Cycling Magical Forest of Dean
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Cummings Wins TdeB
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CONTENTS November 2016 NEWS 10 12 16
Paralympic Report The Tour of Britain Transcontinental Race
A Brief History of Bickerton Bikes
REGULAR 20 Products: Editor’s Pick 22 Book Review: This Road I Ride
Bike Review: Light Blue
46 50 54 84
Film Review: Alleycats Training and Nutrition From the Workshop The Bicycle Diaries: Bulgaria to Turkey
UK 26 30
The Magical Forest of Dean Sustrans’ Traffic-free Cycle
Ride: The Tudor Trail
Family Ride: Canterbury The Garden of England
OVERSEAS London to Paris Aveyron Adventure Mallorca: Test Yourself in Style
D+ Ultracycling Dolomitica Cambodia: History and Beauty by Bicycle Cycling
60 64 68
November 2016 : Delight with Deloitte
aving recently ridden Land’s End to John O’Groats on the Deloitte Ride Across Britain, I have fallen in love with the UK anew. What a divinely varied and interesting nation we have the pleasure of residing in. My epic ride was enhanced by some miracle weather: nine eight-hour days through the UK during September and not a drop of rain fell upon me while riding. We had rainy evenings and nights; one day I reached the finish line illuminated by forked lightening and an opening of the heavens, but no poor weather en route. I am drawn to biblical language when referring to this meteorological blessing as I rode a day with a priest from Bristol who told me of his parish prayer group who were on daily weather duty for us all. I rode with some great people and have made some new friends. You see a club jersey that you know is near to your home, ride together, chat, share the task of sticking your nose in the wind and you’ve made a friend for life. I met Emily Chappell, winner of the Transcontinental, who powered past me on a daily basis, though I got to chat to her at the early pit stops. I met some
true heroes. There were people who were in the saddle for twelve hours every day, dramatically reducing recovery time in the evenings. Riders bounced back from crashes and soldiered on through nagging injuries. Big-hearted cyclists towed others struggling, formed encouraging partnerships on long climbs and stopped to help those at the roadside with mechanical issues. One day I towed a flagging young rider. This week a thank you card arrived at the office, leaving me speechless. The whole ethos was about getting to the end, the end of the day’s ride and ultimately to John O’Groats. There is great power in a shared objective. Everyone was on board, not just riders; the caterers, the volunteer masseurs, the medical team, the physios, the DHL luggage transporters. At the end of one day I went to pick up my huge bag from a transport lorry, and the DHL handler clocked my weariness and carried the bag to my tent. Never-ending acts of kindness to a backdrop of the UK’s finest scenery under blue September skies. Best cycling I’ve ever done.
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FRONT COVER DETAILS: Picture by Alex Whitehead/ SWpix.com - 12/08/2016 - 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Olympic Velodrome. Great Britain's Sir Bradley Wiggins celebrates winning his fifth Olympic Gold medal
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
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An impressive medal haul on both track and road for GB Paralympic Cyclists
ÂŠ Sarah Storey wins Gold in the Women's C5 TT by Alex Whitehead SWpix.com
Paralympic Report - 2016
Team GB Paralympic track medals Gold Sarah Storey C5 3km pursuit Megan Giglia C1/2 3km pursuit Steve Bate and Adam Duggleby B individual pursuit Jody Cundy C4/5 kilo time trial Sophie Thornhill and Helen Scott tandem kilo time trial Kadeena Cox C4/5 500m time trial Jody Cundy, Jon-Allan Butterworth and Louis Rolfe team sprint Lora Turnham and Corrine Hall B 3km individual pursuit
Silver Crystal Lane C5 3km pursuit Neil Fachie and Pete Mitchell B kilo time trial
Bronze Louis Rolfe C2 3km pursuit Sophie Thornhill and Helen Scott B 3km individual pursuit
Team GB Paralympic road medals Gold Sarah Storey C4/5 road race and C5 time trial Steve Bate B time trial Karen Darke H1/2/3 time trial
Silver David Stone T1/2 road race
Bronze Steve Bate B road race Crystal Lane C4/5 road race David Stone T1/2 time trial
Lora Turnham B time trial
Steve Cummings wins the Tour of Britain
12 ÂŠ Stage 4 Denbigh to Builth Wells by SweetSpot
teve Cummings clinched overall victory in the Tour of Britain at the end of the London Stage presented by TfL, finishing safely within the bunch to seal the Yellow Jersey presented by Eisberg, as Caleb Ewan sprinted to victory.
© Caleb Ewan wins final stage by SweetSpot
The Brit, who took the jersey after Stage Six in Devon, crossed the line on Regent Street St James in 17th position as the bunch fought out the victory at the end of the 16-lap circuit race. "I'm delighted. Finally, I can smile and enjoy it. It's been a tough week. It was so close that it wasn't done until I crossed the line," said Cummings afterwards.w I'd like to thank all my team-mates for keeping me out of trouble, and the British public for supporting every day like they have. It's been a great week." "It's a bit overwhelming, I just want to put a baseball cap on and a hood up and disappear now for a while and get back out of the way.” Cummings is the second British rider to win the modern incarnation of the Tour of Britain, following Sir Bradley Wiggins' victory in 2013. Cummings also wins the Adnams Best British Rider prize. Behind Cummings there was no change on the overall classification, with BMC Racing Team's Rohan Dennis second at 26-seconds and Team Giant Alpecin's Tom Dumoulin third a further 12-seconds in arrears. Lotto Soudal's Tony Gallopin took fourth with 2014 Tour of Britain winner Dylan Van Baarle in fifth. Team Sky's Ben Swift was the other Brit in the top 10, finishing eighth. Orica BikeExchange's 22-year-old sprinter Caleb Ewan took his first win on British roads, becoming the ninth different stage winner of the week in a highly competitive Tour of Britain. Lotto Soudal's Jen Debusschere had taken a flyer coming through Trafalgar Square in the final kilometre and at one stage looked like holding his advantage to the line, but such was the speed of Ewan that the young Australian rocketed past, with Dylan Groenewegen also coming past for second. Groenewegen's runner up spot, his fourth top ten of the week, helped him into the Chain Reaction Cycles Points Jersey. In the Yodel Sprints classification, An Post Chain Reaction's Jasper Bovenhuis took the jersey, joining the day's breakaway once again to mop up the jersey after the first of three intermediate Yodel Sprints. Bovenhuis' final advantage was 12-points over Andre Greipel, but the German did win the overall HIGH5 Combativity Award in a week that saw him win a stage and on several occasions, lighting up the Tour of Britain with his attacking riding. With no SKODA King of the Mountains points on offer in London Xandro Meurisse enjoyed a final day in the jersey, adding that classification win to his seventh place overall.
© Overall victory for Steve Cummings by SweetSpot
Tour of Britain from the Press Car Cycling World sent Dan Martin, a young racer, to Stage 5 Aberdare to Bath
ÂŠ View from press car by Dan Martin
This year’s route visited the picturesque Wye Valley and Forest of Dean for the first time in its history. Stage 5 started in Aberdare for just under 200 km of racing, finishing at Bath. Despite the early start and foreboding weather plenty of people came out to see both World Tour and domestic cycling teams take their place on the presentation platform. Recent Olympic champions Bradley Wiggins and local boy Owain Doull both received loud cheers from the crowd. It is a slightly surreal experience to see some of the best current riders in the world such as Tom Dumoulin, Tony Martin, Dan Martin, Taylor Phinney, Rohan Dennis and many others riding around a park in South Wales, early on a damp Wednesday morning. The race rolled out promptly and from the Press Car travelling in advance the excitement from the roadside was clear. Plenty of primary schools were out in force no doubt inspiring many of the children to get out on their bikes when they got home. The streets within the towns and cities (Gloucester and Bath) were packed with spectators flying flags and banners. Many local shops entered into the spirit of the race adorning their premises with bike-related paraphernalia such as wheels and jerseys. A local butcher’s shop had an oldfashioned bike outside its premises decorated in ribbons and a pub in the Forest of Dean had created a giant sculpture of a bicycle out of wood in the pub garden. The stage was varied in terms of gradient with two King of the Mountain categorised climbs at Usk and Speech House in the Forest of Dean itself with huge crowds present to watch the climbers make short work of the hills. The crowd was good-humoured throughout the day, cheering every vehicle that passed in the peloton with the sunshine bringing out many lycra-clad cyclists to line the route. With so many cycle friendly trails available in the Forest of Dean it was apparent that the race coming through the area was very wellreceived.
Being in the Press Car gives you an entirely different perspective of the race, opening up the inner workings of the professional level. Being at the front I witnessed the safety procedures activated by the Police to allow a rolling road closure for the peloton to pass through without incident. The race radio is constantly alive with updates on the race informing teams when their riders need assistance and even at one point issuing a penalty to a rider for misbehaving. The announcement “Rider … that will cost you” coming over the air waves made us laugh. The Press Car is only a small part of the race caravan which comprises of about 50 cars including the Commissaire, team cars and the dreaded broom wagon at the end of the convoy. I was driven by Alastair, a veteran of the cycle race convoy. He has been driving for the Tour of Britain for the past ten years as well as such prestigious races as the Tour De France, World Championships and An Post RAS. With a small breakaway forming early on in the race Alastair and I had different opinions on how the race would end. He was sure that despite the breakaway of five riders having opened up a five-minute-gap that ultimately the peloton would catch them before the finish and there would be an inevitable bunch sprint. I felt that the breakaway had just enough time to stand a chance of success. With around 70 kilometres to go we peeled off from the convoy to arrive at the finish at Bath ahead of the race. This meant that I was able to explore the stands, enjoy the excitement of the atmosphere and bag myself a great spot on the barriers just 50 metres from the finish line. The beautiful city of Bath was bathed in glorious sunshine with the famous Royal Crescent just above the finish line making a spectacular backdrop. The city had welcomed thousands of spectators eager to see the finish of this latest instalment of the increasingly popular Tour. With Jack Bauer’s epic skin-of-histeeth win after having been one of the breakaway riders with the peloton bearing on down they were certainly not disappointed. A long, but exciting day finished with the tour buses disappearing to their hotels to prepare for the next day’s stage and another tough day in the saddle.
he original Tour of Britain started in 1945 and has undergone various guises as the Milk Race, Kellogg’s Tour of Britain and the Prutour. The current Tour of Britain re-started in 2004 and since then cycling in Britain has grown exponentially.
Prediction scores: Alastair 0 Dan 1
Transcontinental Race: Geraardsbergen, Belgium to Canakkale, Turkey Jayne Wadsworth (Rider # 5) took part in a gruelling endurance race: 3800km, 11 countries, 50km of climbing One stage – The clock never stops. Racers chose where, when and if at all to rest. No Support – Racers can only use what they
take with them, or what they can find en-route at commercially available services.
No Route – Only mandatory controls ensure that
racers visit some of the most famous pieces of road in Europe and connect with the suffering of their forebears. The rest is up to them.
In 2015 I literally had two weeks’ notice before lining up on the start line on the Muur in Geraardsbergen, Belgium, so bought a few bits of luggage for the bike, downloaded my partner’s carefully planned routes and set off. 2016 was very different and an all consuming experience for around nine months. After the application process was complete in November, which is a test of both basic navigation and also your expectations of the race, you set about training: long distance rides, back to back long rides, sleep deprivation rides and, for me by far the most difficult part, planning my individual route . With just four mandatory check points the rest of your journey is up to you. I was very lucky this year to have the amazing support of my local bike shop Edwardes Cycles of Camberwell who equipped me with a new Orro bike with dynamo, disc brakes and a huge cassette (to help me get up and down all of those mountains) and my coach Paul Mills of Elite Cycling who kept me motivated and encouraged throughout the training. The start on the Muir is pretty special, 217 competitors gather in the town square at 10pm on Friday night where we are greeted by the Major of Geraardsbergen. Off we set for a neutralised lap of the town through friends and family all holding flaming torches, the race starts proper as we head over the famous cobbles of the Muir. It is a mass start with all of the nerves and excitement that brings. 30 minutes later you are on your own in the dark with just your purple Garmin route line as company with everyone heading off in various directions heading for Check Point 1 in Clarmon Ferrand, France, about 440miles away. The first night/day is always great, you start well-rested and well-fed with the excitement of the adventure ahead. You know you have some extra time on that first day with the 10pm start but it is important to remember that we have days and days of intense riding ahead and not to over-do it. You also regularly see other riders on the road which is the only time throughout the entire race that this happens. As the night wears on you come across people taking quick naps anywhere, in lay-bys and on verges at the side of the road. As dawn breaks you relax a little knowing that you are now sitting comfortably, you are on your way and the bakeries in the small villages are starting to open. The first day through France is not difficult, no challenging climbs and you are pretty much heading in a straight line south, but it was so hot. I reached Auxerre, where I had scheduled my first overnight stay in the early evening, grabbed dinner, rinsed my kit and was in bed by 21:00, determined to get up and be on the road by 04:30 the following morning. I always stay in hotels, many people bivvy in the great outdoors but when I have tried this in the UK I just haven’t managed to relax enough to get a good night’s sleep so for me having the luxury of a bed, a shower and electricity is the way it works. The downside is there is very little to persuade you out of bed at 03:30 in the morning as I had planned and I am sorry to say my snooze button was very over-used by the end of the race. The inside/outside sleeping is an emotive subject and I think if you can use both options and be flexible that is
best. I have to plan each daily section of my route around where there are towns and hotels with backup plans B and C just in case I don’t achieve the daily mileage. This may mean that I have to get off my bike early if there are no accommodation options for the next 50+ miles. Booking. com was a huge life line for this; it allows you to check options down the road and also to book ahead of your arrival. As you can imagine, as the race goes on your appearance suffers somewhat and hoteliers become less receptive to your arrival, if you make a reservation from outside of the hotel doors they then can’t refuse you! The first Check Point and mandatory parcour was supposed to have been up to the Puy-de-Dome but unfortunately this road had been closed all year so the original mandatory climb was downgraded to the much gentler Col de Ceyssat just outside of Clermont Ferrand. It was great to check in with the volunteers manning the check point and to get the first stamp on my brevet card. Day 3 I left France and crossed into Switzerland, very aware that the really hard climbing was about to begin. Check Point 2 (CP2) at Grindelwald marked the beginning of our second parcour, which was really tough. The first pass was the Grosse Scheidegg, a postal road closed to all private vehicles on which the local buses rule. The