your head and ears nice and toasty.

Once you've sorted out your upper extremities let's look at the lower part the body: your pinkies. These Block socks from Vulpine, also made from 100% Merino have stopped my pinkies from going numb last week, when we had temperatures around 5 degrees C.

The other thing is their striped collegiate design means they are also suitable to wear in the office environment. I like the navy, mandarine and charcoal colour scheme as it matches the neck cowl and the hat. But that's me being conservative. It's okay to go a little off piste with the other fine designs!

Sizes: S, M, L, XL

* Vulpine sent me the merino socks and the merino collar for review.

Wednesday 9 November 2016

10 Soundbites from....Shane Sutton at the Rouleur Classic

Last Thursday saw the start of the Rouleur Classic three-day extravaganza where the who's who of cycling turned out in London to meet and greet, press the flesh, talk about their year in cycling, reminiscing, regretting or refuting what they had done. As well as that, we were treated to lots of exhibitors showcasing their latest wares.

It was great to see at the same event folks like Sean Kelly, Christian Prudhomme and Jens Voigt alongside local biker folks that I hadn't seen for a while - Michelle from Total Women's Cycling, the guys from Eroica Britannia, and of course chief driver, Ian Cleverly.

We knew who would be on the bill for the main stage interviews, but it was quite a surprise when the interviewer for the evening, Ned Boulting, casually announced that former British Cycling Technical Director, Shane Sutton would be making an appearance.

Initially I thought it was a joke, but no it wasn't. He was there in the flesh, in the press room with lots of people around him, many of whom were very pleased to see him.

What he is alleged to have said to Jess Varnish and the other discriminatory comments he made sound shocking, but on the stage Sutton sounded like a broken man who had really been put through the mill and was trying to pick up his career. And, as we now know, he strongly denies the allegations and his legal team are appealing against the sexism ruling made by British Cycling. 
Here are the other things Shane Sutton said on-stage to Ned Boulting.

"When you look at the women I brought into the sport and the different dieticians, psychologists, etc... all that has brought success. That's why I will fight the sexism claim.

We should look at the successes of the athletes - the Froomes, Armitsteads etc..We are losing focus by going on about whether someone made a comment or not.

I'm not going to say I am perfect. Maybe in the past I did overstep the mark but over the years I have improved.

At British Cycling we had three key ingredients for our success: Great leadership in Dave Brailsford; great coaching; great talent. In 16 years on the coaching side I have never had any claims against me. I will fight to clear my name.

I did not tell Jess Varnish that she had a fat a*se or she should go away and have a baby. I wanna clear my name. I had a fantastic time at British Cycling and I will live to fight another day.

I've had a lot of dark nights, a lot of cigarettes but I have drawn strength from people supporting me - the girls and others at British Cycling. I want to thank the people at British Cycling who have supported me.

[In response to whether he has started drinking, following previous drinking problems]

It has been really tough and I really had to draw on my inner strength, and needed support around me. I've been clean for 13 years.

I'm not ready to stop working in biking yet. My ticker is red, white and blue - and I don't mean French! I've been part of the most successful team in the world, but I'm looking to do something where I can make a difference. I need to make sure my next job is right for me. Before I take on anything abroad I need to discuss things with my wife.

My stand-out memories in my career at British Cycling were: Vicky Pendleton's performance in Beijing [2008]. It was the first time I cried, knowing what she has been through. I also have really great memories about seeing Chris Hoy win in London [2012] during the Keirin ride. 

[In response to the question on what was in the medical package delivered to Team Sky during the Dauphine Libéré road race in 2011]

I don't know what was in the package. I suffer from Barrett's [oesophagus] so I was often having packages delivered to me when travelling so I don't really think about it. But I don't know anything about that package. There's only two people who know the answer to that question. I guess that will come out in the investigation."

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