Inspired by Neil and David Carter’s track articles I booked a Stage 1 Track Skills Session which included bike hire at the London Olympic Velodrome (aka Lee Valley Velopark).

We (Nadine and I) arrived about an hour early, having driven down (as there is 4 hours of free parking for users of the Velopark), signed in and headed upstairs to the viewing area for a pre-ride coffee.

It’s only at this point, some 2 months after I booked the session that reality sinks in. “I’m going to be riding on this track!”

We took a seat and watched some of the earlier sessions going through their drills. Seeing the smiles on the faces of some, and grimaces on others, makes you a little nervous.
3 words kept going around in my head – “Don’t stop peddaling”

About 30 minutes before the start of my session I was invited down into the track centre, to get changed and kitted out with my bike.

The changing rooms / toilets / showers are basic but clean and free lockers are provided for your street clothes.
On the track no watches, cycle computers, fitness bands, wristbands, jewellery etc is permitted. Helmets must not have any attachments or visors and as a minimum you need to wear gloves and a cycling jersey.

You have the choice of wearing trainers or road shoes with Look Keo Cleats – I opted for the latter and Neil fitted them to my spare pair of road shoes.
Not one person on my session used the toe straps and trainers option.

Once you have selected your Condor track bike (according to your height and footwear choice) you’ll group together to attend a safety briefing (and to check that every rider has completed the emergency contact form)

Right on time, we made our way onto the track and lined our bikes up against the railing, before we were given an overview of the track layout and what we expected to achieve in this session.
It was pretty clear – you had to listen carefully to, and carry out the instructions when given.
There is a real emphasis on safety, and it was drilled in to us to look behind before making any changes in direction and to make very clear calls to the person in front of you.

We set off single file around the blue safety zone (with our hands on the top of the bars), to get used to starting and stopping whilst locked in to a fixed gear bike – whose wheels will continue to turn even if you don’t want to keep pedalling (which is not an option!)

Having mastered starting and stopping we were allowed to progress to the light blue painted section of the track (riding the drops) for a couple of laps before being brought in to discuss how to control speed and corner effectively and safely.

The next drill had us riding the black line – at a pretty quick pace around the track, before progressing to the red line, which is a bit higher up and requires more concentration as you hit the bends, both to keep upright and to maintain track position also.

We rode this for several laps before coming back to the safety zone for our first assessment feedback.
Each rider was given one or more areas to focus on for the next session which involved riding near the top of the track at speed.

Our task was to stick together and not let gaps form, riding about 1m behind the rider in front at about 30kph.
It may look easy, but it’s not – and requires a lot of trust – both in your own abilities and that of the riders ahead.

We rode quicker and quicker, and you soon forgot about ‘just keep pedalling’ as that took care of itself – now thoughts turned to self-preservation and staying in the slipstream, whilst going faster and faster, whilst your throat cried out for water.

Our instructor took us up and down the track (calling out which lines to hold each time we flew past him at the end of a 250m lap) before he called us all to the safety zone for one last update.

1 hour flew by – with about half the time riding and the other half taking in what was being said – you soon understand why the sessions are only this length.
I am very thankful I had put in the hours on the turbo this winter as there is no way I could have hung on if I hadn’t done so.
You need a pretty good level of fitness to participate in this event.

I’m already looking forward to my next track session!

Thursday night we hosted Watford Velo Sport for a wahoo zwift-off to see who amongst them would come out best in an omnium style competition.  The best out of three events; Box Hill climb, London Classique 5km, the Mall sprint 200m, with the idea that maybe there might be a surprising winner.   We’re in the depths of Winter and no one is at their best, training lacks intensity so we can’t think of a better time for a friendly fight.  We streamed the event live, if you didn’t watch you can still catch up on our facebook page, three videos are here.

What was really interesting and worked well was the three events allowed two very different cyclists to finish first and second. Lewis very powerful, pushing upwards of 700w against Elliot who is much more slightly built, able to use his weight advantage to take first place on Box Hill despite pushing a lower wattage.  Over the three events there wasn’t much to separate them.

Laurent was on form that night if you watch the last video on our facebook page, you’ll hear Laurent give David a lot of stick, “In the whole L’Eroica spirit David will be riding shoes from circa 1973”, “Check out Amazon, he has a book on cycling excuses”, “He’s been on the bike a few minutes already he has 17 excuses like it’s only January, and I’ve eaten too many pies”.  And my favourite, “The spinning classes are further down the street”.

There was great camaraderie, very enjoyable evening.  Neil and I thought the guys were a credit to Watford Velo Sport.  It was a pleasure hosting the event.

