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Meet The Maker: Q36.5

Posted by Andrew Hartwell

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Meet the Maker: Q36.5 - Italian designed and manufactured high-performance cycle clothing

Bespoke chats with Luigi Bergamo, founder and designer behind Q36.5, the
newest clothing brand with big ambitions for the future of cycle clothing.

Words: David Arthur

Bespoke is proud to be stocking a range of Q36.5 clothing so we headed over to Italy to find out just what sets the brand apart.

Founded in 2013, Q36.5 has big ambitions for the future of high-performance cycle clothing. Designed and manufactured entirely in and around Bolzano in northern Italy, in the shadow of the Dolomites, Q36.5 is a small and young outfit spearheaded by Luigi Bergamo, the former director of development at that most well-known of all clothing brands, Assos.

Deciding to part ways with Assos and move from Switzerland (where Assos is headquartered) back to his hometown of Bolzano in northern Italy, the passion to create high-performance cycle clothing drove Luigi Bergamo to establish his own brand. But it is a brand with a clear difference, a concept brand with an ambitious vision to create the absolute best high-performance cycle clothing possible.

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“This is an extreme vision of the future of cycle clothing. Where weight is never the objective of the design but the result. And the fabrics and pattern in your hands are too experimental to produce a truly democratic result. Q36.5
is for riders who can feel the difference. Absolutely equipment.”

That text above is printed on a sheet of paper taped to one of the pillars in the sleek and modern office located on the outskirts of town in a quiet residential area. It’s the founding philosophy set out by Luigi Bergamo and acts as a constant reminder to the small team - currently eight employees - that manage every aspect of the company, from design, research, product testing, sales and distribution.

With two decades working in the clothing business, Luigi Bergamo knows his cycle clothing. He’s seen cycling grow from the fringe to the mainstream, and fabric and garment technology transform beyond all recognition from the woollen glory days to high-tech laminated fabrics that are common today. But not just wanting to emulate current clothing standards and designs, Luigi Bergamo has a clear passion to develop
innovative solutions to enable him to produce high-performance cycle clothingthat can meet the demands of riding in a range of temperatures and climates.

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Luigi Bergamo, then, is on a quest to pursue new and innovative solutions that don’t currently exist in the cycle clothing market, and this means developing proprietary fabrics and construction processes that allow him to achieve the highest level of performance possible. In many ways, Q36.5 is very much a research and development laboratory to allow him to explore these solutions free from the restraints of putting out a new collection every season.

By now you’re probably wondering what the name Q36.5 stands for? Q is Quaerere, Latin for research, and 36.5 is the body temperature in Celsius and is a reference to Luigi Bergamo’s desire to create clothing that can help to keep the body at the perfect temperature at all times.
Q36.5 has only been going for a few years but a lot of time, money and effort has clearly been invested as the clothing range is of the highest quality. We’ll take a look at the clothing range in detail in a future article, but for now here’s our conversation with Luigi Bergamo.

What is the aim of Q36.5 and what are you trying to achieve?

The aim is to make not really a clothing company but to make more a laboratory where I can experiment with new solutions and bring these new solutions, new fabrics, new patterns, to this brand, Q36.5. With my vision and to express my vision, we decide that this is an extreme vision of the future of cycling clothing.

The name of the brand, Q36.5, is related to the body temperature of a healthy person, because the real objective of performance cycle clothing, whether for cycling, running, cross-country, is to maintain your body temperature. Not to be cooler or more warm, but in order to have the best performance is to have this temperature.

And so this is part of our research, to find a fabric that works better in different conditions. And the second point, very important, is the innovation of the future of clothing is to make the garment as versatile as possible. That means that you can use it for a larger period, maybe three of four seasons, not to have ten different long sleeves, but to have a collection with just one long sleeve that you can use for three
seasons.

That means we have to develop specific fabrics, smart fabrics that react with your body. We see some fabrics that are in development that are not passive but active with some special yarn or thread. And very important is the structure, how you structure the fabric that can give you a different performance in combination with a different yarn.

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You’ve worked in the cycle clothing business for a long time, what are the biggest developments you’ve seen?

When I started to ride the bike it was the wool period, the romantic period, but I hate this wool fabric because I was 5kg heavier than what I wanted to be!

Then we have the revolution with the synthetic fabrics, and we have a very big evolution. What I see now is the fabrics or the garments become lighter and lighter. I remember the first polyester jersey was made from 200g/square metre fabric, and right now we speak about 100g/square metre fabric, you have more or less the same performance in terms of quick drying, protection too.

Then we have the second revolution, the introduction of the membrane in the fabrics in order to have a more protection from the cold, that was a huge revolution. From my point of view another important thing was the dedication to the first layer, the base layer. We have a fantastic solution with a seamless technology, because the first layer is the contact, the link, with your body and needs to manage your micro climate.

Right now the tendency is for DWR treatment, the water repellency on the garment, because cycling becomes more popular and we have less time and want to use the bike in all conditions. You need to have extra protection, starting from the jersey or the bibs, having this treatment is very helpful in difficult conditions.

We were one of the pioneers of woven fabric in shorts and in jersey too, with a special technique that we can have a very high density of the construction of this fabric that gives a very robust, lightweight, compressive and supportive fabric. We are working to create an ergogenic bib short that we introduce this year that is not just an ergonomic cut, but is designed in order to have more muscle support, or have the right support in the muscle area where you need to be more supported, like the lumbar area and for the leg area. For example we have a gradual compression with a special cutting, we orientate the cut to use the modal force of the fabric which helps when you’re pedaling. It’s tricky but it helps.

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Is developing your own fabrics, and not using readily available fabrics, critical to achieving your goals?

Yes. We developed our own fabric because we were not satisfied with catalogue fabrics and so to have a better performance, from moisture management to natural wind protection without a membrane, we didn’t find a standard solution and we need to do deep in development in order to develop a specific fabric for this reason. I can say that 70-80% of the fabric we’re using in the collection is our own.

What sets your brand apart from other clothing brands?

We are not able to compete with the big companies. We are a very small, compactcompany but our skill is that we invest a lot in research and development. We’re involved in different R&D projects, not just for cycling but other fields like ultra running, skiing etc and we can profit from this experience.

