Sony Xperia Z3 vs The Brownlee brothers…..

I love my Sony Xperia Z2, it’s got a cracking camera, awesome screen and it’s waterproof. Pretty much the only issue I have with the Xperia Z2 is the battery, when it’s in full swing with wi-fi, bluetooth, NFC and a bright screen I can struggle to get a solid day’s use out of it. Obviously then, this video from Sony Xperia featuring the Brownlee’s is an interesting watch, the brothers swim, ride, and run their way across the north of England (gorgeous btw) in an attempt to see who tires first, them  or their Sony Xperia Z3’s – the updated version of the phone I have.

I’m hoping to get hold of a Z3 before the Taiwan KOM Challenge and will let you know how it holds up! (I’ll be taking a lot more photos than these two did ;-))

Review: Wahoo Fitness Kickr Power Trainer

A serious chunk of money, but if you are serious about your training this is certainly a machine to think about!

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It’s probably best to start a review of the Wahoo Fitness Kickr by saying what it’s not. It’s certainly not just a turbo trainer. Calling it a turbo trainer is like calling a Ferrari a car. Yes it’s factually true, but to call it such would be to miss the whole point, the very essence of its being.

The Wahoo Kickr is more your own personalised torture chamber, one in which you, the willing participant can develop your very own love/hate relationship with it as time wears on. As a training device it will happily provide you with a range of ways of kicking your own ass, wrapped up in a neat package that will have you coming back for more!

I’m going to briefly look at its downsides, there are not many, but one of them at least is pretty considerable – and dare I say it would stick in the craw of most.

At 20kg it’s a hefty chunk of metal, thankfully it folds down nicely, so doesn’t need to take up much space. I kept mine at the side of the washing machine, it needs a gap about 12” wide to slide into.

Next up is the electricity, without electricity it is just a lump of metal which you can spin around with pedals. This could be an issue for those would like to take it to a race for warm-up purposes, unless you have a generator this won’t be going with you. Team Sky use these trainers, but I would imagine the Death Star features some pretty beefy electrical generators. I would imagine a future device incorporating a dynamo of sorts to provide its own power supply.

The Kickr is a dumb unit, in that it requires an external device to provide the brains and user experience for operation. This initially took a fruity device but can now be found on Android devices as well, I used my Sony Xperia to control it with zero issues (more on that later).

Last up in my foible list is the biggie. There’s no way to escape it, the unit is £999 in the shops. That’s a sizeable chunk of money to lay down for a training device……BUT, and it’s a big but, I’ve got to say that if you are serious about your racing (and can find the cash for it) it’s worth every penny.

Onto the goodstuff…

Upon arrival you will notice that it’s heavy, 20kg of heavy in fact, this means that not only is it stable, it’s also rock solid in its constructions – this is a trainer for the long-haul! With individually alterable stands it can sit snugly on uneven floors and the middle leg of the tripod has the wheel size adjustment settings, the Kickr can cope with sizers from 29” to 24”, covering most of you cycling fleet!

The next thing to note is that it comes with a cassette attached, so simply remove your rear wheel (you are running 11-speed I hope?) and slid it on in! I found that the wheel insertion could be tricky on the Canyon TT bike which was the main recipient, however on a standard road machine it was plain-sailing.

Once you have inserted your bike, and plugged the Kickr into an electrical supply (you’ll need an adapter as it comes with a US plug socket!) it’s a case of firing up the Wahoo Utility App on your Android/Apple device and completing a simple calibration. 30 seconds is all it will take and you are done.

The Kickr talks to your phone/table via Bluetooth4, and in all the months I used it I had no issues with connection drop-outs or being unable to find the devices – it really is a breeze to use.

