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When riding in the dark this winter make sure you ride enlightened

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words and pictures – Paul Bowker

Over the years, we have read many reviews of lighting systems for cycling. Some are really good but often, they can be overly complex. We think that misses the point a bit as to what is relevant when considering a new light system.

At Criterium Cycles, we do a lot of night riding across a wide range of cycling disciplines. Over the years we have learnt that the demands of a road rider and off-road rider tend to be very different. The best manufacturers know this too so at Criterium, we partner with brands who cater specifically for different disciplines and adapt their products accordingly. Even so, choosing between on road or off road is still just the tip of the iceberg.

To find the lights that are right for you, we start by asking the big questions.

5 Crucial questions

1 – Do I need a light to see or just to be seen?

This is the first question because if you just looking for a daytime visible light (which is really important by the way) what follows in Question 2 onwards is not for you. In this blog, we are going to focus on riding safely in the dark. Since we’ve mentioned daytime visible lights though, it’s worth a bit more info. They tend to be small compact lights that pack a big punch. They usually have off an beat strobe setting that is based on the emergency services patterns. This system gets you noticed and gives plenty of notice for other road users to react to your presence during the daytime.

But if you require a light to be seen whilst at the same time when the sun goes down be able to see…..then read on.

2 – Am I spending 80% of my riding on or off road?

The reason for asking is to get the best light spread for the type of riding you are doing most of the time. On-road specific lights tend to have long and narrow optics to shine the light over a narrow field but far in ahead of the front wheel. This helps give you a better chance of reacting to hazards on the road ahead. Off-road specific lights on the other hand tend to have optics that ‘flood’ the area in front of the front wheel. This is because seeing more height, width and depth will help to pick out technical trail features and line choice.

3 – How many hours will I be riding for?

This will dictate the battery capacity required. Many lights will have both the required spread of light as well as the power necessary for your intended use. However, to save cost and build a product with an what appears an appealing selling price, the battery often only gives a limited usage life on its most powerful setting. Most quality manufacturers will quote a run time on specific light output settings, but be careful; don’t forget that batteries will not run for their quoted run times in colder conditions, so it’s always best to over specify to avoid disappointment and being caught out.

4 – What is the best; helmet mounted or bar mounted?

Very simply, if you are road riding and only want one light then bar mounted will be good. Unless you are a chameleon or similar, your vision is mostly directed forward so if your light has a good spread of light, you will be able to see the detail on the road. Off road riding however has very different challenges to road riding. Tight 180 degree switchbacks and fast 90 degree+ berms require the rider to be able to see around corners (if you know what we mean) and way down the trail. Helmet mounted lights give the rider vision in these circumstances, as the light is following the direction of your head. For faster trails, the addition of a high-power bar light will give extra depth of vision.

5 – What is my maximum speed whilst riding at night?

We think this is one of the most important questions. Why? Because your maximum speed will dictate how much distance you will need to see with your light, to have time to slow, stop or avoid obstacles in the road or trail.

To put this into context, the chart below shows how much time it would take to travel 10 metres at various, constant, speeds. Note: This table does not consider any reaction times or other externalities – it is purely to show how far you would travel at a certain constant speed.

Distance Travelled (Metres) Constant Speed (KM/H) Time to Cover Distance (Seconds)
10m 5 7 sec
10m 10 3.6 sec
10m 15 2.4 sec
10m 20 1.8 sec
10m 30 1.2 sec
10m 40 0.9 sec

Travelling at 5km/h would give you 7 seconds to travel 10 metres. Therefore, in most cases a light that has a reach of 10metres would give enough time to react to an obstacle in your way. However, the same light with a reach of 10 metres but travelling at 20 km/h would cover those same 10 metres in under 2 seconds. Would you be able to react in that time?

A picture paints a thousand lumens

Our two intermediate markers are Bob the Bunny at 5 metres, and Tyrone the Sheep at 10 metres. These are hazards that all cyclists must avoid on a regular basis. The two photos below those of our intrepid heroes were taken from the same point – the fence line at the back of the photo is 20 metres and the side fence line is 5 metres to the left and right.

Bob the Bunny - 5m Marker
Tyrone the Sheep

Bob the Bunny (Our 5m marker)

Tyrone the Sheep (Our 10m Marker)

Bontrager Ion 350

This image was taken using a Bontrager Ion 350 light. With 3-5 metres of good vision, at 15km/h, you would have around 1.2sec to react.

Exposure Toro 2000

The Exposure Toro 2000 on the other hand has a light spread of over 30 metres, giving you 7.2sec to react at 15km/h

So you can see that the choice of which light to buy is not just a case of “which has the biggest number of lumens”? Instead, a number of other questions need answering before deciding on the right product.

