Thursday, 27 August 2015

TIL - My Sicasso S55C Wheels

Another Things I Like (TIL) post. This time it is all about the hoops... and pictures. Lots of pictures!

Two months ago the team at Sicasso asked me if I'd like to demo their wheels to see what I thought of them. Over lunch we talked almost everything bikes except the wheels themselves. They wanted me to give them a solid work out with an unbiased view. They'd read a few of my raw honest reviews of other gear and had enough confidence in their wheels to put a demo set on my bike.

The delivery came with more than I expected. Padded double wheel bag, skewers, carbon specific brake pads, everything to get rolling right away.

With new rubber and sweet watt saving latex tubes installed, the first impression was they felt like a set of tubulars. Partly thanks to the latex tubes I was running, but also the fact these carbon clinchers don't have a dropped/bulky braking surface on them weighing them down where it matters most, the outer rim. Carbon clinchers from a few years back used a dropped braking surface design to keep the braking heat away from the clincher/tyre itself. Advancements in design and materials mean this isn't the case anymore.

Now, it wasn't all roses. The first grab of the brakes was initially cause for concern. The combination of new brake pads and an untouched braking surface on the rims made them squeal. After a few good kms the pads had bedded in and it was all smooth sailing, or braking so to speak. In fairness to Sicasso they do make the rider aware of this and provide a “user guide” for these reasons but I guess like an IKEA instruction booklet that is only for checking at the end! I think a quick scrub of the new pads would eliminate this altogether.

The performance - Speed wise these things roll very well. The S55c are deeper than what I normally use as my everyday wheels. Since my task was to give these a good work-out, these have been my everything wheels. From time trials, to road races, and jumping a gutter or two on training rides.

Braking - The supplied brake pads are a little softer and a LOT grippier than any carbon pads I've used before. They also wear a little faster, however pads are cheap, chewing into the breaking surface and replacing rims isn't.

Durability - Racing, training, and gutter jumps, they're still dead straight. A huge tick as I'm all for things being low maintenance. They've held up to everything I've thrown at them, so far. Yet to run over any small animals with them, so I can't report on their ability to slice though the local fauna. No doubt they'd be like a hot knife though butter.

So in short - Rock solid wheels for both racing and training, braking performance that I'm confident with in any situation, and performance to match. (See examples 1, 2, and 3)

Disclaimer - I've just realised I've written a wheel review without any technical specs and that is in part deliberate. I wanted to judge the wheels at face value without any influence or preconceptions. Therefore to be honest, I haven't even looked into those details (they're on the Sicasso website, along with warranty info, FAQ, etc). I’ve let the riding do the talking - I put the wheels on my bike and have ridden them ever since. I actually sold my other 50mm carbon clincher wheel-set a few weeks after getting the S55c set as I wasn't going back. They're also the only wheels I brought over for a three month stint in Perth.

Sicasso wheels are now available for demo’ so don't just take my word, go check them out! Apparently you can contact Sicasso direct or they are available at selected Retail Partners throughout Australia. Tell them you've read about them here and they'll look after you. :)

Twitter: @Sicasso_Aus
Or find them on Facebook: Sicasso

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Collie Donnybrook Classic 2015

We made the trip down south from Perth this weekend to take part in the 90th running of the Collie to Donnybrook Cycling Classic. The 104km handicap is Western Australia's oldest handicap race, starting back in 1925. Lots of history, prestige, and a large cash incentives for all 200+ riders to make a real race of it.

My day involved a few ups, downs, and wtfs. All up it was a well organised event from start to finish. One I'd do again myself and recommend it to anyone who's able to come over here to take part.

The lengthy registration line.

Here in WA they do things a little different to what we're used to back in Victoria. The race registration process didn't provide the ability to request a handicap or provide suggestions to assist the handicapper. The handicaps weren't published prior to the event either.

Given my last few ATTA results and recent West Coast Masters race over here, I was hoping for scratch. Even if that meant being out of my depth after only 1/2 the race, it'd have been a privilege to roll turns with a few of the local pros and contribute what I could.

To my surprise I'd been slotted into the 5 minute group. Not block, not the 3rd group, but the 4th. That wasn't a welcome decision for some I overheard discussing my mark, and to the guy who yelled out "THAT GUY, THERE, THAT'S HIM" when I rolled to the start line. I went over to say hello, and was given fresh air....

