Thursday, 15 November 2018

Shimano RC701 (Review of sorts)

The year is almost ending, and here I am deciding to do a review of sorts. I wonder if there's still people out there who randomly happen to pass through here. Anyway a short update before I jump into the review(based on my own opinion).

<<< Those of you new here can skip straight to the review after the paragraph below >>>

It's been a long year, my cycling has been slowing down as the year end gets closer. Went from a 50mm wheelset to a 38mm wheelset to better fit my riding. Also went from Shimano Ultegra 6800 to SRAM Force 22. The set up has not disappointed me so far. Rode a 300km ride sometime back in May(a story for another post, if I do post). Also managed to snag a 1st place podium in my local group ride Criterium.

<<< Review begins here >>>

With those out of the way, we can officially start with what the post title says. Before I begin, I'd like to note that Shimano did not, in any form, sponsored or offered me anything to do this post. All comments and points voiced out here is based on my amateur cycling knowledge of 4 years (I started cycling sometime in 2014).

Shimano unveiled their new range of products at the 2018 Eurobike Show, which was held in July. Amongst them were their new road shoes as well as a new off-road shoe. At the top of the line was the new Shimano S-Phyre RC901, the RC standing for Road Competition. But the bigger update came on the Shimano RC701, Shimano's second-tier road race shoe for 2019, a facelift and slight changes to the previous RC7. It comes in three different colors at the moment which are black, white, and a red/black gradient reminiscent to the previous RC7. I chose the white.

Upon closer inspection, Shimano has done some rather interesting finish design on the upper and overall of the synthetic leather, and it seems like it's matte (at least it feels like matte to me). Aesthetically, it looks amazing to me, where it kind of stands out from the rest of the plain white shoes. When the light hits just right, the shoes really look amazing. I've not had the chance yet to test it, but I'd assume it would be more scuff resistant than it's predecessor with the gloss finish.

Shimano did away with the velcro strap at the toe box area, in favor of a second boa dial. They also changed from BOA IP1 dials to the BOA L6 dials, which I will address in a bit. The shoe is covered with "Supple high-density synthetic leather" as stated by Shimano with generous amounts of perforations to aid in ventilation.

Now, to address the one of the issues I had with the new RC701, which are the BOA dials. the L6 dials work just like the IP1 dials, pull up to loosen, push in and turn clockwise (anti-clockwise for the left side) to tighten. EXCEPT, the L6 doesn't allow you to turn anti-clockwise to loosen when it's engaged(or pushed in) in minute adjustments on the go. I'd say this wasn't a big issue to me as Shimano has always fitted perfectly on my feet, but I guess if you're a rider who's feet expands a little during the ride, it'll be cumbersome to adjust the straps on the go. Also, another issue with the wire is that the last loop isn't fixed in a hole or holder, but just looped around a hook, just like the previous RC7. So do keep in mind when loosening or tightening the shoe. Don't worry about the wire popping off and unwinding out the shoe though, as the wire is fitted through a fixed holder on the opposite side.

The sole is Carbon with Shimano putting it on a stiffness level of 10, which is supposedly plenty stiff for those out of saddle sprinting, and uphill attack, where the power transfer matters. Don't take me up 100% on that, as I am not one of those riders who feels everything on the bike, if Shimano says it's 10 and stiff, then hey, good enough for me!

Similar to the previous model, the heel is non-replaceable. Walking on concrete over a couple of years(depending how much you walk in them too), they will probably wear out. So don't go running around with them.

Overall, I really love the shoe, it fits to size for me, I'm a UK8.5 and this is a 42 with enough toe wiggle room. I have worn a Fizik R4B UOMO before this pair, and it fits rather narrow for a 42. Other than my gripes with the BOA dials, and possibly scuffing and dirtying a white shoe(who doesn't eh?), I find the RC701 a great shoe to look at, as the weather has been horrible this few weeks, so I have yet to take it out for a ride.

So I hope you find my amateurish review helpful for the RC701, have a great ride out there!

Till my next post.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Rolling into 2018

Here's the first post to my 2018. Not much has happened since the last post.