The Criterium approach and our brands

Since 2013, we at Criterium Cycles have prided ourselves in giving great advice and following these 3 simple values:

  1. Only supply high quality products, from reputable manufacturers, who give great aftersales support
  2. Make every effort to understand what it is the customer needs the product to do and, with our increasingly wide experience, offer a product that will meet or even exceed our customers’ expectations
  3. Give a comprehensive handover to ensure that all the functions and method of use and maintenance is explained and understood.

With lighting systems, we supply two main brands:

Bontrager

Bontrager is not just the Trek parts, accessories and clothing division. Instead Bontrager, as supplier to the world’s best bike frame manufacturer, design and build some of the best developed complementary products we have seen.

Their daytime lights are excellent, and go up to 800 lumen day and night lights.

Exposure

Exposure have a relentless R&D and quality control programme. The innovation and functionality of these lights has to be seen to be believed and for night time riding, they are pretty hard to beat

Once we show you what these lights are capable of, you will be as passionate about them as we are!

Compare and Contrast

Below is a simple table of some of our recommended products (and their most appropriate application), all of which we keep in stock. We have a much larger range in store, and if you are looking for anything in particular from either Bontrager or Exposure, it can be quickly ordered for you.

We do hope this blog has been useful and look forward to seeing you in store soon. And if you live outside Edinburgh, it’s absolutely no problem – just call us on 0131 663 6220 and we will be delighted to assist you and ship the product directly to you.

Manufacturer Model Max Lumens Expected Run Time Hours (Hi-Lo) Terrain best suited Approx. max light distance (metres) Helmet / Bar mount Who is it for? SRP
Bontrager Ion 350 350 1.5 – 6 On/Off road 5 Helmet / Bar Helmet light to back up brighter bar light, or slower speed leisure rider on short riding hours £44.99
Bontrager Ion 800 800 1.5 – 6 On/Off road 20 Helmet / Bar As per Ion 350; however, mid mode is 450lumens, for 3 hours, so will give longer run time, or brighter boost when required £89.99
Exposure Joystick 1000 1.5 – 24 On/Off road 25 narrow beam Helmet / Bar Off road helmet light / bar mount commuter light £159.95
Exposure Axis 1150 1.5 – 24 On/Off road 25 narrow beam Helmet / Bar Off road helmet light / bar mount commuter light (features Tap Technology) £184.95
Exposure Diablo 1500 1 – 24 On/Off road 20 flood light Helmet / Bar As per Exposure Axis. Brighter, with more LED’s for greater flood light £209.95
Exposure Strada 1200 3 – 36 Road 25 + wide angle Bar Fast road or over night endurance rides. £289.99
Exposure Toro 2650 (Reflex+) 2 – 36 Off Road 30 flood light Bar Technical off road or endurance events £294.95
Exposure MaxxD 3300 (Reflex+) 2 – 36 Off Road 40 flood light Bar Technical off road or endurance events £374.95
Bontrager Ion 350
Bontrager Ion 800
Exposure Joystick - static

Bontrager Ion 350

Bontrager Ion 800

Exposure Joystick

Exposure Axis on Bontrager Ralleye Helmet - static
Exposure Diablo - static
Exposure Toro

Exposure Axis on Bontrager Rallye Helmet

Exposure Diablo

Exposure Toro

Choosing a Children’s Bike

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Seeing your child riding their bike for the first time must be one of life’s great moments! Some of our staff at Criterium have had first-hand experience not to mention plenty of fun teaching their own son’s, daughters, nieces and nephews to ride. However, before you get to this point, you need to purchase the bike in the first place. It can seem like a bit of a daunting task choosing your child’s bike, but it doesn’t have to be. What size, do we need gears, do we go for stabilisers or balance bikes? We can talk you and your child through the entire process step by step from initial sizing to the final set-up of the new bike. One thing we always make clear though is Criterium Cycles sell proper children’s bikes not toys! The brand we have chosen for our kid’s bikes is Frog Bikes. Frog are a family owned firm based in Wales and are fairly unique in that they only do kids bikes. With their entire range purely focused on younger riders, they apply a level of attention to detail in the design and build of the bikes that is a cut above most other brands. From toddlers to teenagers there is a bike to suit.

