Following my high scoring reviews of the Bike Floss (90%) and the Bike Polish & Frame Protector (100%) from UK Company Purple Harry, I now turn to their Wash & Polish Mitt.
It is made from good quality microfibre material and shaped into a three fingered ‘lobster claw’ glove, which according to their website “has been ergonomically designed with the bike’s shape and contours in mind – allowing access to difficult areas whilst avoiding catching on the drive train and snagging in components”.
For this review I will be comparing this mitt with my usual cleaning materials; standard square shaped microfibre cloths bought from my local Pound store!
The Mitt costs at least SIX times more than the cloths I have been using for many years for cleaning and polishing duties, but is it worth the extra expense?
I hit a problem with the Mitt straight away; I couldn’t get it onto my hand.
My hands are not excessively large, but I struggled for a while before having to resort to using scissors to cut the black narrow cuff stitched into the Mitt to allow my hand in. Due to the Lobster claw shape your second and third fingers are forced apart, which felt uncomfortable to start with, but overtime became less troublesome.
Also while working on the bike, because you have two pairs of fingers held together, it restricts how well you can get into those small little gaps and crevices that need to be reached while cleaning or polishing. My natural instinct is to use just the finger-tip of my index finger to get to those more intricate areas, something you can’t do very successfully with this Mitt as the combined width of two fingers stops you reaching as far as you would like.
Also with my normal square cloth I can easily reach every corner on the frame by using it in a flossing action by just pulling one corner into the tight spot, for example cleaning between the rear wheel and chain stays, the gap is far too narrow to get my finger in between.
Another disadvantage of using the Mitt is that the actual area of material that you can use for cleaning/polishing is very limited; meaning that it quickly becomes too dirty or clogged. You have the whole Mitt but in reality can only effectively use the finger tips for finer work and the length of your fingers for working on the more accessible areas.
To use the other side you will need to take the Mitt off and put it on your other hand. This means that it might become too dirty to finish the job, you will have to wash it after every use or you will need to buy a couple more!
My way of working is that I currently have several microfibre cloths in use, each one is given a different task depending on how dirty it is; brand new ones are used for dusting and polishing only, but once they become clogged or a little dirty they then move onto drying or light cleaning duties and the previous one used for this purpose is ‘downgraded’ to more dirty tasks and so on until the very last one is used exclusively for chain cleaning work – and once this is oil soaked it is binned and another trip to the Pound shop is made to buy a fresh one to start the process again.
These cloths can be washed too, but as they cost as little as 99p for three it is not worth the effort. As they are square shaped you can use every inch of the cloth, both sides included, and by wrapping your index finger in the cloth with the remainder held in the palm of your hand you can reach those smaller awkward places with a clean patch of fabric every time unlike the Mitt.
From the picture above; in the bottom left is a new cloth, and each one in a clockwise direction becomes progressively dirtier.
So, as you can gather from my comments, I would not recommend that you pay £5.99 for this Mitt, instead buy six standard cloths and use a rotation system similar to mine, you will get much more value for money and they’ll do a better job too!
Left, is a comparison of cleaning area between the Mitt and cloths for the same price. Unfortunately I am awarding my lowest score so far, all the effort that has gone into cutting out the shape, stitching it together and attention to detail like adding the cuff and Purple Harry label has not only cost a lot to do, it has also severely restricted its usefulness, which is reflected in my score below:
Sorry to the Guys at Purple Harry, I can only give the Mitt a paltry score of 17%.
With the constant rain that has become the norm here in the UK lately, it has become more important than ever to regularly clean your bike. This will not only reduce corrosion, but also limit the wear from those little bits of grit and muck that stick to the frame and components when cycling on wet roads.
The UK produced Purple Harry Bike Polish will not only leave your bike sparkling, it also leaves a protective layer of waxes and silicones, adding an extra barrier to your paintwork which will make it easier to clean in the future too!
