Sunday, January 29, 2012

Specialized Turbo Pro Review

Tires, or more correctly in this case, training tires are a funny thing. Everyone has their preference built up on price, longevity, feel, grippiness and the most important factor – how many punctures did you get on them. Some people swear by a certain brand that others despise with a passion.

Me, over the last few years I have been pretty devoted to using the Continental GP4000s tires on my training wheels (I have no tire relationships on the road bike so I'm buying them) – I have found that they grip well, are reasonably comfortable and last for ages. The negative thing about them is that they feel pretty sluggish (and rolling resistance tests back this up) and cost a lot.

So there I was, in California to train and my rear GP4000s gives up the ghost... What to do – I go to the bike shop and see that the GP4000s are $80... EACH! Hmmm – maybe it is time to try something different.

Mel and I have had a long term good relationship with Specialized (although no tires) so, remembering about some good reviews I noticed recently, I picked up a SpecializedTurbo Pro for $55.

Speicalized had originally started out making tires and apparently they were great. Unfortunately, they lost focus for many years and were making road tires I wouldn't put on a commute bike. Fortunately though, this all changed a couple of years ago and the new Turbo Pro is part of that new generation. They are light, resistant to puncturing, roll well and have a few different versions at different price points. I went with the Pro rather than the S-Works because they apparently wear better. Mel has a pair of Turbo Elites now too (even cheaper), but it is too early for feedback.

So I threw it on and straight away I noticed that it rolled better than the GP4000s (which isn't hard to do) – the proof would be how long it would last...

So, I now also have a Turbo Pro on the front of my bike and the rear tire is still running strong. I have put 6,500km on it since the end of November split across dry roads in the US, a month of riding in Ireland on its rough roads and crap weather and now in Spain on a mixture of roads and conditions. At this point – the tire is 'squaring' off and there are numerous small cuts (mostly acquired in Ireland) but still no puncture (I know – I'm cursing myself). They still roll well and are comfortable. I'm 73kg and am pretty light on equipment but that is still an excellent figure. So basically, I'm giving them a thumbs up.

My request now is that Specialized bring out a 25mm version for me to use – 25 is the new 23... I'll try the S-Works version of the tire next - apparently it rolls and grips better but lasts about half the time - maybe perfect for the front?


I finally replaced the rear tire as it was getting pretty old looking (descending at up to 85 kmph I want my equipment perfect!). No punctures and 8,000km on the tire on the rear - impressive!

Monday, January 23, 2012

A summary of the 2011 bad bits

It's always hard to write a summary when things didn't exactly go to plan. My 2011 season, my first where I concentrated on road cycling, was a real mixed bag. Sickness, health, national titles and missed targets – a bit of everything.
Things went well for me during the 2010/2011 winter. My job was busy but I was able to consistently get good training in in decent weather with enough recovery. I came into the end of February as strong as I had ever been and as lean/light as was reasonably possible.

My season ahead looked great – I would start racing with Giant/Kenda Pro Cycling (a UCI Continental team) in Asia at the start of March with a Criterium in Singapore, then the 6 day Jelajah Malaysia followed by the 10 day Tour de Taiwan – happy days.

The happy days were pretty short lived – the day before the start of Jelajah Malaysia, the worst road crash I have had left me covered in road rash and aching all over – exactly what you don't want the day before you start a stage race with 200km+ per day in the saddle in tropical heat/weather. I could hardly sleep at night, I stuck to the sheets and on reflection after the stages, my power meter said I was barely turning the pedals. Not so good.

Ouch - and yeah, I was lean
With a week between Jelajah and the Tour de Taiwan, I hoped most of my wounds would heal and the legs would come back – it didn't happen like that. I was fine on any of the mountain stages but the snap, the extra 10%, was never there – it frustrated me – I didn't know what was happening. I was as strong or stronger than a large part of the peleton – but that wasn't what I trained for – I trained to be faster than that.

I came home somewhat dejected from the experience and FOUR kilograms heavier! What the hell happened to me?!? Asian buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner is something to be feared was amongst my take home lessons – I have learnt from it and made adjustments.

I started racing at home and sometimes felt okay but most of the time felt drained. I couldn't train as hard as usual, I couldn't race as hard, and I felt I had to sleep in the middle of every day. Oh, and work was still busy. My next port of call was a trip to the doctor for full blood work and many many tests to investigate what was happening. The result – well, my blood values where 20% below what I would normally see – I was heavily anemic... Starts to explain some things. I went on iron supplements, but months later there was still no change – it was a very frustrating time. I couldn't race as hard I wanted, I couldn't even train hard.

Eventually, my doctor decided that iron injections may help my situation (4 months of normal supplementation didn't do anything for me) – 3 weeks later, bing, blood values shot back up, even before I found the results, I knew things were different – I felt healthier and was able to train harder – the probable reason for my issues: a viral infection picked up in Malaysia. Unfortunately, at this point I was most of the way through the season and I was not as race fit as I should be. A trip to Gran Canaria for 10 days of hard training and I returned feeling much more like myself and finished off my season strong winning a few races and retaining my MTB Marathon National Championship.

A lesson I learn't during the year was to really follow and trust my instincts in relation to my health. I knew when I was strong, and I knew when I was weak – I really should have gotten on top of my health issues as soon as I started to feel weak and really focused on fixing it rather than continuing at 70%. All the signs were there, the power to heart rate ratio changed dramatically, poor recovery, saddle sores, motivation issues. Was it over training? No – I seriously doubt that, considering how quickly I recovered once the iron issues were resolved (without taking a break from training) – it wouldn't make sense.

Defending my MTB Marathon Title

If you have been following my blog over the last while, you'll know that my season wasn't all bad, lots of great things happened (I won my first stage race while still being 'sick') and there were parts that I really enjoyed – it's just, I like to remain honest on the blog and level out the good things with the bad. When things are going well, it is easy to tap down a few words but to be more complete, sometimes you have to write about the tough times.

Next up, a post on my preparation for 2012 (hint – things are going well - I'm feeling good, lean and happy – but I still need a team!)