I took part, and completed my first ever running event, which was also my first ever 21km(that's a half marathon). Challenged myself during the festivities to take part in the Rapha Festive500 challenge. Grabbed a 5th place sprint finish in my local criterium team training ride. Ate lots of food, went on a food trip, ate more food. Wait, that's actually quite a lot that happened.

So first up, I have yet to introduce my new ride. Let me tell you, it's quite a fine steed. The new steed is a fine specimen bred in Belgium, Germany. Ridden on by the pros such as Andre Greipel and Adam Hansen on the very demanding courses of the Paris Roubaix. Dubbed an endurance bike, but don't let that fool you. It's very much an all rounder race bike, with it's stiffness and the ability to withstand power from the pro tour riders. The bike I'm talking about is the Ridley Fenix SL. Where other manufacturers use lower carbon grades and constructions to lower the cost, at Ridley, you get the exact same frame the pros ride on. They lower the cost by offering other parts such from their in-house component brand 4Za to outfit the bike from handlebars, stem, seatpost, wheels, saddles, as well as offering different groupsets at differing price points.

Presenting my Ridley Fenix SL

Running on Shimano's true and tested Ultegra 6800 11 speed, with a FSA SLK seatpost and a FSA ENERGY stem, PRO's Falcon Saddle, and Retrospec R100 50mm carbon wheelset.

The Retrospec wheelset is an in-house brand from Taiwan's Twitter bike brand, engineered in Germany(according to them). I got it at an amazing deal from a friend, so why not right?

Back to the bike. Ride quality. It's really an all rounder bike that any rouleur would revel in. It does not boast to be lightest, or the stiffest, or the most comfortable in any aspect, but instead brings a balance of all three. The result? The Fenix SL. It doesn't shoot off like the Noah when you put in the hammer, or fly up the mountains like the Helium (both, Ridley's models for the aero class and climbing class respectively). What it gives is the steady acceleration and steady pick up from when you put in the power. It doesn't lack in responsiveness due to the stiffness, but has enough stiffness that you wouldn't feel is too soft, which some may say for an endurance bike, is too stiff. But that's not what the Ridley wants to be. Why be one thing, where you can be a bit more? I think this was the approach Ridley was trying to achieve with the Ridley Fenix SL.

I've put it through it's paces in the one year of usage, clocked in 4300+/-km (based on Strava+Garmin), and even had some sprint finishes, I'd say the bike fitted my style of riding perfectly. I could climb with it without feeling like I was lugging around a tofu with a weight(weird analogy, but you get the picture), sprint for the finish without feeling like I was late by a millisecond, rode long distances without feeling like my back was aching like an 80 year old grandpa.

So here's to more riding in 2018 eh?


Saturday, 23 September 2017

Another space

It's been almost a year since my last post. A lot has happened with me during this long period of absence. Wondering where should I begin really. I guess I'll just start with whatever is at the top my head now.

First up, changed a new bike, and officially this bike stayed with me longer than the rest. Seems like I've found THE ONE. Next up, I'm single. Again. Actually since the start of 2017. It's a complicated story. Next, I've officially been in the workforce for over a year (Achievement unlocked guys?). Next, I signed up for a half marathon coming up in November (Another soon to be achievement unlock?). Next, I'm taking up swimming class (to swim with proper form). My cycling coach is trying to get me into Duathlons and Triathlons. Not sure how I feel about it so far, seems like an exciting prospect, that is, if I can actually correct my form instead of confusing my arms and going "blub blub blub" underwater.

So, let's see. Since I've talked about a new bike on my last post, I'll leave the bike post for later. I guess it's time for me to pour out my thoughts again in this blog (thankful that, there's rarely anyone who still checks up on here).

Well, here goes. I met her during my last semester in Swinburne Sarawak, Kuching. We met through cycling actually, and it quickly turned into something special for me. I knew it when I felt it that, she was someone I'll want in my life. We actually met each other's parents and I can tell my parents liked her from the moment they met her. But over time, I guess how I faced my problems, anger, and feelings by keeping to myself made her feel....unwanted? Which slowly caused problems for the both of us. When she finally voiced out her decision one year and 3 months into the relationship, I admit, I had a hard time accepting the fact that she gave up on the relationship.