Right now we are a company of just eight people, and we have in-house all the pattern makers and the lab where we can try different solutions, and we have a great cooperation with clothing companies in other fields, and some research institutes like the University in Italy and Austria too, and the institute of research here in Bolzano too.

We can say we study a lot, and invest a lot of time in the research that maybe is not so target driven but where we can learn something and we can improve our knowledge, then we bring this knowledge to the collection. We would like our brand to be a compact collection, we don’t want to be too big but we would like this expression of our study of what we learn and our vision.

Is being made in Italy important? Would it be cheaper to manufacturer in China?

For sure yes, but for us it was important to make all the clothing in Italy because we can assure of the quality control and the production process. We don’t use common or traditional production processes, it’s a little more complicated because we start with the development of the fabrics, then we make all the prototypes and conduct all the testing in-house, then we have our cutting department, our printing department, and then we have our sewing department.

This is related to the sustainability of the product. In cycling the sustainability of clothing is not so common, maybe it’s more popular in the outdoor field, but as a company we have a responsibility to be sustainable where we can. Everything is produced within a 300 square kilometre area so we have less footprint for our process. And we select companies that have a sustainable approach, with special attention in the production process that is environmentally conscious. This is part of our sustainability approach. It’s something people care more about.

What are the future plans for the company?

We would like to remain quite small. We need to grow, we hope to grow, but we would like to be a little bit unique and to be flexible. We would like to keep our range as compact as possible, and my dream for the future is to create one garment that you can use all year. But it’s more a dream, maybe it’s not possible? But to keep the range compact is a key aim.

Next time…

We’ll preview some of the clothing range experienced on a ride around Bolzano with Luigi Bergamo.

CLICK HERE TO SHOP Q36.5 ONLINE

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Clothing review

Posted by Barry Scott

After my Mallorca trip I was blown away by how well dressed my fellow cyclists were. I literally had no idea men could be so considered, or colour co-ordinated in their appearance.

I realised my mis-matched kit was simply not going to do and thus made a vow to dramatically raise my clothing game.

Fortunately I happen to work in a business that is lucky to partner with the very elite of cycling apparel; so I enlisted the help of Gemma to kit me out.

What was fascinating is the way these four brands differ in their ethos and brand identity and how that translates into their garments. The good news is that it's all great kit. Thankfully it's almost impossible to find mediocre high-end kit anymore.

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Pas Normal Studios (PNS)

Pas Normal Studios is a Danish brand with a serious Pro-Tour heritage.

If Fat Lad at the Back are at one end of the fashion spectrum, PNS are the Euro cool kids at the other end; smashing up cols with sub 5% body fat and looking effortless as they do so.

Make no mistake the kit is ‘race’ cut – but just like when you put on lightweight running shoes and are naturally forced to run quicker, it's simply impossible to go for a recovery ride whilst wearing PNS. This kit, more than any other I have ever ridden, makes you want to bury yourself on the bike. It's truly astonishing how a lycra jersey can affect your on-the-road psyche.

The jersey feels very snug, and the material feels very slippery and by extension ‘quick’. The shorts are sublime; very well padded and supported. The elastic bands are tight, and everything feels like its designed for ‘good’ cyclists.

The kit is tight, so you need to be minimal with filling the pockets; this is not the kit I'd wear on a 7 hr unsupported ride. But when you want to batter your friends, or set some KOMs it’s the outfit I would pick….

I tried:
Mechanism jersey
Mechanism shorts
Winter jacket

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Buy for: Achingly cool, Euro pro-tour look

Don’t buy: If you prefer the baggier look

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Chpt.///

I am a self confessed David Millar fan. We share a similar background; we are the same age (ish), we are both tall and handsome, both Scottish, he grew up in Hong Kong and I in Singapore and we are both very tidy on a bike….Come to think of it, we could be twins.....
We have proudly been selling his Chpt. /// kit for over a year now and the guys in store really like it. I must confess I have (up till now) not put in many miles in it – something I was keen to resolve.

The cool thing of this kit is the sizing which follows a tailored approach of chest size in cms. This means more accurate, tailored clothing.
The kit is very stylish, and whilst snug it feels wrong to get it as tight as PNS. This kit, whilst very technical, is not what I would choose for an all out race assault. However a 4 hour ride with your mates, (ideally whilst riding a bike with a level top tube and tan sidewall tyres), and you will be the best dressed man on the road.

The shorts are sublime – I put them on in the shop and then lounged around in them for the next 5 hours whilst typing emails. Gemma et al were deeply put off by my in-store appearance, but they are ridiculously comfortable, with the softest material I have ever (and I mean ever) felt on a bib short.

When I was a first year banker it was in the dot-com bubble, and banks were changing dress codes and getting rid of suits. However after my first week at work I was pulled aside by my boss and counselled that the dress code was “smart casual, not casual”. Fifteen years later and I still manage to look scruffy on a daily basis. So imagine my amazement when I looked at myself in the mirror resplendent in my full Chpt./// kit – the ugly duckling had finally become a swan !

Buy for: Those glorious days when you are riding for fun, not staring at your wattage

Don’t buy: If you're looking for the lightest, most aero ‘race’ kit

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Q36.5

Q36.5 are a new brand but with a huge pedigree (something they don’t shout about, but those who know know). Luigi has forgotten more about patterns and materials than most R&D heads will ever know.
The cut is not quite as aggressive as PNS but it's close. Snug is the operative word, and the materials are all first rate. I love their ethos of "lightweight is never a goal, its simply an outcome of good design". It's something Bob Parlee has been preaching in carbon frame-building for over a decade know and something that resonates with me.

The jersey I liked, whereas the shorts I loved. The jersey material is ridiculously stretchable and the pockets are much more versatile than with PNS. You could do a sportive in this kit very easily indeed…

The Q36.5 shorts are probably the best I have ever ridden. They were certainly the ones I picked whenever we had a hard stage in Mallorca. If I was doing the Haute Route I would bring 5 pairs of Q36.5 shorts and be done.


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If I was to wash all the clothes at the same time, the Q36.5 bibs and jersey would be the first to dry. This bodes very well for its ability to keep you dry in the heat.

