Yesterday, on BikeBiz.com, I covered the great news that central London is to close its roads to cars on Sunday September 23rd. The Hovis London Freewheel will become an annual celebration of cycling in Britain’s increasingly bike-friendly capital city.
Sign up for the event here, the London Freewheel website is really good. You get sent an HTML email with a mocked up newspaper saying ‘Another big name signs up…’ Registered riders also get sent real-world goodies like bells, reflective vests and packs of Top Trump cards.
It’s hoped 30,000 riders will take part. The event is costing £1.5m to stage, and nowt to enter.
At yesterday’s official press launch Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq was hugged by London Mayor Ken Livingstone. Behind them is the world’s biggest fixie, the model maker capturing the London zeitgeist perfectly. Not too sure about the front suspension, mind.
Anyway, this is a good excuse to re-run a YouTube video of Wilson in action. By that I mean ‘inaction’ because most of what follows in this video is verbal gymnastics from Robin Williams. Warning: it’s rude and involves a Jewish orangutan, a de-bunking of Intelligent Design and other very funny ad-libs. Williams even gets in a gag about cycling.
Why rude? Because the B-side to ‘Bicycle Race’ was ‘Fat Bottomed girls.’ The single featured a pic of a nude woman riding a bicycle. Later versions of the single were released with her bottom badly covered up with pre-Photoshop panties.
A photo spread from the shoot appeared in The Sun and both the original poster and the tabloid homage were bike workshop favourites for many years. And, of course, there’s a bike trade back story.
At the time, David Duffield – now famous as a cheese-loving, Eurosport commentator – was the marketing manager at Halfords. He set up the Jazz photoshoot for Queen. Well, the bicycles part of it. He supplied 65 Halfords road bikes. Queen’s production company supplied the nude models, and Wimbledon stadium as the backdrop.
In 1978, Terry Harris, now a rep for Greyville Enterprises, was working for Halfords’ bike making facility, Halmanco of Pontypool, Wales. He told Quickrelease.tv:
“I was working in the production/sales office and the bikes used were the Halfords International model.
“The driver still tells the story of the day he went to the stadium to deliver the bikes and then all the models came out in bath robes then derobed and got on their bicycles for the photographs.”
Contrary to the urban myth that Halfords refused to take the bikes back or that the bike’s saddles were removed for, ahem, later use, Harris said:
“The bikes came back to the factory and were checked over and put back into stock.”
Perhaps it would have been a different story had eBay been around back then…
The famous poster lived on:
“One rep used to have a copy of the poster in his briefcase and when he went abroad he showed the poster and told people this was an annual bike race held in Britain,” said Harris.
Halfords has today reported it has reached an agreement with Britain’s Olympic gold-medal winning Chris Boardman to market a range of bikes and accessories using his name. I’ve placed the main story on BikeBiz.com.
And here are the first pix of the new bikes – and the great man himself. The bikes and accessories will be available through half of the UK’s Halfords stores and the company’s IBD-style Bikehut stores.
In 2008, there will be an ‘elite’ range of cboardman bikes aimed at the top-end of the market, including top-end road and time trial bikes. These will be available from 25+ independent bike dealers in the UK, and there will be worldwide availability also.
The new ‘531’ range of jeans and jerseys from Paul Smith are named after the famous Reynolds double-butted tubeset, developed in 1935 and used by Tour de France champions such as Luxembourg’s Charly Gaul (1958), France’s Jacques Anquetil (1961) and Belgium’s Eddy Merckx (1969).
531 was named for the ratio of key elements in this manganese-steel alloy.
No, Nicole Kidman probably can’t ride a bike quite like BMX Bandits from 1983 makes out, but plenty of other celebs do cycle.
Forget stretch-limos, a growing list of film stars, rock legends and leaders-of-the-free-world take to two-wheels for speedy, paparazzi-free transport and, of course, to keep their figures in trim.
Film star Michelle Pfeiffer relaxes by taking her bike apart and putting it together again.
When not dabbling in Jewish mysticism or adopting children in Malawi, Madonna rides her bike with her son Rocco.
Comic and film star Robin Williams owns 30+ road bikes. He rides with his mate Lance Armstrong, the seven times Tour de France winner.
Grilling-specialist Jeremy Paxman is a neo-cyclist:
“It is easily the quickest way around central London, faster than bus, Tube or taxi. You can predict precisely how long every journey will take, regardless of traffic jams, Tube strikes or leaves on the line. It provides excellent exercise. It does not pollute the atmosphere. It does not clog up the streets.”
When singer Jarvis Cocker of Pulp wants to get anywhere in London, he throws his long-legs over his trusty mountain bike.
Oscar winning bad boy actor Russell Crowe talks about his love of retail therapy – and cycling – in the December 2007 edition of Men’s Journal.
Courtney Cox bought her friend Jennifer Aniston a $12,000 Chanel bicycle after Aniston expressed an interest in hitting Los Angeles’ bike lanes.
Singer-songwriter Peter Gabriel can ride a Moulton and sing at the same time.
He may not be wearing his blue suede cycling shoes in this pic but Elvis is on an early cruiser bike, complete with basket.
“Honestly, bicycling isn’t just fun and healthy and non-polluting, it’s sexy. It gives you a nice rear end.”
Actor Jake Gyllenhaal is said to look good in Lance Armstrong’s shorts. At least the socks are white.
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.”
Giles Deacon, the British Fashion Designer of the Year for 2007, 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: “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.”
Movie star Daniel Day-Lewis has a house in Ireland, close to Sir Paul Smith. The two cycle together. In a February 2008 interview with Esquire magazine Day-Lewis said: “I cycle everywhere…I’d still like to make a film about cycling. I still feel there’s something to be done there.”
Sir Alan Sugar – the entrepreneur who made his money from Amstrad but is now most famous for his ‘role’ in BBC’s The Apprentice – is a Lycra-loving roadie. A relatively recent convert (although he used to buy and sell bikes before he started his computer business) he has lost 3st since he took up cycling again. He says gyms are “brain-rottingly boring.” He rides a Pinarello ‘Prince of Spain’.
“I like riding alone. It is a good time to chew over problems, discuss them with myself and sort them out. I have my BlackBerry whirring away in my pocket and usually I stop after a while and answer emails.”
TV football pundit Simon O’Brien, who used to be Damon in Brookside, still cycles on shoots and is a former co-owner of a green-tinged bike shop in Liverpool.
Cerebral ex-footballer Graeme Le Saux has recently taken to two wheels. He’s even competed in cyclo-cross races.
Hotelier Sir Rocco Forte is a late starter: he only took up cycling five years ago when his love of endurance sport led him to triathlons. He likes all sports but now cycling is “the thing I love best…I am addicted.” He has ridden two Etapes du Tour, the amateur stages of the Tour de France.
Failed US president candidate John Kerry is a mad keen road cyclist, owning a custom-painted $3000 Serotta Ottrott which he pedals when he gets a spare moment. Former US president George ‘Dubya’ Bush took up mountain biking in February 2004. He said:
“Nothing compares to getting your heart rate up to 170-something, riding hard for an hour-twenty, getting off and not hurting, as opposed to 24 minutes of running, at the end of which I hurt. When you ride a bike and you get your heart rate up and you’re out, after 30 or 40 minutes your mind tends to expand; it tends to relax.”
The current prez is stick-thin enough to be a cyclist, was famously pictured on a family bike ride in Chicago (wearing jeans) and may even be bike-friendly:
“As president, Barack Obama will build upon his efforts in the Senate to ensure that more Metropolitan Planning Organizations create policies to incentivize greater bicycle and pedestrian usage of roads and sidewalks.”
Former shadow secretary of state for the Regions, Bernard Jenkin drives to his London home on Sunday evening and then doesn’t touch his car for a week: “I cycle everywhere, every day – to Westminster, to meetings in the West End and the City, to the Albert Hall, to the Royal Opera House. Cycling offers a huge financial advantage and it keeps me fit.”
Guitar legend Eric Clapton owns a stable of fancy Italian road bikes and rides often.
