I’d read that punctures on road bikes, with their skinny tyres, are more prevalent than what you’d find with mountain biking but I think my experience is taking the piss somewhat at the moment. I bought my bike in late February, have covered almost 1100 miles since and have suffered 3 x punctures in that time- surely this isn’t typical?
My first two punctures came within the first month or so. Both pinch flats. I didn’t own a track pump at the time and I put this down to the pressures being a bit low. Perhaps I wasn’t vigilant enough with checking them before each ride. So I went out and bought a tower style pump and ensured the tyres were in and around 100psi before each ride. Around 700 or so trouble free miles followed until yesterday’s ride:
On a nice little steep left-hand hairpin climb out of Nomansland I heard a sudden hissing from the front but the tyre looked ok still. I carried on dancing out of the saddle up the hill, thinking if this really is a puncture I’ll sort it when I’m at the top. Unlike my two previous punctures this was a gradual affair which did allow me to finish the climb before finding a suitable place to pull in. I switched tubes and as I’m getting better at this (I’m getting a fair bit of practice) did so with relative ease. It was here that I was thankful for carrying CO2 rather than a mini pump. Previous tube swap attempts have had mixed results largely because I couldn’t get enough pressure in the new tube with a mini pump. So I picked up some CO2 canisters and an inflator from the local bike shop, this time round the tyre was up near full pressure within seconds – without the need for me to continuously pump in vain.
I inspected the damaged tube but couldn’t find anything obvious so I’ll have to test it in water later on. I then was saddened as my idea of making sure my tyres were at 100psi for each ride for puncture free fun seemed flawed. But then I realised that all three punctures I’ve had so far have been on the original tubes that came with the bike; Schwalbe Extra Lights. I’ve had the front go, which I repaired with a patch only for it to go again in the aforementioned incident yesterday. The Extra Light on the back went a couple of months ago leaving me attempting to swap tubes in the cold pissing down rain of early spring… fun.
The replacements I’ve put on are just the standard Schwalbe Road Inner tubes, a little heavier but perhaps a tad more resistant to punctures? Let’s hope so.
More people should be watching these, if you haven’t subscribed already get on over to the Tube and do it. This little series follows one of my favourite surfers to watch, Fergal Smith, as he settles into a simple life at home in Ireland. This clip is the best so far, I absolutely love the mellow piano tune and Ireland’s waves. Fergal’s quiver is quite tasty too. Look out for the looooong left at 3:31, the drone footage really makes you realise how good a wave that is, great shape to it, I have to admit, I don’t fancy the paddle much though.
I checked out For the Love of Cars at the weekend, I wasn’t expecting much to be honest but there was nothing on and this was about cars. I ended up really enjoying it, the show followed Philip Glenister (Fire up the quattro yo!!) and his mechanic friend as they rescued a rotten old Mk1 Escort Mexico and restored it in all it’s glory. It’s left me with a real hankering for Ford’s rear wheel drive legend. Definitely now top of the classic car dream list. Here’s a nice little clip showing what they’re all about…..
I’ve met a few visitors to this area that have said they find the fact it’s called ‘The New Forest‘ funny considering there’s not many trees. One fella even claimed there were no trees. He’d had a few of Ringwood’s finest though, so his claims had to be taken with a pinch of salt. I think on the whole tourists don’t expect to see so much heath land – there is a fair bit of that throughout the forest, however there are tonnes of trees too. Generally if people haven’t found many trees then, they haven’t been looking too hard. Ornamental Drive is one of the prettiest of the wooded areas in the forest, and it has trees, tall ones. Big sequoias and redwoods can be found here as well as some great cycling routes – on and off road. If you’re visiting the forest it’s a definite spot for the checklist.
It’s a tricky decision to make isn’t it? Especially when, if like me, you don’t have a clue about road bikes. I was never even a fan of the idea of riding on the road to be honest. I used to see a lot of team jersey’d, looking like they’re sponsored roadie types clogging up the New Forest roads in the summer, and thought “what a bunch of benders!”. Who would want to ride on the road, breathing in exhaust fumes when you can get right out into the wilds on a mountain bike? However I’ve taken a complete U-turn from this line of thinking and I’m now one of those benders that’s in your way as you’re trying to drive to Brockenhurst (I have drawn the line at the pro team jersey look though).
There are a few reasons for my change of opinion, the main one being the mess that is caused when trying to regularly mountain bike through a sodding wet British winter. I would actually say the washing machine was doing more miles than me at one point. This year was so wet that some of the forest trails became impassable and many were blocked by trees, felled by the howling storms. Even a relatively short ride like the one below would result in most of my clothing needing to be chucked in the wash.
I started doing a few regular road rides on the MTB and began to see a lot of people on road bikes just slipping through the air a lot more effortlessly. I looked on jealously as my big nobbly tyres roared on against the road. I can’t have this. I want to go fast too. A quick flick through eBay and a few local bike shop’s websites ignited the touch paper. Eventually, in the search for best possible bike for under a grand, I ended up ordering a Canyon – direct from Germany. Most people advise against an internet purchase of a bike you’ve never even sat on for size, especially for a first foray into roadies and I’d say that was decent advice. However, after doing my fit on Competitive Cyclist, I was confident I could pick out the right size using my measurements and Canyon’s frame size geometry chart. Plus Canyon have a 30 day return policy, so if the worst happened and I got the wrong size, there was a path to resolution.
Why a Canyon Roadlite AL 6.0?
