This entry was posted on Thursday, January 17th, 2008 at 10:40 am and is filed under CX, MTB, Misc, Newcastle Phoenix, QR.tv YouTube vids. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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.