Winter Miles

Iv been pretty spoilt for weather and riding this past few weeks, with some really mild winter days making for some fabulous base mileage, pootling about before the intensity work begins in Feb! I had the pleasure of riding with Portland’s finest, mister Jeremy Dunn himself, as well as joining some cool people to rack up those important conversational paced rides…. long may the mildness continue, if I ever thought to myself id be riding in mitts in January id have thought that was barmy! Hope everyone is enjoying their January…

Nothing nicer than riding with a cycling newbie, biggup Jezza!
 Loving Prendas white oversocks, so PRO
 Suited, booted and not a cloud in the sky. Glorious!
 Portlands daddio of cool, J-Dunn himself. Was a pleasure to chase the tarmac with you man!
Putting in the base miles, couldn’t be happier right now!


Wow. Im sure everyone felt as awful as I did watching yesterdays events unfold at the tour. To see Flecha and Hoogerland cast across the road like ragdolls left me with an awful lurching feeling in my stomach. These guys turn themselves inside out for the love of the sport – day in, day out.
The men, whether they like it or not, through their brave actions become heroes to everyone who consumes the races – the fan that emulates them on every backyard climb, or the daydreaming office worker, lost in though of battling one of these giants of the road for the finish line.
We care and we love these strongmen, applauding their most courageous acts and appreciating the style and panache they execute their craft with.
Watching the below video of Hoogerland really resonated with me, I saw a vulnerable young and BRAVE man, and what a man he is. Awarded the combativity prize after Flecha refused it as a gesture, and also the KOM jersey, he can take a small amount of comfort in the fact he was amazing. To remount and finish the stage after that crash was spectacular. Well done Johnny, and rest up today.

Compression – Prendas Ciclisimo Style

Over the past week or two, bianchista HQ has been testing out some of those rather curious looking compression socks from the very lovely Prendas boys. 
Im sure many of you have noticed the rather in vogue trend of wearing special recovery garments post ride, usually in the guise of knee length socks or full length tights. Many claims are staked by manufacturers of said garments….. improvement in recovery, injury prevention and even improvements in output. But is it to be believed, or is it simply a case of marketing hype and merely a passing fad to which we will all look back upon with a wry smile in a few years time?
The Prendas socks are constructed from a mix of the fabulously space age sounding Lycra Energy and Skinlife Meryl fabrics, and come in black, with a comfy padded heel and toe area, making them very comfortable indeed for a post ride laze on the couch. The theory behind the socks is the tightness they fit with. Its this feature that provides the graduated compression, that in layman’s terms, pushes the blood back to the heart and helps flush lactic away from tired calves. 

I wore the socks after various rides, between 2-5 hours. I was initially sceptical of the claims, but as soon as I was home, I drank my usual protein drink and then pulled on the funny looking socks, reminiscent of something from my high school PE lessons. I tried to keep them on as long as I could, on a couple of occasions even popping them back after a bath and sleeping in them.
After the first session of wearing the socks (after a 4 hour Surrey ride) I was very impressed. I’m not sure if the effect was psychological, but my legs definitely felt lighter and fresher than when I do my usual big ride and crash out without the socks. I noticed about a 40-50% reduction in how tired my legs would normally feel, and I was able to get out on the bike the next day go just as hard. I wore the socks after a week of riding in the park every day prior to work, with some sessions being hard interval rides, that edge I felt the socks gave me was so very welcome indeed. The socks can be worn inconspicuously under work attire, meaning when sat at the desk they can get to work and reinvigorate knackered legs.  

Once again Prendas manage to smash through the value for money barrier, offering the socks for a shade under £15, great considering other compression specialising manufacturers are whacking a tenner on top of that price. I was also impressed at their sizes, with two different calf sizes available to ensure the right compression is yielded. 

For the price of £15 I would highly recommend these socks. Whilst the subtle edge that I felt they gave me could even be explained away as a placebo effect, for the price offered, they are definitely worth a punt. So many pro riders are pictured wearing the socks post racing, that anything the pro’s do for an edge must have some sort of reasoning behind it! Il leave you with a pretty good endorsement of the product from champion cyclo-crosser Helen Wyman post Koppenberg win….

