Reidlets go wild in Istria

Istrian bike sign

We’re in Istria, in the north of Croatia, guests of IRTA, the Istrian tourism development agency. It just so happens that a former road pro now works for IRTA and, as the person responsible for bike tourism to Istria, was willing to show us some local MTB trails.

Martin Cotar was the 2001 national road champion of Croatia and used to race on the Post Swiss team, a UCI category 2 team. OK, he might have been fast (and still races MTBs and runs marathons) but he wasn’t fast enough to keep up with Josh. The little tyke half-wheeled poor Martin all morning.

Josh loved the fact he was riding with somebody who’s raced against all the big modern greats of the sport.

Our route this morning was little more than a warm-up for Martin but, in the heat of a Croatian summer, it was taxing for the girls and they were glad to get back to the hotel after a morning sortie, and jump into the pools of the hotel. Josh could have gone on and on…

We’re staying in the Sol Garden Istra, a new 4-star hotel by the beach near Umag. We hired bikes from the sports complex near the hotel and Martin took us on a short loop taking in a coastal path (kids’ highlight: an unexpected nudist beach) and inland tracks through olive groves (kids’ highlight: breezy downhills).

Tomorrow we’re heading off on our own, using a 1:30,000 MTB route map of the region. We’ll be heading for a Sustrans-style former railway path. But one that climbs from sea level to 300m. That must have been one very slow train.

Ellie and Hanna on steep descent

Ellie and Hanna on steep descent

Hanna bridging the gap

Hanna bridges the gap from the gruppetto to Martin and Josh

Olive trees
Olive tree riding

Not an Istrian nudist beach 4
This pair of nudists got to the beach by bike

Martin Cotar
Martin Cotar, our expert guide, an influence on one 11 year old boy – Josh: “Dad, when I get back home I’m going to shave my legs.”

Back at the pool at the Sol Garden Istra 3
Pool time

Eye-opening eye candy: HOME, the full movie

Below, for your clicking pleasure, is HOME, a 1.5 hour movie about Planet Earth. It’s eye-candy, but it’s also eye-opening, even though you already know all the Al Gore/climate change stats.

HOME is bad for cars, Las Vegas, Dubai, Israel, cows. Good for greenies and fans of HD gyroscope cameras. Forget about the ragtrade sponsor, that’s how the movie is going to go viral: it’s free.

Yann Arthus-Bertrand, GoodPlanet Foundation President and photographer of ‘Earth From the Air’, produced the movie and he says:

“We are living in exceptional times. Scientists tell us that we have 10 years to change the way we live, avert the depletion of natural resources and the catastrophic evolution of the Earth’s climate.

“The stakes are high for us and our children. Everyone should take part in the effort, and HOME has been conceived to take a message of mobilization out to every human being.

“For this purpose, HOME needs to be free. A patron, the PPR Group, made this possible. EuropaCorp, the distributor, also pledged not to make any profit because HOME is a non-profit film.”

HOME can also be found on YouTube. If you want the movie on your iPod, iPhone or other players which can spew out MP4’s, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

£20+k F1-inspired bike to be unwrapped next week

In December 2007, I provided info on a data-capturing super-bike. Then all went quiet. I got the odd teaser email but nothing worthy of passing on. Until now. BERU f1systems, the makers of Factor 001, have sent me the following info.

The world’s most advanced bicycle to be unveiled
Factor 001 – the definitive version of the innovative new road bike using
Formula One and biometric technology – about to break cover


A high performance bicycle, created and built by motorsport precision
engineering specialists, BERU f1systems, will be revealed at the launch of
the Science Museum’s new free exhibition “Fast Forward: 20 ways F1TM is
changing our world” next week (March 11th). Factor 001 – a ground-breaking
training tool combining innovative design and advanced electronics –
promises to challenge the way athletes and serious enthusiasts use the
bicycle and undertake fitness training.

