Monday 11 January 2010

Gearing up

Santa kindly brought some new cycling gear for me to take on my travels. The arctic conditions in Prague at the moment mean I haven't been able to road test any of it yet, but I plan to do so as soon as possible.

First up is my new Brooks B17 saddle - the saddle for touring if all the rave reviews are to be believed.
On my previous two big trips (Prague-Munich and Prague-Berlin) I was perched on a Charge Spoon, which became rather uncomfortable a few days into each tour. Not that I have any real gripes with the Spoon. It's a light, good-looking, good-value saddle and it's certainly better than the one that came with my mountain bike (which left my nether regions feeling numb for weeks after a particularly hard couple of days cycling in the mountains). But it's not a touring saddle, so it would be unfair to judge it as such. When touring, you spend more of the time seated than during sportier rides. The wrong saddle, then, can be a literal pain in the backside.

The Brooks B17 vs the Charge Spoon

The Brooks saddle is a piece of cycling heritage, with a design dating back to 1898. At about £50, it costs more than some would pay, but for a product hand-crafted in the UK it seems remarkably good value to me. It looks great as well, if a tad incongruous atop my modern MTB. But the proof of the padding is in the seating, so I'll be reporting back after I've broken it in (according to what I've read it'll take a while for the leather to mould to my "sit bones"). So far it's made a good impression on me; now it's time for me to make an impression on it.

My second new item is a pair of Rainlegs, aka the "Fetish Trousers". These defy written description, so here's a couple of photos:

Rainlegs - side view...

...and, erm, rear view. Kinky!

Yes, they look plain ridiculous, but the idea seems sound enough. The worst thing about cycling in the rain is that the water streams down your waterproof jacket straight onto your shorts, making them wet, sticky and cold. Traditional overtrousers get too hot and sweaty. Rainlegs cover only the lap and the top of the thighs and so are supposed to solve the problem. Watch this space for my verdict.

My third and final new bit of kit is a pair of mudguards for my road bike. These are made by Giant specifically for the Defy range. Yet the strange thing is they didn't fit my bike. Sure, the front one went on easily enough, but the rear one didn't have enough clearance around the brake when fitted in combination with the 25 mm tyres supplied as standard with the bike. This meant that the wheel wouldn't turn.

Tight fit - the Giant Defy rear mudguard

The answer, logically enough, was to fit a narrower tyre - that and some judicious filing of the mudguard bracket. I've installed a Continental 24 mm Grand Prix tyre and it spins without catching. I'd still prefer a bit more clearance, mind you. Fortunately I'll be travelling quite light, and I'm no heavyweight myself, so the new, slightly skinnier tyre should still be up to the job. The mudguards look surprisingly sleek and elegant now they're installed. But a minor change to the design would make a major improvement to the fit.

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