In February we will be hosting the same event for the Willesden Cycling Club with the idea if both parties are willing that after that there will be a Watford vs Willesden Wahoo Zwift-off.  And yes we’ll livestream the events!

To start with it was very calm, having a pre-race tea and coffee and the odd bit of cake.  Very civilised.

At this point it appeared as if not an ounce of competitiveness inhabited these racers.

As they changed the off-season legs appeared.  So much drag guys.

Laurent perfectly matched as per usual.

First to go on was Kevin and Louis, their continuous power was in the high three hundred watts with Louis hitting seven hundred-plus up Box Hill.  This was a good intimidating start.  Louis has a Quintana face when riding, never showing discomfort.  We can imagine he’s someone who can mentally disarm you if riding alongside.


Table of timings on the three events.

Box Hill climb Points Classique Loop Points Mall Sprint Points Total Points
David Carter 8.44.00 7 7.43.92 6 00.12.68    7 20 David Carter 7
Kevin Chandler 8.17.25 6 7.45.40 7 00.12.06    3 16 Kevin Chandler 6
Robert Broderick 6.41.52 1 7.29.96 3 00.12.37    4 8 Robert Broderick 3
Justin Self 10.03.89 8 7.59.92 8 00.13.40    8 24 Justin Self 8
Laurent Audibert 8.24.74 4 7.33.07 4 00.12.58    6 14 Laurent Audibert 4
James Kingsley 8.29.39 5 7.35.55 5 00.12.47    5 15 James Kingsley 5
Louis Francis 7.09.21 3 7.12.76 1 00.11.93    1 5 Louis Francis 1
Elliot Joseph 6.43.08 2 7.29.87 2 00.11.99    2 6 Elliot Joseph 2
Martin Twaites 9.59.74 9 7.51 9 00.13.52    9 27 Martin Twaites 9


For those of you who like music, this review is technically my second album with all the risks and consequences it can have… So I’m grateful that Azelia & Neil have asked me to test the Look 695 for it, what a bike it is!

Aesthetically, I absolutely love it. The 695 (unlike its big brother the 795), is built with a “traditional” stem design which won’t stand out from the crowd. It is a bit more conservative, but this isn’t a set up you’ll get tired of. The frame is beautifully crafted, the highlight to me is the square shaped down tube with “Look” stated rather loudly. You will notice its bulkiness when particularly analysing the frame, but again, it blends beautifully with the rest of the bike’s harmonious design. The inside of the seat tube bears the mention “Fabriqué à la main” (handmade): small proud reminder that this isn’t an ordinary bike, a lot of French savoir faire contributes to its design.

I find the frame’s “bar code-like” display of colour stripes stunning. Taken from Look’s logo, it’s a discrete evocation of the La Vie Claire team from the mid 80’s & its legendary jersey. Riding this bike, you get to feel you own a bit of this history, look back and you may see Hinault and Lemond arguing about a Tour de France victory behind you. The frame has an elegant glossy finish, catching the light beautifully despite the fact it’s mainly a black frame. You can’t look at it and think it is boring!

The bike is equipped with a Shimano Ultegra mechanical groupset: reliable, functional and performing as you’d expect from the brand. Basically, you can count on it.

The bike I tested was equipped with Edco Umbrial 45mm carbon wheels and what a tremendous set of wheels these are. Before going any further, I must highlight that a bike this good demands an equally good set of wheels, an incredible amount of performance is lost otherwise in stiffness, acceleration, etc. These Edco wheels are the best I have ever used: despite their 45mm profile, they are very predictable and stable in crosswinds, the breaking is excellent for carbon rims, even in wet conditions (this is exceptional enough to be highlighted). These wheels offer a very low friction level, resulting in “free speed”, this is very noticeable as you ride along regardless of your speed. One last very positive point, Edco wheels come with a patented cassette system, compatible with Campagnolo, SRAM and Shimano, which is unique. If, like me, you own bikes equipped with different groupset manufacturers, you’ll still be able to switch wheels between them, while other cassettes won’t allow it.

Back to the bike! On the road, it is both a rocket & probably the most comfortable bike I’ve ridden. Like the previous bike I tested and my own, the Look 695 was equipped with 25mm tyres (Continental Grand Prix 4000SII). In terms of comfort and performance, 25mm is now the benchmark for most manufacturers. The Look’s frame offers good clearance so 25 or 26mm are a no brainer both at the front and the back. The secret of this bike’s comfort is the elastomer logged at the top of its integrated seat tube: it dampers roads imperfection for your upper body but doesn’t compromise the power you produce (technically, being more comfortable, you’ll be able to produce power for a longer period of time).

