Zipp 302s

Posted by Andrew Hartwell

Zipp 1No dimples on Zipp’s new 302 wheels

We’ve always been fans of Zipp wheels here at Bespoke Cycling. Founded in 1988, the company has been a pioneer and innovator in the carbon fibre wheel market. Of all its advances, it’s the iconic golf ball-inspired dimples that it is most famous for. But its newly launched 302 loses the dimples to provide its most affordable carbon clincher wheel to date.

The new 302, available in rim or disc brake version, is a carbon clincher wheelset that makes Zipp ownership much more affordable, with a price tag of £1,299, which is a lot lower than a 303 or 404 costs. It is still made in the US at the company’s Indianapolis factory so the quality should be just as high as we’re used to from its other wheel models.

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The rim is 45mm deep and 26.5mm wide, with a profile broadly similar, but not identical, to the 303, a seriously good wheel for all-round use, and the one that conquered Paris-Roubaix, as you can read about here. But there the similarities end. The biggest change is the smooth rim surface. There are no dimples on Zipp’s new 302 wheelset.

Dimples have been a key design feature, and selling point, of Zipp wheels since they were first introduced on the 404 in 2004. According to Zipp, the dimples are essential to controlling how the airflow attaches, flow across and detaches from the rim profile, ultimately contributing to lower drag.

Does this mean Zipp’s new 302 wheels means they must be slower than the 303 wheels?

“Depending on the conditions, yaw angle and rider style, a 303 wheel will be on average 2 – 3 watts faster than 302. It is the rim shape more than the dimples that makes 303 Firecrest faster than 302,” said Zipp in answer to our question.

“Our goal with the 302 is to offer the performance of Zipp Carbon Clincher wheels at a great value. We had to give up on some features. We made the decision to prioritise the features that cyclists value from Zipp: aero performance, ride quality and reliability. Zipp Carbon Clinchers are known for impeccable heat management, which 302 will offer; whereas this is typically the weakness of other wheels at this price point,” Zipp added.

Dimples on golf balls are designed to increase lift and reduce drag, helping golfers to hit balls further since the 1930s. After some motor racing manufacturers dabbled with dimpled surfaces, Zipp embraced the concept and spent time and money developing its now iconic rim surface, putting them through constant wind-tunnel testing.

The dimples are patented to Zipp and it has developed a special moulding process in the US to manufacture the rims. The shape, depth and orientation of the dimples are design to keep the airflow attached to the rim for longer by forming a turbulent boundary layer near the surface of the rim.

But to keep manufacturing costs down, Zipp has developed new moulding tools that dispense with the dimples to make production more cost-effective. “ It is a lot easier and more efficient to create a smooth tool than a dimpled one and this affects the cost of the rim,” says Zipp.

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Here at Bespoke Cycling we’re passionate about providing the best products for all our customers. We also know that top-end carbon wheels are very expensive, for many good reasons, but there’s a growing market of affordable carbon wheels. Zipp has a strong brand name and recognition and we expect the new 302 to be a popular addition to its range.

Pas Normal Studios: Essential Collection

Posted by Andrew Hartwell

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The Essential line is an entirely new initiative in the Pas Normal Studios universe, focusing on a endurance-based fit while featuring some of the key technical features of our other designs. The collection is built with a slightly more relaxed fit for longer and more casual style riding.

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The Essential line has a high-end feel due to the fully dyed main fabrics and features a mixture of highly stretchable and breathable garments for superior comfort and ride quality.

In short, the Essential gives you the option of a less race-style cut, but with a distinct Pas Normal Studios look and feel.

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The Essential jersey is a durable and soft jersey cut like a tailored garment for a superior comfortable fit. The jersey has a high-end feel due to the fully dyed main fabric and mixture of highly stretchable and breathable fabrics. Ideal for leisure rides or long sportives, matching bibs are also available.