Simply pour a small amount onto a clean soft cloth of your choice, apply to the bike in a circular motion and then wait for at least 5 minutes for the polish to dry, then buff off to reveal a gleaming silky smooth surface. Of course, as with any polish, avoid getting any on the braking surfaces and it’s not recommended for use on the saddle or brake levers!
In the past I have only used the same polish as I use on my car (Turtle Wax), and have been pleased with the results, but I was very impressed with the Purple Harry Polish.
The crown on my carbon forks had minute scratches that always caught my eye in the past, but now they are gone, to be replaced by a nice deep black mirror like shine!
I also got a good finish when applying the polish to the painted Aluminium frame, carbon forks, Aluminium chainset and even plastic mudguards, so it can be used on most bike surfaces (take extra care if polishing wheel rims not to make the braking surface super slippery!).
My bike has never looked so good, after using the Bike Floss sticks to clean the cassette and chain and now protecting every suitable surface with the Bike Polish, it is almost in ‘as new’ condition. This is impressive; when you consider that it is a 2008 bike that I bought secondhand, which gets used nearly every day, for either a weekend ride or my commute to work.
It is difficult to say how often you should apply the polish, I guess it depends on the weather conditions and how often the bike gets washed, and obviously you wouldn’t use it every time you clean the bike. Perhaps 3 to 4 times a year seems to me to be a sensible figure. The bottle should therefore last for years (Unless, because of the fantastic results, you go on to use it on your car, caravan, or boat too!).
I really can’t find any negatives; it just works better than anything else I have tried before.
So, a first from me, a score of 100% for Purple Harry Bike Polish!
Review: Purple Harry Bike Floss
Keeping your bike clean is important for making sure that it keeps running smoothly, reducing wear and for finding any problems before they become big and expensive. Also, if you are like me, there is a sense of satisfaction in making sure your precious steed remains looking new and shiny.
The Bike Floss range is designed to seek out all those little places where dirt, grime and oily abrasive paste build up. There is a choice of three grades:
Large bristle. Less abrasive and softer than the medium, but not to be used on Carbon fibre components. Use on derailleur’s and the drivetrain.
Large fleece. Ideal for polishing/final buffing, and for all Carbon fibre parts.
Medium bristle. The most abrasive floss, perfect for cassette cleaning.
As you can see in the picture, the purple flecks are stiffer more abrasive bristles, while the white ones hold onto the dirt.
There are five pieces in each re-sealable packet, with a recommendation on their use printed on the label.
Be careful when handling the medium bristle version, they are prickly; they caught me unawares even before I had opened the packet! The short stiff bristles had punctured through the bag and I originally thought that perhaps some of the wire core was broken and poking out, but realised that the purple bristles that cover the whole length were to blame. From then on I wore gloves while using them.
How to use them: As their name suggests, you use them in a flossing action, I tested them on my cassette and chain by following the guidelines provided. Purple Harry has produced some helpful videos on their YouTube channel showing how to use them too. http://www.youtube.com/purpleharrybikestuff
Firstly I applied some degreaser and left it to soak into the dried oil and grime before getting to work with the medium bristle floss.
I found it very easy to quickly work my way around the sprockets, moving the floss down to each space in turn, starting at the back one to the front. The thickness of the floss is made to fit snuggly into the sprocket spacing, meaning that you are cleaning both sides at once and the bristles are long enough to clean all the cut-outs on each sprocket too, I was expecting to have to finish off these and the top faces of each one separately, but it was not necessary.
I then used the large fleece bike floss to mop up the remaining degreaser and buffed up the sprockets back to their shiny silver, it was at this stage that I learnt that I had sprayed too much degreaser onto the sprockets because the fleece soon became saturated, alternatively I could have washed off the degreaser with clean water before using the fleece to dry it. The next time I will use less spray and this will make the job much faster.
The results: See my before and after pictures below:
Although it is unclear from my poor photos’ the cassette and chain has had a thorough clean, with every visible place where dirt could hide now a pleasing shiny surface instead.