I rode this bike again and again, and never really wanted to head back home, it is truly playful and the direction is very precise: I had great fun downhill with it, feeling immediately very comfortable at its control. It is so comfortable, you won’t necessary realise how fast you were, checking Strava will quickly demonstrate it though!

It is a very polyvalent bike with this particular set of wheels, perfect for rolling hills and flat courses. Go for a lower rim profile, and it will be an awesome companion for climbs in the Alps or the Pyrénées. It was with a heavy heart that I had to bring the bike back to the shop: what more could I tell you to demonstrate how wonderful this bike is.

Laurent also wrote a review of the Storck Aernario here.



Last year I rode the Imperial Winter Series at Hillingdon, it was cold and wet, my fitness was questionable and I boasted a palmarès of eight mid pack finishes. Not exactly inspiring for the year ahead. All in all this resulted in a lowly peak at the end of February when the racing community is in limbo between the winter and summer months, unfortunately this set a barren tone for the remainder of the year. This year I am hoping for a different story.

I’ve been a fan of track racing since we road tripped to Manchester in 2007 to watch Sir Bradley Wiggins win the World Champs, its prestigious, calculated environment is a far cry from the memories of Hillingdon’s first aid room, nursing cuts, bruises and road rash courtesy of the finest in West London tarmac. Next came Six day, a soap opera on wheels; alliances, boozy fans and the archaic smell and haze of a two stroke engine – I was hooked.

Two years ago Six Day track racing came back to London, orchestrated by a Ministry of Sound DJ, boyish sprinter’s and a partisan crowd it was an enduring success. A modern cathedral where prayer books are replaced by rulebooks, enclaves become trackside cabins and pews are awash with fans young and old. My only surprise was that it took thirteen years from my first Claud Butler road bike to the relatively young wooden boards of Lea Valley Velodrome, 2012s lasting legacy. Stage one track accreditation loomed.

I have ridden a fixed wheel bicycle before, for those that don’t know me, this is the perfect bike. It is simple, beautifully so. Firstly there no brakes, no cables and one gear. This results in an unmatched harmony with no place to hide, no coasting and less components for me to either break whilst riding or “fixing” my bike. Note; “Fixing” in this instance means identifying a problem, which I’m good at, taking it apart and making X problem worse whilst creating issues with Y and Z. Cue the LBS on speed dial.

To get back on track; quite literally. There is little messing around, we were soon clipped in and up onto the track. It was harder than I thought, probably a side effect of watching the medal factory in operation, and quite liberating. Garmin’s are banned – both an affront to the purity of the rider and enforcer of self-preservation. Naturally I feel this adds to the appeal of track riding although as a coach there is a burning desire to get stuck into the numbers.

Like many I like to know details before I commit, after polling several friends it became apparent that on your first outing your “playtime” is dictated by the experience of the group. We were lucky and got a chance to mix it up all over the track with little input from the coach. Stage two was more structured; a short brief from the coach, track drills, back to track centre for coaching feedback and repeat. A well-honed conveyor belt process designed for efficiency and turnover.

A large cohort of the group failed, my wisest words would be concentrate, close the gap, pedal hard on the banking and listen intently. For the more experienced riders this is akin to a driving test, the real learning is after accreditation, at pace and on your own bike. In hindsight this is absolutely necessary, amateur criterium racing and road racing would certainly benefit from a similar program.

Accreditation wasn’t the Six Day or the Worlds but it was a small step, a safe step to improving my riding, building off season fitness in a world class venue and starting racing in 2017. In what other sport can you take your first steps in the shadows and echoes of an event such as the London Six Day, in only a mere 24 hours later?

So there you have it a sport steeped in tradition, simplicity and hard work perhaps stained by the sterile nature of a commercial venture. Go make up your own mind but for me….. Stage 3 is in a few days.

Shortly after writing this David and Neil passed stage 3 Accreditation.  You can read Neil’s experience of riding track here.



It has taken a while to set up our virtual shop ride on zwift, there was quite bit of back and forth but eventually the guys behind the scene at Zwift organised a slot for us every Tuesday night at 7.30pm.  Last Tuesday was our first official shop ride event and we had seventy plus riders, with many of our regulars joining us.

It’s not easy riding indoors, the lack of wind means your body temperature will rise, your output wattage will decrease but it is the best fun one can have on a smart trainer because you’re riding with real people.

The wanting to keep up with others drives your efforts, you’ll feel the drafting effect, the competitive side comes out and more than likely you’ll find yourself chasing one of your friends up a climb, all of which means your head temporarily forgets the pain and time passes in the most efficient way.  The best spent time training for the next time you’re on the road again.