On to the race - The conditions were perfect for a fast race. It as around 24°C, with no wind, and the sun beaming down. There was a $1400 bonus up for grabs if the course record was broken on the day. The conditions and calibre of the scratch bunch meant this was a big possibility.

My day was split into a few distinct parts.

Rolling out and to the top of the climbs at 10km was done at tempo pace, not what I was expecting. 300W 36.5km/h. It was going to be a long day.... or a short day trying to stay away from the chasing bunches.

Down the hill and towards Donnybrook we were still at tempo pace as we waited to be swept up by the chasing groups. 221W for almost 1/2 an hour meant the catch was very quick. The first group to catch us boosted our speed by 3km/h. 10 minutes later the scratch bunch rolled through like a steam train. 43 riders now in the group with 55km still to go.

The philosophy seemed to be "If you're caught, you don't need to work". My philosophy was "Fuck that! I want to race". I wanted to test myself against these scratch markers. If the course recored was going to be set, I wanted to be a part of it. Was I kidding myself wanting to be off scratch? I made my way to the front and went to work. If the legs held up, I'd keep pushing through to the 80km mark when the road hit the hills to the finish.

The next 30k was what I'd come for. Riding hard and rolling turns with other riders committed to the chase. The majority of the group didn't appear to be interested in reeling in the front markers with only about 5-6 riders rolling turns at the front.

Travis Meyer (Drapac) was seen rolling a turn or two about as often as his team mate Graeme Brown would attack the group with Meyer on his wheel, only to get reeled in soon after. This took place about three or four times on the way out of Donnybrook. There's no doubt these boys were aiming for fastest time and were going to light it up on the climb at 80k, but the attacks were beyond my understanding. A highlight of the day had to be Brownie having a crack at me for not rolling over him, after blasting past us again, and after near on 30km of busting my arse on the front. Sure, I was racing with a saddle bag, a pump, and I was only some random from the 5 minute group, but fuck me, I was on the front helping them pocket some serious cash. I could only laugh.... as I rolled to the front with a few others.... and they again sat in for the ride.

Race had become more like a scratch race than a handicap. Riders pulling turns were were rolling off the front and a few others started attacking as most of the bunch tried their best to keep out of the wind and as fresh as possible for the inevitable slaughterfest up the climbs at 80-90km.

10km from the climbs the pace was up and down, riders rolling off the front, with very few rolling though. I'd had enough of the games. I cracked the shits, and sat in. I thought maybe I'd make it over the climbs if I backed if off for a while. hah! I soon found out that wasn't going to happen.

Like clockwork the fresh legs in the group hit the climb at full gas and smoked away. We hadn't swept up the all the out-markers so they'd need to keep on the gas all the way to town if they were going for a clean sweep of all the prize money on offer.

I spent the last 20km ticking away with whatever I had left in the legs, dodging follow cars, and rolling with other riders who'd been shelled in the final run to the line. Doing the math on the race time I could tell the lead group would have set the new course record.

The last kilometre was the most memorable. I was shelled out the back of the scratch group, there was nobody around, and I was rolling in on smooth quiet roads. I was totally spent, my legs had nothing left, and I loved every second of it. Had I raced smart? No. Had I raced the hardest I could? For the most part, yep. And that was what I'd pinned a number on for.

Turning into the main straight the crowd was still kind enough to acknowledge riders finishing behind the winners. The claps and cheers may have been simple politeness, I like to think it was for the work done out the road, well out of sight, and a world away from the 92nd place I rolled in for.

David Wessels (16 minutes) won the event with Brown (Drapac) taking fastest time and setting the new course record by over 7 minutes.

Official results, photos, and race report links still to come.....

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Apple Siri for Cycling

As a lot of my training time is spent solo, earphones have become an essential part of my kit. Having to stop and pull my phone out of my pocket for every beep and buzz was a hassle. Siri has come along and saved the day!

Apple EarPods with Remote and Mic. 

Now before the safety pitchforks come out, I acknowledge riding with headphones isn't for everyone. In my experience, it is a learned skill and an acceptance of your own responsibilities as a road user. In traffic? Pop them out or switch them off.

"One should never ride with headphones".... is the usual catch cry.... then again riding into a headwind you can't hear anything either. With good spacial awareness and common sense, tunes in your ears will help crank out the intervals or tick away the kms on a sunny day. And don't use headphones on a bunch ride, ever.