To achieve this result I had only used two of the floss sticks, and don’t think that once used they should be thrown away – Purple Harry say that they can be cleaned with either degreaser or white spirit and used several times. I left mine soaking in a bath of degreaser overnight, and they will be put to good use on the chain and sprockets again. So if for instance, they can be used five times each, that is twenty-five washes per packet – not bad for the price.
Improvements that I would like to see; Due to the unexpected sharpness of the bristles in the medium floss stick, I would prefer it if the packaging was improved to protect your hands. I suggest that a clear plastic vacuum formed container with a clip-shut lid would work well and it could also be used as a bath to leave them soaking after use.
Also, as they are sold in packets of five items per bag, to clean and dry the cassette properly you will need to buy at least two packets (one medium bristle and one large fleece), a nice option would be to have available a prepared pack that contained all that you need to clean your drivetrain a few times; a couple of medium bristle floss sticks, a couple large fleece sticks, perhaps one large bristle floss and a small bottle of Purple Harry degreaser.
Final Verdict: These products are easy to use and do their job well, my drivetrain has never been so clean. They are not too fiddly to use and will make your bike in ‘showroom’ condition, great for adding that extra smart appearance by ridding those little crevices of dirt.
Be warned! Once you start looking for those little places where dirt calls home, the more places you will find need cleaning. For those inclined, it could become a little obsessive and you’ll spend more time with the Purple Harry Bike Floss than riding!
Review: Purple Harry Bike Floss.
(£3.99 per packet of 5)
Available from all good cycling retailers and direct from Purple Harry’s website.
Click here to visit Purple Harry’s online shop www.purpleharry.co.uk
Effectiveness & ease of use: 95%
Value for money: 85%
Half Man, Half Bike
by William Fotheringham
I imagine that almost everyone who has had the slightest interest in cycling would know the name of Eddy ‘The Cannibal’ Merck, and if you are like me, also know very little about him beyond that he is often quoted as the greatest racing cyclist that there has ever been.
William Fotheringham’s book certainly addresses this lack of knowledge and through extensive research and interviews, gives the reader a very detailed account of not only how he earned such a lofty title, but also why, what could motivate someone to claim 445 victories? Compared to Lance Armstrong, for instance, which tally below 100 (now following recent events, are several less!).
The introduction inside the cover describes it well:
‘His triumphs only tell half a story that includes horrific injury, a doping controversy and tragedy…..’
The author ‘…..goes back to speak to those who were there at the time and those who knew Merckx best. The result is this extraordinary and definitive story of a man whose fear of failure would drive him to reach the highest pinnacles before ultimately destroying him.’
We learn that his desire to win is an accumulation of many factors that have influenced him throughout his life, even the terrible aftermath of the Second World War has its part to play in shaping his character and popularity, even though he was born in 1945. This inherent fear of failure causes him to race without any regard to riding defensively, it never enters his mind to sit back and relax a little, conserve his energy, even with an apparently insurmountable margin over his rivals.
For example, during the 1969 Tour de France, he was already leading by over 8 minutes, but Merckx hammered a further 8 ½ minutes out of his nearest rivals during a 85 mile solo break in the Pyrenees, his reasoning was ‘just in case’ something went wrong, todays riders would just keep safely in the peloton and not risk over working themselves.
Another difference with the racing of today is the number of races he entered, some years as high as 151! He never treated a race as training, if he was on the start line it was because he planned to win. What surprises me even more is that he seems to be constantly fighting against injury and illness throughout his career.
His dominance guaranteed his place in history and his stardom, but as is often the case it came at a price, after a while he made racing too predictable, the fans and especially the other riders didn’t want him to enter, in their eyes he ‘killed cycling’ by taking all the wins and prize money. The fame also meant that his private life was constantly interrupted with media and fan demands, his household received around 50 phone calls a day, most dealt with and filtered by his Wife and not all them were pleasant.