The key to any bike is Fit. Bike Fitting is one of the pillars that we have built our reputation on, and we extend the same attention to detail in Bike Fitting to our younger customers too. A bike that is correctly set-up and fitted for the rider will be more stable and comfortable which in turn will give your child more confidence when riding. Frog share this approach when designing their bikes which is one of the many reasons we at Criterium decided to stock Frog Bikes. Frog make their bikes in a far bigger range of sizes than most of their competitors, which means we can get your child onto the biggest bike that fits thus giving a greater usable lifespan of the bike. As another brief example of this fit led approach, Frog has designed their own custom made crank arms that position the rider’s feet closer together. This helps to ensure children push more directly downward when pedalling, which helps in stabilising the hip and leg position ensuring more pedalling effort is converted to forward motion, and making the bike easier balance and ride. Other little touches further enhance the riding experience. Things like higher quality gears and brakes which require less finger pressure to operate further enhance the riding experience. The brake levers on all models are fully adjustable for reach meaning smaller hands can still operate the brakes effectively. For all kids bikes purchased from Criterium Cycles, not only will we make sure to get your child onto the correct size of bike, we will also spend time setting up every aspect of the bike to suit the rider concerned. When that is done and dusted we will also show your child the easiest way to get on and off the bike, and also how to correctly use the brakes and – if fitted the gears too.

We want all children to experience the joy of cycling. By spending a little more time and applying a level of attention to detail we aim to give your child the best possible start to their lifetime of cycling.

Visit us in-store to see the range of Frog Bikes today.

You only get one head

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by Natalie Milne – Team GB and Team Scotland Triathlete

Recently I got a new mountain bike (Trek Fuel EX Project One) and as I got a new bike I thought it was only fair that I got some other bits of kit to complete the new package. I’ve never owned a mountain bike specific helmet and when I saw that Criterium had the new Bontrager Rally MIPS in the same colours as my bike I just had to buy it! Little did I know that when buying this helmet, I’d get to test out its level of protection a little sooner and in more dramatic style than I would have hoped!

Bontrager describe the Rally as raising the bar for comfort and protection in MTB helmets. The Rally has been around in Bontrager’s range for a couple of years now, but for 2017 has been updated with the MIPS Brain Protection System. I can say that when I tried the helmet on in the shop it felt and snug as a bug on my head. I’ve worn Bontrager road bike helmets for the past 3 years and found them to really suit my head shape, so when the time came to get a new mountain bike helmet Bontrager was the go-to brand for me to try.

The helmet has plenty of venting with deep channels that allow good airflow even at low speeds. The flat lock straps also help ensure the straps sit flush against your head and don’t get tangled. The design of the shell also gives greater coverage down the side and rear of the head for added protection. If you ever ride with goggles the adjustable visor is designed so as you can push it up out of the way to allow your goggles to sit neatly on the helmet (under the visor) when not in use. The headmaster fit system used on the Rally has a very fine degree of adjustment to help achieve a perfect fit. There is also enough space between the base of the helmet and the headmaster dial to allow a pony tail to slide through, which is a feature I have found lacking on other helmets in the past.

So, to the main event. Having been riding with the new helmet for all of an hour, I clipped my handlebar on a tree, resulting in me somersaulting over the bars and my head and shoulder taking a good whack. A landing hard enough to knock me unconscious and dislocate my shoulder. I daren’t think what might have happened to a lesser helmet judging by the damage sustained. In the end having endured an ambulance ride to A&E I was diagnosed with concussion to go along with my dislocated shoulder. Having learned in a slightly more painful and dramatic way than most, I know that I will certainly be paying even more attention to the quality of helmets (and other protective gear) I buy in future. After all you only get one head!

Check out the video from Trek that explains a bit more about MIPS and how it reduces the damaging risk of rotational forces on the brain in an impact.

Natalie

A guide to Bike Lights (Part 1)

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It is the law to have your lights switched on your bike between the sunset and sunrise. But the choice is bewildering. In this Blog (Part 1), Criterium Cycles examines the technology behind lights and lighting, and suggests some ideas for how to choose the best light for your road or urban / commuting needs. Mountain Bike lights will be looked at in Part 2.

Read More

Criterium Cycles Buying and Size Guides

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Criterium Cycles Buying and Size Guides

We know how confusing it can be to make the right choice when you are looking to buy something of a more technical nature. Sometimes it just isn’t possible to get down to the store and often, you are looking online when the store is closed anyway.

So we have developed a series of Buying and Size Guides for a range of products. As we develop more of them, we will add them to the list here so do keep looking back to see what new guides we’ve added.

If there is a specific buying or size guide you would like to see then Contact Us and let us know and we will be delighted to see what we can do.