I tried;
Wolf shirt; - have a winter lining, good for early Spring
L1 Essential shorts – standard everyday shorts
Dottore shorts – special ‘A’ race shorts; with compression.

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Buy for:  You want to be at the very cutting edge of R&D

Don’t buy: if you want the status quo

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Assos

The godfathers of the cycling bibshort.  However they do suffer a slight identity problem, and their market position and pre-eminence has absolutely taken a battering over the last decade. Back then the Assos kit was head and shoulders better than the competition , but since then the competition have massively raised their game.

One of the many geniuses of Rapha is that they have cultivated a whole identity. I know many Rapha customers who would rather go for a run than go for a ride without a full compliment of Rapha wear. One chap was on a ride and counted 25 (25!!) pieces of Rapha in his wardrobe (including saddlebag, toe covers, shoes...). That may be an extreme, but Rapha sell you a collection – and a fine looking one at that.

Assos are in danger of being the M&S of cycling apparel – really, really good at the basics that you then put the flasher stuff on top off. I know loads of people, myself included, who will think nothing of mixing a club jersey with Assos shorts.

The Campionissimo jersey is a much needed new introduction from Assos.
The cut and materials are second to none; its also a jersey that does not need a base layer…
The design is a big improvement on previous ones, but is still not as clean as some of the competition.
However disappointingly it still feels as if the bib shorts were created by one design studio, and the jersey by another but they never talked to one another to share design cues. I suppose if that’s all you can complain about then that’s an endorsement, but given the price of Assos and the quality of the competition it feels a missed opportunity.

I also tried the Equipe jersey; which is the slightly cheaper 'race fit' one. Again its really, really nice and fit and finish is excellent. However I feel  it's missing a certain design freshness that the others possess.

I tried:

Equipe jersey

Campionissimo  jersey

Buy for: the history and heritage of the market leader

Don’t buy: if you want cutting edge designs

Super limited 'Pro' tubs

Posted by Barry Scott

Justin, our super cool Enve rep is a ridiculously good rider and rode for a UCI Pro Continental team last year. As such he gets access to the kit that only Pros do - such as these Continental tubs that us mortals cannot buy for love nor money  (and I have tried). They are called the Competition Pro LTD and feature on no official website, but look closely at the TdF bikes and you will see them. They are based on the fantastic Competition Tubular, but they have a latex inner instead of Butyl which means they roll even better. Access to these tubs is very restricted; Justin's parting words to me were 'please don't f*cking puncture them!'.

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They are on his personal Enve 4.5 tublar wheelset that I am testing (the things I do for research and due diligence). They are ridiculously quick - on the commute home last night, even wearing a rucksack I set a number of PBs on some of the climbs near where I live. Will be a fun Easter break !

How Zipp Conquered Paris-Roubaix

Posted by Andrew Hartwell

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Cycling Icons: How Zipp conquered Paris-Roubaix

The story of how carbon wheels came to dominate the Hell of the North

Words: David Arthur

It all changed in 2010. Fabian Cancellara rode into the iconic Roubiax velodrome alone to win his second of three Paris-Roubaix victories, dominating on the pavé and seeing off intense competition from his closest rivals. But his victory was significant for another reason: he was the first rider to win this legendary race on carbon fibre wheels.

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Paris-Roubaix is a race shaped by tradition. The old cobbled roads weaving through a landscape that has changed little in hundreds of years, save for the scars from two World Wars, but it’s when it comes to choosing equipment capable of surviving the punishment dished out by the cobbles that tradition takes precedence over the latest groundbreaking developments.

The cobbles are brutal. They break bikes, wheels and components. That’s why, even though carbon deep-section wheels had become increasingly prevalent in the at the turn of the century with some notable advances in material development and construction techniques, Paris-Roubaix was the last outpost for the traditional aluminium box section rim in the professional peloton. A throwback to the previous era of steel frames, down tube shifters and wool jerseys.

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For decades then, tried-and-tested equipment has been rolled out especially for Paris-Roubaix. With 52km of pavé (the exact amount varies from year to year; it’s 55km this year) and over 200km of relatively smooth road, the race presents a unique challenge for equipment choices. Despite the increasing awareness of aerodynamics in road racing, for years the prevailing wisdom was an aluminium rim, strong enough to survive the battering, with wide tyres to provide some cushioning. Carbon wheels of this era simply weren’t tough enough. Aerodynamic wheel specialist Zipp was determined to change this. The US company first got into the professional peloton when it sponsored Belgian team Lotto-Adecco in 2000 but it was with the sponsorship of the iconic CSC team in 2003 that the company’s place in cycling history would forever be cemented. Zipp wheels rapidly became a regular sight at the pointy end of the race. Carlos Sastre won the Tour de France on Zipp wheels in 2008.

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The peloton seemingly conquered, Paris-Roubaix would be their biggest technological challenge. But it was a challenge they relished and faced headfirst, undaunted by tradition. During the 2006 off-season, Fabian Cancellara and his teammates conducted testing of Zipp’s latest carbon wheels on the Paris-Roubaix pave, including the fearsome Arenberg. They destroyed every set of wheels that Zipp brought with them.

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Undeterred by this failure, Zipp went back to the drawing board and redeveloped the 303 rim. It widened the rim to allow it to flex, acting like a leaf spring, and introduced its Carbon Bridge technology, Kevlar at the rim edge, both measures designed to allow the rim to absorb impacts and prevent a repeat of the failures during that ill-fated test ride.

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The changes were a success, and 10 years after entering the professional peloton, Zipp’s carbon fibre wheels were ridden to glory in Paris-Roubaix four years after that fateful test by none other than Fabian Cancellara, following a win the previous weekend at Tour of Flanders. This momentous victory would forever change racer and consumers attitude towards carbon wheels at a race where tradition still trumped the latest developments.

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It was the turning point for carbon wheels. They’ve gone on to dominate at Paris-Roubaix. And with their success, they have confined the traditional aluminium rim to the pages of cycling history. Tradition, it seems, is no obstacle to unrelenting and concerted effort and desire to succeed at all costs.

