The secret training products are relatively new to the scene; the main man behind these intriguing new products is Tim Lawson. Tim also being the founder of the well-known nutritional products SIS (Science in Sport) has vast experience with developing the best nutrition products for over 20 years. Tim also being a fantastic athlete himself is working with athletes from all levels from beginners right through to elite athletes.
The brand Secret Training have started out with The Strip System which includes:
Pins in a Tin
Micro-Fibre Body Cloths
Post Race Wash
All these products can be bought separately or as a Race Day Personal Care Kit (£49.99); this means all the products come in a tidy bag to keep them all together. Having used these products since they were first launched they have accompanied me to all my races. I definitely believe they are a worthwhile investment towards your racing and personal care, helping you to keep clean and comfortable while riding your bike. There is nothing better than products that make your cycling more enjoyable. Having one bag of essentials when you’re racing and travelling filled with all the essential bits and bobs you need (and often forget) is brilliant.
More recently the team at Secret Training have been developing nutritional products which were properly introduced on the 7th January 2015 at their open event. This presentation consisted of the riders and media getting their first taste of the Stealth Gels and Stealth Super Hydration Drinks with the Strip products also being featured. While trying the assortment of gels (Banana, Lemon & Lime, Citrus, Tropical, Berry), my personal favourite was obvious – the Banana Gel, which seemed to be a popular first choice with a lot of the cyclists present. Tim was there to talk through the science behind the Gels and how they work, unlike some other brands gels the Banana gels actually have real banana in them! The gels can be bought individually for £1.25, £17.50 for a pack of 14. The Berry Energy Gel with Caffeine & Betaine and Banana Gel cost a little more at £24.50 for 14 or £1.75 for single shots, I’m not sure why this is but I’m guessing it’s to do with the cost of the fruit and caffeine ingredients being more expensive or the process involved in integrating them into the gel. As well as trying the Gels the Super Hydration Drinks were a big hit with me coming in a wide range of flavours; Lemon & Lime, Blackcurrant & Elderflower, Mango & Passionfruit and also Lemon Tea. They retail from £15.99 for a selection pack of 20x 14g sachets; each sachet mixes with 500ml of water – to £24.99 for a 600g tub of a single flavour, so they are competitively priced. Each of the flavours are well balanced and relatively neutral, with no overpowering flavours or after taste. The gels and hydration drinks are easy to consume and enjoyable, unlike some other nutritional products I have previously used which have been hard to stomach in the quantities you need to aid your performance.
From speaking to Tim I have found out they are currently working on developing recovery drinks, so there is a lot more to come from this new brand and I can’t wait to see the results. Furthermore Tincoff-Saxo riders are being supported by all products produced by Secret Training, they will be providing valuable feedback for the brand to enable the development of flavours and product ranges, the aim is to provide exactly what riders need and want.
CyclingShorts.cc give Secret Training products a Star Buy rating of 97%:
Personal Care Kit – 98/100
The Personal care kit is unique as I don’t know anything like it.
Nutrition Products – 96/100
In my opinion the nutrition products are the best, better than SIS, Tim said it was very difficult to make ones better but he thinks they have – I have to agree!
I really like the products, try them for yourself, the secret is out!
You can check out the range at: www.secret-training.cc
Beet it Sports Bars
This time last year I had the privilege to test Beet It Shots and wrote quite an in-depth review and report about the product and the impact 0.4g Nitrate has on sports performance. This year I have had the privilege to test Beet It pro-elite Beetroot and oat flapjack.
For those who do not know much about the idea of using Beetroot as a super food then I recommend reading my previous review but in a nut shell.
Research has shown the the consumption of 0.4g of Nitrate prior to taking part in a sport significantly boosts your performance.
The science: beet nitrates are converted into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a signalling agent that causes vasodilation, a widening of the blood vessels. Wider blood vessels equal increased blood flow. Better blood flow means more stamina and improved oxygen usage, leading to a 15%ish boost in performance.
But beetroot products are not just for endurance athletes, a lot of the famous beet root juice users like Mo Farah are distance aerobic-energy-based athletes. Additionally, the majority of studies have been performed on runners, swimmers, rowers and cyclists. On the surface, the science behind beet root juice seems like it only provides a simple aerobic/endurance boost.
