Maybe because NutsEtc this month is so execrable I feel a little more kindly towards Cycling Active than I might otherwise. The front cover image is nice enough (Yorkshire), and there isn’t a single exclamation mark on there. A good start!!!!!
Unfortunately the Wish You Were Here spread, designed to showcase the joys of the cobbled climbs of the Tour of Flanders sportive, is a bit crap. Surely they could have found a better photo than a flat bit at the bottom of the Kwaremont dominated by concrete telegraph poles and willow trees. FIIC!
The “Five Things” this month is with Sky’s Director of Business Operations (nope, no idea what that is either), the N+1 is a Trek Madone 9.9 (interesting), and the Most Wanted is a Fizik saddle (meh!). Simon Warren’s column is as good as ever, and Brett Lewis’ is as lame as ever.
And so to the first of the sportive previews…the Etape du Dales. The photos are nice, the text is OK (too long), and although it doesn’t make me want to ride the sportive, it does make we want to ride my bike in Yorkshire again sometime soon. At 110 miles in length, and including several pretty grueling climbs, this is actually fairly epic. I just wish they would tell us the total number of feet or metres climbed, because that’s kind of important (yes I know I can go onto the sportive website and find out, but why doesn’t the magazine tell us?).
The next sportive previewed is the Spring
Chicken, Greens, Time for Hitler and Germany, Onion, yet another sportive in the Surrey Hills. Frankly I’m bored to tears with the Surrey Hills so I skipped this 10-pager (the photos are nice, though), and moved on to a test of five CX bikes in the £1200-£1600 price range. I don’t want a CXer (although I do rather like the On-One Pickenflick, although that’s not included here despite the fact that it’s £1600 and probably better than all of the bikes on test here), but it’s quite an interesting read. Sadly it doesn’t really touch on the gearing issues than compromise entry-level CXers — too low for road use, often not low enough to winch up steep climbs. Nor does this article address the chainline efficiency of a x1 gruppo.
Next up is a test of three aluminium bikes for around the £1200 mark. Ally is coming back into fashion thanks to advances in construction and the fact that people have realised that they don’t snap in half when you thrown them down the road or over-tighten the seat post clamp. It’s a decent test, but why no Trek or Canyon or Giant or any of the other offerings? Yet again we are given three bikes seemingly chosen at random from what’s available. It’s OK as far as it goes, but the test doesn’t really offer the reader a great deal.
Here’s an idea: test the best ally-framed bike for £1200 against the best carbon-framed bike for £1200. And remove some of the variables (test them on the same set of wheels/tyres and the same seatpost/saddle). Give us some in-depth analysis of the way they feel, the way they ride. Tell us if mid-range ally really is better than cheap carbon. Maybe talk to a tame mechanic about the joys and pitfalls of both materials from a mechanic’s point-of-view. Shock horror…maybe even chat to a bike shop about the respective residual values on the secondhand market.
Unfortunately this would require giving an actual toss about what the readers want from a bike test rather than trotting out the usual guff for the benefit of the potential/existing advertisers. Which is why I’m not the Editor of a magazine any more (yes, I really am that old-school).
Anyway, next up is a test of 10 waterproof jackets. Although not comprehensive, most of the major players are there and it’s a pretty decent effort. But I was less impressed by the winter bib-tights test, which doesn’t include Assos (the bib-tight by which most others are judged) and which is a men-only affair. Considering both the Editor and Deputy Editor are women I would have thought female riders would be getting more of a look-in, but apparently not. Also, how does the Gore bib-tight score 7 when the fit is so bad?
Far better is the winter shoe test, which actually comes to the conclusion that they’re all rubbish and we should stick with regular shoes and overshoes. I know! Cycling Mag in Useful Advice Shocker! I did some research into winter shoes a while back and came to the same conclusion, but it’s good to see a mag come out and confirm it. Good work, CA. The saddlebags test (just the four of them) was a bit shit, though.
Not so the following piece on carbon-fibre. Matt Lamy has done a good job unraveling the truth from the PR bollocks about carbon-fibre, and it’s an interesting read. He also raises an interesting point about the unrecyclable nature of carbon bikes, something I haven’t seen anywhere else. Good stuff (as is the following piece about adjusting your rear derailleur).
Now we come to the cookery section, where we have maple syrup, beetroot juice, honey, and carb drinks. I so don’t care. And the February training plan and training zone stuff is just the sort of joyless, po-faced stuff that makes me wonder who reads this. Picked at random:
“The phosphocreatine system helps bolster flagging adenosine triphosphate stores very rapidly by regenerating broken down ATP using donated phosphate from a reservoir of high-energy phosphate in the muscles known as creatine phosphate.”
And it goes on for ever. And ever. It’s eight pages of impenetrable bio-chemistry. Seriously, this is utterly bonkers for a recreational cycling mag. Who the hell is going to wade through this just so they can go 20 seconds faster on a sportive? There’s probably a good piece in here somewhere…it just needs a good sub-editor to take a big red pen to it or it needs to be sent back to the author with a request to rewrite it for people without a degree in bio-chemical engineering.
And that pretty much concludes this month’s Cycling Active. It has 103 pages of editorial out of 130 pages, and quite a few in-house ads. However, it’s a slight improvement on last month’s issue and with luck it will continue to improve as Hannah gets her feet under her desk.