Cervelo P3 Test Ride

I've posted a few times on my modifications to my set up of the Cervelo P3 (most recently on my home brew eTap wiring). The recent mods over the last few months include:

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My Venerable Hed H3 Trispoke Wheels

Hed H3 wheels are  probably Team Grumpy’s go-to wheel - they are pretty close to being indestructable (but not invulnerable) - they aren’t likely to go out of true as there aren’t any spokes to break or lose tension. 

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My Current Power Meters

In which I review the power meters I've been using over the last few years. All of these seem to be accurate and consistent in their data. This is a brief review of the four systems I currently use - and to cut to the chase, of these four power meters, which would I recommend as a power meter on a new bike build?

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Pedals - Speedplay X R.I.P.

For the last 6 years or so, my favoured pedals have been Speedplay X series pedals. I’ve enjoyed using these pedals because they are light (though the cleats are heavy, as they contain the clipping mechanism), have a remarkable amount of float and they offer dual sided entry.

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Silca T-Ratchet Kit + Ti-Torque

I guess I'm really a sucker for  this sort of thing: a miniature toolset that offers a portable torque wrench of 2-8Nm all packed in a quality pouch with a wide range of bits (2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6 mm Hex key; T10, T20 and T25 Torx; and a PH2 Philips) and corresponding driver ratchet. A rather blingy tool probably useful as a portable toolkit. After perusing various online emporia, I decided to place the order directly with Silca in Indianapolis.

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Tacx Neo smart trainer

Most of my ‘serious’ and focussed training is done in the garage on a turbo trainer - the time available to me for training is quite limited, and consequently I train before going to work, so usually around 6am. I therefore use the turbo trainer all year round. For the last few years, I’ve been using the iOS app Motivo to manage my turbo training sessions. Unfortunately, I’d recently been having trouble pairing my ANT HR strap to it (and occasionally this problem affected any of my devices). Whether this reflected a problem with my iPad ANT adapter, I’m not sure. In any event, TrainerRoad appeared a bit more robust in this regard. It hadn’t escaped me that TrainerRoad also features turbo trainer control via ANT_ FE-C.[caption id="attachment_3723" align="alignnone" width="234"] The venerable Cateye CS-1000 turbo trainer[/caption]My primary indoor turbo trainer over the last 20 years has been a Cateye Cycle Simulator CS1000. This is a pretty solid device which was very stable in use, and lasted me well. It got rather rusty, the head unit failed, the fan cover broke, the head unit fell off, the variable magnetic load got stuck, and finally the bearings sounded a bit shot (given the amount of use, this thing lasted very well indeed). So I figured I’d buy a new turbo trainer. Looking around, I had to decide whether I’d stick with a ‘dumb’ turbo, or upgrade to one of the increasingly ‘smart’ turbos now available. Also, whether I go for one of the newer ‘wheel-out’ turbos or stick with one that left the rear wheel in place with the tyre against a roller.After a bit of thought, I decided to go seriously upmarket. After all, I do spend a lot of time on the turbo and as I mentioned, it’s where I do most of my training. I therefore looked at trainers such as the Tacx Neo and the Wahoo Kickr and decided to go for the Tacx Neo, which was subject to a bit of a reduction at Wiggle (plus I got a further reduction as a frequent customer). I reckoned that if The Tacx lasts as long as the Cateye, it won’t have been a major expense. The DC Rainmaker blog was invaluable for this decision - see his latest review of indoor trainers, his detailed review of the Tacx Neo, and his explanation of ANT FE-C.In due course, a massive and very heavy box arrived from Wiggle. I humphed the thing into the garage and began to unpack it. As well as the turbo trainer itself, there’s a front wheel riser block, a power supply, a skewer and a cassette lock ring and spacer set. The bike I’m currently training on is an old retired steel TT frame, running 9 speed Shimano transmission, so I whipped off the cassette and installed that on the Tacx freehub, which is made by Edco and can take cassettes with Shimano or Campagnolo splines. It’s a little fiddly as the splines aren’t as obvious as on a true Shimano or Campagnolo freehub body, but it’s not difficult. I have both Shimano and Campagnolo lockring tools in my toolkit, so no problems there.[caption id="attachment_3729" align="alignnone" width="430"] The Tacx Neo Smart trainer. There's also a power brick not shown.[/caption]Once the side arms/wings are unfolded and locked into place, the turbo has a rather SF-style appearance, a bit like a TIE fighter designed by Batman. Its weird appearance is enhanced during use by the unearthly glow it emits from its underside - blue at light intensity, purple at intermediate intensity and deep red when you’re absolutely hammering it. Structurally, it seems very robust, though the outer shell is some kind of plastic.[caption id="attachment_3732" align="alignnone" width="796"] Here's a picture showing all the bits inside a Tacx Neo. No flywheel![/caption]Fitting a bike to the turbo is very easy though I find bikes with rear facing dropouts such as my Cervelos are more of a hassle and you can get a bit oily. For the most part, this isn’t an issue for me, since I leave the training bike mounted to the turbo, and I’m not going to cart the Neo off to races for warmups on anything like a regular basis. 22kg of turbo in and out of the car is likely to give me back issues! The supplied skewer works well, and the bike when mounted seems very secure. Interestingly, and in contrast to the traditional turbo trainers I’ve used in the past, the bike mounted on the Tacx Neo can lean a bit from side to side, which is a little disconcerting at first but eventually feels a bit more like riding a bike for real. The original model, which I have, has rather tight clearances against the more exotic carbon frames (typical of TT bikes), and the Neo has been modified for 2017 to give a bit more clearance, though the internals are unchanged. My Cervelo P5 does fit. Just. I know this because somewhat unbelievably I carted this behemoth of a turbo trainer all the way to Normandy to warm up prior to the 2016 Duo Normand!There are Android and iOS apps available on the respective app stores which enable firmware updates and so forth. The Tacx Neo doesn’t require calibration. In use, the Neo is very quiet, with most of the noise coming from the drive train. I have almost exclusively used it in Erg mode, with resistance controlled by TrainerRoad. I found this a bit disconcerting at first. I’m used to easing off a bit as I tire during a training session, but with the Neo, the cadence just drops away while the head is maintained. So, the first lesson is not to overface yourself with an over-ambitious interval session.Pros - very quiet; very heavy and stable; good feel; doesn’t require calibration; works with or without external power; ANT Fe-C and Bluetooth Smart compatibleCons - first generation casing doesn’t accomodate all frames (my P5 fits (just!); very heavy - at around 22kg, you need to think carefully about taking it with you for warmup!Things I’ve not explored: I haven’t tried Zwift, mostly because it doesn’t appeal to me; I haven’t tried using my Garmin 520 to replay a course previously ridden, mostly because I haven’t got around to it.Notes -