  • Polyester Blend
  • Highly breathable side panels
  • Fully dyed main fabric
  • Perforated sleves
  • Low moisture absorption and quick drying
  • Zippered side pocket with protected insert
  • Made in Italy

click here to shop pas normal studios

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Trek Domane RSL: First Impressions

Posted by Barry Scott

Trek Domane Rsl 2

Month 1: Getting to know each other

One of the very best bikes I rode over the last two years was the original Domane RSL, so when the newest version came out I was keen to try it. From memory the Domane does not blow you away on an initial ride, rather it takes a while to get under your skin but the more you ride it the more you appreciate its qualities.

RSL stands for Race Shop Limited and is a model developed for Trek’s World Tour team. UCI rules mean that the bikes Pros ride have to be available to us mortals – as such it's low, stiff, aggressive and fast !
This is a limited run bike – and a very special one at that.

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You can see why the Domane has been so successful in the UK. What was designed as a bike for the classics is really code for a bike designed for rubbish roads, and we fit that bill in the UK. The ability to easily take 28mm tyres (32mm as stock on the disc version) is a massive advantage; bigger tyres mean a smoother ride, give more traction and will puncture less.

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In 2016 the Domane was updated and the rear IsoSpeed technology (in effect a de-coupler) now has a slider so you can adjust the settings – apparently you can make it as stiff as an Emonda or 30% more compliant than the previous Domane.
I must admit – I am not a tinkerer, and hate the choice as I am always convinced my spec will be the wrong one!
So I have left it pretty stiff so far: it's meant to be a race bike right?

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The biggest change to Domane Mk 2 has been the fact that the IsoSpeed has now been brought to the front end of the bike as well.
I think it works, but its hard to tell, especially as this bike has massive 28mm tubulars on and these really cushion the ride feel already.

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The Spec:

This is a £10,500 super bike, and as such it has all the best toys.

The aim is to run this bike for 4 months and do some proper testing on it. This is also a great chance to play with the new Di2 9150. I used to be a massive Di2 fan, but have increasingly [re] fallen in love with the purity of Dura Ace mechanical. So this will be a great test of how electronic groupsets have moved on…

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The wheels are Aelous D5 tubulars; light, stiff and aero. What more do you need?

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Saddle – normally I ride the Fizik Antares; but this shape seems quite similar.

First impressions:

On the limited riding I have done so far, this is another cracker from the RSL family. It feels very stiff when needed, but also much more compliant than most bikes on the Kent roads I train on.

New Di2 is a joy. The ability to drop down multiple gears is a welcome addition. The whole thing just seems crisp.

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I love the geometry as well. The RSL has what's called ‘Pro Endurance’ geometry which is very aggressive. The bike also has a much more level top tube than the standard geometry Domane. I think it looks cool. And its red – there are not enough red bikes out there. If you ride this bike, people will stop and look at you, so you need to get used to that !

I have a triathlon next week, so have done most of my riding on my TT bike recently. Once that’s out of the way it's back to a road riding focus and the Domane SLR will be my weapon of choice. Looking forward to it immensely!

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See more photos on the Build Gallery. Please contact us for more details on the Domane RSL

Solitude: New Drop From Pas Normal Studios

Posted by Andrew Hartwell

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“We are fascinated by the rides we do alone. They are intimate journeys we long to do in the heat of those never ending summer days. Our Solitude collection pays tribute to this type of riding and we wanted the colors and the fabrics to add an individual element to a more vibrant look for this season”

 - Karl Oskar Olsen, Artistic Director at Pas Normal Studios.

Latest drop from Pas Normal Studios is now in available in store. New Solitude jerseys, bibs and accessories with some great colours.

click here to shop pas normal studios

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Reviewed: Kask Protone Helmet

Posted by Andrew Hartwell

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The choice of Team Sky offers aerodynamics, ventilation and comfort in a smart looking package.