You can join Zwift rides on rollers or a non-smart trainer using a speed sensor and/or a powermeter but bare in mind the results are not accurate, how well you seem to be doing virtually won’t translate to the outside and the sensation a good smart trainer gives the rider is part of the ‘real’ feel during these sessions.

You can cheat by stating that you weigh less than you do but you’re only cheating yourself.  You can also inadvertently cheat by not calibrating your smart trainer.

To join us, once logged onto Zwift go to events you’ll find “Cycle Right Zwift Shop Ride” on Tuesday nights.  If you need to warm up, start earlier. 10mins before the ride you’ll be put into a starting pen and while waiting there you can be warming up. At 7.30pm the gate opens and ride begins.


Since the London Olympics in 2012, I’ve been keen to ride the velodrome.  A month back David Carter (aka Coach DC) messaged me with a date to do our Level One accreditation.

It was an early start to arrive at Stratford for the eight o’clock session but when we arrived my anticipation was palpable.  It felt strange changing into my Summer shorts and jersey having just come in from the cold.  We met our Trainer and headed into the centre of the velodrome to pick up our bikes.  If you are not aware a track bike is a very simple machine, no brakes, no gears, no free hub, meaning no freewheeling.  The word basic does not adequately describe the simplicity of a track bike.


Once we had adjusted our saddle heights, we had a quick briefing on the geography of a velodrome track.  The wide blue stripe on the inside is the Cote D’Azur, next line out is the black line followed by the red line and finally the blue line is half way up the track.  Our trainer made us ride around the Cote D’Azur and after a few laps we moved out to the black line, then further out to the red line and lastly the blue line.  It was noticeable how much more of power output you need to enable you to ride at the blue line and above.

One common misconception about the steepness of the banking is that it continues to steepen the higher up the track you ride but it is actually the same angle from the red line upwards.  To ride past the red line you do have to pedal harder to stay at the top but this is not because the bank is steeper but because it is longer at this point.  You are traveling further in distance than you would if you were circulating lower down.


Once we had ridden ten laps or so we were allowed a 25 minute free ride.  Coach DC was in the lead with me following, within fifteen minutes my legs were screaming.  There is absolutely nowhere to hide on the track, nowhere to recover and no freewheeling.

Thinking that standing up and sprinting for a bit may save my legs from the torture I was putting them through I was out of the saddle and went for it.  All was well until I sat back down again and stopped pedalling, never stop peddalling.  The chirp of the rear tyre locking up and the crank that keeps turning regardless had me nearly thrown over the handlebars.  This was an abrupt wake-up call that this is a fixed gear track bike.  Taking in what our trainer had advised us I dropped down to the black line, which is 17 metres shorter than the red line and blissfully recovered, all the while keeping up with David who was riding the red line further up.


As our session came to an end and we returned our bikes the only thought on my mind was booking level 2 and which track bike should I buy?

Needless to say, Level 2 is now booked, and the search is on for a suitable bike.

Some thoughts about riding the track:-

  • Although it’s a bit of a trip, I think that an hour on the track is probably worth at least two hours on the road.
  • It never rains in the Velodrome
  • It never rains in the Velodrome
  • It never rains in the Velodrome
  • Winter training will be much more fun in the warm and once I have my level 4 accreditation I can attend open sessions and skills sessions and the act of learning new skills certainly distracts from the effort that has to be put in.

I said I would never race a push bike but and there is a but – it’s fast and so much fun sweeping down the banking and feeling the g-force when you hit the next corner that I am so very tempted to try it.

If you haven’t tried it, give Lee Valley Velodrome a call and book your Level 1 session, it’s the most fun you can have on a rainy Wednesday morning in November.

David cycled a relay sportive from Nancy to Geneva back in September.

I am a 52 year old estate agent, who sits behind a desk most of the day and I haven’t sat on a bike for 10 years.
So with just 8 weeks to prepare, obviously I thought it was a good idea to join a team, cycling
500miles in 3 days through the Swiss alps to Lake Geneva for charity. Here is my story…

500 miles. 160 cyclists. 40 teams. 1 amazing adventure.

Day 1 – 22nd September 2016.


I set off with 3 complete strangers in a big yellow minibus, for a 500 mile charity bike ride from Nancy in France through the Alps to Montreux on the banks of Lake Geneva.

Despite the long drive, we arrive in Nancy in high spirits, full of anticipation, a little nervous, but very excited about the next 3 day’s cycling. Dinner and safety briefing that evening, and much encouragement from other riders who have done the route previously, what a friendly bunch.  Long time spent drinking beer and chatting with the friendlies.  Oh dear.