There’s a growing range of apps you can use to control the Kickr, this is really one of its strong-points, Wahoo having open-sourced the technology behind the Kickr means that you can use apps from Wahoo themselves or Strava, Kinomap or as I did, the Segments app – which will allow you to mirror in ride-feel any particular Strava segment – if you are planning on riding the Stelvio, this is a useful training tool ;-)

The apps and software packages are both wide and varied, and will provide you with all the tools you need to best your performance. Wahoo themselves provide a basic app which give 4 settings: 10 power curves, resistance (percentage based), erg (specific wattage) and sim (quite complicated, but based around slope, wind, and your own physical characteristics (i pretty much ignored this one)).

Most of my time was spent using the erg feature and I found it suitably uncomfortable (which in this context is a good thing).

I had the unit setup outside the kitchen window for most of the time, and whilst it makes a bit of noise as your speed increases it was not loud enough to warrant any cross looks from the kitchen ;-) It’s probably too loud for ‘living room’ usage, but if you have a garage or conservatory it should be spot-on!

I really enjoyed my time with the Kickr, it was solidly built and, dare I say it, fun to use. I don’t ride with power normally, most of the time I don’t even use a computer of any sort, but I found the ease of use and it’s simple to access menu’s a great tool for helping to increase my wattage.

It doesn’t offer the ride feel of a decent set of rollers (my personal favourite), but it is an enormous step-up from a standard trainer and it provides all the measurement features that any aspiring racer could possibly want. It’s also upgradeable, so as Wahoo develop their software the trainer can take advantage of new features.

At £999 it’s a big chunk of money, but if you are serious about taking your training up a notch or 3, then it’s a worthy investment and would certainly help your racing speeds!

p.s

if you really want to spend an evening reading before you buy this beauty, then checkout DCRainmaker’s review of the unit.

Review: Rapha Pro Team Jersey

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Buy 2! First off, buy the one you would like to fit into, and then buy the next size up. It’s race fit, which is jargon for tight!

One you are settled into the larger sized jersey one of the first things you will notice is the longer than usual sleeves, on me they come a full 3 inches further down my arm than standard, so be prepared for two-tone tan lines on your arms, until of course you take the plunge and buy another one just to keep the tan sharp!

The sleeves themselves are, like a microcosm for the rest of the jersey, quite delightful; tight fitting without being constrictive, cool in both temperature (you can thank coldblack® for that) and aesthetics with just the Rapha stripe on one arm as decoration.

With mesh panels down the sides the jersey is a lightweight treat, supremely well ventilated and fast wicking, keeping the wearer cool in hot conditions, I wore the jersey for about half of my Transcontinental race and really found it to be super comfy, despite wearing the black and pink colour way I never felt I was being cooked in the Italian sun, the coldblack® fabric treatment apparently help keep the temperature up to 9 degrees lower – and this seemed fair as I didn’t boil up at all.

For me, one of the revelations about the jersey were the pockets and their load-carrying ability. For many lighter-weight, and predominantly lycra, tops, load-carrying is dreadful, with the 3 pockets being there out of a sense of duty. Not so the Rapha Pro Team jersey, I was able to put food, clothes, smartphones etc into the jersey without having it sag down at the very first item, granted it’s not able to defeat gravity in its entirety but it can certainly hold your ride essentials without covering your bottom.

Paired with a Rapha merino vest base layer I was able to stay comfortable in temps around the mid 30’s without suffering excessively, the vest and jersey working nicely together to keep me cool in the high temps. I also found the longer sleeves helped keep me warmer in the evenings, paired up with arm warmers and a thin gilet I was comfy down to 14 degrees without really feeling it.

The Rapha pro team jersey comes with such extras a race radio cable loops, a name label for laundry, and it features a SPF (sun protection factor) of 50 so no need to worry about sun burn through the material.

For hot days, or for high intensity riding this is probably the nicest jersey I’ve worn. At £140 it’s by no means cheap, but having worn it whenever it was clean (and sometimes when it wasn’t) it’s soon recouped its value for me! Pair it up with the merino vest base layer and you’ve got a fantastical versatile combination that will be comfortable from 14 to 35 degrees!