She wanted to find herself again. As hard as it was for me, I respected her decision and agreed to what she wanted, despite what I felt. I know now, 9 months down the road, how stupid I was. A little info on my side on why I did it then, it's because I'm not the kind to beg, or force someone to stay when they already have the thought to leave. It's just how I am, though thinking back about it, I'm not sure about myself.

As time passed, I focused on my job, and she, who just graduated was aiming to land a job in Singapore. We did agree to try and stay friends, if that was even possible. The last time we saw each other, I wasn't expecting to see her for a long long while as we went on our separate ways. Then, after a few weeks of on and off contact, she dropped me a message that she got a job, which wasn't close to me but it was still within driving distance, a 20 minute drive in fact. I was happy for her, but unsure of what to feel myself. Not sure if this was a sign to try harder, or I'm just looking too deep into it.

On and off we kept in touch and even met up once in a while ever since she came over to the west side of Malaysia. 9 months down the road, she has helped me with my scripts and announcements, cause she's that good with mandarin and I'm a banana, which was for my emceeing role in my job (a story for another post).

Deep down, at this point, the truth is, I just want another chance to do it right. Just one more chance to make it right. But from myself, I can't tell what's going through her mind. I wished I knew, or at least....there's some signs that at least that little chance exist.
I just want to hold your hands again. Be there for you, to see that smile again, and to go through everyday together with you, if that is possible in any small chance. I'm restless chasing the last words you said, wishing I could repair what happened between us.

And so, here we are.
That's why it's complicated to me right now.

I'll just leave this here and till the next post...whenever that is.

Signing out.
Vincent Loke

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Another Century, kind of.

It's been a busy stretch. With the new job, new environment and new colleagues. About a month back, I took part in my second Century Ride. Klang Premier Century Ride, was not really a true Century as a true Century covers 100 miles, that's 160km. Klang Premier totaled  off at 135km distance which was a little more than 3/4 of a Century.

Nevertheless it was a great improvement over my first Century, averaging 30kph. FASTEST. AVERAGE. EVER. For a 100+ km distance endurance race. The ride was pretty much flat, which favors Sprinters, and other than headwinds, the route was actually quite easy to conquer as long as you are fit and mentally strong.

This also marked my first race with my first carbon race bike. The Avanti Corsa DR1. An aero frameset with integrated rear wheel cutout, seatpost clamp and fork. Not to forget, they even added a special integrated quick release design to combat drag. Truly an amazing design for an aero bike through and through. Full carbon construction tipping the scales at slightly below 1kg frame weight.

An incredibly stiff frame, keeping an average speed on flats was easy, each pedal stroke pushes the bike forward. Truly an amazing frame from Avanti, all the way from New Zealand!

This event also marked the first 100+ km distance for a friend of mine from Swinburne.

My dad also finally picked up cycling in July as a hobby. Kinda fun to have your dad riding with you sometimes.

Marked his first event and first group ride. An easy fun ride at the same event.

Both of us completing our respective events. Me, 135km, and dad, 18km.

Medal bite photos is a must

This ride was pretty much smooth sailing as it was a flat course throughout. The only challenge being, headwinds. This new frame of mine was really superb at maintaining speed above 33kph. Pedaling felt effortless as the aerodynamic features lend a hand in "cutting" through the wind and making sure you keep a straight line as you pedaled.

My built for this bike was:
- Avanti Corsa DR1 Frameset (Using CR5 carbon, one level lower than the team edition)
- Campagnolo Vento G3 asymmetric wheelset
- Shimano Ultegra 6800 (11 speed, 53/39, 11 - 28)
- FSA Energy 110mm stem
- PRO Falcon Saddle 143mm

Till next time


Thursday, 9 June 2016

One more milestone

So, yet again, another random post to the blog that is on and off forgotten. This time, I'd like to talk about my experience on my first ever Century Ride, also my longest ride in go, yet.

