The Secret Roadie, Part 1

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve bought a road bike after riding mountain bikes exclusively for years. The reasons for this were numerous but boil down to just two simple points.

  1. Where I live there aren’t any good off road trails for quite some distance (more than 40 minutes drive).
  2. I really need to maintain my fitness when I can’t get on the mountain bike. An easy way to do this is to ride to work, which is about 16 miles from home.

I tried riding to work for some time on my mountain bike, with commuter slicks and flat bars. This was comfortable and allowed me to keeps a good eye on my surroundings, but I constantly felt that the bike was just inappropriate for the use it was getting. Let’s be honest about this, 100mm of suspension travel is overkill for road use, even with the state of the lanes nearby. So, my options were to either buy a hybrid bike or a pure road bike. I went with the road bike, mainly because I’m a bit of a speed freak and I felt I would never be happy on the hybrid because I would always wonder how much faster I would be on the road bike.

Now I’ve had the road bike for a couple of months a few things stand out.

  1. It’s fast, really fast. I always knew that the mountain bike was slowing me down on the road but I managed to knock 10 minutes off a journey that took 65 minutes previously. Yes, that’s 15% faster straight away, with no adjusting for the different riding style.
  2. How on earth do you get comfortable on the handle bars? I’ve tried just about every hand position possible and I find them all uncomfortable. Particularly I find riding on the hoods cause the area between my thumb and forefinger to ache after about 10 minutes, so I tend to ride on the drops, which puts more weight on my hands and tires them faster.
  3. If you’re up on the hoods you want to hope to whichever deity you believe in that you don’t need to stop quickly. The hand position you have to use to pull the brake levers when on the hoods allows almost no leverage.
  4. Braking in the wet is scary. Being used to disk brakes, I’d forgotten that it takes a couple of rotations of the wheel before the braking surface dries off enough to produce meaningful deceleration. Then, the wheels lock up because there is almost no allowance for the water to escape from the contact patch.

So, all in all, there’s quite a lot to get used to still, but I do love the extra sense of speed you get, and the distance you can cover before you start to get tired. Now I just need to get out on the mountain bike again…

The 36g pedal

Yes, really!

Ultralite Sports have released an entirely new concept in clipless pedals with a total weight, including cleats, of 112g.

BikeRadar have had some in to have a look at and they are impressive, to say the least. As always there are some caveats, like the inability to ride with normal shoes and the lack of float but if you can live with them, the lack of rotating mass under your feet could make a big difference, similar to that of a weight loss in your wheels.

Good to see we’re important…

It seems the DfT aren’t willing to pay much to stop motorists running us over. The CTC seems a bit annoyed about this…

“He also criticised the reach it would have given its “miniscule” budget, which he says is just £80,000. He referred back to the £1.2m thrown at Think Biker campaign earlier this year aimed at reducing motorcycle casualties.”


Thumbs up to BikeRadar for spotting this

Hope Vision 1 LED Light Review

I’ve been looking at the Hope Vision 1 light for a while. I’ve owned a set of Blackburn X8sl bike lamps for about 5 years now and I have always been quite fond of them. The battery life is very good, they are extremely well made and the lights themselves work very well in terms of allowing me to see where I’m going. I did, however stumble upon a problem, namely oversize handlebars. Unfortunately the Blackburns were designed and made in a world before the advent of oversize bars and as such, they don’t fit around the increased circumference on my new Boardman road bike.

So, I needed a new light that would fit (I decided the helmet mount for the Blackburns wasn’t a suitable option for regular commuting in the dark). It had to be bright enough to see in total darkness on road at night without forcing me to slow down to a crawl, reliable enough to use every day and had to last for at least 2.5 hours, preferably 3 between recharges.

Merlin Cycles, conveniently, sent me an email showing that they had a sale on for Hope Bike lights. For those of you who don’t know who Hope are, they are a British concern that make some truly bomb proof mountain bike components. They started in 1989 making hubs and brakes in Lancashire from billet aluminium and for a long time were considered the absolute best that money could buy. Today, the quality hasn’t changed, the parts are still made from billet and finished to a very high standard, but the range has expanded significantly. Now Hope Technology make hubs, brakes, bottom brackets, chain rings, stems, seat posts and a myriad of other components including lights.

So, for only £53.99 (£59.99 – 10% online discount) I bought the Hope Vision 1 LED front light, which arrived this morning.

Unboxing the Hope Vision 1

The box itself is quite simple with little or no fanfare. Hope rely on the contents to do the selling for them and, in truth, it is rare that you will see this box on a shelf anyway. Items like this tend to be locked away in shops, with the display units in a cabinet without the packaging anyway.

