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.

Riding with the Cannibal

Coppi Bartoli races passes old guy on a Bartoli bike
The 2009 edition of Giro warm-up race Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali kicked off yesterday. Grand Tour riders Cadel Evans and Damiano Cunego are on the five-day race, which takes place in Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany.

I watched this race in 2005, staying at the bike-luxe Perla Hotel in Riccione, start town of the race known locally as just ‘Coppi e Bartali’, named for Italy’s favourite road champions.

I took the pic above of an old guy watching the race pass. I love the fact he’s astride a beat-up Bartoli.

The 2005 event was also memorable for me because I rode with the Cannibal. Eddy Merckx was getting back on the bike after a period of tubbiness. He was still fast.

Eddy Merckx with Robin Barton

I was on the ride with fellow travel writer, Robin Barton. Great writer, rubbish action photographer: he never managed to grab a shot of me with Eddy. So here’s one of me descending a Tuscan hill on the same trip. It was a press trip organised by Italy Bike Hotels, a group of roadie-friendly hotels, mostly on the Adriatic coast.

Me on a Tuscan descent

[Audio] Gary Fisher on transport bikes

Gary Fisher in his Dashing Tweeds cycling suit

At the weekend I caught up with cycling legend Gary Fisher, one of the founding fathers of mountain biking. Gary was in the UK to lead some rides at Chevin Cycles of Otley. He rode his trademark 29er, but earlier that morning I grabbed Gary at breakfast and dragged him into a hotel ballroom to record the audio below (also available on the Quickrelease.tv podcast on iTunes). We didn’t talk about wheel sizes, we talked about transport bikes.

You can follow Gary Fisher on Twitter.com. [I’m here. 600 bike pro riders, shops, mags, blogs etc here].

The audio was recorded in a hotel ballroom, just after breakfast on Sunday. There had been a wedding reception in the room and it had been cleared of furniture. We sat on the floor; apologies in advance for some of the popping and rustling, that’s either Gary slapping his thighs or me wriggling on the carpet. Next time we upgrade to a table…

I also recorded Gary during the previous night’s screening of Klunkerz, the MTB history movie. I’ll release that audio next week.

Gary Fisher on his Superfly, Chevin Cycles, Otley

Barack surrounds himself with bike commuters

James L. Jones, National Security Advisor and bike commuter

No need to send James L. Jones a copy of my Bike to Work Book, he’s already one of us.

The former US Supreme Allied Commander Europe (2003-2006) has just been made the President-elect’s national security adviser.

Here’s what the retired marine general told military newspaper ‘Stars and Stripes’ about his favoured choice of work transport:

“[Commuting by bicycle is] an absolutely essential part of my day. It’s mind-clearing, invigorating. I get to go out and pedal through the countryside in the early morning hours, and see life come back and rejuvenate every day as the sun is coming out.”

Click on the box in the right-hand corner of this embed to make it bigger and then use the magnify tool to zoom in to the text:

Bike to Work Book Sampler

Get your own at Scribd or explore others:

Boris wants more Londoners to be like him


Over on Bikeforall.net I’ve just done this story on the mayor of London’s plans to get “one million more Londoners to use their legs for transport.”

Boris is famous for his (alleged) buffoonery, his shock of yellow hair and his love of cycling. However, as London’s big cheese he can’t be seen to side with us all the time. Before he was elected mayor he was rent-a-quote when it came to cycling. Not any more, he’s forced to be institutionally diplomatic, and can’t take sides.

So, we won’t see the like of these quotes from the new Boris.

On the benefits of bicycling:

“E is for exertion, endorphins and ecstasy: The first produces the next, which produces the next, as you whiz through London’s lovely streets and look at the play of light through the plane trees, and you inhale the open air, and you think of the poor souls stuck in the taxis, the cars, the buses and, God help them, the Tube.”

On what should be done to bike thieves:

“I think these people deserve punishment and I’m calling for Sharia law for bicycle thieves.

“If I had my way I would plant decoys in a whole lot of bicycles across the borough and in the evening I would send Navy Seals in through the thieves’ windows and show them what it’s all about.”

Boats, bikes and bungs

The Tories are in a right old mess. Shadow Chancellor George Gideon Oliver Osborne – a leading light in the ‘Notting Hill set – is accused of shady dealings on the fancy yacht owned by Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska.

Tory leader David Cameron is under severe pressure to sack Osborne. The TV cameras caught up with Cameron last night as he arrived home. He was breathless. Stressed out with the fallout from Yachtgate? Nope, he was on his bike. What a great way for a high-powered politician to forget about life’s daily pressures: cycling to and from work.

Cameron is every inch the London bike commuter: he even has a fluoro yellow Altura jacket, the wet weather garment chosen by so many Brit cyclists it’s beyond ubiquitous.

Will Self: boy, does he love his Brommie

The Brit novelist reveals his love of the Brompton in Saturday’s Independent:

It was love at first sight – the first time I saw a Brompton folding bicycle, I fell in love with it. And it was not so much love – an emotion, I concede, that unless you’re seriously perverted, only truly exists between sentient beings – as a kind of lusty covetousness; but, you can take it from me, it was a very strong feeling, and one that has only increased over the years I’ve either had a Brompton between my thighs, or hefted one in my arms.

And if you feel tempted at this point to cast my piece aside, unread, on the quite reasonable grounds that not only do you not like bicycles, or cycling, but you especially revile the ghastly middle-aged-mannish gadget obsession that you already feel emanating from my prose in great waves, then I say: desist! Give me a chance! Read on, and if I can’t convince you by the end of these 2,000 words that a Brompton folding bicycle is not only a superior means of locomotion, and a perfect antidote to the stresses of the modern world, but also a means of achieving a deeper harmony with place and culture than you’ve hitherto achieved, then I personally guarantee to come round to your house and sort out your old Allen keys – or something like that.

And here’s the rest of the article…

Yet another world leader turns out to be a cyclist

President Bush is still the world’s most powerful cyclist but he’s not the only bike nut prez.

President Jean Pierre Nkuriziza, the top man in Uganda, “rides a bicycle once in a while from his presidential lodge at Ngozi to Bujumbura, a distance of over 90 kilometres in four hours.”

But he’s not just keen on bikes, he’s a fully signed up member of the God Squad. He recently enacted a law to make all Ugandan mobile phone operators send daily Bible readings to their subscribers. No doubt this greatly pleases Uganda’s Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs.

Do you have a pert bum? Are you smugger than a breastfeeding mum?

As you’d expect, cycling is having a love-hate relationship with the mainstream media at the moment. Pin-ups Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton have catapulted cycling to front of public consciousness and for some newspapers cycling is the ‘in’ new thing.

In yesterday’s Sunday Mirror, cycling was said to have “found a place in the nation’s heart after the Beijing Olympics.”

Since Team GB’s gold-winning lady cyclists Nicole Cooke and Rebecca Romero returned home from Beijing, biking has a hot new profile.

So before you wave a final goodbye to summer, it’s time to dust off your old bicycle and hit the road.

“If you want to drop a dress size, then cycling is one of the best ways you can do it,” says celebrity fitness trainer Paul Botten. “Biking provides a great overall workout, burning calories and reducing body fat. Plus, it can’t be beaten when it comes to getting great thighs and a perfectly pert bottom.”

Over at the Sunday Independent, novelist Howard Jacobsen – a saggy-bottomed fellow if his hatred of healthy exercise is anything to go by – said cycling was one of those Olympic sports which had no use in the real world, yet then went on to complain about the legions of London cyclists who plague him.

Cycling is worse than futile, it is malevolent. Not a day goes by, unless I cower in my house and lock all the doors, when I am not put in danger by cyclists – whether it’s cyclists riding the pavement, jumping the lights, weaving between pedestrians and traffic, overtaking on the inside, chaining their bikes where they are bound to cause obstruction, abusing and on occasions threatening me for pointing out any of these infractions to them, or just adding to our stock of vexations by their carbon-free complacency.

For holier-than-thou smugness, only a mother breastfeeding in a public space beats a cyclist. Both have been licensed by our society to believe they are forces for beneficence – true children of nature in a naughty mechanistic world – whereas the one only makes the planet more dangerous and the other only contributes to its overpopulation.

Is cycling for lefties or right wingers?


According to politicos, it’s both. Labour MPs claim cycling is “egalitarian” so must be Left leaning. Tory MPs believe “old maids cycling to church” is the archetypal English pastoral scene, and so cycling must be right wing.


The interesting thing is that there’s a custody battle in the first place, and it was even on the high-brow Today programme on Radio 4 this morning.

“Travelling by bike has never been a more popular method of transport for UK politicians,” argued BBC reporter Norman Smith. Tory toffs Boris Johnson – seen above – and David Cameron are the highest profile cyclists in the land. But does that make cycling a Conservative issue?

“What is causing this shift away from the chauffeur-driven car and on to the old fashioned bike – once considered by some to be the mode of transport of the left?

Wantage MP Ed Vaizey rejects any suggestion of a political shift. “Some people like to pretend its a left-wing pastime because they conjure up these images of miners cycling to work.

“But actually it’s both a Conservative and a right-wing pastime, if I can draw that distinction.

“Remember John Major’s famous speech about ‘old maids cycling to church’? And I think that brings up the point about the heritage of cycling – it’s very much woven into the British character.

“It’s a Conservative issue in terms of nostalgia, but it’s also a right-wing issue because its about the freedom of the individual. It’s about taking ones own action against an over-bearing stage.”

However, Labour MP Gwyn Prosser, chairman of the Commons all-party cycling group, is dismissive of the idea that cycling has become right-wing.

“I think it is more of a left-wing tradition – it’s more egalitarian. A bike is a bike,” he said.

“Bikes have two wheels and they spell out equality and inclusiveness and egalitarianism.”

So are the Tory MPs who have taken up the sport, just trying to get into their leader’s good books?

Mr Letwin rejects this assertion. “I have been cycling for 10, 15 years and I use one of those sort of wonderful Brompton bikes – a splendid British invention.

“But I have to say it is not an ideological crusade as far as I’m concerned. It is just a convenient way of getting about.”