  1. The turbo requires a cassette which isn’t supplied, you can use either Campagnolo or Shimano (I’ve used 9-speed and 11- speed Shimano cassettes) - it’s an Edco freehub that takes both. Fitting the cassette is pretty straightforward, though check you have the correct splined tool.
  2. The Tacx Neo doesn’t come with software , but does have a discount voucher for the Tacx software. I downloaded the Android and iOS apps for managing firmware updates and so forth, but I didn’t download the Tacx software for using the turbo, as I intended to use TrainerRoad.
  3. If you plan to use the Neo with a PC or Mac, you will probably need an ANT USB stick. TrainerRoad have released an beta Android version of their app, both my Samsung devices have built in ANT . iOS devices do not, so an external dongle will be needed, and I don’t know if there is one available for lightning connectors.

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SRAM eTap Aero

I’ve been something of a retro-Luddite when it comes to gear-shifting technology. Party this is because I had several 9 speed race wheels, and I wanted to maintain interchangeability between bikes, and (I am embarrassed to admit) I found it difficult to figure out which parts I'd need to buy to set up a TT bike with Shimano Di2.Enter SRAM’s new electronic gear system, eTap. For road bikes, this is a pretty straightforward system. Each brake lever has one gear change switch, and it operates the derailleurs wirelessly. Satellite shifting switches (the ‘’blips”) allow shifting from the top of the bars or clip-on aero bars. The right hand control shifts the rear mech up, the left control down. Pressing both controls at the same time changes the front mech either down or up, depending on which position the mech is currently in.This spring, SRAM released the eTap Aero, intended for use on TT and triathlon bikes. I decided it was time to (a) get modern, and (b) get 11 speed. So I set my Wiggle profile to email me when the eTap aero was available. Ages later, I got an email saying it was in stock. I popped over to the Wiggle website to find four sets were available. I ordered one, along with an 11-speed Dura-Ace cassette and an 11-speed SRAM chain.The box.A few days later a vast box arrived at work. The post room called saying they thought a wheel had arrived for me! Inside was the cassette and chain, and an enormous and very heavy black and red box that just exudes quality.[caption id="attachment_3638" align="alignnone" width="474"] This image shows the six smaller boxes (sourced from the Slowtwitch forum, and edited)[/caption]Inside that were six smaller but equally robust boxes containing:

