Bike Shop Sales Sore at Tour Du France

An interesting headline for a press release sent from a certain PR company. Sore? As in ‘ouch, that hurts’? No, apparently the PR person meant ‘soar’, as in ‘fly high as a kite.’ Which is perhaps what the PR was when she wrote the release?

Shall I reveal the client?

[Large multi-store bike shop] Sales Sore during TdF

The Tour Du France (sic, Tour du Gascony maybe) has been successful for the Brits with Bradley Wiggins dominating most stages. With this in mind, please find attached some great product from [bike shop large enough to employ an outside PR firm]. There has also been a rise in bike sales, please see below some stats and a quote from a spokesperson from [said bike shop].

“What’s clear to see is that sales of Road bikes has increased this month. We were less than half way through July, but had already sold close to the total bikes sold in June. Whilst we expect to see growth in July due to warmer weather and the TdF throwing the spotlight on our sport, this year we are pleasantly surprised by the surge in sales. Why are we surprised? Because we haven’t had any assistance from the weather this year, it shows that the passion people have for the sport outweighs the negative impact of the weather.”

“Our sales have improved best between £700-£2000, which is around the value we would expect our real cycling enthusiasts to be spending. No doubt many of these consumers have been inspired by the success of Wiggins and all other racers, and therefore feel that they too can step up their performance by having the next level of equipment.

“With the Olympics just around the corner and a potential gold in multiple cycling disciplines, we are really excited to see how big the buzz is going to be. I think the anticipation and expectation is there, let’s realise our countries (sic) potential and see how motivated we are. All we have to say is, Allez Wiggo and Go Cav!

“Alongside the approaching Olympics also comes the potential for, and expectation of, some transportation issues and we’re seeing customers looking to cycling as a way of getting around.”

Speed sells


Mark Cavendish’s victory in yesterday’s world road race championships put him – partially – on the front covers of the Guardian, the Telegraph and the Times. And the BBC asked Could cycling become the UK’s second-favourite sport, after football. Were he to follow up his Copenhagen sprint with a similar burst of speed at the London Olympics his place in the pantheon of British mainstream sporting greats will be for ever secure.

In 1893, an American sprinter was lauded for the same talent: A.A. ‘Zimmy’ Zimmerman had an explosive kick that saw off his rivals for most of his short career (1889-1896). He won the first ever ‘official’ road world championships and did so upon a Raleigh bicycle.

Zimmerman was one of the earliest professional sports stars. When he started riding for Raleigh, he wasn’t a pro, as – technically – this wasn’t allowed; he was a “maker’s amateur”, which amounted to the same thing. Raleigh owner Frank Bowden paid Zimmerman in diamonds, complained the National Cyclists’ Union, a racing organisation opposed to the payment of riders. Zimmerman had a huge following in the US and Europe. By 1894 he was openly a professional for Raleigh, was paid a fortune and made even more money from prizes and appearance fees. He also became one of the first athletes to license his name: there were Zimmy cycling shoes, Zimmy toe-clips and Zimmy clothes.

Raleigh sponsored him because speed sells. A famous poster of Zimmerman shows him astride his bike, in front of a sign listing his career wins to date, and watched by two cyclists in the touring garb of the day.


Frank Bowden – like Pope Manufacturing’s Colonel Albert A. Pope in the US – recognised that to sell bicycles to the masses, you have to stress speed.

Raleigh was still stressing speed in 1932, even when selling utility bikes to women.

Raleigh bicycle poster 1932

Speed is still important. But not in the sweat-fest sort of way, all head down and Lycra. One of cycling’s key advertised advantages, from the 1890s to today, is the ability to go door to door, swiftly. Cycle routes which steer away from the fastest A to B routes may direct cyclists away from busy, motorised traffic but it’s not just sport cyclists who want to follow ‘desire lines’, the shortest and more desirable routes.

In the UK, dedicated cycle routes are often circuitous, interrupted by junctions where cyclists do not have priority. They can add precious time to journeys. For cycle paths to be effective, they must be not only made safe for hesitant cyclists, they must be made fast. By fast, read direct.

Copenhagen does this well. Traffic lights propel cyclists on a ‘Green wave’: pedal at 20kmh and you hit green for much of your journey. The green wave is set to work best towards the city centre in the morning rush hour; and away from the city centre at 12 to 6pm.


Those who use their bikes to get to work want to arrive in the least time possible. If bike paths are provided, they need to be very wide, and well designed. In 1996, the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, writing about bike paths, said:

“The fast cycle commuter must not be driven off the highway onto a route that is designed for a 12-year-old or a novice on a leisure trip, because if that happens, the whole attempt to enlarge the use of the bicycle will have failed.”

The ‘fast cycle commuter’ does not just mean a sports cyclist on a carbon road bike. Dutch roadsters can be pedalled fast, and so can Boris Bikes. Any well serviced bike with correctly inflated tyres – even dual-suss Bicycle Shaped Objects – can reach giddy speeds, especially downhill. For some people, bicycles may be ‘aids to walking’ but if bikes travelled no faster than pedestrians, why cycle at all?

Joe Breeze with Breezer #1 (built 1977)

At Interbike, I met up with Joe Breeze, one of the founding fathers of mountain biking. We talked about cycling and speed. He may have built the first designed-for-the-job clunker (it was Gary Fisher who helped popularise the name ‘mountain bike’) but Breeze got into the bike biz to spread his love of utility cycling, cycling from town to town. His father built race cars in California, but rode to work on a bicycle. Breeze Jnr started racing bikes to prove what Bowden, Pope, Zimmerman and others had been promoting: that bicycles are fast.

“In the 1970s, I saw road racing as a stepping stone. Bicycles in America were seen as a children’s sidewalk toy, for riding round your neighbourhood only. I saw cycling, through my father, as a way to get somewhere. And through racing you could show people how quickly you can get from A to B. Maybe there’d be a little squib in the newspaper about it the next day and people would go ‘oh, you can get from A to B in a short amount of time.'”

In ‘The Art and Pastime of Cycling’ of 1893, journalists R.J. Mecredy and A.J. Wilson wrote:

“The faculty for enjoying rapid locomotion is one which is implanted in the human breast from earliest childhood, and the fact of one’s unaided efforts being the active cause of this locomotion enhances the pleasures derived from it.”

In 1878, Gerard Cobb, president of the Bicycle Union and a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, wrote that cycling was “primarily of commercial importance” but was also of practical benefit:

“…the ease with which a bicycle can be driven, the distance it enables its riders to cover, its speed…added to its durability and comparative cheapness, render it by far the best form of road-locomotion for all to whom economy, whether of time or money, is object. As such its use is daily extending among professional men of all classes [and] working men are getting more and more to use them for their daily transit to and from work.”

Speed – to and from work – remains important. A survey of Copenhagen bicycle users found that the number one reason people ride is because it’s faster than any other mode of transport. Fifty-five percent of Copenhagen riders said they bike because it’s fast. Only 9 percent of Copenhagen bicycle users ride because it’s deemed good for the environment.

So, when pushing for dedicated bicycle infrastructure we must always bear in mind that today, and in the past, speed has always gone hand in hand with convenience. Make cycling slow and it loses a big part of its appeal.

I have certainly borne this in mind with the latest version of the Bike To Work Book (112 pages of bicycling goodness, available below or for iPads, free). This has lots of advice on why cycling doesn’t have to be a sweaty affair and to beat cars in major cities you don’t have to get hot under the collar: cars often crawl along, whereas bikes sail past the jams. The section on commuter challenges points out you don’t have to stress out to beat cars in town. Speediness does not equate to excessive perspiration (sweating is cited by many people as a reason not to cycle).

But I beefed up the cover lines, adding: “You can get around town QUICKER by bike.”


Click on the page to read in full-screen, and hit left or right arrows to navigate through the book.



Some of the historical background to this posting was taken from the new book Quest for Speed: A History of Early Bicycle Racing, 1868-1903, by Andrew Ritchie.


If Gary Imlach had a bike range…


Halfords has today said its like-for-like bike sales in 13 weeks to 1st July have risen 11.5 percent. No doubt its sales will increase even further in the current quarter because of the blanket advertising on ITV4’s coverage of the Tour de France. But I feel the company is missing a trick. Why limit itself to just a Boardman range of bikes? A Gary Imlach bike range would be a perfect fit for Halfords. They could flog the range on the highlights part of the Tour de France coverage, seconds before the man himself appears. Why should Chris Boardman get all the product plugs?

The first model in the new range would be an electric bike, with integrated hair drier for that cycle-coiffure that few can pull off. @velocast suggests the bike range would have to come ready-fitted with mirrors, too. Good point.

The advert copy for this new bike range could go something like this…

“I knew I’d had a good day’s fronting a sport show when they had to crow-bar me off the set…”

“Light blue is not a colour, it’s a frame of mind.”

Got any more suggestions?

PS I think Gary Imlach is the best presenter on telly. His scripts are first-rate, his humour biting, his hair…gravity-defying.

EUROBIKE: iPhone holder, Cannondale e-bikes & Knog shocker

I was at Eurobike last week. This is the 13-hall mega show that dwarfs all others in the world of bicycles. As I was working on the Eurobike Show Daily, the officially-sanctioned English-language magazine, I wasn’t able to focus on much apart from my allotted news stories but, thanks to an iPhone 4, iMovie phone editor, and a wifi connection, I was able to post three rough and ready videos from the show.

When they go online, I’ll post the show dailies here but in the meantime here are the three vids (be warned, the Knog one is rather rude in places):

Out of the mouths of babes & cabbies

Axa, the car insurance company, doesn’t just have an iPhone app that stores insurance details and proffers crash info, it has commissioned a whole bunch of videos to promote its ‘Respect on the Road’campaign.

As well as a video showing typical ‘road rage’ language and behaviour acted out by tots, there’s a whole series featuring a cab driver. Yes, that paragon of road safety, a cab driver. Funnily enough, he hates speed bumps.

The AXA Respect On The Road campaign has a growing number of ‘Cab Cam’ videos featuring a taxi driver eliciting views from his passengers. At least two of the videos feature views about cyclists.

Michael likes bikes, but only in good weather:

Tony reckons cyclists cause accidents:

David is “not a big fan of cyclists”:

AXA Car Insurance is going big into the social media space. It has a Facebook presence as well as the YouTube microsite.

This is a sponsored post: clearly Axa wants its campaign to spread virally, including on blogs aimed at cyclists.

AXA said its campaign is to…

“…try and bring courtesy and respect back to British roads. All too often inexperienced drivers give themselves away behind the wheel of a car; they lose their manners and sometimes their marbles too. Respect on the road is an issue people genuinely care about; with your help AXA want to highlight the state of disrespectful and sometimes dangerous driving practices in the UK through debate and discussion which will be largely hosted on Facebook.”

And top marks to that cabbie: unbelieveably, he never once said “cyclists don’t pay road tax.”

Twitter inspires


UPDATE: Following this posting – and coverage on blogs, news sites and forums – I was inundated with pre-orders for the jersey. It will now be produced in partnership with, story here.

Alongside the ‘all cyclists blow through red lights’* canard from motorists there’s the classic ‘we pay road tax, cyclists don’t.’ This is an objection voiced the world over. This morning on Twitter, Nick Bertrand said:

“I pay road tax/VED for the car I rarely drive. Should I wear a copy of the tax disk on my jersey?”

I replied, telling him that’s a great idea, and others agreed. I then went on a bike ride. On the road to Dunston – Damascus being too far for a hill-climb quickie – I had a light-bulb moment: jerseys with tax discs printed on them.

And arm-warmers, so cyclists thrown the ‘we pay road tax’ argument can counter by simply pointing to an upper-arm. It’s sure easier than getting a tattoo.

When I got back from the ride I registered and I commissioned Luke Scheybeler to produce the fake tax disc above. This will be used on the jerseys and arm-warmers. For product updates, follow iPayRoadTax on Twitter.


