By Popular Request: Bob Jackson Vigorelli

I have a go-to bike, and it’s my Bob Jackson Vigorelli track frame. It’s not really a track frame, at least not out-and-out; the angles are perfect, slightly relaxed, and it takes full mudguards. I ride it most winters (and summers) and never deviate from a 68″ gear. For those of you living in a metric world, all you crazed audaxers especially, and Matt Clinton who only speaks in ratios, it’s 39:15. In my experience you can get up and down anything in this gear and tack along on the flat at around 19mph without a care in the world. Apart from Draycott. I once went up Birdlip on Boxing Day, I think there’s a blog on here somewhere about it. I won’t ever be doing that again.

I have a pair of flopped and chopped cinelli bars; probably criteriums. They were really scratched and abused so I didn’t feel too bad about hacking them down. The curve is just right; I’ve tried various other set-ups but this is by far the most comfortable. In the early days I ran with a Dirty Harry lever mounted on the tops but this has been replaced by a single TT lever on the widest point, it makes for easier braking and control when riding at speed; your hands are wider and it’s better, especially when your ass is bouncing around from the effect of a 180rpm cadence.

For some time I ran with a double campagnolo chainset, but with the single ring, this made things lighter. I’ve since reverted back to a Miche Primato; it has a better chainline, less faffage and the Q-Factor is good. I also use the Miche sprocket and carrier system, this is a remnant of hill climb days when you could remove a sprocket very quickly without a chainwhip. Some people sneer a bit at this system, as though somehow it’s not reliable. This is total bollocks. They are sturdy and utterly secure.

Wheels are a set of Mavic Open Pro; the front is laced radially to a Phil Wood hub; it’s very tasty. I have a ceramic rim on the rear, just for shits and giggles because I don’t use a caliper brake. In other words, it’s a pointless addition. It makes people laugh when they see it. I went through the rim of an open pro whilst descending Bridge Valley Road. I nearly shat myself. It exploded. There is a lesson: don’t ride on concave rims.

I love this bike; it’s light enough, but not super light, frame and fork come in at 1.4kg; which is pretty heavy. For a winter bike though, without the addition of a groupset and other stuff, it comes in light. It rides beautifully. I have a carradice on the back to keep my school books off of my back. Saddle is a Brooks Cambium – I’ve tried various saddles. I think the trick is with fixed riding for any length of time is to go a tiny tiny bit lower on saddle height; your ass is moving around a lot more, you need a bit of give.

I’ve had it resprayed by Argos, it’s now orange. It used to be blue. I recommend having your bike re-enamelled every 8 to 10 years; it’s worth it. It used to be a royal blue colour. I also had some additional bosses put on, including secret mudguard ones. The bike was stolen about 9 years ago from outside a pub in Bristol. I got it back a year later almost to the day when it was listed on ebay and an eagle-eyed chum, Rob Mortlock, spotted it. I got knocked off by a car last year and broke two ribs. The bike was fine.

We were meant to be together.

5 Author at point of collapse on the Rake pic Larry Hickmott.jpg
On the Rake, on the edge, with Vigorelli in full hill climb mode in the 2012 National.
On Burrington, probably 2014 I think. FUCKEN HORNS.


Pinarello make the bikes for team sky, including the dogma and the graal used by Lord Wiggo. They’ve recently teamed up with Halfords and you can now find 9 of their steeds in a commercial industrial estate near you.

This is one of the new machines:

It is the ugliest bike I have ever seen.

I’ve seen some abhorrent diamond framed objects in my time, but this one takes the biscuit. Maybe they were hoping that it would be less desirable to thieves if they made it look like someone had already tried to steal it. Perhaps the good folk at Pinarello had some kind of epic creative detox mindstorm session and decided that matching wheels were just too damn passé. I really have no idea how this bike made it out of the warped mind of some crazily hip creative and into a bike shop. It’s called (the) ‘Only the Brave’, which means it’s also the worst-named bike in the world ever. They’ve really outdone themselves. It takes a huge amount of effort to produce something this nauseating. 

Barcons: keeping it positively retrospective throughout the nuclear winter with a pair of Rivendell Silvers

After an unfortunate incident with a Campagnolo Xenon ergolever I have opted to go down the decidedly scenic and retrotastic route of the barcon. I have a set of shimano dura ace shifters on my TT bike, this is a fairly common set-up and even beloved of global mega-stars and super-champions like Sir Bradley of Wiggins.