For more information on Zipp wheels at Bespoke Cycling, please contact us here .

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Basque region recce

Posted by Barry Scott

Screen Shot 2017 04 06 At 21.26.20Is this Spain’s best cycling region?


Bespoke Travel has proven a really pleasing success so far. We have all had a blast and its reaffirmed my love for being out on the bike on epic roads.

The perfect recipe for a great trip is to go to an iconic cycling area where we also have some local expertise to assist us with. The aim is not to be ‘Brits on Tour’ but to properly embrace the local culture and heritage of the region. And as a pleasing by-product find the best roads and restaurants that only the locals know……

San Sebastian and the Basque region meet those criteria; epic riding, more Michelin star restaurants per head than anywhere in the world and a local partner in Basque Cycling Travel that we know from our Orbea relationship.

Its very easy to get to San Sebastian as BA fly into Bilbao from Heathrow; 70 min drive to San Sebastian. Biarittz is half the distance but only Ryanair fly there.

San Sebastian is a wealthy town with the regal charm of old money. Even in the Spanish downturn it suffered much less than rest of Spain. This is reflected in property prices; the main beach area (La Concha) is the most expensive area in Spain; more than Barcelona and Madrid.

It’s also home to one of the world’s major film festivals and was a European Capital of Culture in 2016. 

La Concha San Sebastian

I had visited San Sebastian briefly when I came to see Orbea; but only scratched the surface and I was determined to come back and do some proper riding here to recce a future Bespoke Travel trip.

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Photo credit: Antton Miettinen

My guide was Antton a Finn who has lived in Spain for almost 10 yrs, the last 5 being in San Sebastian. He is a proper cyclist and told me he averages 20,000km a year – and with this as your backdoor you can see how…..

Antton does a bit of guiding but his main job is as a Pro Photographer and counts some serious ‘A list’ cycling companies as clients. But being an avid cyclist himself he knows what makes a good shot. All the photos here were shot by Antton. Good aren't they !

When I met him he certainly looked the part; skinny, tanned and with the defined legs that only come from thousands of hours in the saddle.

He was riding a beautiful titanium bike resplendent with SRAM Red eTap a powermeter and Enve carbon tubular wheels. 

“What route do you want to do? Hilly or very hilly?”

 It was at this moment I knew shit was about to get very real.....

We did two days riding; one was a classic Vuelta stage and the other a coast route. Both stunning and very different. The variety of the roads and scenery is astonishing.

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This is not a place to boast about how many kms you have done in a week. Nor to tick off a single big climb in a day and then be done. The climbs here are smaller (c 300-500m vertical gain) but they are relentless. Even on a flat day you will climb 1000m in 100km; that’s simply unavoidable. Its a real issue for the many Pros who live here - what do you do when your coach asks you to do an easy day of active recovery !

You can go crazy here; Antton tells me of a route he and his friends did that is 320km and a scarcely believable 12,000m of climbing (which is 2 and a half Marmottes !!!)

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Photo credit: Antton Miettinen

We started east taking us east through the city and within 15 mins we were into the Aiako Harria National Park. This is a gorgeous area; dense forest and rolling hills as you climb. You need to be careful on the descents as its so rural there are often sheep and cows on the road.

We then climbed 550m Alto de Agin which marks the border into France. It's incredibly quiet up here; hardly any cars, cyclists or people. Just you and your thoughts – just the way I like it.

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Photo credit: Antton Miettinen

The last climb of the day was the iconic Jaizkibel which features so prominently in the Classico San Sebastian one day race. Its an amazing climb; you get onto the ridge and then have stunning views of the coast.

I was borrowing an Orbea Avant Disc, which is their ‘Sportive’ bike. It was nice – certainly comfortable and I never once felt fatigued or achy on the bike. However I am now a total bike snob; and would have loved to be riding the sublime Orbea Orca, which is very light and stiff and climbs beautifully especially on the steep sections (of which there are too many to count!). Alas these bikes were all at a dealer launch. At least I could get my excuses in....

Food

A trip to San Sebastian would not be complete without mentioning the food.
10 mins off the bike you can have had a shower, and be drinking a beer with a huge selection of Pintxos (Basque version of tapas) to choose from. There is a vast choice and you simply help yourself; eating produce that has come from the sea or the hills you have ridden through that day.
For more formal food there are a myriad of good restaurants; there is a culture here that Haute Cuisine should not be exclusive to the rich, and there are many amazing tasting menus for €20.

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On Day 2 we did the Coast route; which in most areas means a flat day. Not here; we ended up doing 1700m in 98 km !

Our first climb was Monte Igueldo which has epic views of the coast and features a ‘Bond Villian’ style hotel. On a clear day you can see as far as Biarritz….

We then crested along a ridge where Stage 3 of Pasi Vasco (Tour of Basque Country) was to come later in the day. There are some savagely steep ramps; which we were grinding up in the 28 – and that’s where the pros attack. This is where David de la Cruz did his race winning move. Watching him dance up the hill bore no similarity to how I felt there earlier in the day !

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Photo credit: Antton Miettinen

We then hugged the coast and passed through Orio, a small whaling harbour which is rumoured was where first fishermen left and found Newfoundland.

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Photo credit: Antton Miettinen

Further up the coast, at Zarautz we stopped for a coffee. The coast is much more rugged here than the protected bay of San Sebastian, and there were lots of surf schools open and little ones braving the cold. They looked like they were having a blast. Everyone is active here !

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The region also boasts world class open rowing; Antton says they take their rowing as seriously as cycling here. The locals must be genetically disposed to big lungs !

Basque Cycling vs Mallorca????

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Photo credit: Antton Miettinen

Having just come back from an amazing week in Mallorca it felt obvious, yet crude, to compare the two.

Mallorca in the sun feels magical. It truly is like Disneyland for cyclists. However the roads (especially the main climbs) can get very busy and the Basque country is miles quieter. There can be sections of 90 mins or so when you don’t see another soul on the road. 

If you had just one day of riding, Mallorca will definitely be the more impressive (for instance there is nothing to compare with the astonishing Sa Collobra). Put it this way, every time I go to Mallorca I call my wife and tell her I need to move Bespoke there.

