Category Archives: Gear

Review: Cell Bikes Azure bib short

Historically speaking, I’ve never been a bib short kind of guy. Standard knicks or mountain biker shy shorts have always been good enough for me. Besides, bibs are expensive. Seriously, you’re talking a minimum of $100 for the most basic bibs, whereas for half that I can get a pair of Pearl Izumi Quest knicks.

Azure Bib ShortAnd then Cell came up with their insanely low-priced $40 Azure bib short. A couple of days later, they put it on special, two pairs for $45.

Sold. Seriously, take my money. Now.

As ever, delivery was prompt (and free), along with a new saddle and a load of CO2 cartridges, and off I toddled to try them out.

Now, I’ve bought Cell clothing before. It tends to be aimed at the lower price point, and as such is often a compromise designed with the more casual rider in mind. I wasn’t expecting high-end racer gear, and that expectation turned out to be correct. This is NOT automatically a bad thing – far from it – but there are three points I’d like to mention.

First: sizing.  If you’re going to buy these, consider going a size smaller than you think you should. I buy a medium in Pearl Izumi Quest knicks, and I get a good,close fit. I bought a medium in the Azure, and got a rather more comfortable experience. Essentially what I got was at the very biggest end of the ‘medium’ scale, almost too big. And I don’t consider myself to be whippet-like at present. The legs are also ever so slightly shorter than I normally like.

Second, the chamois insert is on the bulky side – no biggie for a novice rider looking for max comfort on slower rides, but a shade over the size I like these days and that probably means I won’t be taking these on endurance races. Experience suggests the chamois used will soften up before stiffening again towards the end of its useful life, but a more long-term test will confirm or deny that.

Lastly, the colour scheme turned out to be more blue than I expected from the pictures on the Cell site, and the blue panels seem to show up sweat patches. No biggie. Just ride harder so the whole things are one big sweat patch, right? Also, I do like a reflective trim, since I commute, and these appear to have only small reflective logos on the side.

That said, they’re a comfortable, well built bit of kit that’ll prove invaluable through the winter months – they’ll ensure my lower back and midriff are just that little bit better protected from the elements and help avoid the annoying gap in the kit that emerges when commuting with a backpack. I’m pretty convinced they’ll be my new favourite thing the first time I do a couple of hours of hill repeats in the rain.

They’d be absolutely ideal for novice or casual road riders who are maybe a couple of pounds over fighting weight, or for a rider like me who doesn’t normally go for bibs but could use a pair  in the kit cupboard, which I think is exactly where Cell – in quite a savvy retail move – have pitched them. Not everyone is a racing snake, but everyone needs decent quality clothing that’ll keep them comfortable on whatever kind of riding they go for.

Product: Cell Azure Bib Short
Price: $40
Pro: Price, price-to-quality ratio
Con: Fit, colour choice.
Rating: 3.5 stars, four and a half if you’re the target demographic


Loving the Local Bike Shop

Cycling Tips ran a piece recently on ten very cool bike shops. Yep, they’re pretty cool, but debate rages in the comments about the inclusion of two Melbourne shops and no Sydney places (or anywhere else in Australia for that matter). With that topic floating around in my mind I toddled off to my local cool bike shop – Atelier De Velo in Sydney’s CBD.

AdV is a very nice space indeed. Spacious and airy, with a coffee counter at the back looking out onto a little courtyard area (ex-London folk like me would call it a mews, actually), an unsegregated workshop space overlooked by a fantastic mural, plenty of vintage and modern kit to drool over, a wall so full of trick bikes that they spill out into two tiers and what’s more, downstairs is a whiskey bar (The Baxter) for when the bike shop closes and you need a little something extra. OK, so The Baxter isn’t actually part of the same business, but let’s face it, it shares a pretty cool space with Atelier. What’s more, the service is first rate. And an example of that came by during my visit today.

My mission, today, was to acquire a bit of energy food for this weekend’s Convict 100. While I was there, I figured I’d pick the brains of the guys about hydration and nutrition. I’m trying to move away from carrying a Camelbak in endurance races, having been spoiled by lap racing in the Shimano MTB GP series. It’s just nicer to ride unburdened, and that’s easy in lap races. But long marathons are a different matter.

The problem I of course have is that I currently ride a dual-suspension BMC Speedfox SF29 and as a result only have one bottle cage. Most 100km races I’ve done have three aid stations, meaning I’d have to make a single bottle stretch to 25+km – a big ask if riding hard – or find a way to carry a second bidon along with the other essentials of a long MTB race (toolkit, food, water, electrolyte tabs). That’s some full jersey pockets, and full jersey pockets are worse than the camelbak.

