What’s better, meeting Barack or getting your stolen bike back?

For Tory leader David Cameron it’s probably a very close run thing.

Yesterday, just before his meeting with Barack Obama, Cameron was reunited with the bike he’d left lightly tethered outside Tescos on Wednesday. It woz the Sunday Mirror wot won it.

Journos from the tabloid did what the police could have done: they asked around the local area.

“While the Tory leader sat at home bemoaning his loss, we enlisted the help local community elder Ernest Theophile and his Rasta friend “KJ”, who used their street contacts to trace the bike.”

The bike is a Scott and was found minus its front wheel. The Sunday Mirror graciously replaced the wheel and handed the bike back to Cameron in time for a splash in today’s paper.

Cameron said: “Thank you very much indeed. I’m very surprised to have it back – it’s incredible. I never thought I’d see it again. It’s priceless to me.”

In a video on the Sunday Mirror’s website Cameron tells the paper’s political editor “We have to educate at all levels: nicking bikes is wrong.”

But Cameron could also do with some education of his own. It turns out the lock he’s using is a cheap and nasty cable lock and even though the bike was stolen by lifting over a bollard, it could also be half-inched in future by anybody carrying a pair of small pliers.

When the bike was reported stolen by Britain’s mass media, the Dutch Tourist Board offered to gift Cameron a roadster. Instead of a new bike he now needs a better lock, a golden opportunity for an enterprising bike lock company. And once Cameron has a beefy padlock and chain combo he needs to read the definitive article on how to keep bikes thieves at bay.

Dirty riders ain’t a big problem on a world scale, it’s dirty water

Forget about bike dopes by letting the facts in this video wash over you:

In a world where talented athletes choose to poison themselves with drugs meant for heart patients, it’s important to realise there are other issues of far greater importance. Such as the fact 1.1 billion people currently have no choice but to drink dirty water…

The video viral above was produced by World Vision.

Watch Le Tour in HD

After the latest Spokesmen podcast was recorded for your aural pleasure, I found out something I would have raved about.

Eurosport’s Tour de France coverage is now available in High Definition.

In the UK, the new Eurosport HD service is available on channel 412. Of course, you’ll need a Sky+ HD box and a HD telly. The service isn’t yet flagged from the HD section of Sky’s listings but tapping in the number (not something I’ve done before) gets you straight in.

And, boy, what a difference it makes. Remember the chopper shots of knights on horseback at the end of yesterday’s stage, prancing all over the imposing Foix castle? In HD, you could count every link of chainmail.

Pro cyclists are clothes horses, flogging their sponsors to all who watch. And now these sponsor logos are so legible you wouldn’t believe. No longer do you have to squint to jot down the Cofidis telephone number. In HD it just pops out of the screen.

So clear are the pictures you can even spot the phials of EPO in the jersey pockets of the Spanish riders. Incredible.

Team Columbia’s launch now on YouTube

I posted this video to the Quickrelease.tv podcast t’other day, here it is away from the glorious e-ghetto that is iTunes:

I love the bit where Cav asks for a chair. Pro cyclists are notorious for wanting to sit or lie down to “save their legs”. They really don’t like walking very far, ditto for running. They’re also fussy about door-knobs and shaking hands: some carry disinfectant sprays to ward off germs. A bug can poleaxe a pro.

Radio silence?

I don’t update for a couple of days and I get a flurry of emails asking me if I’m OK. I am. OK, that is. Just busy, really busy. (How busy? Too busy to go get an iPhone 3G today).

I’m working on a book and podcast project with a few others. All will be revealed soon but here’s a couple of clues:

Off to Le Tour

I’m heading to Brittany for the start of the 2008 Tour de France. There’s a team presentation to go to tomorrow morning so I’ll try to post something online by the evening (got some afternoon bike rides to fit in first).

Copenhagen to start congestion charge

According to the Copenhagen Post, the Danish city is to do a ‘London’ and will soon start charging motorists for entry.