Buying Guides

BIKES
CLOTHING
SHOES
HELMETS
TYRES
SADDLES
LIGHTS
BIKE PUMPS

Size Guides

BIKES
CLOTHING
SHOES
HELMETS

 

Bianchi Infinito CV

With bikes such as the gorgeous Bianchi Infinito CV it is always important to get professional and informative buying adviceg

Clothing Buying Guide

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Clothing for every (Cycling) occasion

There is a well known expression used in the outdoor industry. It goes “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing”. Clearly whoever came up with that one was well versed in the variety of weather that we can experience in the UK. All four seasons in one day is another expression that also comes readily to mind. There is no doubt though that sitting on top of a bike for a reasonable length of time is going to expose you, the rider, to everything the British weather has to offer and more. So choosing appropriate clothing is important. Weather is not the only factor to be aware of either when considering clothing. Safety and comfort are two equally critical factors so in our Criterium Cycles Clothing Buying guide, we look at the most important factors to take account of when choosing your clothing.

Layering

Your layering strategy is the most important first step and the good news is it is pretty simple. You have three layers to consider

  • Base
  • Mid
  • Outer (or Shell)

You should then combine the layers depending on the season, the conditions and you. The last point is very important. Many of us here at Criterium Cycles never wear more than two layers. We prefer to be slightly colder and heat up through cycling than the other way round. We are all different and only you will know what works for you. However, the three layers are all quite distinct as we explain now.

Base layer

This is the layer that sits closest to your skin and is designed to do two things. First, it keeps you warm by acting as an insulator. Second it keeps you dry by wicking away the sweat. Wicking is the process by which a fabric draws moisture away by capillary action, thus keeping you dry. Base layers come in many types with different sleeve lengths, different fabrics, collars and weights. The trick is to find the one that suits your needs on any particular day / ride. Short sleeve for summer, perhaps long sleeve for winter. A short sleeve thermal base layer can always be supplemented by arm warmers and used in the Winter as well.

The other choice to make is in terms of material with the big difference being whether it is a natural or man-made fibre. The most common natural fibre is Merino Wool. It feels lovely to the touch, keeps you warm and it is less susceptible to retaining sweat odour than a man made fibre. This means you can use it for more than one ride before it needs a wash. It is not as good at wicking as a man made fibre so it will not dry as quickly if subjected to a rain shower. Man made / synthetic fibres are usually lighter, better at wicking and more flexible / stretchy. They are not though as warm as merino wool / natural fibres. Some companies also produce hybrid fabrics with wool / synthetic mixes or part wool / part synthetic for different parts of the base layer.

Everything is really down to personal choice. Check out the product descriptions, any customer reviews and technical info on each base layer for more information. Always remember to check the washing instructions that come provided with your purchase.

Mid layer

For many people, the Mid layer is the one that provides the most flexiblity. Mid layers include short or long sleeved riding jerseys, windproof gilets and Softshell Jackets. So depending on the weather and your own approach to keeping warm (or cool) Mid layers can either be the thing you wear on its own, or under a waterproof Outer layer / shell or even on top of a base layer. Whatever combination you choose, make sure you choose fabric that isn’t going to feel too rough and isn’t going be too heavy. Also, we like to suggest that if you are planning to use a softshell jacket or gilet as your top layer, it’s good to choose light coloured fabrics, possibly even with reflective characteristics. Remember – you’re likely to be a perfectly competent rider but it’s other road users we need to be aware of as well as help them be aware of us. Always best to be seen as much as you can.

Outer

Whatever you choose as your outer shell layer, it is really important that it is breathable, windproof and, if you are planning to use it when it’s raining, then waterproof and not just water resistant. There is a big difference. If your budget will stretch to it, then jackets that are really breathable but which will also stand up to everything the British weather can throw at them are likely to be the best all year round Outer Layers.

Shorts

There are few things in cycling that are pretty much a requirement, but a decent pair of padded shorts is one of them. Check out our Saddle Buying Guide for a more detailed explanation of your sit bones and the contact points with the saddle. Note that the quality of the padding between your rear end and the saddle is going to make one heck of a difference to your cycling enjoyment. If you don’t want to be seen wearing lycra then fine. However, if you then wear something else over the top of your shorts do make sure they are cycling specific in terms of design and cut. Perhaps a pair of baggy cycling shorts for example. This is because seam design and location as well as panel design and fit is important for your comfort and enjoyment in the saddle. As with everything else though, there are different types and you get a lot of choice.

Close Fitting (basic) Shorts

There’s nothing basic about a good pair of shorts made of lycra but there are also some really good tips to note to get the best product:

Don’t wear underwear

Padded shorts are your underwear and are designed to be worn as the base layer. These days, microbial padding and inserts help enormously though we always have a clean pair for every ride.

Panels are important

The more panels the better will be the fit. 8 is pretty much the standard.

