Tag Archives: retul

Choosing a bike, parkrunning and some exciting post

8 Oct

Following the theft of our bikes in August, we’ve been busy improving our home’s security (along with 1001 other home improvements). We’ve had a burglar alarm installed, locks changed, additional locks installed, secure lock points fitted and various other improvements, so we’re moving in the direction of being able to get new bikes, which means it’s shopping time.

I was really happy with the bikes I had, but it’s not possible to replace like with like, so I’ve had a think about what would best suit my needs. I previously had an aluminium road bike that I used for touring and wet weather riding and a carbon road bike that I used for most of my cycling and triathlons. Some people have recommended getting a tribike, but I don’t have the bike handling skills, like riding in a group and am quite likely to do a reasonably hilly Ironman, so I’d rather have a good aero road bike.

As for my second bike, my Giant Defy was perfect for touring Japan, but with a baby on the way, I’m unlikely to do any multi-day cycling events in the near future, so I don’t have a need for a touring bike. However, I will still want to cycle in winter and I am determined to improve my bike handling skills. I was inspired by watching people do cyclocross training at Southampton Outdoor Sports Centre whilst I was at the running track and would really like to give it a go. The events are not very long (under an hour), so it should be possible to fit in some over the winter months. This means that I have decided to purchase a cyclocross bike as my second bike.

A limitation for my second bike is that I would like to purchase it through the Cycle to Work scheme, which means that it needs to cost under £1000. I looked at various options online and narrowed it down to four bikes:

  • Ridley X-Bow 20 disc
  • Giant TCX SLR 1
  • Colnago World Cup Disc
  • Focus 2016 Mares AX Disc 105
Giant TCX SLR 1 2016

Giant TCX SLR 1 2016

Stuart has also been researching bikes and has produced a shortlist, so we decided to take our shortlists to Vankru, our fantastic local Retul bike fitters. Although they can make (almost) any bike more comfortable, it definitely better to see Garth and Mark before buying something, so that they can advise which bike’s geometry would suit your build and flexibility best.

After having a good look at my data and the specs of the bikes that I was interested in, Mark advised against the Colnago as it’s quite an aggressive bike, however, the small in the Ridley or Giant or the XS in the Focus would be fine for me. I was also told to bear in mind that the Focus is slightly more aggressive. I asked whether Mark had any further recommendations based on my data (and price range), and so he suggested that I might want to look at a Cannondale CAADX. It was really good to get this feedback, and meant that I was able to rule out the Colnago.

This morning, I was able to fit in Southampton parkrun. I met up with Kim at the start and our friend Kate said that she’d join us for a social run as she’s racing the Royal Parks half marathon tomorrow. (Good luck, Kate!) We had a lovely social run, that I really enjoyed.

Finishing parkrun with Kate (and Kim)

Finishing parkrun with Kate (and Kim)

Considering we were chatting (and I’m 39 weeks pregnant), our finish times weren’t too bad either:


Next Saturday is my due date, but maybe I’ll be able to squeeze in another parkrun before the big event!

After parkrun, Stu and I joined Tobie and Charlotte for some more bike chat. Charlotte ran a PB at parkrun, which was great and Tobie was saving his legs ahead of a cyclocross race tomorrow… which is precisely why Stu and I wanted to chat to him. Not only does Tobie know bikes inside and out as he runs Bike Guy (bicycle servicing), but he also rides and races a lot. So, we’d spoken to the experts about which bikes would fit us and had moved onto another expert who could advise on which bikes have fewer maintenance issues.

Of the four bikes that were left on my shortlist, Tobie advised against the Ridley as it had the lowest spec out of all of the bikes. Apparently, the Giant wheels may buckle under stress, but this is prefer to the Cannondale wheels, which are more likely to end up with broken spokes, which create further problems. Again, Tobie advised that the Focus is a purer cyclocross bike. So, my shortlist was down to the Focus and the Giant.

I’ve seen both of the bikes before, but thought it might help me to make my mind up if I viewed them again. unfortunately, neither bike is in stock in any local bike store. The guys at the Southampton Giant Store (formerly Wessex Cycle World) have always been really helpful, so I went there in the hope that they might be able to order in the Giant for me, but they said they haven’t been able to get any since about June.