However the more I rode in the Basque region the more it gone under my skin.

My wife is from Ireland and I often cycle in the Mourne mountains – which is a stunning area; the coast to your left and the mountains to the right. Rugged, hard and honest cycling.

The Basque region is the Mourne’s if it had a bigger, scarier brother.
However the road surface is much better there, and there is very little wind which is surprising given it's bang on the coast.

Being at the foothills of the Pyrennees it has that ‘wildness’ that I love. Its spectacular but also has a bit of menace about it – it’s a hard land, for hardy people. When its sunny its glorious, but if the clouds rolls in off the Atlantic it can completely change its character….

In terms of cycling it’s the sort of place that could break some spirits – there are a lot of short steep hills the locals call ‘leg breakers’. Riding with someone much better than you would be a nightmare here.

Cars (the few that you even see) are so respectful to cyclists – better behaved than anywhere I have ridden. Antton explained that cycling is so integral to the Basque psyche; everyone has a brother, father, friend who races his bike – cycling is part of the landscape.

Basque people are so friendly; just a naturally engaging and warm people. They are also fiercely proud of the region, and very keen to show it off to visitors.

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Photo credit: Antton Miettinen

To answer my initial question: Is this Spain’s best cycling region?

It may well be. For the variety of amazing routes, the accommodating weather (not too hot, not too cold), the long season, empty roads and the regional passion for cycling, the Basque region is hard to beat. On my return to London the first days back were tough; I felt the pull of the region, its rugged beauty, amazing food and friendly people.

I will be back !

DISCOVER BESPOKE TRAVEL HERE

Let's Talk About... Lower Back Pain

Posted by Andrew Hartwell

The second of this mini-series of blog posts on cycling injuries with Charlotte Mead, resident Osteopath with New Body Osteopathy, and Bespoke’s Head of bike Fitting, Ben Hallam focuses on low back pain, how you get it, how to fix it, and how to stop it coming back.
Ben and Charlotte both feel that with any pain arising from cycling, the body and the bike must be adjusted simultaneously to clear the injury and prevent its recurrence. Although a low impact sport, and often the recommended exercise to people with low back pain, cycling can aggravate the low back more common than you think. When Norwegian scientists investigated 116 professional road cyclists and looked at the types of overuse injuries suffered over the previous year, some startling facts emerged: 94 per cent of the cyclists had suffered an overuse injury during that period. Of these, 45 per cent were to the lower back with only 23 per cent to the knees; 58 per cent of all the cyclists had experienced lower-back pain in the previous 12 months. So why does this happen?

Bike fit

“A bike fit needs to be a balancing act between efficiency and sustainability” says Ben. “While a lower, longer position creates less drag, it also puts a greater load on the muscles of the lower back and core. Therefore the front end position needs to be appropriate for 1) your strength, flexibility and core endurance and 2) the duration that you’ll be riding for. A long-distance position needs to sacrifice some aerodynamic efficiency to be able to sustain power output comfortably for the whole ride. A crit racing position can be lower and more aggressive as you only need to sustain it for an hour. Your position should evolve though. As you gain flexibility and strength through treatment and training, the position you can sustain can evolve lower and longer to be more aerodynamically efficient.”
“The saddle is also a crucially important element relating to back pain. If a saddle is too narrow and not supporting you correctly, your pelvis is free to rotate increasing the loading of the structures of the lower back and creating premature muscle fatigue.”

Correct bike set-up is crucial for back health, but in the study on elite cyclists above, they were supervised by national coaches with access to advanced facilities, so incorrect bike fit wouldn’t have been a factor. What else could be going on?

 Fatigue

A recent study showed the more tired cyclists became in their legs, the worse their spinal posture became as they flexed forward and started to splay their knees to recruit other muscle groups to help meet the demand on the legs.

Impaired spinal movement

Another study examined the effects of holding a static bent-forward (flexion) position on the all-important back extensor muscles that help maintain correct posture and stability in the lower back. It concluded that after prolonged periods of static flexion these muscles became less effective at generating the forces required to maintain spinal stability and posture.

This is where an osteopath comes into play. Charlotte would examine your spinal range of movement segment by segment to ensure the spinal column was job-sharing appropriately. She might use manipulation or mobilisation techniques to optimise this job-sharing and unload over-burdened areas in the spine. She would also assess your muscular strength both in the spine and legs and advise additional rehabilitation exercises and stretches as appropriate. She would also take into consideration your previous history – a previous disc injury or major episode of low back pain can leave a legacy – whether that be anatomical changes, or a “tissue memory” of the pain, these issues can be minimised or ironed out with osteopathic treatment.

In Focus… Lower Back & Cycling Biomechanics

Cycling is often thought of as a leg-based exercise. While the primary moving joints are the hips, knees, and ankles - driven by the prime muscles: quadriceps, gluteals, and calves - the upper body is also engaged. There is a pulling motion on the same side arm as the descending leg. The ascending leg requires engagement of the hip flexor muscles to reduce the downward force on the ascending pedal. One of these hip flexor muscles (iliopsoas) is also connected to the lower back.

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To stabilize the hips, 2 main low back muscles, the obliques and quadratus lumborum (QL) are used. They need to engage on the side of the ascending leg to reduce hip tilting and stabilize the lower back. If you are cycling with hips tilting to one side, or tilting side to side, it’s likely that these muscles are not engaging fully or have become fatigued.

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The major leg muscles for cycling are usually very strong and have superb endurance. When the obliques and QL are unable to keep up and start to fatigue, the smaller core muscles start to take the strain, leading to discomfort and ultimately to a muscle strain. Keeping these muscles in good
condition and keeping the low back flexible can help prevent this type of pain and improve your performance.

For more information or advice on any symptoms you may have call 0207 177 0207 or visit www.newbodyosteo.com . To book your Bike Fit call Bespoke Cycling on 0207 7961263 today.

Whats all the fuss about a C60?

Posted by Barry Scott

C60

Ide

Whilst I have tested a lot of Colnago’s over the years (C50, Extreme C, Extreme Power and C60) these tests have been short limited affairs.
I wanted to put some real miles on one so I have ridden this beauty every day for 3 weeks now and feel confident to do a review.