  1. USB battery charger. This comes with all sorts of wall socket adapters, and is for charging the derailleur batteries.
  2. The rear derailleur,  with the battery detached. The red part covers and protects the attachment point of the battery: there's a complementary part to protect the battery - the front derailleur comes with identical parts.
  3. The blipbox. This is quite small, and has a Garmin style twist mount, there are several included. Neither mount with self adhesive pads matches the curvature of the top plate of my aerobar, so I used the normal Garmin mount held in place with stretchy bands (but see below).
  4.  One USB stick for firmware updates. Just the USB stick. Nothing else other than a few scraps of paper.
  5.  The front derailleur. This has the battery detached for transport, and a buch of weird little wedgy things, about which more later. Also, it has a horribly alarming sticker saying you MUST read installation instructions before using it. You need to retrieve said instructions from the SRAM website.
  6. Two sets of 'blips' (i.e. four blips in total). These are the switches that connect to the 'blipbox', which actually controls the derailleurs wirelessly. So, not much in that box.
Underneath these six boxes is a set of brake cables (inners and outers), the presence of which completely mystifies me. I assume that the eTap aero set would be bought either to upgrade a TT bike (as I did) or for a new build. Neither scenario would seem to require a set of brake cables to be supplied, though no doubt they will come in useful in due course for another bike project (my TT bike has hydraulic brakes).Sadly, no Haribo gummy sweets were present.InstallationI began by fully charging the derailleur batteries. Because the front and rear derailleurs use exactly the same type of battery, if the rear runs out of juice, you could always swap in the front mech battery. The instructions provided observe that when the battery is detached, both the battery and derailleur need to be protected by the plastic parts supplied to protect the connection parts. I believe the system is activated by motion sensors, and the recommendation when transporting the bike by car is to remove the batteries to avoid unintended discharge.Installation turned out to be stupidly straightforward. In fact, the biggest hassle was feeding the blip cables through the base bars, but a little ingenuity sorted that out. Pairing the three components (rear and front mech, and the blipbox) took less than 30 seconds. On my TT bike, the wires from the blips pass through handlebar setup internally, using the pre-existing slots cut for gear and brake cables (the P5's hydraulic hoses are entirely internal). Deciding where to place the blips on the base bars and aero extensions took a few minutes, before I taped the bars. And then a test. Well, the controls worked well, though the rear mech wasn't quite aligned with the sprockets. A quick perusal of the manual showed how to fine-tune that. Then all was done.You might be wondering about that alarming sticker on the front mech. I can only assume that refers to the funny little wedge pieces that apparently brace the mech against the seat tube of the frame. It's not obvious why these are needed, but I complied.UsageSo, I'm using a Campagnolo Record chainset with TA rings, SRAM mechs, SRAM chain and Dura-Ace cassette. Does that combination work? Well, on the basis of riding out to a 10 mile time trial, riding the event, and riding back, I'd say so. Shifting was very smooth (I might even suggest too smooth - I did miss the positive click of my old Dura-Ace levers), and I found the usage of the blip switches really very intuitive. I made no inadvertant gear changes, though to be frank I didn't do many changes with the front mech.Battery life presumably depends on the number of shifts you do. The blipbox uses a CR2032 cell, which i supposed to be good for over a year. Each derailleur has a rechargeable battery supposedly good for 1000km/60h of use. The system uses the same battery design for both mechs, so they are interchangeable.In the week following my first ride with the system, I revisited the mounting of the blipbox. Its garmin mount section is threaded for a screw, so I drilled the top plate of my aero bars, and fix it in place that way. It's a fair bit neater than the elastic bands!I rode the system in the NBRC Hardriders club '20', and did have some hassle with my mongrel transmission - the chain didn't want to seat properly on the inner ring. Hopefully I can sort this out without resorting to a new chainset.Worth it?Well, it's nice. It works well (faultlessly so far on my limited riding to date). I now have 11-speed on this TT bike. It doesn't require any guddling around persuading cables to pass through the frame. I am pleased with it. But does it represent a major performance improvement over the old style mechanical Dura-Ace it replaced? Well, I'm not sure, though I very much like having a second set of controls near the brake levers. I can say, though, that were I to spec out a new road bike, a SRAM eTap group would be high on my "to buy" list.Longer term, I'll do an update on performance (part 2!).

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Quick Review: Nopinz number pocket

I’ve had a these retrofitted to two skinsuits, less for the supposed 10W aero benefit and more for the avoidance of pin holes in expensive skinsuits, which inevitably shorten the garment’s lifespan.I rode my club skinsuit in a club event, and had my partner put the number in while I was wearing the skinsuit. This was very difficult, and you certainly wouldn’t want to ask someone you’re not intimate with to do this! On the second occasion I was using a Castelli Bodypaint skinsuit, and pushed the number in before putting the skinsuit on. Even that was a bit of fiddle, but mostly because my hands were cold.In use, the number pockets are great - none of that pricking fingers when putting a number on, or pins coming loose while warming up or racing. While the number is held really snug and with no flapping, I’ve no idea if there’s really a discernible aero benefit, but at least the days of pinholes in cycle clothing are receding!

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Quick Review: Kask Bambino aero helmet

Not new to the market, these stubby aerohats were popularised by Team Sky over the last few seasons. Very expensive, particularly when they were first released, Team Grumpy refer to these as “smurf hats” because of the slightly downturned aero tail!I can’t really comment on the helmet’s aero characteristics, other than to say that I would imagine the Bambino might be superior if you do a lot of looking down or around - this pushes the tail of a ‘normal’ aero helmet into the wind. In terms of fit, the helmet is reassuring in how stable the fit is on the head. The visor didn’t steam up, as per complaints of the early versions of the helmet. In use, I was aware of sweat in the helmet, but it didn’t dribble down onto the visor, which remained clear throughout the ’25’. I don’t know if there will be problems when racing in warmer conditions.Team Grumpy bought matte black Bambini - with the mirrored visor as shown above, they really remind me of the Power Rangers (I will leave you to Google that...). So maybe that’s the new team descriptor for them...

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