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Friday, 28 September 2012

Richard's Parlee Z5SL

Understated elegance. Parlee Z5SL with Lightweight clinchers, Dura-Ace Di2. Light, fast, strong. Let the photos tell the story:

Robert's Trek Concept 9 Series

Built for speed. Integrated front and rear brakes, internal cable routing, optimised for electronic shifting:

Kammtail Virtual Foil tube shape is supremely aero. The Draft Box holds essentials for repairing a flat tyre, and is so well integrated the design is actually more aerodynamic with it fitted than without:

Even the quick release skewers are aero:

Purposeful, poised, predatory:



Thursday, 27 September 2012

Robert's Specialized Sirrus Commuter

Fully specced up for the commute, this Sirrus is practical, comfortable and beautiful. Quite a combination - if anyone can pull it off it's Specialized:

Comprehensive cockpit. Targa grips and integrated bar ends for supreme comfort and a choice of positions:

Zertz inserts in the seat stays (and forks) keep things comfortable on less-than-perfect road surfaces. Arundel seat pack holds the neccessary gear to cope with any mishaps along the way:

Beautiful swoopy carbon fibre frame - looks fast standing still. Light, responsive, practical:

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Edward's Trek Cronus CX

It's that time of year again when thoughts turn to CX bikes... whether you're out riding cross or just need a practical bike for the winter commute. Trek's Cronus CX Ultimate is a full carbon beauty, we're sure you'll agree:


Clever cable hanger for the cantis is fitted to the fork crown - reduces distance from cable stop to brakes, greatly reducing chatter, and minimises exposed cable, keeping braking nice and crisp:

Crafted from 500 Series OCLV carbon, BB90 bottom bracket, design input from Gary Fisher:

Neat internal cable routing, for smooth shifting and braking in all conditions. E2 head tube is tapered from 1.5in lower to 1 1/8in upper, nothing unusual there, but is also wider side-to-side than front-to-back - keeps the weight down, keeps things stiff...

Great for cyclocross, but also a very capable, plush commuter bike. Will happily take 25mm tyres with mudguards (28cm without), and the beautifully designed "hidden" mounts keep things sleek when guards aren't fitted. If you're out in all weathers you might as well enjoy yourself.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Gerald's 7 Series Madone

We built Gerald's Trek Madone 7 Series up with Ultegra Di2:

Handmade in Waterloo, Wisconsin:
Rotor Q rings for optimum power transfer:
Neat, aerodynamic, effective:
Ready for action:
More new builds coming soon!


Caspar's Parlee Z5

Parlee Z5
We've just provided Caspar with a beautiful Parlee Z5, built up with Super Record and a pair of Neutron Ultras. The unpainted matt carbon finish really shows off the quality of the construction:


Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Mark Whittington's Haute Route report

I have wanted to do this event for 2 yrs now, and after reading Mark's exploits below I am entering in 2013....

The story of my Haute Route 2012 probably started shortly after La Marmotte 2011 when, despite struggling for 11.5 hours over Glandon, Télégraphe, Galibier and Alpe d’Huez, a friend suggested I aim for something a bit more ambitious for the following Summer. In blissful ignorance of what 7 days in the Alps might entail, I managed to secure a place on Haute Route 2012 and along with three friends registered as Team B.I.O (Bring it On!).

The latter months of 2011 passed with a feeling of no real pressure to up my training and it wasn’t until recovering from the New Year celebrations that I reminded myself of the enormous task ahead later in the year. To compress the next few months, I did put in some hard hours on the turbo after work and around the lanes of Essex and Surrey at the weekends. I even managed a few days in the Lake District in an attempt to find some climbs – not quite the Alps but better than the ‘hillocks’ around Brentwood.

By the time August came around and the week before the race (I shall call it a ‘race’ as in my mind that’s what it is – more of this later) I was feeling reasonably confident. I was several kilos lighter than when I did La Marmotte and I reckoned my power and fitness had improved. The flight to Geneva with my bike box proved to be easier than I had anticipated. There were even some children at Gatwick who on spotting my team mate and I with bike boxes adorned with GB stickers whispered loudly to their parents to ask if we had perhaps been participating in the Olympics! Clearly we were looking ‘pro’ at this stage!

I am not sure the Haute Route cyclosportive (make that ‘race’) needs much introduction but for those who have yet to come across this particularly cycling suffer-fest it is a seven day stage race from Geneva to Nice taking in 780km of road and 21,000m of ascent (my dodgy mathematics makes that about two and a bit Mt Everest’s from sea level) over 19 of the biggest and baddest cols in the Alps ( ). It is the self-styled “World’s Toughest and Highest Cyclosportive”.

