Spin part two. The reviews…
Ok. So “Spin” the show, was spun into something a tad more than it ought to have been. I’m saying no more about the show, but nothing is completely bad and in amongst some very quirky stuff, were some very interesting products indeed and what follows is a concise (for me) look at the best and the noteworthy if only…
Jivr (Jiver) was the first exhibit we saw and it definitely has the WOW factor. Yes, I said an electric bike has the Wow factor. It is a folder that packs down into a size as compact as a Brompton (yes, I know nothing folds like a Brompton…until this) up and back down again in 22 seconds… and that was me at my first attempt. Martin Piatkowski, its designer and head of the company can do it in about 18.
It is light too at a mere 10 Kilos, which when you consider that it houses a motor, a battery and a chain free drive system, that is pretty amazing. The company claim a top speed on its motor of 25 km/h which is governed to make it legal in the company’s widening market place. Jivr also clocked in at 30KM on one charge, which if you only use the motor to arrive at work without needing to change your sweaty shirt because you’ve been climbing hills, will do you just fine. Pedal the remainder or indeed all of your journey although, because of its direct drive (hidden in the single beam of 7005 aluminium) peddling looks odd….no chain rings.
A fast nimble little folding electric bike that is stylish (my partner Carol wants one) light enough and looks amazing, make this a serious contender to Brompton. Yes its more expensive, has a two hour reachable battery and high tech motor and drive system on board. But if you’re after a commuter for on and off the train and you’d like the extra help of a motor to help with your briefcase etc, then its very well worth a look. If you can push the boat out to £1,200 plus for a Brompton, then I would suggest that the hike up to 2K must be in you remit. Especially when you take into account their unique way of selling this brilliantly crowd funded initiative. Jivr will place 70 hand made bikes per month on the market. Getting one initially works like this; pay £99 deposit refundable in 48 hours if you change your mind. You then go on the waiting list. Each month the waiting list members will be given the opportunity of getting their machine on a first come first served basis. Pay your balance and away you go.
Brick Lane, in the heart of London’s East End and formerly known as Whitechapel Lane has always been a vibrant melting pot of a place and the earliest known record of its existence was on a woodcut map that was printed sometime during the 16th Century. It has been home to many communities of immigrants throughout its colourful history. Always a staging post to upward mobility. That mobility sometimes being slow, sometimes quite rapid. It has been home to French Huguenots, Ashkenazi Jews, and then Eastern European and Russian Jews in the early 20th century. It has been an epicentre of changing small scale industries centred around the clothing industry. Weaving, Leather making, Exquisite tailoring and the sweatshops of the rag trade. Home to Fagin and Jack The Ripper. It still retains its flavour of an amalgam of the new and tentative amidst wide boy small entrepreneurs. Shops momentarily flourishing displaying “vintage” clothing….aka, overpriced elegantly displayed jumble sales. The earnest Guardian reading fashionistas leaving their tatty chic boutiques to browse scratched vinyl records and other vendors tatty chic furniture. 35mm cameras that will never be used and they buy their fabulous Indian sub continent, Eastern European and Far Eastern street food lunches in cheap and plentiful non eco friendly styrofoam boxes.
The Truman Brewery’s disused premises opened above a now drained well in 1863 are themselves a tatty chic exhibition space in keeping with the area and ideal therefore to house the show “SPIN” devoted to the urban cycling revolution taking place in London, with a nod here and there to the sporting and serious leisure cycling side of things enabling the hipsters their radical touch of the esoteric work of cycling.
Spin was a show for Hipsters. No doubt whatsoever about that. There was the very deliberate wearing of 20,30,50 year old continental race team kit. I saw one guy. Beard long enough to plait and use as a climbing rope in his Gan team kit, hanging on Chris Boardman’s every word and nodding sagely as he munched on his tofu burger before clattering away in an ancient pair of wooden soled track shoes, converted to take the cleats of a set of middle ‘80s Look Classic pedals. Yes, it really was that sort of occasion. The exhibition was a truly enjoyable reflection of Brick lane’s very nature on to the world of cycling. There was a plentiful amount of beautifully crafted clothing, hand built bespoke bicycles (in steel of course) and the feeling that rather like the place 100 yards down Brick Lane that has now ceased attempting to trade in contemporary Vietnamese Folding food, many of them, for all of their skill and genuine innovation would struggle to stay in business much beyond two years or so. That is a great pity, because in the reviews that will follow shortly, I am going to take you on a wander through the best of SPIN and introduce you to some of the start up businesses that are attempting to take root.
If you’d not seen Rollapaluzza before, you might have been forgiven for turning away before you entered the place. They’d set up their usually thriving space and were attracting their usually lengthy queues accompanied by music so loud and a commentary so unintelligible that you have to walk away or give in. We walked away and that was the point at which we recognised the advantage of this very solid old building, step into the next room and the sound that filled the entrance hall was all but eliminated by the purposeful 19th century walls. A moment to reflect on some art work, depicting some of the greats of our sport….up to the 1990s (yes that was the first indicator) Bartolli, Coppi, Simpson, Merckx, Rijs, Anquetil, LeMond, Hinault, Boardman, Obree, Yndurain, Abdujaporov, and my hero (shut up… its my article) the finest climber of all time Marco(Il Pirate) Pantani. None of them were particularly flattering, but at Brick Lane prices I wasn’t going to be hanging one in my shed anyway.
The whole feel of the show was not so much a display of products to do with the world of cycling, but products that were designed to fit lifestyle choices of which cycling is but a part. Cycling fits very nicely into the choices made by the eco friendly….correction, obsessively eco friendly and thats not necessarily a bad thing, but there is a pedantic quirkiness about almost every exhibitor that makes sense to some. Indeed, with the exception of one or two of cycling better known brands. Boardman Elite and Bianchi, most were at the end of the cycling spectrum that says commuter or courier rider that seek form over function. Indeed the more conventional the product on offer the more out of place it looked.
A number of the products quirky or not, really did impress and I shall review them and in some cases road test them too. There was the stuff that did interest me. The bespoke frame builders, some of whom were brazing but joint and brazed steel frames that are becoming popular again amongst some sections of the regular cycling community. Sadly when we were there these craftsmen were not drawing anywhere near as much attention as the stand selling those bloody ridiculous Dura Ace equipped Bamboo framed bikes…… yes, exactly what I thought!
As I say, there was a kind of studied pedantry to the wares on offer. Quill stems, rat trap pedals with old style toe clips barely a modern pedal on view. I fell in love with a gorgeous titanium framed bike… The frame was brand spanking new, but everything on it was a (admittedly beautifully done) restored and refurbished ‘80s item. The entire group and finishing kit was old style 5 speed friction shift Campagnolo record. It gleamed. It stunned….. its price tag made me wince……. no, trust me you don’t want to know.
When it comes to anything approaching regular bike choices these folk are cautious. Yes I want something that says serious cyclist, but I don’t feel comfortable going into my LBS, so I’ll stick my nose in the trough with names I recognise Boardman, Bianchi and Cinelli… We can’t be seen to be going into Halfords or Evans and buying something cheaper and far more appropriate to our needs, it has to say chic. It has to say, “at weekends my other bike is a Porsche and my winters are spent at Cortina or Chamonix”.
Yes it was a Hipsters show and if thats your thing, good on yer. You’re riding a bike and anyone who has read my drivel before, knows that this will always get my vote. I half begged to be given this assignment and I’m glad I went for the few products that were in my jaded opinion worthy of attention and for the wonderful (and well attended) interview and Q&A with my hero of the entire show, Martyn Ashton. Will I go again next year? No. But I love Brick Lane, the street food etc, the tiny record stalls and the markets. I even like the quirky nature of SPIN….it’s just that very little of it was for me.
“You should buy this kit; it’s called Fat Lad at the Back”
“These shorts would be great for you; they are called Fat Lass at the Back”
“This top would suit you; you can buy it from Fat Lad at the Back”
People of all shapes and sizes often ask me for kit recommendations, but I am not sure if I can say any of those sentences out loud without losing friends, clients or offending someone!
Fat Lad at The Back was the nickname of Richard Bye, the founder of the company, and is a term of endearment. The company admit it is a touchy subject having the marmite effect – either you love it or hate it, but they bravely persevered.
Fat Lad at the Back (FLAB) is a sportswear brand born in Yorkshire, with the clothing manufactured by a family-run company in Italy. The Fat Lad brand was originally created for what their website calls “Mr Averages, MAMIL’s with a 44” chest and a 38” waist”, but it quickly became apparent that there were bigger cyclists so it introduced larger sizes including a Spare Tyre range for the larger build. A women’s range was soon created, which took into consideration women’s curves and comfort.
A Twitter conversation the morning of The London Bike Show suggested I should speak to FLAB at the show after a discussion about the lack of kit for women who are not “a flat chested size 8-12” with one rider asking “how can these new brands be “women’s” when the biggest chest size they do it a 14” and another saying “it is a huge barrier to women coming into the sport”.
I spoke to several designers of women’s cycling clothing at the show and did indeed find the largest size, called XL, was only a UK14-16. One designer I spoke with said unfortunately they just can justify the additional expenses needed to design, produce and hold stock of the larger sizes which are less popular.
Instead of just sizing up the clothing the FLAB garments have been redesigned so they properly fit and flatter different sizes of rider. Some items state the name boldly in large text across the garments, other are more subtle with just a small logo. I have to confess that having ‘Fat Lass at the Back’ across my bottom was a great training inspiration as I pedalled furiously to disprove the label!
I tried the Flabularse Shorts (RRP £49.99) and the short sleeved ladies Lanterne Rouge Jersey (RRP 49.99) both available from size 8 to size 26.
The shorts fitted well and had some nice details including a draw string for the waist and a soft stretchy panel across the tummy allowing you to pull them right up over the belly area. I normally wear bib shorts and think generally bibs are more flattering with smoother lines, but agree shorts certainly make toilet stops easier and mean there is no need to remove a jersey, which some riders may feel self-conscious about, especially if having to go al fresco! Unfortunately as there was no knot tied in the draw string it had been lost in the waistband prior to me wearing, but with a bit of fiddling I retrieved it. The shorts are black with flattering seams, a large logo on the leg and across the lower back. The pad was comfortable on long road rides, the mountain bike and on the turbo.
The jersey is noticeably longer than my other jerseys, this is great for us ladies who like to pull things down over our hips and bottom and there is certainly no chance of any bare flesh when standing upright. The colour changes gradually down the top with the darker, more flattering colours over the lower torso and brighter colours across the bust and shoulders drawing the eye away from the areas we are usually more self conscious about. The sleeves are loose and long with no restrictive bands. A zipped pocket is handy for your valuables and a full length zip is always a plus in jerseys of this price range.
Both items washed well and I would happily recommend them if I could find a polite way of doing so!
Fat Lad at The Back has become a community, not just a brand, with riders involved in the development of new products and social media filled with riders’ photos, comments and inspirational rides. The company encourages everyone to have a go, have fun and enjoy their sport.
When former rugby player Alastair Little was forced to cut his 25-year career short after a life-changing neck injury, he was devastated and soon piled on weight as his life spiralled towards depression. He managed to turn his life around after discovering a love for cycling. Riding with friends at Fat Lad at the Back, Alastair took to the road and after a few months he started to see the results, losing more than five stone and dramatically boosting his confidence.
Alastair said: “It was the motivation and help I received from the guys at FLAB which really inspired me to stick at it and lose the weight and not only that, I enjoyed the social aspect to cycling, and suddenly sport was bringing me back to life again.”
FLAB introduced Alastair to other, likeminded riders who taught him that he wasn’t alone.
FLAB Sportive – 8th May 2016
In a bid to further welcome novice cyclists, FLAB has introduced a new 25-mile event alongside its 50 and 75-mile distance sportives, taking place on the Yorkshire roads in May and in the Chiltern Hills in October. Looking after riders will be experienced FLAMbassadors riding in the sportives to encourage and support riders on the journey.
Fat Lad in Charge Richard Bye, who has 20 years’ experience cycling many of Yorkshire’s most recognised routes, said: “This year we have added a 25 miler as we hope to inspire some new riders who may fancy a sportive, but have never thought they could!”
“The food stops are also legendary and include black pudding scotch eggs and lots of other stuff which our fat Lads and Lasses like, as well as the usual fruit and flapjack based options. We also have a BBQ afterwards which went down really well last year, this means people hang about and chat and share rather than just getting in their cars and leaving.”
Richard went on to say “Since founding FLAB we have been overwhelmed by how many people have come to us saying how much confidence they’ve gained with our support”
You can enter the sportive here and can find FLAB on the web http://fatladattheback.com/ on Facebook and on Twitter
Established in 2013, a Northern-Irish based start up company called See.Sense, Kickstarter funded ICON intelligent lights.
I tested the rear ICON light which has two 95 lumen CREE LEDs and retails at £64.99.
The box contained 2 x rubber mounts, USB cable, the light and a simple, clear user guide.
The set of front and rear is £119.99 and the 30% brighter ICON+ is also available at £149.99 for the set.
ICON is primarily designed as a ‘to be seen’ light, giving up to 270 degrees of side visibility. This is ideal in urban environments. The front ICON has twin LED’s, one with a focused beam, and one with a dispersed beam. According to See.Sense 80% of accidents happen in daylight and the ICON is certainly bright enough to be visible in daylight.
So what is so clever about it…..?
Within 2 minutes of opening the package I had downloaded the app and connected the light with my iphone via Bluetooth. The app allows you to:
- Check your battery level
- Change from flashing light to constant
- Customise your lights to optimise your brightness/run-time using a simple slider
- Control multiple lights at once
- Set auto-on/off, which automatically turns off your light after 3 minutes of inactivity, or if you walk more than 3 metres from your light
- Turn on theft alert, the light will then send you an alert if anything or anyone disturbs your bike to a range of up to 15 metres
- Turn on crash alert, if you have a crash, ICON knows and will send a text to your nominated contact for help, which you can cancel if you are ok
- Download firmware and application updates as new features become available
The battery life is up to 15 hours (5hr charge) on flashing mode and on the light itself there is a mini LED to indicate battery level, green for 75%+ and red for less than 25%. The app gives a more accurate battery level and you can adjust the brightness of your light using the app, so it’s easy to maximise your battery life if you’re running low.
I am not sure I would ever adjust brightness/flashing with app myself, but it was fun initially dazzling the family!
See.Sense say the theft detection is ideal for the coffee stop, but would I leave my bike locked outside cafe with a £120 of lights still attached? And perhaps the alarm should be on the light, not the phone to scare away the thief? Having said that it worked and I did indeed get the alert when the light was moved.
I like the crash alert feature as I often ride alone, but the most impressive thing about the light is that it adapts to its environment, increasing its brightness and flash rate to keep you more visible in riskier situations such as junctions, roundabouts, filtering in traffic and to approaching car headlights. If you are in an urban setting, where there is a higher level of ambient lighting from street lighting and approaching cars at night, ICON will automatically adjust to be less bright. It is the only light in the world that can react to road junctions, filtering traffic, roundabouts and car headlights.
Even more intelligent is the fact that ICON will soon monitor your environment. It can monitor road surfaces, crashes, near-miss events, light levels, temperature levels and routes taken. With your permission data will be uploaded to the cloud and aggregated data can then be shared with councils to provide information for cycling infrastructure provision, pothole repairs and identify hot spot areas where there are a high frequency of ‘near-miss’ events and crashes.
Philip McAleese, CEO of See.Sense said, “It is our hope that ICON will help to ignite a cycling revolution. Not only does ICON enhance the cycling experience through improved safety and convenience, it also has the potential to empower cyclists to influence their cities through the use of highly accurate, crowd-sourced data. This can create smarter and better cities for everyone.”
It comes with a 12 month warranty and is weather sealed, the website actually shows it being dropped in a jug of water and mine has been soaked several times in winter rain and road spray with no adverse effects.
However after about 6 rides the on/off button became somewhat intermittent requiring a really hard press at an angle to switch the light on as if something is perhaps loose or out of alignment behind it.
The light itself is bulky and doesn’t have the aesthetic appeal of some of the other lights on the market; one rider even went so far as to call it ‘ugly’.
Overall it is bright, functional and easy to fit. It is certainly visible and I even received a couple of complaints about how bright it is! Gadget lovers will like the app and although I hope I never need it, I feel reassured by the crash alert. It will be interesting to see how much data See.Sense is able to collect in the future and how this is used, anything that improves the cycling infrastructure and safety must be a good thing.
Watch this space… Visit seesense.cc website.
According to the Chia Charge website the word Chia comes from the Mayan word for ‘strength’ and messengers could run all day with just a small handful of chia seeds! Apparently Aztec warriors survived on nothing but chia during conquests and Native Americans could march for 24 hours on a teaspoon of chia seeds! Modern day Tarahumara Indians in Mexico still carry chia with them during ultra runs through the desert.
I tried the Ultimate Chia Seed Bundle which is £10 delivered to your door. The bundle contains 1 Chia Charge Cacao & Cranberry Protein Bar, 1 Chia Charge Trail Mix, 1 Honey Trail Mix, 1 Original Flapjack with Sea Salt Flakes, 2 Mini Banana Flapjacks and 200g of Chia Seeds.
The trail mix didn’t make it to a trail, I demolished it as the desk and it was lovely. The seeds have been added successfully to smoothies and used as a breakfast topping and the website blog has lots of recipes to inspire you.
And…… I am now officially addicted to the flapjacks!
I have taken them on rides and counted the minutes until I can eat them! The full size flapjack was enough to fuel an 85km steady endurance ride, I ate it in two pieces, as at 80g and over 350 calories it is a substantial bar. The seeds keep you entertained for at least 30 minutes after eating the bars as they stick in your teeth, but I didn’t mind this as they gradually soften and it gave me something to take the mind of the miles! The bar travels well and didn’t become too hard despite the freezing temperatures.
My favourite is definitely the original flapjack with sea salt flakes, but the banana ones were delicious too and didn’t have that horrible artificial taste you often get with banana flavoured products; probably because there is nothing artificial about them. No flavourings, preservatives or colourings are added to the bars, just real sun dried bananas!
The protein bar is vegan, wheat free and made with cashews, sultanas, cranberries, dates, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, cacao powder, goji berries, cacao nibs, cacao butter and sea salt flakes – what’s not to like!?
Tim Taylor the man behind Chia Charge, a food technologist and runner says “It is my belief that food, in particular sports nutrition, should be more than just fuel to keep the body going. Having tried a few sport nutrition and energy products I came to the conclusion that whoever makes these things was at the back of the queue when taste buds were handed out! A few years ago I started developing my own formulations in the kitchen at home. I wanted to create food that tastes delicious and helps you perform, the result of which was Chia Charge”
Chia seeds are 20% protein, 20% omega 3, high in antioxidants and fibre as well as low in sugar. They have a mild, nutty flavour and give a controlled energy release and promote fast recovery.
I have already bought some more of the flapjacks which are perfect fuel with fast acting carbohydrates to give you an immediate burst of energy and more complex carbohydrates to sustain your energy levels. The protein and Omega 3 and 6 will aid recovery and the sea salt flakes will also help electrolyte replacement, but far more importantly they taste amazing!
Chia Charge stockist are listed on the website and include a good variety of running, outdoor and cycling shops as well as Ocado or you can buy direct from the website with free postage over £25.
There is a new, no added sugar, berry flapjack on the way and I would love to try the nut butters.