The fonts and colours for the jersey and arm-warmers aren’t set in stone. Others on Twitter suggested headset spacers and topcaps, too. Oy, could do loads of things. Like mugs, badges, t-shirts? Or how about, ahem, a tax-disc holder for your car, emblazoned with bicycle symbols?

When I twittered the fact I’d registered a domain-name and who would like some arm-warmers and jerseys, the response from Twitterdom was immediate. Within seconds I got firm orders. Really. Seconds. Amazing. From inspiration to product idea to mock-up to orders within minutes. Who says Twitter is a waste of time and thence money? I may have just created a micro-business thanks to picking up on a 140-character message (or I may be wasting my time and money).

If you’d like to express interest in items from the forthcoming I Pay Road Tax collection, have a look at this.

* Just cyclists blow through red lights, huh? Two wrongs don’t make a right but there are plenty of online examples of motorists doing things they shouldn’t. Here’s four drivers in one go busting through a red light in Manchester:

NB Road tax was abolished in the UK in 1936. Since then we have paid ‘Vehicle Excise Duty’ and, as every fule knows (except the majority of motorists, it seems), this does not pay for the upkeep of roads. This comes out of general taxation. Cyclists are tax-payers…And, of course, the majority of adult cyclists also own cars so pay VED, too. It’s just that many cyclists prefer not to use their cars for every blummin’ short journey.

How to Lock Your Bike video

I produced this bike security video for Northumbria Police. Newcastle students get their bikes nicked hand over fist. And walking around the campus, it’s clear to see why: many of the bikes are poorly locked with weak locks, easy prey to scallies with bolt croppers and bottle jacks.

Naturally, many of the locks could be breached with pliers never mind meaty bolt croppers.

The video – flagged as produced by the forthcoming Bike to Work Book – is just two and a half minutes long but gets across the main messages from this long and detailed bike locking article.

The other videos in the Bike to Work Book series are:

Hi-re versions of these videos can be found on the podcast, available on iTunes.

Unsigned Chrimbo cards: bad for corporations, bad for the planet

Despite the credit crunch, the corporate Christmas card is alive and well. I got two from Japan today. Both from Shimano.

Shimano Christmas card - Yoshizo and Ikuko

There’s a pop-up with two roadies from Shimano chairmen Yoshizo and Ikuko Shimano, or there’s a product placement card from Yozo Shimano.

Shimano Christmas card - Yozo

In the fullness of time I’ll upload images of all the corporate Christmas cards I get and we can all vote on the cheeriest and the cheesiest, but for now, here’s a vote on which of the two Shimano cards you prefer. Neither were signed, both came with the same database-driven address labels. (Sorry, there’s no answers 4 or 5, it’s my first time with Polldaddy and I screwed up).

Over on I’ve campaigned against unsigned corporate Christmas cards since 1999. I like personalised ones – even if the image is trying to sell me stuff – but database cards aren’t terribly clever.

To its credit, Shimano Europe took my bah humbug complaints to heart and, in 2000, cancelled its Christmas card budget. The money – many thousands of Euros – was funnelled into good causes instead. Cycling ones, of course. And, along with two other European cycle trade mag editors, I was a judge in how this cash got spent. It always went on youth cycling projects.

Commentators such as Chris Brogan aren’t big fans of corporate ‘holiday cards’. He blogs about alternative ways of showing care.

TfL produces more ‘watch out for cyclists’ videos

Earlier this year, Transport for London ripped off a video awareness production of Dr Daniel Simons and had an enormous success with it. The ‘basketball video’ has had 4,980,000+ views on YouTube.

TfL has now produced a new set of videos. They will also go viral and may make motorists think twice about their duty of care on the road. It’s just such a shame the agency which produced the videos for TfL won’t credit the originators of the earlier inattentional blindness videos.

Cyclists are often on the receiving end of such blindness, so much so there’s an acronym for it: SMIDSY (‘Sorry, mate I didn’t see you’).

Do The Test:

OMG, an anti-Apple posting by me on Me

Now, if only the producers of this new BBC comedy sketch show had used a Mac instead of a PC this attack could have been a metaphor for what Mobile Me has been doing to users…

Upset at outages?