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Cycling

Azzurri Forza Pro Review

The Azzurri Pro Ultegra 11 is hands down one of the most value for money carbon road bikes in the market. What you get is a modern stiff carbon road bike that handles well and is comfortable, without compromising the components. The bike is fully equipped with new mechanical Shimano Ultegra 6800 11 speed components from top to bottom. The bike it self handles really well especially during fast decents and yet is comfortable enough to deal with uneven roads and small bumps on the road. The power transfer is fantastic, especially on the climbs as you feel every pedal stroke pushing you forward without any wastage. 

The Shimano Ultegra 6800 groupset is as reliable as it gets sitting just one tier below the pro level Dura-Ace you expect nothing but the best performance from for less the price of the pro level Dura-Ace. Azzurri claims that the ‘Performance Fit’ frame geometry combines traditional and semi compact characteristics, taking the best from both world’s to enable you access to the best fit possible.

Azzurri Forza Pro

As I mentioned earlier the power transfer was very noticeable especially during hard accelerations or during steep climbs. This could come from what Azzurri claims as their “Mega Watt Transfer”the frame’s  oversized downtube, bottom bracket and chain stays to ensure that you get the maximum from every pedal stroke.

However with all the positive compliments I can give for this bike, there are some compromises that had to be made in order to keep the price low, for starters the Mavic Aksium wheelset that comes with the bike is on heavy side. The FSA stem is not very stiff, during sprints you can feel it flexing ever so slightly and the seapost is a bit irritating to adjust. Also the Prologo Zero Pas Saddle was not really my cup of tea, a bit too hard for my taste despite the mention of gel on it.  

Azzurri-Forza-Pro-2-

Then again, if you are serious about road racing then of course all these small points would not be an issue as these components can be easily swapped out. The Mavic Aksium’s that came with the bike was by no means unusable, from reading other reviews I know that they are reliable and robust.

However as I already had a pair of aero wheelsets on hand, I made the swap immediately as most of the events and training ride I go for are on relatively flat areas or just rolling hills. A good friend of mine was still running the Mavic’s for century rides and he had not issues with them. 

As for the flexing during sprints, FSA stem as previously mentioned, that wasn’t such a big issue as I needed a longer stem to accommodate to my reach so the FSA was swapped out for a longer 120mm PRO stem which also solved my problem with the flexing. The handlebars that come stock standard has a compact design meaning the drops are shallow and the reach is short. This is for more aggressive style of cycling which certainly favoured my riding style.

To sum it all up the small compromises are easily neglected, as the value for money of the bike will outweigh all the negatives. After almost 3,000km the Azzurri Forza Pro has yet to let me down, I ride at least two to three times a week and quite frequently participate in century rides and events.The brand Azzurri might not be as recognisable as others in the market however that might be a good thing as you are not paying for marketing and other forms advertising costs. What you are paying for is a bike that won’t hurt your wallet and will certainly ride brilliantly and perhaps outperform other brands with a higher price tag. Azzurri will certainly give the big names such Giant and Specialized a run for their money. 

Azzurri-Forza-Pro3-Azzurri bikes are available at some local bike shops, however if you want to get the best deals then your best option would be to get directly from CyclingExpress. Be sure to check the bike geometry properly before making a purchase online to ensure the right size will fit you. 

Cycling

Group Cycling Etiquette

As simple as it is to ride a bicycle, there some things which you should consider before joining a group ride. Of course you could ignore these tips altogether but your first group ride would probably be the last you ever have. It does astonish me that so many riders lack the understanding or etiquette of group riding which puts themselves and the riders around them in danger. So here are my top tips in no particular order on group cycling etiquette.

