Category Archives: Kit

Compact vs standard

Moving to a standard chainset seems like a rite of passage for a cyclist. No pro would be seen astride a compact. But hang on a minute… I’m still riding compact.

So, what am I doing? Well, my winter bike is my old bike, bought some 7 years ago when I rode a bit less. Standard wasn’t even a question then. My summer bike is newer, but I wanted to spec it to ride in the mountains. My usual Essex and Regents Park training routes don’t include the sort of climbs that demand fewer teeth than a standard 53/39. That bike is for the mountains too and I didn’t want to be switching chainsets around. So compact is good enough.

Only recently when racing could I really have done with some extra gears at the top end (although perhaps that was me more than the bike). Now I find myself riding a 11-25 cassette to get the most out of my compact chainset.

In two weeks I’ll be in the Alps. Stage three of this year’s Haute Route Alps takes in Col de la Madeleine, Col du Glandon and the ascent to Alpe d’Huez. One thing I know, is I’m not yet ready to take on its 4,600m of elevation gain on a standard.

That’s the difference between me and them.

Proscore: 3/10

For even more on gear ratios – CyclingTips have a great post here: Beyond the big ring


Arms before legs

There’s little denying it. The long days of summer seem, sadly, to have departed us for another year. Perhaps I’ll cling a little longer to the hope of a last few balmy days of respite before the inevitable grip of winter closes in. But it’s happening.

If you’re fitting early or late training around your working day, you’re sure to be riding  the coldest hours of the day. You’re already reaching for those extra layers. So I’ve been digging around the back of my kit cupboards to find those long-lost pieces that I loved to forget. Bibs and jersey just won’t cut it any more.

What comes first? Arm warmers? And we’re not talking arm protectors – only needed in searing southern European heat (remember that?). We’re talking fleece-lined affairs. Well, I can handle wearing those. What about legs? You’ll need them at some point too.

And here lies another pitfall for the Amateur Pro – which comes first? Well if you’ve trained or raced hard this season you’ll want to show off your legs for as long as possible. So whatever you do – no leg warmers until you really must! If it’s too warm for arms then it’s too warm for legs!

Arms before legs. Pro score 8/10.

As demonstrated by Daniele Ratto, riding to victory on stage 14 of this year’s Vuelta a España

Gloves or no gloves?

I can’t tell you why, but I’ve always ridden on the road without gloves. I’m not worried about tanlines – for one I don’t tan much and for another I can only dream of spending all summer riding in warm sunny climes! No, I’m more interested in feel. I like a thin bartape and I like to really feel the road through my bars. All the more to know the surface, feel the grip or slip under my wheels.

Is this an amateur mistake? My recent fall on the way down from a stage of the Haute Route Alps got me thinking. I may have lost plenty of skin, but luckily for me none of that was on my hands. But I could easily have taken enough skin off my hands to make gripping the bars pretty unbearable. This has to be the real reason the pros wear gloves? You only have to have watched the Tour this year to see how common crashes are in the peloton.

But this isn’t clear cut. Where better to look than to Chris Horner – GC winner in the 2013 Vuelta a España…

Pro score ?/10

More stunning photo coverage of the Vuelta from Kei Tsuji here: