London to Paris in 24hrs with Challenge Sophie

What makes EPIC? Is it distance, is it climbing, or is it a state of mind?  As I buckled up my helmet sitting atop Greenwich Observatory my mind turned to the challenge ahead; London to Paris in 24 hours with Sophie Radcliffe, aka @ChallengeSophie. After my recent crash  this was to be my first long ride of the year, I’d just spent a few days in Dorset with the good folks at OntheRivet cycle retreats (review to come soon!) so I knew I was good for 80k of riding, but this was to be closer to 300km. Whilst I’d normally have despatched a ride of this distance with a chipper smile, I was unfit and still struggling from a broken collarbone – so it wasn’t exactly a trip into the unknown, but I was definitely wary of the ride ahead.

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With 75 riders ready to set off the atmosphere was one of excitement and nerves, many of the riders apprehensive at the coming day, having never ridden anywhere close to this distance. One thing that really stood out from the typical sportive type event was the gender mix, Sophie had managed to get a 60/40 split of male/female, and this mix really showed during the ride, less testosterone (but it was still there), more chat and a sociable mood – I must say how pleasant it was to ride in this company, less competition, more companionship.

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The weather decided to play its usual games with us, and by an hour outside of London it was starting to rain. This delightful state of affairs carried on until about 20 miles outside of Paris, thankfully it was never particularly cold (no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing etc).

Anyway, back to EPIC! By the time we had covered the first 100km down to Newhaven we had ridden over the North and South Downs, got pretty soaked, and had descended into darkness as the night beckoned (I’ve got to give a hearty Holla out to LED Lenser who provided some particularly awesome front lights (the XEO19R) – 2 beams, both adjustable, multiple patterns, great battery – brilliant bit of kit for sure!!). There were some very tired faces as we attacked the menus of the local Beefeater, tired faces, sorry bones and weary smiles.

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Already at this stage this was the longest ride ever for some of the participants, thankfully for me it was a nice leg-stretcher and I felt I could have cycled across the Channel at the time, not so some others. Cake-walk thought I, massacre felt they. So far, so good, but still plenty of time for trouble to rear itself.

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The ferry brought a few hours away from the rain, chance to get changed into warm and dry clothes and grab 40 winks, well it would if you remembered to bring your bag, as it was mine was still in the support van and I spent the crossing rueing that foolishness!

Disembarkation brought with it the promise of dawn and after a feed and Powerbar grab, we set off again, once more into the rain, but this time it was French rain, and <insert casual Xenophobic comment in this bit about surrender and/or mustard> that meant there was a tinge of EPIC to it as we were no longer heading to the UK coast but onwards to Paris.

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Whilst the route to Newhaven ensures you can’t escape hills, riding Dieppe to Paris I was pleasantly surprised to find only 2 (proper) hills along the 200km route, they both arrived as we neared the capital, sucker-punching those who had forgotten about them. Instead of hills you are treated to meandering French roads, ancient villages, wind-swept scenery and dwellings carved out of white cliffs (for the life of me I’ve no idea where this was, it was however flipping cool!).

Sophie did a great job putting the sportive together, with excellent signposting, well-placed, and stocked food stops throughout the whole 300km route.  At the first stop in France, Kati (my travelling companion) left about 5 minutes before me as I was busy fettling – so I rode on in the hope that I might catch her, as it turns out I didn’t, and she later arrived in Paris a full 70 minutes ahead of me (Kati did the Bryan Chapman Memorial t’other weekend, so I was schooled AND chicked at the same time).

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But ride on I did, completing the next 70 miles pretty much by myself. This was good, easy miles of solitude and riding, listening to my body as it did it’s longest ride since my fall, going past Troglodyte caves and Monet scenery without a care in the world. There was wind (rule 5) there was rain (rule 9), but as the day wore on, these left and sunshine prevailed as the outskirts of Paris arrived (along with my one puncture).

Due to the stop-start nature of the Paris ‘burbs I joined up with a couple of other riders and we cruised in together, all searching the horizon and the opening vistas for a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. Check out the Rapha overshoes of one of the riders, the fluro pink was visible from a jolly long way away, bobbing up and down, brighter than the lights on the bike!

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So, Paris is big, like London big, and despite the possibility of getting lost the route was still brilliantly signposted which meant that as a rider all I had to do was follow the arrows right up to the tower itself, from a rider point this was perfect, totally minimising the ‘thinking’ i needed to do, allowing us to just enjoy the ride and the experience of riding the distance.