My team arrived in Geneva in time for a day spent doing a warm-up ride along the shores of Lac Léman with the aim of nothing too strenuous but a good spin of the legs. The sun shone, the scenery was stunning and the only potential problem during the day was that we ended up inadvertently in France having missed the border crossing completely and had to explain to the cafe owner why we were paying for lunch in Swiss Francs. This may have been an omen for us to quit right then and retire to the fine bars and restaurants of Geneva for the week.

Saturday was registration and 600 riders from around the World congregated by the lake in Geneva to sign up, collect our Haute Route cycling kit, drop off our bike boxes and have our official rider photograph taken (looked suspiciously like a prison photo with your bib number held up in front of you). There was definite air of nervous excitement about the gathering.  Plenty of expensive carbon fibre on show and equally impressive, and perhaps more daunting, was the apparent ‘lean and mean’ look of my fellow riders – I was beginning to regret those pints and pies I had sneaked in during the last few months. A two hour briefing on the race logistics and a ‘pasta party’ rounded off the day before heading to our beds for a decent night’s sleep before a grimly early start in the morning.

Dawn on Sunday morning saw us all assemble in the Jardin d’Anglais for a roll-out under police escort southwards across the border into France and through vineyards to the ‘official’ start line where the clock would start ticking. The en masses ride was enjoyable with a relatively easy pace and a relaxed atmosphere between the riders – my confidence remained intact. This was short-lived because as soon as we crossed the timed start it was as if rockets had been attached to the bikes (except mine of course!) and the speed leapt us as the peloton quickly splintered into smaller groups. My plan of conserving energy for the first climb went out the window (spot the inexperienced racer!) as I found myself in a group moving at about 40kph – way above my normal endurance pace. I gritted my teeth, dug in and tried to keep my heart rate from maxing out. It was almost a relief to reach the bottom of Col de Romme and be able to change down into the granny ring and climb at a more comfortable pace.

It is at this point I should point out why I consider the Haute Route a ‘race’ rather than a ‘cyclosportive’. The latter term has an air of casual amateur enjoyment about it and I am not sure I felt much of that about any of the next 7 days. The only thing amateur was probably my riding ability! On each day a strict time cut-off was applied which required an average speed of 15-16kph in order to stay ‘in the race’ with a valid time for the event overall. Whilst this speed would prove little problem in the flat lands of Essex, over the Alps it was a very different prospect, especially given the heat wave we experienced with afternoon temperatures 35-40oC. Whilst those far more able than myself battled for line honours (reserved for pro-level riders), others set their personal targets of top 100 or like me, a race each day against the broom wagon. It added a definite edge to the riding each day and certainly meant for me that this was no scenic cyclo-tour of France but a full-on stage race.

On Day 2, I knew what to expect and so was a little better prepared for the heat, suffering and pace that would be required although this didn’t make the 25km long climb up to the finish line in Courchevel any easier.

Day 3, the ‘queen’ stage turned out to be just as savage as most of us expected and certainly the toughest day of the whole race. The route wound its way of Col de la Madeleine before attacking Col du Glandon and then finishing on top of Alpe d’Huez – a mere 136km and 4,700m of ascent. On a given day with fresh legs this may have been an almost enjoyable ride but after the first two days of hard riding this proved to be a ‘killer’ for many riders and several failed to make the time cut-off. I recall the top section of Glandon which snakes at gradients 10% plus up to a col that never seemed to get closer and the last slow slog up to Alpe d’Huez with nothing but fumes left in the tank. By the finish line, I barely had the energy to unclip from my pedals and having lain down in the bike park, it took me forever to get moving again.

Day 4 was the so-called ‘rest day’ which involved only one short 15km ride. However, in true Haute Route spirit, the 15km happened to be in the form of a Individual Time Trial up Alpe d’Huez! Despite my suffering of the previous day, my legs actually felt pretty good and I managed to beat my previous best time up the mountain and get out of the saddle for a photogenic burst of speed to the finish line. I was hoping that this marked the start of me ‘riding into some form’ – unfortunately this hope was dashed early on the following day.

The first few days have turned into a bit of a blur and my memory gets a bit foggy as to what actually happened. I recall seemingly endless hours of grinding away in my ‘granny gear’ and the constant battle between trying to keep my cadence high enough that my leg muscles wouldn’t just seize up and my heart rate low enough that I wouldn’t just collapse by the side of the roads. It seemed to be a constant pattern of pre-dawn breakfasts, long hours in the saddle, carbo-loading and briefings in the evening before collapsing into bed as early as I could get away with. It was very easy to get absorbed into the ‘bubble’ of the race and be completely dissociated from what was going on in the rest of the World.

