Haven’t we reached peak beard yet?

Oh dear lord…a beardy man illuminated by 9 billion giga-lumens of artificial light graces the cover of this month’s Cycling Plus. Seriously, people…beards are only acceptable if you are in the Navy, live in a wilderness, look like you’re 12 years old without one, or you’ve got a particularly weak chin.

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Anyway, we have a hyper-lit beardy on the cover. It’s not nice, but there you go. At least it doesn’t feel like an over-excited gossip mag (yes, NutsEtc, we’re looking at you). First off are a couple of First Rides — a Van Nic CXer, a Kona steeler, and a Marin CXer. Nothing for me here, but they’re probably of interest to some people. The Big Picture (achtung, beard-alert)  is a shot taken in New Mexico that looks for all the world like Cheddar Gorge and features a bloke with two heads and three arms.

After a few pages of newsy/new producty type stuff we have the monthly columns…Rob Ainslie talking about riding his tourer up Ventoux, and MotoGP rider Bradley Smith talking about cycling. They’re both good pieces.

The first test is an interesting one. German bikes. This works as a concept, and makes interesting reading. If you can’t get six bikes that all cost £1500/£2000/whatever, then find a common thread and run with that. That’s what C+ has done here, and they have attempted to see if there is such a thing as “German-ness” when it comes to bike design. Personally, I would have liked more analogies drawn between German automotive design, architecture and industrial design, maybe looking at the way Germans approach engineering and design solutions, but ultimately this is still an interesting way of testing a few bikes.

Next up is a section of new product tests (wheels, brake blocks, saddles, etc) which are absolutely fine, although I think they’re pretty generous with the Vittoria wheels which cost £900, weigh 1982g and get three-and-a-half stars. And then we have a meaty six-page feature about heart-rate versus power-meter training. I’m sure this is good stuff, but the pull-quote

“It’s important not just to have a coach, but that your relationship is closer than just firing over the occasional email.”

made me roll my eyes and wonder just who reads articles like this. If you’re a racer, then I guess stuff like this is relevant. But surely the vast majority of C+ readers are recreational riders who are happy to ride with their club, their mates or on the occasional sportive. You don’t need a coach or power meter for that. Nor a training plan. If you’re blathering on about VO2 max, Functional Threshold Power, and lactate levels, and you’re not a racer, then you need to have a word with yourself. And while you’re at it, ask yourself what exactly it is that you are training for?

The next big feature is a six-pager about what it’s like to be a recreational cyclist thrown into a pro team. It’s a nice read, albeit rather longer than strictly necessary, and gives an interesting insight into the huge gulf that exists between us recreational riders and the pros.

Following on is a test of softshell jackets and winter bibs. As usual this is a men-only feature, but at least C+ has attempted something elegantly simple here…they’ve done it by manufacturer. And, most of the big players are represented here. Not all, but most. A pretty good job, I would say. On a related note, it would be nice to see some more women in the pages of the mainstream press. CA does it, but no one else. And the female market is growing. Perhaps all the publishers are about to bring out their own women’s cycling mags (which would doubtless be piss-poor tokenism).

Next is a winter bike test — old-school Dolan Preffisio versus new-school Giant Defy. It’s not a bad feature, but I take issue with the premise that everyone should have a winter bike. The author says why wreck a £120 cassette when you can wreck one costing £25? What he doesn’t mention is that this £25 cassette comes attached to a £1000 bike. You can buy eight £120 cassettes for the price of a winter bike. My problem is that I want to ride my best (only) road bike all the time. That bike has been everywhere with me, we have history together, it cost a lot of money…of course I want to ride it everywhere. And I do. I just have a pair of winter wheels with a cheapo cassette on. And if I was ever in the market for a winter bike, I’d buy a secondhand one for £400, not a new one for £1000.

Anyway, it’s a test of turbo trainers next. Personally, I hate my turbo, and tend to use it only if there is actual snow on the ground. But lots of people buy them, and the new generation of “smart” trainers allow people to Zwift and get all Bluetoothy. I’m not even remotely interested in spending £800 on a trainer, but at least C+ has conducted a properly scientific and repeatable test, including things that are important, such as how loud these things are. An explanation of decibel readings (were they dBA or dBC readings?) would have been good…did you know that every increase of 3 dB represents a doubling of sound intensity, or acoustic power?. But that’s not necessarily a doubling of perceived noise. Anyway, a good, thorough test.

Dear god, there’s a lot in this magazine! Next up is an excellent piece about riding the Paris-Brest-Paris, a 1200km uber-audax randonneur type event. You’d have to be certifiably insane to enter this, but it makes for a great read. Equally as good is David Millar’s deconstruction of the Velominati Rules. I’m not a huge fan of Millar, or the Velominati, but he talks some sense in this article.

At the back is the On The Road section, with a good piece about the Granfondo Stelvio (one of my favourite climbs), a sportive round Oxford (don’t care), and the forthcoming LEJOG sportive (now that’s a proper sportive!). Rounding off the mag is Ned Boulting’s column…this month ostensibly about ebikes, but actually about being terrorised by the world’s smallest dog. It made me chuckle.

And there you have it. At 186 pages overall, it has 118 pages of editorial and feels pretty good value for £4.99. The front of the mag is very bitty, mainly due to the poxy ad department selling so many right-hand facing-matter pages, and I suspect the production editor has a complete ‘mare flat-planning this lot, but it’s a decent effort and considerably less EPIC! than last month. Cycling Plus has definitely upped its game this month, let’s hope that trend continues.

 

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3 thoughts on “Haven’t we reached peak beard yet?

  1. Lots of people jumping on the Zwift / Smart Turbo bandwagon this year that’s for sure. We bought in an absolute shedload of the really expensive KICKR turbos at work and sold out almost instantly over the Black Friday weekend! Nobody is going to be on the roads this winter, they’ll all be virtually racing around Zwift Island…

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