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.”

Cars give blondes more road space (revisited)


Women who cycle get given more leeway by motorists than men who cycle. This was the famous conclusion of a camera-on-a-bike study carried out two years ago by Dr. Ian Walker of the University of Bath. It got a load of media attention at the time, especially as the bearded Dr Walker donned his blonde wig for the paparazzi.

Nobody would dare skim too close to London’s blonde bicycling bombshell, Boris Johnson. The Mayor is an instantly recognisable figure on the roads of London. And this was Dr Walker’s point: drivers don’t lump all cyclists into one group, they perceive different cyclists in different ways, giving some more room than others.

Dr Walker talked about his findings, and other aspects of his job, on the second podcast, recorded earlier today. He has provided a quote for the back cover of the book, and it’s all about how the risks of cycling are always far outweighed by the benefits, especially health benefits. The podcast starts on these life-enhancing benefits and then meanders into blonde wig territory.

My co-host, Tim Grahl, also wanted to find out whether Dr Walker knew of bike-skimming research from other countries. The podcast can be found on iTunes here or as a direct download here. I’ve also loaded an MP3 to the podcast on iTunes.

Sign up for the podcast to get all future episodes, and make sure you sign up for the Bike to Work Book newsletter, too.

Ever wondered how Tour de France commentators know so much history?

Haribo boy (with girl inside)

ASO is nothing if not efficient. It produces a whole stack of paper documents for journalists. Along with the ‘road book’, the Bible of Le Tour, there’s a fold-out map of France containing the race route; a list of hotels so journos know which teams are staying where in each town; a small pamphlet (French only) on the race regulations; and a full-on tourist guide.

This latter publication is stuffed with historical facts and figures so when a commentator suddenly seems all-knowing about the medieval wars between Catholics and Cathars he may have just flicked to the requisite page in the ‘Guide Touristique’.

Here, for instance, is the text for Brest, starting point for Le Tour.

Surface Area: 49,51 km2
Altitude: 0 m (mini) – 103 m (maxi)
Waterway: la Penfeld
Local saying: “L’on ne passe jamais par Brest, il faut avoir une raison d’y aller.”
Local Speciality: Kig’ ha Farz.
Monuments: le pont de Recouvrance, la tour Tanguy.

“You don’t just arrive in Brest, you have to have a reason for going there”, the local saying goes. What better reason for going there than the launch of the 2008 Tour de France? The Tour has passed through the town 28 times and this important Breton port has also hosted the start of the race twice, in 1952 and in 1974, when two giants of Bel- gian cycling, Rik Van Steenbergen and Eddy Merckx, triumphed.

The largest city in Finistère and in Western Brittany, Brittany’s second largest conurbation, excluding Nantes, Brest is, like the rest of the region, a genuine cycling sovereignty, though its importance as a naval base and port remains its chief vocation as re? ected in the name given to the economic infrastructure organised around the Brest urban community: Brest Métropole Océane.

The origin of its name stems from an abbreviation of the Breton name Beg ar Rest (headland’s end), that perfectly re?ects its isolated geographical position, at the tip of Léon country, facing the Crozon Peninsula in the south, bordered by the sea twenty or so kilometres to the west and encircled in the east by Morlaix and Landerneau, for a long time its rivals.

The strategic importance of the mouth of the Penfeld River, an excellent natural port, has long been at the heart of the military vocation of the site, from earliest Antiquity. A Roman camp known as Gesocribate was set up here in the 3rd century on the very spot where the town’s castle still stands today. It was ?nally ceded to Duke Jean IV for a large indemnity in 1397. Controlled by the French crown like the rest of the Duchy of Brittany in the ?rst half of the 16th cen- tury, Brest was declared a town by Henri IV in 1593. At this time it had a population of 1,500 inhabitants. As in other important French military ports,

Best of friends

Richelieu was the key to Brest’s expansion. In 1631, he created the Ponant Fleet and the port of Penfeld, at the same time developing the city’s arsenal. From 1683 to 1694, Vauban established coastal defences and forti?cations. The labour-force required in the city arsenal increased Continue reading “Ever wondered how Tour de France commentators know so much history?”