Padding

The padding or chamois in the shorts is a really important feature for your comfort. As the name suggests, they were initially of leather but these days tend to be synthetic materials. They often have gel filled inserts, to mould to your body.

Womens Specific Design

Plenty of Womens Specific Designs exists these days so there is no need at all to compromise with shape, fit or style.

Bib Shorts (and Bib Tights)

OK, so they can look a little bit like old fashioned braces but many cyclists do prefer them. This is because like braces, they keep the lower part of the garment in precisely the spot you need it kept all the time. There is also no seam to rub on your waist when bent over on the bars of your bike. Here are a few other good tips:

Sizing

It is always best to judge the sizing of your bib shorts by bending over as if you were on your bike. It is advisable to do this in a changing room or somewhere a bit more private! However, the point is you will spend most of the time wearing your bib shorts in a bent over position on your bike. So the size / comfort balance you are aiming for is when you are in that bent over posture, not standing up.

Padding

Bib Shorts do come in padded and unpadded forms. We would always treat them exactly the same as normal shorts and go for the padded variety. However, make sure the specification of the product you are buying is exactly what you want i.e. padded or not. The unpadded version does mean you can wear a pair of padded shorts underneath if you wish.

Womens Specific Design

There are plenty of Womens Specific Designs for Bib shorts which have a different cut so as to fit over the chest more comfortably. Some manufactures such as Gore Bike Wear produce Womens Specific Designs that have zipping systems to make comfort breaks a lot more convenient.

Baggy Shorts

Baggy Shorts tend to be the preserve of mountain bikers. However, for those who really don’t like the look of lycra, even if they wear it, they can have a pair baggy shorts over the top to ‘tone down’ the look! If you think baggy shorts may be the way to go, here are some additional tips:

Fabric

It is still worth looking at high quality breathable and windstopper fabrics. This is especially true if you are going to be wearing them over other tighter fitting garments. You want to make sure you don’t overheat.

Lining

If your budget will stretch to it, then it is definitely worth looking for baggy shorts that come with a removable liner, padded or otherwise. This helps enormously when wearing baggy shorts over the top of other shorts.

Fit & Cut

It is worth buying cycle specific baggy shorts because they will normally come with a higher waistband at the rear. You don’t want to inadvertently expose things you would rather not expose. They should also have reinforced padding on the seat to reduce wear.

Jerseys

A Jersey is just a fancy name for a cycling top. They come in all kinds of sizes and materials. When choosing one, your key concerns should be durability, lightness, comfort and the wicking capacity of the fabric. Wicking is the ability of the fabric to draw out moisture using capillary action thus drying out the fabric quickly principally from sweating. Jerseys are a mid layer but can be worn as your outermost garment depending on how you choose to manage your layers. Jerseys may be your innermost garment on occasions which is why comfort is an important consideration.

In terms of material, the wicking capability is important so synthetic fabrics tend to be very popular such as polyester. Polyester has the benefit of being very light and feels quite comfortable too. If you are a traditionalist, or just like the feel of it, then wool is good. Do make sure you go for Merino wool which is much lighter than normal wool, has good wicking capability and dries fast. It also has antibacterial properties, more so than polyester. That means you won’t be quite as smelly after just one ride. We wouldn’t suggest leaving it for too many rides though!

Short Sleeve

Good for the summer when you want to keep cool. If it does get cool and you get caught out, then arm warmers are always an optional extra worth considering.

Long Sleeve

The preferred choice in the winter. However, because of this they come in a bewildering range of weights and thickness with the heaviest, most insulated being very warm indeed. If you are the kind of person that gets very hot on a ride, you may find this overbearing so always check out the specific product descriptions.

Arm Warmers

We absolutely love arm warmers at Criterium Cycles. They are a really clever and flexible addition to your wardrobe. They enable you to add a section of warm clothing to a short sleeve jersey for instance without the hassle of having to take it off and replace with a long sleeve jersey or jacket. They can be quite a challenge to make however. The manufacturer is always trying to strike a balance between an arm warmer that won’t keep slipping down yet isn’t too tight so as to bite into the arm. We have selected arm warmers carefully at Criterium Cycles and the brands we sell are the ones where we think the manufactures have got that balance just right.

Gloves

Gloves are similar to cycle shorts in our opinion – they are an absolute must. They perform a wide range of functions from general comfort, anti-vibration padding and insulation.

Comforting

If you spend a decent amount of time in the saddle then inevitably your palms are going to rub against the bar tape or grips on your handlebars and suffer mild abrasion from constant changing of gears. This is especially true if you live where the Criterium Cycles Team lives.

