Winter Clothing in Summer

Smart cyclists buy clothing off season. Add in the Tour de France sales and doing so just make sense. Over the past few weeks I’ve picked up two winter clothing items.

First is Castelli’s Gabba 2 Short-Sleeve Men’s Jersey. Second is Gore Bike Wear’s Men’s Power WindStopper Softshell Short-Sleeve Jersey. Both feature some version of Gore’s Windstopper. I’ve been a big fan of Windstopper since I raced as a grad student at The Ohio State University. Mostly I liked base layers since I could still wear my short sleeve race jersey. But now that I don’t do much racing and live in South Louisiana, I figured I’d give full on Windstopper jerseys a try. Add in TdF sales and I got two for basically the price of one.

Fit and Finish

Castelli Gabba 2 front
Castelli Gabba 2

The Castelli Gabba 2 fits traditionally Castelli and that means sizing up for most of us Americans. Add in a fabric that’s heavier and less stretchy than a typical jersey and the Gabb 2 fits even a bit tighter than most Castelli/Italian brands. It’s snug. Really snug.

And yep, I said “heavier.” The Gabba is no lightweight. It’s got some heft to it and inside feels a touch rubbery. I’m not sure I’d wear it without a base layer of some sort–tune in sometime in February or maybe January for some long term testing.

The Gore Bike Wear’s Men’s Power WindStopper Softshell Short-Sleeve Jersey feels quite a bit lighter than the Gabba 2. It also feels a bit softer and not quite as stiff as the Gabba (I haven’t put the Gabba 2 in the dryer on low, which is supposed to soften it up.) And the Gore fits a bit less like it was designed for pro racers with 3% body fat and small frames. If you’re like me and have a bigger build and could stand to lose a few pounds, that’s a good thing. One thing I’m not sure about the fit on the Gore is the sleeves feel a bit long, but that might change once I get on the bike.

Gore WindStopper SoftShell Jersey, front
Gore Bike Wear’s Men’s Power WindStopper Softshell

Like the Gabba 2, it has a zipper flap, but it’s on the inside. Just trying the two jerseys on and walking around in them, I like the inside zipper flap on the Gore jersey. And there’s more zipper fun. The Gore has a nifty little zipper pocket at the collar that lets the zipper tuck in. It gives the jersey a bit of cleaner look. Again, long term testing will tell which design is better–though it looks like the Gabba 3 will have a similar design.

Both jerseys feature a tall collar, though the Gabba 2’s is a bit taller. One thing that’s nice about the Gore’s collar is that it has some contouring to it. It’s scalloped in the back, giving some room for riding with your head up a bit. Again, tune in sometime in the winter to see if it makes any difference.

The Gore’s back pockets are a bit of mixed bag. The center one is made of the same material as the main jersey while the two side pockets are made of a thin stretchy material that may prove troublesome once filled with stuff like keys, small wallets, gels, bars, etc. I haven’t seen a Gabba 1, but they may be similar to the pockets on it and that may be a problem.

Both the Castelli and the Gore feature a longer tail, which may be nice in wet weather, but may complicate things for those sizing up in the Castelli.

Aesthetics

Gore Windstopper Softshell Jersey, back
Gore Bike Wear’s Men’s Power WindStopper Softshell

Both jerseys are red. I like red. Both come in other colors if you don’t like red. The Castelli Gabba is a pretty understated design and I like that. It has the Castelli scorpion on the sleeve and center back pocket along with Rosa Corsa on the chest with a slightly darker stripe running across the chest for a bit of design. There is some reflective piping along the back of the jersey as well.

The Gore Power WindStopper Softshell is also pretty understated with the exception of the bold “WINDSTOPPER” reflective lettering  along the spine of the jersey. I’m 6 feet tall and a bit wide so I can already hear the jokes. But, it’s an ok way to add some low light visibility on the jersey (maybe a lazy way that no Italian designer would ever do, but…).

As you can see the back of the collar is also black for a bit of contrast. And there is some reflective piping above the pockets.

If you like team logos, it looks like Castelli offers versions of the Gabba 2 in team Cannondale colors.