Unboxing the Hope Vision 1

Unboxing the Hope Vision 1

Inside the box you find the light, a handlebar bracket, a helmet mount, a wrist strap (for when you want to use it as a torch), a small bag of rubber bits and a mounting screw and the instructions. On the inside of the lid is a warning about the lack of low battery warning. Most lights turn down to a low power setting automatically as the batteries get towards being empty. The Hope Vision 1 just turns off. No warning, just darkness. More on this later.

The Hope Vision 1 Hardware

On first impressions, the hardware looks very nicely made. The light itself is turned and machined from billet aluminium and anodised to give an excellent finish. There are several sharp edges on the light, especially on the bottom, which is common with this method of manufacture. They aren’t enough to cut yourself on but they are a surprise if you are used to castings or injection moulded plastic. The machining is actually very impressive, especially when you consider the price of the light. The weight of the finished item is very low at 110g and feels impressively light in your hand.

The unit itself is a large diameter (approx. 42mm) cylinder with a large, knurled rear cover that screws off to reveal the battery compartment. The top has a large rubber button, ideal for use with thick gloves on, that controls the on and off functions, as well as cycling through the various power modes. Turning the unit on and off is a one-handed operation, as is adjusting the power output between the 4 available power modes and the obligatory flashing function for making motorists aware of you.

Hope Vision 1 Body

Battery life and changing

The Hope Vision 1 uses  4 AA batteries, as opposed to the Li-ion rechargeable battery pack you tend to find on more expensive units. Battery life, is therefore dependent on the type of battery you use. Hope claim 30 hours life using 2700mAh rechargeable batteries (these are quite high end but readily available NiMH batteries), dropping to 2.75 hours on full power. Of course, being AA batteries means that you can carry spares with you for when the light turns off, which it does with no warning remember.

As an aside, I’ve bought some Sanyo Eneloop batteries for use in these lights. The Eneloops  are very good quality batteries that are quite unique in having a long shelf life. Sanyo claim that they will keep up to 85% of their original charge after 12 months of sitting in a drawer. I got fed up of always having to charge batteries every time I wanted to use them so these are a godsend. Overall capacity is ‘only’ 2000mAh, but they last 1500 charges, so after about 50 charges they should outperform the 2600mAh batteries I had before at the same number of charges.

Fitting the batteries into the Hope Vision 1 is a bit more involved that you would originally think. The batteries are held in the main body of the light, in a removable caddy. Removing the large knurled rear cover is easy, even with gloves on. This allows you to remove the battery caddy. This is where things get fiddly. The batteries clip into the caddy and are held in place with large plastic wings. Getting the batteries back out, even in the warm on a table is tricky, I imagine trying to do this in the dark and the cold, while it’s raining is going to be a chore. additionally, you need to make sure you put the battery caddy back in the right way around. Whilst it is obvious that the end with the foam pad is at the opening end, it is possible to rotate the caddy by 180 degrees by accident, which means that the contacts don’t line up and the light doesn’t work. Still, as long as I don’t use maximum power for the whole ride, I shouldn’t ever have a problem with battery life. Still, I wish the battery swap was a bit easier.

Hope Vision 1 Battery Change


The handlebar mount can be set up to fit either oversize bars or normal bars by changing the rubber shims in the clamp. These attach quite firmly by pushing the lugs on the back of the shim through the clamp itself. Once in they aren’t going to come out easily so make sure you get it right first time! The clamp itself is made from reinforced nylon and feels very tough. The brass pivots look like a work of art, with extra machining to save a few grammes. Being an engineer I do love this attention to detail.

Hope Vision 1 Handlebar Clamp

What I don’t like so much though is that the light screws directly to the clamp. This makes it very difficult to swap between the helmet mount and the bar mounts. I had hoped to use the Hope Vision 1 on my helmet when I go mountain biking and on the handlebar clamp when on my road bike, however, the fact I have to start removing screws to do this will mean that I probably won’t bother. In comparison, my old Blackburn X8sl lights have a quick release mechanism, making the swap from bars to helmet the work of seconds. I would like to see Hope add this sort of mount in the future, even at the expense of a few grammes. I do also worry that the screw may vibrate loose, causing the light to fall off the clamp while riding. Time will tell if this is actually a problem.


As a light I find the light spread quite focussed, more of a spot beam if you will. This makes it very good when mounted on your helmet. The actual light is not all that bright though, I was expecting a bit more. I’m not sure what LEDs Hope is using but I think they should look into some of the newer models. LEDs are still a developing technology and just a couple of years can see the output increase markedly, with little or no effect on power draw, and therefore battery life.  Without a Li Ion battery pack to draw on, there have to be compromises and I suspect that the LED and power circuitry have been designed with battery life in mind as opposed to maximum power output.