The bike of Bradders gets all retro with the friction shifter

I think the reasons is something to do with the 3:1 rule or some other UCI ruling that i really don’t understand at all.

Regulation 1.3.024 (1:3 ratio) applies in this respect as a regulatory consideration. Examples: when using the maximum transverse dimension authorised for an element, namely 8 cm, the associated minimum transverse dimension is 8/3 = 2.66 cm; when using the minimum transverse dimension authorised for an element, namely 2.5 cm, the associated maximum transverse dimension is 2.5 x 3 = 7 cm.50; for all intermediate options, the maximum to minimum transverse dimension ratio must not exceed 3.

For the winter bike I plumped for a set of Dia Compe Silvers. These are badged up as Rivendells and are very lovely. Aesthetic considerations are important in these matters, often more important than any practical or pragmatic aspects.

very seemly

I’ve paired them with a set of dirt-cheap Dia Compe brake levers. I hadn’t expected there to be any issues with this set-up, but such is the nature of making changes that something always comes up. The metal loops attaching ergolevers to the bars are off-set – or more accurately, the back of the lever where it attaches to the bar is at an angle to take into account the curvature of the drops. This provides a flat and comfortable point of contact from the tops into the brake hoods where you do most of your riding. With older style aero-levers, it’s a different story. The back of the hoods and the loops are vertical, meaning you have to mount them lower down the bars, unless you carefully consider a different shaped drop. It wouldn’t work with the 3TTT set-up i was using but luckily I had some Cinelli Criteriums in the shed which were better, although not ideal. I raised the stem and then angled the bars up slightly to compensate for the lower hood position.


I routed the cables under the bars and faffed around a bit with the bar tape, tightened off the cables and left it at that. The next morning I rode to work and it was absolutely fine. The feel of the levers is smooth and they hold position. It’s also surprisingly intuitive. The fundamental difference is that you have to think more carefully about gear choice and pre-empt a little bit, having less of a bail-out option than you might have with a multi-shift STI/ergo lever.

the finished article: not the most amazing brake levers in the world but they cost less than a fish supper
very lovely

I’ve been using them since Wednesday and have managed about180 miles of winter base, including a ride to Cheltenham in the dark yesterday evening and the return leg in glorious sunlight this morning. I’ve had no issues at all and have enjoyed using them.

Cotswold Edge

With the Mercian King Of Mercia Audax Special, Rivendell barcons, Aire saddle (a brilliant purchase from Spa Cycles, more on this another day) and Carradice saddlebag I feel as though I’m slowly being drawn into a dark and scary world. This time next month I’ll be in SPD sandals; it’s a slippery slope. I suspect the Carradice may have been the gateway drug. London-Edinburgh-London here we come.

Top of Fiddler’s Elbow: Nuthill

Numbness and Penguins’ Eggs, Cold Hands and Bernard Hinault at Liège-Bastogne-Liège (and other spurious comparisons)

This morning was the first seriously cold start of the winter, with a gaggle of malicious minus temperatures hanging around outside waiting for unsuspecting cyclists. I prepared by wearing two pairs of gloves: a thinner set of Defeets and some Pearl Izumi Cyclones over the top. This has typically saved me from the cruel nastiness of numb and painful fingers. I’ve never really suffered from cold hands, unlike others I know who have struggled for years to find some sort of solution to the pain and misery of icy digits.

Bernard Hinault wasn’t averse to riding in cold weather and it’s impossible not admire the relentless and indefatigable spirit of Le Blaireau. I recommend Richard Moore’s recent book, Slaying the Badger, for further insights into the character of arguably the last great patron of the peloton. One of his landmark victories came in Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 1980. Around half of the field abandoned within the hour, unable and unwilling to ride into the ashen and ghostly face of a savage blizzard. Hinault stayed put, finally pulling out a 10 minute lead over Hennie Kuiper and taking the win, but at a cost: he had such severe frostbite that two fingers on his right hand remain numb to this day.

Hinault leads the peloton through the endless blizzard

Being able to ride through unbelievably harsh conditions and get the job done is a good way to pick up points. See Ian Stannard at Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne, or Andy Hampsten’s epic ride over the Gavia in 1988. This year’s Chippenham Hardrider is the closest I’ve come to hypothermia on the bike.

ski goggles. really.