This constant pressure, both created by himself and externally, eventually took its toll on his body and mind. It was not his way to pick a few races and just take the appearance fee, only the best performance would do, he must be capable of winning. So when this was no longer possible he retired, finding it difficult to adjust without the racing that had been such a large part of his life.
The book is a very good read and very well researched, it must have taken years of searching and organising to get the interviews and trace his life story.
I highly recommended it for anybody interested in cycle racing.
Now I know why he’s called the greatest, do you? Get a copy if you too want to know the story behind this unique man and cyclist. Merckx gets our Star Buy rating.
Don’t forget to enter our competition to win a Hardback copy of the book! Click here to enter!
Closing date: 24/09/2012.
Merckx – Half Man, Half Bike
Yellow Jersey Press (Random House) & Vintage Digital
Available in Hardback, iBook & Kindle
RRP £16.99 (Hardback), RRP £9.99 (iBook) RRP £16.99 (Kindle)
In search of Robert Millar
Unravelling the Mystery Surrounding Britain’s Most Successful Tour de France Cyclist
by Richard Moore
What a book! Thought provoking or what?! To date this must be the most enjoyable book about a past cyclist that I have ever had the privilege to read. It was such a great relief to read In search of Robert Millar after having to plough my way through Sex, Lies and Handlebar tape (the story of Jacque Anquetil) which had taken the thick end of two weeks to read, where as In search of Robert Millar was devoured in a matter of days!
To put my desire to read this book into perspective I must stress that Robert was in a key group of Tour de France riders whom I viewed as my sporting heroes in the 1980’s and as a young rider I looked up to, not so much as people whom I wanted to emulate but rather riders with a wide range of skill sets I wanted to learn from. The list included Paul Sherwin, Sean Kelly, Martin Early, Robert Millar, Greg Lemond, Sean Yates and Malcolm Elliot. As a young rider and even now I would certainly never have been able to place myself in this group and most certainly never in the same build as Robert. If he was a thoroughbred race horse I was the working shire-horse! But what stood out to me was his ability to suffer and suffer again knowing that those he was racing against where suffering even more then him. His ability to change speed up hill and put his opponents into major difficulty was legendary no it was the stuff that young boys dreams are made of.
I guess like many I had heard the rumours that Robert was now Roberto Millar and had dropped off the radar, occasionally passing comment on various bike forums, but I never wanted to believe what I had heard without proof. In essence this is what drew me to read In search of Robert Millar, would I be disappointed?
The quick answer to this question is a resounding NO. Far from being disappointed it was great, through the eyes of Richard Moore, to get a sneak insight into the life and times of one very special rider.
Richard’s book really does give the reader good understanding of what drives Robert and the things that make him tick. So many people interviewed for the book highlight that Robert was a very special, talented rider, with a good insight into the development of a race and wining strategy. Richard also shows how far ahead of his time Robert was with training methods and nutrition. Information Robert read was applied and tested in the real world of racing, things that did not work for him were then discarded. Robert was very focused on what worked and refused to pay lip service or waste any time on fads or pointless lab research that would not be applicable to his world.
The most telling tale of lab work verse real life was Robert’s first contact with a young Sports Science researcher called Peter Keen (later Performance Director for British Cycling). At a cycling conference Peter was pushing the use of Maxim as a major enhancement to performance for riders (hmm cross reference my review of Nuun and the recent BBC documentary). Robert needless to say dismissed the lab research as the product had never been tested in the field and just like Graeme Obree his opinion is that water works best.
Robert’s and Peter’s paths crossed again later in the book when Robert had been employed by the British Cycling to aid the development of the Road Racing squad. Needless to say as Peter appears to be a numbers man and Robert appears to be an experience man with no formal qualifications in sports science, surprise surprise Peter chose to not renew Roberts contract. I shall refrain from expressing my opinion about this but really encourage you to read the book and make up your own mind about the benefits of a sports science degree or the knowledge and understanding gained from the University of Real Life.
