Cycling World February 2016

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Cycling to Work


Sustrans Big Pedal: Cycling and Scooting to School


Bikeability Cycle Training


Go-Ride: British Cycling Gets Kids Out There


Family Scooting


Balance Biking


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74 NEWS 9

Editor's Letter

13 18

Excel: UK’s Largest Bike Show Obituary: Brian F. Montgomery


The Mount Kenya Epic

REGULARS 20 Ask Anita : from Scooter to Bike 24 Bicycle Diaries: Trieste to Zagreb 71 Film Review: Japanar; Love, on a Bike 72 Book Reviews: Bike Books for Children

UK CYCLING 30 32 36

Traffic Free Rides: Cambridge to Wicken Fen Cycling Around Stoke: China Cycle Trail Making the Most of the Coast to Coast




60 Kerry Green Road Cycle Tours 62 Cork, Killarney and a Savage Head Wind…


Bike Reviews: Foffa Bike Stuff



86 Cognac: Child-friendly French Touring 90 Bloodwise: London to Paris 98 La Vie en Velo: The Dordogne 100 Mont Blanc: The World’s Toughest One Day Bike Event 106 Mallorca: Stephen Roche’s Lighthouse Tour

Cycling World February 2016





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Cycling World February 2016

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03/12/2015 1


Editor’s letter February 2016


hen putting together a Special Feature that includes commuting we realised we weren’t just looking at cycling to work. A crucial part of getting the population more active and reducing air pollution and congestion means considering the commute to school.

It is an area that is close to my heart having worked for many years as a schools officer for the sustainable transport charity, Sustrans. It was a joyous job, especially seeing the pleasure of children learning bike handing skills and developing independence. The project is an easy sell to young people, convincing parents and schools can be a bit more challenging. Success is lifetransforming: families also embrace the bicycle in free-time and school communities change philosophies. And so this edition has a family focus that includes cycle training and British Cycling coaching, celebrates the joy of scooting and reviews some child-centric products. We’ve also looked at the work journey, considering The Cycle to Work Scheme and reviewing some smart Foffa bikes. Cycling that makes a difference, both to the individual and the wider world, needs to be routine. There is no better opportunity than the daily commute to school, college, university and work. So why not start good habit forming young and enjoy the rewards as a family. A car-driving colleague asked me recently “Why do you cycle to work every day when you’ve got a car?” I replied “It’s what I’ve always done, I cycled to school every day.” He still looked bemused, but then he’s neither a cyclist nor a parent.


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David Robert (Editor)

WWW.CYCLINGWORLDMAG.CO.UK The Cyclists’ Touring Club (CTC) 75th anniversary brochure, 1953 Image credited to Westminster City Council

Although every effort is made to ensure the content of features in Cycling World is accurate and correct, the publisher cannot accept responsibility for the veracity of claims made by contributors, manufacturers or advertisers. No guarantees can be made upon the safe return of any unsolicited copy of photographic images. Thepublisher reserves the right to alter or amend any submitted material that is printed in Cycling World. All material in Cycling World is the copyright of the publisher and any reproduction of said material would require written permission from the publisher. ©Cycling World Limited 2015 ISSN: 0143-0238

Cycling World February 2016




ree flowing riding is on offer for the 200 cyclists issued with electronic traffic light controllers to automatically turn stop lights green. Santander, Issy-les-Moulineaux, Athens, Genoa, and Aarhus in Denmark are taking part in the EU’s programme to introduce high tech solutions to city planning. The scheme allows cyclists to control traffic lights for themselves after research found that second only to poor bike lanes, cyclists weren’t using their bicycles because of the inconvenience of having to stop all the time. Jumping a red light on a bicycle is breaking the law and fuels the misconception that cyclists are more careless than motorists. Without condoning this behaviour, a 2008 Freedom of Information Request revealed no pedestrians in London were killed in collision with a cyclist going through a red light between 1998 and 2007. Cyclists were involved in only a small percentage of


Cycling World February 2016

injuries to themselves. The majority of serious road traffic collisions involving bicycles may occur on or near junctions and are linked to lorries pulling away from lights and/or turning left. It’s thought that the disproportionately high number of women cyclists killed by lorries in this way may be explained by a reluctance to wait in front of a queue of traffic at lights (and perhaps pull away just before the light turns green), and a willingness to wait by the kerb on the inside of traffic.

Photo by McKay Savage



n a move to reduce insurance premiums for drivers, changes to the personal injury claims process proposed by George Osborne will have a detrimental effect on injured cyclists seeking compensation. The proposal would remove the recovery of general damages for soft tissue injuries in an attempt to stop spurious claims for whiplash. The government claims the changes will reduce car insurance premiums by £40-£50 pounds. Whiplash claims have actually fallen by more than a third in the last four years and yet the insurance industry has not reduced premiums. More importantly to cyclists, no safeguards are in place to protect the right to compensation and

legal representation when cyclists and pedestrians are hit by cars. Rather than engage specialist legal representation to claim compensation for minor injuries, victims of road traffic collisions will be steered towards the small claims court, which, it is proposed, will have its limit for personal injury claims increased from £1,000 to £5,000.



he government has made a recent announcement that UK Sport has been given a 29% increase in funding. Furthermore British Cycling has responded positively to the autumn statement and spending review, which announced an investment of £300m into cycling infrastructures outside of London. Chris Bird, Chief Executive of Sports Tours International commented: “We believe more investment in our roads is required if we are to encourage cyclists from other countries to holiday in the UK.” However, sustainable transport charity Sustrans commented that walking and cycling hangs in the balance as the review drives us back to the seventies. The comment was prompted by George Osborne’s announcement that there would be more investment in new roads than at any point since



the 1970s. Jason Torrance, Sustrans Policy Director says: “Unless further detail emerges that increases cycling and walking investment, Government will simply not be able to keep manifesto commitments to double cycling and reduce those killed and seriously injured on our roads. The Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS), which the Government is compelled to publish by law, will not be funded.’ “Government has committed to a CWIS, to double cycling levels and reduce those killed and seriously injured on our roads. But these targets will be missed unless investment is increased. With the largest road building programme since the 1970s a priority for Government, local investment in everyday travel is marginalised and the future of cycling and walking hangs in the balance.”


he BBC has recently announced that 92-year-old Alec Davies has been awarded the BBC Sport Unsung Hero award for the Midlands region. Alan received the award for his work over the last 43 years serving as the timekeeper at Worcester St John’s Cycling Club. Davies who has also in the past served British cycling as a Drugs in Sport official, is out on the roads whatever the weather to officiate at club and national events.

"I'm not in the habit of chopping and changing a lot," he told BBC Midlands Today's Nick Clitheroe. "Once I get into something I stay with it whatever it happens to be. In this case it was cycling and I'm glad that I did stay with it.” "At all these events, at the start or finish, there's always a lot of chatter going on amongst people. You've just got to concentrate. It's almost like wearing blinkers over your ears. You must just concentrate on the watch."

Cycling World February 2016



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news excel comp

Win a beautiful cycling print Come and say hi to Cycling World at the Excel Show and enter our competition to win Grid, an original framed print by Alex Cook. Alex is an illustrator based in Norwich, Norfolk. He told us about the inspiration for his work: “I have a love of cycling so I naturally I love to draw cycling related images. I've watched the Tour de France since I was a young boy and still to this day I'm fascinated by the colour and chaos of the peloton. My favourite era of the sport is the eighties and nineties as not only were there some great characters in cycling back then; Lemond, Fignon, Cipollini and Pantani; but also it was visually very exciting with plenty of crazy colourful team kits."


Cycling World February 2016

news excel show

UK’s Largest Bike Show returns to London


he London Bike Show will return to ExCeL this month, running from Thursday 11th – Sunday 14th. This year’s show will be bringing a vast array of features, special guests and the latest gear from leading cycling brands to appeal to road, mountain bike, urban and family cyclists. Over 300 confirmed brands will be in attendance as well as several large cycling retailers. The Cycling Performance will play host to a stellar list of special guest speakers including successful Olympian Sir Chris Hoy and downhill MTB legend Steve Peat. There is a brand new international MTB freestyle competition, Air to the Throne.

Featuring thirty of the world’s best freestyle mountain bikers, the gigantic course will push the riders as they battle it out for the €10,000 pot.

the market. Proving a huge success in 2015, StreetVelodrome returns once again to give visitors the chance to get involved in the action-packed thrill of track cycling, in the world’s only pop up velodrome. For adrenaline junkies, the Extreme Action Sports Tour area allows visitors to see breathtakingly-skilled stunt riders, the Daily Demons.

For cyclists looking to fine tune their performance, the Surrey Human Performance Training Hub returns offering visitors the chance to book an intensive 12-1 session offering a full fitness and technique analysis, before receiving a personalised, professional training plan. There will be a wide range of bikes from the world’s leading brands available for visitors to test on the Test Track, with road, commuter and electric models being on hand. A dedicated kid’s test track allows younger ones to try out the latest bikes on

The Workshop café offers the perfect place to unwind during the day, as well as getting useful maintenance and bike-care tips from Cytech’s expert mechanics and trainers.

For more information and to purchase tickets visit

10% TICKET DISCOUNT for Cycling World readers: use code

CW1610 at the checkout. Valid until 14/02/16

Cycling World February 2016


Cycling Team break 10,600km Cairo to Cape Town Record New record of 38 days takes 4 days of existing record set by Marc Beaumont LONDON – Thursday 19th November - The CAROCAP cycling team comprising of athletes from the UK, South Africa and Zimbabwe have completed the fastest human-powered crossing of the African Continent, a distance of over 10,600 km, from Cairo to Cape Town in just 38 days smashing the existing record of 42 days. The original six man team were reduced to just three riders by the three quarter point due to sickness and fatigue with the remaining three toughing it out to break the record. Nicholas Bourne (UK), Mark Blewett (South Africa) and David Martin (Zimbabwe) crossed the line together in Cape Town at the weekend creating a new world record for the journey. The team started under the gaze of the Great Pyramids at Giza, Egypt, on October 9th and each rode through nine countries and covered 10,643km before arriving at the finish in Cape Town on 15th November. Each day started at 4.00am and involved ten hours of riding as riders rode in the morning and then again in the evening to avoid the searing daytime temperatures which reached over 40 degrees centigrade some days. The team actually lost a day early on through sickness as Mark Blewett succumbed to a stomach bug, but thankfully recovered enough to carry on and finish the journey. They also lost a day in


Cycling World February 2016

Egypt due to a route change enforced by the authorities resulting in an overnight camp in secure areas and adjustment of their route. This meant they averaged 287km each day at an average speed of 30kph. Event creator Nicholas Bourne (who also incidentally holds also the current world record holder for running the continent) was elated to set a new world record. “We are certain that this record will be broken again as the road infrastructure improves and knowledge about how best to ride the different and varied stages and environments is more available, but we have set a very high marker for current conditions. We look forward to the next contenders to step forward and take on this epic challenge.” On the equipment front the team were very fortunate with no mishaps along the way. The Swift Carbon race bikes proved reliable on every type of terrain from tarmac to mud and sand and the Vittoria tyres took all the abuse thrown at them with only several punctures over the 10,600kms. The Bimuno nutrition and digestive supplements ensured the riders digestive systems were kept in top condition despite the extreme physical efforts and varied diet provided by roadside food stops.

Recording the fastest human-powered crossing of the African continent was not, however, the primary goal of the project. Rather it was to inspire future generations to pursue their studies in order to secure their future careers. Be it medicine, science, technology, or engineering; the team showcased these subjects and how they relate to the human body and the equipment used in order to achieve their goal. The CAROCAP Project sponsors include Bimuno (Clasado Biosiences), Swift Carbon, Vittoria, Campagnolo, Endrance Café and Pendragon Sports. The team fundraised for the Safari Simbaz Cycling Academy in Kenya and World Bicycle Relief to improve access to healthcare, education and economic opportunity to those living in the countries they visited.









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T H E L O N D O N B I K E S H O W. C O . U K


Cycling World February 2016


Cycling World Letter Page Letter of the month Malcolm wins a Velo Hinge Home Bike Storage Cross Toasting at Club Dinners Cross toasting is all about creating the interactivity of members old and young. It was and still is actively engaged in by all well-established clubs and one of the reasons they have been in existence for more than a 100 years, camaraderie amongst the gathering! Club dinners are the main social function of the year where the champions of the club are recognised for their achievement by being presented with their well-earned trophies. However, without the rest of the gathering the dinner would not exist. Cross toasting gives a great opportunity to introduce the old to the young, and gives an opportunity to provide some recognition to those not talented enough to receive awards. It draws everyone together, whether it is a ‘Mickey taking’ toast which might be to the club member who gets lost the most or to praise an older member for his/her past exploits. This is a great way of introducing a past champion to the younger, and new members, he/she certainly won’t brag about his/her own achievements. Toasting a younger member or new member for their modest achievement gives them a sense of belonging. The Club Annual dinner should be one happy family, all joining in the fun. Just sitting at a table talking amongst your closest club mates can be done anytime, in the cafe or in a restaurant with your respective partners. I have been associated with my club for 40 years and have made many good friends and the annual club dinners in the early days with cross toasting were a great way to find out more about the club members’ talents and even eccentricities. Malcolm, Kent

Cycling Cartoon Dear Editor Enclosed is a rather quick cartoon. I am an ex-motor cycle trials and motor cross rider following casual cycling with unfortunate obsessions about tyre sizing and steering geometry. This has ended up happily with an artwork hobby. Now 65 years old, I am interested also in racing and cyclocross bikes. David, Surry

Thanks for this month’s letters and please keep sending your thoughts, feelings, ideas and insights about all things cycling. Letter of the month wins a Velo Hinge Home Bicycle Storage. Send letters to: Email: Post: Editor, Cycling World Magazine, Myrtle Oast, Kemsdale Road, Fostall, Faversham, Kent ME13 9JL We may edit your letter for brevity and/or clarity. We look forward to hearing from you. Editor


Cycling World February 2016

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February 2016


Obituary: A Tribute to Brian F. Montgomery. R.I.P. Text and photos by Peter Lumley


n Cologne, Milan or London we'd head off to Pappa Joe's, Jazzclub Bluenote or Ronnie Scott's with Brian F. Montgomery, a man who knew all about George Melly, Ken Colyer and jazz. Between numbers he'd tuned you into bicycles, bicycle people and places, designing, making and marketing bikes. Brian has now left the band, aged 81 he died peacefully at home in Marley le Roi, near Paris.

In the week of his funeral, Alan Rushton, the cycle sport guru, remembered Monty would so easily help gatherings warm to the occasion: "Brian pleasantly graced any event." Brian, or Monty, was a game changer. He'd set up the European Bicycle Manufacturers Association, where from their inaugural meeting I reported how he saw real dangers the European brands faced against a flood of under-priced product reaching home shores. Engaging European bicycle components and bike makers, reaching out to the EU in Brussels, diligently feeding in factual production costs, he proved bicycles were being dumped into the Continent. The EU took that on board, yet ructions came, especially from Asian bicycle industry people who felt persecuted by his ideas. The job he did was not always appreciated. From Munich, Bicycle Trades commentator Jo Beckendorff remembers "Without Brian’s early involvement with EMBA's antidumping activities I’m sure we'd have lost many thousands of jobs that exist today... To those who criticised Brian, let's remind them


Cycling World February 2016

of what happened in the USA: no anti-dumping activities there meant home producers couldn’t compete.” A February 2003 explanation of anti-dumping activities in Bologna, brought "awakening of the Italian bicycle industry" tells Pietro Bosselli, founder of Milan's SafetyBicycle operation. "Brian Montgomery was the Great Man who diligently and honestly drove the campaign with integrity." And from Moreno Fioravanti, EBMA member: "The European bicycle industry is forever grateful for all the hard work Brian Montgomery did defending our many SMEs and tens of thousands of workers." From Belgium, former ETRA secretary Annick Roetynck, who worked for cycling at Trade level: "yes, Brian was a key figure in the industry, his passing is sad news." And from me? Brian's indelible wit and forthright friendliness embraced the lives of so many people across the Trade, my family too. Only a few know this: Brian founded the Montgomery Whisky Herders' Association, he roped me in to build a personal collection of Malts. Vainly trying to edge him, I rang to brag I'd just bought a Loch Dhu, which pours cinder dark, having aged in fired barrels. Dammit, he already had a bottle. To the memory of Brian I'm tippling a wee dram as I write this, in the background Ken Colyer's Jazzmen play a number Brian Montgomery would faultlessly sing, "Beale Street Blues". Cheers and God Bless Brian, already life's not the same.

The Mount Kenya Epic


his cycling challenge, taking place between 21-24 November, sees both local and international cycling professionals cover more than 300km on a mountain biking adventure race that circumnavigates the Mt Kenya region and the countryside of the surrounding counties. David Kinjah, Epik founder and training partner to two-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome, hopes the event will create awareness of conservation projects around the Mt Kenya region, which address the issues arising as a result of humanwildlife conflict and management of natural resources, particularly in water catchment areas. Kinjah, who recently came back from the Cairo-Cape cycling challenge, said that the Epik is a good opportunity to further engage the youth of the country and provide them with a platform to be involved in something worthwhile. "Kenyan cycling is still at

the grassroots level and that's a good thing" said Kinjah, adding that young cyclists come from rural areas and are enthusiastic about a sport that looks to have a bright future in the East African country. In its inaugural year, attracting both Kenyan and international riders from as a far afield as Norway and Japan, the Epik was created by a sports company called Africa Extreme. The aim is to attract sports tourism to the Mt Kenya region and showcase what it has to offer the outdoor, extreme sports enthusiast, while providing riders with the opportunity to interact with local communities and witness some of the beautiful scenery and landscapes surrounding Mt Kenya that otherwise might not be seen. The two-man team of Kenyan riders Joseph Echuwa and Samwel Mwangi won the 300km, four-day race crossing the finish line in 10hrs 31mins and 05secs.

Cycling World February 2016


Ask Anita Photos by Alex Loucaides


nita loves discovering new places by bike, having explored many miles of the National Cycle Network, and taken her trusty Ridgeback to roughly twenty countries so far. She does the occasional sportive, commutes by bike in London and Surrey and dabbles in triathlons, mountain biking and visiting cycling cafes. She currently works for the charity Sustrans as a project officer. Anita’s main area of expertise is surrounding herself with experts, whose knowledge she will extract to answer all of your everyday cycling questions… Dear Anita My granddaughter is usually the best at everything and loves to tell people. However, she just can’t quite grasp the concept of cycling. She loves her scooter more than her bike, and no matter how many times I show her pictures of Victoria Pendleton, Joanna Rowsell and Laura Trott her role models are still mainly Elsa from Frozen and Peppa Pig. How can I persuade her to love cycling from a young age? Little girls are fickle. I was one once. She will ditch the scooter sometime soon – most likely when her friends do, or when someone in the playground tells her cycling is cool. When she gets on the bike it’s then your job to subtly cultivate her into a lover of two-wheels through sneaky and surreptitious means. She won’t know that it was grandma/pa who inspired her until she wins the Tour de France Féminin and you show her video footage of you pretending to race her down the driveway. Scooters to bikes Both these are great modes of transport


Cycling World February 2016

for children, for getting to and from school, the shops, playdates and suchlike. However, a bike can be so much more. Nobody has seen a peloton of scooters right? You can’t hurtle down a mountain on a scooter (safely). Exploring the world with a scooter and a backpack wouldn’t have quite the same ease and romance as doing it by bike. Cycling is transport, it is leisure, it is sport, it is a way of life. Scooters are simply convenient ways to get around. Role models Role models are really important for kids, but their peers are often who they model themselves on and measure themselves against. If you have time to volunteer to set up a cycling club at your granddaughter’s school or help her join one locally, that’s a great start to get not just her, but her friends warmed up to the idea and doing it together. Ticket to ride Do her parents have bikes? Often having children is the inspiration for adults to get back on their bikes – family bike rides on purpose-built trails are a perfect day out in the outdoors. Perhaps think about encouraging them to do this, and you could even go too. Bikes are such a good way to inspire outdoor play and keep healthy and active. Encouragement She’ll get bored of it and find something else to focus on. Maybe dancing, tennis, or football. But you could encourage her to use her bike to get to other activities. You might also need to persuade the parents again, it’s they who are key to these decisions. Your granddaughter sounds like she is in a safe pair of hands. You clearly care about

her future, and that of the world if we fill it with young cyclists who are aware of the importance of making space for all transport modes: this can only be a good thing. Keep encouraging her – if she likes writing, tell her to write a story about a bike, if she likes painting, design a bike helmet; find ways to feed her dreams, whatever they currently are, with bicycle shaped images and thoughts!

ported by Sup

Cycling World February 2016


Shand An adventure bike company.