During this morning’s 6 mile ride to work my hands stubbornly refused to warm up. This is of course exactly how Hampsten and Hinault must have felt. I gained some feeling in my left hand but the fingers on my right remained cold and became extremely painful. When I arrived at work the pain had increased to the extent that I felt nauseous. I have had cold hands before but usually it’s only for the first bit of a ride. For a brief moment I thought of Cherry-Garrard in his savage quest for penguin’s eggs, walking into the eternal frozen night of the South Pole and becoming permanently frostbitten. And i resolved to get some better gloves.

I suspect that one of the causes might have been paradoxically because i wore two pairs of gloves. They were quite tight with no layers of air between the fabric or around the fingers. I think that a layer of warm air is required to add insulation, which is perhaps why mittens or even the lobster’s claw, are a popular choice for those with poor circulation. I have ordered some thicker and hopefully more effective winter gloves for the really cold mornings to come.

Gorelander: there can be only one (aka Gore Path 2.0 review)

Kieran is currently in my bad books after he gave some bad advice on club secretarial matter. He also claimed I ‘fail at internet’. However, this has been offset slightly because he has also given me some non-duff gen relating to the purchase of a bike jacket.

I recently took the plunge and spent a large whack of my hard-earned cash on a very shiny red jacket made by Gore. It is called “The Gorepath”. I have now worn it for the past three commutes. I can state the following things with some properness:

1. It is exceptionally waterproof. In fact, it seems as though it repels the water away with some sort of ionizing coating. It’s the most waterproof thing i have ever worn.

2. it fits well without being too tight. It doesn’t seem to flap around at all and is long enough in the sleeve and the body. I am 6″1 and have gone for the medium. It’s somewhere between a club and race fit.

3. it’s about as breathable a jacket as I have worn. that isn’t to say it’s completely breathable. yesterday i wore it with a long sleeve merino base layer and a jersey. I rode for an hour to work, riding at around tempo. By the time i arrived at work there was some moisture build-up on the inside of the jacket. It wasn’t quite boil-in-the-bag, but it was noticeable. This morning was much cooler and it was not an issue.

This jacket has immediately replaced my existing altura luminous commuting jacket. It is also suitable for longer road rides, but with careful layering underneath. I recommend it.

Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez extends a paternal arm and silently recognises that the bequeathed Gorepath jacket affords his protege an advantage in the epochal fight with the immortals in the Quickening. Macleod will contend with only minor condensation whilst remaining impervious to rain. There can be only one.

On the GorePath

I duly sucked it up and bought the Gore Path jacket on Kieran’s recommendation.

I will be wearing it early next week and will submit a formal judgement of its retard level once i’ve worn it properly.

i wore my older endura luminous commuting jacket – a bad buy, too big, too nasty – on my longer ride to work the other day. I ended up sweating like a fat man in Patisserie Valerie. It was disgusting. I had to wash my newly washed cycling clothes that very evening.

The Gore Path better do the business in wicking away the stench of enclosed cyclist, otherwise Kieran’s for the high jump.

The endlessly controversial and internecine potential of the crud guard vs race blade battle

Reviews of kit tend to drive a lot of traffic to a blog. i haven’t written a lot of reviews, essentially only those cycling items that have had a profoundly positive effect on my cycling, but the few reviews I have written are popular posts.

Some time ago, in the depths of last winter, I wrote a review that was a direct comparison of crud guards and race blade longs. The general consensus was, and still is, that race blade longs are in an entirely different league to their predecessors, the common-or-garden race blade. There is also a fairly clear groundswell of opinion in favour of the race blade long over the markedly inferior and shonky crudguard mark 2. But, each to his own, and if you come over all moist over the plastic stylings of a set of cruds and relish the sound of faux-mudguards rubbing against rubber, then so be it.

However, some people have very strong feelings about plastic mudguards. They see this is a definitive and all-important issue, way above such minor quibbles as ‘campagnolo or shimano?’, or ‘is there ever a time when jumping a red light becomes an unemotive internet topic and thus a wider part of a pragmatic approach to road safety?’.

Damien is one of those cyclists and he has sagely decided to offer this incisive contribution to the thorny and ongoing ‘blade Vs crud’ war:

Damien commented on Crud Catcher Mk 2 vs SKS Race BladesYou are an idiot and haven’t tested these properly like I have and raceblades are retardedApprove  Trash | Mark as Spam

It’s nice that a member of an established cycling club might choose to comment on a fairly benign blog from a member of another cycling club in such an erudite manner. On such foundations lengthy friendships are forged and the fellowship of the road broadened. Mr Damien clearly has superior powers of product testing gleaned from the hardriding of his local 3/4 cat, pan-flat, closed-circuit bun run. He has also identified the fatal flaw in race blade long design: their inherent retardation. Not only that, but he has picked up on the fact that the key element in the success or failure of a product is the intelligence quotient of the user.