For me the most exciting part of the book must be the Epilogue, where Richard shares his e-mail communications with Robert Millar about the writing of the book. What a fascinating exchange.
Robert Millar for my money a cycling legend with so much that we can learn from. I can not recommend highly enough that you sit down and get hold of a copy of In search of Robert Millar I am sure you will not be disappointed.
In search of Robert Millar
Author: Richard Moore
Published by HarperSport (HarperCollins)
Available in Paperback, iBook & Kindle
RRP £8.99 (Paperback), RRP £8.99 (eBook), RRP £18.99 (Hardback)
Previous reads include:
Sex Lies and Handlebar Tape Jacques Anquetil (reviewed August 2012)
In Pursuit of Glory Bradley Wiggins
Flying Scotsman Graeme Obree
Rough Ride Paul Kimmage
Riding through the Darkness David Millar
We were young and carefree Laurent Fignon
Boy Racer Mark Cavendish (read Darren’s review here)
Mark Cavendish – Boy Racer
This book charts the rise of the fastest sprinter in the world, from his earliest foray into bike racing (BMX) up to his record breaking 2009 Tour de France stage victories.
You get to see the cycling world through his eyes, and his frank and brutal portrayal matches his persona. His honest account pulls no punches, just like his explosive sprinting power. His feisty temperament shines through throughout his writing, giving an entertaining read and insight into the world of professional cycling.
In his younger days, his ‘cocky’ attitude is occasionally interrupted by feelings of self doubt and depression, which surface into binge eating (large packets of crisps and cream cakes being the most sought after) which cause more problems for his Coaches and making him receive jibes of being fat and of not being good enough to ever ride the Tour de France, which is his dream.
But in a strange sort of way this is exactly what he needs to motivate himself forward, he loves proving his critics wrong and takes great delight in doing so, even shunning proven training techniques that have been honed over many years, he works in his own way.
His boisterous nature is set free during his time with the British Academy, especially when, like the other young lads there, he is living away from his parents for the first time. The Coaches and Staff have their hands full containing the parties, late nights and practical jokes and try to get them to take their training seriously enough to not mess around and throw their chances of success away.
He is a self confessed ‘scallywag’ and appears to always be looking for an opportunity for mischief. His talent is recognised early on but the characteristics that make him so good on the bike also cause troubles off the bike, as the years have passed he has matured and calmed down slightly, although he still wears his heart on his sleeve and says what he thinks, and makes no excuses for not being otherwise.
You either love him or hate him, and of course his temperament earns him a few enemies along the way, including Staff, Coaches and other teammates who have aspirations of beating his achievements. The long running friction and rivalry between him and Andre Greipel is described from his viewpoint, but with maturity we are led to believe that it is now confined to racing rivalry only.
The story of these formative years are weaved in between race accounts from the 2008 and 2009 Tours de France, we get a feel of what it must be like to be Mark Cavendish, from the buckling pressure to perform after your teammates have worked so hard for you all day, the thrill and danger of sprinting for the finish line, and to the nightmarish stages in the mountains where it takes all your energy and skill to just stay at the back of the field hoping not be eliminated.
The reader also gains an unglamorous insight into the organisation and ‘behind the scenes’ of daily life during the Tour, and Marks reaction and thoughts to some of the doping scandals that unfortunately seem to appear each year.
Just be aware that his language can be just as strong as his passion for the sport, expletives are used many times on some pages, but this reflects the moments of immense pressure he is under.
I found it to be an enjoyable read and more descriptive than many other books, you get the sense that Mark is talking to you personally, as if this is just a transcript of a relaxed chat, he is trying to get you to understand both his character and his professional life as a cyclist.
Title: Boy Racer
Author: Mark Cavendish
Published by Ebury Press
Available in Hardback, Paperback & eBook
Price: RRP £18.99 (Hardback), RRP £7.99 (Paperback), RRP £7.99 (eBook)