Beet juice-derived nitric oxide works so well it has been used in the Olympics as a supplement by endurance athletes for years now. No wonder this preconception is so pervasive. However, improved oxygen usage can be a boost to any athlete.
Nitric oxide is able to temporarily bolster the aerobic/oxidative system and helps traditionally non-aerobic, non-endurance athletes recover faster, even if they aren’t participating in a long-distance, endurance-based activities because the body draws its ability to regenerate energy from that system.
Therefore, if you’re an olympic athlete or a recreational sports person, you can benefit from beet root juice products.
This has certainly been born out this summer from my experience in the heat of riding in the Vendee. Beet It sports bars are easily digested and taste much nicer then the shots, with the added bonus that they contain slow releasing oats for addition food supply while riding.
I followed a simple regime, eat a bar 1 hour before riding and I also tested a second bar towards the end of rides over 2/3 hours. I did not start using the product until I had built up some miles in my legs and I had that ever present thigh burn at the start of rides.
The most instantly noticeable affect of the Nitrate is the lack of thigh burn at the start of rides and the ability to ride longer before fatigue begins to set in. Which is pretty much the same finding as last year so the delivery system does not affect the absorption and performance of the product.
What was new for this year was the consumption of a second bar on longer rides, while this did not necessary boost performance further but it did have a more noticeable effect on day two. Riding out on day two I did not have the expected heavy legs but it was as if I had had another bar that morning. So now my routine is to have a second bar post long ride to aid recovery.
I really can not recommend this product highly enough, it is the best sports nutrition product I have ever used, and I have used a few, it is way better then any gel, protein carb mix you can buy and to be honest is the only thing other than a zero calorie electrolyte that I will ever use.
If I was Victor Kiam I would buy the company the product is that good. Beet It pro-elite beetroot and oat flapjacks are a must.
I’d give it 110% but my editor tells me I have to cap my enthusiasm at 100% they are a CyclingShorts.cc star buy!
RRP: £25.00 for a case of 15 bars
Earlier this year my wonderful wife surprised me with a Tandem for our 25th Wedding anniversary, which does fit in the back of our people carrier however does not allow us to have anyone else in the car, which would be a bit of a problem when we head to France for our family summer holiday. The solution a tandem roof rack, but which one?
If I am honest I have never really been a fan of bike racks that clamp onto the frame, they often scuff or damage the tube they clamp to and the the thought of only one clamp point with a Tandem did not appeal.
I scoured the marketplace and came up with three main options but the cost of two of the choices really ruled them out, so I finally plumped for the Pendle Tandem Carrier with front fork clamp. It also meant that I would be supporting a British Engineering firm, in my eyes a big bonus.
The prices direct from Pendle where not great so I placed an order via www.roofbox.co.uk a company I have used over the years to buy roof rack items at very reasonable prices and that was certainly true of the Pendle Rack.
I eagerly awaited the arrival of the bike rack, almost like an expectant father. Roofbox did not let me down, rapid delivery to my place of work in plenty of time for my test run for the Great Manchester Cycle a few weeks before our holiday.
The weekend before the ride I decided to fit the rack to our roof bars, as we no longer live in the 70’s flat pack world of missing parts and several trips backwards and forwards for missing screws and nuts, I assumed I did not need to go through the check list provided with the rack. How wrong could I be!!
I quickly and easily assembled the main part of the rack body and got it in place to clamp to the roof bars, but wait there is something missing. No maybe I missed them in the shrink wrapped packaging, surely the bottom plates for clamping to the roof bars are still in the box. After several minutes of vigourusly shaking the box nothing, they where missing, unbelievable! A quick email to Pendle to ask for the parts job sorted, but no joy ‘please contact supplier’. Ok fair enough but surely they will only contact Pendle etc etc. A quick call to Roofbox and a very helpful customer service assistant kept me on hold while she rang Pendle and got the parts shipped directly to me (Roofbox 10, Pendle 0!).
The parts arrived the following day and I fitted the rack to the roof bars, but wait I am two bolts short! A quick hunt through my own spares box and two suitable bolts later rack fitted and set up in time for the Great Manchester Ride.
I contacted Pendle direct about the missing bolts and the over all initial lack of service. I did get an email back from one of the directors offering me bolts but to be fair it was sorted. I really wanted to point out that we are no longer in the era of parts falling off cars and missing bits from self assembly furniture, and that it might be an idea to actually do some quality control on final packaging.
On a positive note the rack does do what is says on the tin and works really well holding the tandem in place very securely, which is all it needs to do. (Pendle 10 out of 10 for functionality). It is not perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing item and maybe not of the highest quality for chroming and powder coating but that does not matter too much.
When we arrived in France I noticed another family with a Pendle rack and asked if they had any problems with supply. They too had bought from Roofbox with excellent service, and yes they too had parts missing for the bike rack, you’ve guessed it bottom plate and bolts. Hmm looks like mine is not an isolated instance. Come on Pendle! Nelson, Lancashire is surely not languishing 30 years behind us all, get your quality control sorted!
Quality of Service/ Customer service attitude (Pendle) 10%
Quality of Service/ Customer service attitude Roofbox 100%
I would recommend Roofbox for bike rack and roof bar supplies, but I might just pay the extra and avoid the hassle of buying a Pendle rack again.
RRP: £162.00 for both versions
Bontrager Glo and Ember LED lights
Bontrager Glo and Ember
As the nights have become dark we all need to make sure we can see and be seen.
Bontrager’s Glo and Ember lights might not be quite the thing if you want to see but they will certainly allow you to be seen.
For the last couple of years I have been using the cheap £2 frog eye lights that are available by the shed load on eBay. While they do a job there is certainly a question over the level of lumens they produce and to be honest there ability to withstand the elements is suspect. I thought it was time to try out something a little more up market, even though this might go against my cheapskate grain!
As soon as I picked up the Bontrager lights I could tell they where going to perform significantly better then the cheap frog eyes.
The marketing blurb on Bontrager’s website describes the lights as follows:-
Test lights supplied by Bikechain Ricci
Instantly add front or rear safety lighting with the Glo headlight and and Ember tail light. Used as a stand alone system in twilight conditions, as additional lighting or as an emergency back-up, these compact, bright and stylish lights can be run in either steady or flashing modes and provide over 40 hours of run time. Each includes two CR2032 batteries and an elastic strap for attachment to a variety of surfaces including helmets.
The blurb on the packaging is slightly more generous with the run times, 50/100+ hours (Glo front light) and 100+ hours (Ember). The Glo offers 5 lumens and the Ember 3 Lumens.
Ember provides a bright rear light even in daylight.
Fitting the lights is dead simple and the multi hole bands allow for very secure fitting to either seat-post or handle bars, as well as potential use as a helmet light.
These little bad boys are way brighter then any lights of this type I have used before, certainly making them worth the money. They really are great lights to allow you to be seen by but not so good for you to see the road ahead. I frequently use them as my road lights riding city streets to and from the dark lanes or off road ride areas, where I switch to my high power Cree LED lights.
If you are looking for something that will help make you visible on your town or city commute in these dark winter months then get yourself along to your local bike shop and pick up a pair of Bontrager Glo and Ember lights.
A definte one to ask Santa to leave in your stocking.
A CyclingShorts.cc Star buy at 90%
Retails for around £25 – £30 per set (can be bought individually).
A big thank you to @bikechainricci for supplying these lights for test.
Buying a new bike is always an adventure and a joy.
No matter whether you are spending £200 or £4000 on a new bike and you are a cycling enthusiast, you will probably invest as much time researching, comparing and selecting the best bike you can get for the money you are spending. You will aim to squeeze the absolute best value possible and get the best bike for the buck that you can. Perhaps even more if you budget is tight, because we all know the Velominati is right:
// It’s all about the bike.
It is, absolutely, without question, unequivocally, about the bike. Anyone who says otherwise is obviously a twatwaffle.
Talk to the sales person about your riding style.
So what do you do?
You talk to friends, club mates, read the latest product reviews, match this up to your preferred bike kit, are you a Shimano, Campagnolo SRAM fan or do you want to emulate your favourite pro (to be honest the last is never a good buying decision). Do you have a favourite brand or is there a dream bike, your Porsche, Ferrari or Aston Martin out there. We can all dream and dreams cost nothing.
But bringing things back down to earth, sadly we are all limited by the amount we can afford. Yes the there are ways to stretch your budget and make your money go further, bike to work schemes being a prime example, helped in many cases by a store that is willing to allow you to put more money in at the start so you can get closer to your Holy Grail.
Now the rub is where do you shop and to be honest this is the core of this article. The biggest question out there is where is the best place to buy a new bike?
Perhaps the easiest way to answer this question is to share my most recent bike buying experience and mingle that in with over 30 years bike component and full bike buying experiences. Obviously when I started buying parts and bikes the internet and world wide web did not exist so the driver was what your friends rode and what the local bike shop had in stock or could order. In fact Shimano had not even entered the market in the UK, gosh can you imagine a time BS (that’s Before Shimano!) but the abbreviation has got me thinking!
Back in the day when steel was king and the choice was between Reynolds or Columbus tubing, the dream bike had to be hand built and had to have the most intricate lug work, hand crafted from standard castings. For me, my Ferrari was a hand crafted, red, Colnago with full Campagnolo Record groupset and handbuilt wheels with Mavic rims, who knows maybe one day!
To get close to your dream you had to visit your Local Bike Shop (LBS) search through their brochures of Peugeots, MBK, Raleigh and Vindec to find something that might just allow you to live the dream at your price point. But in your heart of hearts you knew it was going to be a Ford Escort L and not a Ferrari Dino.
Today however the story is very different. Every bike company has a website and the number of bike supermarkets has gone through the roof, offering last years models at amazing discounts and in some cases very attractive deals on the latest models. But where do you go to get the biggest bang for you bucks and the best advice?
I can hear you screaming online! online! buy online! or one of the big stores. Maybe you are right, but I urge you to read on and remember the motto ‘buyer beware’.
I would be lying if I said I did not use the internet and the world wide web, I do and I gain a lot of useful information using this method. I have a lot of bike and product knowledge stored away too. I have a very good BS (no not Before Shimano) filter to sift out the marketing hype from the real facts. I should know I used to walk the talk when I was in technical products sales and marketing!
My most recent buying experience was very illuminating and really backs up my gut instinct for where you should also go to get your best advice and bike deal. Actually its not really a gut instinct but rather a rule.
The Velominati has it in a nutshell:
// Support your local bike shop.
Never buy bikes, parts or accessories online. Going into your local shop, asking myriad inane questions, tying up the staff’s time, then going online to buy is akin to sleeping with your best friend’s wife, then having a beer with him after. If you do purchase parts online, be prepared to mount and maintain them yourself. If you enter a shop with parts you have bought online and expect them to fit them, be prepared to be told to see your online seller for fitting and warranty help.
Perhaps rule 58 is a little harsh but the sentiment is true, but what is your Local Bike Shop? Halfords, Evans and Decathlon are all on my doorstep, are these my Local Bike Shop or are they bike super markets, we all know how well Tesco’s et al are doing at the moment! For me a LBS is the shop that is an independent one, run by enthusiasts for enthusiasts and potential enthusiasts. It’s the place where you can get great advice, irrespective of whether you are buying a bike for your 5 year old or spending £4000 on yourself. It’s staffed by knowledgeable people, who never look down their noses at you and have ‘the customer is king’ tattooed on their brain.
I was in the market for a new CX bike so I thought I would do a little bit of undercover research as a secret shopper, ‘the name’s Bond James Bond!‘. The first port of call was the world wide web to research the brand and model I would go for (but that’s for another time). After a lot of looking I decided to go for a Cannonade Super X, now to find a supplier.
My choice obviously ruled out some of the big players, gone was Decathlon and Halfords. To be fair to both of these companies they do, in general, have some good bikes on offer. Decathlon brands get some good write ups for value for money and my experience of the in store staff has always been pretty positive, both in the UK and France. Halfords also have some good product range now, Boardman and Cinelli, but from feedback from others you would need to know what you want and be prepared to rebuild post purchase to ensure all was safely put together. It did leave Leisure Lakes and Evans in the frame, both of whom have stores close to where I live.
Leisure Lakes has been a good store for me in the past. The founders having a great vision for the enthusiast, with good product range. But as the market developed into cycle to work bikes, they seem to have reduced the range available and targeted the ride to work buyers, which is great for core business but has left the specialist side behind a little. So I thought I’d give Evans a go.
A well stocked, knowledgeable Local Bike Shop is a great place to shop.
I took a few key measurements off my current CX and road bike and armed with these and my height and inside leg, off I went to the local Evans store at the Trafford Centre. I knew what I was after apart from sizing, on which I need some advice, so what could be easier. Oh how wrong can one be!
