Touchline dads watch their soccer sprogs from turbo trainers

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.

Trade auction raises £15k for BMXer Stephen Murray

Sunday night’s auction at the Fisher Expo also raised £2k for Jason McIntyre fund via Braveheart

Fisher Outdoor is currently staging its annual trade-only Expo at the Edgbaston cricket stadium in Birmingham. The event started on Sunday and was a star-studded affair, with guests including former pro roadie Sean Kelly; trackie Craig Maclean; MTBers Will Longden and Steve Peat; and Cycling Weekly columnist Michael Hutchinson.

Martin Murray was also at the show. Murray is the brother of Stephen Murray, the US-based British BMXer injured last year in America. The presence of Martin Murray at a charity auction, held Sunday night at the Jury’s Inn in central Birmingham, helped to get Brit bike shops to dig deep for the variety of items in the after-dinner auction. These items included signed jerseys and ride sessions with Steve Peat.

Commentators Anthony McCrossan and Brian Smith were auctioneers for the evening and they kept the bids flowing.

A signed Sean Kelly jersey raised £2000. A Stay Strong iPod nano customised by Muc Off to benefit the Stephen Murray fund raised £400. A mystery prize raised £1200 (it turned out to be six month’s worth of credit from Fisher Outdoor).

In total, the auction raised £17,000, £2000 of which went to the family of Jason McIntyre via the roadie Braveheart fund. Scottish champion cyclist McIntyre was killed by a driver last week near his home in Fort William.

Last year Fisher donated $5000 to Murray’s fund thanks to Fisher employee, and trials rider, Martin Hawes.

150 people were at Fisher dinner, including all the Fisher staff, brand Continue reading “Trade auction raises £15k for BMXer Stephen Murray”

“Why was he riding on the motorway?”

A cyclist was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Newcastle yesterday. The ‘accident’ (which it wasn’t, of course) happened on the A19, a busy dual carriageway close to the Silverlink shopping centre.

It’s a road I’ve cycled on many times, the Silverlink centre is somewhere I often cycle to, and I use the busy Coast Road to get there. The A19 is an ‘A’ road, ie busy, but it’s perfectly legal for a cyclist to be on that road. When I heard about the fatal ‘accident’ I felt for the cyclist but I also knew some drivers would blame the victim because the road is a busy one, and, so the thinking goes, cyclists shouldn’t be there.

And so it has turned out.

Commenting on the story in the Northern Echo, a poster called Kathleen Boden wrote:

Why on earth was he riding a bicycle on the motorway.If this is legal it should be stopped! The driver of the car showed reprehensible behaviour in not stopping but the young man put himself in a very dangerous situation considering motorway speeds.

Kathleen Boden was duly flamed but then family and friends of the 23-year old killed started posting on the forum. If the postings are genuine, and they very much seem to be, you’ll read them and weep.

From Romans to Rockets

Had a bit of an epic ride on Monday. Brian Smith, a fellow coach at Newcastle Phoenix cycling club, said he had a free day and would I like to join him on a ride.

It was cold and wet, and forecast to stay that way all day. I suggested we explore a small corner of the Spadeadam Wastes, close to an evocative section of Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland.

We started at Birdoswald Roman fort. I wanted to follow a submerged Roman road by using the SatMap GPS device for bikes (this uses OS maps, a review will follow).

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.

This is probably the only bike ride in the UK where you can cycle close to Russian surface-to-air missile launchers. There’s even a hamlet called Moscow.

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.

More pix on this slide show, check out the Scotchlite flashing on the Altura jacket.

Click for Animoto-created slideshow on YouTube:

Cycling is fashionable

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.”

But my favourite fasionista is GQ columnist Scott Schuman. His massively popular and worryingly addictive blog – The Sartorialist – is dripping with good taste. It features smartly dressed folks from cities around the world, all photographed by Schuman and with just the shortest of captions. Click on the ‘bicycle’ tag and you fall into a world of beautiful people on bikes, from “All Cute Girls in Europe Ride Bikes Everywhere, Wearing Cute Clothes, All Day!” to The Very Personification Of A Sexy Summer. Oh, and there are some pix of men, too.

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.

Specialized announces Innovate or Die winner

The winner of Specialized’s Innovate or Die Pedal-Powered Machine Contest is Aquaduct, a mobile water filtration trike.

The contest challenged participants to create a pedal-powered solution for offsetting climate change. There were 100+ qualified entries submitted via YouTube.

One of the comp judges Rich Silverstein, founding partner at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners,said: “It’s up to the next generation to solve the mess we find ourselves in today. The success of the ‘Innovate or Die’ competition gives me confidence that they have the imagination and creativity to succeed.”

Aquaduct was the brainchild of five California-based design students who wanted to address the 1.1 billion people in the world who don’t have access to clean drinking water. The pedal-powered machine transports and filters water without burning fossil fuels or wood, both of which contribute to a reduction in CO2 emissions.

All of the comp winners receive Specialized Globe bicycles. Specialized and Google have already partnered to equip Google’s main Mountain View campus with 350 Globes.

Specialized founder and president Mike Sinyard said: “We will continue partnering with businesses, non-profits and city governments to implement bike-share programs with the like-minded goal of decreasing CO2 emissions. Let’s all get out of our cars and onto bikes.”

Dan Reicher, director of Climate and Energy Initiatives for and former US Assistant Secretary of Energy, and a competition judge, said:

“The diversity, creativity and potential impact of the proposals was impressive. I was interested to see if bicycle powered technologies could help address global problems like climate change and water pollution. These proposals convinced me that human brainpower can harness muscle power to help solve some of our biggest environmental challenges.”

Alan Shearer to ride for Sport Relief

It’s great to hear that Toon legend Sir Alan Shearer OBE MBE is to ride 350 miles from Newcastle down to the BBC TV studios in London. In a day and a half.

It’s to raise cash for Sport Relief, but it’s not a one-off. The idea for the ride came when Lord Shearer told Match of the Day 2 presenter Adrian Chiles that he’d taken up cycling. Chiles – a chubby Brummie – was then persuaded to get on his bike and join Shearer.

Should retail billioniare Mike Ashley appoint Lord Shearer as co-manager of Newcastle United FC, it would be great to see the new cyclist make cycling into an everyday part of a footballer’s training. Most managers make sure their players stay away from bikes (too many chances of injury?). Luxury car loving footy players are not going to arrive at training grounds on carbon-fibre superbikes but as part of a fitness regime, cycling is excellent.

Just don’t fall off on cinder tracks, as Kevin Keegan did at Bracknell in 1976 while filming for European Superstars.

The training starts now

Oh, dear. My name has now appeared on the Fred Whitton Challenge website. This means I’ve got to start cycling more. A lot more.

The Fred Whitton cyclo-sportive is 112 miles of pain. After 90 miles of Lake District verticals you reach the base of Hardknott Pass. As if that wasn’t enough, you then have to haul yourself over Wrynose, too.

Online discussions about the event light up from now until May 11th. I’ve done two of these rides to date and my gearing advice is this: fit a triple as a minimum and think about fitting an MTB block on the back as well…

Cyclo-sportives may be super successful in the UK, but not all are welcomed by the locals. The Etape Caledonia event, due to be staged on closed roads in the Scottish Highlands, has spawned a NIMBY protest group, ACRE, short for Anti-Closed Road Event. The May 18th event was staged for the first time last year and – shock, horror – the riders have a great ride cos the roads are free of cars. For a few hours. ACRE calls such a short-term road closure ‘highway robbery.’

“If it means roads being barred to vehicle traffic, [ACRE] supporters believe the council should say ‘No’ to any sort of mass cycle event.

ACRE supporters positively welcome eventing cyclists, athletes, motorists, rallyists or any other specialist road users at all times of the year to our heartland. But the closure of roads that interfere with the workings of our fragile, seasonal economy, and the freedom of movement of citizens with no alternative means of access or communication, is deemed to be highway robbery.”
ACRE, January 2008


This is a very funny viral ad for the latest Lynx deodorant spray, ‘Dark Temptation.’ Women on exercise bikes run to gobble a chocolate man wearing the stuff.

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Cheap car vs expensive bicycle

India’s $2500 Tato Nano – the world’s cheapest new car – has been all over the media. But at the same Delhi Auto Expo where the Nano was launched there weren’t hordes of paparazzi on the FireFox Bikes booth.

FireFox is the Indian distributor of Trek bikes. It was exhibiting the Madone 5.2…which costs exactly the same as the Nano.

FireFox MD Shiv Inder Singh said:

“Madone 5.2 can take you to places where the Nano cannot and with its 20 high-speed gears, it is much faster than the small wonder [that is Tata Nano].”

The Nano has a 650cc engine and could lead to a lot of Indians becoming car owners for the first time, not a prospect welcomed in the West: do as we say, not as we do.

“In a few years, you will have to dump your car for a cycle to travel. With the number of vehicles on Delhi roads crossing the five million mark, maybe this is just the time?” sighed Singh.