This event fell on the 29th of May, 2016. That was just about a week ago. It was held at Perak, covering nearly the whole outer perimeter of the state, circling Ipoh town. The event was called the "Perak Century Ride" for obvious reasons. A Century Ride, is a non-competitive endurance ride event for cyclists of all walks of life to challenge themselves and their endurance levels. Usually 100 miles in distance, that's 160 in kilometers (1mi = 1.6km), it's a test of physical and mental endurance and not for the faint of heart. To complete a Century Ride, a cyclist needs to be physically fit, as well as mentally strong. Adequate training before hand is encouraged (more like, a must).

Fast forward to a day before the event. I took the Electric Train Service(ETS) from KL Sentral. ETS is an intercity rail service operated by Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad(KTMB). I must say, I was amazed at the punctuality of the ETS service as well as the comfort of the interior of the train itself. It was clean and well maintained, as opposed to the regular KTM train services. The ticket pricing was also quite affordable for a student like me, if I were to travel within Malaysia. I boarded the train and the journey from KL Sentral to Ipoh took about 2 and half hours.

Waiting at KL Sentral
On the way to Ipoh
Upon arriving in Ipoh, I made my way to the race pack collection venue. I was a little wary due to posts earlier in the day stating that the management was disorganized and cause a long queue for the collection, but when I was there, everything seemed to be moving in order. 
Event Jersey
After collecting my pack I waited for my group to arrive and proceeded to check in and freshen up. The next day, everyone was up early to grab breakfast at the hotel breakfast buffet, food was average, the standard hotel menu of noodles, eggs, sausages, ham, dim sum, toasts, coffee and tea, as well as cereal. After a small breakfast to provide a small boost for the ride, we went to retrieve our bikes, only to be greeted by a small rainfall. The rain dampened our mood considerably. We steeled ourselves and prepared for what was for sure going to be a wet and cold ride.

Bike retrieval area
Wet and cold start, yet we lined up
 There was a rolling start of about 10km before the official start of the race, the participants lined up amidst the drizzle. We were slightly drenched before we even started. Upon the starting gong, we all started moving. It was a brief warm up during the rolling start with the top contenders for the prize money and podium placement jostling for a good starting position at the front of the race. My aim for this event was just to finish with the best possible time I could achieve.

The first 120km was a breeze, although there were rolling slopes, I was prepared for it as I had trained myself before the event. However, the longest ride I have ever attempted before hand was only 135km. At 120km, my mind starting doubting if I could even finish the next 40km. The last 40km. My legs were heavy, I was well off my targeted time, the distance on the speedometer didn't seem to be increasing, and my speed kept decreasing. The scorching afternoon sun in contrast to the wet and cold start, was not helping morale. On and off, I managed to strike up a conversation with some fellow cyclists, some I dropped, some went ahead of me. There was a period during the last 25km that I was moving along alone, till I caught up to another cyclist, who was also struggling as the road was a short incline. We talked a little and went together till 10km from the finish line where I dropped him.

Finishing with an official time of 6:28:14
Just glad to finish the ride
Passing the finishing line at 6 hours 28 minutes and 14 seconds for 168km to me was a great achievement for myself. The longest distance yet in my cycling experience, and I successfully completed it 1 hour and 30 minutes from cut off time. It was a great experience throughout, and an eye opener into the life of the pro tour cyclists, who do this everyday for weeks on end and even higher intensities.

My group coming in 10 minutes later

Medal biting photo is a must
If I was to participate in an event like this again, I would probably train harder beforehand. Keep my mind strong and not doubt my own capabilities.

Frozen loot - Energy Drinks (It's like we were preparing performance enhancing drugs)
Till next time
Whenever that is


Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Throwback to that first race

Life after graduation is kinda dull. I need to get a job.

That said, I had a sentimental recollection of my first race back in May 2015. I was still in Kuching at that time and so I thought, why not? Registered with some club mates from uni and I was in. We didn't really trained much before the race. In fact, we never trained. We were so inexperienced then. Two days before the race, we did a route recon and that was it.

The event I am talking about is ABC Race that was organized by a "Koperasi Al-Bait". It covers a distance of 120km. The day of the race, it was raining and the roads was wet but that didn't stop us from going ahead with the race.

Look at our inexperienced self then. Except for Mark. The one on the left in 3T.
So yeah, at the starting line, there we were in our sports shoes and platform pedals and a good 70% of them were using clipless pedals. You know things are getting serious when over half the playing field goes "clack clack clack". Me and the guy beside me on platform pedals just stared at each other and had this "oh shit" look on our face.