I am minded to make Damien the resident reviewer for this blog. It would keep things simple. Anyone who doesn’t have a positive experience with a product can be dismissed as an idiot who doesn’t ride it properly like Damien does. All those brutal efforts on the savage parcours of the Hillingdon and Hog Hill Circuits have forged a testing temperament of solid steel. Damien always rides it properly.

Coming soon: Damien properly compares “Le Chagrin et la Pitié” and “Nuit et Brouillard” like only he can, before succinctly deciding which is better.

Reviewing Progress

Reviewing your season is an important element of bike racing. Like many other cyclists I set a series of goals at the start of the year, usually not that far into the off-season. It helps keep me focused on what I want to achieve.

At the end of last year i had PBs of 20.47, 52.15, 1.58 and 4.11.30 for the 10, 25, 50 and 100 respectively. I came 4th in the WTTA hardriders series with 705 points.

My targets for 2012 were as follows:

sub 20.19 for a 10 (club record)
sub 51.30 for a 25 (club record is 50.53, might be out of reach, but we shall see)
new PB in a 50 than this year
sub 1.05.12 in a 30 (club record)

I was also aiming for an improvement in the WTTA series in terms of placings and times. In essence, i spent the first half of the season not really troubling these lofty ambitions, apart from the WTTA, where i seemed to be absolutely flying. These are events which are untroubled by the need for a fast day or course, they are hilly and challenging time trials in scenic areas of the countryside. I came 3rd at Chippenham in the most brutal conditions imaginable, then 2nd at Gillingham, 2nd at Severn, 2nd at Bath, 2nd at Cheltenham, I won at Westbury, came 2nd at Minehead and won at Burrington. In the first 6 events I found i was consistently around 2 minutes faster than a year ago. It was good enough for 717 points and second behind the evergreen Rob Pears. The Westbury win was a cracking weekend because I won the BSCC Open 10 the day before.

I then dabbled around doing a few different events and tried my best not to crash in road races. Doing a bit of massed start was not on the agenda at the start of the year, but it was worth a punt and I ended up getting my 3rd Cat licence pretty quickly and entirely down to the fact that one of the races had a team trial at the beginning so i sat on the front for most of it and we annihilated the opposition. The opening road stage was slightly different, i sat on the front for a bit and was annihilated by the opposition. I am undecided as to whether i will be taking the road races more seriously next year. If i do it will be hilly ones only.

In about August time things suddenly started to happen really quickly. I lined up a tilt at a few fast courses and tried to make sure I had the form to go with it. This meant travelling up north for the V718, a sheltered and quick strip of tarmac near Hull. It was one of those days where everything suddenly seemed to be in alignment and I bagged a 30mph ride. 4 weeks later i repeated the trick and turned in a 19.42, taking a minute off my PB and nearly a minute from the club record.

I also hit the U7b which is my favourite course but notoriously slow. i somehow managed to scrape under 21 minutes out in the graveyard (twice) with a 20.46 being about as fast as last year’s PB on any course. The same weekend I made the trek over to South Wales for a last crack at a quick 25 – my PB had been elusive all season. The conditions and the headwind were finally in the right place and I managed a 50.21, which was also good enough to shave 30 seconds from the club record. During the event I was passed by Michael Hutchinson who was en route to competition record of 45.46. Jeff Jones also managed a super fast 47.40.

Hill climb season wasn’t in my aims because i felt the Rake didn’t suit me. I rode it anyway, and managed 35th place. I should probably have made it a goal and tried harder, or ridden a smaller gear. I’m not sure I could have tried harder, unless i went as far as Jack Pullar who spent 25 minutes puking violently into a bucket after his effort. The real goal was Burrington, and despite it being a slower day I managed to win the event. It was my 5th open win of the season, along with the Westbury Hilly, Severn 10, BSCC 10 and the Haytor HC.

And that’s it. Since last Sunday I’ve eaten an significant amount of Cadbury’s Chocolate.

we went to cadbury’s world and bought the contents of the factory. we then celebrated in subway.