A triathlon-style rail-mount is too likely to lose bottles over rough ground, but Chris knew what I was looking for, even if I didn’t.

“Go down the road to the [redacted] dealer and see if they have a pair of [brand] seatpost mount rings. I’ve got a pair and they rock”, said he. “They should fit your seatpin, which is what, 31.8?”

Yep, the LBS sent me to a competitor because they knew exactly what I needed. Customer needs came first and I applauded inwardly (and called back in for another coffee later) when the dealer in question came up with the goods. And, of course, put some money over the counter at AdV for the rest of my gear. And decided it was worth writing about.

Anyway, that’s one of the reasons my LBS is awesome, and why you should be buying at your local whenever you can, instead of running off to the internet every time you need a piece of kit. Internet retailers definitely have their place, but how many of them will send you down the digital road to the competition just because you need a particular thing that they don’t have on the shelf? How many of them can whip out an allen key and fix a niggling bike problem on the spot, just because you’ve mentioned it offhand? How many of them serve brilliant coffee?

And how can browsing bikeporn on the internet compare with browsing it in-the-flesh over a cup of espresso and some avocado on toast?

It can’t. It just can’t.

A moment for a minor rant

Yesterday afternoon, as I was heading home early from work – rather unusually on my road bike – disaster struck.

At about 45km/h on Lilyfield Road, my bike bottle made a daring escape from the cage in which it had been imprisoned, and leaped to freedom.

A rather short-lived freedom that ended a millisecond later as it was crushed to death under my rear wheel.

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I did a thing

It is an evil thing.

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Bike security pop quiz

What’s wrong with this picture?

What's wrong with this picture? Continue Reading →

Race season must wait another two weeks

My racing intentions for this year seemed clear back in October 2012. My plan was to race the entire Real Insurance XCM series (slated at the time to be seven 100km+ events), and fill gaps in the calendar with a few other races – some shorter XC, some enduro/all-mountain and perhaps some timed endurance.And another crack at Kanangra.

Oh, how that all fell apart. The XCM Series itself is now a non-starter, though the individual events remain. I’m racing Capital Punishment on March 16th, but am not confirmed for any other of the former XCMs. I am, however, confirmed for Round one of the Shimano MTB GP, which is what I’ve been stressing about for the last few weeks.

I get obsessive in race leadups. Continue Reading →

Some tips for wet weather riding

Down here in Australia, we’re heading into autumn, and rainy days have started to emerge. This being the case, some discussion has been sparked on my workplace’s internal cycling list on the topic of wet weather riding. Lots of good advice is being bandied about, and it’s all valuable.

I slammed a big reply down to a thread  yesterday, and since I spent so long typing it, I figured it might be a good idea to paste it in here and expand a little on the key points. More below the fold.

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We all knew it was true, but now it’s official

Researchers at the University of Granada in Spain have confirmed what cyclists have known for years. Beer really is a superior drink to water after heavy exercise.

And I quote:

Professor Manuel Garzon, a member of Granada’s medical faculty, made the finding after tests on 25 students over several months. Researchers believe that it is the sugars, salts, and bubbles in a beer that may help people absorb fluids more quickly.

The subjects in the study were asked to run on a treadmill at temperatures of 104F (40C) until they were close to exhaustion. Once they had reached the point of giving up, researchers measured their hydration levels, motor skills, and concentration ability.

Half of the subjects were given two half pints of Spanish lager to drink, and the other half were given just water.

Garzon said that the rehydration effection in those who were given beer was “slightly better” than those who were given only water. He also believes that the carbon dioxide in beer helps quench thirst more quickly, and that beer’s carbohydrates replace calories lost during physical exertion.

So that settles it. But just to ensure the message is getting across:

Based on the results of the study, researchers recommend moderate consumption of beer as a part of athletes’ diets.

See you in the pub, bitches.

Sisters (apparently) aren’t doing it for themselves

That is, repairing their own punctures. Or so this blog post from Total Women’s Cycling seems to suggest.

Now, I’m not usually one to throw myself wildly into a topic where I could be accused of sexism, condescension and general douchebaggery, but it’s made me itch in a kind of odd way. What kind of cycling world are women coming into where they can be a mountain biker for ten years and still not know, other than in a purely theoretical sense, how to fix a flat tyre when out on the trail?

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