You can find Chia Charge on YouTube here on Twitter @runningtimt + @chiacharge and like on Facebook
The flapjack really is amazing, I keep eating it!!
10/10 for the original flapjack, definitely addicted
Does What it Says on the pack
10/10 yummy bars, a natural superfood and no rubbish added, great fuel for riding
9/10 a box of 20 is £32 with 3 extra free bars and free postage so comparable to other bars on the market, but the price does go down the more you buy so only £25/box if you buy 5 which is great value
9/10 2 varieties of flapjack with a new one on the way, protein bars, raw seeds, nut butters, trail mix and the option to buy a mixed pack to try everything out
Easy to Eat
8.5/10 although I found far too easy to eat and could eat a whole box they are larger than normal energy bars so I found half was plenty which means faffing around returning the other half to your pocket and they do start to crumble a little once opened. Having said that the mini size is perfect. The bars travelled well and didn’t go hard in the cold.
93% it gets our star buy rating!
There’s nothing like taking some new kit out of it’s packaging, the smell of new Lycra setting the cycling taste-buds alive and giving it the initial once-over for new features, technical materials and over-all design.
Like a little girl at Christmas, I was excited and very privileged to open the colourful Drops team issue* long-sleeve thermal jersey designed by their kit sponsor for 2016, Prendas Ciclismo and produced by the well known Santini. My wardrobe is actually pretty bare when it comes to seasonal attire (or embarrassingly shows how much of a fair weather cyclist I am!) so it was particularly welcoming to receive some new winter kit.
Deep pockets for the essentials
Just like the new women’s UCI team, the Drops kit makes a bold statement. Their slogan, #colourtheroad is met enthusiastically by the rainbow stripes, featuring predominantly across the back and accents on the sleeves and on the inside of the collar, one of my favourite features. This is no doubt, down to Prendas’ determination to “ensure that the Drops Cycling Team is the best clothed and best dressed women’s team in the UK, if not Europe”.
On initial trial, the thermal jersey seems thin and I was sceptical as to how warm it would keep me. Although the sun was finally shining on north Devon and willing me out on my bike, it was still a cool 4 – 6 degrees without the wind chill in consideration. But my arms, back and chest didn’t complain once on my 20km ride and the jersey was surprisingly snug. It didn’t “over perform” as I picked up my heart rate on the sharp Devonshire climbs and kept the wind chill on my chest to a minimum as I whizzed down the other side at 65kmph. This is all thanks to the fleece-backed AcquaZero treated fabric which is also welcomingly water repellent, perfect should you be caught out in the schizophrenic English weather!
Like most, the jersey features the standard 3 pockets across the back. These come a lot higher than most jersey’s I’ve tried before. Given my short body and arms, I did think I’d struggle, however once used to the concept, reaching in to grab my phone, a gel or stuff some gloves or my gillet in was done at ease. The zipped mini pocket was also great to store my British Cycling ID and some emergency money, often used for a cheeky hot chocolate on route.
The sleeves, although slightly long on little me, feature elasticated Jacquard bands as does the waist. These were great at reducing movement and keeping the cool air where it belongs; although I personally could do with losing my winter weight for this to fit perfectly, as noted that the kit does come up small, so consider one size up for a comfy fit if you’re looking to buy.
Overall, not only does this kit look great and the design put a smile on faces of those I passed, it performs fantastically in the cold weather too. I can’t wait now, for the warmer, longer days when I can unzip the packing and get exploring in the new summer kit!
Do you want to #colourtheroad and support Drops too? Get your summer kit orders in on Prendas webshop before it races off the shelves.
*Unfortunately the Drops thermal jersey isn’t available to purchase in team colours. However it is available in generic colours and will still work great with the team issue bibs.
I wore a size Small. I am 5’2 with a 34cm chest.
– Performs well in low temperatures yet still breathable
– Looks great
– Roomy pockets and one to keep valuables safe
– Waistband is a little restricting – if I went a size bigger the rest of the fit would be too big
– Arms are long… but then I’m short!
Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping!