Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
I used to always get a Sunday paper which used to take me all week to read. I would savour it like some lovingly baked cake, consuming it in equally portioned sections.
My paper of choice was the Sunday Observer.
This Sunday they hooked me back in with their review section. This was almost entirely dedicated to cycling in the United Kingdom.
Thank you Observer, you have won me back
They also have a good article on their Internet by Tim Lewis which I have copied below.
All pumped up and ready to go
Time was when only a tiny number of people cycled in Britain, and even then it was a dour, functional affair. Now, cycling is seen as eco-friendly, cool, healthy, cheap and practical, while bikes - and those who ride them - have become the epitome of style
About 10 years ago, I decided to ride my bike to work. This is, I appreciate, not the most dramatic opening gambit, but at the time I felt like a countercultural pioneer. In the office car park, there was a rack for six bicycles, half of which was never used, and spaces for around 50 cars, which were always full. There were, naturally, no shower facilities; I quickly attained some notoriety for the clippety-clop of my cycling cleats in the corridors and the ingenious though not entirely hygienic drying rack I rigged up under my desk. I had just one bike-rack buddy: he was definitely a little odd but in those days, as a cyclist, you could not be too picky. We would have interminable chats about hybrids, which were starting to take over the commuter scene, and about the smack-talking American who had recovered from cancer and was winning the Tour de France.
A decade on, some things haven't changed (Lance Armstrong is still bossing everyone around), but in many ways, cycling, as a functional means of transportation or as a convenient way of taking some exercise, is almost unrecognisable. At my office now, there is an equally capacious car park, but there are three spaces for cars (one of them electric) and more than 150 bays for bicycles. There are 10 showers. Rain or shine, you will find a Pashley Guv'nor with a luxurious Brooks saddle next to a single-speed Condor Pista next to a £2,000 Specialized Roubaix road bike next to a rusting granny bike.
A 2008 Sport England study showed that 1.8 million of us cycle once a week or more, not including commuters, and it is the second-fastest-growing sport in the country after athletics. But the difference is most obvious in our cities. There has been a 107% increase of people cycling on the capital's main roads since 2000, according to Transport for London; it has also risen dramatically in Bristol (up 27% since 2003), Sheffield (60% since 2000) and Leicester (43% since 2003). A ride-and-go cycle scheme was recently set up in Bristol and a London version - which promises to have 6,000 bikes and a docking station every 300 metres - will launch next May.
What explains this cultural shift? A partial list of factors might include ever-rising petrol prices; the 7/7 attacks in London; an increasing awareness of environmental issues; the introduction of the congestion charge; the launch of the Cycle2Work schemes, which provide tax-free bikes funded by the government; erratic public transport; the Tour de France visiting the UK in 2007; the eight gold medals won by British cyclists at the Beijing Olympics last summer; concerns over swine flu. And then there are people who just want some exercise.
Nevertheless, cycling still only accounts for 1% of all journeys taken in the UK (and 2% of trips under two miles), a shameful total compared with 18% in Denmark and 27% in the Netherlands. Those figures are also way below government projections made in the late 90s. But to look at it another way, if the boom in cycling is already so apparent despite the statistics, just where and how is it being felt? And, more important, how can the momentum be maintained?
Few mechanical objects have the simplicity and elegance of a bicycle. When he was 15, fashion designer Paul Smith used to ride a low-geared fixed-wheel five miles each way to work at a clothing warehouse in Nottingham; four decades on, he can still go misty-eyed about the unconventional beauty of a chainset or a pair of Anquetil shoes. "I would rub my thumbnail down the Campagnolo seat pillar and really think it was a fantastic thing," he recalls. "Or the sound of the tyres when they were pumped up so hard. I used to keep the bike in my bedroom - I was a bit obsessive and geeky."
These sentiments are echoed by a new generation of fixed-gear riders. These are bikes pared to their very basics: just one gear, one chainring, one sprocket, forcing the rider to pedal constantly while the bike is in motion. "It is the perfect form and function balance," says Andy Ellis, who founded the influential Fixed Gear London collective in 2003 and now consults at 14 Bike Co in Shoreditch, east London. "Fixies" were typically the cheapest and easiest to maintain bikes you could own, hence their popularity with cycle couriers, but now much of their popularity stems from the fact that they are a perfect blank canvas for you to modify and customise.
As a result, fixed gears have introduced a customer whose last bike was probably a Raleigh Chopper in the 80s. "When we started off three years ago, 50-60% of our customers were web designers or graphic designers," says Feya Buchwald, co-director of Brick Lane Bikes, which specialises in hard-to-find fixed gears and vintage models. "They were typically 20 to 30, though it's getting younger now, and for them a bike was an extension of their personality."
Cycling now finds itself in the unprecedented position of being an inspiration for fashion and artists. Louis Vuitton's recent spring-summer 2010 show was an homage to bike messengers, or the "gentleman butterflies" of the City, as studio director Paul Helbers has it (I must have missed the day when they wore egg-yolk-yellow nylon safari jackets). Meanwhile, for the final stage of the Tour de France this afternoon, Lance Armstrong will ride a Trek Madone, which Damien Hirst has emblazoned with real butterflies shimmering on the frame ("Holy $hi+ ... stunning" tweeted Armstrong when he saw it). This follows previous one-off collaborations between the cyclist and the likes of graphic artist Shepard Fairey and industrial designer Marc Newson that will all be auctioned for charity Livestrong.
"Ah look, it wasn't much of a technical challenge, it was essentially a graphic exercise," says Newson, who was a keen racer in his teens and has designed a range of city bikes for Danish company Biomega. "But there's a buzz about cycling that wasn't there before - you wouldn't call it popularising, because Lance is doing it on quite an elite level, but it's all part of the same movement."
For increasing numbers of riders, cycling is a way of escaping the daily grind. A typical weekend rouleur will be male, affluent, in his mid-30s or early 40s, and likes nothing more than going out on his bike for a 70-mile ride on a Sunday morning (which conveniently allows a few hours away from his wife and kids). "Men get to a certain age and they yearn for that escape," says Simon Mottram, managing director of the high-end cycling brand Rapha. "If your normal life is sitting at a desk or going in and out of meetings, frantically looking at your BlackBerry, taking calls on Skype, then you will dream of adventure and camaraderie and going out and doing something quite physical."
Rapha, which was set up five years ago to find a solution to the eternally disturbing sight of a middle-aged man in tight performance fabrics, is proof that cycling companies can not only withstand the economic downturn but profit from it. When it was launched, the company was criticised for having prices that were typically 40% higher than its competitors, but in fact they were just getting warmed up. Earlier this year, Rapha produced the ultimate counterpoint to the lurid spandex that many riders wear: a three-piece cycling suit in Prince of Wales check with pink "storm collar" made by renowned tailor Timothy Everest. Despite the eye-watering price of £3,500, more than a dozen orders have been taken.
"We are growing at 80% this year and with the economic crisis we never expected to grow that fast," admits Mottram. "In the UK, we are performing particularly strongly. The main reason is that, for the people buying the stuff, it's the last thing you want to give up. It makes you feel better about yourself. Yes, you might not buy your hugely indulgent new sofa or your car, that's a big-ticket item, but your cycling, which keeps you feeling good about yourself... it's going to take quite a lot to stop you doing that."
Women have proved less enthusiastic about converting to two wheels. Research in February from Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity, revealed that four out of five women never cycle, and fewer than one in 10 cycle more than once a month. The study highlighted the perceived danger of roads as a primary concern, but Amy Fleuriot, whose women-specific Cyclodelic clothing range will launch in September, believes the problem goes deeper. "All the images you would see in the media were men clad in Lycra and going fast and that doesn't appeal to a lot of women," she says. "They think you have to buy all this specialist kit and you're going to get sweaty and that's not the case."
Again, the model is the Netherlands, where women make up more than half of all riders. "It's a safety in numbers thing," says Fleuriot. "Once you show women that it's really not that dangerous, it will go from there."
It must be acknowledged that the increasing number of cyclists on the road has not been received with universal enthusiasm. The debate was ignited by a 2003 article written by Kate Hoey, the former sports minister, entitled "Lycra Louts". Reacting to RAC research that indicated that 50% of Londoners and 25% of Glaswegian cyclists did not stop at red lights, she seethed: "There's a kind of innate moral superiority about cycling that assumes they should be immune from the law."
If running lights makes her this angry, it's hard to imagine how Hoey would react to the vogue for fixie owners who ride without brakes (they stop by using bike control, anticipation and, presumably, an ability to read others minds). The police claim to be getting tougher on cycling offences - Boris Johnson promised "complete zero tolerance" in London - but this did not stop David Cameron blithely riding unpunished through a red light in Notting Hill last year.
The Guardian's Matt Seaton gave voice to the frustration of many pedal-pushers when he bemoaned the tendency for cyclists to "get out a revolver and fire one off at our collective foot"- although iPod listeners, riders who ignore one-way streets and the woman I saw riding along a busy road last week balancing a hardback book on her handlebars do not seem too bothered.
Everyone in the industry believes that the cycling boom will continue at least for a few more years. Rapha's Simon Mottram points out that next year will see the debut of Team Sky, the first British outfit that will compete in the Tour de France; its director, Dave Brailsford, who masterminded the Olympic effort, has predicted a British winner of the Tour within five years, and he is not typically wrong about these things. Sky also aims to initiate a million new cyclists by 2013, starting with city-centre Skyrides in Manchester, Glasgow and Leicester throughout August. There will also be the inevitable boost of the London Olympics.
The challenge for the government and bodies like the CTC will be to replicate the success of London in other British cities. At the moment, we cycle 4bn kms a year in the UK, but more than a quarter of this distance is ridden in the capital. There are other cities with a strong cycling culture, notably Cambridge, where a quarter of people cycle to work, and York, where it is one in eight, but in many cities, particularly in the north-east, there is little interest to build on, and often quite steep hills.
One incentive to non-cycling cities should be the statistics that indicate that, paradoxically, the more cyclists on the road the fewer accidents there will be. "At the very least, we should set an ambition to double cycling within the next 10 years," says Chris Peck of the CTC.
Making 2% of all journeys by bike by 2020 does not seem an outrageous proposal. However, we will know that cycling has become fully entrenched in Britain when there is no such thing as bike culture - it will just be our way of life.
• Tim Lewis is editor of Observer Sport Monthly
Chain links: The essential websites and blogs for cyclists
Top five websites
Useful step-by-step bike maintenance videos.
Smart accessories for women, from funky lights and floral panniers to vintage-style cycling capes.
Directory of UK cycle routes, perfect for holiday planning.
Brown worked as a bike mechanic until he died last year and his homepage lives on as an astonishing technical resource.
With regular feature Cycle Facility of the Month: photographs of bike lanes leading into oncoming traffic, with deadpan captions.
Top five blogs
Increasingly reluctant to talk to the conventional press, Lance Armstrong typically communicates with his fans through his Twitter page (twitter.com/lancearmstrong) and his unexpectedly entertaining videos: recent guests have included Ben Stiller, Robin Williams and Mark Cavendish.
The Guardian's inimitable blog includes the Two Wheels column and a monthly podcast.
One of the best blogs on bike culture, this English language site documents life and style in the world's cycling capital and has a sister site, copenhagencyclechic.com, that is the last word in two-wheel fashion. It has also inspired an equally successful imitation, amsterdamize.com.
Entertaining, cynical and sharp-witted account of cycling in Manhattan.
For those fed up with cycling machismo, a refreshing diary by eight female cycling friends from across the UK.
Posted by Tim Lewis Sunday 26 July 2009 00.01 BST The Observer
If any of you know any observer readers it is worth asking them to save the review section as there are a Full five pages of reading joy!!!!!!
Sunday, July 26, 2009
At that time I was 30lbs heavier than I am now and was forced to walk up most of this monster.
The rest of the ride was equally painful. Although not as steep it nearly ruined my appetite for cycling and certainly put a question mark on my love for climbing.
I remember to this day how my legs shook like a jelly on a washing machine, how the cramp seized me up and how I literally threw up............nice!!!!!!
I have always liked climbing, well actually its a kind of a love/hate thing.
I love the challenge it brings, the view at the top and of course the white knuckle descents.
When your riding on the flat and the pace is a little too hot, you can just slow down.
Climbing is different.
The choices are minimal.
Slowing down from a pace just quicker than a snail is impossible.
You either look for a convenient place to have a controlled stop or you fall over on your F**king arse.
The first option has to be as precise as brain surgery or you just default to the falling on your F**king arse scenario anyway.
Since The Cheshire Cat my choice of climbing has been somewhat conservative with a very small 'c', especially now that I have lost the luxury of a triple ring.
I have avoided anything over 20% gradients unless the momentum from a descent is going to push me up the other side like the inertia you experience on a roller coaster.
As such I have avoided some of the most beautiful local countryside 'The fabulous North Yorkshire Moors'
This weekend all that changed!!!!!
In John Landis cult Horror Movie of the 1980s The American Werewolf in London, David Kessler and his side kick John Goodman are warned about going on the moor. It was good advice.
For me there were several beasts that ambushed me every couple of miles.
Most notably was climb from Sleights (near Whitby) up to the moor top junction that takes you down to Goathland.
This particular climb is 25% and about three miles long called Blue Bank.
I have now gone through the 4,000 mile mark completing 4,060 miles. Only 712 miles to Houston in my virtual ride which now takes me through to Birmingham, Alabama. We have our own Birmingham in England, but I am positive it is not as nice as the Southern States version.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Instead of travelling down to Cambridge this evening, I decided to swap the televised Tour de France to viewing real life cycling in the form of the next stage of the National Circuit Race Championship being held in my own town of Beverley.
(Left out in the rain)
For those interested in the history of this event I enclose an extract from the race programme.
In Hull in 1951 a group of ‘right minded rebels’ formed Kingston Coureurs a club affiliated to ‘The League’. This caused a stir in the city’s cycling scene and many other clubs refused to speak to Coureurs club members who were considered as traitors, whose actions would kill off cycling.
Kingston Coureurs organised three road races in 1952 – The Swanland Dale RR (which was the first RR to be organised in East Yorkshire) The Butlins RR at Filey and the Danesdyke at Flamborough.
Two members Maurice and Dennis Hunter suggested the club run a 2-day event in 1953, but the committee refused. Not deterred by this they decided to leave and form their own club to run the event.
Jon Clay 1st Pro-Cam Classic 2 day 1997John Tanner 2nd, Wayne Randall 3rd.
So it was, in the winter of 1952 the brothers Hunter and a few other members along with two from Hull Thursday Road Club formed the Alpha Road Club.
At that time a years notice had to be given to run events so none were organised in 1953 however, the following year Alpha Road Club promoted two single day races;- the Tour of the Wolds and the Circuit of the Caves, both with great success.
In 1955 the two events took place again and Maurice Hunter saw his brainchild,- a 2-day road race come to life. Ably assisted by younger brother Dennis, they organised the first Alpha RC 2-day as well.
On the second day the course took the riders over the North Yorks Moors, taking in Blue bank (1 in 4) Devils Elbow at Saltersgate, Pickering, Seamer, Staxton (1in6), Foxholes, Octon, Sledmere, Wetwang and finished North of Beverley.
During the race a group broke clear including race leader Barry Trotter and, lying 6th Stan Harrison of Kingston Phoenix. Unfortunately Barry punctured, but a very sporting gesture from Stan who gave Barry a wheel saw him on his way, and enabled him to take overall victory in the first Alpha RC 2 day 1955. The event was run on a shoestring, but broke even. It was a great success despite Maurice losing his brother Dennis and two other members on whom he was relying to national service. People as they are today were press ganged into assisting. Stan Harrison’s father supplied his motorbike and with Trevor Wilkinson riding pillion, they laid out the route marking and prime flags.
In 1964 Hull Thursday Road Club took over the organisation of the event, now known as the White Rose GP. The event included Thursdays’ own Bill Holmes, Winner of the 1961 Tour of Britain and Olympic Silver Medallist.
Over the following years many riders who took part were to become the mainstay of the professional cycling scene in the 70’s and 80’s, including Sid Barras, Doug Dailey, and Keith Lambert.
In 1971 the event saw a field of 60 riders at a time when any field over 40 required government dispensation; this marked the event as one of the highest quality events in the country.
The quality of the ‘Zerny 2-Day’ saw it receive extensive coverage in editorials such as ‘International Cycle Sport’ and in 1976 the race was used as an Olympic selection event and saw the whole of the GB track and road teams taking part.
1977 heralded the arrival of new sponsors – Skeltons Bakery, a company who were to sponsor the event for 18 years until 1994. A new format was also adopted for the ‘Bread Race’, with the race concentrating on the challenging climbs to be found around Bishop Wilton and Garrowby in the Yorkshire Wolds. This race format gave the locals a chance to race on home roads. Notable performances by Mark Robinson of Hull Coureurs who took a stage win in 1983 after breaking away in the first of the 85 miles. Paul Peacock also took a stage in 1994, coming from a bunch sprint; the Cottingham Coureurs man got the better of riders such as Paul Curran, Wayne Randall, and the late Pete Longbottom.
In 1997 the event became the Pro-cam Classic.
In 1999 the East Riding of Yorkshire County Council became the events main sponsor and the event became known as the ‘East Riding of Yorkshire Classic’. Although always attracting top riders, from 1999 the starting line up once again began to resemble that of the Zerny era.
In 2000 and 2001 the race formed part of the Premier Calendar series and two top-level riders took the honours – Jon Clay (who took a bronze medal in the Olympic Games team pursuit) and John Tanner, national road race champion, competitor in the Sydney Olympic road race, and overall winner of the Premier Calendar series.
In 2002 after a run of 47 events the event was not held, as an organiser could not be found, to replace long time organiser and original event winner Barry Trotter who stepped down.
In 2002 Andy Cawley and Martin Cockerill decided (were talked into) becoming joint race directors to resurrect the event in 2003. (Watch where your going)
With a dedicated team recruited and in place, the 2003 event became the ‘East Yorkshire Classic’ and was to be a single day event over a 96 mile course. Starting and finishing in Beverley it would be an out and back course with 3 laps of a 14-mile circuit and taking in some of the toughest climbs of the Yorkshire Wolds.
Police permission was granted for a maximum field of 120 riders and prizes for the event were in excess of £2000.2004 and 2005 saw the event included in the premier calendar series, with overall prize lists touching £3000.
After the event in 2005 and good run of three events for the new organisation team, application was submitted for the ‘East Yorkshire Classic’ to be the British National Road Race Championships in 2006.
For more information on the race history please view the full pdf document.
(Olympic Gold Medalist Mr Clancy MBE with a shirt to match his locks) For results and further pictures follow link RESULTS
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Less than 1,000 miles to go now.
As a pedal south through Tennessee I find myself smiling, warmed my the summer sun.
As I follow an old a rail track and a tune starts piecing itself together in my head.
Slowly at first, then increasing in tempo, making my feet dance on my pedals until I am racing. My heartbeat in time with the sleepers I am passing.
Two shrill whistles sound behind me..............
It can only be one thing
I approve of trains
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
When I stood at the end of Photo shoots praying that the camera might miss me out or at least the lumpy parts of me.
It seems a long time ago since me and my kitchen made up and became friends.
This week my virtual ride reaches Lexington (officially Lexington-Fayette Urban County) is the second-largest city in Kentucky and the 67th largest in the United States. Known as the "Thoroughbred City" and the "Horse Capital of the World", it is located in the heart of Kentucky's Bluegrass region. Lexington ranks 10th among US cities in college education rate, with 39.5% of residents having at least a Bachelor's Degree. It is home to the headquarters of Lexmark International, the Kentucky Horse Park, Keeneland race course, Red Mile race course, Transylvania University, and the University of Kentucky.