This will have a beneficial impact on the levels of cycling in a city that already sees 36 percent of its populace get around by bicycle.

This prompts me to run my piece that appeared in The Guardian last week, a column all about Copenhagen’s attempts to become even more bike friendly than it already is.

Some might say Mikael Colville-Andersen, owner of the Copenhagen Cycle Chic blog, has photographed a disproportionate number of beautiful women cycling in short skirts. Others may say there aren’t nearly enough websites to major on this.

To be fair to Colville-Andersen (English mum, Danish dad) he features pix of Copenhagen’s male cyclists, too. Just so long as they’re stylish. Colville-Andersen is The Sartorialist on two wheels.

His website shows you don’t have to be dressed in Lycra to get to the office on time on a bike. Nor is there any great need for the supposed number one requirement for every new workplace cycle facility in the UK: a shower. Cycling in civvies is the done thing in Copenhagen, argues Colville-Andersen, so don’t scare off potential newbies by fixating on ‘proper’ cycle clothing or the necessity for full-body suds.

And don’t mention the H word. Copenhagen’s cycling citizenry aren’t into cycle helmets. For the reason why, you have to hang-out at Colville-Andersen’s other Copenhagen-themed blog, albeit one that’s not quite so popular. Too few pix of women cycling in high heels, no doubt.

Copenhagenize.com is “life in the world’s cycling capital.”

Colville-Andersen ends lots of his posts with the dictum “Copenhagenize the planet.” He wants cycling to be recognised as a normal way of getting around town.

“So many people in other countries have been brainwashed into believing that cycling is just a sport or a hobby and hadn’t entertained the thought that it could be a daily transport activity,” he told me.

“So many Copenhageners ride in style, on normal bikes and in normal clothes. Even those who are not ‘chic’ ride with an ease and elegance that borders on poetry.”

There are YouTube videos which show this ‘poetry in motion’. Copenhagenize.com linked to one from the Netherlands which focusses just on the school-run. Hordes of young cyclists weave in and out of each other’s trajectories as they ride to school. Similar scenes can be witnessed each day in Copenhagen.

Copenhagen hasn’t always been wall to wall bikes. The first Copenhagen cyclepath to be purposefully built as a segregated facility, with a raised kerb, was only created 25 years ago.

Colville-Andersen said the bike culture in Copenhagen was built almost from scratch. There was a political will to make it happen, funds were allocated. Funds are still allocated.

“We’re not bike-friendly because it’s a flat city. We ride lots because of visionary political decisions.”

These political decisions were unpopular at the time. Now, Danes can’t remember there was a time before mass bicycle culture. Cycle use in Copenhagen is at an impressive 36 percent (the UK average is 2 percent). City officials want to see this rise to 50 percent by 2015. The goal is for the City of Copenhagen to become the World’s Environmental Capital by the same year.

To reach this target, Copenhagen is closing major thoroughfares to cars, creating bike motorways in their place.

Nørrebro Street sees the passage of 30,000 bikes a day and only 15,000 cars. That makes it a prime candidate for closure to cars. Copenhagen also operates a Green Wave system on various streets: if you ride at a steady speed you’ll hit green lights all the way. The city’s vice-mayor has proposed that when the pollution levels in the city rise too high, all the traffic lights on the roads at the edge of the city will turn red, stranding cars in official gridlock.

It’s this sort of radical thinking – and acknowledgement that such ideas will be unpopular at first – which will be needed by local politicians in Blackpool, Cambridge, Chester, Colchester, Leighton/Linslade, Shrewsbury, Southend on Sea, Southport with Ainsdale, Stoke, Woking and York. These are the second wave of towns to be accorded ‘Cycling Demonstration Town’ status. Bristol is the first ‘Cycling City’. Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly made the announcement of the winning bids in the middle of Bike Week. The towns – and Bristol – share £100m of government funding and need to match it from local funds.