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Whether your body and mind views 300km as EPIC or not, as the Eiffel tower looms ever closer there’s that feeling of glee that fills your mind – objective achieved. For those that had nursed achey knees or sore posteriors those feelings left to be replaced by euphoria at the realisation that their challenge had been completed, all those months of winter riding had been for a reason after all.

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Photo’s were taken, families were called, pictures were tweeted and ‘grammed. Now to eat, to drink, and to be merry!

(except for this one fool, he took his bike into his hotel shower, gave it a good clean, put on some fresh kit and went for a ride around Paris, just because!)

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Many thanks, and bloody well done, to ChallengeSophie for a top event!

Photo credits (the good ones anyway) to Dean Alexander

Take a bow! The Ltd Edition Shimano R321B Race Shoe

Surely everyone likes shoes? I remember when I first got a pair of race-inspired cycling shoes, inspired both in tech and aesthetics, and I just felt fast, it almost felt like I should ride faster because I was wearing them, if truth be told, I did ride faster in them!

Well, with Le Tour looming Shimano have boshed out a limited edition colour scheme of their current R321B race shoe, in the company’s signature blue – stunning, but not for the faint-hearted!

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The original R321 has been a hit in the pro peloton this year with the likes of John Degenkolb, Michael Matthews, Vasily Kirienka all using it to power to victories in races such as Paris-Roubaix, Milan-San Remo, and two stages of this year’s Giro D’Italia. Now 40 riders from teams including Orica GreenEDGE, Giant-Alpecin, Team Sky, Team LottoNL-Jumbo, IAM and Cannondale-Garmin are hoping to use the R321B shoe to take them to glory in this year’s Tour de France.

The re-worked version of the original R321 takes its inspiration from the company’s iconic blue colour scheme as well as yellow, a colour synonymous with the Tour de France, where the shoe will be officially unveiled. 

The blue upper surround features a dimpled contour with aerodynamic styling, designed and engineered to provide a secure and comfortable glove-like fit, and an optimized balance of power transfer and all-day comfort. 

The upper material is made from Teijin Avail 100 Ultra-fine fibre, which makes the shoes stretch-resistant, extremely durable and lightweight. It is the perfect choice for a custom-fit shoe, as the material adapts organically to the foot’s shape during the custom-fit process. In keeping with the customized theme, flashes of yellow across the Teijin Avail outer upper section form into the shoe’s name, the R321. 

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Matching the blue upper, the durable toe cap has also received a blue makeover complete with striking yellow detailing.

Complementing the blue and yellow design are black air vents in the toe cap and exhaust ports, a black tongue, adjustable straps and the top portion of the double-pivot buckle fastening mechanism.

The R321B sits upon an ultra-rigid, lightweight, hollow channel, black, blue and yellow cross-carbon weave outsole with a 12/12 stiffness rating for maximum power transfer. The outsole also incorporates Shimano’s unique Dynalast shape, designed to enhance muscle efficiency and provide smoother riding performance. The sole construction offers 22 mm of adjustment, doubling the standard fore and aft range of the cleat setting to help you find the ideal shoe-to-pedal fit.

The external heel cup supports the heel from the outside and stabilizes pedaling by holding the heel snugly in place, while the new anti-slip heel lining also prevents unwanted heel lift. 

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The insole, heel cup and upper all incorporate Shimano’s special thermo-moldable ‘Custom-Fit’ material. The unique heat treatment and vacuum-fitting processes available from dealers stocking Shimano´s top-of-the-range shoes promote a more stable pedaling platform, keeping the rider’s feet in a perfect position throughout the whole pedal stroke, taking comfort and foot support to a whole new level. 
Much like shoes throughout Shimano’s road range, a 3-bolt fixing system and guide marks allow for accurate placing of cleats. Together with custom fit insoles, this allows the rider to adapt the shoe to his or her body, rather than the other way around, obtaining optimized alignment and the best fit possible. 

The end result is an eye-catching shoe that fits like a glove, offers optimal power transfer and will almost certainly be the envy of any riding group. 

Scicon Bags at the Tour of California

It’s a bit of an advert no doubt, but fascinating nonetheless. I’ve been using a Aerocomfort for a fair while now and have found it brilliant to use, from long-haul flying to simply taking a bike across London on the underground it’s made travel so darned easy!