Based in Livingston, near Edinburgh, Shand Cycles has been producing hand-built bikes in Scotland since 2003, when Steven Shand first decided to turn his hobby into a business. Now with a team of six, Shand creates bikes inspired by the challenging Scottish weather and landscape, which goes to explain the thinking behind its best-selling Stoater. Russell Stout, co-owner and overseer of paint production at Shand, says, ‘We like to say, “It's not about the bike, it's about where that bike can take you.” Where we ride, with open access to trails, we were looking for a cross between a mountain bike and road bike with a bit of touring thrown in as well and came up with the Stoater. It’s an all-year, all-road bike – an “adventure bike” if you like’ with options for derailleur or ultra reliable Rohloff Speedhub.’ Made from a mix of Reynolds 853, Columbus and Deda tubing, it can be sprightly in its stripped-down form, but it has clearance for up to 45c tyres and all the necessary mounts for mudguards and racks, so it can be transformed into a load-lugger. While stock bikes are available, you can opt for custom geometry and any paint scheme you desire, although Stout confesses, ‘We love to make handbuilt bikes, but it’s not just about the craft; we really want people to go out and use and abuse these bikes.’


Cycling World February 2016

Cycling World February 2016


The Bicycle Diaries One woman’s solo cycle from London to Tehran: Stage 4 Trieste, Italy to Zagreb, Croatia (Sept 1 – 14) Total miles cycled: 750 (1,250km) Thigh status: BB- (negative outlook)


don’t realise I’ve crossed from Italy into Slovenia until all the signs suddenly start appearing in mirror writing. ‘Restavracija, okusna hrana!’ says one, beside a picture of an enormous slab of bloodied flesh. ‘Nevaren cestni odsek!’ cries another, alongside a faintly alarming illustration of a motorcyclist flying spreadeagled through the air. You’re in the Balkans now, the country seems to declare. No more of those metrosexual Mediterranean pansies! Slovenia certainly feels far less Italian than Austro-Hungarian. This perhaps isn’t surprising, considering most of it was under Habsburg rule for the best part of 600 years, until 1918. Terracotta tiles blaze under a bleached sky, each village a Technicolor smattering of reds, yellows, greens and blues. From above, I imagine it must look like a giant painter’s palette. Occasionally, a hunched old crone will appear, a basket or broom clutched in a shrivelled claw. They are so quintessentially peasant-like that I can’t help wondering if they’ve been placed here for the tourists – just as I had my suspicions about that reassuringly cantankerous hotelier in Dieppe. Maybe countries feel a duty to fulfil a few cultural clichés on their border, just to ensure foreigners don’t leave disappointed. I have decided to call my bike Maud, by the way. The name comes from this loveable beast, whose endearing violent streak reminds me fondly of my Kona. I’m not entirely sure why it’s a girl, considering I’ll be intimately astride her


Cycling World February 2016

for the best part of eight months. But at least this arrangement may prove more palatable to the Iranian imams. My first stop in Slovenia is Postojna, where I deposit my things in a campsite so I can walk to the famous caves nearby. Outside, they prove to be a disappointment, surrounded by the usual glut of tawdry tripe that infects most popular tourist attractions. Inside, however, they are breathtaking: a vast, craggy Hades of stalagmites and stalactites, formed three million years ago by the Plivka River. It’s a macabre lair, the landscape a taut cadaver skin of rock draped on rock. But there’s life here too. There’s the cute if hapless troglodytic olm, for a start: a ‘neotenic’ creature that keeps most of its juvenile features into adulthood, and with which I can’t help feeling a natural affinity. There’s also water everywhere, ebbing and flowing, carving and eroding. Stalagmites, formed from dissolved calcite dripping from the ceiling, are testament to its dogged patience, growing just one inch in 40 years. I look on in awe and envy. If only my thighs would grow so slowly. I see a chicken down here, as well as two pterodactyls and a camel. I also spot several goblins and monkeys, and phalluses everywhere. If the place is a giant Rorschach test, then I think I have problems. Our guide keeps me focused with a flow of

Rebecca Lowe, a human rights journalist, embarked on a 10,000km, 20-country ‘bummel’ through Europe and the Middle East in July 2015. Her aims are threefold: cultivate a pair of shapely calves that will be the envy of all she meets; survive; and shed light on a region long misunderstood in the West. She hopes to reach her final destination, Tehran, by April 2016.

excitable superlatives. We are, at various points, at the ‘highest point’ of the tour, and the ‘lowest point’; at the ‘thickest part’ of the roof, and the ‘thinnest part.’ As I’m wondering if he’s the ‘most superlative’ guide the caves have to offer, we happen upon ‘the most beautiful stalagmite’ – and, to give him his due, it probably is. From Postojna, I make my way to Ljubljana, the capital. I arrive harbouring some impressively uninformed preconceptions, and am expecting something rather forlorn and hopeless; some kind of drab embodiment of post-Communist disenchantment, with wisps of grey at the temples. What I find is an attractive, bustling, modern metropolis. When I ask a cafe if it has wifi, I receive a look of hurt incredulity. In fact, they have three: two city-wide networks, plus their own (take note, France!) The city has a compassionate side too. It’s heavy on bike lanes, recycling bins and signs telling people to ‘drink tapwater.’ Even the graffiti has a kindly edge, stating ‘refugees welcome’ and ‘stop repression’. These things are all sadly counteracted by the morally questionable policy of serving wine in 100ml thimbles, however, which surely does little to discourage the dangerous spread of sobriety among society. It is dark by the time I reach my host’s house, around four miles outside the centre. His flat is basic but comfortable, and I have a room to myself, which feels wonderfully decadent. M- is an accountant, and we talk over grapes and cold red wine. I learn that Slovenians are not too keen on the Italians. They spend most of their time sleeping and preening, he says, and were weak-willed enough to support both sides in World War Two (‘you can’t have it both ways!’) The Germans appear to have been forgiven, on the other hand, and are now seen as a beacon of economic aspiration. ‘This was a main reason we wanted independence,’ M- tells me. ‘As part of Yugoslavia, we were earning all this money for Bosnia and Serbia, who are much more like the Italians and threw it all away.’ So I think I’ve grasped it. The Italians don’t like the Germans; the Slovenians don’t like the Italians; the French don’t like anyone; and the Germans like everyone who plays by their rules. The Slovenians have good relations with their neighbouring Croatians, however, give or take a few niggly border disputes. ‘They are our brothers,’ M- says. ‘There’s a common language and culture there.’ The next day, I venture into town to sample my first kranjska klobasa (Carniolan sausage) – a plump anaconda of pork, garlic, salt and pepper – and meet a friend who heads one of Slovenia’s leading human rights NGOs. She tells me about the ‘erased’: the 26,000 people denied Slovenian citizenship on independence, despite living their whole lives in the country. Half remain stateless now. ‘It took ten years to break public opinion and show that these people weren’t enemies of the state,’ she says. ‘It’s now seen as a human rights issue, but we have a long way to go.’ As a newly signed-up hobo, I've had a tiny taste of the impact of prejudice

Cycling World February 2016




Sunday 31 July

Ep10ic 3 miles

Classic 52 miles

ily Fa1m 0 miles

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on the ego. Grubby, haggard and surviving on a shoestring, I know I am frequently being weighed up and judged by the people I meet. Yet I am white, British and middle-class, with a huge support network. And I am here by choice. I could brush my matted locks and rejoin the civilised folk of the township anytime I like. How it feels for people destined for society’s scrapheap, I have no idea. It must be bloody awful.

churches and bursts of crimson blooms. After a lengthy lunch stop, I arrive in Novo Mesto, in the centre of the wine-growing Krka Valley, by late afternoon. Settling down in a bar for a drink, I casually enquire what local wines are on offer — and suddenly find myself presented with four large, complimentary ‘taster’ glasses by the bar owner. Ah Slovenia, I think, a country after my own heart (and probably much of my liver too).

The Roma are a case in point. An itinerant ethnic group originating from South Asia, they have historically faced discrimination almost everywhere they have settled. In Slovenian, nearly a third of Roma settlements have no water supply, according to my friend, while 40 per cent have no electricity. Harassment at school is common, and drop-out levels high. In my experience, the Roma are the line where social liberalism ends. Even hessian-wearing, hemp-smoking beatniks with flowers in their hair and peace in their heart struggle to find a kind word. They are uneducated, unemployed, unlawful, unclean and unrestrained when it comes to spawning offspring, it is said. And much of this is true, to an extent. But if you believe that no ethnicity is born to be a societal burden, you have to ask: what came first, the problem or the prejudice? And where will the cycle end if the latter continues unchecked?

While getting completely, ill-advisedly sloshed, I learn everything there is to know about the Slovenian wine industry. Almost everyone in the region has around 250 vines, apparently, and produces their own wine. The speciality of area is the light red Cviček, the only wine in the world other than the Italian Chianti made from both red and white grapes. It cannot be more than ten per cent proof ‘for medicinal reasons,’ and is refreshing and dry, with a hint of sweet berry. Predictably, the French hate it.

After a brief visit to Ljubljana Castle, where I consider replacing my Brooks saddle with a couple more compassionate-looking alternatives on offer in the torture exhibition, I go on my way. Surprising myself, I decide to shun the easy route for the hilly one. This is partly by choice, partly by a subtle hint of peer pressure from M-. ‘You can go the interesting way,’ he says. ‘Or you can go the flat way by the river, where you’ll die of boredom.’ He does own a lycra onesie, however, so is almost certainly not to be trusted. But it’s good advice, as it turns out. Twenty miles of dullness is rewarded by acres of radiant fields, toy box houses, elegant

I rather enjoy it. But after six hours on the bike, my palate is admittedly more forgiving than most. I am less keen on the local cocktail miš-maš, however: a concoction of red wine and orange Fanta that has the hue of a bloodied urostomy bag. It’s dark and I am thoroughly hooned when I finally harness Maud to ride the last few miles to Otočec. By the time I arrive, the campsite barrier is firmly locked and nobody is around. It’s nothing a little light trespass and athletic limbo can’t solve, however, and by 10pm I am tucked cosily inside my tent. The next morning, I head for Croatia. It’s a lovely cycle, as houses blend into barns and cattle sheds, and gardens into allotments and arable land. Hot wafts of manure ebb and flow, while cows look demure and pretend it’s nothing to do with them. By mid-morning, I am in a thoroughly good mood, and am just ruminating on the quite remarkable achievement of a borderless Europe when a burly policeman stops me in my tracks, looking gruff.

Cycling World February 2016


‘Where are you going?’ he says. ‘How did you get here?’ Well, technically by squeezing through those inconvenient road blocks around the corner, which had a nice, bike-sized opening in the middle, but I decide not to go into detail. ‘Why, is there a problem?’ I ask pleasantly. There is, as it turns out. Unbeknownst to me, there is indeed a border between Slovenia and Croatia. The latter is not yet in the passport-free Schengen zone, apparently, despite being in the EU – unlike Switzerland, which is in the zone despite not being in the EU. How very confusing. This is not the official crossing, however, so I have inadvertently entered the country illegally: my second foray into criminality in just 24 hours, both of which I have rather enjoyed. I ready myself for an ear-bashing, but when the guard sees my British passport, his tone changes. ‘Ah London. I love London! Have you cycled from there?’ It’s not the first time I’ve made a friend based solely on where I am from — a piece of tremendous good luck, in which I played no part whatsoever — and I suspect it won’t be the last. As I make my way to the official crossing and am waved swiftly through, I reflect on what it must be like to have no nationality, no freedom, no formal identity. To be erased. It is surely not a fate to be wished on anyone. FIND OUT MORE about Rebecca’s Journey Twitter: reo_lowe (

Facebook group: The Bicycle Diaries ( bexbicyclediaries/)

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Cycling World February 2016

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Cycling World February 2016


routes Traffic-Free Ride

Cambridge to Wicken Fen

from Sustrans’ Traffic-Free Cycle Rides by Wendy Johnson

Start: Cambridge End: Wicken Fen Getting there and away: Cambridge train station, from Wicken Fen is an eight mile ride to Ely Train station. Route distance: 16.5 miles Route type: Moderate: Flat tarmac paths, gravel track and stony trail. The route contains a bridge with twelve steps that has a steep ramp to push a bike over. Cycle hire: City Cycle Hire, Cambridge www. or from the National Trust in Wicken Fen (Easter to October) A1421

A detailed description of the route/scenery: Starting in the elegant surroundings of Cambridge and ending in the wild fens, this route is one of extremes. Start at the resplendent King’s College and head to the River Cam using National Cycle Network route 11, joining route 51 near Ditton Meadows. From here the city is quickly left behind as you enter the Cambridgeshire countryside. As you get to Bottisham you will need to re-join National Cycle Network route 11. Take a rest on the benches at White Fen near Lode and Longmeadow Community Woodland or a short while later alongside the steel figures of the ‘portrait bench’ near Reach Lode. After this travel through Burwell Fen, one of the lowest points in the Cambridgeshire Fens at nearly two metres below sea level. Towards the end of your journey you will pass through Adventurers’ Fen then Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve, one of the most important wet lands in Europe. After this Wicken village is a short ride along a quiet road. B1

42 A1


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Buy a pocket-sized guide at: south-cambridgeshire-beds-herts-cycle-map A 10


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Local map: Sustrans’ South Cambridgeshire, Beds and Herts Cycle Map


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Attractions on the route: Cambridge’s architecture and the Cambridgeshire Fens


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H A RDW I CK Stay: YHA Cambridge or the National Trust has an area for wild camping at Wicken Fen.






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Cycling World February 2016

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Eat and drink: Benets café in Cambridge is great for ice cream. The Dyke’s End is a good pub in Reach.

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Loops, links and longer rides: Continue on National Cycle Network route 11 along quiet country lanes and traffic free paths for a further seven miles to Ely. From here a train can be taken back to Cambridge.



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Cycling World February 2016


UK cycling China Cycle Trail

Cycling Around Stoke: China Cycle Trail By Sarah Roe


rom the moment we step out of Stoke on Trent railway station there are constant reminders that this is the home of china. Wheeling our bikes out of the station we are greeted by an imposing bronze statue of dapper 18th century ceramicist Josiah Wedgwood, who helped to make Stoke an industrial centre for pottery. The elegant hotel and warm brick buildings in the Jacobean-style square that first greet railway passengers were constructed to service a rapidly expanding potteries industry. I’m here to try out the new China Cycle Trail developed by Sustrans, which follows some of this rich history, and look for inspiration for a Valentine’s Day present from a vibrant array of talented ceramicists still turning and decorating pots in workshops and factories along the eight-mile route. A shiny new cycle hub at the station is a reassuring sign that this is also a place that is accustomed to people on bikes. Stoke is home to several wellknown bicycle businesses including Swinnerton, Brian Rourke, George Longstaff and Pro-Vision, and there are several cycle routes in and around


Cycling World February 2016

the city. I’ve met up with Sustrans’ Schools officer Stephen Dyster, who works to get more children cycling in Stoke and leads rides occasional bike rides along the China Cycle Trail. We pedal off down the main road in the direction of Hanley [route 555], through the wrought iron gates of peaceful Hanley park. Geese and ducks glide across the lake and young couples stroll leisurely through a tree-lined walk. Within minutes we turn on to the Caldon canal and cruise steadily along, greeting fellow bike riders and walkers along the way. The circular trail is designed to be an easy route, which is mainly trafficfree, so it’s great for a family day out or for reluctant riders. There are lots of opportunities for tea and cake, shopping and museums. The canals round here are inextricably linked with the history of the potteries. Josiah Wedgwood cut the first sod of the Trent and Mersey Canal in 1777 at Middleport, and you don’t have to travel far along the water course before you come across the first chance for a history lesson.

The Etruria Industrial Museum is at the junction of the Trent and Mersey and the Caldon canals, and is the only steam driven potters’ mill in the world. The Museum has exhibits relating to industrial heritage, with occasional steam-up days. Etruria was once a thriving industrial centre, where Wedgwood set up his factory village, named after the artistic Italian district of Etruria. The museum is only open for events or special appointments, so we don’t stop this time, and carry on our ride along the canal. It’s not long before the first bottle oven looms into sight. The distinctive beehive shape of the industrial kilns which pepper this landscape signals our arrival into Burslem, known as the heart of the potteries. Wedgwood also set up his first pottery here to manufacture his now internationally famous Jasperware and other styles, before moving to Etruria and Barlaston. We wheel our bikes over the canal bridge to Middleport Pottery, the home of Burleigh, which is still produced on site. The factory almost closed down in 2011, but thanks to a £9million grant from the Princes Regeneration Trust, continues to produce ceramics and has become a vibrant visitor attraction too. There are regular tours of the factory floor, where you can watch pots being crafted in the same skilled 19th century methods that were used when the potteries were in their heyday, step inside the bottle oven where thousands of pots were fired, or relax in a stylish café in the old packing house, which overlooks the canal. It’s a warren of intriguing Dickensianstyle buildings and cobbled streets, where every window is a glimpse into part of the production process: neat stacks of pot moulds, the broadbottom saggars which were used to protect pots as they were fired, or rows of gleaming tea sets and plates.

Individual craftspeople also have workshops in the complex and there are regular activities and events. We could have wandered round Middleport for a long time, and the sunny terrace of the café was particularly appealing, but we had a tight schedule to visit other potteries, so it was back on the bikes and the familiar terrain of the canal. We make a slight detour to Westport Lake, a lovely picnic spot with a visitor centre. As the wildfowl chatter to each other on the water it’s difficult to imagine that this was once a dump for waste pottery and an eyesore. Back on the main route Stephen leads us away from the canal at the top of our circular route. We cross over to an old railway line which once shunted high grade limestone to the potteries. The path is now part of national cycle route 5, and travels back through Burslem. As we coast along the pleasant treelined path we pass more bottle ovens, signalling past factories, Stephen gives me an idea of the scale of the potteries: “There were once thousands of these ovens in Stoke on Trent, which produced a thick yellow smoke, so the place was known as Smoke on Trent.” There is a café and information point for Royal Stafford just before Burslem Park and nearby Barewall Gallery is well worth a stop to browse the collection of contemporary art, ceramics and glass, with some unusual craft gift opportunities. The China Trail continues on to Central Forest Park, the landscaped site of the former Hanley Deep Pit, via the Moorcroft Heritage Visitor Centre. It’s possible to tour the old Moorcroft factory and get close to original, collectable pieces of Moorcroft pottery, renowned throughout the world for their vibrant glazes and designs. The bottle oven is currently being restored, and there is also a gift shop and cafe. Next the trail takes us back on the road into Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent’s city centre, for the final leg of the journey. The nearby Dudson Museum is also a working pottery dating back 200 years, with tours, including another

chance to step inside a bottle oven (grade II listed), as well as a cafe and shop.

the site has recently been awarded £700,000 to transform empty factory buildings into artists’ studios.

The Potteries Museum and Art gallery boasts one of the world’s finest collections of Staffordshire ceramics, as well as decorative arts, natural history, and of course a cafe for hungry cyclists. There’s even a secret garden. Renowned local ceramic artist Anita Harris also has an outlet in the intu Potteries Shopping Centre for more gift opportunities.

As I leave the exhibition hall I notice a quote on the wall from Josiah Wedgwood, which seems like a fitting epitaph to the hard work over centuries of the skilled artisans and engineers represented along today’s China Cycle Trail: “Beautiful forms and compositions are not made by chance.” Ceramic cyclists

We make a slight detour off the route to the Emma Bridgewater factory, housed on another characterful old Victorian site on the banks of the Caldon Canal. The company’s instantly-recognisable nature-inspired designs are popular around the world, and the shop and cafe have a constant stream of pottery fans. It seems only right to stop for tea and a sandwich. I sit in a sunny courtyard and watch the factory workers applying colourful glazes with delicate brush strokes in the building opposite. The old Spode factory site, where Josiah Spode first built up his empire, fittingly marks both the end and the beginning of the circular China Trail, in Stoke town centre. The factory closed a few years ago but the vast factory floor has been beautifully restored into the China Hall, sometimes used for exhibitions and events. From 26 September to 8 November 2015 it hosted the British Ceramics Biennial, showcasing over 30 new and established artists to challenge traditional perceptions of pottery. There’s a visitor centre at Spode and

The distinctive beehive shapes of Stoke’s bottle ovens form the backdrop for a vibrant painted scene of a racing cyclist on unique pieces created by local ceramicist Anita Harris. She merged the history of the potteries with cycling to commemorate the Tour of Britain on two occasions the tour passed through the city. “I wanted people to instantly recognise it as Stoke, so I put bottle ovens on the cycle route,” she explains. In 2013 the local councillor presented her handpainted vase to Sir Bradley Wiggins, and he went on to become the leader of the race. “It’s great to think that Sir Bradley has got one of my pieces in his living room,” she smiles. Anita was head designer at Poole Pottery for 10 years and now has her own workshop four miles outside Stoke. She specialises in a more complex technique known as ‘reactive glazes’, a type of chemistry experiment, where the artist has little idea how the colours of the product will turn out in the end. Each piece is hand painted and depending on Cycling World February 2016


UK cycling China Cycle Trail the complexity can take over a week to complete, so the workshop only produces just a few hundred items a year. “The glazes we use bear no resemblance to the colours of the finished pieces, so we never know what we’re going to get. We trickle the glazes, layer them up or etch. We can outline with gold, create special

colours and depths and often use lustres. Sometimes we fire a piece four or five times before we finish it.” Anita says there are often items in the shop which have a cycling theme and the company can personalise anything for a special event or anniversary. Stoke has typically been a supporter

of cycling. “There’s always a good turn-out in Stoke to watch the cycling and there are a lot of cyclists in the city. My son cycles a lot and cycles along the China Trail. It’s a way of seeing parts of the city that you don’t normally get to see and keep fit. ”

China Cycle Trail Attractions Wedgwood & Royal Doulton Forge Lane, Etruria ST1 5NP T: 01782 284056 This factory outlet shop stocks all the company’s major brands including Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, Waterford and Minton Middleport Pottery Port Street Burslem ST6 3PE T: 01782 499766 The home of Burleigh pottery, factory tour, bottle oven, shop, cafe Royal Stafford shop Overhouse St, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire ST6 4EE T: 01782 525419 content/ Royal Stafford outlet shop Barewall Gallery 2-4 Market Place Burslem Stoke on Trent ST6 4AT T: 01782 258843 Fine art and ceramics gallery and shop Moorcroft Heritage Visitor Centre T: 01782 820515 Factory tour, bottle oven, shop, cafe Dudson Museum T: 01782 285286 Historic site including grade II listed bottle oven, with collection, shop and café.


Cycling World February 2016

Anita Harris Pottery intu Potteries Centre Quadrant Road City Centre ST1 1PS T: 01782 599194 Shop outlet (15% discount for readers with a copy of this article) Potteries Museum & Art Gallery Bethesda Street T: 01782 232323 pmag/ One of the world’s finest collections of Staffordshire pottery. Emma Bridgewater factory Lichfield Street Hanley ST1 3EJ T: 01782 201328 http://www.emmabridgewaterfactory. Factory, outlet shop, tours, cafe Spode Works Visitor Centre Former Spode Factory Elenora Street entrance Elenora Street ST4 1QQ T: 01782 411421 Visitor centre (check opening times), occasional events and exhibitions Etruria Industrial Museum Lower Bedford St ST4 7AF T: 07900 267711 Steam-driven potters' mill. (Infrequent opening dates)

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routes UK cycling coast to coast

Making the Most of The Coast to Coast Alexis Zafiropoulos and four mates make a five-day, 171.3 mile ‘bike-packing’ adventure out of Sustrans’ excellent C2C trail from Whitehaven to Tynemouth with plenty of diversions, luxury items, rain and whimsy en-route. Photo credits: David Sherrington, Matt Wright, Bill Kenny, Alexis Zafiropoulos, Jon Fieldhouse


Cycling World February 2016

DAY 1 (13.08.2015) WhitehavenThornthwaite 5a.m. and London was still resolutely snoozing and about as placid and peaceful as it gets. Moderate to heavy whisky consumption the night before with rider Bill Kenny made for a fuzzy head compounded by a lack of sleep from giddy excitement about our impending ‘micro-adventure’. I also had just about recovered from shellfish poisoning (never force open a closed mussel!) so was not really in A1 physical shape but I knew that if managed correctly the next five days of exercise, fresh air and good food, it would restore body and soul. On our heavily laden bicycles (I chose my solid friend Thorn Sherpa, Bill on his shiny Dawes Galaxy) we snaked

through near empty Hackney streets to rendezvous point Euston station where we met Jon Fieldhouse (riding a fine glitter-green build of his own touring bike brand ‘LPY’), Matt Wright (also on an LPY rig albeit with fatter, off road tyres) and David Sherrington (aboard his custom Condor tourer also known as ‘Luscious Lugs’). Our racks strained under the weight of panniers stuffed with cooking gear, clothes, tinned fish, tents, tools, cameras, a drone (yes that’s right a drone) and a coconut. As we board the 06.45 Virgin Pendolino Euston-Carlisle the guard jokes “Are you sure you have enough stuff?” and the answer as always is no. Four pendulous hours later and we are in Carlisle, eat a massive fry up (Dave has a pint) and we transfer to a Northern Rail service to our official

ride start point Whitehaven. Another rider obliges and takes the mandatory photo of riders and bikes next to the C2C sign with back wheels dipped in the Irish Sea. Its 2pm, hot, sunny with a tasty tailwind and

the beautiful former railway path gradually rises urging us eastwards into the stunning Lake District. We

Cycling World February 2016


routes UK cycling coast to coast pass through tiny sheep farming hamlets, signs warning of red squirrels and weave around the shores of small pine-forest-shrouded, sparkly lakes and the inclines increase to up to 20% at times. ‘Keep hydrated’ I tell myself as I’m prone to overheating and end up splashing around in a mountain stream like an animal to cool off. Weather report from the girlfriend confirms that the monsoon like rains are moving north so we call ahead to book pitches on Lanefoot Farm campsite in Thorntwaite. The fast dry fire roads of Whinlatter Forest are the perfect end to our first 25 miles of riding. We pitch up at the excellent site, freshen-up, ride to a local pub where the local ale goes down oh so well. Day 2 (14.08.2015) ThornthwaitePatterdale Woken early by rain pattering on my Vaude tent’s roof, I climb out into mud that wasn’t there the night before and I’m surrounded by friendly sheep who have escaped from a nearby field. I feel a long way from my Medway


Cycling World February 2016

home with misty rain clouds hugging the steep hillsides. I sense the familiar dull ache of muscle sets re-awoken, not used since the Dunwich Dynamo a couple of months earlier. I could moan about the assault of midges, the lumpy ground, the under-geared state of my bike’s drivetrain and the atrocious weather, but an overriding sense of purpose and ‘joie de vivre’ takes over particularly when presented with a tasty tent-cooked bacon buttie…thanks David you ledge. So a COBRA style meeting is called and we decide to avoid pitching sodden tents in a wet campsite, instead booking a room in YHA Patterdale. This slight detour off the C2C route would give us the chance to ride along the banks of Ullswater Lake and have a place to dry our gear and sleep in warm dry beds. Luxury dogs! We set out. A meagre 20 miles lay ahead but 20 million raindrops stood between us and a hot shower. I fully appreciate now why the Lake District has lakes. After only eight miles a very welcome

break is had in the ‘Saddleback Café’ in Keswick where they obviously are used to serving great food and drink to C2C riders and walkers. We eat cake, get caffeinated whilst giggling at classic satirical cycling book ‘The Rules’ and gear fan David gets waterproof socks from the bike shop

next door. The run out of Keswick is one of the finest sections of bike friendly infrastructure I have experienced. Again Sustrans have done a great job of recycling a disused railway line into an efficient multi-user path. Clear signage, bridges and shelters are provided en route. We pass a derelict station and cross a bridge over an

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Cycling World February 2016

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routes UK cycling routes coast to coast angry, swollen River Greta and are treated to Jurrasic Park style vistas minus the dinos. So often we forget we are in the UK. My main regret on leaving Keswick is that we didn’t factor in time to visit the Cumberland Pencil Museum having been a heavy user of pencils from the age of four; next time I promise myself with my own four-year-old. Hands start to wrinkle from absorbing rain and a pub appears with a roaring open fire: it would be daft not to stop for refreshment and warmth. The Troutbeck Inn is a sanctuary placed an hour before the final push up then fast downhill to

Patterdale on the southern bank of svelte Ullswater. I only nearly fell in the lake once when trying out a lakeside off-road short cut.

because of the lycra, took the lead north along the lake’s bank towards Penrith. A wee bit jealous of David’s speedy Condor but I kept pace.

Day 3 (15.08.2015) PatterdaleNenthead

After an hour on quiet rural roads a bustling metropolis such as Penrith can be hazardous. Dumb bypasses and overcrowded junctions conspired to cause our first and only collision; me slamming into Bills panniers. No damage, just buddies intertwined on a busy roundabout for about 25 seconds and happy I brought my skid-lid along.

We awoke refreshed with sunlight blasting into our comfy YHA room. Bill yoga-waved the sungods on the balcony, Jon and Matt dried things and Dave ‘fry-up major’ Sherrington and I donned our tasteful lycras and fixed breakfast. We needed to fuel up and get real. Today was to be a bigriding day (up to 35 miles...heroes!). David and I, I guess

A very steep climb out of Penrith sees us leave the stunning Lake District, I’m sad to see it go and will return for more cycling with the family I promise myself. David

Cycling World February 2016


routes UK cycling coast to coast nearly leaves us! Although C2C way-markers and signs are very clear, descents can be fast and this was the first of a few occasions when Luscious Lugs has careened off with our pal in completely the wrong direction. But soon we were back on track and eating one of our epic luncheons on a beauty of a village green at Langwathby. I enjoy eating almost as much as I enjoy cycling. We demolish avocado, chocolate, sausage rolls, crisps, dates, coffee, sardines, fruit and cake. With greed-fed grunts we start climbing the foothills of the Pennines. Along the way I spot the words ‘Not on my Watch!’ daubed in red (blood?!) on the tarmac shortly followed by a series of voles or moles strung up in a sacrificial manner along a barbed wire fence (please contact CW if you know what this is about!) Then the sheer face of Hartside presents itself. The 756m elevation felt like three Ditchling Beacons on top of each other, for those of you familiar with the London to Brighton ride. At one point a car pulls over in-front of me and a man climbs out, gestures to me and asks “Are you ok mate??…we are concerned” “A-OK thanks” I reply “I always wobble at altitude!” I then snuck up a short but steep off-road short-cut (the C2C has plenty of such


Cycling World February 2016

options) beating my 700c wheelequipped friends to the summit. ’You laugh at my small wheels and barends boys but who’s laughing now?’ I think to myself! A great café sits at the top where you can admire the view and the expensive motorcycles parked up. The tap water is brown on account of the moorland peat but it’s fine the staff tell us and Jon’s luxury ‘Ricqles’ peppermint oil drops mask any brown taste. Then we saddle up and it feels like jumping out of a plane as we descend all the way down the western side hitting 40mph. Then along to the highest market settlement in England, Alston, and up again through picturesque, cobbled streets decorated with yellow bikes anticipating the arrival of The Tour of Britain. Finally towards Haggs’ Bank Camping and Bunkhouse near Nenthead. We then get eaten by midges, have a pasta cook up using stream water, watch a perfect sunset, see dancing revellers dressed as hot-dogs and strawberries party below, get a little drunk ourselves, go for a pointless walk (but it is so good to walk off riding legs), watch the millions of stars come out and count satellites zooming past and go to bed cold but contented. Day 4 (16.08.2015) NentheadConsett

As you can tell, we are ‘making a meal’ out of the C2C. Most make it in three days, a few do it in one and some club riders we meet claim one of their members did C2C-C2C in under 24 hours! Today would be the hardest day…at least for me. Hills, hills and more lovely hills. And rusty orange Northumberland moors and so much epic silence, not even a breeze, only broken by occasional superbikes roaring past. It feels really isolated; snowmarkers and the road the only signs of civilization. We launch Jon’s drone to get footage and a better view…it was worth the extra weight! We have a great coffee-stop in Allenheads and check out the community-owned lead-mining Heritage Centre and for the next five or so miles we ride through a ghostly steep-sided valley peppered with

mine-relics, broken bridges; the echoes of abandoned industry. We stick to the on-road option to lunch stop Stanhope, after passing a ghoulish woman dressed in Victorian garb pushing an ancient pram in the middle of nowhere. I stuff myself, foolishly with Co. Durham’s tasty but heavy chippy chips with optional ‘batter bits’ and then smash out a steep, long climb to the top of Stanhope Common. From Parkhead Station we can just about make out the finish-line of the North Sea. A long descent on a well-surfaced, disused railway track drops us down ‘cruise control style’ to Consett where we camp for the night; a good caravan site making an exception for a polite group of C2Cers with tents. After civilised coconut, rum and Lilt drinking we sleep so well. Day 5 (17.08.2015) ConsettTynemouth We wake to bright sunshine and no animals fried for our breakfast this morning; all yogurt, muesli and fruit. Our final leg was not hard or as scenic as the rest of the trip. Mostly downhill to Newcastle, we practically coast to the coast (see what I did there!) Matt nearly crushes two dozy dogs under his knobbly tyres and much of the route along the Tyne’s

banks is busy and shared use, so we drop our pace further. I love a good ‘cycle-café', ever since my many years of spanner service at London’s pioneering ‘Look Mum No Hands!’ So a visit to Newcastle’s ‘The Cycle Hub’ is a perfect last stop for good coffee, tyre pumping, info, maps and mixing it with other bikeniks. The final section to Tynemouth is a touch lumpy and less photogenic but South Shields is a pretty bustling fishing harbour. We round the corner of the headland and we reach the Tynemouth finish! Tide is well out so no front wheel dipping unfortunately. I neck a disgusting caffeine shot energy drink (first of the trip; adrenaline and EPO sustaining me most other days) and we turn tail; due to Metro trains no non-folding bike policy it’s back to Newcastle for us! A beer at the station and champagne on the train. We are glowing, fit(ter) and definitely merrier than five days ago. We swear to plan another bike adventure soon; my body and soul craves it and I implore you try the C2C too…it is mega!

C2C'S DOS Carry a guide. We relied on ‘The Ultimate C2C Guide’ by Richard Peace when planning or lost. Leave room in packing for luxury Items as they greatly enhance fun. At the very least a camping chair; you will feel like a king/queen. Leave room in your schedule to relax, visit museums, waterfalls, country houses and eat a proper lunch. Make sure your bike is serviced before leaving. Distances between towns is significant but if needed you can find good shops (e.g. North Pennines Cycles, Nenthead). Off road bikes are good choices or 32mm+ tyre widths at least. Use the cafes, hostels and campsites catering to C2C riders; they are great and look after you well. Research alternative routes; options exist for starting in Workington and ending in Sunderland or do it east to west. Check out Jon’s fine bikes at Waterproof clothes and bags essential! Support so that the routes and network continue to flourish.

C2C'S DON'TS Drop your gel wrappers, inner tubes or buddies. Littering is ugly and has no place on the C2C. Losing friends is a pain. Worry if you are doing the ride solo as you will meet lots of other riders en-route. Forget to book your bikes onto trains as spaces are limited and it can get busy. Listen to anyone who says the route is easy; it is a challenge which is fun especially when bike packing.

Cycling World February 2016


Special feature CYCLING TO WORK


he cycle to work initiative is a tax-efficient, and on the whole, salary-sacrificed employee benefit that provides a way of encouraging more adults to take up cycling. Introduced in the 1999 Finance Act, the scheme encourages employers to loan bicycles and cycling safety equipment to employees as a tax-exempt benefit for the purpose of cycling to work. Under the scheme, employers buy cycling equipment from suppliers approved by their scheme administrator, and hire it to their employees. At the end of the loan period, the employer may choose to give the employee the option to purchase the equipment.


2 3

Can you give us figures on the number of companies and employees using the scheme? We have a wide range of clients ranging from Universities and Energy Providers to Public Sector bodies, there really is a desire cross industry. We have seen tens of thousands of employees take up the scheme in the last twelve months. Over 2,500 employers use our cycle to work scheme on a regular basis. Most of these employers recognise not only the savings that employees can achieve through the salary sacrifice arrangements, but also the wider benefits to the environment and employee health and wellbeing.

The Cycle to Work scheme- how easy it is nowadays?

With the government introduction of the scheme in 1999, the awareness and take up has increased year on year. Cycle Solutions as one of the UK’s national providers has seen an increase by 36% in the last year alone and is forecast to grow in 2016. The Cycle Solution scheme is easy to set up with any employer from SME to large multinational organisation. We operate an online process which allows any organisation across the UK to set up the scheme. We have achieved great success with companies such as KP Snacks and EDF Energy both of whom operate on a multisite level, so our online platform works exceptionally well for them. We even visit each site with our ‘pop up road show’, and have travelled from Aberdeen to St Ives, so the staff can sample the bikes and accessories available before signing up.

What else is needed to encourage people to commute on a bike? More and more people are turning to cycling for the daily commute because they recognise the savings they make against using their own car or public transport. However, there is still a perception amongst many would-be cyclists British roads are unsafe for bikes. 2013’s British Social Attitudes Survey on ‘Public Attitudes to Transport’ found that 61% of respondents felt it was too dangerous for them to cycle on roads. In actual fact, despite thousands more cyclists taking to the road, the long-term trend is that cycling deaths are falling. There has already been significant investment in cycling infrastructure with London’s Cycle Superhighways probably the most well-known. However, in order for us to truly embrace cycling in the UK we need to see increased and sustained investment in changing our roads to give more priority to cyclists and pedestrians.


Cycling World February 2016

Cycling to Work

Interview with Steve Edgell, Director of Cycle Solutions and Chairman of the Cycle to Work Alliance

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Special feature Sustrans Big Pedal

Sustrans Big Pedal: Cycling and Scooting to School


very spring hundreds of thousands of children in the UK conduct a quiet revolution using their bikes and scooters. Making millions of journeys their combined efforts see two million car journeys prevented and 94,000 gallons of fuel saved. Welcome to The Big Pedal, Sustrans’ annual inter-schools challenge that encourages schools to see who can record the greatest number of pupils, staff and parents cycling or scooting to school. The challenge is the flagship in the charity’s on-going work to encourage people to travel in ways that improves their health and reduces pollution. In particular The Big Pedal focuses on children and parents getting to school.


Cycling World February 2016

You may wonder why a charity is needed to encourage children to get to school under their own steam, after all they do that already don’t they? Sadly that’s not the case, 44% of primary school children are driven to the school gates and the trend is going up, despite living on average just a twenty-minute bike ride from school. No wonder only one in 40 eleven-year-olds achieve the recommended hour a day of physical activity. The reasons for this are likely to be varied, from parents being concerned about safety along roads, to the time constraints that come from having busy lives that mean dropping the kids off at school just makes life that little easier.

Cat Claxton from Whitechapel in London has a nine-year old son who attends a primary school in the area. For Cat cycling was a mystery, she couldn’t ride a bike herself and was reluctant for her son to cycle, fearing London traffic would be too dangerous. Cat explains, “I saw cycling and London as two things that simply didn’t mix – even more so for children. Then Sustrans started working in my son’s school and he begged me to let him ride in. At first I was completely against it but he wore me down. We went through quiet back-streets which took a little longer, but it was worth it. Now he cycles every day and is gaining in confidence all of the time.” Following her son’s experience, Cat then started cycling herself and hasn’t looked back. “Cycling

is incredibly liberating. In a city the size of London it can be timeconsuming, expensive and stressful travelling around. On my bike I feel as though London has opened up, giving me a new way of exploring my city.”

Since working with Sustrans, O’ Rourke explains that the school is unrecognisable from before.

Over half a million (557,223) children took part in the Big Pedal in 2015, with 1,335 schools encouraging their pupils to cycle and scoot. One such school was Washingborough Academy in Lincolnshire. Headteacher Jason O’ Rourke has always cycled himself and after joining the school he saw the potential for cycling and scooting.

“We have cycling groups set up here in the school, we give rewards for cycling, we cycle into Lincoln on trips and any transition days that we have with local secondary schools, we bike to them. The whole thing just snowballs into a complete cycling culture within the school.”

“When I first arrived at the school there was a ramshackle, run down bike shed with about two bikes in it. I have always cycled and I commute to work by bike. I really wanted to teach the children at school the benefits of using a bike as a form of transport. I saw the Big Pedal as a great learning opportunity for the school. We already included cycling in the curriculum and the Big Pedal acted as the perfect catalyst to engage further with the whole community.”

“We now have three bike sheds which are full with up to 90 bikes a day. We have created a separate bike path in the school grounds and have weekly mountain bike cycling lessons using our own mountain bikes, as well as a community 'Go-ride club' which runs every week.” The Big Pedal won’t change the UK’s culture overnight. We need a joined up cycling and walking strategy from the government, and of course funding, to ensure that bike and walking routes are built

and cycle training can be funded. But these types of projects are extremely important for building up the confidence of children and their parents, and creating travel habits that keep people fit for life. Steve Garidis from the Bike Hub, the levy scheme of UK bike retailers which funds the Big Pedal explains why this is so important, “Bike Hub is a fund created by the cycle industry to encourage more people to cycle, and particularly to give children - the cyclists of the future - more opportunities to enjoy their bikes. That’s why we invest in the Big Pedal; a fantastic event which not only encourages children to cycle to school but is also great fun!”