Day 5 started with a massed ride over Col de Sarenne and a bit of impromptu cyclo-cross as the rains of the previous night had washed gravel over the road meaning a quick dismount, bike carry and remount was required. My abiding memory of the day was having a front mech problem which delayed me for quite a long time on the side of the road and meant that the remainder of the stage was spent in a state of agitation as I raced the fast approaching broom wagon (in the end I made the cut-off comfortably but fatigue was meaning my on-bike time calculations were very muddled).

By Day 6, my team mate and I were still in the race having escaped the broom wagon by the skin of our teeth on the previous days. This produced its own pressure as we both now desperately wanted to finish the race in Nice with an official time. A plan was hatched that we would attempt to ride together for the entire stage (something that would have been very sensible from the start!) and help each other out as required. The highlight was the ascent (and descent) of Cime de Bonette, the highest paved road in Europe which is in one of the more remote areas of the Alps. Apparently the scenery was spectacular and on a good day you can see the Mediterranean from the top but unfortunately my eyes became fixed on a spot on the road a couple of metres in front of my bike as I tried to focus through the sweat pouring from my brow. My team mate, tucked close behind me and maintaining an admirable stream of encouraging words, was doing his best to avoid retching over my rear wheel as he fought to keep any fluids or solids down. I have seen the photos of us both on the climb and they fail to illustrate the pain and suffering – I may have to get creative with Photoshop. In the end, the day turned out as planned and we made the time cut-off by a comfortable margin and it felt curiously satisfying, despite the struggle, to have executed our simple race plan for the day.

The last day should have been relatively ‘plain sailing’ when I lay on my bed the previous evening and tried to work out average speeds, kilometres and metres of ascent against our ‘nemesis’ the time cut-off. The thought of getting ‘cut’ on the last day was scary and my team mate and I agreed to try and repeat our relative success of Day 6. There was only one big climb on the stage (Col de la Couillole) and this I managed at what, for me, was a decent enough pace without having to dig too deep. The descent saw me hit my highest speed of the week – 75.4kph – not quick by the standards of many in the race but way fast enough for me. The finish line at the top of the Col de Vence was just a rather unimpressive timing mat but, following a 10km gentle descent to the town of Vence, the ‘official finishing line, medals, finisher jersey and celebrations awaited. The highlight of Vence for me was my first cold beer for a week which tasted unbelievably good.

From Vence it was a police escort and en-masse ride down and along the seafront into Nice which was an amazing way to finish the week. Once in Nice, riders were quick to dive into the sea much to the amusement of the sunbathers on the beach. The last official event was an end of race party which led onto an alcoholic soaked night in the town.

Unfortunately the day’s stage did end on a very sad note with news that one of the riders, Pontus Schultz from Sweden, had died in a crash whilst descending the Gorges du Cian. I remember seeing the emergency vehicles by the side of the road as I whizzed past on what was one of the most memorable sections of the whole race course. It was a very sobering experience and the riders’ collective emotions were very moving that evening with our thoughts very much with his family and friends.

And that was my Haute Route experience in not so few words (it could have been much longer!). A truly incredible event that I am sure would test a rider at whatever level they might be (although I would strongly recommend a decent amount of training or you are in for a whole heap of suffering) and one that I would thoroughly recommend. Along with the riding itself, the fellow riders I met and talked to and our shared experience of suffering together each day will remain an abiding memory for me.
I would have gladly put my bike away in its box for the rest of the year when I got to Nice but within a few days I have found myself itching to get back in the saddle (I have even done a session on my turbo trainer) and I’m already looking at potential events for next year. Perhaps all this suffering is addictive after all!

Mark Whittington (bib 426)

P.S. I should put in an honourable mention for the lads at Bespoke Cycling who’s support this year has been top class. Earlier this year I succumbed to the lure of a Parlee Z5 after suffering for a year on a bike that didn’t fit too well and was definitely built for stiffness rather than comfort. The Z5 proved to be a superb bike for the Haute Route – comfortable enough that my body wasn’t shaken to pieces each day, light enough that I could make no excuses for struggling over the mountains and stable enough on the descents that I felt confident at all times (even when I over-cooked a few of the hairpins). The bike, with its Porsche Gulf Racing colour scheme, got plenty of admiring comments from other riders (unlike my riding) and full credit should be given to Tom Rodi and the paint shop team at Parlee for their efforts.