road is paved but only wide enough for a single vehicle, so every time a bus approaches in either direction, about every 10-15 minutes, you have to leave the road. A great excuse to stop pedalling but in places too steep to re-mount immediately. Next the Grimselpass ; a 38km climb with an elevation of over 2km with a tunnel at the top which we were not allowed to ride through so had to detour around. Here I chose to stop to breakfast on a family-sized Swiss Roll, what else. Down the Grimselpass and then straight up Furka Pass, another climb with 2.5km elevation. That was a very slow day and the day in which my rose tinted glasses from the previous year slipped off as I remembered how hard this race actually is and wondered what on earth I was doing back for a second year. Still at least I currently had good weather, though throughout the race we were surrounded by huge storms which hit everyone in one place or another. The official stage parcour would be complete the following day; it was just a case of getting up and over the Albula Pass 2315m – no problem! Still in Switzerland and another day of climbing. I’m behind schedule now, the climbing has just taken so much longer than estimated, and I’m not sure where I can possibly make up any time over the next week or so. You just have to re-evaluate, re-set and crack on. On paper the climbs look absolutely achievable as long as you don’t push too hard too soon, but cumulatively day after day it is so tough. So on and up through Parc Ela and the Swiss National Park heading towards Italy and Bolzano. Bolzano filled me with dread, I am not a great navigator and finding my way though cities and large towns I find incredibly challenging even with two Garmins on board. From Merano to Bolzano I had taken the decision to move away from my plotted route and the busy major roads and onto a great cycle path which ran alongside the river with bike cafes en route. I should have stayed on this path instead of rejoining my route in Bolzano, this cycle path would have taken me directly to where I wanted to be in Leifers and through the hills to CP3 Passo Di Giau. Exiting Bolzano is difficult, basically all roads seem to lead to a tunnel which had been prohibited by the race organiser. I spent two hours riding around and round getting more
rode the Transcontinental Race in 2015 as a very late replacement for a rider in a pair. Having successfully completed that I decided that I would like to try it as a solo rider being sure that I would have a very different experience and so I signed up for the 2106 edition….
and more frustrated, aware of how much time I was losing, until I found my way, with the help of locals, back on to the same cycle path at more or less exactly the same point at which I had left it. The approach to CP3 felt like I was reaching the end of the race, though it just marking the end of the Alps. I took the San Pellegrino Pass, just ahead of a huge storm, to reach Alleghe and the start of the parcour which would take us up Passo di Giau. The Giau was awful, it felt like I was riding in the middle of winter rather than high summer. I rode up in every piece of clothing I had with me including a down jacket and was still cold. It then dawned on me that I had nothing to add for the descent. I called it a day at the first town on the other side of the Pass, barely in control of my bike I was shaking so much from the cold. It was here that I realised I had lost a bolt from my cleat and that my dynamo light had broken due I think to the sheer amount of rain and dirt from the road which it had been subjected to over the last few days. Still the Alps were completed and I had a good fairly flat run through Italy, Slovenia and into Croatia ahead of me. These stages are great, you rattle through countries quickly feeling like you are making really fast progress. I had great memories of Slovenia and Croatia from last year, though unfortunately this year Croatia had some incredibly strong gusting cross winds to throw at us, up to 31mph in places. Everyone who passed this way over a 48-hour period suffered, many of us were blown off our bikes and most resorted to getting off and pushing through the worst of it. The road I was on saw a motorbike with riders blown off the road and down a cliff. It felt so dangerous I made very little progress and decided on an early night with the promise of lighter winds the next day. Back on the road and into my most challenging navigational period. I had unfortunately created a route through Croatia along the A1, a motorway, which of course cycling is forbidden on. So with Google maps loaded a new route was planned which slowed me down, added miles to my journey and took away my security blanket of that purple line. My tracking unit by now had also stopped working which left me feeling very vulnerable, if I got into trouble no-one would know where I was. Each rider’s bike is fitted with a tracker which transmits our location every five minutes, keeping the dot watchers upto-date with our progress.
CP4 was the next major target in Montenegro, the parcour started in Pluzine and climbed through the National Park to Zabljak. I don’t think I’ve ever had to climb such a steep gradient for so long through tunnels literally roughly hewn out of the rock face. It was a 48km parcour and I was under pressure now to reach CP4 before the cut off time. I got there with 15 minutes to spare.
That was all of the check points completed so now it is just a run for the finish line in Canakkale, Turkey, through Montenegro, Kosovo and Greece. The border crossing to Kosovo was a challenge for me, you must always remember that you climb out of every country and descend into the next. Kosovo was no different but the top of the climb was shrouded in a rain cloud and it absolutely chucked it down as I went through. A long descent on very worn brakes was to follow. We had been warned that the border crossings to Greece could be problematic with a refugee camp at the largest border crossing. I chose to cross at
Star Doirani and encountered no problems at all. Strong winds met me in Greece so again I decided to divert from my route and headed south trusting that the winds would drop in the afternoon as I turned to head East. I stopped at a shop to buy some food and was greeted with high fives by a boy aged about seven or eight who watched me with a slack jaw as I consumed two ice creams, an entire box of chocolate marshmallows, two cokes and a bar of chocolate. I think he was suitably impressed! The end was in sight only just over 100 miles across Turkey to the ferry that would take us to the Canakkale and the finish line. I bumped in to a fellow competitor at a petrol station with about 35 miles to go who said we “have to make the last ferry at midnight” (after midnight ferries run only every two hours rather than every fifteen minutes). I had no idea what the current time was and didn’t dare take the time to look, it was head down into time trial mode through road works and past angry dogs. I was brought to a stop by three dogs, but being under pressure I just turned and shouted back at them which seemed to do the trick. I had successfully completed my second TCR, third woman to finish. The winner was Emily Chappell. It had been a very different race from the previous year. Whilst you are in it the race is challenging at best, harrowing at times, but the support you get from friends and family and strangers along the way is amazing. Twice I was met by cyclists who had been following the race online and came out to excitedly meet a competitor. The actual community of the
TCR is like no other and I am proud to be part of it, from the organisers Mike and Anna, and all of the volunteers who man the check points and give up their time to pick us up and dust us down. It was great to meet and chat to Juliana Buhring at CP3 after all of this time and to meet the rest of the competitors. I have made some great friends over the last two years.
ÂŠ Oberwald, Switzerland
JAYNE’S TOP TRANSCONTI JACKETS X-BIONIC SYM Frame Jacket £264 This feels like quite a substantial jacket, more rigid than most rain jackets. It incorporates the X-Bionic air flow system which means that the jacket has raised pads to the inside of the jacket running down the back and at the shoulders. This system keeps the fabric away from your body whilst riding so stops over-heating as so often is the case in rain. The jacket fitted well except for the arm length which was a little short when resting on the hoods. Also there is no hanging hook, a small thing but very useful. I wore the jacket throughout my training and it did keep me very dry, unfortunately due to the air flow padding the jacket was too bulky to take with me on the TCR where space is at a premium. x-bionic.co.uk
ASSOS rs.sturmPrinz Jacket £325 This is a much more all-round jacket with some clever venting that keeps you dry both inside and out. It is very lightweight so it can be packed away easily. Very comfortable to wear with fantastic deep cuffs which prevent any ingress at the wrist. The colour is incredible, it almost glows in low light which is a great safety feature. I wore this daily on the TCR to keep me dry in adverse weather conditions, warm and visible in early morning and late nights. It also has a hanging hook! assosfactoryoutlet.com
AND EDITOR’S PICK OF WINTER JACKETS ...
Cycling Cycling World World
Stolen Goat Climb and Conquer Jacket £139
The water repellent and windproof outer layer consists of the effective ‘Tempest Protect’ fabric. The soft brushed Roubaix lining ensures you stay cosy and allows the jacket to be paired with a base layer or summer jersey for the coldest of days and remains comfortable against the skin if worn in isolation. Notable features are covered zip, water-resistant fourth pocket and a headphone cable. Additionally, there is reflective fabric detailing on the rear pockets. Women’s version available. stolengoat.com
EDITOR’S PICK FOR AUTUMN NikWax TX.Direct® Wash-In and Tech Wash® TX.Direct £8.25 Tech Wash £4.75
(For 300 ml) (For 300 ml)
Breathable waterproof garments get sweaty and wet inside when used in damp conditions. If the outer fabric absorbs water, the garment can lose up to 70% of its breathability. Therefore, the Durable Water Repellency (DWR) on the outer fabric of your jacket must be maintained to ensure comfort. It will eventually wear off and need to be renewed. We like the tried and tested products from Nikwax which we’ve been using since our boy scout hiking days. TX. Direct® and Tech Wash are used in the washing machine to revive water repellency, cleaning effectively and reviving breathability. nikwax.co.uk
NiteBright Safety System £34.95 A high visibility product that that can be worn on the body or attached to bags being carried or worn, such as a rucksack. Great for the school run. A lightweight LED panel which flashes brightly and is clearly visible from 200 metres.