The shop was fairly busy but not to the level where sales staff would be overwhelmed with work. I took a quick look round to see if they had what I was after in store (was not really expecting they would), the only CX bikes they had where own brand and all below the magic £1000 bike to work price point. Never mind I can always ask them to order in a bike for me to have a look at.
It took me a while but I eventually tracked down a sales person. Quick chat and asked to have some guidance about the Cannonade. “Yes sir what would you like Small, Medium or Large?” a very interesting question I thought, considering the frames are sized in cm from 44cm to 58 cm. This was not inspiring confidence in me. I pointed out to the sales guy that the bikes are sized in cm and to be fair, he said he was not sure about sizing. He said he would look on the Evans system, oh but wait there’s no information. ‘Sorry I can’t help’ came the reply. What you have a customer in front of you who is probably going to spend at least £1500 and you can’t help?!!
Trying to help things along I suggested he look at the bike company website for details of the product. To be fair the the sales guy he did exactly that, not that it really helped as it was clear by now he was well out of his depth. My desire to support the super market round the corner was waning and waning fast.
After a bit of discussion and a review of my road bike sizing we plumped for a 54cm frame. I was a little uneasy as I was really not sure this was the best way to go. But I parted with my £50 refundable deposit (not that he told me that) to bring a bike to the store for testing. Away I went looking forward to getting the call to come in and try to bike for size.
If I said all was well with the world when I left the store I would be a bit like a politician telling you that all is well with the world and you will be much better off after the next budget. I was stewing over the whole experience and after an hour or so at home, cooling off time (rather bubbling and boiling time) I decided to change my mind and cancel the order and, at the same time, vent my frustration about the poor level of service.
To be fair to Evans they refunded the money very quickly and within days a store manager was on the phone to discuss the issue, offering nearly the world for me to come back as a customer. Did you know they had a full bike fitting service? Well that was news to me, no body mentioned that and it is not even mentioned on their website. Hmm do they really have a full on bike fitting service. I really feel that although they may dress themselves up as an amazing bike store and that they are a LBS I’m sorry your not, you are just another Halfords but at least Halfords do not try to be anything better!
Its good to talk to someone who knows.
So back to the drawing board, where was I going to buy from, I needed a truly independent shop, that had the product I was after and had some top flight levels of service. After a bit more research I found Bikechain Ricci in Redruth Cornwall. What a different experience with Richard Pascoe and staff. A quick call with Ricci and it was clear he and his staff are passionate about bikes and that they know their stuff. I sent Ricci my current bike measurements and my key body measurement. He was back within a day with the advice that for the CX I should really be riding a size down from my road bike. This would allow me to move my weight around the bike more easily to deal with a range of surfaces and terrain. This all made perfect sense and matched with the additional research I had done since my Evans experience. Ricci’s product knowledge and riding experience really shone through the whole process, so their it was decision made, deposit paid and estimated delivery date provided, mid November (a bit disappointing but never mind it will be worth the wait).
Time to sit back and reflect on the whole process. I think an online review of Evans I have just found whilst writing this maybe sums up the experience better then I can “Evans cycles – the McDonalds of bicycles?” (http://road.cc/content/forum/92017-evans-cycles-macdonalds-bicycles) I am not sure I would call them the McDonalds but they are a bike supermarket with supermarket service. If its in stock and cheap great, otherwise give them a wide birth.
For me it has to be a local independent bike shop, yes I know Bikechain Ricci is not on my doorstep, but the point is they gave service above and beyond. No other local store to me could provide the product I wanted. Over the phone the guys at Bikechain went the extra mile, talked, listened and discussed needs and really knew their product. That really is what counts and that only comes with passion and experience. I have always had excellent service from the smaller independent guys over the years and sadly a few no longer exist as they get swamped by the big chains.
Stop shopping at the big chains and get yourself down to the local bike shop and talk to them, you might just find you get much better advice and if they can they will give you a bigger bang for your bucks.
If you are looking for an excellent local bike shop I can recommend the following, all based on excellent personal experience.
Bikechain Ricci Redruth Cornwall
Eddie McGrath Cycles Urmston, Manchester
Geoff Smith Bolton
Wallis Cycles Higher Walton, Lancs
Broadgate Cycles Penwortham, Preston
Cycles Laurent Avrilla Sion sur L’Ocean Vendee France
M Steels Gosforth Tyne and Wear
Cookson Cycles Whitefield, Manchester