Cycling World February 2016


Special feature BIKEABILITY

Bikeability Cycle Training By Richard Hector-Jones


he national Bikeability programme, aimed at teaching road safety to the next generation of cyclists, remains high on the list of government priorities after November’s Spending Review.

2 takes place on local streets, giving children a real cycling experience. Trainees learn how to deal with traffic on short journeys such as cycling to school or the local shops. Trainees are usually trained in small groups with up to six trainees per instructor.

Seen as the heir to the old Cycling Proficiency Test and funded by The Department for Transport and local councils, Bikeability is set to receive £50m over the next four years to continue its work, matching previous years’ annual commitments. The £50m is to cover all of England excluding London.

Level 3 equips trainees with skills for more challenging roads and traffic situations – busier streets, queuing traffic, complex junctions and roundabouts. It also includes planning routes for safe cycling. Level 3 training is delivered one-to-one or in groups of up to three so can be tailored to a trainee’s individual needs, such as a route to work or school.

In the North West, a region that instructs more children than any other part of the country, cycle training provider BikeRight! provides 88 instructors to teach the course. The organisation trains over 3500 Manchester pupils on an annual basis, teaching them how to stay safe on busy city streets. Each pupil receives a full eight hours of specialist training in conjunction with local primary and secondary schools. For the past ten years BikeRight! has been teaching pupils the city’s 135 primary schools improving cycling skills, health and wellbeing of an entire generation of Manchester children. Giving children the skills and confidence to cycle on today’s roads encourages more people to cycle more often with less risk. The training is practical, takes place on local roads near to the schools, and is designed to ‘boost the confidence of the trainee and to minimise risk.’ Children typically undertake Bikeability Level 1 and 2 training in Year 5 or 6 so that when they leave primary school they are able to cycle on the road with confidence. At Level 1 the young riders learn to control and master their bikes in a space away from traffic such as a playground or closed car park. Level


Cycling World February 2016

“The Bikeability course has had a dramatic impact on our children,” says Miss Hamilton Hall, head teacher of Manley Park Primary School in South Manchester. “They blend the essential skills and awareness needed to ride safely on the roads with an enjoyable learning experience. Their staff are terrific role models for healthy living, inspiring a love of outdoor activity in our students.” Every year BikeRight! trains around 18,000 children from year 5, 6 and 7 on all levels of the Bikeability, in Manchester, Warrington and on Merseyside. In addition they have trained over 1600 instructors across the UK. “Bikeability is one of the most important training programmes we undertake,” says Phil Hardy, a BikeRight! instructor. “Working with a large percentage of the primary schools in Manchester allows us to make a real difference to the health, wellbeing and safety of vulnerable road users. “The head teachers we work with see the value of teaching children to cycle safely at an early age particularly as many of our children cycle on the streets to school anyway. Bikeability is a holistic approach to learning that we

hope will help children both on the streets and even back in the classroom with their friends.” Contracted cycle training providers partner with Local Authorities and education providers to make sure that any cycle training is delivered to the required standard. Bikeability cycle instructors are continually assessed, mentored and undergo professional development training, ensuring

that they maintain an unblemished reputation for health, safety and quality. Kate Chappell, the Executive Member for Environment at Manchester City Council has a keen interest in the benefits created by inspiring a new generation of cyclists across the city.

Level training myself so now I feel confident travelling around town with my two young children in a cycle trailer. I'm looking forward to them being old enough to do cycle training themselves!”

'Manchester is investing heavily in high quality cycle lanes for the future,” she says, “so it is great that BikeRight! is equipping the next generation of cyclists with the skills they need to get on the road. I've just completed BikeRight!'s Advance

Cycling World February 2016


Special feature GO-RIDE

Go-Ride: British Cycling Gets Kids Out There By Helen Hill


o-Ride is all about getting children on bikes so that they improve their quality of life, get fresh air and exercise. It gets them away from their computers and gadgets. When you think of cycling you might just think about jumping on your bike but these days there are so many disciplines available for children to try. There is road cycling, track cycling, mountain biking, cyclocross, BMX and cycle-speedway. Go-Ride is a British Cycling success story that allows young riders to improve their bike handling skills from starting as a novice to becoming a competent rider where they can race amongst their peers and then go onto more competitive events. The effects of this commitment to young people are starting to show as professional riders like Lizzie Armistead, Ed Clancy, Jason Kenny and Laura Trott have come through the British Cycling Go-Ride scheme. It is also about having fun, making new friends and being taught skills that will last a lifetime. In the UK there are over 300 Go-Ride clubs – these are local cycling clubs who have affiliated themselves to British Cycling and have agreed to run a programme of coaching for young riders. Or they are clubs set up specifically to offer Go-Ride activities. As a result of this over 60% of the Great Britain Cycling Team started out in Go-Ride clubs. The clubs are supported by over 6,000


Cycling World February 2016

volunteers, from the coaches through to child protection officers. A large number of people willingly give time to organising and conducting coaching sessions and then putting on events that give young people the chance to showcase their skills. For those youngsters who don’t want to race there are other avenues within the sport. Volunteering is a particularly popular area and children can join the Young Volunteers Scheme which enables them to be recognised for any help they offer, with recognition through an award scheme. Many clubs are based in schools or local parks and although there might not be mountains or a track available the skills the riders learn are transferable. At my local Go-Ride Club they have produced some youth riders who have gone on to participate in races at a national level and there are those that just do it for fun. Coaching takes place on a regular basis and youngsters are taught basic riding skills. Some of the skills sessions take place on the track at Betteshanger Country Park in East Kent and sometimes they do club rides. This can involve riding between 25 and 30 miles. Because of their training on the track the riders are well-disciplined and transfer their skills well to the roads. The opportunities for ambitious riders are available: disciplines are varied though the competition is fierce as more and more children enter the sport. Just head down to a Go-race and see the competitiveness amongst the riders, the

Cycling World February 2016


desire to succeed, the smiles of success or tears of frustration as they realise they haven’t come in the top three. It is also great to see more girls coming in to the sport and Go-Ride is actively encouraging them. I was fortunate to meet Tim Sales trackside and asked him about his work as a Regional Coach for British Cycling. Helen: So Tim how long have you worked for BC? Tim: Five years, I joined in August 2010 on the crest of a wave that followed the medal successes of the Beijing Olympics and in good time for the build-up to the amazing home Olympics of 2012. Since 2012, the interest in cycling has grown exponentially along with our membership which has seen an increase in the number of new cycling clubs, many of which are Go-Ride. Rio has seemed to come round very quickly and we are now gearing up for a programme of work supporting our clubs across the country who will be delivering thousands of Go-Ride Racing Opportunities with a Rio-based theme next summer and looking forward to experiencing an increased interest in cycling and club membership. Helen: When did Go-Ride first start? Tim: The Go-Ride Programme came into existence in 2002-03. It had formulated under a different name for a couple of years before becoming Go-Ride. The programme has continued to develop year on year and now has over 300 clubs run by dedicated volunteers where young people can access structured quality coaching in a safe, friendly, traffic-free environment. Popular initiatives such as Go-Ride Racing, the CAYV course (Cycling Award for Young Volunteers) have added value to the programme and help young people develop confidence as well as valuable life skills, both on and off their bikes. Helen: What is the role of the Go-Ride Regional Coach? Tim: It is a very varied role which is primarily focussed on the development of cycling opportunities for young people in the region. We achieve this through coaching delivery in schools and by linking them to community based Go-Ride clubs as an exit route for riders to continue their cycling development. I usually identify a need through club visits and try to support the school to club link. I undertake quite a lot of outreach work at clubs which I really enjoy as for me it is a great opportunity to meet and support both riders and coaches. This can extend to regional sessions where riders and volunteers come together to work in clusters and further develop along their chosen pathway.


Cycling World February 2016

Due to its success as a Development Programme, Go-Ride has now extended its work to encompass specific sessions for women and girls as well as further discipline specific Rider Development sessions for youth and junior riders between the ages of 14-23. I also run Holiday Coaching Activity Programmes which often focus on the slightly younger youth riders and can be an opportunity to trickle down some of the coaching ideas from higher level sessions further along on the rider pathway. In 2014, British Cycling launched their Regional-based Hubs for Disability Cycling and I now run the South-East Paracycling Hub at Cyclopark in Gravesend which personally has been an extremely rewarding piece of work that has encompassed coaching complete novice riders to National Champions, both senior and youth. Another area of work as a Go-Ride Coach is to support our Level One and Two coach education courses across the region and to help run Cycling for Schools (CfS) coaching courses for teaching staff, to help equip them to run their own Go-Ride sessions in school clubs. Our coaching courses are a great opportunity to meet and support new club coaches. I also deliver and tutor the CAYV (Cycling Award for Young Volunteers) and Racemakers award which we usually run twice a year, one of which forms part of our annual National Conference season which travels around the country and takes place during March. As a National Governing Body and being part of a small regionally-based team, it is important that I am highly-targeted and focussed with the delivery of my activities which are Sport England/UK Lottery funded. This strategy has been highly successful in terms of opportunities and growth in membership of the organisation and currently a high proportion of our Olympic podium athletes and professional cyclists come from a Go-Ride background.

This links in well to the organisation’s ‘Inspiration to Participation’ philosophy which aims to help people to achieve their goals and to become the best that they can. Helen: Where is most of your time spent? In schools or working with clubs? Tim: It is difficult to specify but simply, most of my time is divided between schools, club support, regional coaching sessions and the many other activities that support the organisation. The remainder is office time spent on planning sessions, activities and development work but there are also many other strands to what we do, some of which I have already mentioned but many of which are not very glamorous such as cleaning bikes at my storage and making up goody bags for school children. I find myself spending a fair amount of time in my vehicle as I have a large area to cover - Surrey, Sussex and Kent. In terms of membership we are the biggest British Cycling membership region in the country with more members than Wales and Scotland put together. Helen: Do you coach all disciplines of the sport? Tim: Not all! There are six core disciplines and I have undertaken four of those. I regularly coach road, track and MTB and occasionally cyclocross. So although I am fortunate to have undertaken my Level Two Discipline specific qualifications in those area, I am yet to undertake my BMX or Cycle Speedway courses but they are on my list to do! Helen: You sound like a busy man. Thanks for taking the time to speak to us. To find out more: https://www.

Special feature GO-RIDE



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Cycling World February 2016


Special feature scooting

Family Scooting By Micro Scooters


inding time to get your family together during the week and at weekends can be tricky. Busy morning routines and packed weekends full of extra-curricular activities often mean parents spend their time transferring children from one activity to the next and being bystanders at said football match/ballet recital. Getting actual, real quality family time is difficult. Well what if there was a different way? An activity you could all do together as a family that’s not only good for you but one where you are all excited to actually do? Micro scooters have taken over the pavements in the last decade. The threewheeled phenomena are most associated with children using them as a way to travel. Over the last couple of years adults have begun to get in on the scooting craze. Who can forget the picture of Samantha Cameron scooting in to Downing Street the day after the election on her adult Micro scooter? Or Louis Smith, the British gymnast, using his scooter at the closing ceremony of the London Olympics? Here are our tips and inspiration to help you get started on your own family scooting adventures.

SCHOOL RUN SCOOTING FUN Not only is scooting to school a fun way to get some exercise, it has the added benefit of improving concentration levels. The school run is often the most stressful part of the day for parents, in fact a 2012 Micro Scooters Survey showed 77% of parents who drive their children to school in the morning and afternoon find it more stressful than work or grocery shopping. But tell a child they will be scooting to school and suddenly, miraculously, school shoes are put on, school bags are found, teeth are brushed – it really is a modern day school run miracle. Scooting the school run means you don’t need to stress about finding a car parking spot and you’ll save money on petrol, as well as feeling good as you’re helping the environment. Why not scoot with them? Scooting together means you can spend quality time with your children, and means you get a daily workout without the need for putting on lycra and joining the gym. Adult scooting is becoming a lot more common, with adults realizing the benefits the scooter can bring.


Cycling World February 2016

FAMILY ADVENTURES The scooters don’t just need to be used for the school run. They can be taken to the park, on shopping trips or days out in town. Scooting together is quicker and tones of fun. Ali, mum of two, is a keen scooter rider. She says “I love my Micro scooter. It’s great for going on family adventures. We can catch the train and then when we get there we all scoot around and visit all the places to see. It’s much easier than dragging the kids, and I don’t have to run after them screaming for them to wait! We can talk as we scoot along, and the kids love it. I also use it for travelling to work. Walking from the school to the train station takes too long and I just miss the train, scooting means I get the quicker and can catch the earlier train.” An average person will take 20 minutes to walk a mile and only 6 minutes to scoot. Jamie is also a fan of a Micro scooter. “I use it to scoot next to my daughter, she’s just learning to ride her bike. I find I’m either running next to her as she’s wobbling along, or I try and cycle but I’m too fast and she can’t keep up. Scooting next to her is perfect, I’m close enough that I can talk to her and help her out, whilst being able to pick up my pace if she suddenly gets up some speed!”

SCOOT SAFE Micro Scooters has been working with schools to teach children how to scoot safely. Since it launched in 2013, over 20,000 children have been taught to scoot well. Micro Scooters have recently launched their Scoot Safe program aimed at parents to help them teach their children how to scoot. With reward charts, tips on how to brake and details about how to wear a helmet safely it contains information to help you work with your child. See all the tips at http://www.

TOP SCOOTER ROUTES Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity, have been working with Micro Scooters and chosen ten favorite places to scoot on the National Cycle Network. These routes are flat, well surfaced and easily accessible from town or city centres. VISIT

Cycling World February 2016


Special feature

Balance B Balance biking

By Karen Wood Strider Bike UK


didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was eight. My earliest memories are of being pushed down a gentle hill and I survived with only a few scrapes and bruises. When I was trying to teach my four-year-old we seemed to spend days alternating between struggling up and down curbs using a heavy bike with stabilisers or precariously hanging on to the seat to keep her upright when we took them off, and frankly the whole process was not enjoyable for either of us. A trip to America, changed all that when I saw a toddler riding on two wheels with such ease, it was as if the bike was a natural extension of him. On closer inspection the bike had no pedals or stabilisers. A local cycle store explained it was a no-pedal bike designed to teach kids balance before they learnt to pedal. I bought two as it would also fit the eighteen-month-old I was carrying around who was too lazy to walk but screamed blue murder at being strapped in a buggy. Moreover, the bikes were light and small enough to put in the suitcase to get home. The four-year-old took a couple of weeks to learn balance and the youngest was riding by the age of three. The smiles and looks of amazement I got on the bike path were then followed


Cycling World February 2016

by strangers asking me what the secret was. I still see some kids struggling on stabilisers today and feel like telling them there is a better way. So why do balance bikes work? With feet flat on the floor and nothing complicated to confuse, the rider simply starts walking the bike along. As the bike falls to one side, the rider will automatically bring it back to centre in order to move forwards. Balance is being taught without even realizing it. Stabilisers teach a child to rock from one side to the other whilst introducing the concept of pedaling, which is the quickest and easiest skill to learn. However when they are removed we see children falling over to one side immediately, as they have no balance having learnt to ride in an off centre position from the start. As the process of riding a balance bike is instinctive, the kids are simply having fun and gaining speed and confidence, without realizing they are learning. When we started distributing Strider balance bikes, there was very little competition. As more people grasped what a brilliant concept they are, the more products appeared on the market. The choice to parents today is mind-blowing; so so how do you


choose a balance bike? The secret is to choose one that is as simple in design as possible. With nothing complicated to confuse and a model that is ergonomically designed around the inside leg and weight-handling ability of a toddler, then they can be a new secret weapon in getting your child on two wheels. Unlike a bike with pedals, feet will be on the floor so the first decision is size. Ignore wheel and frame size, the bit that matters is whether they can stand over the bike and walk it along. In order to fit an eighteen-month-old the bike needs to have the lowest seat position of 27cm, as that is a below average height for inside legs of a child this age. Always check the inside leg of bikes, don’t rely on age indicators as all kids are different heights so it is not an accurate indicator if your child will be able to use the balance bike. Some brands will market theirs at this age but the seat starts at 34cm upwards so they won’t fit for the youngest kids. Adjustability needs to be considered. Because of the way they work, the seat needs to be set about 1” lower than the stand over, so choose a bike that will adjust to any increment, to fit your child though their growth spurts. Most metal bikes have the advantage here as wooden bikes rely on three to four pre-drilled positions, so adjustability is poor. Also avoid bikes that don’t tell you the lowest and highest seat positions and make sure handlebars will adjust too, as you want this to last for as long as your child needs the bike, rather than when they

Cycling World February 2016


Special feature Balance biking

outgrow it. The next equally important part of a spec is the weight of the product. If a bike won’t state its weight then something is being hidden. Anything over 3 kg is just too heavy for a child that is only a few kg themselves and when a heavy bike falls over it scares a child and knocks their confidence. One of the biggest problems Strider parents have, is finding a super-light pedal bike to transition onto and those that make the move onto anything too heavy find their kids don’t want to ride it. Remember simplicity and weight! Tassels, baskets, flags and mudguards all add up. Then there are balance bikes with front lever brakes. I am not a fan for the under fives. I have seen countless children struggle with a front lever system. They either can’t reach, can’t control the force they use to pull them or worse take their hands off the handlebars to reach them. If your brakes fail on your bike, then instinct tells you to put your feet down. Toddlers and young children will simply stop with their feet. Sure a four-year-old can cope with a brake, but most Strider kids are pedaling happily by three years. For parents concerned that shoes are wearing out we suggest a rear footbrake system that can be retro fitted, but to be honest here at Strider HQ we sell one brake to every 500 bikes, simply as few feel their child ever needs one. When the Strider was invented, one clever but frequently not


Cycling World February 2016

spotted feature was added. The patented footrest. It is discreetly built into the frame, under the seat and exactly where pedals will be on their next bike. As well as teaching balance in the correct position, the child can rest feet up on it to take the knocks and bumps in their legs. If you have ever gone off a curb with your feet dangling you won’t do it again and it’s the same for advanced balance bike riders without a footrest or with them in a different position. So once your researched bike of choice is assembled and ready for the rider what happens next. The simple method is to just leave the bike lying around so the child can pick up and use when they wish. Strider puncture proof tyres don’t mark floors, so we started off indoors and with triple ends on grips even the walls survived. The child will know what to do. Try not to hold the bike for them, unless they are really young, as the child will figure it out. We frequently run races and events across the UK and are amazed at how fast toddlers can whizz around on them and the feeling of achievement is evident in the smiles. If your child needs encouragement, then ride with others. We have set up Strider sessions across the UK that allow parents to take their children to fun sessions and also get lessons from qualified instructors, but kids will also learn from just watching others in the park… or on You-Tube.