Bristol wants to create a Velib-style on-street bike rental network, modelled on the successful Paris scheme. It also plans to build a “state-of-the-art facility for cyclists in the city centre providing showers, bike parking and lockers so commuters can have a wash and brush up before starting work.”

Why are Brit cycle planners fixated on personal hygiene? A small number of die-hard, long-distance speedy cycle commuters may need a hose down before mixing with colleagues but the majority can remain the great unwashed because cycling short distances across town in normal clothes isn’t a sweat-fest. Plugging showers reinforces the view that cycling is difficult, smelly and, well, different. Copenhagen doesn’t force its biking populace to bathe, it takes space from cars and gives it over to bicycle and pedestrian use. The true test for England’s latest Cycling Demonstration towns won’t be which one can instal the plushest bath-room, it’s whether they can ignore the pleas of motorists and truly “Copenhagenize” their streets.

PM feigns interest in a low carbon future

PM Gordon Brown has today told Brits we must go green. He has seriously upped investment in wind farms but is short on ideas in other, more controversial areas.

In a speech delivered at the Government’s Low Carbon Economy Summit on London’s South Bank (full transcript here), Brown said going green was a “chance to seize the economic future – securing our prosperity as a nation by reaping the benefits of the global transition to a clean economy.”

He likened the forthcoming green revolution to the industrial revolution, the coming of the car and the advent of the computer:

“Look at the way this happened in the past: when the steam engine, the internal combustion engine and the microprocessor transformed not just technology but the whole economy: the way society was organised and the way people lived.

“Now we are about to embark on a fourth technological transformation – to low carbon energy and energy efficiency. And in their wake – as before – will come a myriad of changes in the way we live, the way we move around, the way we run our businesses, the things we produce and consume – which will make the low-carbon economy a new engine of productivity and economic growth.”

So, was there an announcement of a huge pile of money to get Brits out of their cars and on to more sustainable forms of transport? Er, no.

Despite all the recent Government announcements about more cash for cycling (£120m was announced in January), the money allotted is pitiful compared to the economic benefits (said to be£1.3bn in this report) that would accrue from more people cycling more often.

The British Government caves at the first whiff of fuel protests from motorists and this ain’t something that’s going to change in a hurry. Politicians say they’re planning for the future, but for ‘future’ read ‘their future’, not ‘our future’.

Get in the mood for Le Tour

The Tour de France starts in Brittany on 5th July. I’m a lucky bugger, I’ll be there.

I’m getting warmed up for the event by re-watching this video:

I billed this as ‘Best Tour de France footage ever?’ and it’s had 117,000+ views on YouTube. But it’s only the short and shonky version. The higher-res, nine-minute version can be found on Quickrelease.tv’s home on iTunes.

The video is made up of ‘rushes’ from the IMAX movie with the production name of Brainpower but which morphed into Wired to Win when it was released to IMAX cinemas in 2006.

The IMAX movie, as you’d expect, is larger than life and truly stunning. But it was distributed much later than first billed. Following the initial shooting in 2003 there had to be an extensive reshooting of scenes to accommodate the removal of Tyler Hamilton from the movie.

At the time Hamilton was embroiled in a drugs hearing, which he sadly later lost. Had he embarked on the same course of action as Floyd Landis – request for an open hearing, wiki-style posting of all hearing evidence on his website so experts could crawl all over it – the outcome may have been different. Well, perhaps not the outcome because Continue reading “Get in the mood for Le Tour”

Get ready for lots of orange animal balloons

This site is one of many to have signed up to be part of the world’s first web-only balloon race.

It’s a promo for UK cellphone service Orange. And orange just so happens to be the corporate colour of Quickrelease.tv.

If you’re a site regular, fret not, you’ll be able to maximise and minimise the Orange balloon widgets on this site. If you’re a newcomer to Quickrelease.tv, blown here because of the chance to win hols in Ibiza but you’re a closet or wannabe biker, stick around to find news, views and vids about cycling.