Day 2 – 23rd September 2016


My head is pounding.  Up early for breakfast, I am first out for my team at 7.30am.  Too many beers.  Big mistake.  It’s still dark and very cold.   I head out of Nancy, the first several miles are busy main roads with trucks.  Lots of trucks.  Eventually the route takes us off the main roads and into some pretty countryside.  I do the first 20 miles.  Pleased to see big yellow bus up ahead for our first rider change, and feel good to have got some miles under my belt.



My first big climb.  I set off on my next leg. 20 miles with 668m climb.  First 10 miles are flat and fast.  The early morning mist has lifted and it is a beautiful day.  Here comes the climb, I can see it up ahead, and I am feeling a little anxious.  I don’t know if my legs can get me to the top or not. So I settle in to a rhythm, just stick it in a low gear, and keep my legs turning.  After a while, I start to enjoy it.  I feel OK.  I pass a few other riders.  Legs feel fine, breathing is steady, heart beat steady.  Still got some low gears left.  Turning, turning, turning.  Team cars by the side of the road shouting encouragement, and then what looks like the top.  So I ask, is this the top?  I am told yes, this is the top. Such an amazing feeling, as a novice, never had the chance to test what I could do physically on a bike, and here I am, I’ve just cycled up a mountain!   There are bigger mountains and steeper climbs I am sure. But this first big climb for me actually bought a tear to my eye!  Such a good feeling.   And the views from the top, just incredible. Happy to see the big yellow bus up ahead for our next changeover.

Incidentally, the big yellow bus is a big hit with the other teams, it becomes like the mascot for the whole trip, everyone greets us with a big smile and a wave, we feel so popular!


I join two of my team mates for the last fast run into Mulhouse. About 20 miles, and flat.  We do some drafting, which is fun.  Nice to be riding with the others, as we have been riding on our own so far.  Check into the hotel, get changed, and downstairs for dinner.  No beer tonight.


Day 3 – 24th September 2016

6.30am  Breakfast

Lexie is first up today, we drive on ahead to the 20 mile point , and set Leroy off for his leg, and then wait for Lexie to catch us up. Cold again in the early morning mist.

I set off for my first leg mid morning, which starts with a 7 mile decent. And I am freezing.  No base layer.  No arm warmers.  Bib shorts. The sun hasn’t reached this side of the valley yet, and with the speed of the decent, I am shaking so much I can barely control the bike.  Eventually I reach the bottom, and then a 700m climb.  No longer apprehensive, I just find my rhythm and reach the top feeling good.  I did this yesterday, I can do it again today.  Great views once again.


We sit outside and have a quick lunch and a beer in the sunshine – nice!  Feeling a bit sleepy for my next leg, but soon shake that off with my second ride of the day. 22 miles, 693m of climb.  The sun is shining and it is hot.  By now I have put a base layer on, and arm warmers.  Far too hot now.  Remove some layers and carry on.  Epic scenery again, and I am really enjoying it now.


I hook up with Lexie, planning to ride the next 20 miles together, and then hand over to Leroy and Elaine for the home stretch, another 20 miles.  Another team car pulls alongside us as we are riding, with the disturbing news that the brakes have failed on the big yellow bus, and we must finish the route without a further rider change with still another 40 miles or so.   Lexie has already done 50 miles and a lot of climbing, and doesn’t think she can make it so flags down one of the other team cars and manages to get a lift back to the hotel.  The rest of the route is fairly flat so I get my head down, find my biggest gear, and peddle like fury.  A long lonely ride with fading light, but I feel so good when I reach the hotel.   Eighty two miles today and around 1600m of climb, I’m feeling quite pleased with myself.  Fabulous day in the saddle.

Our problem now is that we no longer have a vehicle to get us to Montreux.  A temporary repair has been carried out on the big yellow bus, but we do not feel confident in it to take us further through the Alps to Montreux.  We decide to hire another vehicle for the journey to Montreux and back.  Arrange to collect it from Basel airport first thing tomorrow.  Lexie and Leroy hook up with another team for the morning, while Elaine and I go to pick up the hire car.


Day 4 – 25th September 2016


Leroy and Lexie set off with another team, while Elaine and I get a taxi to Basel airport and collect our hire car, a VW Touran.  We catch up with the teams around lunch time.  Nobody smiles or waves at us anymore, we have become invisible in our hire car!