Whats it like? In short its sublime; very stiff, super comfortable and the handling is so precise.

Is it heavy?

Relatively speaking yes. The C60 frame is probably 300-400gms heavier than a modern super light carbon frame. A Parlee is much lighter and has a lifetime warranty, so I don’t buy the argument that a C60 is heavy because light bikes are unsafe or flimsy. A C60 is just heavy because its lugged and has loads of paint on it….
You can buy lighter C60s in the new raw carbon finishes which look great and have proved very popular. However I fell in love with Colnago in the C40 era and those ridiculously OTT paint schemes of the Mapei days.
So art deco it was for me ! I can also confirm that because the lacquer is so thick it holds up to wear and tear so much better than these super light finishes everyone is chasing to hit advertising claims.

But although it weighs more than some competitors it never, ever ‘rode heavy’. In fact the day afyer I got it I did a hilly ride in Kent which featured Toys Hill and Ide Hill. I actually set PB times over both those climbs on the C60. Grated I was just back from Mallorca and feeling good, but the frame will never be the limiter to your climbing.

How does it ride?

The over riding sensation it gives is one of ‘solidness’ – it feels like its being crafted out of oak, not plywood. Dig deep and push the pedals hard and it simply goes. It’s the head tube stiffness is the vest I have ever felt; climbing out of the saddle is a joy.

It definitely feels a Pro bike; you get the strong feeling Ernesto designs these for his Pro clients and us amateurs are secondary to his considerations. Thus if you are very light and or not particularly strong then a C60 might be over built for you. You don’t need all that BB stiffness. However for bigger chaps then the bike is a joy, and the extra 300 gms of frame weight are mostly an irrelevance.

I often put our test Mavic wheels on test bikes. The Mavics are good, but not so good as to distort the bike - put a set of Enves or Lightweights on and you mainly feel the wheel quality. With these you can see the difference in the frames. With Enve 4.5 tubs it became a rocket; on first commute home I set 2 PBs on climbs I have done for years..Img 1941

Stiff as a mutha


Colnago has have joined the press fit 'revolution'. However, they've developed a proprietary system that uses screw-in alloy cups to house the bottom bracket bearings (instead of the ebarings going straight into a carbon BB shell). The Colnago approach is heavier; but it removes any creaking that plagues some bikes -the so called boomerang bikes that (repeatedly)plague workshops up and down the country.

Colnago has have joined the press fit 'revolution'. However, they've developed a proprietary system that uses screw-in alloy cups to house the bottom bracket bearings (instead of the ebarings going straight into a carbon BB shell). The Colnago approach is heavier; but it removes any creaking that plagues some bikes -the so called boomerang bikes that (repeatedly)plague workshops up and down the country.

The Bespoke mechanics love the Colnago approach. A wider BB shell means the down tube can be wider as well; which increases stiffness further. If you look at at a C60 frame closely you will be amazed at the level of tube shaping and manipulation that has taken place.

In the end

Ultimately because I am spoilt rotten, I think there are other frames I would choose if I was doing a truly mountainous Euro sportive; a Parlee Altum or a Bianchi Speciallima does a similarly amazing job at a lighter weight. Something like the Maratona or the  Marmotte is so cruel you need all the help you can get, physiologically if nothing else…
But for almost every other event a C60 would be sublime; any ‘normal’ UK/Euro sportive, club run or something like Flanders. Hit a pothole with a C60 and it will carry on uninterrupted; do the same with some of its competitors and it will be making sounds that leave you convinced you have cracked a down tube


I am so glad Colnago have stuck to their guns and continued making frames their way. Its like the sublime C59, but just better. Its lighter than a C59, stiffer than a C59 but still retaining that ride quality and handling that marks this out as a Grand Tour frame. I am so glad I have my C60 finally; and even happier its as good as the hype 

Welcoming Dave Arthur

Posted by Barry Scott

Am very pleased indeed to welcome Dave Arthur to the Bespoke family, who joins us as 'Features Editor'.  Dave is a seasoned journalist and has Road.cc, Bikemagic.com and RCUK on his palmares. Dave's role here is a jammy one - he gets to test the nicest and newest kit and give his forthright opinions on whether it meets the manufacturers claims.

His first assignment was to come to Mallorca and test the new Bianchi Oltre XR4.  Its a tough job, but someone has to do it......

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Meet the Maker: Orbea

Posted by Andrew Hartwell

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Meet the Maker: Inside Orbea

Orbea is one of the oldest and proudest bicycle brands in the world. We paid them a visit to see inside their factory as well as ride the new Orca race bike

Words and photos: David Arthur

If I was to tell you Orbea started life not as a bicycle company, but as a maker of guns and ammo, you probably wouldn’t believe me. But in 1840, it was indeed the manufacture of arms that first fired up the production line in the Basque company’s headquarters. The switch from destructive machinery to liberators of freedom and sporting conquest didn’t happen until 1930, but in the subsequent 86 years Orbea has carved itself a fine reputation for building some of the best racing bicycles to grace the professional peloton.

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For it is in the pantheon of professional cycle racing that the company has really made its mark and left an indelible mark on the memories of most sporting cyclists. Racing and competition run deep in the veins of the company and its employees and has spearheaded the development of its bikes over the years.

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“Competition has been something extremely important for Orbea since we switch from guns to bikes on 1930s,” explains Orbea’s Press Manager Jokin Diez. “Since that moment we bet for the competition because we think that if something is good for the competition it will be perfect for the final user. Since then, 80 years of Orbea teams in Road, MTB, triathlon.”

Its sponsorship of the legendary Euskaltel-Euskadi professional racing team during the 1990s and 2000s was one of the longest running sporting partnerships in professional cycling, lasting some 20 years and ensuring Orbea would forever be associated with a generation of proud Basque cycling fans.

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“With Euskaltel-Euskadi we started on 1994 and until the end, it was 20 years of partnership, the longest sponsorship on the UCI history,” expands Jokin. “With Iban Mayo we fought with Lance Armstrong on his best days, winning in Luz Ardiden with Samuel Sánchez, having victories like the one of Mikel Nieve and Igor Antón on a great weekend on the Alps on the Giro... And a Gold medal in Beijing! It´s been one of the best teams of all the times! And for sure, it was great for us!”