Words: Dave Arthur

In a market saturated with choice, choosing a cycling helmet is no easy task. Since the UCI made helmets compulsory in 2003, replacing the leather hairnets and casquettes that came before them, the number of helmets on the market has exploded. Today there are hundreds to choose from, but why settle for second best when you can have the best. That’s why Bespoke Cycling is proud to stock the Kask Protone, the helmet of choice for the most successful professional cycling team in recent years, Team Sky.

Helmets have gone beyond being merely just safety products. Of course safety is the first and last main job of a helmet, it’s the principle reason for wearing one, but they’ve taken on so many other considerations over the years. They’ve gotten lighter, better ventilated and more comfortable. Better looking too. But the most recent development has been a push towards improved aerodynamics, for aero is the biggest driving force in top level cycling right now.

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Reducing drag is of course desirable but the challenge in producing an aero helmet is ensuring comfort, ventilation, and weight aren’t compromised in the pursuit of low drag. Early aero helmets might have produced good results in a wind-tunnel but left us sweaty and overheating on the road. This is where the Protone hits the sweet spot, balancing all those requirements whilst being more aerodynamic than a regular helmet.

Aerodynamic design has informed every aspect of the Protone. Kask worked with Team Sky to develop the Protone, utilising computational fluid dynamics modelling software backed up with wind-tunnel testing and thermodynamic analysis to ensure that every curve and vent was designed to massage airflow over its surface. From the front it looks like a conventional vented helmet with its massive openings, but around the back it’s smooth and rounded, to manage the airflow as it runs over the helmet. The result of this development is that Kask claims it has the lowest drag coefficient of any ventilated helmet and is also the best at dissipating heat as well.

Kask Protone A

Whilst being slippery in a wind-tunnel is undoubtedly a good thing, Kask has sought to develop a helmet that is fast in the real-world and through a wide range of head positions. Kask took into account the riders’ posture on the bike and accounted the for the many variances in rider position. So whether you’ve got your head down in the drops, staring at the stem doing your best Froomey impression, or riding along on the tops, the Protone is designed to be aerodynamic. Kask has even considered the drag consequence of slotting eyewear upside-down into the front vents of the helmet. That’s attention to detail.

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Some aero helmets can leave you in a hot sweaty mess the moment the mercury or gradient shoots up. Kask has produced a helmet that doesn’t compromise ventilation in the pursuit of aerodynamics. We’ve tested it over hours of riding in different climates and scenarios, and can confidently say it keeps you cooler than most other aero helmets. At high speeds the large front vents noticeably pull in buckets of cooling air to reduce heat buildup, making it a great choice for road racing. During long mountain climbs we noticed less heat buildup wearing the Protone than other helmets too, ideal for tackling the Marmotte or L’Etape du Tour.

It’s all very well having the lightest, most aerodynamically efficient and highly ventilated helmet if it isn’t comfortable. Fortunately, Kask ensured the comfort of the Protone is equal to its performance in other departments. The result, it’s one of the most comfortable helmets we’ve used. The comfort is aided by generously cushioned pads where the helmet contacts the scalp. The retention system (Octo Fit Kask calls it) is smartly designed and can be adjusted vertically which means you can get the two large cradling brackets to comfortably snug the back of your head. A small rotary dial permits easy adjustment on the move but I found the fit of the helmet so good and the retention system well placed so only a few turns of the dial were needed to keep the helmet from moving about.

The side straps continue the comfort theme. They’re thin and narrow and soft next to the skin, and a synthetic leather chin strap ups the comfort furthermore. We like that the buckle is positioned off-centre alongside your face rather than right under your chin. There’s no irritation from straps when you’re 6-hours into a sweaty gruelling ride. The Protone does the best job of virtually disappearing once you’ve clipped it into place. Ensuring it’s a suitable helmet for everyday use, the padding can be easily removed and washed.

Kask Protone 5a

So the Protone combines impressive aerodynamics, excellent ventilation and high comfort into a helmet that is sleek and stylish. Even without Team Sky’s endorsement, it’s a top level helmet that we’re happy to wear on a daily basis.

The Kask Protone is available at all Bespoke stores and is a firm staff favourite. Please contact us for further details.

Bespoke Travel: Cote d'Azur

Posted by Barry Scott

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We recently had our second Bespoke Travel trip. And didn’t we have fun!

Unfortunately skiing accidents took out two members of the party before they could even come; so there were only six riders for the two guides to look after. And look after us they did; everyone returned safe, tanned and with some serious work in their legs.

Nice by name, epic by nature

I always thought that Pros lived in Monaco for tax reasons. That may help, but the main reason is the truly epic riding that is on your doorstep.

Whilst not as big as the true monsters of the Alps proper, there are literally dozens of 1000m+ climbs, and because you start near sea-level the vertical gain is considerable.

This area has vast wealth – when we were cycling we could see Roman Abromovich’s yacht (all 150m of it) moored at sea, dwarfing all around it.

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This the harbour, where the small boats are kept. The big boys all have their boats out at sea...

At lunch one day we saw a four people run up an €1800 lunch tab, aided by fact that the chef was instructed to cook a huge steak for the guest’s young puppy…

Our hotel was the lovely Eze Hermitage, which was a great base and provided suitable glamour. It also had bonus points for being at 500m, which meant you had a last climb of the day to get there - the beer tasted even sweeter...


Our hotel for the trip, the Eze Hermitage. This isn't even a promotional shot...

Day 1; 51km - 1047m up Col de St Pancrace from the Nice


The guests arrived at noon on Day 1 and after a quick bite to eat we went for a shakedown ride of 50km. The previous day I had ridden the area and it was actually quite cold, especially when the wind picked up. Fortunately the weather improved as soon as the guests landed, and we had clear skies for 3 days.

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At the end of the ride Jon and I nipped down to Nice for a cheeky cocktail by the sea. Bliss.

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Riding should always be rewarding...

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Day 2


This  was the first proper day, and it was a cracker.

2300m of climbing was squeezed into  a mere 90km. The first climb of the day was described as ‘undulating’ by Chris the guide – this became an in-joke for the rest of the trip, especially as sections of it were north of 12%!

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On the way back we did the Madone from the easy side. As we were getting our picture taken, Chris Froome and Richie Porte ascended from the difficult side (which we were to do on Sunday). It was all very surreal. Fortunately his descending skills are not a patch on ours (!) and we managed to grab him for a quick picture. A very cool end to a mega day. Notice he is in full winter kit: I guess ascending an HC climb does not get much of a sweat up when you are the greatest Tour rider of your generation...

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Can you spot the Pro?

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Day 3; 140km and 2300m climbing


This was my favourite day. The weather was just perfect again and we were getting into the swing of the camp: Ride, eat, drink, sleep and repeat...

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We started with a 30km flat ride through Nice, passing the biggest collection of private jets I have ever seen – there must have been more than 100 of them.

The big climb of the day was Col du Vence, which is 9.7km long at 6.7%

This is a climb Pros use early in the season as it's south facing so gets the sun, meaning the descent is safe from ice. It also means when the weather improves it gets very hot. I certainly felt it – it was very hot for 11am! The scenery to the west of Nice is very different to the east. Much more barren and exposed, but fantastic views.

Col De Vence Cycle Route Vence 539

Ceci n'est pas Box Hill...

An even better climb was the 'climb with no name', simply a 6km ascent at 5% gradient. Everyone loved this one. It had a great road surface and you could power through it if you felt so inclined. We had lunch at the top,  life was good.

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Obligatory Parlee portrait.

We then did this fantastic 40km descent down through a gorge. Smashing down doing 50kmh average is something I will treasure for a long time.
‘Big Adam’ was designed for this, being 6’5” and an ex rower, he has a massive engine. There was always a fight to get his wheel. If you could do it you would half your workload.

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After a reverse pootle through Nice we had the last climb of the day to our hotel, the Col d’Eze. This is the clinb they do in Paris-Nice. It’s a lovely climb, at 10km long with an average of 5%, but most of this gain is at the bottom. The last 2km are very gentle and you are in the big ring trying to get as quick a time as you can.

Day 4 55km 1400m Ascent


Our last day, and we were all knackered. Hard riding, too much to drink the night before and not enough sleep was beginning to catch up with us all.

Unfortunately today was not to be a recovery pootle, but instead we were to tackle the iconic Madone (made famous by Lance Armstrong using it as his pre-Tour testing climb). Unlike the preceding three days the weather was not so kind – plenty of wind and some dark clouds greeted us.

I was dreading the Madone; I had heard it was difficult as the gradient constantly changed, and I simply did not feel up for it at all. However, two double espressos at the base of the climb and my mood had improved no end…

There are a number of different starting points for the Madone, so it's very hard to compare times with Pros as they guard their times and wattage closely. Its length varies from 9 to 14km depending on where you start, with an average of 7% and some cheeky 12% ramps.

The climb itself is fantastic. There is something truly magical about knowing these are the roads that the cycling gods have ridden for decades.

I rode the climb with our guide Adam, and it was great to share the workload with him (especially as the top sections are exposed). We were certainly shifting. He'd smashed this climb as a recce in 42 mins, and today, on shot legs, we did 36 mins. I am now fascinated by the Madone. I want to come back with fresh legs, and having ridden it I know where you can dig deeper and where you can recover...

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Once we regrouped at the top we flew back home as a huge train of riders. Everyone buried themselves on the long drag home. We all wanted to leave it all out on the road.

I absolutely adored the area. I'd thought it was going to be the playground of billionaires. The reality is once you cycle 10km away from Nice you are in a cycling mecca: Great roads, plenty of sun, and climbs galore. I would buy a house here in a heart-beat!

Bespoke Cote d'Azur anyone?

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Bianchi Oltre XR4 review

Posted by Barry Scott

Words by David Arthur, Features Editor

14114855 1093193040775012 3800531593289919705 OFew bike brands are as iconic as Bianchi. Bespoke Cycling took to Mallorca to ride the new Oltre XR4, an all-new bike with aerodynamic enhancements and bump-absorbing CounterVail technology. Can you combine comfort and aerodynamics?

An iconic brand was born

From the celeste paint to the silver coat of arms head badge, there are brands none more iconic or evocative of cycling’s rich tapestry of history than Bianchi. An Italian bicycle brand born at the dawn of cycling, Edoardo Bianchi formed the company bearing his name in 1885 when he started a workshop in Milanese, in north western Italy.

Despite impoverished and orphaned beginnings, young Edoardo founded Bianchi when he was just 21-years-old, and it wasn’t long before he was producing thousands of bicycles built to the highest standard. He was quick to embrace some of the latest designs and technologies, and in 1939 was an early adopter of the then revolutionary Campagnolo rear derailleur, which allowed gear changes to be made on the move.

This pioneering embrace of modern bicycle design has been a constant through the company’s long history, and has ensured cycling’s oldest bicycle company is still in business today. But it’s arguably a close partnership with some of cycling’s most storied racing cyclists - Jan Ullrich, Marco Pantani, Fausto Coppi - that have contributed to Bianchi’s continued success and cemented its legacy as one of the most iconic brands in cycling. To many people, Bianchi is cycling.

While Bianchi does embrace its history, it still has a sharp focus on the latest technology advancements to ensure it’s at the cutting edge of bicycle design. The past two decades have seen an unprecedented pace of development, the introduction of once space age materials, ever lighter frames and a focus on aerodynamics.

And so we arrive at the Oltre XR4, the very latest and most advanced bike that Bianchi has ever produced. Combining an aerodynamically shaped frame and fork with the Countervail Carbon Vibration Cancelling Technology first introduced on its Infinito CV, Bianchi hopes to offer a winning combination of performance and comfort.

Bianchi Oltre Xr4 © Matteocappe 3

Bianchi produces the frame by integrating a viscoelastic material into the carbon fibre layup in a closely guarded production process developed by NASA. It says this CounterVail drastically improves comfort and reduces fatigue when riding in an aero position and contributes to an enhanced performance, as much as an 80% reduction of vibration compared to a regular carbon frame. It heralds a promise for a smoother ride than other conventional carbon fibre race bikes.

Aerodynamics has been the biggest charge in bicycle design over the past few years. To produce a more slippery frame, to reduce drag, Bianchi has refined the shape and curvature of every tube in the frame, bowed the fork blades away from the wheel, routed the cables inside the frame and integrated the seat clamp and fitted an aero seat post. All these changes amount to a 20 watt saving compared to the previous Oltre according to Bianchi.

Yet despite such state-of-the-art developments, Bianchi has managed to produce a bike that, in my eyes at least, looks absolutely stunning. Many aerodynamic bikes are a triumph for function over form. The Bianchi designers have managed to ensure that form has an equal footing to function. It’s a carefully balanced aesthetic. Plus it looks fast. Fast even while stationary outside the shop.

But how does it ride?

My first taste of the Oltre XR4 came with a ride around my local Cotswolds country lanes, the rolling hills an ideal opportunity to get familiar with the Bianchi. With my position and fit dialled in on the 57cm test bike the bike felt comfortable with that familiar feel of a race bike, the long reach to the low handlebars providing an aero stance that maximises speed.

Before I could ride off into the sunset imagining I was Coppi or Pantani, it was time to box the bike up and fly out to Mallorca for the inaugural Bespoke Cycling holiday. Like Bianchi, Mallorca needs little introduction. A cyclist’s paradise with a fantastic mix of roads set to a beautiful backdrop, an aqua blue sea rolling up against the sun-bleached beaches and cliffs, and properly challenging climbs such as Sa Colobra and Puig Major to work up a sweat.

The roads, climbs and descents of Mallorca couldn’t have been a better place to test the Oltre XR4 and put it through its paces. Some 440km and 7678m of climbing in five days with a good mix of buttery smooth road surfaces, a few rough patches and some long mountain climbs and thrilling descents, let me really get under the skin of the Bianchi.

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And get under my skin the Oltre XR4 did. My first introduction to Mallorca’s climbs was the Coll de Soller, a 7.3km climb with a 6% average gradient, not the hardest climb on the island but a good one to start with. An easy spin out from the luxurious hotel on the beachfront at Port de Soller with the other guests led us to the foot of Coll de Soller, and I soon found myself being paced up the ascent by Bespoke’s Barry Scott and ex-pro Joan Horrach, who did as all ex-pros do and made it look so easy.

The hairpins were quickly ticked off. Through them, the Oltre XR4 felt fast and efficient, the stiff frame easily apparent when lifting my body out of the saddle and sprinting through the tight turns. The road surface is broken and rough in many places, especially under the dense cover of the trees, but the Oltre XR4 soaked up the vibrations well, leaving me with more energy and composure to concentrate on the task of trying (and ultimately failing) to keep up with my two very fast pace setters.

Cresting the summit, a quick regroup and a topping of water bottles from the support van, and it was into the descent and another chance for the Oltre XR4 to impress. And impress it did. My focus switched from power output to carving turns at high speed. Here the Bianchi proved to be a sharp and direct descender. It turns into corners precisely and it’s solidly stable in a straight line at high speed.

What of the CounterVail? It certainly works. Sure, the Oltre XR4 still has that unmistakeable race bike feel to its reactions, but when you need it, such as encountering a bad patch of tarmac halfway through a hairpin turn, the frame soaks up the impacts, keeping the tyres planted on the road surface and your attention fully focused on the line ahead.

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It’s no sofa but it does filter out much of the unnecessary feedback from the road surface, whilst still ensuring a sense of connection to what is passing underneath the tyres so you can gauge the grip levels on various road surfaces. It doesn’t isolate you, it feels firm without being overly stiff. Perhaps it’s not as hardcore as some other high-end race bikes, but I finished every ride feeling relatively fresh.