I am itching to get back in the saddle now, and it’s gone 1pm by the time we catch up with Leroy and Lexie.  So I hook up with Lexie and Will, from one of the other teams, and we enjoy a short but super-fast 16km ride to our next rider change.  I’ve got fresher legs so I take the lead.  The speed is exhilarating and we make quick progress to our next stop.


This is our last ride, about 20 miles into Montreux with about 500m of climb, followed by a long descent.   I’m riding with Lexie and Will again.  I love riding with the others.  We are quiet on the climbs with no energy left for banter, we just focus on pedalling and breathing.  As we approach the top Lexie thinks she can beat me to the summit, I’m not having that, so I find those last reserves of energy for a sprint finish to the top.

And then, spread out in front of us is the most amazing view of Lake Geneva and Montreux below us, and it is breath-taking.  I stop for a selfie on the way down.  Wish I was wearing my GoPro.   It is very hard to describe how amazing the scenery is, or the incredible feeling of achievement.  If you have done something similar, you will know how it feels.

We ride into Montreux together as a team.  We are no longer a group of strangers but friends for life.  Applause when we reach the hotel, hugs and high fives, selfies, happy to have made it but sad that it is all over.


Day 5 – 26th September 2016


Long drive home.  Out before dawn to return the hire car, collect the big yellow bus, and then nurse it home with no breaks. An exhausting 15 hours later and we are home.  Tired but happy.  Already planning our next trip.

This was the most incredible experience.  It put me well outside of my comfort zone – until I got there, and then I discovered that I am capable of more than I realised.  I saw some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet,  I raised some money for charity,  I made some really good friends, I had a lot of fun, I found a new sport which I enjoy, and I got fit in the process.   I also discovered it is best not to borrow a big yellow mini bus!

Thank you for reading.

Not being at all familiar with Storck bikes, I was really looking forward to seeing what the Aernario was like.
Upon first impression looking at the bike, you might think that the frame looks a bit austere in dark matt finish.  I was quickly surprised though, as the paint allows the light to run beautifully on the bike and its different angles, highlighting the finesse and engineering beauty of its design.

storck aernario review
Before going any further, I must say this isn’t a cheap bike. Once on the saddle however, each pedal stroke will remind you on how super extraordinary this bike is.  The model I tried was equipped with an unctuously smooth Campagnolo Chorus EPS transmission and lightning fast Vision Metron carbon wheels. Such an exclusive frame deserves beautiful components, and the wheels and transmission are up to the mark.

The Aernario is designed to be a polyvalent bike.  To me, this worked out to be an understatement. This bike is incredibly fast on the flat and the stiffness of its frame guarantees that every Watt your legs produce gets translated into speed.  ‘Cruising’ at 22mhp is easily achievable, regardless of your form.  The design of the frame allows some decent clearance so 25mm tyres are a very good choice for comfort and performance.  Despite the stiffness of its frame and wheels, the Aernario turns out to be a very comfortable bike, and even after 50 miles at pace, your back won’t be in any pain.

storck aernario review
I am not a very good climber I must admit, but I had great fun going uphill with the Aernario.  Its front triangle and fork’s stiffness really allows you to utilise the best of your arms and body strength whilst climbing out of the saddle, resulting in more power.  Other bikes may feel a bit softer and won’t encourage you to push.  Every hill I did with the Aernario ended up with a personal best.

The bottom bracket is bulky and beautifully crafted, every sprint or acceleration out of corners gets the bike going in no time.  You just want to do it again and again!  I am not scared of pushing a bike going downhill and can confirm that this bike is very stable, even at high speed.  This really gives you the strength to keep pushing while trusting your machine.

storck aernario
So the Storck Aernario is superfast on the flat, loves climbing & sprints like you probably haven’t done before…
It’s not a bike that will shout for itself, but under its discrete presentation hides an incredibly versatile machine doing everything marginally better than other bikes around. I t transcends the form of its rider, and remains very accessible to ride and handle.  To me, this is the ultimate Gran Fondo bike, whatever the terrain this bike delivers through the quality of stiffness of its frame, while its cleverly engineered design allows you to push all day.”


Laurent has been cycling since the age of 12 and currently races criteriums and time trial races for the Watford Velo Sport club.  Laurent rides a Wilier bike.


Last night was a bit of fun at Cycle Right.  On demonstration we had the Wahoo smart trainers (the trainers Team Sky use), we had both the kickr and kickrsnap connected to zwift.  If you missed it it was an enjoyable evening, Wahoo guys supplied pizza and beer and a good presentation of why their responsive trainer is so much more than what we associate with the older passive indoor trainers.   An interesting part of the evening was of course the showdown between Coach D.C. and Laurent.  Laurent had challenged Coach D.C. on facebook when the event was first announced, and a few of us there last night were eager to see who would win the hill climb challenge?