  1. Always carry spare tubes, tyre levers and a  pump/CO2. Just because others have them along does not mean you should depend them. If you are worried about not fitting everything in jersey back pocket. Then what you would need is a small saddle bag which would fit everything that for need.
  2. Don’t make any sudden movements when riding in a group, the last thing you want to do is to clip the tyre of another rider and cause a bad accident.
  3. When braking, slowly engage the brakes, so that the riders behind you have enough time to react. Only brake hard if you really need to.
  4. Be sure  to communicate with other riders. Give verbal and hand signals to show the directions the group is going, or point out dangerous objects or potholes on the road to help those behind you. As the view is often obscured when there are multiple riders in front of you.
  5. Look ahead at the rear wheel of the rider in front of you so that you do not get too close and that you keep the same pace. That being said, don’t forget to enjoy the view while you are out cycling.
  6. Spitting or clearing your nose. If you really need to clear the your throat or nostrils, please do so in a respectful manner. Ride to the side of the group and be sure no one is behind you before you spit.
  7. Lights: if your group is out ridding in the wee early mornings or in darkness of the night be sure that have lights fitted to your bicycle, both front and rear. This is to illuminate the road ahead of you as well as to make yourselves more viable to traffic coming up from the rear.
  8. Don’t leave someone struggling to change flat tyre on their own, always make sure someone helps out. It make the time spent on the side of the road that much less and it keeps the mood up.
  9. If it’s your first time riding in a group, start from the back so that you can observe and get the feel of riding in a group.
  10. If the route has some steep climbs there will certainly be a break in the group, where some rides would be dropped behind. So stop on the peak or on the side of the road to regroup and make a headcount and ensure that everyone is doing alright.
Cycling

What To Bring On A Bike Ride

Regardless of how far you will be riding your bike, there a few essentials that you should not leave home without. It might seems excessive at first, however this will prevent you from being stranded in the middle of nowhere and not being able to pedal home.

I will not cover all the items that you can bring along, however I will concentrate on the essentials you will need. These are the items that are always with me on any ride.

What to bring on a bike ride

1. Spare tubes

One of the most essential item to bring on a ride is the spare tubes. Now personally I would carry two tubes when going on long rides alone or when riding in a small group. As the unluckiest of days could result in two punctures in a day. During larger group rides, you can make do with just one spare tube. As in case of emergency there is always someone with an extra tube. Also a good tip would be to check the spare tubes that you bring along to ensure that they not faulty.

2. CO2 Inflator/ Hand Pump

Now with a new tube in place you will need to re inflate the tires again. Personally I prefer to carry around a CO2 inflator instead of a conventional hand pump. The reason for this is that it takes less space and inflates the tire almost instantly when triggered. However there is a downside to using CO2, the first is that you have only chance at getting right while inflating the tire, and secondly they are a bit most costly in the long run. Be sure to carry an extra canister of CO2, in case the first one leaks or you have two separate punctures. Also bring along a presta valve adapter so that you can use the air pumps at the petrol stations. 

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3.  Tire Levers

Tire levers are probably the least glamorous item on the list yet very essential to remove the inner tube quickly and to place the tire back in place.

4. Multi Tool

A multi-tool will help you in many ways, having one with a complete set of hex keys, screw drivers and chain cutter will serve you in almost any situation you may encounter while out riding. It could be anything from changing the saddle height, tightening the brakes to cutting a broken chain. This little multi-tool will is a swiss knife to a cyclist.

Multi Tool Cycling

Birzman Multi-Tool

5. Mobile Phone

Besides tracking your ride using the Strava, the mobile phone will be useful to call for help in case of an emergency, get directions if you get lost, or even give out your location to loved ones using  Life 360Family Locator and Sygic Family Locator.  You can download these apps for free from the Google Play store.

6. Water Proof Case

The weather is always unpredictable so the last thing you want is getting your mobile phone wet. A water proof case will help keep your phone dry from sweat and rain. If you cant get a hold of a water proof case then a sandwich bag will surfiest.

7. Saddle Bag

Now you could stuff most of the items down the rear pockets of your jersey, however there is only so much you can squeeze into the 3 pockets. So if you don’t have enough space for all of the items, then a saddle bag would be a good addition.

My Topeak saddle bag fits almost everything except my mobile phone which I slot into my back pocket. Even with all the items there is still room for a few energy gels.

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8. Photo ID & Cash/Credit Card.