Factor 001 is the result of a creative project to explore the transfer of
design approaches, technology and materials from Formula One (where BERU
f1systems is a supplier of various components such as electronics and
composites to every team) to mankind’s most enduring invention. The bike
is a lightweight (under 7 kg including all equipment) carbon fibre
monocoque structure, designed using the same powerful modelling and
analysis software used to build Formula One cars. The on-board computer
and performance monitoring system, incorporating various motorsport-grade
sensors, a GPS and a radio transmitter, are integrated into the handlebars
and throughout the bike. Factor 001 boasts what are believed to be many
firsts for the cycling world:

• Multi-channel electronics package which provides unique ergonometric
data collection, logging and analysis capabilities; can correlate
biometric data from the rider, physical force data from the bike and
environmental data; developed with feedback from professional athletes.
• Carbon ceramic brakes provide endless, exact braking performance at any
• Almost all original parts; key components designed and manufactured
in-house from Formula One-grade materials.
• Fully integrated structure using BERU f1systems’ Wire-in-Composite
patented technology; load sensors, wiring, batteries, sensors, control
cables and lines for the hydraulic braking system are all fully integrated
into the composite during construction, to give unparalleled efficiency and
durability with a clean, uncluttered appearance.
• Twin-spar frame reduces sideways frame flex and preserves rider
• 8-spoke monocoque composite wheels deliver high lateral stiffness and
robustness for everyday use.
• Bespoke made-to-measure frame (to within 1mm); each customer to
experience Formula One-style ‘seat fit’ process.

“I am very pleased that what started as a ‘clean sheet’ design exercise to
showcase our expertise in composites and electronics has delivered such a
beautifully styled, scientific training device,” says John Bailey,
managing director of BERU f1systems. “Athletes and their trainers now have
access to performance enhancement capabilities that are the norm in
top-level motorsport, and individuals interested in an exclusive, high
end, differentiated bicycle now have a serious alternative.”

Factor 001 will appeal to professional and semi-professional athletes
competing at the highest levels in cycling and other sports; as well as
personal trainers, fitness camp organisers, and affluent fitness training
enthusiasts. One of the key benefits of the bike for riders is its ability
to collect laboratory-quality data, while being ridden outdoors. BERU
f1systems is already in talks with various sporting bodies about future
applications of the data measurement software. Factor 001 is available to
order from BERU f1systems now. Pricing will start at under £20,000 while
the full version with the software package will cost in excess of £20,000.

For pleasure & profit (but mainly pleasure)

I’m very, very lucky. I’m embedded in the bike trade. I’m the executive editor of BikeBiz magazine; I get to play with lots of shiny new bikes and bits; I get taken on brilliant bike-themed press trips; I write books about cycling like the Bike to Work Book and Family Cycling for Snow Books; I get sent new bikes when the existing ones are ‘last years’ models’; I get to meet and ride with pro cyclists or legends such as ‘the cannibal’.

Sounds peachy, if you’re a cyclist.

But if you’ve got a well-paid job you could afford to fly around the world playing on bikes, too. You could buy the latest machines, you could luxuriate in Rapha underpants, were such things made available. You could pay to be on training camps with the pros.

My bikey lifestyle is available to buy.

I’m multi-skilled, I could probably shift to a different sector and make a lot more money than I make in the bike trade. I could then buy what I currently get free as part of the job.

I stay put. Partly this is because the bike trade is what I know and I know how to make money from bikes (it’s mostly by selling magazines, books and websites I’ve created) but it’s also because I really love the bike trade. Everybody thinks their trade sector is special.

But perhaps the bike trade – selling such a great life-enhancing product – really is special?

On page 68 of the current BikeBiz, in page flippy mode above, Jason Leavy, associate publisher of Future’s MBUK and What Mountain Bike magazines, writes a farewell letter that claims the bike trade is “genuine” and doing “fantastic work” and has a one-of-a-kind “sense of character and decency.”

He didn’t have to write this, he’s leaving for a new post in Dubai. As a relative newcomer to the cycling industry, and with experience of many other industry sectors, he has a good handle on why the bike trade is different.

“Those of us who have worked in different sectors of business are, in many respects, better placed to judge a sector than those who’ve only experienced the one they’re in.

“Therefore you’ll have to trust me when I say that the cycling business really is as good as it gets.

“I want to use this as an opportunity for people in the industry to accept praise from somebody who can talk objectively and with no agenda to push. You really are all doing some fantastic work, day in, day out, and while still retaining a sense of character and decency that I haven’t encountered anywhere else.

“Keep setting the standards that others should be measured by.”

Happy Christmas!

As you can probably tell, I love It’s a brilliant place to make your PDF documents spring to life, as per the card above and the thousands of mainstream mags and books now uploaded to the site by some of the world’s biggest publishers.

I’m pleased to report that the Bike to Work Book is doing extremely well on It’s a highlighted book, appears on the ‘most popular’ homepage and is Number One in the ‘Knowledge and resources’ category.

