Saturday, 21 November 2015

BMC GF01 Di2 Disc Review

Regular readers of the blog will know that I recently rode in Tenerife, hiring a bike out there, rather than taking my own.  There are a few providers on the island however closest to me in resort was a business called Bike Point Tenerife in the resort of Las Americas.

Checking out the range of bikes on their website for hire, the BMC GF01 Disc with Ultegra Di2 took my fancy, primarily for three reasons.
  • Tenerife is a hilly island and I thought the disc brakes would come in very useful on the long, fast descents.
  • I'd never ridden Di2 before and thought this a good opportunity to try it out.
  • I'd never ridden a BMC before and wanted to see how the bike performed.

The GF in the model name stands for Gran Fondo, taken from the description for bike races in Italy where budding future pros go head to head, the races often feature a lot of climbing as part of their profile.  This gave me the confidence to hire the bike, which retails at around £2,500.  It's had rave reviews here in the UK, including Cycling Plus 2015 bike of the year.

Riding Conditions

I rode the bike for around 150 miles and 17,000 ft of climbing over three days of riding, the longest day being 80 miles and 11,500 feet, so a decent day to test the bike out, this included an eleven mile climb with around 4,000 ft of vertical ascent, so steep by most standards.

Initial Thoughts

Picking the bike up from the shop, the first thing that struck me was how heavy it was.  With a toolbag on, it came in around 19 pounds, I thought it would be lighter given its credentials as a climbing bike.  I'm glad I'd shifted a bit of weight in advance of my trip!

The second thing that struck me was how the front wheel, in it's neutral position, wanted to settle at 90 degrees to the headtube, either left or right.  If you held the bike by the saddle, the front wheel naturally would want to flip flop to either side (more on this in a minute).

Overall the spec of the bike was good, including a very hand 34/32 gear ratio for steep climbs (enough for just about anyone to get up anything).  I took my own saddle with me (Selle Italia C2 Gel Flow) as I didn't want to find I'd hired a bike where the saddle was uncomfortable. 

The bike looked the part, with 28mm tyres, disc brakes and Di2.

On the Road

Setting off on the bike, I spent the first while getting used to the Di2 gearset, which was effortless.  Just a touch of a level and up and down the gears the bike went, I can see why people are appealed by electronic groupsets, however my conclusion was that it's a nice to have rather than essential.  I did enjoy the smooth changing, particularly on steep climbs when you're reaching for your lowest gear quickly.  If you're thinking of buying the bike, perhaps test ride the mechanical version too and make your own choice.

I noticed quickly the amount of road vibration the bike picked up.  The frameset is quite stiff and the road surface in Tenerife is very mixed, some of it beautifully smooth, others poorly kept.  Lots of the marketing blurb talks about the comfort of the bike however I have to say that this was one marked thing about the bike I noticed.  Descending a hitting a patch of rough surface, was bone shaking at times, with each lump and bump finding its way through the bike frame to the bars.  At least twice, one of my hands came away from the bars in such circumstances, the frame being so stiff that everything seemed to transfer to  the rider, along with a lot of rattling.

The issue I picked up with the front wheel not sitting to centre above was the real drawback of the bike, particularly when climbing.  With many of the climbs in Tenerife simply being long, with around 6-9% gradient, you noticed how much pressure you had to put on the bars to keep the front wheel in a straight line.  When things got really steep, say 17-20%, it was very distracting as you are climbing much more slowly and the effect was exaggerated.  This really did surprise me and it was very noticeable.

The disc brakes were excellent.  Plummeting down a -6% gradient, 15km descent with switchbacks, meant you needed to have full confidence in the braking system of the bike.  The disc brakes were powerful, meaning you could brake hard and late when entering a tight bend and the descending was really exhilarating as a result (this is where disc brakes come into their own). 28mm tyres gave you a lot of rubber on the road too for fast cornering.


For the specification, the BMC is well kitted out and it looks a great bike.  Stopping at cafes, lots of people commented on it, primarily because of it having Di2 and disc brakes, I guess much of the latest tech in many peoples eyes.

There's a lot to like about the bike, however It's not a bike I'd buy myself.  It's got a great spec, BMC have a great name and aesthetically it's OK.  However, due to its weight and the front wheel issue of it not assuming a neutral position plus the amount of road vibration you experience as a rider, it would rule it out for me.