Prendas Compression socks are available in various sizes at £14.95

Multipower Sports Nutrition

Iv lost track of how many wonderfully coloured and diverse flavoured energy products I have tried over the years. Various industrial looking tubs full of wonderfully multicoloured potions and labelled with claims basically promising to turn me into a lean, mean pedalling machine.
Now, I will have to confess to being an incredibly fussy eater, and even more so when it comes to sports nutrition products. I could probably count on once hand the amount of products I have tried and can get on with on a regular basis. I think the problem is a lot of them are made so synthetically that they often end up with the consistency akin to chalk sweepings off the factory floor, coupled with a nice injection of E-number 007 to enhance the subtle undertones of Cillit Bang on your palette. So its fair to say im quite a tough crowd when it comes to the world of drinks and gels and such.
MultipowerUK were a brand I had not really heard of before. The two brands I usually run with are High-5 (mainly due to flavour preference) and also ZipVit, although I stopped buying Zipvit recently as I found they hiked their prices up around the time their marketing push because more prevalent, strangely around the same time they got into bed with that infamous pro tour team RadioShack. Where I once found their products good value (often BOGOF on tubs of drink), take the example their 15 protein recovery bars for around £16 (I refer to this incident as Protein-gate)…. now the exact same box of bars sells for £24.75. I kind of take objection for a price hike of around £8 considering I’m certainly not getting £8 worth more product or research, rather I feel I’m subsidising their marketing push…..and that troubles me. 
Anyway reader, I digress….. as for MultipowerUK, a cursory glance at their website reveals prices are very easy on the pocket. I tested some products from their new ‘Active’ range, aimed at endurance athletes and those looking to boost energy levels and recovery from efforts ready to do the same thing the next day in training. Below are my thoughts on each of the three product I tried, over the space of a few weeks, using them on training rides from 1hour-4 hour efforts.

First up is the ‘ISO Drink Mix’. An ample sized tub containing 875g of energy drink in the inoffensive taste of lemonMultipower claim the tub will make 25 servings, so at its offer price of £9 that works out to approximately 36p per bidon. Now, I know not all cycling purchases are wallet driven, but you have to admit that’s quite amazing value. Consider that a box of 12 sachets of High-5 costs around £9… that’s double the amount! So full marks to MultipowerUK for the numbers. So whats the product like!? well, upon opening the lid, greeting you will be a handy serving spoon, a good idea. The powder looked quite crystal like, initially worrying me it might be hard to dissolve.

However, my fears were alleviated, this actually dissolves incredibly easy. The colour wasn’t too nuclear, which was also a good sign. for every serving this drink will give you a serving of around 31g carbs… not bad. The thing that I really liked about this drink though was the inclusion of BCAA’s and the supplement L-Carnitine. BCAA’s are Branched Chain Amino Acids, that in layman’s terms help make the most out of post-workout period and are the building blocks of muscle protein. L-Carnitine is a nutrient that helps turn body fat into fuel. Iv been taking L-Carnitine for a while in pill form, so its great the drink has it already contained, saving some cash on additional supplementation. So that’s the tech bit covered. What the heck did it taste like I hear you say? Well… it tasted… lemony. Not overly strong, no citrus kick as such, but it was quite pleasant. Id imagine its taste might not be great when boiling hot, but with cold water it was certainly refreshing. 

It went down easily on some medium length (around 80k) solo rides I did recently, and certainly felt like it was doing the trick. Recently i tried doing some early morning training runs with water only, and maybe its all in my head but the legs certainly felt dead when compared to ‘fuelling up’. I like the ISO drink and I think i’l definitely put in an order for another pot when this one runs out….. Overall its inoffensive in taste, and I really like the added benefits of the ingredients, as opposed to just a straight carb drink. The formula is both wheat-free and nut-free so ideal for anyone worrying about intolerance’s.

Next up I tried the ‘Re-Charge’ drink. Again coming in an 800g tub, the price is also a very thrifty £9. Billing itself as a product that can be used both during and after training, Its similar in High-5’s 4:1 I guess, utilising a ratio of almost 30g of carbs to 10g of protein with each serving. Its also contains 6g of the curiously named ‘PeptoPro’ protein, which upon googling I found is basically a super fast acting protein, getting straight to the muscles after exertion. I tried to use this in my second bidon, usually to see me home on the last hour from Box Hill. That way one can think about starting your ‘recovery’ process whilst actually heading back from a ride.

The drink was ‘Orange‘ flavour… and sure enough it did taste orangeycarb drink like the ISO drink for the main part of fuelling. BCAA’s are again present making this an ideal beginning to ride recovery. The recharge drink is fully nut-fee.

The last product I tested out was the Recovery protein bars. Weighing in at £25 for a box of 24 bars, they seem to represent decent value.