Overall then I am pleased with the light, but the fiddly nature of the battery change and clamp changes do sour the experience somewhat and I am constantly worried about the possibility of the unit just turning off from a flat battery, with no warning. Given that this is a <£60 light though, if you are after a bomb proof light then the Hope does represent good value for money. There are brighter lights with rechargeable battery pack available at this price, but the quality will be nowhere near what Hope has produced. I feel this light will probably outlast me, it will certainly take everything I intend to throw at it over the next few years.


  • Very robust, looks and feels like it will last a lifetime
  • Made in the UK
  • Easy to use in the dark with gloves on


  • No Li Ion battery pack
  • Not as bright as some at this price


  • Fiddly to set up, the clamp design is not easy to change between helmet and bars
  • Difficult to change batteries and easy to get wrong
  • No low power warning, light just turns off!

Hopton Woods Pearce XC

Ian and I rode the Red Route through Hopton Woods, situated about 20 minutes outside Ludlow, on Saturday morning.

The first thing to note is that the course is quite hard to find. My advice would be to head towards Hopton Castle and then head East out of the village for about half a mile until you see the forestry commission sign on your left. The track climbs up through a couple of cattle grids to the relatively small car park.

The trail starts off with a superbly technical single track section, straight from the car park. It is steep, both up and down, fast and very rooty. I particularly liked the fact that the trail appeared to be quite fresh and unworn, unlike trails such as follow the dog at Cannock Chase. I suppose that comes hand in hand with the location.

Most of the trail is single track with a bit of fire road climbing in places. Most climbing is achieved through more technical single track though, which really serves to make the climbs feel shorter than they are. Be wary of the texture of the mud here though, it can be extremely greasy in places, clogging up our tyres and leaving very little traction, or indeed any form of directional stability. Not great for confidence but thankfully, when we visited there wasn’t too much of it.

The trail is around 12km in length. This is quite a nice distance, allowing you to make as many laps as you see fit, without feeling that you may get stranded half way round.

Overall then, this is a fantastic trail for those of you with a more technical persuasion, especially those who value fast single track with rapid gradient changes and lots of roots.

More information, including directions and location can be found on the forestry commission website here

Ian riding up the hill

So, did he do it?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks you’ll know that the US Anti Doping Agency (USADA) have been trying to pin allegations of doping on Lance Armstrong, the seven times Tour-de-France winner and testicular cancer campaigner. All this despite Lance having never failed a drug test. After failing to secure a prosecution after a two year investigation, and despite not having any actual drug test failures, the USADA are trying to prosecute Armstrong again.

Well, yesterday, on the 23rd August 2012, Armstrong finally threw in the towel.

“I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair. There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, ‘Enough is enough’. For me, that time is now.”

For many this will be seen as an admission of guilt, some people will take it at face value, he’s just fed up of having to defend himself. I doubt we’ll ever know the truth for sure, but the USADA have stripped Armstrong of his titles since 1998 and banned him from competitive cycling for life, so that’s it. It’s over.

But, let’s think about this objectively for a moment. We know that Armstrong has beaten riders who are known to have doped, sometimes by a large margin and after recovering from cancer treatment. We also know he has had muscle stripping performed, a surgical procedure to thin down muscles that he doesn’t need, reducing their mass. Clearly this gives him a legal, but ethically questionable advantage by reducing the mass he needs to propel without reducing the power he can produce. I don’t have any power to weight figures to hand but we should expect Armstrong to have a very high output due to the loss of any unnecessary weight with the same output.

So could he beat doped riders? I’m not an expert but I wouldn’t bet against him. Lance, I really want to believe that you won those titles legally, but you are making it very hard for us by refusing to contest the charges.

A sure fire way to stop people cycling…

“…as well as compulsory training and testing for cyclists…”

Whilst I agree that a lot of cyclists need to start obeying the rules of the road, i.e. stop jumping red lights, cycling on pavements etc., there needs to be a better way than this. As a nation we are already becoming seriously overweight, this will just drive people away from taking up cycling in he first place. I actually believe that forcing cyclists to take a test will actually make the roads more dangerous for those of us who do take the test. By reducing the number of cyclists on the road, we become less visible to the drivers of other vehicles on the road.

The other points in the article are all quite reasonable and it is worth a read. I like that we have a visible personality driving this in Gary Lineker. Anything that gets cycling into the public conscience has to be a good thing.

Update: It looks like Bike Radar have pulled support for this scheme after the backlash about compulsory testing:

While we agreed to take part in the debate about cycle safety, we don’t advocate compulsory testing before cyclists are allowed on the roads. That was never part of the story we published. As soon as we realised what had been said, we asked ingenie to correct their statement and BikeRadar withdrew our support from the campaign.

Intersting, the statement at the top of this article was copied directly from the original article…