In the early days my go-to device was an iPod. Light, good battery, and plenty of storage. The iPhone soon took its place, adding the ability to take calls.... then along came Siri. A real game changer for communicating on the go.

I'm a fan of the Apple EarPods over the in-ear type as they offer a good balance between sound quality and outside noise. Unless you've got them cranked all the way up to 11, you will still hear things around you. For anyone not familiar with the remote, it allows for volume control, skip forward/back, and has a mic for taking calls. A press and hold of the remote will activate Siri.

My most used Siri commands on the bike - 

  • Read Notifications - Great for knowing which app and made your phone buzz in your back pocket. You can then choose to reply or ignore. Your success in replying may vary depending on how well Siri reads your voice.
  • Play Music/Album/etc - Album names can cause a little confusion from time to time. Deadmau5's album while(1 < 2) proves impossible for Siri to interpret. Standard albums like Taylor Swift's 1989 are located and played without a problem, er, so I'm told.... ;)
  • Set the timer for 20 minutes - Brilliant for intervals or reminders as an alternate to hitting 'lap' on your Garmin and having to keep checking the time.

These are just the tip of the iceberg. These tips aren't limited to cycling either. Siri came in very handy at the snow when having to reply to a message while on the lift (no need to remove a glove and pull the phone out, brilliant!).

Tech Blog has a very comprehensive list of Siri things that are useful on and off the bike:

Let me know if I have missed any key commands you use, or have discovered.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

ATTA Winter By The Lakes - Champion Lakes August 2015

Champion Lakes is becoming my favourite TT course. What isn't to love about a smooth bike-path like 5km circuit? Apart from having to dodge duck shit here and there around the course.

Last Sunday was a few degrees warmer and we were met with a lot less wind than the July edition. Times would be quick for the 130+ riders on the start list.

Back again with the roadie dressed up as a TT bike. 

Loaner trainer from Stuart Gee coming in handy!

Power was within a few watts of last time, my time was 16 seconds faster. 26:30 and 2nd place to a flying Matt Illingworth @8.4seconds. 45.2km/h on the roadie was pretty swift. I'd still love to bring out the full TT rig, if only for that long back straight section. It'd be magic sailing along that segment in a proper aero tuck!

Top 10
1 95 Matt Illingworth 0:26:21.9 45.51
2 100 Shane Miller     0:26:30.3 45.27
3 90 Henry Pennell    0:26:30.9 45.26
4 136 Jonathan Lewis   0:26:41.2 44.97
5 113  Thomas Bruins    0:26:43.2 44.91
6 135  Lewis McCrea  0:27:27.0 43.72
7 117  John Sonego      0:27:31.4 43.60
8 80  Tom Ford         0:27:34.0 43.53
9 107 Tim Sellar       0:27:43.2 43.29
10 132 Paul Bakker  0:27:44.5 43.26

I made use of the beaming sunshine and took the scenic route home. WA in winter isn't bad at all. :)

Sunday, 2 August 2015

West Coast Masters - 2015 York Handicap.

50k handicap with West Coast Masters CC today in York (100km east of Perth). 28k flat, 22k rolling hills with some nasty pinches that split every bunch apart.

The handicapping was done in grades. A thorough D, with 8 of us in A Grade (scratch) starting off 20 minutes behind the much larger D Grade (limit) bunch. 

Unfortunately we lost Craig James at 4km with a broken front spoke. The 7 of us worked well though to the first hill at 28km. This is the part of the race I commonly refer to as 'where the sh*t went down'. And it went down in all grades, shattering them into small groups of two and three at most.

Once we were over the nasty climbs there were four of us left from A Grade. Norm Shattock, Jaimie Kirkwood, Jon Gregg, and myself. With a quick 20km left to the finish line, we didn't allow anyone to latch on as we rolled past. Jon Gregg put in a mountain of work to ensure the pace was high all the way to the line. We eventually swept up everyone at 4km to go. 

With plenty of room for an honest sprint at the end, Jon lead the final km until we jumped to the line. I manage to hold Norm Shattock on my hip who was closing fast... and I managed to clinch the win! Very happy with that result after a pretty big week on the bike.

Photo by Rebecca Schultz

I've done some homework on one of my finish line companions. Norm Shattock. He won the NZ National Elite Road Race title in 1995! Goes to show you never know who you're going to be swapping off turns with when you're racing somewhere new.

Winner winner, steak sandwich! 

Full Results:

Post race snaps with Von and Mags! Great company for the day.