TOUR OF CALIFORNIA- THE LOGISTICS OF RACING OUTSIDE EUROPE

 ‘California’- a place name that conjures up images of glamour, sunshine and Arnold Schwarzenegger driving around in an SUV power by vegetable oil. But for one week each year center-stage is hijacked by professional cyclists and their entourages.

The Amgen Tour of California seeks to emulate the European Grand Tours with a demanding course that traverses hundreds of miles of California’s iconic highways, byways and coastlines each Spring. Divided up into 8 grueling stages with a cumulative distance of around 700 miles.

But we want to focus on the logistics behind the cycling teams and not the actual race itself. The vast majority of World Tour and Continental teams are based in Europe and the ‘journey to victory’ starts a long time before the race itself.

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Scicon currently sponsor 9 professional cycling teams of which 4 are racing at this year’s Tour of California, Cannondale-Garmin, Trek Factory Racing, Tinkoff-Saxo and MTN-Qhubeka. Scicon, as bike bag manufacturer, play a huge role in facilitating safe transportation of thousands of bikes every year to and from races and training camps around the world.

As you can see, each of the 8 riders has 3 bikes: 1 road, 1 TT and 1 spare. Cannondale-Garmin also take a couple extra spares on top of that.

Henriette Greenwood- Logistics Manager of Tinkoff-Saxo tells us:

We currently book an average of 1100 flight tickets per year and that includes 240 bikes in bike bags to races like the Tour of Down Under, California, Colorado, Dubai, Qatar etc. and of course, also to our training camps.

Henriette also explained that they have a dedicated ‘overseas package’ which is always readily available at their service course in Luxembourg. This overseas package includes a list of spare bike parts, water bottles and nutrition as long as your arm. Here’s a simplified version of the equipment set aside for each rider in the form of an infographic:

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MTN-Qhubeka Team Principle Douglas Ryder explains to us that travel logistics play a huge role in his team as they are flying a lot further than other teams as many of their riders live in Africa:

60% of our riders live outside of Europe where the majority of races are held meaning we have to fly to races that other teams don’t have to.

Douglas goes on to state:

This is why having a good bike bag is so important. The AeroComfort is the best in the business and we want to get our riders out to races like the Tour of California in the best shape.

This year is in fact the first year that MTN-Qhubeka have been invited to participate at the TOC which makes it all the more important that they pack safe and ride fast!

Trek Factory Racing, on the other hand, have been racing the TOC since the team was founded in 2011 as Leopard Trek. Former rider Chris Horner actually won it back in 2011.

Scicon’s sponsorship of this team also began back in 2011. They have been travelling with the AeroComfort for 4 years now and Tim Vaderjeugd, Communications Manager, tells us:

We have complete faith in our Scicon Bags.

Something that all the teams seem to echo is the huge increase in the number of races outside of Europe. Head Mechanic at Cannondale-Garmin Geoff Brown claims:

The globalization of professional cycling is great for the sport, and it is critical for teams to get the equipment we need where it needs to be, safely – so we are lucky to have a sponsor like Scicon that helps ensure our equipment arrives in great condition for racing and training.

It means more work for Geoff but also more trips to exotic places too which I’m sure none of the riders and staff are complaining about! Cycling is, for most people including professional riders, about exploring new places, going on adventures and of course, looking stylish at the airport with their Team Edition AeroComfort 2.0 bike bags.

But why do so many teams choose to fly with Scicon? We currently sponsor 9 pro teams but in fact, a total of 20 teams are using this bike bag.

What sets the AeroComfort 2.0 apart exactly? Have a look at our product illustration below to get a better idea:

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The TSA locks are obviously especially important for when the teams are flying across to races such as the Tour of California as the Travel Sentry Agents can access the contents of the bike bag at customs.

The biggest benefit to the teams is the vast amount of money they save by using the AeroComfort as opposed to a bike box. This bike bag weighs 8.9kg, most teams’ bikes weigh around 6.8kg (as that’s the minimum allowed) so that totals just under 16kg which is within pretty much all airline baggage limits.

Whereas if the teams were using bike boxes, which usually weigh between 12-20kg, they might be pushed over into excess baggage fee territory.

Lets put that into real terms-

Lets take a bike box which weighs in at 17.5kg (this weight is based on a leading bike box model)

+ 6.8kg bike = 24.3kg total weight

VS 15.7kg total (including bike) with the AeroComfort 2.0 TSA

And lets take a standard airline company that many pro cycling teams including Cannondale-Garmin will be using to fly across to the Tour of California- Lufthansa, who are pretty reasonable when it comes to bike fees in comparison to some other airline companies.

They allow bikes on for free if under 23kg but will charge €100 ($150) each way if over the given allowance (inter-continental). This means that the total excess baggage charges for the four teams travelling to the Tour of California with the AeroComfort should be €0 whereas if they were travelling with a heavier bike box it would cost them roughly €4800 extra for a round trip. Bear in mind too that Lufthansa’s fee are quite low in comparison to some other airlines who charge per kg in excess and have more restrictive dimensional restrictions.

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And this is just for one race. If we take the figure given to us by Tinkoff-Saxo of 240 bikes transported via plane per year to and from races and training camps then the total amount of excess baggage would be between €24,000- €36,000!

This is a huge amount of saving for a team, especially one with a more limited budget e.g. MTN-Qhubeka or a female team like Velocio-SRAM (who are racing in this year’s women’s Tour Of California). Also, some continental teams and almost all women’s teams don’t have a team bus or a large service course meaning that the riders tend to look after their own equipment. This means packing and flying out with their bike bag themselves, much like an amateur rider who participates in a lot of sportives and/or often goes on cycling holidays.

From professional mechanics to pro riders to cycling tourists, the AeroComfort 2.0 TSA is the number one choice in bike transportation worldwide with good reason.

The Nocturne Returns!

I visited ol’ London Town last year, and as I was leaving I was reading on Twitter that the London Nocturne was that night, I was sorely peeved I can tell you! But not this year, oh no. June the 6th is the date, just need to keep that in mind now as I’m planning jollies this summer!

The Jupiter London Nocturne is back for its 9th time this year, racing through the tight streets of Smithfields market. More than 10,000 fans flocked to the event last year, creating an electrifying atmosphere on the 1.1km street circuit around the historic Smithfield Market. This year’s event will once again include the traditional Folding Bike and Penny Farthing Races, culminating in the men’s and women’s Elite Criteriums which will feature a host of British and international cycling stars. 

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All types of cyclists ranging from commuters to Olympic champions will take to the streets of the City of London on 6th June to kick off another spectacular summer of cycling in London.

This year’s event will once again include the traditional Folding Bike and Penny Farthing Races, culminating in the men’s and women’s Elite Criteriums which will feature a host of British and international cycling stars.

The City Criterium will see corporate teams vying to claim the glory as the fastest business in the Square Mile with one of the teams qualifying from the Jupiter Race earlier in the programme.

Also included will be the Brooks Retro Criterium, Leigh Day Criterium and the Santander Cycles Race – the cycle hire race, sponsored by Transport for London (TfL), was one of the highlights last year and returns on a new fleet of Santander Cycles in 2015.

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Information on how to enter the Santander Cycles Race and all the Jupiter London Nocturne races can be found on www.londonnocturne.com 

The Jupiter London Nocturne is free to attend with grandstand and hospitality tickets also available to purchase.

#JupiterNocturne @nocturneseries | facebook.com/TheNocturneSeries 

 

Awesome cycling Kickstarter project

One of the key learning experiences last year during my Transcontinental race was that stopping to take photographs involves stopping, and stopping, as obvious as it sounds, means not moving forward. Too much not moving forward and you end up losing significant chunks of time, to the extent that you miss cutoffs and eventually can’t reach the end-point (or you are perfectly placed to assist someone who is in need!).

One of the very first things I realised from that experience was that it would be awesome to share the TCR adventure with someone to help document it, by having a photographer along for the journey I would be able to keep on turning the peddles and still share the trip with family and friends back at home.

Enter Camile McMillan, ex of Rouleur, Rapha, and a whole host of publications, brands and companies, and now settling into his home in the mountains of France.

Camille is coming along with me this summer for the TCR, bringing his trusty moto and camera kit for the adventure of the year – even as I type that I get excited, Camille is quite simply a fantastic photographer and his passion for cycling and appetite for adventure lends itself perfectly to such a jaunt!

He’s currently on Kickstarter right now, looking to raise funds for a  240 page book of cycling reportage, featuring classic pictures from his long and eminently successful career around the professional peloton.

Absolutely check it out, £25 gets you a copy – which is great value already – so it’s totally worth backing!

enjoy!

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