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Cycling World February 2016


ireland cycling kerry tours


ycling continues to see an explosion in interest around the world as the drive for healthier lifestyles seems to show no signs of abating. Whether it is just a family enjoying a recreational cycle together, holiday makers getting out into the countryside to enjoy the sights and sounds on offer, or hardened long distance enthusiasts taking part in one of the hundreds of organized epic cycles in Ireland, there is a place for all on two wheels right now. Kerry has long been seen as one of the main holiday destinations in Ireland, particularly for those that want to get under the skin of what Ireland has to offer. Whether you are a visitor from overseas or one of the locals enjoying the ever increasing trend of a staycations, Kerry is never found wanting as its beautiful scenery, its unrivaled hospitality and its variety of holiday packages to suit all budgets make it the first port of call when visiting the Emerald Isle. Cycling in Kerry is well-catered for with hundreds of tracks and trails ideally suited to facilitate those looking to take to two wheels. While the county goes out of its way to make life easy for cyclists, making use of guided cycling tour operators is always recommended when going off the beaten track to experience the most beautiful parts of Kerry. Green Road Cycle Tours is one of the top operators in this area with custom built cycling tours organized to suit the discerning visitor. Whether you want to explore the 10,000 hectare Killarney National Park or get in the saddle to soak up the spectacular coastal scenery of the Dingle Peninsula, Green Road Cycling Tours is the ideal company to help you along the way. Padraig Sears, the owner and head guide is a native Gaelic speaker, born and raised on the Dingle Peninsula and living for the last seventeen years in the picturesque village of Beaufort at the foot of the MacGillicuddy Reeks Mountains. There are many tours available with a cycle trip in the world famous National Park as good a place as any to ease into the saddle. The tour takes in nature and history at every bend. Passing streams, rivers, waterfalls, lakes, and Ireland’s oldest oak forest with the real possibility of being held up on your trip by red or sika deer crossing your path. The National Park has something for everyone with Ross Castle, Muckross Abbey a 15th Century Monastery, Muckross House built in 1843, old Copper Mines, Torc Waterfall, Dinis Cottage and the famous meeting of the waters. From here there is the option to head back into the town of Killarney or swing right and head for the Gap of Dunloe


Cycling World February 2016

through the rugged and wild Black Valley. Moving out from Killarney, you can head west to the Dingle Peninsula where you will experience green hills, small farms, and quaint cottages. This area is rich in culture and heritage with over 2000 architectural finds recorded in this area alone, dating back to the Mesolithic Period. You will listen to the Irish language in full flow among the locals as you cycle through the wilderness and beauty of Slea Head with its majestic views of the wild Atlantic Ocean and Blasket Islands. You can also visit Gallarus Oratory, a stone church built between the sixth and ninth centuries and cycle through coastal areas where ‘Ryan’s Daughter’ was filmed in 1969. National Geographic once called the Dingle Peninsula ‘the most beautiful place on earth.’ Bring swimwear on this trip as you pass beautiful beaches and secluded bathing spots. A famous young explorer Tom Crean, who at fifteen and a half years of age joined the British Royal Navy hails from this area from a little village called Annascaul. He participated in three Antarctic expeditions during the early years of the twentieth century, making him a legendary explorer. You can start out on in Inch Strand three miles from Annascaul and apart from providing beautiful scenery, Inch strand and coastline is an area of geographical and ecological significance hosting an extensive range of wildlife. Inch to Annascaul lies in the southern side of the Slieve Mish Mountains. This mountain range forms the backbone of the Dingle Peninsula. The cycling is off the busy Killarney to Dingle road on unfrequented routes, in unspoilt countryside with beautiful views of Dingle Bay to your left. Onwards you cycle through the two coastal parishes of Minard and Kinard. To your left will be the crashing waves of the Wild Atlantic, all of the time while cycling through the tranquil setting of pastoral farmland. These are just a taste of what you can see and do off the beaten track in Kerry. There are also options to explore the two neighboring peninsulas of Iveragh and Beara, each with their own unique wildness and beauty. You will leave wanting to return for more and maybe even feel you know Kerry like a local. All levels of cyclists are catered for and all tours are selected based on your interests and what. FOR MORE INFORMATION contact Padraig on 087 77480044 or


y Green Road Cycle Tours by Fiona Dunne

Cycling World February 2016


ireland cycling west side story

Dungarvan Harbour by Fรกilte Ireland


Cycling World February 2016

Cork, Killarney and a Savage HeadWind… Text and photos by Shaun McCance Additional photos by Fáilte Ireland


o there I was, it seemed the trip was ending much like it had started - the wee small hours of the night spent wide awake in a ferry terminal unable to sleep but this time with the prospect of having to be vaguely coherent come 9am. Though slightly manic travel arrangements are something that I have become all too accustomed to, six days earlier I had been sat in Pembroke docks listening to a storm passing through whilst awaiting a delayed ferry to take my steed and I to the Emerald Isle. A 2am departure can be passed off as a late night, 4am however is a little offensive.

Everything had been a bit of a last minute endeavour, in that Easter had suddenly crept up and I was facing a weekend devoid of any plans and the prospect of a rather uninspiring weekend despite the benefit of the extra couple of days. So, one lunch hour later I'd agreed a couple of extra days off work, figured a 'convenient' transport plan that entailed a late train, an overnight ferry, six days cycling from Rosslare and a late ferry back from Dublin with just about enough leeway to ensure I was on the 4am train home for work the same morning. In hindsight sleep should probably have been factored into this plan!

Since a somewhat off-the-wall trip a couple of years back involving Christmas, New Year and nothing more in the way of plans other than a ferry to France and a flight back from Rome I'd come to the conclusion that planning a trip can be a little time consuming and unnecessary - if you don't make plans then how can anything not go to plan? So with this mantra having very much shaped trips since I found myself rolling off the ferry in Waterford county with six days to get to the capital; happy to stay in hotels but carrying camping gear all the same and not adverse to a train ride or two if it were to fit the bill.

So rolling out of Rosslare after a wobbly crossing and on two hours sleep, a cuppa and a fry-up was higher on my list of priorities than the century I'd be aiming for that day. Six days and 600 miles fully laden was a respectable target, I admit this was the first big ride of the year and one of my targets was to lean up a little as I was in no way at peak fitness after the winter months. On the flip-side riding solo and without any pre-booked overnight stops meant I was free to explore and do as much or as little on the bike as fitted the bill. And in my current sleep-deprived state, coupled with the prospect of a headwind along

the south coast towards Cork, a hundred plus miles was entirely unappealing – compounded even more by the contrast with the warmth and shelter of the café where the lady, who in running Caroline’s café I assume was called Caroline, was cooking me a fine selection of particularly unhealthy fried delicacies as I supped pensively on a brew. Caffeine is the cyclist’s friend, and after an hour and a half fuelling up and contemplating the prospect of what lay ahead I was back on the bike. Apparently the Republic of Ireland has “more than its share of violent murderers” so I learnt from the paper that Caroline has cheerily handed me to read whilst she cooked up some grub. And so I rolled away. Ireland is a friendly nation, let’s avoid the psychopaths and see how far I get. Day one passed quickly enough, tired and flagging a little I rolled into Dungarvan after 75 miles which seemed like a pleasant place to stop. I wish I could remember more of the first day but with the tiredness from the journey to Rosslare and an energy sapping headwind, it was a day of reflection. I’d been warned that it always rains in Ireland but despite the storm that had come through the previous night the first day had started to counter this accepted statement.

Cycling World February 2016


ireland cycling west side story Putting the murderous villains to one side; Ireland‘s friendliness had been evident from the start, even with my reclusive state of mind that first day a friendly conversation was never far away and in arriving in Dungarvan the local B&B owner was no different. Earlier, stopping for a late lunch in a tea room, I learnt that come Good Friday all the pubs would be closed and I was duly advised to make the most of Maundy Thursday! Checked-in and with a comfortable bed for the evening it was time for a shower, dinner and perhaps some sightseeing. For me culture is all the more inspiring when I’m worn out otherwise I get a little fidgety. Cycle touring fits the bill rather nicely – a good effort in the day makes way for enjoying some culture in the evening and this pretty little town would have been a fine place to continue this appreciation, only foiled by my decision to lie down for a couple of minutes. Because the next thing I knew it was quarter to six the next morning – but well-rested I was, and breathing a new lease of life. On the previous day I’d ended up on a waymarked cycle route that followed the coast and this continued west towards Ireland’s second city. So I bid farewell to Rose and Paddy, who seemed a little saddened that I hadn’t been out to explore their local town but were understanding, perhaps satisfied by the compliment of her comfortable rooms; and so I set out. Glorious sunshine and only a light head wind today. Aided by sleep and food my grumbles from the previous day

had drifted past. Although perhaps not entirely refuelled for missing dinner for the second day in a row, I was at least fired up after a sterling breakfast of porridge, honey, toast and scrambled eggs and the miles passed easily. More easily today, though I was quickly learning to check the map more regularly as signage was often a little misleading and as such perhaps a few more miles had had to pass than would otherwise have been necessary in spinning away towards Cork. I was starting to feel that I had been misled - it doesn’t always rain in Ireland. In fact I was now a little sunburnt as I checked into a guesthouse that evening. After an inadvertently sociable dinner, with a lady called Orla who just happened to be eating alone and had sat down on the next table just shortly after I had done so myself, it was now time for a little culture and perhaps a pint of Guinness to help things along! Sleep was perhaps still needed but that could wait. It was after all Maundy Thursday and seeing as all the pubs close the following day it only seemed right. Ireland was certainly making up for the dry sobering slant of the following day! Stumbling back to the guest house didn’t bode well for a prompt start the following morning but conveniently there was a train to Killarney at a sociable hour and as if by magic when I awoke it was

raining. So decision made – pedal to the train station for an easy ride to the next county. Killarney is after all the gateway to the Kerry Mountains which had been a target for the trip with the Ring of Kerry being on the tick list. In changing trains half way I ended up, bike safely stowed, relaxing on an almost empty carriage of a train being held at the platform for some reason. The reasoning for this became apparent when the connecting train from Dublin arrived and the carriage was overwhelmed with cheerful Irish folk looking forward to the holiday weekend. At which point John and his good lady introduced themselves - a friendly Irish couple heading home to see their families in Kerry. In learning that they lived in Dublin I asked, and they were all too happy to advise, as to things to do in the city, as I was contemplating a day there at the end of the trip. Entertainingly a notepad was produced and after a list of places to see had quickly morphed into a list of restaurants it became titled as such. That was until John pointed out that actually it was just a list of pubs rather than restaurants as intended. The title was scribbled out and the word “Beers” replaced it. This I find amusing whenever I have since looked back on it. Incidentally it would have been some pub crawl - a pint in each of these establishments would certainly have seen me missing my ferry

The Ring of Kerry by Fáilte Ireland


Cycling World February 2016

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Cycling World February 2016


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Cycling World February 2016

ireland cycling west side story home - and lost in conversation I then entertainingly nearly missed my stop at Killarney! By which time the sun had come out. The next day started in Sneem, having spun away for about 30 miles along the high road the previous afternoon I stayed in what was possibly one of the prettiest villages I’d ever seen. Nestled just inland on the river feeding a sea inlet with the backdrop of the infamous Kerry mountains, I was all set for a big day pedalling the coastline – and what a day. The sun was shining, the air was comparatively still, the roads were mostly excellent and there were some proper hills, both in the scenery and the route. The Ring of Kerry is a well-known route, part of the Wild Atlantic Way running the length of the west coast of Ireland and, in loosely following the coastline, encircling the Kerry Mountains in their entirety. Waterville was the first target after a splendid breakfast. Today I was feeling energised, good food, good rest, the sun on my back and conveniently either my saddle or my back side had started to take the hint that they needed to get along. The Ring of Kerry finally brought some hills, nothing too steep or strenuous but long enough to be satisfying, two years ago on the French Riviera I had been burning off electric bikes and holding my own in pelotons on a fully laden touring

bike, much to the disgust of the club riders who I’d ended up catching, and today it was nice to know I’d not entirely lost my touch Spinning on around the coastline the route diverted inland a little before taking a prominent diversion from the main road to continue on into the fishing village of Portmagee and on to Valentia Island. And with a 50mph descent into Portmagee, aided by the weight of a loaded pannier rack, straight down - the romans couldn’t have built a straighter road – my smile was beaming. Portmagee is a pretty little fishing village at the very end of the peninsula and seemingly untouched by the 21st century. With fishing still being the main business, aside from tourism, the waterfront was a comparatively industrial setting with seemingly a still thriving trade. Moored on the slipway sat the Marber Therese, a trawler, sitting high on the concrete incline and just adding to the character of the village centre. Although part of the Ring of Kerry, Portmagee is actually off of the main road and part of the Skellig Ring which continues on to Valentia Island over a bridge and back via a ferry service. Conscious of the distance and being unable to find out whether the ferry was operating being the Easter weekend I opted for the safe route staying on the mainland and turning east to re-join the main route.

Valentia Lighthouse by Fáilte Ireland

Turning at Portmagee to head back in a generally easterly direction it soon became apparent why it had been such a beautiful still day, to this point I’d mainly had a tailwind. Although light and almost unnoticeable, it was evidently rather helpful as turning back along

Eagles Nest, lakes of Killarney by Fáilte Ireland

Cycling World February 2016


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ireland cycling

Sneem, Co. Kerry by Fáilte Ireland

west side story the northern coastline now turned this pleasant and unnoticed assistance into something of a nuisance for the latter half of the day. Still, at least the sun was shining – apparently it always rains in Ireland! The fifth day was somewhat undecided until I was on the road that morning. I’d been aiming for Killorgan for accommodation the night before but got side-tracked by a lovely hotel on the shore of Caragh lake. Only a few miles short of my target for the day but well worth it as a destination. In spite of being entertainingly out of place on a bicycle, the hotel was second to none and provided a fitting end to the best day’s cycling of the trip. The plan for day five developed as I was spinning towards Tralee on passing a sign for Dingle, which had been a recommended destination by John the pub-listing Dubliner, and realising the distance was quite achievable. I’d deduced the distance to Dingle the previous night and thought it to be much further than what was shown on the signpost I passed, so encouraged I continued with the waymarked Wild Atlantic Way. It was a fairly easy spin out past Inch Strand to the Dingle, one of perhaps the most rural areas of Ireland with Gaelic, I’m told, as a first language for the majority. Dingle itself was rather touristy and appreciably so, thus after a fleeting visit, aware of the distance to my destination for the day I set off up towards Connor Pass, a five-mile road climb crossing from the south to the north coast of the peninsula. I later

learned that the onward loop from Dingle around the headland via Dunquin was an exceptional route and would have been well worth the effort; perhaps this was where I had attributed the extra mileage when deterred from planning on heading to Dingle the previous evening. By the point I bumped into a friendly local cyclist who recommended Dunquin, I was already atop Connor Pass, and the views were incredible! Well worth the effort and now the 500m decent all the way to the north coast. Wrapping up for what looked like a shady few miles I’d pondered why there had been repeated road signs prohibiting the passage of anything over 6ft in width. The road so far had been pleasant and wide, and with more than enough room for everyone. The reasoning was about to become clear as I started to descend! What lay ahead was a

meandering single track, for the most part, road traversing down the cliff face north of the pass. Almost alpine in character the route frequently passed through cuttings in prominent buttresses in the cliff face which low and behold were never more than about 6ft 6in wide. The spin back east was a leisurely affair with a late lunch on route rolling into Tralee just in time for the last train to Dublin. Tralee forms the terminus of the Kerry and Killarney branch line. The option to head to Dublin the following morning would have perhaps meant cheaper accommodation and a trip across Ireland in daylight but in wanting to offload my bike and luggage to explore the capital the next day before my evening ferry home, it made sense to head over on the Sunday evening and find a hotel with a luggage room that could take a bike. And Dublin lived up to expectations.

Slea Head, Dingle by Fáilte Ireland

Cycling World February 2016


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Cycling World February 2016


Film Review


Love, on a Bike by Alice Haylett Bryan, Film Studies Lecturer at King’s College London


hen involved in any sort of unsupported wilderness event or exploration you may be lucky enough to stumble across some ‘trail magic’, an offering of food or water from a stranger that gives you that extra push to keep going. We have all even experienced it once or twice on one of those rides where for whatever reason you don’t take enough food or drink and some sympathetic passer-by tosses you a chocolate bar as you bonk on the side of the road. It is these moments of kindness that restore your faith in humanity.

Directed by James Newton Newton Films 2013 79 mins Certificate 15

A chocolate bar, a bottle of water, a beer, a free ride across Yemen in a Jeep full of armed police with a machine gun mounted on the roof… well maybe the last one was just Tom Allen. Arriving via a cattle transport ship to one of the most dangerous countries in the world, with little knowledge of what to expect and no map, adventure cyclist Allen was informed that he would have to be escorted by an armed guard to the next safe zone. Six policemen proceeded to transport the Englishman and his bike across a barren landscape to an idyllic but neardeserted beach. On reading Allen’s blog about his travels ( it appears that these guards seemed more intent on endangering the life of the man they were being paid to protect than keeping him safe. If Allen

wished to embrace uncertainty, he was definitely finding it here. Janapar: Love, on a Bike (available to stream from starts off as a documentary about the freedom of exploring the world by bike, but ends as a love story when Allen meets an Iranian-Armenian girl called Tenny and is forced to chose between continuing his dream expedition or returning to the arms of his girlfriend. But what remains long past watching this film is not just the love of a young couple, but the small acts of kindness from the people that they meet along the way. The Armenian shepherd who wants to be the best man at their wedding, the young men in Turkey who share their beer and meat with Allen and his friend Andy on a motorway layby, and the villagers in Northern Sudan who have an unusual method for curing diarrhea. Allen’s enthusiasm for adventure is infectious, and although his trip is by no means easy, it will still make you want to dust off your panniers and go exploring. It is also a powerful reminder that the world is populated by good, friendly people willing to share what little they have with a stranger on the side of the road. Janapar, which means ‘journey’ in Armenian, is more than just a bike trip. It is the story of man searching, and what he encounters changes his own life and touches the lives of others. It can’t fail to move anyone watching.

Cycling World February 2016


Book Reviews Bike Books for Children


his month, David (editor) asked me to review the children’s bike-themed books, Mrs Armitage on Wheels, Eric’s Big Day and Betty Bikes London. For this review, I am made to feel guilty, since this is the only time I’ve considered bike-centric books for children. Considering my family’s shelves are bulging with an excess of a hundred cycling books directed primarily toward the over-sixteen market, and I have three boys and a husband “mad” for cycling, I am actually ashamed that I’ve never sought bespoke (if you pardon the pun….) books for my bike-lingual children. So thanks David, for righting these wrongs for my boys!

Mrs Armitage on Wheels


his short book describes the delightful tale of the eccentric, inventive, independent Mrs Armitage and her trusted companion, Breakspear the dog. You might recognise the beautiful illustrations within this children’s classic, since they belong to Quentin Blake, most famous for his Roald Dhal works. Max (eight years) and Flynn (twelve years) really enjoyed this bedtime read, despite telling me they were “way too old” for it. Max loved the suspense of wondering what Mrs Armitage was going to add to her bike next, but was rather concerned that she wasn’t going to be very “aero” with all the clobber she accumulated along her journey, and hence predicted the ending, which I won’t spoil for you. This is a humorous children’s short story, probably aimed for the under sixes, which just happens to have a bike in it, rather than it being a book to educate the younger fans on bikes or cycling. However I defy anyone not to be saying, “What this bike needs…” for several weeks after reading it! Editor’s Tip: I used this book when I was a Sustran’s Schools Officer. As well as being enjoyed it generated fruitful discussions about more practical accessories for a bike and what to take on a ride. Author: Quentin Blake Publisher: Red Fox Date: 1999 Format: Hardcover or paperback Pages: 32 ISBN-10: 0099400529 ISBN-13: 978-0099400523 Price: £7.99


Cycling World February 2016

Eric’s Big Day


his short book describes itself as “a bicycle race unlike any other”, aimed at children aged four to eight years. It concerns the charming, little boy Eric, who is cycling to meet his friend Emily in order for them to enjoy a picnic near the finish of the big race. He packs his bag with essentials, including flowers for Emily. However on his journey, he comes across lots of people in need of help, and Eric being such a caring boy, soon gives away all his essentials to help them. Hence Eric soon finds himself pushed for time to meet his dear friend, and during his frantic journey loses Emily’s flowers and becomes oblivious to the fact that he has now become part of the very race he was hoping to see. Again, I won’t spoil the ending, but suffice to say, Eric’s good deeds do get rewarded, and Emily does get her flowers, and forgives him for being late to meet her. Colin (husband) and I both thought this book had a very French-feel, and we weren’t surprised to find out it was adapted from a French version. We thought it was a very sweet story with the most beautiful, chic illustrations. Max (eight years) found the story a bit strange, probably because he couldn’t understand why Eric wouldn’t have packed spare inner tubes as part of his essentials, and also, because he couldn’t possibly imagine cycling to meet a girl-friend carrying flowers! Ironically (re. Mrs Armitage on Wheels) this book also carries the mantra, “What you need….” throughout. Author: Rod Waters Publisher: Velo press (previously Éditions Sarbacane as Le Grand Jour d’Eric) Date: 2014 Format: Hardcover Pages: 28 ISBN-10: 193771523X ISBN-13: 978-1937715236 Price: £9.99

Betty Bikes London


his slightly longer story is aimed at children aged five to ten years, where the story revolves around a young girl and her grandfather participating in a bike race called “Pedal Power London” (akin to the Prudential Free Cycle family ride). During the event, they return a lost dog to its French owner (who happens to be a retired soigneur) and Betty herself gets lost, but, inevitably, the story does end well. In addition to the emphasis on cycling and the Tour de France, the book also weaves geographical and historical information concerning London into the narrative. Although this information is educational for young readers, I reluctantly admit that I felt the constant additions rather forced, laboured and disruptive, and this for me spoilt the charming story of Betty’s love for cycling and her Grandad’s famous past (yet again, I won’t spoil the surprise here). Max (eight years) and Flynn (twelve years) were more patient than me with the informational disruptions, and I have to be honest and admit that it generated numerous questions and discussion points from the boys. Max and Flynn love cycling, London and the Tour de France, and hence maybe this book is more appreciated by similar children and their families. I particularly liked the reference to padded cycling shorts: Grandpa and his cycling peers didn’t have access to padded shorts when they were young and hence used banana skins to prevent sore bottoms (brings a whole new meaning to “cycling skins”), although I have struggled to find any reference to this on the internet.

Author: Jenny French and Katie Wood Publisher: French & Co Date: 2014 Format: Paperback Pages: 41 ISBN-10: 978-0-9928214-0-1 Price: £9.99

The book promotes cycling further by including an appendix for readers to stage-gate their cycling progress, from riding without stabilisers to putting a chain back on; note London landmarks they have seen and include their notes, pictures and stories. There are simple illustrations throughout, where the characters are in relief with respect to the famous London landmarks. I must admit reviewing these three bike books for children has given me the appetite to look for more, and hence I’ve just ordered The Boy who Biked the World series, aimed at older children, so hopefully, I’ll get back to you with a review on these soon. Reviewer: Nicola Robinson (wife and mother to four OCD (Obsessive Cycling Disorder) males and member of Thanet Road Club, Kent)

Cycling World February 2016


Foffa Single Speed £320 We gave our intern Tudor Tamas a bike to commute to the office and there is every chance it has started yet another man-bike love story.


had previously used a mountain bike and my inner belief that I am a considerably fit, young man started to crumble. Although Kent is known to be rather flat, my particular rural route commute was a bit more than just bumpy. I struggled. The prospect of switching from that bike to a Foffa Single Speed initially wasn’t particularly inviting. As the name suggests, this Foffa is a single speed– and claims to be a timeless and fast machine ideal for cycling around town; which is spot on. But it turned out there was something more. Single speed bikes are brilliant for anybody commuting in a flat town and there are few sane cyclists who would invest in such a bike for a rural bumpy commute, unless they want to get really fit, really fast. However, the Foffa Single Speed banished all my prior doubts and its smoothness propelled me up the hills, leaving me amazed. It was a joyous ride. My not-so-disillusioned belief of being fit might have helped a bit, but the gearset’s 48t – 18t ratio did the trick in allowing me to get up those hills. I realised I could rely on a responsive headset, while the lightweight Chromoly 4130 steel frameset, which uses track frame geometry for more aggressive and sharp handling, worked


Cycling World February 2016

a treat when dealing with tight corners. The surprises didn’t stop here. The bike also comes with a flip-flop hub offering the option of fixed gear and free wheel and is fitted with 40mm triple alloy rims laced to a high flange sealed bearing track hubs for a robust feel. Taking the newborn fixie for a test ride on the Herne Hill track wasn’t initially on the to-do list, but it is now. It will great fun racing round in ovals. The bike’s flat bars serve for a very comfortable position while riding but learn from others’ mistakes (i.e. mine) and be careful not to get too comfortable and forget that the brakes are positioned centrally, a quick repositioning of your hands being required to reach them. The rides have been fairly smooth, with the Foffa City Classic saddle offering comfort and besides the pleasant journey offered through the bike’s carefully-designed technological features, there is also another plus in the way it looks – simply magnificent. You can choose from a range of colours but the matte black model I tested gives it an exquisite, inviting allure. If you are not already one of the lucky owners of a Foffa Single Speed, definitely consider getting one for the work commute or as inner city run-around.

SPECIFICATIONS Frameset Hi-ten Steel Groupset Single speed (18T free/with flip-flop) Wheelset Foffa alloy wheels; Joytech hubs Tyres Kenda K193 700x28c Crankset 48T 165mm alloy track Lasco Bottom bracket Sealed unit VP-BC73 Chain KMC 1/2” x 1/8” Z410A Bars/Stem Zoom alloy; bar width 435mm Brakes Promax RC459 callipers Saddle Foffa City Classic Sizes 48cm, 55cm, 59cm Weight 10.9 kg (55cm) Colours Granite Grey, Crème, Racing Green, Matte Black, Azure

Foffa Urban £500


he Foffa Urban is another commuter classic. The beauty of this bike is that the Shimano 7 speed Nexus hub opens up the possibilities of longer and more challenging routes. A lightweight alloy frame adds to the ease with which this bike can be driven up inclines, thus reducing the risk of turning up to work or a meeting dripping with sweat.

The work commute has been kept in mind when designing The Urban. As well as its dainty weight and low gearing, full mudguards keep the dirt off the work gear. Coupled with a chain guard, work apparel is catered for again. Smartness of rider is mirrored by the stylish simplicity of the bike itself; a faux leather saddle and handlebar grips contribute to the overall appearance. The addition of a kickstand guarantees urban coolness will be left intact; a city slicker such as this bike should never be allowed to hit the paving slabs. The Shimano 7 speed Nexus hub gear has a range of 244 percent. It is wonderfully simply, requires next-to-no cleaning – the trade-off for not getting the gear range of a typical double-chainset system, which is more like 340 percent. Furthermore the 2016 model is more puncture repair friendly with the dropouts now front-opening. Considerately, The Urban comes with puncture-resistant Kenda tyres. If you want to change the riding position of the Urban to a greater degree, you’ll need to change the single-bolt quill stem. “A” headsettype stems are now so dominant that quills are challenging to find in a range of lengths; I normally ask around the veteran time trialists of my club. A visit to their sheds produces drawerfulls, but a bit of trial and error is required for sizing. Do factor in an hour for a history of the Great British TT scene. Please note the stem benefits from being loosened and

regreased periodically to stop it seizing in the steerer. For me it has become the winter commuter due to its go and don’t wash appeal. I’m happy to ride in any footwear and as the wheels are bolton I don’t have to take them off to park it safely. The Foffa Urban has a joyous simplicity far from the complexity of more 'serious' drop-bar urban bikes. SPECIFICATIONS Frameset 6061 alloy-butted frame with steel forks Groupset Shimano 7-speed Nexus Wheelset Foffa 19mm double wall alloy rims, Joytech alloy hub (front), Shimamo 20T Nexus hub (rear) Tyres 700x32C Kenda K193 (puncture protection) Crankset 46T 170mm alloy Lasco Bottom bracket Sealed VP-BC73 Chain KMC 1/2” x 1/8” Bars Zoom alloy riser (width 560mm) Brakes Tektro 837 AL V-brakes Saddle Foffa City Classic Sizes 45cm, 50cm, 55cm Weight 13kg (50cm) Colours Navy Blue Granite Grey

Cycling World February 2016


Review: Torch T2 Helmet ÂŁ85


his is a helmet with a difference: it is designed for 360 degree visibility. There is a large white light at the front that extends around the sides, with a similar arrangement at the back in red. The lights have different settings including flashing. These lights will make you visible to motorists and can be seen over other obstacles on the road from all directions. The helmet does its job: it is fully CPSC and EN1078 certified making it available in North and South America and Europe. It is also surprisingly lightweight making it comfortable to wear. Included is a USB cable to enable charging of the T2's batteries in under two hours. It comes in just one size, 5461cm, with a dial-adjust fit system and multiple padding thicknesses. Available in a wide range of colours, some quite striking. A useful addition to our rural commute: comfortable, functional and enhanced safety while retaining a stylish look. Reader’s Discount: 10% discount code for Cycling World readers. Enter "CYCLINGWORLD" at the point of order payment.


Cycling World February 2016

Review: Burley Trailers

Features on all Burley Child Trailers • Designed and tested to exceed ASTM F1975-09 safety standards • Full internal roll cage • Anodized aluminium frame, hitch, tubes and hinges • PU coated 600D polyester cover and seat fabric • Reflective materials and reflectors • Front-to-rear fold-flat design • Five-point harness system • UV protected windows • Recessed helmet pocket • Safety flag • Wheel guard protection • Rear cargo space

D’LITE £675


he D’Lite is a double, comfortable bike trailer. With its versatile add-on kits, it’s easily adaptable for strolling, jogging, and cross-country skiing but we found it a great way of transporting two children when cycling. The D’Lite is a delight, rolling well on 20” wheels, lightweight (12kg) and with adjustable suspension. We found it easy to attach to the bike and the latching system allowed for easy folding. Most importantly there were giggles rather than moans from the kids so they must have been comfortable, no doubt due to the bowed-out sides for extra interior width. Most importantly is the reclining, padded seat with removable, and yes, washable seat pad- a must as food has been the best way to keep them happy, but oh those ice creams… Certainly a trailer for all seasons with a retractable sunshade and an all-weather cover. Safety is considered with a hubengaged parking brake. An additional feature we really appreciate is the fact the seat lies down for big shopping errands- restocking the trailer food supplies to keep ‘em sweet. D’LITE SPECIFICATIONS No. of children: 1/2 Capacity weight: 45 kg Trailer weight: 12 kg Cargo space: 48 litres Wheel size: 20” Colours: green or orange

SOLO £570


he D’Lite’s little sibling, the Solo, has all the same features but is designed to carry just one child, making it a few inches narrower and a bit lighter. In fact this has formed such an important part of the editor’s life, mum cycling three-year-old to nursery, he has fitted a new back gate measured-up for the trailer. Width of the Solo when opened is 70cm, the D’Lite is 79 cm. Both have a height of 97cm and length of 86cm. It has certainly made the nursey run easier; the lightweight aids the hill climb and the boy has been well-protected from the elements. Rear cargo space has been useful to keep the packedlunch box, otherwise he eats it all en route! Easy folding has allowed it to be put in the car for cycling trips. SOLO SPECIFICATIONS No. of children: 1 Capacity weight: 34 kg Trailer weight: 11.5 kg Cargo space: 38 litres Wheel size: 20” Colours: red

Cycling World February 2016



Adult Scooters Adult scooting opens up lots of new options for family transportation and fun. Once kids have grown out of their buggies and want a bit of independence, a mini scooter or balance bike is ideal. With an adult scooter mum and dad won’t be running or shouting after them, they can scoot alongside the children on the pavement. They’re also great for a short commute to work, perhaps from a station.



his new edition SwiftyZERO MKII is a fixed (non-folding) aluminium scooter, there is a folding one in the range. It is fast and light weight (8kgs) due to a pared down and slim aesthetic, designed for speed and urban leisure. The novel off-set front fork delivers a smoother, more stable ride at speed. The frame geometry gives a more comfortable scooting position and high pressure Kenda tyres increase speed and efficiency. Powerful and responsive V-brakes are fitted to the front and rear- needed as this can go! SwiftyZERO rides comfortably and was a natural choice for a durability test - a 975 mile solo scoot across all terrain, from Lands’ End to John O'Groats, scooted in 21 days by British Adventurer Russell Smith. Though not recommended I have been riding tandem with my three-year-old: he shares the footplate and holds onto the bars, though I have added padding to the stem as it’s head-height. It’s been great for rapid shopping trips when his little legs lag. Spec Weight: 4.7 kg Frame: Fixed aluminium Wheels: 16 inch Tyres: High pressure Kenda Brakes: Tektro V brakes Max load: 150kg Dimensions: L1369mm, W145mm (excluding handle bar width 520mm), H1000mm Colours: Vibrant Orange or Dark Teal frame with silver rims and stem set


Cycling World February 2016

Micro Scooters: Black £175 T

he black is stylishly-designed with a modern, professional look. It is quickly foldable for easy storage and transportation and has a front mudguard to protect your clothing. It is ergonomically designed for comfort and features a low deck to lessen the strain on your back. The large wheels allow you to scoot faster and further with minimum effort. The kickstand is a very useful feature. Micro scooters have world-renowned quality and dominate the children’s market. The esteemed Swiss engineering and suave is everpresent on this adult edition making it a good addition to the family fleet and as work commuter. Age: Adult Weight: 8kg Frame: Foldable aluminium Wheels: 7.87 inch Brakes: Rear foot brake Max load: 95 kg Dimensions: Unfolded adjustable handlebar 720mm – 1030mm Colours: Black

Micro Speed £120-£130 T

his model, suitable for twelve to adult rolls well with superior Abec 5 bearings and shock dampening system built into the ‘hub’ of each wheel. With its simple folding system, telescopic handle bar, comfortable hand-grips and two-way kickstand, it is a scooter suitable for the school run or work commute. Its lightweight aluminum making it strong and robust whilst being easy to ride and carry. Age: 12- adult Weight: 3.8kg Frame: Foldable aluminium Wheels: 5.7 inch Brakes: Rear foot brake Max load: not stated Dimensions: Unfolded adjustable handlebar 640mm – 940mm Colours: Mint Green, Silver, Black/ Orange

Cycling World February 2016



Cycle Storage by

Pedal Pod £40


edalPod is the latest invention from bike storage company Cyclepods. This fresh addition to the home bike rack market is a unique and novel take on the wall hanger, and has been designed to optimise three crucial qualities- universality, security and space-efficiency. The PedalPod’s design holds a bike by supporting the pedal axle only, pedals being designed to withstand extremely high loads so the PedalPod has no trouble taking up to 25kg in weight and there’s no concern about damaging any part of your bike. As the axle is a universal component on any bike, including kids’ bikes, it works for any bike. Wall hanger style storage is an increasingly popular option for those who have little space to spare at home. Most storage relies on supporting wheels with potential damage concerns or only accommodate a traditional diamond frame, so this is a versatile approach. It can be installed on any wall, including plaster board or timber, with everyday DIY store fixings. It also lends a slightly more aesthetic feel to your bike storage, once your bike is at rest the storage device itself is almost invisible and gives the impression your bike is floating effortlessly. While the more minimalistic of us will appreciate the monochrome style of the PedalPod, new colour options are on the horizon for those who fancy matching the PedalPod with bike colours or room designs. The unit is extremely easy to install and use. Using a nylon strap (triple-woven for extra strength) you tie the crank arm to your bike frame. This stops your bike rotating once it is stored. Next, simply lower the pedal axle into the PedalPod and the full weight of the bike will be held steady. Finally, make sure to lock your bike if the PedalPod is outside or accessible to potential thieves. The simple metal structure allows the bike frame to be locked through the PedalPod once mounted. Then there is the PedalPod+ which has an even stronger rolled steel top for more resistance against the criminal toolkit. The PedalPod will soon undergo stringent Sold Secure testing against bike theft, meaning customers will receive discounts on bike insurance for locking their bikes in SS approved storage. PedalPod is currently available to buy on


Cycling World February 2016

It’s time to ‘Beet’ your personal cycling best BEET IT Sport products are now used by more and more cyclists, who have fully invested in the shot, bar and new Nitrate 3000, as a way to gain advantage over competitors. But, what’s the best way to use BEET IT to boost performance?

1. GET YOUR FACTS RIGHT It’s the nitrate found within beetroot juice that improves performance, not any other component of the vegetable, which means DIY beetroot smoothies, although delicious, won’t give a worthwhile boost in sporting performance. A concentrated nitrate juice, such as BEET IT Sport, is the best way to guarantee a sufficient dose. When nitrate is ingested, it’s converted to Nitric Oxide, which creates a number of positive physiological changes in the body, for example, it causes blood vessels to dilate, directing more blood and oxygen to the areas that need it most. This enables muscle cells by improving their ability to contract and produce more energy, thereby boosting strength and endurance. HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU TAKE? 2. Research on optimum dosage indicates anywhere between 400mg and 800mg of nitrate can be taken before jumping on your bike. However, this figure can vary between individuals, and factors such as body size influence the optimum dosage size.

BEET IT’s latest innovation, the super concentrated beetroot juice ‘Nitrate 3000’, now offers the opportunity to experiment with nitrate dosage to suit individual needs. The 250ml bottle contains 3000mg of dietary 82

Cycling Cycling World World February February 2016 2016

Image credited Jack Chavell

Cyclist and medical Doctor Andy Ward, who used BEET IT Sport in his preparation for the famously tough Three Peaks Cyclocross Race, gives his medical view on how to enhance the benefits of optimal nitrate intake:

nitrate (equating 120mg of nitrate per 10ml and more than 400mg per 35ml serving). You can also add it to a smoothie, breakfast cereal, porridge or even into a cooked meal as the nitrate isn’t diminished by cooking. 3. ‘BEET’ THE CLOCK It’s recommended that you drink beetroot juice one to six hours before exercise. Once consumed, nitrate interacts with enzymes generated in our saliva to generate nitrite, so the use of mouthwash or toothpaste before or soon after consuming BEET IT may interfere with the conversion. On race days, Andy generally has a BEET IT Sport Shot straight after getting out of bed and a BEET IT Sport Bar an hour before the race in order to get all the gains of nitrate. Further information on BEET IT can be found at Products are available from Wiggle and Amazon. Andy Ward can also be found blogging about his cycling adventures at awkwardcyclist.blogspot.

Tested by science, trusted by sports professionals David Weir, CBE Powered by Beet It since 2011

Beetroot shot & bar

• World’s No.1 natural nitrate supplement • Contains c400mg natural dietary nitrate per dose • Researched by more than 150 universities worldwide

• Pre-training & race essential for the sporting elite • 70% more natural nitrate per serving than any other UK nitrate supplement

    Available at Wiggle and other online stockists cycling world (jul 15).indd 1

22/07/2015 15:31 Cycling World 83 February 2016

“It’s the Least Wonderful Time of the Year” by VeloVixen - Total Women’s Cycling Awards' Best Female Specific Retailer 2015

Let’s face it: this time of year isn’t exactly peak season for cycling. It’s cold. It’s wet. It’s dank. Daylight hours are almost non-existent. And frequently there’s ice on the ground. To say nothing of that residual Christmas pudding clogging up both arteries and will-power. It’s hardly a recipe for joyful times on your bike. Or is it? We’ll let you into a secret: the most vital accessory at this time of year isn’t a thick jacket, or a bright light or reflective helmet. It’s that Accuweather app on your phone; make friends with a reliable weather forecasting service and you’ll have some of the best rides of the year just when most people are getting cabin fever hibernating. A crisp winter day is cycling’s equivalent of those


Cycling World February 2016

old Tango ads. It’s the ultimate head-clearer, a chance to get the blood pumping and the mind rebalanced - only without that nasty fizzy orange stuff. Some of our favourite rides are on days when those first deep breaths sting the bottom of your lungs just a little and you have to keep wriggling your toes to keep feeling in them. Days when the hedgerows are tinselled with frost, when your breath billows out on the climbs and those knowing nods to other hardy pedallers come with extra layers of understanding – ‘we’re out here, feeling great, whilst everyone else is sitting on the sofa’. Yes, you have to pick the right day – a wet, windy day in January is only for the truly hardcore, and ice only fun for skating and drinks. There’s no shame in having a rethink when you open the curtains. But if the forecast is good, don’t hesitate – get out there and ride.

Here are seven basics that can make or break a winter ride:

LAYERS: the time-honoured way to trap warm air around yourself; several thin ones are invariably better than one thick one. SHOE COVERS: cold feet are as miserable as cold hands – protect them with windproof, waterproof shoe covers.

ARM WARMERS: don’t underestimate the difference a decent pair of

arm warmers can make to your core temperature – they’re also brilliantly adaptable.

NECK WARMERS: a good neck warmer helps to keep those pesky drafts out, and can usually double as a head buff to wear under your helmet.

MATERIALS: ‘normal’ technical cycling jerseys have minimal thermal insulation to them – merino is a fantastic natural way to keep your temperature constant, and ‘Roubaix’ fabric offers fleecy warmth for jerseys and leggings.

WATER RESISTANT VS. PROOF: make sure you know which your jacket is – ‘resistant’ will keep you fairly dry in a shower, but only ‘proof’ will protect you fully from the rain. TAKE A BREAK: if you’re getting really cold, stop and defrost; pubs, shops, cafés and even service stations can all be havens for coffee, cake and quiet reflection on just how heroic you’re being! See you out there!

Cycling World February 2016



Cognac: Child-friendly French Touring Text and photos by Neil Wheadon of CTC Holidays

'Let's go for a bike ride children?' Thoughts of sunny days winding through country lanes with smiling faces go through your mind as you pump the tyres up and chivvy everyone out of the front door. The thing is, that it doesn't always work out like this. Adults and children will cycle at a different pace, parents are constantly having to watch over their offspring and what seems like a grand family adventure can turn into a trip to the local park rather than further afield.


or the past fourteen years I have taken over 300 families on week-long holidays. They started with a week on a campsite, but latterly I have been hiring ch창teaux all over Europe and the following account was a wonderful week in the Charente Maritime Department of France during the summer of 2015.


Cycling World February 2016

Owned and run by an English couple, Ch창teau Clerbise started life as the main house for a Cognac estate, but has been lovingly restored to provide

accommodation for forty-two people, the ideal size for eleven families to enjoy a week in the sun. We arrived on Saturday and immediately the children dispersed, mostly into one of the three swimming pools provided, leaving the adults to settle into the place, open a bottle of wine and catch up on life.

The formula to these holidays is simple but very effective. I provide maps, route sheets and gpx files, in return everyone gathers at 0930, bikes ready to explore the local area. So

on Sunday we headed north to cycle the lanes around Pons. All around were sunflower and maize fields as we headed through Avy and onto Perignac. Nearly all of the families had been on one of these holidays before and so were comfortable in each other's company but equally very welcoming to anyone new. Forty-two on the road sounds a lot

but we quickly spread out along the quiet French lanes. Groups formed, mostly children of similar ages and abilities, teenagers at the front and younger ones behind, all under the watchful eye of parents. To me this is the real joy of these holidays. At home children will pedal quite slowly and require encouragement, here even the pre-teens keep up a pace that's suitable for adults and children alike and can easily cover 30 miles in a day. We lunched by the church at Berneuil, before arriving at Pons and its magnificent Donjon and equally impressive ice creams at the café. Back at the château, the pool filled with children whilst the adults got ready for dinner. Although we could self cater, for a treat we'd hired a cook, so Peter the Danish chef prepared a French meal in the château. Salad, followed by steak and potatoes topped off by a creamy dessert: all very delicious. Monday took us to Cognac. More sunflower fields and I'm sure the teenagers were even faster than yesterday. Surely the hours on pool inflatables was wearing them out, even slightly? But years of training had taught them to wait at junctions, allowing us to stay together. Cognac was accessed via a quiet route from

the west and having taken an off-road track along the river we split for a few hours to explore the town. The trick now was to be the first to spot a good café and order a coffee, as very soon fellow cyclists would converge from all directions. Then back through Ars with its Roman church and inevitable photo opportunity for Facebook and everyone headed back at their own pace back to the château for a BBQ and a bit more snooker, as yes, there was a full-sized table. The coast was close but not quite close enough to allow us to get there and back easily, so on Tuesday we loaded the bikes onto cars planning to start at Epargnes so we could get to the beach. A short drive later and bikes unloaded we descended towards the Gironde and the coast. Talmont has a great ice cream stop. Much like Castle Coombe in Wiltshire, it is a village where tourists mingle with the restaurants and gift shops. However the church by the headland with its graves appearing out of the dirt was a memorable sight. France is developing a West Coast cycleway and we picked this up heading northwest as it followed the coast along a dedicated hard-packed

cycleway. Sheds of stilts with fishing nets littered the coast after which we headed back inland at Meschers, but not for too long as we dived left and down to Suzac Plage where we spent two hours enjoying the sea and sand. Cutting through the woods and a sandy track we headed back to Epargnes passing yet more fields of sunflowers with expansive views. Back at the château the adults relaxed on the terrace, wine in hand. After three days on the bike we rested. Wednesday brought trips to the beach or Decathlon; the mother of all sports shops, but it was the château environs that held most as we relaxed in the sun. I've found over the years that for family holidays a day like this is necessary, not because the children are tired out but more they look forward to hanging out with their friends. Away go the computer games and out come the footballs as they rediscover childhood pleasures. Jarnac lies to the east of Cognac with the Charente River flowing through it. We headed here on Thursday with bikes strapped to the cars. From the brightly coloured Town Hall we pedalled east along the northern bank, passing through many small

Cycling World February 2016



settlements. Chateauneuf arrived and we dived into its cafĂŠs, sending the teenagers out in search of a boulangerie. Coffee and patisseries consumed, we noticed the ideal group shot opportunity, so we lined the steps of the town hall, waved and cameras clicked to record another year passed. Chateauneuf is a river crossing, so it was close to the southern bank that we now went. Arriving at the riverbank a jetty presented the perfect picnic spot, so as folk ate their picnics, a number of us tested the water, along with the eels and small fish munching bits of

bread. We continued along the riverbank, with its white, hard surface. It was glorious and ended with a push through a field which seemed a fitting end with comedic comments about the Rough Stuff Fellowship ringing in my ears. Back at Chateauneuf we headed west climbing out of town before a lovely descent back to the valley floor and back to Jarnac. In the evening, washed and scrubbed up, we headed to Pons for a meal at the CafĂŠ du Donjon where a long table groaned under duck salad, salmon or beef, in the shadow of the enormous floodlit Donjon. Our last full day and we were finding out that even this far south, Western Europe in August can be a damp place. No chance of a cycle ride, though seven hardy parents braved the horizontal rain and did the route to the coast anyway and seemed to love it. The children, figuring

that the pool was dryer than outside, splashed about with the inflatables whilst the rest played games indoors. Our final evening arrived, with so many cyclists and a snooker table, a competition was inevitable. The snooker tournament neared the end and the semi-finals were a tense affair as randomly selected couples booked themselves into the final for the honour to win a tin of local biscuits for the journey home. Another holiday over and with all wanting to come back the next year; these holidays are like that. Initially they bring together a group of strangers with a common theme. Within a few days that roll into years, friendships are made. The most amazing thing I have noticed is that with a wide range of ages, older children learn to be caring with smaller ones and by their late teens turn into well rounded individuals with the help of these holidays. It's not just about the bike.

Neil organises these trips through CTC Holidays and Tours. For further details please visit


Cycling World February 2016


The International Tour ta' Malta 23rd Edition, 17th - 20th March 2016


his year from 17th-20th March, Tour Ta’ Malta will once again be hitting the roads of Malta and Gozo, taking full advantage of the wonderful cycling facilities the Island has to offer. The 23rd edition of the four day event will see many amateur cyclists arrive on the 16th with the race commencing the following day. Contestants travel from all over the world; Britain’s Nicole Cooke took the women’s title in 2000, the year she fist won the Junior World Road Race. She would, of course, go on to win the World Title in 2008. The race is made up of four stages, one per day, and kicks off with a 25km individual time trial along breath-taking coastal roads. The next stage consists of a 88km/ 60km road race on the challenging San Martin Circuit. The third stage takes the participants to the coastal village Nadur in Malta’s sister island Gozo where a 60km road race takes place. The final stage of the Tour Ta’ Malta is a hilly 100km road race on the Mqabba-Zurrueq Circuit. This established cycling championship allows for a challenging race whilst exhibiting the very best coastal and rural routes that Malta and Gozo have to offer. For more information on the Tour Ta’ Malta, including a full program and race registration,

please visit: If you would rather take things at your own pace, Malta and Gozo’s gorgeous countryside offers a multitude of cycling opportunities for both elite cyclists and amateur riders. The Sustainable Interregional Bike Tourism (SIBIT) project has made it easier to see the Island by bike. Over 100km of cycling routes weave across the islands of Malta and Gozo; with a landscape that changes with every twist and turn, giving spectacular views of both the coast and countryside. The exhilarating routes combine a fun cycling experience with some of the Islands’ most fascinating attractions and points of interest. Cycling in Malta has always been a fantastic means of exploring the islands – no fuel costs, straightforward bicycle rental, and the freedom of heading off-road wherever your adventurous spirit takes you. For more information please visit:

Cycling World February 2016





ulti-day cycling events are becoming increasingly popular amongst leisure riders. The pros have Le Grand Boucle, not to mention the tours of Spain and Italy, to satisfy their need to don lycra every morning and cycle ludicrous distances for weeks on end. For amateurs like my wife Jacqueline and I, the nearest thing to riding like a pro for a number of days can be found in one of the many London to Paris challenges now available. The Bloodwise blood cancer charity’s bike trip, set to enter its fourth year in 2016, is reputedly one of the best. Ride captain Tom Morton singles this event out as “not just another long distance ride.” It is he says, “… special in so many ways. There are over 140 London to Paris rides every year, only a few, four or five, are in the top league.”

are not ashamed to flaunt. That’s because the substances in question are neither testosterone nor EPO, but the drug therapies Bloodwise helps develop as part of its research into how better to understand, treat and beat all 137 different types of blood cancer. While getting to Paris under your own steam is inspirational enough, doing so in aid of such a cause, in the company of an extraordinary group of fellow cyclists, elevates this endeavour to a wholly different plane. It is truly special as Tom Morton asserts and for most, deeply emotional. In the end, what leaves the biggest lasting impression, are not the miles covered, but the people in whose company you covered them. DAY ONE, GREENWICH TO CALAIS – 126.9KM - 1,164M

The Bloodwise ride mimics a pro event in many aspects. It has a ‘broom’ wagon (albeit a hop-on, hop-off version), motor-cycle outriders, medics, rolling road closures on the French side all the way to the Eiffel Tower, mechanics offering instant roadside wheel changes, an army of physios to untangle stiff, twisted muscles, a TV crew careering around the peloton on a motorbike, a road book for every rider and even a crowd of raucous supporters (friends and family) at the Arc de Triomphe.

The adventure starts in London’s Greenwich Park early on a Thursday morning. 250 jittery riders prepare their bikes, attach numbers, fiddle with timing chips, make last-minute kit choices and gulp down a final strong coffee. After a farewell talk from Cathy Gilman, Bloodwise Chief Executive, the group rides off en masse, heading for Folkestone some 126km away. Getting out of London feels a little like we’re commuting to work in rush hour. While there are no rolling road closures on this first UK leg, the moto riders still help us along.

And just like some professionals of not so long ago - if not currently but who honestly knows - this ride is all about the drugs! Unlike those secretive pros, it’s a fact the organisers

Once in the Kent countryside the vibe changes. Approaching Lympne Hill the surroundings are positively bucolic. But the serene inner calm induced by the gentle


Cycling World February 2016

by Iain Marshall Photos by Dave Hayward unless stated otherwise

Cycling World February 2016


OVERSEAS CYCLING LONDON TO PARIS scenery comes before a storm all of its own. There are soon the leg-crunching ramps of ‘The Hill’ to contend with. Less than a kilometre of climbing may seem paltry but you gain 94m in that distance and Lympne Hill, according to Veloviewer, has a maximum grade of 24%.

mechanics eventually to reunite repaired wheels with their owners. It’s a system which will be tested to the limit later in the day when the heavens open and the puncture count starts rocketing. After a lunchtime baguette we are cycling along in double file

It’s a timed hill climb, recorded by DB Max, so riders are at liberty to put their heads down and compete. And most heads are down by the summit as riders gasp painfully for breath. Thankfully the remaining run into the bus park is flat and short. We queue to load our bikes onto the lorries which will transport them through the Channel Tunnel before getting onto the coaches which will do the same with us. DAY TWO, CALAIS TO ABBEVILLE – 136.7KM – 1,179M Day two is the longest and hilliest portion of the ride and will soon turn out to be the soggiest. We are now split into our speed groups, fast, medium and social (never ‘slow’). Rolling out of Calais you immediately feel the benefit of being on an effectively closed road event. We are cruising along inside a motorist-free pocket created by the lead car, the van at the rear and the moto riders constantly buzzing ahead to block off road junctions. Early on I suffer a pinch flat in my back tyre and have to stop. The mechanics are there in a flash. Ride captain Tom Morton whips off my rear wheel. I’m given a spare and deposited back in the group. Just like the Tour, apart from the short, cheeky, lift in the van. If only getting punctures on the commute to work could be resolved like this. My own wheel has my number stuck to it and the service wheel has a distinctive yellow-striped tyre, making it easy for the


Cycling World February 2016

when the rain hits. Quick as a flash, my riding companion observes that this two abreast, or “two by two” configuration, as he expresses it, is very apt given the Biblical nature of the downpour which has started. The deluge keeps up all afternoon leaving those of us wearing waterproof socks to curse our choice. They are so effectively waterproof that the rain which has run down our legs, past our overshoes and INSIDE the socks, does not drain out. We pedal along with our feet in ‘bags’ of cold water, where they slosh around like goldfish won at a fairground. Neither the rain nor the unrelenting headwind does anything to dampen our spirits. Some relish the wet conditions seeing them as merely another challenge to be tackled and overcome. To the many pedallers in the group who have lived

through, or are living with, extreme blood conditions, a September shower is nothing. Eighteenyear-old rider Joe Smale for instance, was diagnosed with leukaemia for the third time just four years ago – then had a bone marrow transplant. Steve Mitchell, doing the ride for the second time, is preparing to meet the donor who saved his life, when he rides into Paris. For Anil Pindoria the rain is a minor consideration. He joined the group at Greenwich after having already just ridden there from Paris. He covered the reverse of our journey unsupported, carrying his own luggage. He suffered one puncture and rode our days three and four in one go. We are nevertheless happy to reach Abbeville and squelch to our hotels. The day’s elevation in our road books looks like the angry, jagged, teeth of a rusty old saw. Everyone is tired. Even the hard-as-nails ride captains admit to feeling ravenous after their exertions. DAY THREE, ABBEVILLE TO BEAUVAIS – 115.3KM – 786M No rain, fewer hills, shorter distance. Day


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Cycling World February 2016

OVERSEAS CYCLING LONDON TO PARIS Iain Marshall, meets some of the Bloodwise London to Paris cyclists

TOM MORTON Tom Morton – Ride Captain. 61-year-old Tom is an accomplished and in his own words “very enthusiastic” amateur racer – more half man, half bicycle, than retired police officer. He owns seven bikes, cycles between 100 and 250 miles a week and won two bronze medals in the velodrome in the 2014 National Masters Championships at Newport. He spends much of his time during the London to Paris event pushing cyclists up some of the more challenging hills: “A sense of fear and trepidation hang over most of the riders as they head out from Greenwich Park not knowing if their training has been enough to get them through and if they are going to make it in one piece. Our job is to make sure they do and that they get maximum enjoyment out of the experience as they pedal their way across Kent and northern France… Seeing somebody overcome personal hardships to achieve a personal goal, no matter how big or small, is very satisfying, especially if I have been partly responsible for that success.”

three offers the first real chance to take in the French countryside and relax – as far as that is possible. We pass sleepy villages, gently rolling fields, the odd war cemetery and hear, rather than necessarily see, a succession of agitated dogs who bark lustily from behind garden fences as they sense our alien presence from the massed swishing of tyres. When we do encounter people, they are unstintingly encouraging. ‘Allez!’ yells a man caught short outside his front door in nothing but a dressing gown. An elderly lady clasping fresh baguettes under her arm nods approvingly as we whiz along. Most people wave and offer a cheery ‘Salut’ or ‘Bonjour’. Children invariably wave. Some extend a hand in expectation of a high-five from a speeding cyclist. Riding in a group, there’s ample opportunity to strike up conversations. Pro riders spotted whispering to each other are normally cobbling together some – possibly nefarious - tactical deal which could influence the outcome of their race. Bloodwise riders chewing the cud as they pedal, are doing just that chatting. It may be impossible for the committed speedsters in the fast group to indulge in idle chit chat, but the social group was not given its name lightly. I ride for a while with one cyclist who asks how I’ve been sleeping. I mention that an attack of cramp woke me in the middle of the night. No sooner said, than he reaches behind to his jersey pocket and produces a slender metal cylinder. “Try that as soon as you feel it starting,” he says. Ridiculous as it may sound, I quickly feel like a secret doper. I palm the tube and stuff it in my own

back pocket. “Liquid magnesium,” is the way forward for dealing with cramp apparently. I thank him but protest, “Surely you need this for yourself, don’t you?” But he shakes his head as we freewheel past scenes of rustic charm, “I have eight more of those,” he tells me. Dubious substance passed from one cyclist to the other? Again, we’re just like the pros (or the ones who were caught cheating, at least). While we have motorcycle outriders smoothing our way, the French drivers we do encounter are refreshingly accommodating. Many salute us cheerily even although they’ve been held up at a junction for long minutes while our charity peloton trickles through. It all adds up to an incredibly positive cycling experience. The other very special thing about the ride into Beauvais is the warm reception we receive from the town. Our bike storage area for the night is the local fire station. We are greeted amongst the fire engines and utilitarian concrete buildings by an official delegation. There are even waiters in ties proffering glasses of wine and orange juice. There’s a heartfelt speech by one of the deputy mayors, Francois Bramard, welcoming us and praising the important work Bloodwise does in tackling blood cancer. Madame Bramard gamely translates her own speech into English while Mark Wilson from Bloodwise, has his address translated by colleague Dan Henchman. Proceedings are rounded off with the presentation to the deputy mayor of a Bloodwise London to Paris medal.

Cycling World February 2016


OVERSEAS CYCLING LONDON TO PARIS DAY FOUR, BEAUVAIS TO PARIS – 102KM – 948M This is the big day. The relatively short ride into the French capital where many of us have friends and family waiting to cheer us across the finish line. It starts with a series of hills. None is too challenging but Tom Morton and the other ride captains are kept busy planting “the hand of God” on the small of struggling cyclists’ backs and pushing them up the inclines. Tom explains that those who stop pedalling completely at this point quickly receive some, “polite constructive feedback” from him. He says propelling another cyclist upwards may be hard, but he also gets “a buzz out of overtaking other riders whilst pushing someone up a hill.” And it means there’s never a shortage of people willing to buy him a drink in the evenings. Top level, amateur competitive cyclist, Nic Baxter, is able to perform this task with both hands. Tapping out a rhythm just behind him, I watch as he deftly propels a gasping rider up using his left hand. In one movement Nic lets go of rider number one, switches grip on his handlebars, and starts supporting flagging rider number two with his right hand. “Chapeau”, doesn’t really cover it.


Cycling World February 2016

Nic and Torq Fitness founder, Matt Hart, also put in long shifts wielding a long stick as they pedal which they use to help the phenomenal handbike athlete, former Paralympian and leukemia survivor, Dr. William Tan, make it over some of the bumps. The camaraderie between these three is infectious and aptly symbolises the spirit of the entire ride. Speed groups are dropped after lunch and we ride into Paris as one massive peloton. Timing the traffic-free passage of so many riders past the Arc de Triomphe and across the Seine under the curious collective gaze of the tourists on top of the Eiffel Tower, is quite an art. Our pace therefore is dictated to us by the moto riders who have a very limited window to work with. This may make for something of a, ‘slow, stop, slow,’ kind of a ride but clattering over the Parisian cobbles is exhilarating and smiles spread across faces as we start recognising parts of the French capital. It ends in a flash when we turn off the main road and into a sports centre to cross the official finish line, right next to the Eiffel Tower. Beer is thrust into our hands immediately and we’re given our medals by roaming members of the Bloodwise crew in a

charmingly informal manner. There are tears and reunions. Almost everyone vows to do it all again “next year”. It’s the best cycling event I’ve been part of. And it’s an occasion when drugs, in the sense of those used to fight blood cancer, go together with cycling perfectly. Not something to hide, but to be immensely proud of. About Bloodwise: Up until it’s rebranding earlier this year Bloodwise was known as Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research. The riders on their 2014 London to Paris event raised £600,000 for the charity. Bloodwise’s research is targeted at understanding more about blood cancer, finding causes, improving diagnosis and running groundbreaking clinical trials to improve access to new drug treatments for all patients. For more go to About the author: Iain Marshall and wife Jacqueline form part of team Gurning Grimpeurs. This was set up to raise funds for Bloodwise along with Jacqueline’s sister Maureen and her children, Molly and Patrick. Their efforts are in memory of Molly and Patrick’s Dad, Mike, who died in February 2014 after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia. Follow their exploits at http://

STEVE MITCHELL Steve Mitchell – leukaemia survivor and cyclist. 49-year-old Steve had a bone marrow transplant six years ago, after being diagnosed with leukaemia and given a 30% chance of survival. He was extremely weak after the transplant, having lost three stone in six weeks. But nine months later was cycling a 90 mile round trip for his hospital check ups. This year Steve cycled 400 miles to meet his donor for the first time at the finish line in Paris. “I completed this ride last year as a personal challenge, something to prove to myself that I'm no longer the person who’s too weak to climb the staircase, or play with my children. The ride had a completely different focus for me this year. I spent time in all three speed groups, talking and helping people, whilst exchanging stories. The pinnacle of the ride was getting to meet my donor (Catherine) at the finish line. It was extremely emotional and I treasure the words spoken by Catherine's youngest daughter, ‘You have my Mummy’s blood, so that means you're family now’."

JOE SMALE Joe Smale – leukaemia survivor and rider. Eighteen-year-old Joe had leukaemia three times and underwent a stem cell transplant at UCH in London. It was here that he met other kids going through the same process and became friends with Angus. While Joe survived and continues to get stronger, Angus didn't make it. “Ever since I was first diagnosed my family has taken part in the Bloodwise London Bikeathon every year, apart from one when I was in hospital, to raise money for the charity. Two years ago I did a 50 mile cycle challenge and was amazed at how much I enjoyed it. It now seems like a natural thing to cycle to raise money, so the London to Paris trip was the next obvious challenge. I’m hooked! I’d love to do it again, and who knows maybe another cycle challenge too. Cycling makes me feel alive after all those dark days in hospital.” LEIGH BAILLIE Leigh Baillie – rider. 39-year-old self-employed, mum of two, Leigh is a keen triathlete and cyclist. After four years competing in triathlons and sportives, she decided that a slightly different challenge was required and so registered for Bloodwise’s London to Paris trip. She’s now signed up to ride the event again in 2016. “I wanted to raise money and awareness for the charity as my partner lost his Dad to Leukaemia five years ago and so really wanted to do this ride for him. I think it’s fair to say, I loved every minute, although ‘the wet’ day was particularly testing! … I wanted to find a way of not only remembering the ride, the journey, the friendships, but also wanted a reminder as to why I had taken part in the first place and so as a little tribute to the person I did L2P for (Gareth Edwards)… I decided to have a tattoo (on my leg) of the ride elevations from the four days."