But it was more than a team and bike sponsor. Basque has a strong sport and cycling culture, the region has produced some very good athletes and Orbea is proud of its roots. And the Euskaltel-Euskadi team came to be a symbol for Basque cycling, projecting its sporting pedigree onto a world stage. There was much race success, some 150 race victories that included stages in each of the Grand Tours. Remember Iban Mayo winning on the fearsome Alpe d’Huez in 2003? Or Samuel Sanchez winning the Beijing 2008 Olympics aboard the company’s iconic Orca race bike? These are just two of many outstanding victories in a long-lasting partnership.

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Success hasn’t just been limited to road racing. A strong presence in the mountain bike world culminated with Julien Absalon, one of the most successful cross-country racers ever, winning Olympic gold in 2008 aboard an Orbea Alma. More recently, professional triathlete Andrew Starykowicz blitzed the Ironman event, setting a record for the bike segment with a time of 4:04:39, all aboard Orbea’s time trial Ordu bike.

From the company’s beginnings as makers of rifles and guns to producing bikes, it is today Spain’s biggest bicycle brand. The company is rather unique in being a co-operative, which means that the 230 employees not only work for Orbea but also own a part of it, once they buy-in after two years of employment. Orbea is actually part of a bigger co-operative called Mondragon, which offers employees financial, educational and medical benefits, as well as logistical advantages to Orbea.

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While far from the biggest bike brands - it makes 190,000 bikes a year - it has been enjoying continued growth over the past few years: its yearly turnover has grown steadily and is on track for nearly €100 million in 2016. Strong sales outside of Spain have contributed to this growth, with demand in France, UK, Germany and the US. Profits have been invested back into the company, a €1 million state-of-the-art paint shop was added to its factory to allow it to paint all its frames in-house, and plans are underway to expand to a bigger facility to accommodate the increasing bikes sales its popularity is generating.

Despite this impressive growth, Orbea is keen to ensure manages the growth to build a sustainable business. While many bike companies are driven solely by profit to the benefit of shareholders, Orbea’s shareholders are its employees so the race for profit has to be tempered by its desire to build a long-lasting brand that remains true to its core values.

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Just how does a small company compete with bigger bike brands when it comes to sporting success and developing new products?

“With effort, and passion, and work, and passion again,” offers Orbea’s Jokin Diez. “We love what we do. We live in an area, Basque Country, that loves cycling, that makes trips to the Pyrenees to see the Tour, that we have the Euskal Herriko Itzulia with the best teams of the world... So, it´s something that it´s in our DNA. We make bikes that makes people happy so it´s easy to make even more efforts to make people happy.”

Orbea once used to manufacture complete bicycles, making not just the frames but also many of the components adorning the bike. These days the majority of its frames are manufactured in the Far East, though it has been moving some aluminium production back to Europe in recent years. Once produced, raw frames are shipped to one of its two European locations; low cost models built in Portugal and higher-end models, including all its carbon frames, to its main facility and company headquarters in Mallabia just outside Bilbao.

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One thing that certainly sets Orbea apart is the fact it paints all its own frames. It combines a state-of-the-art painting production line: raw frames are fed in at one end and robots quickly and precisely apply paint, in a process that is mesmerising to witness; and a conventional manual paint shop for the custom finishes that form part of Orbea’s expanding MyO customisation programme. And the quality of the work is flawless; polished, clean and smooth.

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To meet this challenge to allow such a level of personalisation, Orbea has invested heavily both in the paint facility with a £1million automated paint shop, but also the size of the building, which is currently been increased to cope with the continued growth it has enjoyed in recent years. Bikes are rigorously checked through an 11 point quality control check throughout the process from arrival as raw frames through to the final assembly. The factory also includes Orbea’s own testing facilities where new frames in the development process are put through rigorous stress tests. At the end of the production line in a separate room, bikes are assembled to order on special trollies before being built by skilled mechanics. Throughout the process and tour of the factory, it’s remarkably relaxed. Quiet, too. The atmosphere isn’t one of chaos or pressure, of working against the clock or a unit delivery target as it is at some companies. None of the employees appear under stress to work faster.

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It’s a company of keen cyclists, that much is evident during our visit. Lunchtime roads are common here; a browse of the local roads on Strava reveals many top times are held by employees. The Basque region might not be the first area to roll off the tongue when listing top cycling destinations, but like Flanders or the Alps, it offers some spectacular riding, provided you like climbing. And it’s the perfect place for testing bikes - immediately outside the company’s front door is a stunning 5km climb that snakes through the lush countryside and disappears into the vast expanse of hills that line the landscape in this region.

It’s clearly the ideal testing ground for developing road bikes, a succession of climbs and descents with - as we’re told by Orbea Product Manager Joseba Arizaga, our guide for a short demo ride - very few flat roads. It’s either up or down, nothing in between. We’re riding the brand new 2017 Orca, the company’s flagship race bike. These roads around Orbea’s office go some way to explaining the way the new Orca rides. But first, let’s rewind to 2013, the year the very first Orca was introduced to the world. It’s a pivotal bike in the company’s timeline as it was the first carbon model in its range. The name actually comes from combing the first two letters of ORbea and CArbon: Orca.

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“Orca is Orbea’s Road flagship,” says Jokin Diez. “It was our first carbon production and a really successful bike in terms of sales. So, a new evolution of the bike is a new step ahead to make better something that is already on user´s minds.”

The Orca has evolved and been finessed over the years, from the distinctive frame design of the original to today’s fifth generation incarnation which, with a weight of 790g, is the lightest frame Orbea has ever produced. A big development is an all-new fork, designed to be stiffer and more aerodynamic, but it’s just one component of a bike that is a big step forward for the small but ambitious company.

The new bike is a big step forward, then. The redesign has centred on reducing weight, achieved by the use of simpler tube shapes and a more advanced carbon fibre layup. Sadly it does mean some of the distinctiveness of the original Orca has been phased out. On the plus side, the frame weighs just 790g, which puts it right up there with the lightest frames from the bigger manufacturers. The stiffness and aerodynamics have also been improved, the former via oversized tubes and a PF386 bottom bracket, the latter via a new wide stance fork that reduces turbulent air between fork blades and the wheel.