Vibration Cancelling

Then there’s the vibration coming through into the handlebars. Even if you have a high tech vibration cancelling frame such as on the Trek Domane SLR or the Bianchi Infinito CV you are still going to feel the input from our wonderful British Tarmac.

Weather proofing

And then there is the weather. Your fingers are going to get cold because they are at the ends of your body. They are your first point of contact between the onrushing wind and rain. They deserve to be wrapped up a bit.

Safety first

Finally, there is safety. We really hope you don’t come off your bike but it is inevitable that will happen once in a while. The last thing you want is the skin on your hands coming into contact with whatever surface you land on. So for all those reasons, gloves are definitely worth having.

Long or Short?

If cycling in winter, go for long fingered gloves. Many additional options are possible including waterproof gloves, breathable gloves, thermal gloves or various combinations. If it is going to be really cold, make sure you have long cuffs. You can tuck them under the end of the sleeve of your cycling jersey to make sure the wind and rain can’t get in.

If it is the summer and comfort and padding are you priorities, then short fingered mitts may well be the thing. They are certainly more breathable but they are not quite so good if you find your hand coming into contact with the ground. However, we are sure you will find plenty of ways to make sure that doesn’t happen in any event!

For mountain biking, we tend to go for long fingered gloves most times. This is partly for protection and partly because you are going to be braking and changing gear pretty regularly. So the added protection against abrasion is worth having.

Socks

Socks are an essential part of a cyclist’s wardrobe. Close fitting socks are good for ensuring that close fitting shoes (e.g. road cycling shoes) don’t rub. There is little more guaranteed to spoil an otherwise enjoyable ride than a blister. In the summer, lightweight socks are best especially those that have good sweat and moisture wicking capability. In winter, thicker, more insulating socks are best. Your feet, like your hands, are body extremities that tend to feel the cold the most. We in Criterium Cycles certainly subscribe to that view.

Helmet Buying Guide

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Helmet Buying Guide

A bike helmet is designed for one primary purpose, to protect your head from injury in the case of accident. Whilst it is not a legal requirement in the UK to wear a helmet at all times, it is advised and we recommend you wear a helmet at all times you are cycling. You can replace the bike but you definitely only get one head. Beyond the basic function of protection from injury, helmets are then designed with other critical functions in mind. These include comfort, ventilation and aerodynamics. Some of the technologies employed in helmet design are genuinely leading edge.  Plus, it’s a fast moving world so it is important to make sure you are buying the helmet suitable for the type of riding you are going to be doing.

The good news is that Criterium Cycles sells a wide range of helmet styles and types from some of the world’s leading brands. So whatever kind of riding you are planning and whatever your budget, we will have the helmet for you. Check out some of the most important factors to be taken into consideration using this Criterium Cycle Helmet Buying Guide.

MIPS

When you are considering a new helmet, you may wish to consider that one of the challenges with traditional helmets is that they are not fully effective in protecting you from angled impacts. Angled impacts can cause violent accelerations leading to increased rotational forces on the brain. This can lead to diffuse axonal injury, one of the major causes of unconsciousness and in some cases, permanent brain damage. There is however a technology that has been shown to address this issue with considerable success. It’s called MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System). You can read our detailed blog on helmets and MIPS by clicking here.

MIPS is designed to mimic the brain’s own system for protecting itself from trauma. MIPS provides a liner, separate from the shell of the helmet but connected by a low friction layer. When a MIPS helmet is subject to impact, the low friction layer allows the helmet to slide relative to the head. The result is a helmet which reduces rotational acceleration on the brain by nearly 40% without impacting adversely on the energy-absorbing properties of the helmet overall.

Helmet Fit

If the most important priority is to have a helmet in the first place, the next most important thing is to have one that fits properly. This is really important for your safety. If the helmet is moving about on your head it is not protecting you as it should. It will then prove a real distraction, itself a safety concern.

To measure your head correctly, you will need a measuring tape (and possibly a friend or colleague to help!). Measure the circumference of your head by measuring horizontally around your forehead. Do this roughly 1 inch (2.5cm) above your eyebrows. Make sure you keep the tape measure both level and a close fit. Make sure as well that you stay above your ears which helps keep the tape measure level. We often find that taking three measurements and then the average of the 3 helps remove any measuring error in one.

Some manufacturers produce womens’ specific designed helmets which often have a slightly different internal sizing. On our website, you will see those helmets that are specifically designed for women in the product description.

Natalie Milne demonstrating a correctly fitted cycle helmetThis picture of Natalie Milne, the Team GB Triathlete sponsored by Criterium Cycles, demonstrates a well fitted helmet. The straps should form a v-shape with the internal angle of the V just below the ear. If correctly fitted, you should only be able to fit two fingers between your chin and the chin strap. More than that, and it’s too loose. It should feel close fitting but not uncomfortable or biting into your chin.