If you want a solid commuter, then this would fit the bill, albeit it's at the top end of the price range for such a bike.   If you're after a really good bike for climbing, then there are better, lighter options out there in my opinon.  Nevertheless, the 34/32 gear ratio is perfect for the steepest of climbs and very welcome when considering the overall weight of the bike. 

My overall conclusion was that there is a lot to like about it, however for this sort of money, there is a lot of choice in the market and you should consider a number of options before departing with your hard earned for this bike.  

Other experienced testers have ridden this bike and rated it highly, this is only my personal opinion, riding on specific roads and perhaps offering some pointers as to things that I picked up.  As always, go and ride the bike and judge for yourself.  If I were giving it a star rating out of five I would probably go something like this: -

Specification 4/5
Comfort 3.5/5
Value 3.5/5
Overall 3.5/5

Bike Specification
  • Frame:TCC and angle compliance full carbon construction- DTi cable routing, compatible with mechanical and electronic groupsets- Integrated chain catcher- Disc only: post mount 140 mm brake attachment
  • Fork:Compliance fork, TCC and angle compliance full carbon construction – 1-1/8" to 1-1/2" tapered steerer tube- Disc only: Post mount 140 mm brake attachment
  • Front Derailleur:Shimano Ultegra FD-6870
  • Rear Derailleur:Shimano Ultegra RD-6870
  • Number of Gears:22
  • Shifters:Shimano ST-R785
  • Chainset:Shimano Ultegra FC-6800
  • Chainrings:50/34T
  • Bottom Bracket:BB86 Shimano press fit
  • Cassette:Shimano Ultegra CS-6800, 11-32T
  • Brakeset:Shimano BR-R785 w/ SM-RT98-SS 140mm Rotor F & R
  • Brake Levers:Shimano ST-R785
  • Handlebars:3T Ergosum Team
  • Stem:3T ARX 2 Team
  • Wheelset:DT Swiss X-1900 Spline, Centerlock
  • Tyres: Continental Grand Prix 4 Season 700 × 28C Folding
  • Fizik Aliante Delta Wingflex braided
  • Seatpost:Compliancepost, pure carbon, with TCC, 18mm offset
  • Weight: 8.2 Kg (around 18 pounds)

Sunday, 1 November 2015

October 2015 Mileage

Biggest event during October was an episode of food poisoning which took me off the bike for a week and knocked back the intensity of training when back in the saddle.

Sometimes these events just arrive unexpectedly and the advice always is - total rest.  I monitor my resting heart rate and during the week it rose from 58bpm to 66bpm (+13% rise), which just demonstrates what your body is going through when fighting infection.

Anyhow, I was glad to get clear of it and get back to the training plan which continues to be focused on losing weight, whilst maintaining muscle mass.  The good news for October was I hit my target weight of 82.5kg (13 stones in old money), from my start point of 95.2kg (15 stones) exactly on plan.  I've got a blog coming in on how I was able to achieve that shortly.

During the food poisoning, I dropped down to 80kg with all the fluid loss and appetite supression, but soon started putting it back on again when eating normally.  With the forthcoming trip to Tenerife and climbs of Mt. Teide, I'm in the shape that I wanted to be in to hopefully give it a good crack.

All in all, with all the indoor training on the Wattbike it promises to be a record year in the saddle with having already passed my best annual mileage log yet of 4,128 in 2014.  All being well, with a good training block in Tenerife and continuing discipline it should create a good foundation for 2016.

Month  to Date

Mileage- 674miles/1,079km (+209% vs. PY)
Ride Time - 36hrs 42mins 
Ascent - 10,141ft
Avg. Speed - 18.4mph/29.4km/h
Avg. HR - 132bpm 

Wattbike Miles-350
Road Miles -324

Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 31 (Flat) 

Year to Date

Mileage- 4,308 miles/6,893km (+37% vs. PY)
Ride Time - 238rs 21mins 
Ascent - 90,341ft (-42% vs PY)
Avg. Speed - 18.1mph (+9.6% vs. PY)
Avg. HR - 136bpm

Saturday, 3 October 2015

September 2015 Mileage

Another big month with training inside and outside in readiness for Tenerife next month.  Everything is going according to plan with the planned weight loss of 10kg firmly in sight (-8.5kg off already).

September has mostly been indoor miles with lots of time on the Wattbike pushing out sets of around 75 minutes per evening with road rides preserved the weekend.  

By re-configuring the content what I'm eating and drinking, it's leading to a calorie of 7000-10,000 per week (driven by the exercise not a major reduction in how many calories I consume which are stil close to daily basal metabolic rate), leading to around a kg a week weight reduction.