I’ve thought about which of the bikes I prefer and the Giant is the one that appeals to me slightly more. Frustratingly, I’ve had a few battles with the online Cyclescheme vouchers, but I’m hoping that I’ll be able to order it online next week.

After our visit to the bike shop, Stuart and I went into town to have a look at bike shoes in Decathlon. I currently own two pairs (a lovely pair of Pearl Izumi Tri Flys that I wear for triathlons and a very cheap pair of Specialized shoes that I wear in winter)… but they both work with Speedplay pedals, which aren’t suitable for cyclocross. Aside from my failed visit to the velodrome, I’ve never used any other pedals, so asked Tobie and Charlotte for their advice. They recommended Shimano M520 pedals and Tobie said they were cheaper in Decathlon than anywhere else, so a pair somehow fell into my basket… I also ended up with a new pair of shoes:


I spent quite a while choosing between these and a black pair of Shimano shoes. The Shimano shoes were slightly lighter, but I found the toe box quite wide (and I’m quite partial to turquoise!) So, I’ve got the shoes, now I just need the bike!

When I got home, I found that some exciting post had arrived – an Energy Snacks box of Sports Nutrition products.

Energy snacks img_7883

You can choose whether to sign up for a subscription to this service or just to order a one-off box. If you sign up for the mailing list, you’ll receive 10% off your first box.

For £21.99 the October box includes:


  • 32Gi – Sport Chews – Orange
  • 32Gi – Sport Gel – Raspberry
  • GU – Energy Gel – Chocolate Outrage
  • GU – Stroopwafel – Caramel Coffee
  • High5 – IsoGel X’treme – Tropical
  • Mule Bar – Energy Bar – Apple Strudel
  • PowerBar – PowerGel Shots – Cola
  • Sweet Peaks – Energy Sweets – Citrus
  • Tribe – Energy Bar – Cacao & Almond


  • OTE – Hydro Tabs – Blackcurrant
  • Virtue – Energy Water – Lemon & Lime


  • PowerBar – Recovery 2.0 – Raspberry Cooler

I’ve tried some of the products before (PowerBar cola PowerGel shots used to be my ‘go to’ for marathon training), but there are other products that I’ve never heard of or seen in the shops.

The items arrived in a lovely package, so it was really exciting to open it up, and it would make a great gift for a friend who has just signed up to train for a longer distance race, such as a half or full marathon. The only slight disappointment for me was that the Stroopwafel is Caramel Coffee flavoured – I love similar products, but cannot stand coffee, so I’ll have to get Stu to be the product tester for that item!

How’s your weekend been so far? Are you watching the Ironman World Championship?




Visiting Vankru bike fitting

13 Feb

The start to this year has been full on with lots of things happening… and my blog has been a bit of a casualty, so I’m hoping to change that this weekend. Apologies in advance to those of you who receive email updates from me!

I may have mentioned that I’m going on a little cycling trip later this year – a couple of weeks of cycling across Japan. I’m so excited about it! It was my intention to refurbish my dad’s old road bike, but I’ve bene really busy recently and haven’t had the time to do that. I could have paid someone to do it, but I’m not sure that it’ll fit and I’d like to learn more about bike maintenance, so I think it’ll do me good to do it myself.

Anyway, this has meant that I needed to sort out a new bike. A touring bike would be the ideal option, but I’ve not had a lot of luck finding something. There are very few second-hand or new bikes around in my size within my price range.

I went to Cycle World and was delighted to find that they had a Cannondale CAAD8 available in what I thought was my size (54cm) and even better it was reduced from £700 to £300. Unfortunately, I took it out for a test ride and although it was lovely, it just wasn’t the right size for me. However, the shop also had a Giant Defy 4 in a small which turned out to be the right size for me, and it was reduced to under £400 so I bought it. It feels comfortable to ride and the brand is reliable – Stuart has a top of the range Giant Defy from the previous season.

The sales staff in the shop pointed out that the bike matches my shoes, which is true, but that wasn’t why I bought it (and I’ve got a new pair of cycling shoes, rather than tri specific shoes that I’ll be wearing on it).