British summer so far: wet, wet, wet

On Monday, London Mayor Boris Johnson will flaunt his blonde locks, sans helmet, beneath the London Eye as he launches the Summer of Cycling.

But the photocall subhead says it all: “In the event of wet weather, the photo-call will take place under Golden Jubilee Bridges, South Bank.”

Trek urges American drivers to get on their bikes instead

Trek Bicycle of the US has launched its ‘Go By Bike Challenge’, a pledge campaign sponsored by 1 World 2 Wheels, Trek’s cycling advocacy initiative. This challenges American drivers to put down their car keys and go by bike instead.

“The momentum for going by bike is undeniable,” said Trek’s director of advocacy, Rebecca Anderson.

“Growing traffic congestion; skyrocketing gas prices; alarming obesity rates; concerns about global climate change as the result of greenhouse gas emissions; there is interest all over the country for transportation alternatives. The bicycle, as arguably the most efficient mode of transportation on the planet, represents a simple solution to some of the toughest problems; and tons of communities are recognizing this fact by taking steps to become bike-friendly. There has never been a better time to go by bike!”

From July 17th through August 31st, will accept ‘Go By Bike’ mileage pledges online, displaying a homepage ticker that tracks total miles pledged, money saved, calories burned, and pounds of carbon offset accumulated.

To promote the challenge, Trek will take out two full-page print ads in USA Today, and Trek’s network of independent bicycle dealers will ask customers to make in-store pledges. Each day of the campaign, one pledger will also be selected at random to receive a Trek 7.2 FX fitness hybrid bike, valued at $519.99.

According to a US National Personal Transportation Survey, nearly 40 percent of all trips taken by car are two miles or less.


In November, and will be publishing The Bike To Work Book. Sign up here – it’s free – to get email notifications of the book’s progress and updates on the latest Bike to Work Book podcasts.

Ricco busted for CERA? Well, Landis was busted for adrenalin


The shock departure of the Saunier Duval team from the Tour de France thanks to an alleged Adverse Analytical Finding by Riccardo Ricco is making sports journalists tap out hasty copy.

According to the Eurosport/Yahoo coverage of the Ricco story “the latest doping scandal is a new black eye for the biggest race in the sport, which had hoped to recover from two successive years of outrages involving performance enhancing drugs.”

The piece then said: “In 2006 Tour winner Floyd Landis was stripped of his yellow jersey after testing positive for heightened levels of adrenaline.”

Which is a load of cobblers (and will no doubt be pulled from the story real soon). But journos get rushes of blood to the head too, so it’s excusable.

To Ricco. What’s he accused of? It’s just the A test leaked so far but reports are saying he took CERA, Continuous Erythropoeitin Receptor Activator, the so-called ‘Super EPO’.

Given the fact anti-doping was always going to be super-hot at this year’s ‘clean’ Tour, any rider stupid enough to dope needs to be hung, drawn and quartered. Once proven, of course.

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.

Skinny Kenyans hope to climb Alpe d’Huez in noticeably fast time

zakayo with isaac njoroge

Story, pix and text from TheAfricanCyclist via

These two young men are Zakayo Nderi and Samwel Mwangi. They come from a tiny spot on the
In 2004, there was an individual time trial up that mountain in the Tour de France. Out of 155 riders, Lance Armstrong won it in 39’41” and the tenth placed time was 42’08”. Zakayo and Mwangi intend to finish in a time somewhere between those two times. Just to show they belong among them.

Zakayo Nderi…is built exactly like the typical Kenyan marathoner, 1.67m tall and 54kg, which…is the exact physiology of a climbing specialist. Unfortunately, because of the cost of cycling, and because cycling is not a well developed sport in Africa, Africans have not been given any serious opportunity to break into and succeed in the world of professional cycling

…Zakayo is good and he deserves a chance to prove himself. Cycling is…the last major sport that has no black or black African presence.

Recycling with Amy Greenhouse

This is a bizarre, but funny, video viral from Greenpeace, promoting recycling, even at rock festivals.

Glad to hear that ‘Trace’ got back to town on a solar-powered rickshaw…