Rowley from Wahoo setting up the kickr.


Rowley and Neil connecting the kickr and kickrsnap to zwift.  Many of us (me included) tried to convince Neil to have a battle on the trainer last night but his list of excuses included:

1) I don’t have my cycling clothes.

2) I don’t have my cycling shoes with me.

Yep – let’s point out the obvious that we were in a cycling shop!


Last night was a good opportunity for people to experience the difference between the kickr and kickrsnap.


If you haven’t read Duncan’s blog post on his cycling trip from Geneva to Nice with Paul read it here, it is a very interesting read.  Duncan describes how his lack of training had an impact.


Come on Duncan…next time you’ll beat Paul up those hills!


The Titans, having a pre-battle starring contest.  The tension between them…phew!  No pizza or beer for us thanks, we’re taking this seriously.



A young budding cyclist from the Hillingdon Slipstreamers.  I don’t think he would appreciate me saying how cute he looked but he did.


Coach D.C. vs Laurent.  The game face is on.


Was Coach D.C. taunting Laurent here?


The warm up starts….heads down…concentration.


If you’re not familiar with zwift, Coach D.C. graphic of himself will appear on the computer screen in front of him at the start of the course alongside Laurent’s graphic; imagine online gaming on playsation or xbox but for cycling.  When the race starts their online personas will also start cycling, in front of them on the screen they will have power in watts, heart rate, cadence, gradient of the hill, and as they cycle the course they will also pass (or be passed) by other cyclists logged on at the same time.

Here’s a video of the warm up, see how seriously they are taking it.


OK, the battle begins, it is about a 3minute hill climb.  To start with Coach D.C. online persona turns the opposite way to the start line for a few seconds but not even this mishap deters him.  Watch out for the ‘pain faces’, quite entertaining.



Paul and I rode London to Paris 3 years ago, it was the start of our recreational cycling.  Great event that we both really enjoyed. We had done a couple of long events, the London revolution and the Surrey 100 miles.  Time was right for something a bit bigger. Paul took the lead and sent through a few options. We agreed on Geneva to Nice, we would use the same travel group as London to Paris, Discovery Adventure, a format that we both enjoyed, only this trip would be a much smaller group of 20 riders:

  • am – Breakfast
  • 8am – On the road
  • 10am (+20Miles ) – Waterstop for ½ hour, generally wait for all riders to get there before heading off again
  • noon (+20Miles ) – Lunch is an 1 hour, to sit under trees and sort out the world problems. Discovery provided a hot soup, cold meats, pasta, salads, a cup of tea
  • 2pm (+20Miles) – Waterstop for ½ hour, snacks and refill water bottles
  • 4pm – Back at the hotel, a beer or two
  • 8pm – Dinner and then bed

Do it all again tomorrow.


I had not trained enough which meant I under prepared but had confidence in my bike and my setup. This trip was from Geneva through the French Alps to Nice. We would climb around 6000 feet per day and complete 80-90miles per day. Significantly tougher than anything I had previously done.

After a short flight into Geneva, we had a train trip to the hotel before putting our bikes back together. We were all set for a late lunch and a walk around Geneva.  The hotel was a twenty five minute walk from the Lake, after looking at a few restaurants we found a quaint Italian one overlooking Lake Geneva. I could not get over the price of a bowl of pasta with a few mushrooms, 27 Swiss francs. Paul eventually told me to shut up about the price of a bowl of pasta.

My first experience of a mountain climb started five miles outside Geneva passing a sign, “4 percent for 15km”. Not very easy to explain what happens to your body when it climbs for an hour, your heart rate rises as you tire. You really need to operate in a zone that allows you to keep going. At this gradient of four percent it’s really up to you on how hard you work. Theoretically you should have plenty of gears.


Paul and I were 45 miles into day one, we had conquered two of the three mountain climbs. The map indicated a nice flat session, one and a half percent for ten miles, then onto Col du Frêne for 950m, the third climb of the day.  We got into the base of the Valley, which was flat enough but a wind tunnel.  Can wind really make that much difference?  I was tucked right behind Paul for about three to four miles, he turned around and asked me when I was going to take my turn?  My answer was he had two choices; he could either cycle alone or he could cycle with me behind him.  I was starting to get tired. That wind. Thirty miles left and another climb.  Tough day.  It was more about survival than enjoying the scenery.  Paul and I ended up in Alvard town square having a beer after day one, he said I had five words to sum up the day and my response was that I only needed one word; relentless. Climbing 6000 feet a day takes some doing.


