Sunday, 22 November 2015

Tyre Levers!

Ok it may not seem like the most exciting topic for a blog! However, tyre levers are an essential peice of kit and when you need them you are usually frustrated and in a hurry. I've spent a long time trying to find a decent set of levers and I think I've finally found my lever nirvana! 

Tubeless tyres are by necessity tight blighters to fit, but I have had some lenghty wrestling matches. My wife dreads me setting off to the shed with a new tyre in hand. 30 minutes later and after much swearing I'll return grumpy and sweaty. Some lubrication to the tyre bead usually helps, but when a puncture hits out in the wilds, only brute force will win out. I've got through dozens of levers in the past few years as a result of broken heads and bent handles, plastic projectiles frequently whistling past my ears.

I tried long levers, wide levers and every shape inbetween. In the end I shelled out £15 on some steel cored levers from Raleigh; which turned out to be extremely strong but totally rubbish at removing tyres! Caught short of leverage I picked up a copy of Cycling Plus during a supermarket trip, purely on the basis that it came with some lime green levers free on the cover.

To my amazement these freebies have proved to be the answer to all my lever woes. Strong enough to be able to apply a decent leverage and nicely shaped making them a pleasure to use. Utterly brilliant these snot coloured plastic sticks have taken some of the stress out of swapping tyres and puncture repairs.

Great you're thinking, but I can't buy last months copy of Cycling Plus. True but I happened to notice the other day an advert for Pedro's tyre levers. Visually they seem absoutely identical, so pick up a pair for £4 and take a little bit of hassle out of a cycling chore.

Monday, 16 November 2015

What! No Brass Monkeys Race Report?

For the first time since 2009 I have skipped a round of the Brass Monkeys winter series. After such a long association with an event and a reasonable level of success, it wasn't an easy decision. Here are the reasons.

1. During the previous Sunday's ride I completely hit the wall in a way I never have before on a normal Sunday social. Heart racing and dizzy I even resorted to walking up one of the climbs, much to the bewilderment and concern of my friends. I'm not sure of the reasons why, but I think I was just completely knackered. So an endurance event the next weekend didn't seem sensible.

2. The weather on Saturday was horrific with torrential rain and strong winds. The idea of sliding around in the mud for over four hours didn't seem appealing.

3. The real nail in the coffin was the change of venue to Checkendon. After the recent Southern XC race I vowed never to return. It is not a course that suits me or that I enjoy. A flat, tedious and trecherous rooty maze is how I would describe it (I know others love the old school mtb venue). Also Checkendon is a nasty 2 hour dive to the other side or Reading, the original venue in Bordon is less than an hour.

So I felt bad, but I've avoided the race reports and looking at the results (so far). In a few days I'll decide if I'm going to attend either of the remaining rounds, but for now I am quite content with social base training rides at the weekend.

No  gulping down energy gels this week! Just a quiet coffee and milkshake with friends.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Altura Vapour Jacket Review

Let me start with an apology for the recent hiatus in blogging. I've been on holiday! I had hoped to have this jacket review lined up for while I was away, but despite owning the Vapour for 5-6 weeks there had been a surprising lack of rain to test its water resistant properties. Anyway I've been greeted by more traditional British weather upon my return, so here we go!

No that isn't a pond behind me - it's the road!

The dry weather in September did however give me the chance to test some of the other properties of this jacket. Several times having watched the weather forecast I set out on my hour commute wrapped up in the Vapor, prepared for the worst. As is frequently the case the weatherman was wrong and it remained dry all the way to work. What really impressed me about the Vapour was that when I arrived at the office the inside of the jacket was as dry as the outside. The breathablity of the material is excellent, I would normally have expected to slowly steam cook in a waterproof on a mild dry day. Not so with the Vapour. The strangely rubbery material doesn't feel clammy either, even with short sleeves underneath. 

On the ride home I folded the jacket up and stuffed it comfortably into my jersey pocket.

On another dry, but cold evening I picked up the jacket and it did a superb of job of blocking out the chilly breeze. 

Other details:
  • The jacket has a useful zipped pocket on the back. It might not be as large as some, but I used it for transporting my phone, wallet and keys. A mini pump and spare tube also fit comfortably.
  • I have the black version which features some nice reflective trim.
  • The clue is in the name, the first thing everyone says when they pick up the jacket is "Wow, isn't this light!"

After a month I was loving this jacket, but still hadn't tested its most fundamental credential - its waterproofness! Well this week has seen to that! Today I splashed home for 90 minutes in torrential rain, along flooded roads. Dripping on the doorstep I took off the jacket and checked for signs of leaks. My base layer was totally dry, not even any sweaty marks despite the mild 15 degree temperature.

So in summary this is a fantastic jacket and I can highly recommend it to those looking for a lightweight, breathable waterproof. I bought mine with a considerable discount which perhaps suggests a new iteration is on the way,  but Altura got the recipe spot on with this jacket.