It’s been an extraordinarily successful season on a personal level. I made progress i didn’t imagine was possible. I also got married in March, which outdoes even a short 19 in terms of amazingness. I have no idea what happens next season. I am going to give it some thought over the next few weeks and then come up with some aims. Having just said that I have no idea what happens next season, i do know a couple of things: the Stang will be featuring quite heavily in my end of year plans, it climbs 800 feet in a little over 2 miles; and it’s likely that my early season may be preoccupied with an exciting new arrival that unusually doesn’t come from the local bike shop.

Boardman Air TT 9.0 Full Review

I did promise a full review of my TT bike once i’d ridden it in anger a few times. Last year i used a planet-x stealth which did the job but was starting to look a little bit antiquated next to some of the more modern machines.

the boardman in full flow

The Main Details:

If you’re getting a Boardman it’s worth taking a similar approach to me. Essentially, each frame in the range is the same apart from the very top end one, the 9.8, which has a different carbon layup. All the others are identical, and the aerodynamic properties and design of the 9.8 and the 9.0 are also the same. You are paying for the finishing kit. The 9.0 comes with Aksiums as standard and a SRAM rival groupset. This is fine by me because my intention was to immediately switch it all out and around for the bits i already have.  The 9.0 costs around £2000 for the complete bike and the prices for the others in the range increase in stages, topping out at an eye-watering, kidney-exchanging £8000 for the 9.8.

It’s also worth considering that Chris Boardman is the director of research and engineering for British Cycling and therefore fully involved in the process of ‘marginal gains’ over the past decade. His role was to ensure that the gold-medal winning world champions from within the Brailsford group have the best possible equipment. His attention to detail is carried across to this range of bikes.

Why Did I Buy The Air TT?

I was looking for a bike that didn’t break the bank in the first instance. My other requirements were that it had to be very slippery indeed with carefully engineered tube shapes and minimal frontal area. I also wanted hidden brakes and the cabling to be very tidy, with the outers entering the top tube behind the stem where the air is already swirling around. I need the bike to be light; coming in at as close to 8 or so kilos fully built as i could get. The Boardman fulfilled all of these with aplomb. I also was looking for a red bike. This could have been a deal breaker.

What sort of riding do I use it for? 

This season i’ve ridden 7 races. With the exception of the very first race which was a loosener, i’ve come either 2nd or 3rd in each one. I have done mostly hilly time trials with varying amounts of climbing. For this reason i need a TT bike that climbs and descends well, feel stable and also corners well. I’ve been on the extensions much more than last season because i feel more confident in the bike’s stability. It rides beautifully well. Climbing on the base bar is also pretty good. It’s worth noting that on my first spin out i took it up Belmont Hill and managed a 4.04 – this might mean nothing to you but it’s quick, trust me, for a TT bike with a set of mavic aksiums.

I’ve set a PB on every single course i’ve ridden so far this year. On the hilly courses i’ve been around 3 minutes quicker on each course. This is a huge leap forwards and is down to a combination of things, clearly increased fitness, but the bike plays a part.

Component Changes:

I immediately swapped out the chainset for Rotor Q rings. These look cool and as yet i haven’t noticed any other difference. This is a good thing. I have a hed 3 front wheel and a renn disc on the back with a campag cassette. This meant swapping the SRAM shifters for shimano friction, which then meant i had to swap the rear mech for shimano because of the stupid pull-ratio of SRAM. With these minor modifications the bike was ready to race.

How Does it Ride? 

The Boardman rides like a dream. Sometimes, when i’m really pushing a big gear and it’s pan flat, it feels like i’m sat on a guided missile, remorselessly tracking along. I find it much easier to push the big gear and regularly find that i’m in the 54:11. I’m much much lower than last year and thus have a smaller frontal profile. What this means is i’ve managed to adopt a more aerodynamic riding position without any cost to power output. It’s a delight to ride, really, it feels amazing and goes like the clappers. Or as my dad used to say; “it moves like shit off a shovel”. He also used to say “goes like hot snot” but i never really knew why, i mean, if ever afflicted by ‘hot snot’ as an ailment i might be able to check out the worth of this simile. I hope it never happens.

you can see (or not see) the hidden brake and clean lines.

If you’re thinking of getting a new TT bike then i’d heartily recommend the Boardman. You get proven aerodynamics and a pro-level frame, and if you’re canny it’s possible to put it together on a budget, relatively speaking. Lastly – this bike survived a pretty massive crash on Wednesday without a scratch on it. I was battered to pieces. This is a good thing, i think.

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