It is also where two well know actors hail from: George Clooney or George 'Swoony' as many women see him. I am a great admirer of his work both in front and behind the Camera. Then to balance things out there is also Ashley Judd who has occasionally entered my virtual world too, but not riding a bike.
Friday, July 10, 2009
As compensation for this my Sunday blogs will be TDF free.
This year I have split loyalties, I desperately want 'Lance' to do well.
Too see him in yellow at any point would give me pure joy, to see him in Yellow in Paris would be just incredible.
I don't just want it for him, I think his success would reverberate in so many different ways. It would lift people during a bad global recession, It would massively promote the Livestrong foundation, but most of all its just great for cycling. His participation has taken the spotlight from more popular sports and brought cycling into a completely different league. The media frenzy and TV coverage this year is unprecedented.
I especially love the fact that he rides the same bike as me......It always makes me want to go fast
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Films to move us, frighten us, and excite us.
To invite us to work out who are the goodies, the baddies and the bit part supporting actors.
Each film Production company is vying for our attention, and trying to steal a march on its rivals. Kids get excited and some parents too, using their children as vehicles to attend darkened Cinemas with Dolby sound, reliving their youth.
The 2009 Tour de France.
Only 4 days in we have had everything
Exotic locations, beautiful weather and a Fantastic plot.
There has been blood, sweat, and tears.
Breakdowns, breakups and breakaways.
Tested loyalties, marriages, divorce, and further marriages of convenience.
Its a true epic.
Comparable with 'How the West was won'
I am loving it.
Of course I have only seen the rushes, and after vigorous editing, all my expectations may end up on the editing room floor. I am a bit concerned about the double dealing Spaniard with a name too similar to that of a large vulture. He is wearing a white hat.
In the mean time for those who love the thrill of the chase I attach some footage from a previous year.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Day and Night, Ying and Yang,Thunder and Lightening and Heaven and Hell.
Society has followed suit by making its own pairings like pairs of trousers, glasses, scissors, headphones and even handcuffs and shotguns, some of which I don't really understand the origins.
Over this weekend East Yorkshire had its own unique pairing in the form of twins.
My brother Paddy and I. We dabbled in our own favorite pairings too consuming, strawberries and cream, beer and peanuts and of course fish and chips.
We also had two cycle rides together.
Paddy is over from Houston on business and decided to come over to spend the weekend with his younger brother. When I say younger brother its actually Ten minutes, which is significant in the world of twins. It is the gap that separates the younger and the older.
I suspect that he also wanted check out the fitness of his 'Anglo Mules' (Simon and I) part of his 'Travels with my Mule Cycling Team.
Our event in August 'The Hotter than Hell' was apparently a very tough event and not for the unconditioned.
After group training for months with the Texas contingent, and clocking average miles in excess of 20mph he was perhaps concerned that Simon and I might slow the team down.
I was as nervous as a city banker at the potential scrutiny, as our own average times were far more modest.
Paddy resisted the invitation to head to the hill country and insisted that he wanted to replicate the sort of high tempo riding that we were likely to expect on the Texas plains.
With our own narrow twisting country roads, obligatory junctions and agricultural vehicles such a comparison was hard to achieve but it was all I could offer.
My East Yorkshire alternative was 'The Holderness Plain'
After 55 miles of riding Simon and I demonstrated to him some real Yorkshire grit.
We may not have had the advantages of team training, but we have had 3,000 + miles of riding in ice, snow, rain, gale force winds and F***ing big hills.
Our tempo seemed to impress our team leader and was at times too hot for his jet lagged legs.
By the end of our ride we had got the 'lone star' seal of approval.
Paddy declared 'I think you guys will be a great asset to our team'
Thank you Paddy we look forward to wearing our shirts with pride as well as copious amounts of sun block!!!!!!!
209 miles this week, making 3,506 for the year. I will now try and do at least 200 miles per week. My virtual ride takes me into Charleston and as I enter this lovely city I really seem to be dancing on the pedals...............roll on Houston.