Final Thoughts

Both jerseys seem like they’re quality pieces. It’s currently 90 degrees and 99% humidity in Louisiana so I have no idea how they’ll deal with cold wind and keeping out drizzle.

So yeah, I live in Louisiana, but the temperature ranges of these jerseys–high 40s to 60s is pretty much our winter. It’s humid here so temps often feel a bit lower and it’s windy in the winter; I’m looking forward to trying both of these jerseys out. For me, something that cuts the wind is as important as insulation, especially on tempo or higher rides.

I’m not sure I’d spend $150 plus for either, but if you can catch them on sale they look like good additions to your cycling wardrobe. Add in the slight waterproof aspect of the Gabba 2 and the Gore jersey and they beat out windstopper type base layers, unless you have no plans to ride in the wet.

 

 

 

Automatic Shifting for the People? Changing Cycling one Shift at a Time.

I’ve been riding for the past two or three weeks in eastern Massachusetts and while the locals tell me it’s not hilly, for someone coming from southern Louisiana I beg to differ. Mostly I’ve been riding in Myles Standish State Forest, which gets me anywhere between 900 and 1,200 feet of climbing over a 25 mile ride. What eastern Massachusetts lacks in long mountain climbs it makes up for in short punchy climbs that often have short stretches of 10% grades (up and down). The takeaway, it’s the kind of road riding that rewards momentum and smart shifting to maintain it or to take advantage of the quick grade changes.

And that takes me to electronic shifting. I have it and like it despite having been a bit of retro grouch before getting it. (Disclaimer, I rode thumb shifters on my mountain bike well into the late 90s and only made the switch when the guys from GripShift (now SRAM) pried the thumb shifters from my cold but not quite dead hands.) Riding where the terrain requires frequent shifting and frequent double shifts, I’ve grown even fonder of Di2. Shimano was at the forefront of bring electronic shifting to the market and they are pushing the horizon–perhaps in directions that will change cycling and what makes a cyclist a cyclist.

The big change in electronic shifting isn’t SRAM’s wireless system (and it’s innovative, don’t get me wrong), but rather Shimano’s Di2 Synchro Shift. It has the potential to change cycling in ways that wireless shifting doesn’t. Leonard Zinn has a great explanation over at VeloNews of how S2–full Synchro Shift mode works. Basically, it manages rear upshifts and downshifts by a cog or two based on what the rider does with the front chain ring–upshifting a few cogs when the rider shifts from the big ring to the small. As I’ve been refining my riding (and thus shifting) in the up and down terrain of eastern Massachusetts–and missing or getting the shift just a bit wrong, the idea of having a system that keeps me from being over or under geared is intriguing. Of course, it takes some of the challenge out of cycling (and what’s the fun without the challenge?). But then, would we find new challenges?

What really got me thinking is that if electronic systems can make such decisions now, what does the near future hold?

  • How far away are we from systems that auto shift based on some combination of cadence, power, heart rate, wind speed, and elevation?
  • How will such systems impact events like time trials in which a cyclist or coach could program shifts given the course or the cyclist’s fitness?
  • Or a hilly up and down road race course where the system analyzes the rider’s effort, the conditions, etc. and makes the shift to keep the cyclist in the ideal HR or power band?
  • What about a route the rider has ridden a lot or pre-ridden as part of race prep? Will shifting systems be able to learn a rider’s tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses and compensate for them through shifting patterns?

On one level such innovation may change cycling in ways that takes some of the challenge and skill out of the sport and turn cycling into even more of a fitness centric sport than it is now. On another level such innovation may open up the sport (you’d be surprised by how many new and casual cyclists find shifting a black box). And for recreational cyclists or commuters or those cyclists who face physical challenges, such automatic shifting could be a great boon and open cycling up to even more people–or make some para cyclists more competitive than they are now.