Riding out today on a four hour ride, a familiar route over to Alderley edge of around 70 miles, I checked my heart rate average data and it's down around seven per cent with the same speed average.  This is a combination of the lower weight and intervals.

The training load has taken quite a lot of organisation to work around work and family life, however discipline remains the key word, plan it and make it happen.

Month  to Date

Mileage- 803miles/1,285km (+327% vs. PY)
Ride Time - 41hrs 05mins 
Ascent - 7,906ft
Avg. Speed - 19.5mph/31.2km/h
Avg. HR - 129bpm 

Wattbike Miles- 571
Road Miles - 203

Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 34 (Flat) 

Year to Date

Mileage- 3,627 miles/5,803km (+4% vs. PY)
Ride Time - 201rs 17mins 
Ascent - 80,200ft (-33% vs PY)
Avg. Speed - 17.8mph (+12.7% vs. PY)
Avg. HR - 137bpm

Sunday, 13 September 2015

10 Tips to Ride your Sportive like a Pro

Nailing your first sportive is an exhiliarting experience.  You get a real sense of achievement that a distance that you might once have felt out of your reach, is within it.

If you watch professional racing on the TV, you can pick up some good clues from the Pro's, whether on a grand tour or racing domestically here in the UK about optimising your performance on the day.  Here's a few things to think about: -

  1. Sip your drink regularly rather than take big gulps to stay hydrated.  This prevents filling your bladder up quickly and needing more regular comfort breaks.
  2. Take your energy gels before you need them, not at the moment you bonk.  You'll see team cars handing our energy gels 15 mins or so before a climb to allow them time to absorb into the system.  When you've had a gel, take a drink too.
  3. Study the route profile and deploy your energy respectively.  Pro's have the route taped to their handlebars so they know where they need to put in big efforts and where they can use time to recover.
  4. Avoid wearing too many layers of clothing.  Pro's will be layering and de-layering all race, preferring to keep as little on as possible to keep cool.  If you wear too many layers, you'll end up hot and often drinking a lot more as your body perspires.
  5. Ensure your bike is in tip top condition.  Yes, they have a team of mechanics to do all the work for them however you can reduce your odds of a mechanical on the day by ensuring your tyres are in good condition, bolts are all tightened and torqued, your chain is lubricated and your brake pads are in good condition.
  6. Don't leave things to chance.  Think Team Sky and marginal gains, controlling the controllables.  Think about the entire day, leave good time to travel to the departure point where you can get ready without rushing.  Think about the end of the day, have your recovery shake ready.  Think about the ride and the things you'll need to organise in advance, particularly contingency clothing if weather conditions are changeable.
  7. Draft wherever possible.  Sportives will have lots of groups riding, the more you are sat behind someone, the less energy you will use so if you are able to join a friendly group, join it.  Equally, make sure you are doing your share of the work and not just sucking a wheel.  Sportives aren't races, it's simply to finish.
  8. Avoid drinking/eating whilst your heart rate is high.  It's much harder to swallow and digest if your heart is going full pelt, often leaving you to gasp.  Know when your pit stops are to re-fuel and also the key moments on the ride where you'll need to get some food down you which are flat and safe.
  9. Avoid drinking whilst fast descending.  You'll soo Pro's doing this, however they are highly experienced on the bike with years and years of handling skills in their muscle memory.  A small mistake can lead to a crash, so keep your hands on the brakes and drink when you hit some flat or when you can do so safely.
  10. Safety first.  Pro's are used to riding in large pelotons, they want predictability, no sudden sharp movements or braking, just smooth speed whilst in a group.  Be predictable, use hand signals wherever possible and keep it smooth.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Tour of Britain Stage Two Photo Gallery - The Ribble Valley

My buddy Chris Keller-Jackson (Twitter @crankphoto) was busy snapping away at the stage two grand depart/finish of the Tour of Britain in The Ribble Valley.  He's been generous enough to share some of the pictures he took with me for your enjoyment.  First the legal stuff.....

All images remain the copyright of and shouldn't be reproduced in any way unless you have obtained his permission. If you'd like to buy any of them or contact Chris you can find him here--|   


Copyright (c)
Copyright (c)
Copyright (c)
Copyright (c)
Copyright (c)
Copyright (c)
Copyright (c)
Copyright (c)
Copyright (c)
Copyright (c)
Copyright (c)
Copyright (c)
Copyright (c)
Copyright (c)
Copyright (c)
Copyright (c)
Copyright (c)
Copyright (c)
Copyright (c)


Sunday, 6 September 2015

Burning Fat whilst Riding a Road Bike

With the prospect of climbing Mount Teide later this year, it's time to get in shape and lose some weight.  The cheapest way of getting faster on your bike isn't to invest in a new bike, it's to invest in losing weight by changing your diet and your exercise regime to trigger the body into knocking those pounds off.