Also don’t forget to bring along a photo ID and some cash or credit card to pay for your coffee when you are out riding with your friends. The photo ID and credit card can be easily slotted in behind your mobile phone and placed in the water proof case.

I hope this small list will help give an idea on what to bring on a bike ride. Again these are the bare essentials and you can add more things to the list depending on how far you are cycling and what are the weather conditions in your area.

Fuji Sportif 2.1
Cycling

My First Road Bike

Growing up my parents introduced me to cycling fairly early, I was handed down a red bicycle which had what I called Swedish styled brakes, where you had to pedal backwards so that the brakes would engage the rear wheel. Till today I can still recall the scrapes and burns from falling off the bike for those first few attempts on learning how to balance myself on two wheels. And when the moment finally came, when the bicycle was well balanced and travel just as I wanted it to go, the feeling was spectacular, a sense of freedom.

Now flash forward 25 years and I have just picked up my first road bike, I had never imagined that the world of cycling was a $6 billion dollar industry and that some bicycles would literally cost  you and an arm or a leg. Cycling as a kid was much simpler, it would either be a bicycle with with gear or one without. The BMX was my kid bike and then later on moved on to a mountain bike (MTB) as I grew up to a teenager. DSC_8739

Now the bike, which became my first road bike is a full aluminium framed Fuji Sportif 2.1, it came with a mix of Shimano Tiagra and Sora groupsets and carbon integrated forks. Weighing in 10.4KG it was definitely not the lightest bicycle, it was actually considered be on the heavy for some. Anyway it didn’t bother me one bit, as I knew I had the fitness to pedal and frankly it is the lightest bicycle I have ever owned. Now the Sportif is categorised as an endurance bike, which means the entire design of the frame has been worked around comfort and also to ease those steep climbs. This is perfect for the hardcore weekend warrior which I would classify myself as. 

Fuji Sportif 2.1

Fuji Sportif 2.1 Butted SL Aluminium Frame

Personally the first time I got the bike and started riding, it did feel a bit odd as I have been so adapted to sitting up straight like you would do on a conventional bicycle. But it didn’t take long to adjust to the more aggressive position you get while sitting on a road bike, just a few minutes later you realize that you are going so fast. It felt great, especially when I realized that I was going at speeds of 25 km/h or more. To a seasoned rider this is still considered slow but coming from those years riding a MTB it did feel fast. 

DSC_8708

Now about the bike, as for some reason here in Malaysia there seem to be a lack of larger sized bicycles. Not too sure why, as I generally do not consider myself as a tall person, heck I’m just average standing at a modest 177cm. The correct size for my height was to be somewhere between 54 to 56. The bike which I currently own is a 52 and  there had to be some slight modification done in order to get it fit my height properly. It’s getting technical but I cannot stress enough on how important it is to get the bike to fit your body, as the most expensive bike in the world would probably harm your body more than anything if it does not fit you. 

Fuji Sportif 2.1 Rear Derailleur

Shimano Tiagra Rear Derailleurs

Fuji Sportif 2.1

The Fuji Top Tube Cover

Now in order to compensate for the smaller frame on the bicycle, the seat post was raised quite high and also to make my arms more comfortable the handlebars needed to be pushed further front. Therefore the stem had to be longer, so the one that came with the bike was replaced. I have to say that I was glad I had my buddy Sean with me as it would have been a disaster if not for him. I had already read up on all the different cycling terminologies, sizing, and just cycling in general. However sadly some of the people in the store were more or less clueless when it comes to proper bike fitting. 

Fuji Sportif 2.1 Crankset

The Shimano Sora Front Derailleur.

All in all my road bike is fantastic, this entry level Fuji was definitely worth it and has so far clocked in a little over 650 km in just under 2 months. The next achievement on the list would be to complete a century ride which is 16o kilometres (100 miles). It would certainly be epic and will probably get a chance to complete that in the next month or so. I shall now wrap up this post and will be back with another post talking about my journey of becoming a cyclist and how no road bike is complete without clipless pedals.

Fuji Sportif 2.1

Fuji Sportif 2.1

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