As covers go, I’ve seen a lot worse. Yes, it’s still hyper-lit, but at least the sky is blue (certainly Photoshopped given how wet the road is), and the rider is clean-shaven. Shame about the hideous uncut steerer on the bike, though, mostly because the importers take a dim view of hacks hacking away at steerer tubes on £6000 bikes.
Kicking off the February 2016 issue of Cycling Plus are First Rides on an Orro Pyro 105 Disc (mechanical discs, don’t bother), a £3000 CXer, and a rather tasty-looking aero De Rosa SK Pininfarina for £7.5k. As an old scrote it never occurred to me that the author would have to explain who Pininfarina is, but I suppose there are those that don’t know. I would have liked a bit more info about Pininfarina’s input, though…did they do anything at all, or did De Rosa bung them a few thousand Euros for the use of the name?
After the usual news and new prods stuff we have a column by Rob Ainsley about urban bike-rental schemes, which I didn’t really understand, and a piece by Timmy Mallet, which I couldn’t be arsed to read. And then we have the first big bike test — six aero bikes priced between £2500 and £6000. And you know what’s coming next, don’t you. Of course you do…why these ones? And why not the Canyon Aeroad that everyone else is raving about? I remain solidly unconvinced about the whole aero thing for recreational cycling, and this test does nothing to change my mind. A little more critical analysis of the whole aero thing would be good, maybe explaining that aero bars and helmets are more important than aero frames.
Next is a piece about a £1200 (yes, one thousand two hundred pounds!) turbo trainer. I’m just going to let that hang there for a moment.
£1200 for a turbo trainer.
It makes the Rapha Shadow range look positively good value!
There follows a lot of new product news and tests (gloves, helmets, waterproofs, etc) and then we get to the next big feature…about turbo training. And again, C+ seems to think that either we are all elite-level athletes, or aspire to be elite-level athletes. We’re not, and we don’t. But that doesn’t stop them quoting pro coaches blithering on about threshold and intervals, or interviewing a bloke who does all his training indoors and consequently became “the third-best best all-rounder in the Shropshire Cycling Clubs Association time-trial series” (stop sniggering at the back, this is serious stuff!).
The Very Important Bike this month is the new retro-styled Bianchi L’Eroica. And I’m torn…is it genuinely lovely, or is it a rather vulgar pastiche? I change my mind every time I look at it. But ultimately I love a skinny steeler, and I’m really looking forward to next month’s C+ when they will be testing it against the new flagship Bianchi Specialissima. That’s a bike test that I can get behind, and I really hope they do it justice because there’s a lot to talk about.
Next up is Best Kit for Under £50, which is a decent idea done reasonably well. Perhaps they could follow this with a piece on Seriously Good Value-for-Money Kit, pointing the readers in the direction of excellent kit at sensible prices (there are some out there).
This is followed by a very good piece by Rob Kemp about the dangers of rural cycling. It’s intelligent, well thought-out, well written, and tackles a subject rarely raised in cycling circles. There’s even some decent first-aid advice in there as well. It’s a properly good feature about something that affects almost all of us. Good job, C+.
The “women’s bikes” test is less impressive. Don’t get me wrong…it’s a decent enough read and the photos are OK, but it doesn’t really address the issues surrounding female-specific bikes. There should have been far more devoted to whether there is even a need for female-specific bikes (as opposed to small-person-specific bikes). I would like to have seen a discussion about frame geometry on smaller bikes (they usually have pretty extreme STRs, and toe-overlap issues), and even some thoughts on female-specific issues regarding saddles and riding positions (a very serious problem that no one wants to talk about).
The photos in this test show the Focus with it’s saddle seriously nose-down and its stem flipped upwards, suggesting problems with comfort and fit. And the Liv Avail has its saddle dropped to below the level of the bars, also suggesting a terrible fit. The fact is that many women suffer serious pain and numbness in their “soft tissue” when put in a normal riding position on a drop-bar bike. Leaning forward and rotating the pelvis forward means the rider takes most of her weight on a delicate piece of anatomy not designed to be weight-bearing. I wrote an article about the problems faced by women on race bikes. No one wanted to publish it. Ssshhhh! Don’t put them off. Don’t mention numbness, pain, sexual dysfunction or even physical damage to vaginas. No one wants to know. It’s shocking. And shameful.
Next up is a top-end race shoe test. And pretty good it is too. The testing process is explained properly, the major players are represented, and it all reads well. Personally, I’d like to see real world prices quoted as well as rrps, and I would like a bit at the end that says “best for wide feet”, “best for narrow feet”, etc. Because ultimately it’s the fit that matters. I love Sidis, but unless I buy the Mega versions (a limited choice) I can’t wear them because I have wide feet.
The How-To section is mostly stuff for newbies, and is followed by a piece about how race teams influence the bikes and gear we ride. Except that it feels rather too much like an advertorial for Madison Genesis. There’s a nod in the direction of Endura and Rapha, but mostly it’s Madison Genesis and even the layout makes it look subtly different from the rest of the mag.
But C+ has saved the best till last. The Big Skive is an excellent feature, a real I-wish-I’d-thought-of-that moment. Basically it’s John Whitney deciding to throw a sickie for the day and go cycling. Except he decides on a day-trip to ride Sa Colabra in Mallorca. Genius idea, well written, and with some nice photos. I love pieces like this, and it’s been done pretty well.
At the back, Ned is burbling on about the perplexing lunacy that is pro bike racing, which is a nice read.
So that’s it. 170 pages, of which 108 are editorial. It’s another reasonable issue from the C+ team, with some interesting and thought-provoking stuff. C+ seems to be moving in right direction (as far as grown-up cycling is concerned). It’s not perfect, but it’s decent value for a fiver and there wasn’t much to make me angry, so it’s tutto tranquillo here.
Ooops! Nearly forgot…there’s a free Urban Cycling supplement bagged with this issue. It’s basically a rehash of stuff from sister title Urban Cyclist (incorporating Artisanal Fixie Top-Knot Monthly, and Lumbersexual Beardscaping Weekly). It’s all about leather satchels, metal bikes and locks, but didn’t contain a single recipe for five-seed sourdough coberg loaves or gluten-free granola bars. Tsk.