Dual Fuel

If you've not got to grips with heart rate zone training, in the simplest of terms, your body either uses fat or carbohydrate to fuel (or a combination of both) depending on your effort and ride intensity.  The lower the effort, the more likely fat, the higher the effort - carbohydrate.  

This is why gels and energy bars exist, to quicky replace carbohydrate when you are putting in big efforts in higher heart rate zones.  To lose weight effectively, riding slower, in a lower heart rate zone encourages the body to use fat as it's fuel source and speed up your ability to lose weight. You're effectively not looking for intensity, as this would need carbohdrate.

The cost of this is that you have to ride much slower than your capability.  It's all about longer rides, with higher cadence, in your fat burning zone.  

It takes some doing to get the sweetspot right.  You always seem to be changing gears and - if riding an undulating route - going fast, then slow. You go up inclines really slowly and descents really quickly (as you need to pedal down to maintain heart rate).It can take a few hundred miles for it to commit to muscle memory and for you to get in the flow.

It feels very unfamiliar, you are spinning away, yet going slower than your capability.  It messes around with your head, people of all capability whistle by you.  You know you can ride much faster but you have to slow yourself right down.  This is the sort of stuff that goes through your head...........

Irrational Brain
  • You're going too slow.
  • Everyone is riding past you.
  • You need to jump on their wheel.
  • You need to speed up.
  • You're Strava numbers will make you look super slow.
  • I bet that rider is saying to themselves 'All the gear, no idea".
Rational Brain
  • I'm not racing them.
  • I'm riding to lose weight.
  • Going slow(er) will make me fast(er). 
  • Think of the longer term outcomes.
The results of riding in this way can be considerable, particularly if you can devote six or seven hours at a weekend and some time in the week on a turbo trainer or static bike. 

After four weeks of creating around a 7K calorie defecit each week, primarily through exercise and re-configuring what I eat but staying within distance of my base metabolic rate (what your body needs as energy to function), I'm knocking around a kg a week off, nice and steady does it.

As usual, if you are dieting, crash diets is not where it's at.  It's about eating sensibly, training sensibly and creating the conditions for your body to shed those pounds.

Monday, 31 August 2015

August 2015 Mileage

My year of boomerang mileage continues with August delivering the highest miles I've ever done since starting road cycling - 824 miles.

The big change is the amount of time I've spent on the indoor trainer during August, some 357 miles in total with the main effort being on weight loss whilst continuing to build engine capacity.

This has meant lots of intervals after work (75 minute sessions) combined with long controlled heart rate zone rides at the weekends to ensure the ride intensity is in the fat burning zone.  Having come out of the bank holiday weekend with around 160 miles (257km) in the bank, the word is discipline.  Discipline in eating, doing the intervals and getting out on the road.

Seeing some good results with around 4.5kg dropped so far against a target of 10kg that I had set for myself prior to riding Mt. Teide later this year.  It's taken quite a bit of re-configuration in food intake, time management and riding style (blog to come on the challenges of slow riding) however I'm pleased with the August block.

Month  to Date

Mileage- 824 miles/1,329km (+107% vs. PY)
Ride Time - 45hrs 498mins 
Ascent - 14,166ft
Avg. Speed - 18.0mph
Avg. HR - 133bpm

Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 17 (Flat) 

Year to Date

Mileage- 2,824 miles/4,544km (+4% vs. PY)
Ride Time - 160rs 11mins 
Ascent - 72,293ft (-35% vs PY)
Avg. Speed - 17.6mph (+7.3% vs. PY)
Avg. HR - 139bpm

Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 25.6 (Flat)

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Sportive Check List

Out and about on the bike recently, I got chatting with a rider who was busy preparing for his first sportive.  We got chatting about some of the things to think about in readiness as a kind of checklist of the day, there's a lot to consider in advance, here's a list of some of the things you could consider: -

Bike Checks

  • Tyre Quality - look for the small holes in the tyres which indicate wear, replace if well worn.
  • Tyre Pressure - should be at manufacturer recommended PSI.
  • Has the chain been oiled?
  • Have you tightened all your allen keys on key contact points, use a torque wrench if possible.
  • Brake pads - ensure that they are in good condition and fully functioning.
  • Ensure that your wheels are sitting correctly by loosening your skewers and putting pressure on either the saddle (back wheel) or bars (front wheel) before re-tightening.
  • Gears - have you got the right rear cassette?  If it's a hilly route and you're a new rider, you might want to invest in a different rear cassette.  More about gears here.