Unfortunately, the purchase of a new bike means that my dining room is now looking more like a garage.

IMG_3821 IMG_3822

We do have a shed, but it’s filled with the usual stuff people have in sheds (plant pots, BBQ, paint etc) as well as my work bike, Stu’s old bike and my dad’s old bike. As soon as the weather gets better, we’ll need to have a clear out.

After purchasing the new bike, I went for a bike fit with Garth Kruger at Vankru bike fitting.

IMG_3846 IMG_3847

Garth made various adjustments to the bike (including raising the seat significantly). He also turned the stem over to make the position of the handlebars more comfortable. The handlebars are quite wide (and also deep), so I may be better off getting new handlebars, but I think I need to try going on a long ride before I make a decision.

IMG_3848 IMG_3849

Sadly, we realised at the end of the bike fit that the front wheel was buckled, so I had to take it back to the shop to be trued last weekend. I’d love to be able to tell you how the new bike is going, but I’ve not had a chance to ride it. It’ll be interesting to see how it compares with my Kuota Kharma.

I have been attending weekly spinning classes with SUTRI, which I hope will help to get me fit for Japan and I need to start going on the turbo trainer at home. My friend, Teri, has said that she’d like to join me for a turbo trainer session, which should be fun as it’ll be easier to chat than when we’re out on the road!

I also cycle to work every day, although it’s been a bit icy recently, and we even had a dusting of snow.

IMG_3851 IMG_3852

Stuart has also been looking for a new bike. He has wanted a nice bike for a while and it is the section of tris where he tends to lag. He is a great swimmer and a very good runner, but he’s not got the cycling experience that a lot of the other athletes have and he doesn’t have the same quality of kit. However, he has made great progress in the last couple of years. He has got stronger, fitter and (surprisingly) more flexible. In the past, Stu and I were like Penny and Sheldon:

Toe touch

Stu liked the look of a Canyon road bike and having heard nothing but positive reviews of them from our friend Jules, he decided to order one. Sadly, there were some delays before Stu’s bike arrived (including the wrong bike being delivered), but on Friday last week we were able to go to Vankru where Garth built and fitted Stu’s bike.


The bike was carefully packed and there were some lovely touches such as motivational messages on the box it was packed in.

It didn’t take Garth long to build the bike. He was impressed with some of the attention to detail, such as the information on the handlebars to help adjust the angle and line them up… however, he had to make some minor adjustments to ensure that it was level.


Once the bike was set up, it was time for the Retul fit to start. This involved sticking little velcro dots on Stu, so that he could be wired up.

IMG_3856 IMG_3857

However, it’s not a purely computerised process, it takes skill on Garth’s part… in a way it’s like walking into a traditional lingerie shop where the elderly ladies can size up a bra with a look or a gentleman’s outfitters where the sales assistants don’t need a tape measure to decide on an inside leg measurement.


The precision involved is unbelievable – Garth pays close attention to mm measurements.

Several people have asked me about having a bike fit – what it entails, how much it costs, what the benefits are etc. If you do have any questions about bike fitting, I’d recommend that you tweet Garth @Vankru_cycling For me, I would say that it’s hard to put a price on comfort and that although many bike shops will say that they have ‘fitted’ a bike, what they mean is that they have put the saddle at roughly the right height. (That’s not true of all bike shops, but there aren’t many who employ a full-time, experienced fitter).

Garth is used to working with all manner of cyclists from complete novices to pros; mountain bikers to time triallists. Some women fear cycling as there are plenty of opportunities for people to baffle them with technical talk. A fitting with Garth is not like that – he asks questions in plain English and will clarifying anything that you’re not sure of… however, if you’re a veteran cyclist, he’ll be happy to discuss your experiences. That’s one of the things that I love most about going to Garth for a bike fit – he’s passionate about cycling and his job and can always share some interesting thoughts about the sport. Although Vankru is based in Southampton, Garth also travels for bike fits, so do contact Vankru if you want to find out more.

If you’re undecided about whether you’d benefit from a bike fit, read these articles:

Finally, this video shows the essentials of a bike fit  in under two minutes:

Have you had a bike fit? What kind was it and could you feel a difference afterwards?


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