BMC Teammachine ALR01 Review

  • A quick, stiff, and well mannered bike
  • Not too innovative in a good way
  • Does just about everything a good road bike should
  • Good bike for fast club rides, getting started in racing, or bad weather bike
  • A little buzzy

Earlier this summer, I had the chance to test ride a BMC Teammachine ALR01. Or what is kind of an ALR01. It’s an ALR01 frameset BMC sends to dealers for test rides and built up with a mix of Shimano Ultegra, an FSA K ForceLight crank, Vittoria Elusion Nero wheels and Rubino Pro Endurance tires, a Syncros RR1.0 Carbon Aero 420 Bar/Stem, and some kind of Syncros saddle the less said about the better. Rod from BG Bicycles of Houma, LA built the bike up with his usual eclectic and smart mix of parts. (Disclosure, BG Bicycles sponsors the team I race for and is a sponsor of the collegiate club I advise.)

BMC Teammachine ALR01

Overall, it is a very nice package despite my struggles with the mechanical Ultegra after spending a year and half riding Ultegra Di2. There’s not a lot of innovative stuff going on here other and for a lot of folks that’s a good thing. Sure there’s a pressfit bottom bracket and tapered head tube, but other than that, BMC has stayed away from some of the current bicycle industry fads. Tubes are shaped and butted, but they aren’t aero. There’s no pivots or elastomers or any other new fangled stuff. Just “smart welded” aluminum tubes and well-thought out geometry.

The matte black, yellow, and white color scheme is fetching (though not available for purchase). The performance of the frame matches its looks. If I had to describe the ALR01 in one word it would be monolithic. That’s not a bad thing. The ALR01 does one thing and it does it very, very well. It’s a fast bike. It wants to dive into corners in a very controlled way. It reacts to rider input. It’s stiff (and here the Syncros RR1.0 Bar/Stem combo didn’t soften things up at all) and precise. A quick shift of your hips or arms and the bike reacts. And it reacts when you push on the pedals. It is a bike that lacks subtlety. It goes. And you feel it–both in good and not so good ways. 

I spent two days on the fairly good roads and compared to my 2014 Fuji Altamira with a Zipp SLC2 bar, I felt a bit more road buzz on the ALR01 than I’d have liked. Maybe with more supple tires and more forgiving handlebar or stem, the road buzz wouldn’t be so noticeable (at the time I was riding a set of Vittoria Corsa G+ clinchers on Zipp 303 wheels on my Altamira). But the ALR01 gets down the road quickly and even though it’s not billed as a full out race bike (it has a higher head tube then the carbon SLR versions), it turned faster than my Altamira and seemed to want to react to steering inputs of all kinds in a fast though not twitchy way. It is a lot of fun to ride. I never felt like I had to watch the ALR01.

Now on to the quickness part. Maybe it was because I wanted to get off the saddle (I really should have swapped out my regular one), but I came within a second or two of beating my personal best time on Strava segment without really trying. The ALR01 is stiff and seems to transmit power very efficiently.

Beyond the Frame

The Vittoria Elusion Nero wheels are equally nice and stiff. As expected for wheels with ceramic coated brake tracks, they offer great braking, though I didn’t ride in the wet or down any hills (it’s really, really flat in south Louisiana). In terms of durability, they seem stout, though a guy I ride with had the rear hub on his set break after about 2,000 miles. Vittoria was good and sent him a full set without seeing the broken pair. They said it was only second failure they’ve had.

BMC ALR01
BMC ALR01

The Syncros RR1.0 Bar/Stem combo is a nice bit. It’s stiff and the drops have a nice radius. I wasn’t crazy about the tops. The edge facing the rider have a bit of angled rectangular edge to them that didn’t get along with my hands. Others may like them though. They seemed to offer good stiffness and may have contributed to the quick and precise handling of the ALR01.

Overall

If you’re looking for a fun bike or even an inexpensive crit bike, the BMC Teammachine ALR01 will suit you. If you’re looking for bike for leisurely fondo type riding, look elsewhere. For spirited club rides, crits, and road racing, or even as a winter/rain bike, it’s a great choice.

You can get a BMC Teammachine ALR01 built with Ultegra, 105, Tiagra, or Sora. All of them use the same frame and SLR 03 full carbon fork and basic cockpit.

–VagabondCyclist