Food and Accessories Check

  • Spare inner tube (carry two if you have room).
  • Pump or CO2 inflator plus tyre levers.
  • Gels/Energy bars to give you around 50g - 60g of carbohydrate per hour.
  • Have you charged your Garmin?
  • Have you got some cash with you in case you need to buy any additional drinks/food?
  • Is your phone fully charged?
  • Do you have the event organisers information in the event of incident?

Route Check

  • Have you put the route in your Garmin/GPS?
  • Where are the hills?  
  • Where are the stops?
  • How should you effectively use your energy relative to the profile of the route?

Clothing Check

  • Check the weather forecast.
  • If hot - take suncream!  
  • If wet - Wet weather kit (waterproof jacket, gloves, overshoes).
  • If changeable.  Think about configuring your clothing with shorts plus leg warmers to remove, short sleeved top with arm warmers.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

July 2015 Mileage

What a couple of months.  Battling back from a nasty virus, June saw a paltry 85 miles on the bike due to a combination of a number of factors including my own health, a close family members health and a big weekend away with the lads!

July needed some serious re-thinking to get things back in shape.  I don't know how you approach your re-builds, my process for fitness recovery is pretty simple after a gap from the bike: -

1) Slow, long (ish), flat and steady rides to begin with, keeping  a close eye on heart rate intensity.
2) Building ride intensity as you can see your numbers improving.

As usual, it's it's a bit of slog as you go out for your first couple of rides.  It feels like you're back at square one as a cyclist with lots of people riding by you, each bit of wind feeling like a big battle and a low average speed relative to where you might normally be, with a higher heart rate to get there.

You have to stick with it.  Keeping an eye on what your heart is doing (in terms of where you are on your training zones) your engine eventually wakes up and bobs your uncle, you're back.  When that occurs, you can begin to start raising your intensity, taking on some harder profile and getting back to normal.  

Later in the month, I recorded 19.6mph average for one ride over 25 miles (flat route) which I would consider very fast for me, so it goes to show that rest, patience and a slow build can have a positive effect on your performance. 

It''s been a lower mileage year thus far, primarily as I didn't do the London to Paris event this year, which normally adds another 300 miles onto my total.  Taking that into account, YTD mileage would be about the same as last year.

Month  to Date

Mileage- 412miles/659km (+488% vs. PY - only 70M last year due to illness)
Ride Time - 23hrs 58mins 
Ascent - 15,232ft (+814% vs. PY)
Avg. Speed - 17.2mph (-6.5% vs. PY)
Avg. HR - 148pm

Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 37(Flat/Undulating) (+42% vs. PY)

Year to Date

Mileage- 1,981 miles/3,169km (-14% vs. PY)
Ride Time - 114hrs 01mins 
Ascent - 62,501ft (-35% vs PY)
Avg. Speed - 17.4mph (+5% vs. PY)
Avg. HR - 142bpm

Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 28.1 (Flat)

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Port Hardy Bags

Port Hardy Bags

Kickstarter contines to host a plethora of cool new businesses, with cycling start-ups taking their fair share of wallet and interest and challenging the big brands with boutique, specialised and interesting products.

One which recently caught my eye was Port Hardy bags. With a vintage look, luxurious leather construction and beautiful design, they stood out as a modern alternative to the coolest single speed, cruiser or city bike needing accessorising with a saddle bag, handlebar bag or crossbar bag.

Vintage bikes are having somewhat of a renaissance, events like Eroica Brittania are being swamped with riders keen to show off their waxed moustaches, tweed and sartorial elegance and shows like Bespoked in Bristol showing off the latest in hand built bikes from talents like Ricky Feather.

Attendees keen to differentiate themselves from the mass production market, with unique, hand-built steeds and matching accessories.  In this market, Port Hardy are bound to do well, buyers look for quality and distinctiveness, something a little different, less seen and understated.

Coming out of Germany, the Kickstarter campaign kicks off today (14/7) if you want to get involved.  Click on the the link to find out more.

Photography below, you can find out more Port Hardy on their website.