I’m a Go Ride coach at Newcastle Phoenix CC, a youth cycling club. The club’s latest jerseys sport a couple of fetching logos on the back pocket area. Shimano, yes, and there’s the Quickrelease.tv image too!
Two of my bike-mad kids have done me proud recently. They won their respective categories in the club’s Best All Rounder competition.
I love YouTube. It was the first kid on the block and gets huge numbers of visitors. The Quickrelease.tv videos on YouTube have had 464,993 views between them. A Tour de France movie vid has had 71,233 views. YouTube is great for quick vids but is not so hot on delivering hi-res footage.
To date I have also been loading some vids to the Quickrelease.tv podcast on Libsyn and iTunes. These were OK for iPod viewing but, after watching HD podcasts on the latest incarnation of the Apple TV, I’m going to deliver the vids in Apple TV’s m4v format.
Despite the name, the Apple TV podcast-to-movies-to-Flikr set-top box thingy is syncable to a PC as well as a Mac. In fact, with the latest software, it doesn’t even need a computer of any sort, just an HD TV.
If you’ve not got an Apple TV, the next best thing is to watch videos loaded to Vimeo.com. I’ve just created an account and will load all future vids to Vimeo as well as Apple TV. I’ll continue to place lo-res vids on YouTube.
It features a load of kiddie bike racing at the beginning and then leads into a bike mechanics training session for the Newcastle Phoenix kids.
I was really surprised at how enthusiastic they were to fix their own bikes. Some of the older kids had never mended their own punctures, always letting mum or dad get on with it.
I hope the Weldtech session by mechanic Jeff Beach gets them to do their own bike fettling. After all, if the older kids want to go out for long rides by themselves, they’ll need to know some bike tech basics.
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My home city may not be getting 12 two-wheeler superhighways and the local campaign group may be in a state of suspended animation but Newcastle is still a fine place to bicycle. Newcastle cyclists generally don’t cut through red lights like Londoners and aside from a few ugly pile ups here and there, Newcastle doesn’t have quite the same them-and-us, bike-v-car problems.
And it’s also a thriving digital city. In recognition of this, regional development agency One NorthEast (ONE) and The North East Regional Portal (TNERP) have created the North East Digital Awards 2007. These awards are “designed to recognise and celebrate digital advancement within the region in a unique and practical way. The Digital Awards will showcase the best of the region’s talent, and will help inspire those who haven’t yet joined the digital age to embrace the significant opportunities it offers.”
Which neatly brings me to the shameless plug. Quickrelease.tv is up for three of the awards. The site will be judged by an independent panel but you - pretty please - can help influence the judges by voting for the site in the following categories:
OK, I admit it. One of these football fathers is me:
My kids are sport mad, which is good. But it means I spend a fair bit of time outside watching dull training sessions. Matches I like, it’s the training sessions I find less than stimulating. And when it’s blowing a gale off the North Sea, even that second set of thermal undies isn’t enough to fight off the cold. The kids are running around, warm and toasty. The dads are stamping their feet and hiding under fleecy hats.
One of the other dads just so happens to be a cyclist, and we’ve long joked about bringing turbo trainers to our Saturday morning football sessions to do something warm and practical. It would be a major undertaking to get kids out of bed, dress them in their football kit and then pack a bike and turbo trainer, too. But with a move to a new footballing venue - which just so happens to be the site of the relocated Newcastle Phoenix junior cycling club - it’s now easy to fit in a turbo session.
I ride to the venue with my son. He does an hour of cycle training and then gets changed for 90-minutes of football coaching. While watching him I can get in a quality hour of going-nowhere-cycling. Class.
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The route was a toughie, it took two hours to ‘ride’ the first 10 miles. Close to the end there was a river that had to be waded. This was the first ride I’ve been on with Brian. He might not want to let me choose the route in future…
The route went close to RAF Spadeadam, which isn’t marked on OS maps. This is one of Europe’s top two electronic warfare testing bases. There are ‘do-not-enter-or-you-are-breaching-Official-Secrets-Act’ signs on the tarmac road leading to the base, but no such warning signs on the severely under-used bridleway skirting the site.
Why the rockets in the headline? In the 1950s, Spadeadam was the testing site for Blue Streak, the UK’s would-be intercontinental ballistic missile. Had it not been cancelled, it might have also gone on to become the start of Britain’s space programme. Don’t laugh, it was seriously considered at the time.
The RAF base is littered with dummy tanks and aircraft to make it look like a Russian airbase from the air. NATO jets use the base for electronic jamming training.
Brian was on a Specialized MTB. I wanted to see if I could cope on my Kona Jake-the-Snake cyclo-cross bike. I could.
After this punishing short ride, the historical resonances continued. We took tea (in fact, hot choc and a fruit cake) in the faded Gilsland Spa Hotel. This is famous for being the location where, in 1797, novelist Sir Walter Scott proposed to his French wife.
In the 1980s, cycle clobber had its fifteen minutes of fame. Lycra skin shorts - sans padded inserts - were considered cool. The BBC’s I Love…1987 programme said: “Cycle racing has always been regarded as a rather nerdy occupation, so how [cycling shorts] became fashionable is beyond comprehension. Some regarded cycling shorts as a huge turn-on, as they revealed even more than the hotpants of the Seventies. But that was until even the hugest, most cellulite-riddled backside was squeezed into neon-coloured skin tight Lycra.”
Being fashionable is good for selling hot cakes but stock goes stale quickly because fickle fashionistas need to be surfing the next wave not waddling around in past-its-sell-by date Spandex. Hardcore cyclists are in it for the long term and don’t particularly want cycling to become fashionable again. Cycle fashion shows such as last year’s Pret a Rouleur and Hackney’s Heels and Wheelsshow staged on Valentine’s Day would be anathema to them.
But the world of fashion doesn’t care what we think. In fact, fashion labels are quite happy to ride roughshod over underground bicycle campaigns. For New York Fashion Week - sponsored by Mercedes Benz - DKNY released a load of orange bikes into the wild, chaining them to lamp-posts. Not Orange as in belt-drives and Patriots but orange as in Dulex. The fashion label’s painted bikes were meant to “get people thinking and talking about bicycles as a healthy and fashionable way to get around the city.”
The campaign enraged bicycle advocates because it seemed to mirror the placement of white Ghostbikes across the city, symbols of fatal car-v-bike smashes. The Gothamist blog called the campaign “misguided and terribly executed.”
A DKNY commissioned video on YouTube rubbed salt in the wounds:
This vid features two ’supermodels’ fighting with a cardboard car and actually riding the despised orange bikes. You’ve got to love the line ‘If supermodels can’t solve the world’s problems, then I don’t know who can,” but DKNY’s attempt at street cool didn’t generate much heat outside of bike blogs.
However, the publicity stunt allows me to remark that fashion designers seem to be disproportionately attracted to cycling.
Fashion designers Jeff Banks and Sir Paul Smith are avid roadies. Smith’s company has sponsored cycle teams, and Banks Jnr owes his love of cycling to Banks Snr:
“My dad was a racer before the war. He bought me an Italian racing bike when I was 11, and I suppose I’ve never looked back. There’s not a major col in the Alps or Pyrenees that I haven’t climbed. I suppose I do it for the sense of achievement you get when you complete rides like that. It’s amazing.”
Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood co-created Punk and she cuts a dash on her daily cycle commute in south London. Because of her extravagent dress sense she’s pretty much unmissable but the giveaway is the wire-haired fox terrier in the basket.
Wayne Hemingway, the co-founder of 1980s label Red or Dead, famous for its recycled denims, is so pro-cycling his new company even markets a bike shed and a folding bike. The Shack-up bike shed is lower than a garden shed, can hold four bikes and there’s a compartment for garden equipment or bike stuff. And want a Hemingway bike to put in the shed? Cough up a deposit on flat in a social housing scheme, the Road Runner folding bike is only available in quantities of 250 and is targeted at housing developers. At fifty eight quid a pop the Road Runner is no looker, and is light on innovation, but it’s all part and parcel of Hemingway’s desire to get more people on bikes.
He helped to design a new housing development in Gateshead, the pro-bike Staiths South Bank. It’s Britain’s biggest HomeZone and has a bike pool facility for residents.
Another fashion designer with his head screwed on right is Giles Deacon, the British Fashion Designer of the Year for 2007. He has expensive tastes (favourite hotels: Hôtel Costes in Paris, the Principe di Savoia in Milan and the Chateau Marmont in LA) but he’s still a down-to-earth Cumbrian lad who knows bikes are best. On Sunday he told The Observer: “I adore London and, if I have time off, I’ll just explore the city - visiting exhibitions. I like cycling everywhere. I have done so since I moved here 20 years ago.”
I think Schuman’s personalised approach to what’s truly fashionable is eye-opening. And his liking for bicycles is welcome. As a bunch - and I know you’ll say ’speak for yourself, mate’ - cyclists are not always the best looking clan out on the streets. Fluoro yellow isn’t terribly becoming and polystyrene prophalactics give you helmet hair. The Sartorialist shows it’s possible to look classy and still ride a bike.
The club at which I’m a coach moved on Saturday. The Newcastle Phoenix is now at Blakelaw Park in Newcastle, a move from the Town Moor’s Exhibition Park.
Click on the arrow above for an Animoto-mashed slide show of the successful first day at the new venue. It’s a Newcastle Football Development Scheme site, co-funded by Newcastle City Council and Barclays Spaces for Sports. The ‘no bikes’ bit is a reference to the all-weather footy pitches.
Getting to Blakelaw Park is now a bit of an expedition for me and my boy. Thanks to wonder that is Google Earth I was able to map out a route that took in a lot of Newcastle’s Town Moor. And thanks to Kona’s Jake the Snake cyclo-cross bikes we were able to slosh our way through the mud to be on time for the club’s first coaching session at Blakelaw.
Newcastle Phoenix is a British Cycling‘Go Ride’ club, a club for 6-18 year olds. I’m one of the coaches at this club. On November 24th we’re moving from Newcastle’s Town Moor to Blakelaw Park. We’ll have a lock-up bike storage facility, a safe place to leave all the Kona cyclo cross bikes we’ll be riding.
To publicise the move I’ve created this mash-up slide show movie. I say create, I should really say uploaded to animoto and then let those guys do all the MTV-style graphics.
Click on the arrow to play the movie. For photo nerds like me, Animoto is manna from heaven. It’s simple to upload pix and then have the site create a really cool video, along with a sound track you can load yourself or choose from Animoto’s ‘music lounge’. I never thought I’d ever say this, but Animoto makes mincemeat out of Apple’s slideshow and movie apps. In fact, Animoto is more Apple than Apple.
Pix by me and Dr. Brian Smith.
And here’s one I did earlier. It’s a dad-and-his-boy bike tour in Luxembourg. Check out the donkey eating the SDG saddle on the Dahon Hammerhead.