Features include: LED unit flashing in red or green Six Interchangeable images including cycling, running and riding 80+ hours of continuous use Comes in two sizes as outlined below and is fully adjustable
10% OFF ANY NITEBRIGHT PRODUCT. USE CODE ‘NB10’ ON WEBSITE
Rainlegs Reflective £30.76 During rainy weather riders are not always easy to see. Rainlegs are made of a high quality reflective and waterproof material which shines brightly even when illuminated very slightly. What more they will keep your legs comfortably warm and dry. Great for the commute. rainlegs.com//en/home
THIS ROAD I RIDE (My Incredible Journey from Novice to Fastest Woman to Cycle the Globe)
t’s possible you’ve already encountered Juliana Buhring? Juliana was raised in the Children of God cult, and her life there is captured in Not Without My Sister: The True Story of Three Girls Violated and Betrayed by Those They Trusted (2008), a Sunday Times bestselling book, which is definitely now on my “to-read-next” list.
The bottom line here is that against the odds (with the Guinness Book of Records actually raising the already seemingly impossible goal posts prior to the start of her ride), in 2012, Juliana cycled 29,070 km in 144 days (averaging more than 200 km/day), crossing four continents and experiencing nineteen countries. This earned her the title and record of fastest woman to circumnavigate the world by bicycle, with a total time (including off-bike travel) of 152 days. You may be asking yourself, what possessed this bike-novice to take up the challenge in the first instance? The answer is extraordinary in itself: Juliana’s soul mate Hendri died in a crocodile attack, and after an acquaintance suggests a charity cycle ride across Canada during Hendri’s commemoration, she questions whether she can aim for something bigger, drawing inspiration from Mark Beaumont’s cycle ride around the world (29,445 km in 194 days).
“If you really want to experience the world, get on a bicycle” could be the strapline for this book, where the word experience is key. Juliana vividly describes her epic physical and mental journey, which is at times courageous, harrowing, stressful, funny and surreal. I particularly laughed at the imagery invoked of the man she encountered serenading a donkey! I also related to the fact that she doesn’t like bananas, despite them being the “wonder food, most athletes swear by” (my eldest soncyclist loathes bananas and I am always trying to convert him). I was surprised that Juliana didn’t get much support via cycling-related
sponsorship (and wonder whether she does now after her amazing achievement). But it was really heartening to read about all the random acts of kindness via strangers she encountered on her journey. An amazing example of this was, when she was cycling during abominable weather conditions across New Zealand on the deserted endless Desert Road, she stumbled across a campervan, where the occupants, seeing her practically hypothermic state, took her in for the night. It was also wonderful to learn that despite her negative experiences during her cult-childhood, she has an outstanding network of cult-survivors, strung around the world and hence able to support her during the challenge. In conclusion, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, as it challenged my philosophy on life and also made me believe that if you want to achieve something badly enough you will overcome any obstacles. In terms of sating the bike-junkies out there, you won’t learn much about bikes from this book, but it should help with your determination in achieving your goals! Just get on with it – “there is no satisfaction in achievement without struggle”. Incidentally, after achieving the world record described here, Juliana went on to compete in the 2013 Transcontinental Race; she was the only woman, and came ninth overall. In 2014, she won the first edition of the Trans Am Bike Race (women), placing fourth overall. In June 2016 she took part in the Race Across America, (RAAM involves traversing 3000 miles across 12 states and climbing over 170,000 vertical feet), but unfortunately had to pull out at mile 887, after showing symptoms of pulmonary oedema). Hence she is now considered to be one of the strongest female ultra-endurance cyclists in the world.
Interview with Juliana NR: You named your bike Pegasus – did this personification offer you comfort/ companionship during some of your lonelier moments of the ride? JB: I have found each of my bikes have a particular character and my relationship with them certainly reflects that. Pegasus struggled as much as I and was just as ill-prepared for the journey, so I felt we kept each other company during the ride sharing good times and bad, which is why I ended up talking to him a lot as a companion. NR: Where did the name spring from? JB: The name came to me automatically as he was the white stallion I had to tame (it was the first time I'd been on a road bike and just ten days before leaving) in order to carry me on my epic journey much as the mythological horse did the hero who rode him. Almost all my bikes' names come to me after riding them the first couple times. NR: Your soul mate Hendri died in a terrible event which triggered your challenge– would you agree that initially this ride was you subconsciously denying or blocking Hendri’s death to avoid the pain of grief, but that during the ride something shifted so it became more about you understanding yourself and making sense of your world and your experience? JB: More of a conscious need to escape from the grief that was suffocating me and it took doing something that drastic to either save myself or die trying. It really was that dramatic. I left not caring if I came back, but half way through something certainly shifted in my subconscious and I found a renewed hunger for life, new experiences and self-actualization. NR: Do you feel you were always going to achieve something extraordinary during your life, i.e. leaving a legacy (even if Hendri hadn’t died)? JB: It was more a feeling that my life would always be far from ordinary in one way or another and I would follow a different path to most. NR: Do you think that many of your contemplations during your journey were on some level stemming from your own death-anxiety, i.e. when you were writing about being significant/insignificant, leaving a legacy (to prove existence) etc.? Do you think you might have felt subconsciously guilty of being alive (when Hendri was dead), so that you had to complete such a challenge so as not to waste your life, i.e. that you had to have a heightened life-experience as Hendri could no longer?
Author: Juliana Buhring (the
only woman in the in augural Transconti- nental Race in 2013)
Published: Paperback, Piatkus May 2016 ISBN-10: 0349409072 ISBN-13: 9781783350537 Price: RRP £13.99 (Also available in Kindle and Audio CD This Road I Ride: Sometimes It Takes Losing Everything to Find Yourself) Reviewed by: Nicola Robinson
JB: I think his death played a definite part of my contemplations, but more about facing the reality that it could end that suddenly at any time and what experiences did I want to have in the time I still had? I never felt anxiety about dying as a fear of death itself. NR: I felt very angry when the Guinness Book of Records changed the demands for the world record prior to your ride - did this initially make you question whether you should embark on such a challenge, or did it always just make you even more determined to go for it? JB: Always more determined.
JB: I went from searching for "who I am", to understanding that I am simply connected to every living thing and therefore a small part of everything; the continual evolution of self and therefore our world by correlation, that becomes "I am who I am." NR: I often felt that during the ride, when you were reflecting on your earlier life, you were almost grieving for the child you were (as well as grieving for Hendri) – would you agree or not? JB: There was a great deal of grief involved in many of my reflections on the
NR: Your experiences in the Children of God cult evidently influenced your views on self, family and society- do you feel the ride significantly changed or challenged those views?
Book Review road, but I think the ride was more of a way of refinding my personal power and purpose than grieving for grief's sake alone. NR: I’ve always felt I should read War and Peace, but it’s been sitting pretentiously on my bookshelf for more than twenty years – did you choose this book (audiobook) for your ride in order to tick off from a list of books that should be read? How did you choose your audiobooks/ music? JB: The Russian authors wax a bit long in their descriptions and ponderous character analysis, but I chose many of their books for their length as much as the desire to tick some of the classics off my list, hence War and Peace, which may well be one of the longest books written to date. I tended to go through authors who took my fancy at the time, so when I listened to one book by an author I enjoyed, I would then buy a bunch from them. I went through almost every book by Chuck Palaniuk, Bukowski, Philip Roth, Lionel Shriver, The Game of Thrones series, etc. NR: You mentioned that travelling across the U.S.A was on your bucket-list – can I be nosy and ask what else is on that list? JB: There are so many things on my bucket list and each year more and more get added. I want to ride from Alaska to the tip of South America, the Tour Divide, Mongolia and Iran, to name a couple. Who knows, I may just go the other way around the world and tick off a bunch of countries I haven't seen yet. NR: Finally, tell us about your experiences of the Transcontinental Race and the appeal of such mega, unsupported events?
JB: I was the only woman to race the inaugural Transcontinental Race in 2013. In 2014 I won the Trans Am Bike Race across the US and placed fourth overall. I entered the Transcontinental 2015 race, but withdrew after my knees collapsed (thanks to damaging them on the Trans Am race the year before riding with a broken seat half the race). This year I was one of the race staff volunteers to man the checkpoint in the Dolomites on the Transcontinental Race. I will be racing the inaugural Indian Pacific Wheel Race across Australia this coming March.
I think the appeal of these unsupported transcontinental races is largely the adventure aspect. It is not just about riding a bike really fast, you also have to be able to fix any breakdowns and punctures, be really good at navigation and time management, resourceful finding your own food and water and rescuing yourself when it all goes south. Riding at all hours of the day and night, you go into a kind of surreal time capsule where you forget what day it is and you are very much living from minute to minute in the present. The whole experience takes you into a different level of existence, you do without everything you think you need and basically go feral. It is incredibly liberating. I learn more about myself on one race than I might in a year. Nicola Robinson is wife and mother to four OCD (Obsessive Cycling Disorder) males and member of Thanet Road Club, Kent
Dean Forest Cycles
ean Forest Cycles is a family business situated in the village of Parkend in The Forest of Dean, making it the perfect stop for any ride. They have a cafĂŠ offering the most amazing freshly ground coffee, milk shakes and fresh fruit smoothies to help you rehydrate, alongside a selection of delicious locally baked cakes. Those looking for a more substantial fill will be pleased to know they provide a great range of pasties baked daily on the premises; along with all the classics, including fantastic toasted sandwiches. Throughout the summer their ice cream shack offers a selection of over 20 flavours of Marshfield ice creams and a perfect little garden to relax in. During the winter months the wood burner will be blazing away to warm in front of after those chilly winter rides, who could ask for more. The shop is stacked to the rafters selling all the usual necessary parts and accessories. As well as an ever expanding range of clothing and protection from Dakine, IXS and Dare 2 B. With some great brands to be found and a regularly updated demo fleet from Marin, Transition and Ghost bikes. Combined with its friendly welcoming atmosphere, trail side location and bikes for hire or sale from Enduro to E-bikes.