There are good roads on Mallorca for really stretching the Oltre’s legs and putting its aerodynamics to use. And boy is it fast. This is no scientific test but there’s no denying the Oltre XR4 offers genuine high pace and it’s relatively easy to tap into this pace, thanks to the smoothness the CounterVail gifts the bike.

Get out of the narrow lanes that weave through orange groves and out onto faster roads and you can push the Bianchi hard. And it responds willingly. The speed rockets up, the aero frame and fork smoothing airflow to reduce drag and produce impressive momentum at higher speeds. Hold onto the speed as the lactic acid builds and unleash a sprint and the Oltre XR4 rises to the demands. This is a bike that likes to be ridden quickly.

It does everything you could ask of it supremely well. Dynamic handling, instinctive responses, controlled, stable and planted at all speeds. It might have all the race credentials to cut it at the sharp end of a race, but it’s an approachable and manageable bike at more modest speeds, thanks to the well honed geometry and CounterVail smoothness. There’s great steering feel, it’s responsive and nicely weighted without being too lively. And because the handling feels so intuitive and natural you’re more inclined to unleash its performance whenever you feel like it. The Oltre XR4 is a bike to be enjoyed.


For years the measure of a good performance road race bike was how stiff and light it was. While stiffness is desirable in a testing laboratory, the real world serves up a multitude of road surfaces where an overly stiff bike can be taxing and hard work. The latest push has been for aero bikes that also offer a compliant ride. Trek has done the same with its Madone and Bianchi has been similarly inspired with its Oltre XR4.

By injecting the Oltre XR4 with its CounterVail technology it has managed to produce a bike that lacks nothing in the speed department, but manages to remove much of the harshness that can lead to a hard and fatiguing ride. It offers a compliant ride that cushions you from the most severe vibrations without removing the responsive and direct handling that is key to a race bike, and leaves you feeling fresher for longer.

The challenge for Bianchi is to ply its heritage whilst also harnessing the latest technologies and combing these two elements into a cohesive package that can excite discerning cyclists and newcomers to the sport alike. The new Oltre XR4 manages this balance well, fusing the latest aerodynamic design and its CounterVail technology without ruining the aesthetics and providing outstanding performance and ride quality. It’s a thrilling and enjoyable ride.

Bianchi’s new flagship is as desirable and rewarding as any other high-end road bike puts it right alongside other premium bike models.

Buy it at Bespoke Cycling

The Bianchi Oltre XR4 demo bike was equipped with Shimano Ultegra Di2 with Fulcrum Racing Zero wheels and Rotor INpower crank-based power meter. Thanks to Bianchi for the loan of the bike.

The Oltre XR4 frameset costs £3,399 and custom colour options an extra £450, available from Bespoke Cycling now.

ENVE 4.5 wheel review

Posted by Barry Scott

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In a word, these are FAST.

I have ridden these wheels for a month now – in Surrey, Kent, the Dordogne and the Cote d'Azure. Lots of different types of riding, with different road surfaces and different terrain. The wheels were flawless throughout. They are obviously fantastic on the flat, but even on rolling terrain they carry speed so well.

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They are so stiff and direct that they are not the sort of wheel you take if you are going for a pootle…..they are way too direct for that. On really steep stuff, they also feel heavier, unsurprisingly, than real climbing wheels such as the ENVE 2.2's which I am also lucky enough to have.
As a consequence sometimes they don’t ‘feel’ that quick – but the results (and by that I mean Strava !) don’t lie. These are very, very fast.

Personally I still feel that for most people the ENVE 3.4 is the best compromise of them all – almost as light as the 2.2 and almost as aero as the 4.5s. We certainly sell miles more 3.4s than the other variants combined.

But if you are a strong rider and can push big watts and are looking for the quickest road wheels on the market I would highly recommend the 4.5s.

Call in or email us about the best ENVE wheels for your riding.

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

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.


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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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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 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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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.

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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