In the guise of a chocolate coated bar, each portion offers up 14g of protein for recovery after a hard ride (tradition dictates that products of this type are best ingested within a 20 minute post training window for maximum benefit). The bars are also packing 17g of carbs to replenish glycogen levels depleted on long rides. Id kind of liked to have seen slightly more protein content within the recovery bar, but I guess the trade off would be taste. The bar was OK, Iv tasted better, but iv also tasted much, much worse. The bar didn’t do that awful thing where after endless chewing it disintegrates into a tasteless dust that’s hard to swallow, in fact the choc coating made it quite like eating a mars bar (maybe a little harder) sans the caramel (the fun part!). The idea of the bars is to get one down your neck after a ride, and the protein heads to repair those tired and stressed muscles, ergo sum staving off that painful stiffness the next day, enabling training to be sustained. The price is certainly right on these, and a palatable starter for anyone wishing to aid recovery. Don’t expect it to taste like a bar of cadbury’s finest, sadly… its a little bland, but then the things that taste the best have a propensity to not be so great for mind and body.

All products from the active range over at >

Rapha Skincare – First Look

Bianchista towers has received the range of new Rapha skincare. Below are first impressions of the products, look for a more in depth review next week…
The products arrived in very kitsch pink newsprint, feeling rather special as soon as you lay eyes on them. I have to admit i felt a pang of regret when clocking them as it reminded me of the special pink newsprint gilet that I never quite got round to buying, only for it to disappear into gems large  locker of cycling regrets!
Upon opening, the very neat packaged are all emblazoned with the ‘Ventoux’ sealing sticker, informing of the concept of these products, in that they were all made with the scented elements derived from that most epic of mountains. Rapha head honcho Mr Mottram himself collected flora and fauna when cycling to ensure these products were crafted with an authenticity and feeling of Vontoux. The first thing I smelt was the soap, and its certainly got a wild natural scent to it, and if I close my eyes I could quite happily be smelling the subtle roadside vegetation on the slopes of France.
The winter embrocation looks like the traditional style Belgian knee warmer formula, rich and wax-like. I could smell the capsicum and wintergreen immediately, and those fond of the euro sheen will be pleased to know that i should imagine this gives a very nice sheen indeed to shaven legs. The pot also has a rather natty product sheet, with a map of the Ventoux ascent on the rear, a very nice little touch indeed, adding to that special feel. I cant wait to try this on some rainy wet training rides, with its promise to provide around 5 hours of heated protection from the elements.
Next up in the range is the chamois cream. The first thing I noticed was the nice smell from it. I recently purchased some sportique chamois cream, and although its lovely and thick and robust, the thing has an awful medicinal reek about it, and I felt very self conscious that my shorts emanated a weird clinical smell, not ideal when walking arriving in the office! I suspect that the natural ingredients of Rapha’s cream are what gives it that delicate scent, and its viscosity looked appealing, in that it didn’t look too thin, and that it should last a long ride. I plan on putting some miles in at the weekend with this cream, so will look forward to how it holds up.
Lastly is the super cute cube of Rapha blend soap. Probably the product I was most excited about, because I’m super fond of a long relaxing post ride bath most evenings! The smell was just spellbinding. Its scent is natural and light, and not only is it perfect for relieving stress from tired muscles, its also perfect for hand washing those grand tour gloves….
Il be putting these products through their paces in the next week or two, so look for a more detailed review soon. All products are available at Rapha and check the post below for a promo code for free shipping on the skincare range.

Northern Soul Cupcakes

As cyclists, there is an old and hallowed tradition of our rides going hand-in-hand with cafe stops, where coffees from lattes to machiatos are prdered. Usually accompanying them, is a large sugar treat in the guise of the humble cake. Cakes are as personal a choice as a saddle or tyre… I love something uber sweet like a caramel slice or anything with copious amounts of thick frosting to give my tired legs that little boost to get home.
So with that in mind cake lovers, allow me to introduce you to the artisan cupcake world of Northern Soul Cupcakes. Run by my very good pal and no 1 Aunty, Jayne Harrison, Nothern Soul create wonderful bespoke cupcakes for all occasions. Having had the pleasure to scoff a few on my sisters 30th, I feel obliged to share these wee beatuies with the bianchista readership, so any northern riders with a penchant for natty looking treats can get a well deserved sugar rush.
Based in the Sheffield area, why not treat that special rider in your life to the ultimate post ride treat. Personally that ice cream cake looks delish and consider this an order put in for one when im back in the city of steel in a few weeks.

Rapha Condor Sharp & Sharp4Prostate Bidons

Science in Sport have come up with these wicked looking pro issue bidons for the Rapha Condor Sharp team. What’s pretty cool about these bidons is that for every bottle sold, 50p will head straight to the Sharp4Prostate charity. The bidons have all nesesscary markings for measuring out your favourtie Science in Sport concoctions… and not only do they look natty with Rapha Condor logo’s, they are also a bidon for those with a charitable conciense. Feel smug when taking a swig I say, with the knowledge that you supported a very worthwhile charity! Bidons are available now at Condor Cycles and also the Rapha Cycle Club.

bianchista approved!