Cycling World February 2016



La Vie en Vélo To ride a bike in France is, for a British cyclist, a renowned joy. Périgord – or the Dordogne, as we know it – takes all of the characteristics that British cyclists look for in their riding and binds them all together into a cycling paradise. So, what is it exactly that we want?


e want quiet, smooth, rural roads shared with occasional but respectful drivers? Tick! We want sweeping descents and some testing climbs interspersed with hazy, distant views? Tick! We want a blissful blend of the natural landscape with deep, dark, wooded valleys running with rippling, trout-filled rivers, and the cultural landscape, with ancient chateaux and towns, sleepy terracottatiled villages and stone-built farms with welcoming bars, boulangeries and brasseries? Tick! We want inviting places to spend warm evenings or shady lunchtimes eating delicious food and drinking fine wine or cold beer? Tick! We want a climate that is a few degrees warmer than ours which might extend our cycling season by a month or two each

end, but not so searingly hot that physical exertion is unappealing? Tick!

hatted old gentlemen rake the hay by hand and tend Limousin cows just as their grandfathers did? Tick!

We want to be able to get ourselves down there without the need to spend any of our precious holidays anywhere near an airport but not so far that we have to check into a cheesey motel? Tick!

We want to be able to pull over beside cool lakes where, in the heat of summer, families gather in the shade to let their kids do what kids do on hot days in lakes? Tick!

We want to be able to take day trips to other amazing landscapes, like the Auvergne, or the mighty Pyrenees or the sweeping Atlantic coast or the lush vineyards of Bordeaux? Tick! We want to ride to and watch the marvel and razzmatazz of the Tour de France pass nearby? Tick! We want to be able to ride to and through bustling markets where old ladies in blue housecoats stock up on provisions (and gossip), and past fields where straw-

INFORMATION: Angus Parker set up La Vie en Vélo to take people cycling in beautiful places, including to their own place in the Dordogne. See Photography by


Cycling World February 2016

We want to take long, leisurely evening walks through a green rural landscape at dusk to listen to the frogs calling? Tick! We want to sit around the garden table under a rose-covered pergola late into the cooling night while the Milky Way stretches above us and shooting stars and the bats flit about and the owls tell us that it’s time to pop the cork back in the bottle… or to pop another one out? Tick! Riding in Périgord ticks all our boxes.

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Mont Blanc The World’s Toughest One Day Bike Event by Marcus Leach, photos James Mitchell


t’s quarter to five in the morning and a veil of darkness hangs over Les Saisies. A feeling of nervous excitement fills the night sky as the 422 entrants for the 2015 Tour du Mont Blanc count down the final minutes until the start of ‘the world’s toughest one day bike event.' I wait patiently, a calm exterior hiding my true feelings of fear and anxiety. The excitement I had experienced in the final few days leading up to the event had been dispelled the night before at the Velocamp Performance Cycling pre-ride briefing. I always knew it was going to be tough: 330km with 8000m of ascent on a route that makes its way through three countries speaks for itself, but hearing detailed descriptions of each of the eight climbs brought about a sense of worry. And now, with moments to go until the start, I struggled to contain those feelings. ‘Cinq, quatre, trois, deux, un, balade’. As the MC counted down those final five seconds my feelings shifted from nervousness and fear into excitement and adrenalin. Suddenly the tension I had felt for the past twelve hours melted away as I clipped my shoes into the pedals of my bike and rolled across the start line. There was no more waiting, no more time to wonder ‘what if’, just an open road ahead and one question to answer, a question that has been going through my head for days on end: ‘can I do it?’ Given I had only been cycling seriously for six months this was a very valid question. It’s a question that

has been a part of my life for many years, it’s the question that drives me to find challenges that will push me to, and past, my limits. The next eighteen hours of cycling, if I kept to my planned timings, would certainly push me to my limits, and they would give me the definitive answer. For a ride that boasts 8000m of ascent, the opening stages are deceptively easy, lulling you into a false sense of security with 40 kilometres of predominately downhill riding. I soon realised that the reason for this is so that the ride can then end with one final climb. However, any thoughts of that were a long way off, with three hors category and three first category climbs to negotiate first, more than enough to keep my mind occupied for the foreseeable future. As a long snake of riders stretched out across the Chamonix valley, Mont Blanc came into view for the first time, dominating an impressive skyline of jagged peaks with its sheer size. It would remain the backdrop to much of the day’s riding, a constant reminder of the scale of the landscape we were in. Climbs of the Vaudagne, Col des Montets and Col des Forclaz would, in normal circumstances, be deemed fairly challenging. Yet these were not normal circumstances and they were simply the prelude to far greater climbs. It was on the slopes of the Champex, against a backdrop of incessant rain,that the serious climbing began. A touch over 12km long, and gaining over 1000m in height, it’s a brute of a climb that winds its way up Cycling World February 2016


OVERSEAS CYCLING MONT BLANC through thick forest towards a beautiful alpine lake. What the climb lacks in length it more than makes up for in steepness, with several sections rearing up to 11% gradient. My sole focus was on keeping a steady rhythm going, knowing that this was only the first of several big climbs. The Champex was tough, but it was nothing compared to the Grand St Bernard, a climb that most certainly lives up to its name. From the moment the road begins to increase in gradient at the foot of the valley the climb doesn’t relent for a full thirty kilometres. And what’s more, just as you think you have broken the back of it, emerging from the avalanche tunnel with seven kilometres to go, it ramps up to 9% as the final seven kilometres push you to the limit. I stole a glance towards the summit, high up in the distance, trying to work out where the road went. It soon became clear as I noticed a series of vicious switchbacks that picked their way through the rocky mountain. Ever since I first saw the Tour de France as a young boy I had wanted to know what it was like to take on such epic climbs, and now here I was finally getting my chance. Riding out of the saddle I simply focused on making each

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corner, breaking the goal down into smaller sections, focusing on every turn of the pedals as I edged my way closer to the summit. A massive sense of relief washed over me as I crested the top of the climb, soon to be replaced by the sobering thought that I was not even half way, in terms of distance or ascent. I consoled myself with the thought of the forty kilometres of descent that lay ahead, but not before a much needed refuel of sandwiches and brioche buns. Following an exhilarating descent came a long, hot slog through the Aosta valley, all the while knowing that another hors category climb lay in wait. This time it was the Petit St Bernard, which was anything but petit. At the final feed station before taking on the climb I made a few quick calculations and realised I would have to up my speed in order to make it down to Bourg St Maurice before the final cut-off time. Taking on a 23km hors category climb at a steady pace is tough enough, especially off the back off Grand St Bernard, but to do so pushing to make up time makes it brutal to say the least. I hit the bottom of the climb as fast as I could, knowing that a support car was

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waiting 10km up the road. It was all or nothing from now on in. The road snaked up the mountain in a seemingly never-ending series of short switchbacks. A lone rider in the distance became my target as I fought to maintain a speed of 15km/h. I began to play a game in my head to take my mind off the pain in my legs, counting down the metres until I would reach La Thuile and a moment’s respite before pushing on to the summit. This was it, it was all down to making it over this climb. I was in the zone and knew I had to keep my assault on the mountain going. The difference being that the gradient was now beginning to increase even more as the road cut high up into the mountain. The next thirteen kilometres were sheer hell. My legs burnt as the lactic acid started to sting my muscles, my body screaming at me to slow down. But my mind took over, urging me to keep going and not relent, my heart pounding in my chest. I kept thinking every corner would be the last, but the road kept on going, pushing me closer and closer to my limit. I cursed the mountain, and in return it kept getting steeper. I was at my limit, close to quitting when I finally saw the summit and the support cars waiting for me. As exhausted as I felt I knew there were two more big climbs to go before the finish line, the first of which was a third consecutive hors category effort. For the first time since setting off from Les Saisies my mind began to question if my body could follow where it would lead. Arriving in Bourg St Maurice my body was at its limit, my eyes welled with tears at the thought that I might not have the energy to keep going. I had poured my heart and soul into this and, for the first time since setting out on this journey, it dawned on me that it might not finish how I had always pictured. I slumped into a chair, scoffing biscuits and chocolate, desperately trying to boost my energy levels as an almighty thunderstorm broke out, lightening flashing across the skyline. Truth be told I felt utterly spent, but I had come too far to not keep going. I climbed back on to my bike, my mind defying what my body felt, and set off once more. The road leading out of Bourg St Maurice and onto the Cormet de Roselend wasn’t that steep, but within a hundred metres I knew that it was over, my legs simply couldn’t turn the pedals anymore. I turned around and rolled back to where the support cars were, tears rolling down my face as it began to hit me that wasn’t going to achieve my goal. Not this time anyway. Whilst I never took it for granted that I would finish I also didn’t for one minute imagine it would end as it did, on the side of a nondescript road in Bourg St Maurice with a thunder storm raging overhead. ‘Marcus rode the Tour du Mont Blanc with Velocamp Performance Touring. Visit for more information.’

You can follow Marcus on Twitter @marcusleachfood Cycling World February 2016



Mallorca: Stephen Roche’s 20th Anniversary Lighthouse Tour Text by Keith Gilks. Photos by Stephen Roche Cycling Holidays


ipping champagne on the seafront raising a toast to Stephen Roche to celebrate his twentieth anniversary of providing excellent cycling holidays and training camps, I reflected on the four days of touring the Balearic Island of Mallorca. Maybe it was the alcohol flowing through my dehydrated veins that was responsible for my feeling of euphoria, or maybe it was the fact I’d enjoyed fantastic jovial and friendly company of fellow cyclists from across the world, including that of cycling icons. But I suspect, it was most probably due to the immense satisfaction of finishing the 430 kms, including over 7000m of climbing in one of the best and most beautiful places for cycling in the world. The experience had been a taste of what it must be like to be a top professional. I had been supported by a full Mavic service crew, team cars that were in touch by radio to each of the ride captains, and been treated to motorbike outriders that stopped traffic at junctions. I had also lived out of a suitcase for four days, experiencing four different four stars hotels and the luxury of massages at the end of each day (at a small extra charge). To top it all the Triple Crown Champion of 1987 rode with us, together with his youngest sons, Alexis and Florian, and his special guest Maurizio Fondriest, the Road World Champion of 1988. Four days earlier I had studied the route cards that were amongst the official jersey, High Five race pack and other goodies in the bag that was to be used as a musette. Stage One was to be a fairly flat ride to Cala Millor, Stage Two would include the classic ride to and from the Cap de Formentor, and the following two days would be spent in the Tramuntana mountains, including the iconic Sa Colabra. This is probably Mallorca’s most famous climb and attracts both professional and amateurs alike. Indeed some cyclists come to the island just to ‘pit their wits’ against this climb alone and to compare their Strava times to the likes of Sir Bradley Wiggins and Sky’s David Lopez. It is definitely the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the island and the tour. After the briefing session, I inspected my Pinarello Razha hire bike, that had been set up prior to my arrival, (having forwarded my bike fit details), packed

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my bag and retired to bed like an excited child waiting for Christmas. The next morning after signing on, we were split into three groups, with the fastest riders in Group One. I chose Group Three, not wanting to overdo it on the first day. Before long the three groups set off at ten minute intervals, under the instructions from our ‘Director Sportive’, Michelle Smyth of Trois Etape fame. The 137 km route from Palmanova to Cala Millor was picturesque as we rolled through olive and almond groves with the sun on our backs. By the time we reached the first lighthouse of the tour at S’Espanyol, we had begun to bond as a group as we chatted and got to know each other. It soon became apparent that the guests (Stephen ensures all that attend his cycling holidays and training camps are treated as a guest and not just a customer or client), had come from all over, including America, Canada, Dubai, Germany, Belgium, France, Ireland as well as England, Scotland and Wales. Although there were some language barriers we all spoke the ‘language of the bike’ and a friendly atmosphere ensued. As my Garmin ticked over to 74 km we entered Sa Rapita for lunch at a restaurant right on the sea front, affording stunning views of the Mediterranean. The intervals between the three groups had worked well, ensuring the groups didn’t all arrive at the same time. Once refuelled we set off on the final leg of the journey for our overnight stay at the four star hotel, Hipotels Mediterraneo. And so the scene was set for the next three days, breakfast, ride, hotel, massage, dinner, repeat. Bliss! This was my first experience of living out of a suitcase for four days and my status as ‘tour rookie’ showed. It appeared my suitcase was the biggest and heaviest amongst the riders. Others, more experienced or organised, took the bare minimum, some even washing their kit each night. However using a company where the guest comes first, if you took everything bar the kitchen sink, no questions would be asked. Although I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the luggage handlers. I awoke to a glorious sunrise for the start of Stage Two, 114 kms from Cala Millor to Port de Pollenca. The day

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started easily enough with a gentle climb for the first 30 km, then it was virtually flat riding along the coast with fantastic views across the windswept bay. Lunch was to be at the famous Bar Tolo’s, Sir Bradley Wiggins’ favourite restaurant on the island and where his 2012 Tour de France and 2014 World Championship bikes are proudly on display. After the second course consisting of pasta and salad, most of us were adequately fed and started to think of the testing route ahead, to and from the lighthouse at the Cap de Formentor. So it came as a surprise when Tolo had decided we all needed more calories and had instructed his staff to prepare paella for us. If that wasn’t enough the sweet course followed, consisting of cake. I’ve had less food at a wedding! Indeed it was the first time I’ve seen cyclists refuse food and ‘complain’ of having too much. Climbing out of Port de Pollenca was my first introduction to the gradients that were to become so common over the next two days. I had joined Group Two for the day and although we had reached the start of the ascent before Group One, it wasn’t long before some us were being passed by stronger riders and a couple of world champions. I engaged the lowest gear and started plodding up the

ascent at my own pace, resisting the temptation to try and keep up with the faster riders. The first ascent, the Coll de la Creueta rises to about 200m from sea level with ramps of up to 15% and an overall average gradient of 6%, before plummeting back down to sea level so you can start ascending all over again until you reach the lighthouse. Therefore within the 40 km ride you climb four moderate ascents with total climbing of about 1000m. I found it a challenging route that gave little respite, but I can see why it has a reputation of one of the ‘classic rides’ the island has to offer. The views are sublime both from the top of the climbs and as you sweep round the bends that link the uphill bits together. This ‘must do ride’ certainly whetted my appetite for the other classic rides I was to experience over the next two days. We returned to Port de Pollenca with heavy black clouds gathering and although my group tried to beat the rain to the four star Club Pollenntia Resort just outside the Port, we failed. If only I was quick enough to join Group One, I would not have had so much drying to do overnight.

epic ride, incorporating the iconic Sa Calobra and a fantastic descent from the highest point on the island; Puig Major. The first 17 kms as we left Port de Pollenca were fairly flat. Then the real work began and I did not get a rest from climbing apart from one very short plateau until I reached the cafe under a viaduct 23 km later. The rain hadn’t finished with us which made the climb that bit more challenging. At first I kept in touch with the main peloton but it wasn’t long until the ‘elastic’ snapped and I was dropped off the back. I was soon to experience what became known as the ‘Mavic Express’; a gentle hand on the back from the Mavic motorbike support rider pushing you back to the group. I wasn’t the only one to benefit from this ‘Nibali type’ manoeuvre, and although one might expect some to be disappointed they didn’t conquer the climb independently, the riders I spoke to were only too pleased with the help, me included. We all regrouped at the café and had a short breather before climbing again to the top of Col de Reis; the start of the famous Sa Colabra descent. The descent of the man-

Stage Three, 90 km from Port de Pollenca to Port de Soller, had all the makings of an

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made twisting strip of tarmac that plunges to the sea was optional, and some sensible soles who listened to their screaming legs, stayed at the top and took part in coffee and chat. Those that had chosen to go down seemed to relish the laborious climb back up. I guess there were Strava segment times to beat. Lunch was consumed at the cafe by the famous arch before the short and final ascent to the top of Puig Major. The fast flowing descent was glorious, but concentrating on your line gave little chance of soaking up the open views or the pretty orange groves near the town of Soller. However it was well worth the 2000m of climbing we had achieved earlier. Needless to say I was passed by two generations of Roches and one fast Italian.

tour and how remarkable it was to attract seventy riders from across the world, and went on to say ‘’it's very, very interesting, my wife is here, and it is the first time she has cycled four days in a row with people, different people, different mentalities. I think that only the bike can do that, because when you can ride with old people, young people, like Stephen’s son, you can ride at 20, 30 or 40 km per hour, then on the top of the climb wait for everybody|: this is great.’’

What was needed after such a terrific ride, was a high quality hotel that gave massages, a complimentary drink on arrival and luxurious rooms and surroundings. And that is exactly what we got. In fact the Hotel Esplendido is one of the best hotels I have ever stayed at. We arrived at 15:30 which gave us plenty of time to carry out the rituals of preparing for the next day, before attending a presentation and questions and answer session by Stephen about his career. It was great to hear how he approached the races in his Triple Crown winning year, and hearing stories about behind the scenes, and his views on the modern era of racing.

The last day was another classic ride in the Tramuntana Mountains around the Corniche, and into Palmanova. This is probably the most scenic ride on the island and the most up and down. After just 2 km out of Port de Soller we started climbing for about 4 km. This was to be typical of the many climbs of the day with the longest being around 6 km.

Dinner was held at the restaurant Es Canyis and even though we had only known one another for three days, there was a team spirit and a celebratory atmosphere. Proof that the doubters who were certain Stephen’s vision twenty years ago of providing facilities and rides for all nationalities to mix and cycle together were wrong. As I chatted to Maurizio Fondriest it was obvious he shared the same passion for cycling as Stephen. He remarked on how he was enjoying the

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I would have loved to have stayed and continued to mingle with the late night revellers, but my bed was calling so I returned to my luxurious room, took one last look across the harbour to the third lighthouse of the tour, closed the shutters and retired to bed.

For me it was hard to keep up with the group for two reasons; my legs were telling me to slow down and my head was telling me to stop and take photographs of the wonderful coastal scenery. Riding into Estellencs for our lunch stop, the views around each corner became prettier and prettier. Again the weather wasn’t kind to us and the roads were quite damp and greasy in places, leading to the inevitable - a couple of riders coming off. Thankfully their injuries were not serious. The riders were promptly attended to by the first-aid-qualified ride captains before being dealt with by the tour medic. Nevertheless it was a wake-up call for me. For all the

Eat, Sleep, Ride, Repeat. It’s good to get away and see somewhere new. And when you’ve finished a long ride, exploring new places, it’s good to have a little bit of comfort; a cold drink, a hot drink, a microwave, gas hobs, running water, a sofa, double beds with mattresses. The things we take for granted in our own homes. The 6-berth OPUS® Camper Trailer can offer you all of those comforts, plus a whole lot more, including the ability to carry up to 6 cycles on it’s roof. OPUS® takes care of the simple things, leaving you more time to concentrate on your routes. Start planning your next route today with OPUS®

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years I’ve been cycling, I’ve never carried a first aid kit. I guess I never wanted to think of coming off, after all, ‘it’s never going to happen to me.' The truth is it could happen to any of us, and it was comforting to think that at least on a well prepared tour such as this, the accident side of cycling was covered. For the rest of day the group took corners and descents very cautiously, everyone wanting to make it to just outside Palmanova for the massive group ride into the town for the celebratory glass of champagne. The magnificent sight of seventy riders, and nine ride captains all attired in the official bright green and white event jerseys being escorted into Palmanova by the police, stopped holiday makers and Mallorcans in their tracks. The spectacle of the two large pelotons was further enhanced by the following motorbike outriders, team doctor, three team support vehicles and the bright yellow Mavic support van, car and motorbike. An unforgettable and dazzling end to this inaugural tour. The event was rounded off with a short presentation of an award from the tourist board of Calvia, recognising the significant contribution Stephen has made to the tourism of Mallorca, before a gala dinner, enjoyed by all. The tour had been one of the most enjoyable four days of cycling I’ve experienced. It certainly showcased both the island and what Stephen Roche cycling holidays and training camps can offer.

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