Just one version of the book (there are 15 on, the rest personalised for companies and advocacy orgs) has had 13,471 reads. Add the other versions – some of which have had 1000+ views and where the back-end stats tell me that half of all readers flick through every single page – and the book is a runaway best-seller!

I love the fact it’s doing as well as the Jamie Oliver cookery magazine.

Latex is the newest bike building material

Specialized MD Richard Hemington with bike balloon sculpture

The snazzy new Specialized-themed M Steel’s Cycles of Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne, was officially opened last night by Toon footie legend Alan Shearer. Here’s my story on the bash.

The 2500 sq ft of open-plan retail space was chocka with carbon fibre, naturally, but latex stole the show. Two very clever balloon benders from Xtreme Entertainment UK of Co Durham kept kiddies entertained, including my own. My Burley trailer was stuffed to the gills with balloon-based bat wings, ladybirds, teddy bears, flowers and bracelets.

I’ve seen all those shapes before. I’ve never ever seen balloon bikes, though. Here’s a selection of pix from the night. The balloon Ordinary was spectacular and was created because an Ordinary is part of the logo for M Steel Cycles.

The Alan-Shearer-on-a-bike effigy was pure genius. It even shows Alan’s trademark post-goal arm-in-air salute.

Alan Shearer's bike balloon effigy

M Steels logo is an Ordinary - here it is in balloon form

Hanna getting bug balloon sculpture

Alan Shearer receives balloon effigy of himself from Joe Waugh

Ellie, Josh and Hanna with Alan Shearer

Time to report the grim truth

“While we obsess about knife crime and drugs, the real killers of our young are transport and suicide.”

This is the conclusion of the BBC’s Mark Easton, talking about the Grim Reaper’s Road Map. This is an atlas of mortality in Britain and shows the most common causes of death at different ages and in different parts of the UK.

Over the age of 50, it’s cardovascular causes which kill the most Brits (something which could be halted, if only more people cycled). Teens and pre-teens died mostly from “transport” ie for the most part killed while crossing the road (something which could be halted, if only more people cycled).

3200 people of all ages are killed on our roads each year yet little is mentioned on the news, unless it involves many people at once. Drip-drip death doesn’t count unless it’s to do with sharps or soldiers.

The BBC will report a soldier has been killed in Iraq or Afghanistan and will then re-report it the following day once the soldier’s name has been released, doubling the news impact. Such deaths are sad, but rare. Death on the roads is commonplace yet little is done about it, and much less is talked about it.

Perhaps the BBC could report road deaths in the same way it reports war deaths? There would just about be time…on BBC News 24.

I think it’s relevant here to repeat the short story from ex-Python Terry Jones I’ve run before. This is from ‘Fairy tales and Fantastic Stories’, well worth shelling out for. I’m guilty of breaching copyright if I repeat the full text of Terry Jones’ story so I’ve extracted long excepts instead. You’ll still get the gist of the polemic.


There was once a devil in Hell named Carnifex, who liked to eat small children. Sometimes he would take them alive and crush all the bones in their bodies. Sometimes he would pull their heads off, and sometimes he would hit them so hard that their backs snapped like dry twigs…But one day, Carnifex got out of his bed in Hell to find there was not a single child left. ‘What I need is a regular supply,’ he said to himself. So he went to a country that he knew was ruled by an exceedingly vain king. He found him in his bathroom…and said to him: ‘How would you like to fly?’ ‘Very much indeed,’ said the king, ‘but what do you want in return, Carnifex?’ ‘Oh . . . nothing very much,’ replied Carnifex, ‘and I will enable you to fly as high as you want, as fast as you want, simply by Continue reading “Time to report the grim truth”

New Bike to Work Book podcast now available to download and savour


For the first couple of shows I loaded the audio-only Bike to Work Book podcast to the iTunes feed. I shan’t be doing that from now on.

Sign up for the show – for free – via the book’s website.

The third edition of the podcast featured myself and Tim Grahl of; Rich Kelly of Interbike talking about what’s likely to be new and notable at the show (from a bike commuting perspective); and Mike Simpson of NHS Networks.

Simpson talked about the National Health Service’s commitment – or lack thereof – to a certain healthy mode of transport we all know and love. He also mentions a scheme that pays employees to cycle to work!

The graphic below is the UK iTunes rankings for ‘outdoor and recreation’ podcasts. I love the fact three of the podcasts I’m involved with are featured: the Bike to Work Book show, the Spokesmen and, of course, This show is in at number six with David Bernstein’s The Fredcast at number eight. David’s Spokesmen show is at number ten.

itunes rankings Aug 2008