It was a good race experience for us and yeah, I've come a long way since then. I recently just registered for another event in Perak. The Perak Century Ride. So I hope I'll be better in that event....since it covers 160km.


Monday, 18 January 2016

A day climbing Fraser's Hill

Well, it's been a long while. About four months or so? In between that time period, there was a million and one things that happened and the best part out of all of it is, I am now a Swinburne Graduate. Yup, you heard me right. I have recently just graduated from my degree program. It was a tough final semester plunging into the unknown working on some projects that was at times smooth sailing, then downhills and crashes and then smooth sailing again. It was a great experience to be in Swinburne though.

Now, back to the title. Yes, Fraser's Hill. A holiday resort well known to most Malaysians as well as tourists from other countries. This hill received it's name from a man who after discovering tin ore deposits on the hill, turned the spot into a mining spot and just as the tin ore deposits were about to disappear, he too vanished.

That was only a small part of Fraser's history, and how the hill got it's name, locally known as Bukit Fraser's (which means Fraser's Hill). Over the years, Fraser's Hill has turned into a holiday retreat, well known for it's cooling climate and rich nature surrounding the hill.

Back to me, from my last post, after receiving my Allez, which I came to nickname Speccy (pronounced Spes-sy), I have within this four months clocked in a total 1800km on the bike before my return to Kajang after graduation. A friend of mine who lives just a few cities away recently got his own bike. A Scott Speedster with Shimano Ultegra groupset.

We both discussed about the chances of cycling up to Genting Highlands just for the challenge but after asking around, it seemed it wouldn't be possible due to law enforcement. We changed our plans to tackle Fraser's Hill instead. I took a train from my town station that went straight to his town, Batu Caves. I guess it wasn't a normal sight for the people to see a cyclist carrying his bike on to a train, where as it seems normal overseas.

I was lucky I was on the last coach, therefore, plenty of space. Though, this didn't stop the stares from others as the coach began to fill up. The shot above was just during the time the coach was empty, after the shot was taken I moved the bike aside and leaned it against the coach walls. Upon arrival at Batu Caves, my friend rode his shiny new bike out to meet me.

Then we headed back to his place to unpack and rest. The next day, we tackled Fraser's Hill. We drove to a town at the foothills of Fraser's, Kuala Kubu Baru (KKB) and from there made our way up to Fraser's. We did some researched on the track leading up to Fraser's on the internet, and it was a relaxing 34km climb up to Fraser's and another 8km which is the steepest, and toughest climb for the whole route. There was a few beautiful views along the road but upon reaching the starting point of the incline, we were surrounded by trees and nature's splendor appeared before our eyes.

The KKB Water Dam
Blue skies and good weather

The heat was bearable as it was breezy
After a long climb, we finally arrived at the entrance. The entrance to the 8km of steep curving climb.

If you look to the bottom left, you'll spot a tiny little bike.
This arch welcomes you to the 8km of sufferfest. The estimated gradient on Strava, a cycling and running GPS app on my phone that I regularly use, recorded a 10% steepness. For those who are unprepared, be prepared to walk up with the bike.

The view at the top was calming and it was quiet due to it being a weekday.
I took a short rest and waited for my cycling partner to arrive, then we both had lunch at the top and made our way back down. The road down was very steep, with a lot of corners and loose stones and sand. It is best to take extreme care while going downhill and to have your hands at the ready on your brakes as me and my cycling partner learnt.

I was halfway down Fraser's when I received a call from him telling me that he crashed on the way downhill, into a drain. I was thankful he did not went off a cliff instead. He was also very very lucky to have a thick bush cushioning him beside the road. The best part of all was that, despite the crash, all he suffered was scratches to his face, right arm and legs, and the most serious injury was a cut on his inner lower lip that required stitching.

It was a long day for the both of us and we made it home safely.This goes out to everyone who tries this challenge, be extra careful when going downhill. Always check your brakes and corner in a safe manner. We are not racing, there is no need to risk your life for the extra few minutes.

Till next time

Way before we started the ride. Little did we know, what would happen.