As much as this trip is about the climbs, the down hills are spectacular. It can take one hour to ride ten miles to the top and fifteen minutes to ride ten miles down on the other side. You are able to travel at 30 miles per hour without much effort – gravity. Cycling down we were generally surrounded by spectacular scenery with views opening up to what seemed like a hundred miles. The roads were in great condition, the combination of views, gradient and downhill distance allowed for cycling bliss.


Day two was a bit of a shorter transition day, 70 miles. The first 30 miles were flat.  I had somehow convinced myself it was going to be an easy day. Before lunch we did a big climb 4 % for 12km. I had a good hour of rest forty miles into the seventy mile ride, and I was feeling good. How quickly that changed. We climbed from Chute de Monteynard bridge to Col de Cornillon, which was 5.5km at 6.5% and it was hot, very hot at 40C and I was not able to spin up the hill. I had run out of gears and was having to use power to keep me going. I had a 11-32 cassette on the back which was the best thing I did for this trip. Climbing at over 6 percent is not easy, I went from feeling that I was doing eight out of ten well to three out of ten in five kilometers. You try to concentrate on your breathing, sitting in a good position, make sure the energy you have is being put to the best use. If you have run out of gears – your heart rate is only going one way. Things start going through your head. I was very glad to reach the top of this climb.


We had another 10km of climbing to the water stop, with a 3km climb at 4%, which shouldn’t have been a problem but it was hot and I was tired, a lone tree no thicker than a broomstick was too much of a temptation, I had to stop for a pretend toilet break. I needed two minutes in that tiny bit of shade to get my heart rate down. At the water stop Paul asked me his favourite question, five words to describe the day, my answer was that I definitely needed two words and the first word was going to be an expletive. Tough, really tough.


Day three was a different profile, 4000 feet of climbing and 90 miles long. I had found my cycling legs at this point and felt in the comfort zone.  Word of the day; undulating. It felt a bit more like the London to Paris trip, still some great cycling. Two notable down hills, the first was from Col de Manse at 1268m our highest point of the challenge down to the town of Gap. A couple of straights which were 2 miles long, roads were excellent, my top speed was around 40miles per hour. Pretty quick. Another was downhill overlooking a grass airfield, a little bit gravelly and more technical. We also managed a quick break in Sisteron, a French town built into the side of a cliff, where I dunked my head into a water fountain, trying to keep cool for ten minutes.


Day four was the big one. We started with the biggest climb of the trip, 6% for 7 miles, the middle part of the climb was 9% for 2 miles. Big and brutal. I had taken some advice from our trip leader, if you are on a very steep climb you can reduce the gradient by using the full width of the road. Similar to skiing down a mountain. I had a very measured approach spinning in a low gear, using the full width of the road, a bit like a snake side winding up the mountain. When I got to the 9% section it’s about gritting those teeth. I had learned a lot in the first three days in the mountains. The temperature was cool and I was mentally prepared for this first mountain, 2000ft in about an hour. It’s interesting trying to quantify what that means, a two story house is around eight meters, making it at around eighty houses on top of each other. Not bad for an hour’s work. At the top you reach Col de Corobin, 1230m.


Two large climbs left but the best part of the trip was yet to come, the thirty miles down into Nice. I can not explain how beautiful the views were. At times the road seemed chiseled into the cliff face and on your right there might be a 200 meter fall. The road down the mountain uses hairpin bends, involving heavy breaking to almost turn back on yourself and away you go again. You can’t really believe you can go downhill for 30 miles. We ended up in Nice, a quick swim in the sea followed by ice cream and champagne.

cipollini bond green

I really enjoyed the trip even with the few tough moments. It was ten out of ten and would highly recommend it if you can afford a week in the saddle.

Out of twenty riders who did the event Paul was in the top five, very impressive. He seemed to really enjoy the event in spite of the gash in his legs from a bike crash shortly before the trip. He seemed to cope with all the humps and bumps with no problem. I did try to keep an invisible bit of string between us, there were times when he simply cycled away, all that training paid dividends. He’s a superstar, always a pleasure to be around. I need to up my game for our next adventure. Lets wait and see.

Parting tips:

  • Get a 11/32 cassette on the back
  • If you are flying with a bike, Bikeboxalan is the way to go, do a couple of practice session to take the bike apart and putting it back together (A thank you to Neil for our bike rebuilding session, it made a real difference).
  • Train, those mountains are big.
  • Happy cycling

Paul adds; the only thing to say is to train like there is no tomorrow….no matter what anyone says, you get out what you put in.