Helmet Types

Road

Whilst designed primarily for road cycling, these helmets can really be used for all types of cycling. This means they are a good, all round solution. Some helmets come with advanced internal mounting systems that ensure a constant fit around the head. Others focus on lightness and aerodynamic performance. Within the product description for each helmet you will be able to find a summary of the technical features.

Mountain

Mountain Bike helmets tend to focus less on lightweight / aerodynamic performance (though that is still important) and more on protection recognizing the challenges of trail and off road riding. Peaks on the front are usual features and some helmets come with full face protection. This ensures the lower jaw / chin area receives optimum protection.

Urban Commuter

These helmets are specifically designed for use in the city / urban environment. They tend to do without many of the ventilation systems of more advanced road and mountain bike helmets. This is because they tend to be used for shorter, less physically demanding rides. However, the focus is still very much on safety and protection.

Kids

It is really important to get kids to start wearing a helmet at the earliest age possible as it teaches good habits! We stock a wide range of kids’ helmets in some pretty wild colour schemes so that they can look really cool as well as stay safe.

Shoe Buying Guide

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Shoe Buying Guide

Cycling shoes come in a multitude of styles and designs with many of the designs being specific to the riding for which the shoe is going to be used. It is always worth first considering exactly what the shoe is going to be used for and selecting accordingly and then ensuring you have a comfortable, snug fit. Finally, what the shoe looks like is important in our fashion conscious world, but it’s not as important as ensuring you have the right shoe for the right job and it that it fits properly. In our shoe buying guide we explain the key factors to take into account as well as the differences between different brands.

Types of Shoe

Cycling shoes can be split into two very distinct groups – Clipless and Non-Clipless.

Clipless

The term ‘clipless’ confuses many people because the word clipless derives from the fact that you can dispense with those slightly terrifying toe clips or straps and simply ‘clip in’ to a cleat binding system that locks the sole of the shoe to the pedal. At first it probably sounds a bit mad to be locked to the pedal and we totally accept it takes a little bit of getting used to.

However, it is worth it because there are very good reasons for clipping in. First, it’s very efficient. The faster you turn the pedal (cadence) the harder it is to keep an unattached shoe on the pedal whereas it’s pretty straightforward when you’re clipped in. You do want to increase cadence by the way because higher cadences are essential for efficient pedalling. Second, it’s really comfortable. Riding a bike on flat pedals means your feet tend to move around a lot whereas if they are attached via a cleat, they stay in one place. This is good news for all those tasks you will need to focus on (handling, climbing, descending) without being distracted by whether your feet are staying on the pedals as well.

If you do opt for Clipless then it is really important to make sure your pedals are compatible with Clipless shoes.

Non Clipless

These shoes are much more like traditional shoes though with design features that make them far more suitable for riding a bike than wearing your favourite pair of worn out trainers. Some Mountain Bikers prefer not to be clipped into a pedal for technical descending and cornering. Used in conjunction with a large platform pedal and a high grip sole on the shoe, the foot can be lifted off the pedal and used for balance but then quickly reapplied for pedalling.

Types of Cleat

Road Bike Cleats

Road Bikes utilise three bolt cleat systems such as Shimano SPD-SL, Speedplay and Look. The cleat stands proud of the sole of the shoe making it pretty difficult to walk (in fact, we don’t recommend trying too to walk too much in them) but they do give the best platform for delivering the most efficient pedalling action.

It is particularly important with road bike cleats to fit them correctly and ensure they are properly aligned and set. In particular, it is important that the centreline of your cleat is at least 1cm behind the 1st metatarsal head for fore and aft alignment. If you don’t do this, you will find the nerves in your feet (of which you have plenty) suffer undue pressure and become sore, reducing your pedalling efficiency and increasing your discomfort.

Mountain Bike Cleats

These are two bolt systems such as Shimano SPD and Crank Brothers. They have cleats that are recessed into the tread pattern making it easier to walk over tricky terrain. Set up of mountain bike cleats is equally important to get right as for road, offering the same fore and aft and toe in / toe in positioning.

How to Select the right Shoe Size

Shoe Sizing can be a bit of a challenge not only because there are so many systems in use around the world, but also because manufactures often take a different approach from each other in how they interpret sizing systems. Shoes are manufactured from moulds or ‘lasts’ which is the sole shaped template from which the shoe is made. The size of the last takes no account of manufacturing tolerances nor does it guarantee to result in a shoe size that is guaranteed to fit a particularly foot size.