Writer Beatrix Campbell is a confirmed cyclist:
“In the context of the great debates about identity politics – are you gay or straight, nationalist or republican, British or English and so on – I would ask, “Do you ride a bike?”. I love everything about the machine – the sensation of the tyres on the road, the mobility – and I love the fact that you have this intimate relationship with the elements, and the landscape.”
Talking Heads frontman David Byrne gets around New York City on his mountain bike. He said:
“I’ve known for twenty years that biking is the best way to get around this city. Back then, people just looked at you like you were crazy. At least now the cars slow down sometimes when they see you…The landlord and the city building code people let me install a shower in my office because I ride a bike to work. I can gallery hop or hit the clubs at night or in the afternoon cheaply and efficiently. It beats cabbing, and the subway is sporadic at night.”
Housewives’ dreamboat Desmond Lynam wrote about cycle escapism in his diary column in The Daily Telegraph: “I decide on the spur of the moment to fly home…I see my loved ones and ride my bicycle in the fresh Sussex air and feel a hundred miles from Euro 2004.”
CTC president and Channel 4 news anchor Jon Snow knows the fastest way to get around London’s congested streets is by bicycle. Top tip: to cool down after cycling from the ITN news centre to interview, say, the PM at 10 Downing Street, Snow has an ice-cube applied to the back of his neck by the make-up crew. He rides everywhere:
“My whole day is built around meetings that can be achieved around bike rides. My contract actually offers me a free car from my home to my office and back, but I suppose I am addicted to cycling.”
Woe betide any drivers who mess with comedian Alexei Sayle: he’s big and bike-proud. He cycle-commutes in London and, like Jon Snow, is just one of the cycling celeb customers of Condor Cycles in London. Others include Adam Woodyatt (Ian Beale in Eastenders), Strictly Come Dancing winner and Chicago star Jill Halfpenny, Mick Jagger, (he has a Condor road bike and a custom hybrid), and Chris Tarrant and his wife. In 2005 they bought a tandem (but it clearly didn’t save their marriage…) – no news on what the mistresses ride…
Every Liverpuddlian’s favourite MP-cum-editor-cum-Mayor-hopeful Boris Johnson cycles to and from Parliament and his office at the Spectator magazine.
Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood co-created Punk and “If you are lucky you may see her cycling past, next time you are in south London, with her wire-haired fox terrier, Alexandria, in the basket. Westwood has never taken the easy route in her life, and has achieved greatness through great effort. She said ‘I always try to go a different way home. It’s a kind of curiosity, not to want to do the same thing — Why do we have to do it this way? I’m going to try it that way’.
US band Grateful Dead rent studio space from bike supplier Marin of California. The band’s guitarist Bob Weir is a mountain biker, and often rides with mountain bike co-founding father, Gary Fisher. Weir said: “Bicycles are almost as good as guitars for meeting girls.”
The Prime Minister of Belgium, Guy Verhofstadt is a cyclist and a fan of cycle-sport. He said: “In politics, one can learn some things from cycling, such as how to have character and courage. Sometimes in politics there isn’t enough of those things.”
Lee Iacocca, former boss at Ford and then General Motors, invented the Ford Mustang, the SUV and the Minvan. But his gas-guzzling days are now over: he’s now pinning his hopes on electric bikes and claims to ride his company’s products. He said: “After fifty years in the automobile business, I’m bringing you the future of transportation “and it’s electric!”
Before their acrimonious separation, Sir Paul McCartney could often be seen cycling along the seafront with Heather Mills near their house in Hove, East Sussex. Shortly after his divorce was granted by the High Court, the former Beatle was back on his bicycle with a new companion. He’s been seen cycling in Jumby Bay, near Antigua, with Nancy Shevell, the 47-year-old American socialite.
The reclusive members of German electronic-pop pioneers Kraftwerk don’t just write songs about road-bike races – their 1980s Tour de France album is an influential classic – they ride. Hard.
US rocker Jon Bon Jovi is a mountain biker. He even sponsors an MTB team.
Think motor-mouth Jeremy Clarkson hates bikes? Think again. He and his wife ride Raleigh Pioneers to keep fit.