Orbea Orca M20i Ltd Gris

Make no mistake, the new Orca is a stiff and highly responsive race bike. It accelerates with no delay and changes direction with absolutely no hesitation, but the fast steering demands your absolute and full attention. The geometry on this top-end model has been sharpened and that much is clear from the way it threads a definite line through the sweeping descents that are the reward for the tough climbs. It’s a bike we definitely want to spend more time on, but it’s clear that the performance places the Orca on the same page as the leading rivals from much bigger companies, impressive given Orbea’s modest size and budget.

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Visiting Orbea has been a fascinating and eye-opening experience. It’s clearly a company passionate about making the best bicycles it can to the highest standards possible, and not accepting second best when only the best will do. Though a relatively small company, its size allows it to be agile and responsive to changing market trends, but it is in sticking firmly to its desire to be taken seriously as a pedigree racing brand that has seen it enjoy considerable success over the past couple of decades, and there’s much evidence it’ll be around in another 175 years. But whether it’ll still be making bicycles is another matter…

We’ll let Orbea have the last word.

Each Orbea retains something of our environment, the Basque Country , our mountains, our temperament, our spirit and our momentum. A responsibility to love was born here, and our enthusiasm conquered the world.”

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Bespoke Travel: Mallorca

Posted by Barry Scott

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Bespoke Mallorca 1

This is why we ride our bikes”

Last week we hosted our very first Bespoke Travel trip and we had a blast. Mallorca is a very special place indeed.

The hotel Esplendido lived up to its name; the view from my room is one that will stay with me a long time. Sending updates to wives back home was quite difficult, we had to constantly downplay how nice it all was!

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I went out for two days beforehand to work with Dan Marsh who was to be our man on the ground. Dan runs Marsh-Mallows.com and has lived in Mallorca for 8 years. He runs a simply fantastic operation. Our lead guide was Joan Horrach who was a Pro for 15 yrs (latterly with Katusha). He is a ridiculously good rider (you have to be to win a stage at the Giro) but an even funnier person. Needless to say, he has swearing in English down to an art form….

Bespoke Mallorca 15Juan snapping the elastic

I was quite worried about this trip – I kept checking the weather forecasts in the lead up to it, and was also concerned the dynamic of the group would not be right and people (for some reason) would not get on. Nothing could have been further from the truth, and everyone had a blast. I think that's the beauty of Bespoke being as focused as it is - our clientele are a fairly specific cohort, and you will meet like minded souls. Ride hard, don't take yourself too seriously, enjoy good food, like your wine, sleep and repeat !

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I need to dramatically improve my sock game...

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Parlee Z Zero, ENVE tubs... bliss!

Wednesday was a shake-down ride where we made sure bikes were all in order and had a little 30 mile spin. As we unpacked the bikes you could see Juan the mechanics eyes widen - there was some serious bling on display ! We almost had a disaster before the start when one of the guests had not packed his eTap battery. Luckily Juan knew a man who knew a man and he went off to get a battery somewhere on the island. By the time we had had lunch the problem was resolved and a crisis had been calmly diverted. Juan also drove the team van for a week which was a fantastic luxury - having an ice cold Coke waiting for you at the top of a climb is something I could get used to! It also meant that we could put any warm clothes in the van, so kept our pockets nice and clear.

Ride 1

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Thursday was the first proper day's riding, covering 70 miles and 6000ft of elevation. The weather was also unseasonably hot – around 28 degrees which was fantastic at the time, but I now have a terrible case of panda eyes (when sunglasses protect your eyes but the rest of your face gets tanned).

“One of the best days I have ever had on a bike”

Ride 2

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Friday was titled the ‘Queen Stage’ and we did Puig Major and Sa Calobra. Sa Calobra is the most amazing climb I have ever done, the road snakes down to the sea in the most amazing of ways….

I had done this climb on my own on Tuesday but on Friday I got to do it being paced up by Joan. That will be a total highlight of the trip for me, a Grand Tour stage winner acting as a Domestique for a knacker like me is an experience one very rarely will get in life. Only downsides to riding with a Pro is when he would say on the less steep section “it's flat here, now we gain time” and click down two gears and expect you to keep up. Unfortunately one of our riders suffered a bad crash on the descent to Sa Calobra. Fortunately with the van supporting us, he was in it and off for a trip to hospital immediately with a suspected broken collarbone. Had we been riding unsupported, getting him medical treatment would have taken hours longer. Whilst his cycling trip was over, to his enormous credit he remained the life and soul at dinner every night. He has already said he will come back with us next year as he is 'unfinished business' on the island...

Ride 3

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At the top of Col du Soller. I am knackered and have my top undone - for Juan this was a base ride and he is still in arm-warmers !!

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Saturday was the last proper day's riding and by now people were feeling it in the legs. We did my favourite climb the Col du Soller from both sides and then also Randa which is a monastery in the middle of Mallorca which has 360 degree views of the whole island. It was also nice to get some flat sections after all that climbing.....

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Ride 4

Sunday was our last day and a 40 mile ride up along the coast and then back up Soller. Even though everyone’s legs were sore it was amazing to see the improvement in people’s riding from Wednesday. Even in 5 days the jump was remarkable. You really do ‘find your legs’….

Ride 5

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The food on the trip was amazing – from the breakfast buffet to the sandwich stops in the sun, to cake stops and then dinner out by the marina.

On Sunday we had a celebratory paella looking at the sea and all made plans to do this same trip next year! Thanks to Dan, Juan, Juan, Dave, Bertie, Steffen, Paul, Dave, Allan and James who all helped make this trip so special.

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Selflessly product testing some (amazing) Q36.5 clothing in the Spanish sunshine. Amazing how punchy colours work better in the sun! The great thing about this trip was I could (semi) justify this as a week of product testing. So it was not a holiday  - I was working, honest.

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Breakfast of champions

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If our upcoming Cote d'Azure trip is anywhere near as good as this one we will be very lucky indeed !