Review: Rapha Race Cape (complete with arms cut off!)

The Rapha Race Cape (sans sleeves) offers rain protection & venting  for tempo riding & racing without overheating!

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Things I like:

  • being dry, but also having the feeling of the elements against my bare arms

Things I don’t like:

  • being wet
  • overheating
  • clammy, sweaty, arms rubbing the insides of rain jackets

It’s not a big list, but clearly it bears note that there are some similarities going on right there!

One of the issues with cycling jackets in general, and  rain jackets in particular, is the issue of venting, it’s so easy to overheat and increase sweating, thereby overloading the breathability of the jacket, invariably getting clammy on the inside.

Rapha, at the behest of Team Sky riders, developed the Race Cape. No pockets (none, not one!), a zip and really nothing else to it, except one very cool feature; the upper sleeves feature a 1cm line of tape that is hemmed at either side, allowing you to cut the sleeve off aiding cooling in race or tempo training conditions.

cape 2

Yes, I did say cut, it’s a binary measure, there are no zips or velcro involved here, just a drastic use of scissors (or craft knife) to cut off the sleeve.

cape detail

 

Lets be clear about this, it’s a £230 jacket, and they want you to cut the sleeves off!

If you’ve read my review of Rapha’s oversocks you will know how nerve-wracking it is to simply put an incision into the socks, imagine how much my hands were shaking as I contemplated cutting this bad boy!

But of course I had to do it, how could I possibly review an item and not test it thoroughly?

As a father of three kids, I recall how nerve-wracking it was to hold a new-born baby. My hands were every bit as nervous as I got my faithful craft-knife out to cut this beauty (sorry, but it’s true).

Using a steady hand I trimmed the middle of the tape, only going slightly wrong once, to create a short-sleeved race cape. And some bright yellow Chartreuse, calf warmers keeper-dryers!

Cape sleeves mirror

So how is the jacket now?

Well it was a grand rain jacket before, supremely light, packable, and more than capable as a rain jacket, now its a little lighter as we’ve shed both the arms and the zips around the cuffs, not as waterproof (obviously as the arms are now bare), but much cooler and more suited to high tempo riding.

cape 4

Having spent about a month with the arms off I must say I’m smitten!

If it’s chilly I wear arm-warmers, which is a much nicer feeling than bare arms on jacket inners, and if it’s hot I no longer overheat (it’s really that simple!). There’s less of a need to have the front zip of the jacket open to cool you down, increasing drag as well it must be said, and this also stops the rain coming in from the front!

cape 6

Altogether it’s much nice to ride like this, wind, rain, and sun on bare skin. Admittedly it’s a high price to pay, but if you can stomach the idea of cutting into a £230 jacket, and it may well make you feel nauseous, then it’s a price worth paying!

Note to Rapha, I get why there are no pockets, but surely even the Pro’s want just a single pocket in which to stuff a banana?

Garmin announce Forerunner 920XT multisport GPS watch

When your company name becomes a noun seemingly dominating the rest of the industry then you know that you’ve done something right! Garmin is, I think, one of those companies that have done just that – especially in the swim/bike/run field. Their devices are considered, rightly or wrongly, the de-facto standards, so when new tech from them comes out, it’s both eagerly anticipated and much coveted!

 

I bring you the Garmin Forerunner 920XT mulitsport GPS watch (and a whole mess of coveting going on right here!)

Forerunner920XT_HR_9452.8

Ideal or swim/bike/run folks, including ultra-runners (with a battery life up to 40 hours) it offers a whole mess of features and metrics for your own personal nerd-gasm, to aid and abet performance. It features a metronome, with vibration and audible alerts, to guide cadence training, a race predictor based on VO2 max for running, and a recovery advisor indicating how long a runner should rest before attempting another hard effort ( I would hazard a guess that these features would also come in handy if you were engaging in a kayak based activity!)

garmin-forerunner-920xt-triathlon-watch-2014

Look out for a review in the coming months!

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