In the UK for instance, we use a system that calculates an adult shoe size using the following formula:

Adult shoe size = (3 x last length in inches) – 25

So the last length may be slightly variable and different manufacturers may use a different constant (the 25) to calculate the actual shoe size. Confused? Well it is a bit which is why we have produced the following table to help convert the various sizes. However, it is definitely for guidance only – we can’t guarantee the conversion. What we have done though is add a few helpful hints underneath the tables, both general as well as for the shoe brands themselves, to help make the choice as informed as possible.

Mens Shoe Sizing

Mens Shoe Sizing Guide Table

Womens Shoe Sizing

Womens Shoe Sizing Guide Table

General Tips

Mondopoint

The Mondopoint measurement in mm is the nearest thing the shoe world has to an international standard. It measures the distance between your heel and the end of the toe that protrudes the most, usually your big toe. Make sure you stand against a wall or similar and measure to the end of your big toe but along a line that is perpendicular to the wall.

Carbon Soled Shoes

Some cycling shoes in the Criterium Cycles shop have carbon soles or part carbon soles. These are very easily scuffed or scratched and if you do that by mistake, we won’t be able to accept the shoes back even if you haven’t worn them riding out on the bike. So when checking to see whether the carbon soled shoes you have purchased fit you properly, it is always a good idea to do it when stood on smooth carpet or similar so the sole of the shoe remains in pristine condition.

Brand Specific Tips

Sidi-Logo

SiDi hand builds its shoes from 3 ‘lasts’ or moulds – Standard Men’s , Women’s and Mega (wide fit). Traditionally, the shape of SiDi shoes provide feet with a ‘snug’ toe area. SiDi call this Pro Fit which means the toe will be close to the end of the shoe and the shoe itself will be snug fitting around the whole foot. The focus of the SiDi shoe design is therefore to provide riders with shoes that do not move once they are on your foot.

For people with wider feet and / or higher arches, SiDi has designed the Mega size for every standard shoe size. The SiDi Mega size provides about 0.5 cms extra width along the axis where the foot is at its broadest.

As a rule, however, because the shoes are snug fitting from heel to toe, we tend to find going up an EU size from what you would normally wear makes sense.

Bontrager Logo

We tend to find that Bontrager cycling shoes follow EU sizing pretty accurately and with reasonably generous fit parameters. However, you also have the benefit of the Bontrager 30-day Unconditional Guarantee. This means that if you buy them but don’t love them you can send them back, guaranteed, and exchange them for another pair of Bontrager shoes.

ShimanoA bit like SiDi, our experience has been that Shimano shoes are normally a size up from the EU size. So for example, if your normal shoe size is EU40, then you may find Shimano EU 41 will be a more appropriate fit.

Lights Buying Guide

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Lights Buying Guide

In the Criterium Cycles Lights Buying Guide, we set out the key points to be taken into consideration when buying any lights for your bikes. We start with the two rules to consider before look at the many options that are available.

Obey the Law

It is the law in the UK that between the hours of sunset and sunrise, you must be displaying at least one white light at the front and one red light at the rear plus have a reflector at each end of your bike and on your pedals. Watch out for the reflector bit – that catches many people out!

Lights are always good

It is never against the law to have lights on your bike during the daytime so we always advise having daytime running lights if you can. They will make a big difference to your safety and well being when out on our roads.

Check out this video of President of Trek Bicycle, John Burke, explaining why daylight visibility is so important and advantageous.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dBRmzvzv4M]

How to measure brightness

The power of a cycle light is measured in Lumens so it goes without saying that a 1000 Lumen light (which is extremely bright by the way!) is considerably brighter than a 100 Lumen light. The Lumens scale is linear so 200 Lumens is twice as bright as 100 Lumens. However, it is worth noting that the human eye can be deceived by a number of factors so be aware of these when considering cycle lights.

How much more light does it take to be noticeable?

A 120 Lumen light is going to look pretty much the same as a 100 Lumen light to the human eye. As a very general rule of thumb, all other factors being equal, Light B needs to be approximately twice the power of Light A in order for Light B to be noticeably brighter to the human eye.

Is focus important?

Yes it is. Just as when you use a garden hose and make the nozzle small the jet becomes much more concentrated even though you haven’t turned the water tap at all, exactly the same applies with light. A focused beam will be brighter than an unfocused one.

Does strobing or interruption work?

It most certainly does. Bontrager for instance have done a great deal of research into this and discovered that with their Ion and Flare lights, the interruption of the light (into a mild strobe effect) causes motorists to be far more aware of cyclists and give them much more room when passing.