I looked at the Cannondale CAAD8, I spent a lot of time mulling over the carbon Mekk 2G Poggio but I ended up ruling carbon out as I wanted a decent all round package and it’s difficult to get a good carbon frame with a 105 groupset (that’s the gears, levers and cogs – you pick up all this jargon after a while) or above for sub £1k.
Then I stumbled onto the Canyon website and was taken aback by all the lovely metal and plastic machines on offer. All of their bikes have a distinctive look with a lot of modern looking logos which I loved but are not to everyone’s taste. Their base level road offering (the Roadlite) not only had the Shimano 105 groupset I was looking for (which actually includes brakes and bottom bracket which some manufacturers duck out of including) but it also came with Mavic Aksium rims which are a big upgrade on pretty much any other bike you can buy for under a grand. In other words it looked like the perfect steed.
After waiting what seemed like an age (8 days) the bike was in my possession. It came with a little torque wrench so you can attach the bars, wheels and saddle along with some assembly paste which I thought was a nice touch. Having said that, the assembly is probably the only downside of ordering from Canyon as to get things totally right you have to have a bit of experience with bikes. After faffing about fitting the wheels and bars (I don’t have a bike stand so had to improvise a bit) i realised that the rear derailleur was slightly out and on a short trip up the road gears were skipping and clicking a bit at the back. This is an issue that’s very easily sorted if you know what you’re doing however I didn’t. I do have a couple of mates who do though, a couple of minutes tinkering using a friend’s stand and knowledge, cheers Switch, the gears were straight, true and slick.
My initial ride thoughts, considering this was my first time on a roadie, were alarming. The thing felt so light and lively, like an excited thoroughbred straining at the reins. The first ride was an early morning last month and there was a bit of ice about on the road, I was in mountain bike mode and threw the handlebars into a left hand corner at a roundabout. The front end immediately lost grip and slid half a foot or so across the tarmac. Luckily I recovered control and all was well but I’d nearly stacked it just a mile or so from the front door! After that my mind was focused a bit more and I started to get tuned into the finer inputs required when piloting a much more responsive machine. The rest of the ride was a revelation, the Canyon is so efficient, it feels like every pedal stroke instantly translates into propulsion down the road. It’s so easy to pile on the speed and the miles, I did 21 on my first ride out on it without even thinking about it. Previously I’d ridden 28 on my mountain bike and could really feel it in my quads afterwards.
There’s a particularly short but sharp climb that I tackle on the way home from go-outs and it’s usually a real killer on the MTB. Under a mile long but you’ll go from a steady 13mph down to 6-7mph as the climb goes from about 2% to what feels like 20% (it’s probably not) in just a few feet. The best I could manage on this climb using the MTB was an average of 11.4mph. The Canyon climbs so well that on my first spin on it I was going 2mph quicker without even gunning for it. Over the next few weeks I used this little climb as a gauge of how I’m doing and on the Roadlite I’m now averaging 16.4mph, a fair bit nippier than the MTB. The only problem with this sort of gauging is you start to become a bit too obsessed by the numbers, I often find it’s best to just get out there and enjoy the ride.
So after 300 miles on the Canyon in six weeks or so I can say that I blooming love it and I’m hooked. I’m even booked in to do my first Sportive next month, so the gears have well and truly taken hold.
So a couple of months in and I thought it was about time I reported back on how I’ve been getting on with the Cube Aim Disc 29er. It’s been among the wettest couple of months on record here in the UK in Jan and Feb which has resulted in limiting my off road mileage. However I’ve still managed to notch up over 100 miles on the Cube so I’ve definitely got to know it a bit.
A hardtail 29er is ideal for The New Forest where most of the stuff you come across is undulating fire road and the bits of single track here and there are not too technical. As I had hoped the Cube is great on this kind of stuff, fast, responsive and agile enough to deal with 30mph descents on bumpy gravel. The hydraulic disc brakes are really good for a bike of this price and you’re thankful of their presence on wet and muddy rides. They really inspire confidence and I think it’s the brakes and the comfort levels that are the standout features of the bike. The Scape saddle hasn’t given me a single ache even when riding more than 20 miles without padded under-garmentry!
The Aim Disc comes with Schwalbe Smart Sams as standard and I’ve found these a good cross country tyre, suited to the tracks around the forest. They’re not incredibly grippy so when the going gets very loose and slidey you will lose traction but the trade off is they’re pretty quick on the road. The smooth line of nobbles down the middle meaning that connecting forest enclosures isn’t too much of a chore. As the weather’s been so bad recently I’ve actually ended up doing a fair few road miles and I’ve enjoyed them for the most part. It’s no road bike but for an entry level hardtail it copes with the tarmac pretty well.
The only downer is the fork, it’s a Suntour XCM jobby, which isn’t great at damping when traveling quickly. Often failing to rebound quick enough to catch the next bump or dip that’s in front of you at speed. Although to be honest, for crashing about the forest and having a laugh on, it’s something that you can happily live with and perhaps something that a lot of people wouldn’t notice unless you rode something much better equipped side by side. You can actually get this exact bike for £379 now at Hargroves – at that price it’s a blooming steal (I have nothing to do with Hargroves, this is just where I bought mine – other bike shops are available).
I’m now looking forward to spring creeping in and the chance to get out in the forest a bit more on this thing, I’ve already been planning a few routes with my better half that involve a few pub pitstops.
Since moving back to the New Forest I’ve rediscovered mountain biking, the trails aren’t technical but there’s a few fun hilly sections and plenty of mud about! Not surfed in a good while so getting on the bike has been a welcome distraction however I will sample some South Coast soup soon and report back.