Dean Forest Cycles is simply the best place to head for your next ride, purchase or cup of coffee.
Simplify. Organise. Practice. Win.
no fuss, just organised kit
The Magical Forest of Dean
Dan Martin explores both on and off road routes in this magical forest
26 ÂŠ Wye River
We were based in the village of Parkend right in the heart of the forest. On arrival at Deanfield Coach House, our self-catering base for a few days, we were greeted by the sight of five bike wheels painted in the Olympic colours on the front of the main building, indicating a place that welcomes cyclists. The owners, Christine and Nigel Preest, certainly went out of their way to make us welcome. We travelled down by train to Lydney and when our train was delayed causing a potential problem with our taxi, Christine immediately volunteered to come out at 10 o’clock at night and pick us up. Luckily we didn’t have to take her up on her offer, but the fact that she had volunteered to do so speaks volumes of the service they provide. Deanfield Coach House was immaculately kept and as it sleeps up to eight, it provides perfect accommodation for a family group or group of club cyclists. There is a self-catering and B&B option. We also enjoyed a post-ride dip in the outdoor pool. Being mainly road-based cyclists we opted for a couple of road bikes from Dean Forest Cycles, Parkend, who are the Marin Demo Centre for the Forest of Dean. As well as offering bike hire for road bikes, mountain bikes and electric bikes there is a bike shop, workshop and very popular café. We were very fortunate in being accompanied on our road trip by Jason Streather of PDQ cycle coaching and Pedal Bikeaway. Jason has lived in the Forest of Dean for a number of years and took us on a round trip of the area including the categorised climbs at Usk and Speech House that had featured in the Tour of Britain just the day before. The area is hilly, but despite the fact that Jason is a first category road man, he rode at a measured pace which gave us the
chance to really take in the scenery without riding our personal version of Tour of Britain speed (my father was especially grateful for this pace). The most spectacular scenery of the 45-mile-round trip was the famous look-out at Symond’s Yat. Looking down at the River Wye below I could see my father’s brain whirling with the thought of going kayaking there – yet another popular outdoor activity in the region. Symond’s Yat is also famous for its peregrine falcons, but these were not in evidence on our trip. During our ride we had the chance to stop for lunch, coffee and a chat at the Pedal Bikeaway café – a popular café stop for the local riders and always a good provider of hearty food. Our road bikes certainly stood out amongst the many mountain bikes stacked up outside the café. Coming from the busy, potholed roads of South East England what struck us was the quality of the road surface and the comparative lack of traffic. The next day we struck out on foot on the twelve-mile Family Cycle Trail based in the Forest itself. This trail is a gentle, well-surfaced route based on the old Severn and Wye railway line. It is obviously well used by families with children looking for a traffic-free trail as well as older cyclists just enjoying the peace and quiet of the woodland. The trail is also extensively used by walkers, runners and dog-walkers with plenty of opportunities to join the route around the perimeter. The trail takes in ponds where you can just sit and watch wildlife and there is plenty of evidence of its industrial past with old railway station signs, such as Lightmoor, Foxes Bridge and New Fancy still lining the route. A further delight is the famous sculpture trail which can be easily accessed via the recently redeveloped Beechenhurst café in the heart of the forest. Walking along the trail we came across a sculpture of a deer called The Searcher which was incredibly lifelike and had us fooled for a moment. Just two miles further along the trail we stopped in our tracks as a real-life young deer stood in the middle of the route. In the time it took us to reach for the camera it was gone, but such brushes with nature are always special. This area of the forest also offers more bone-shaking mountain bike trails such as the Verderer’s Trail – a moderate seven-mile
aving travelled through the Forest of Dean on family holidays en route to Wales we have always been intrigued by the area and its possibilities for some good cycling adventures. With the Tour of Britain racing through the Forest for the first time we took the opportunity to spend some time in this increasingly popular outdoor destination. The Forest of Dean offers 42.59 square miles of woodland, mainly comprising Oak, Beech and Sweet Chestnut. Its industrial past of iron works, forestry and coal mining provide the backdrop to a series of exciting cycling trails.
trail incorporating intriguing sections such as the Iron Chicken and Blue String Pudding – and the Freeminer’s Trail – a 4.5-mile challenging single track route for the more experienced trailblazer seeking an adrenalin rush. Additionally, there also plenty of small cut-through routes to be explored by mountain bikes. The Freeminer’s Trail is relevant to the area as any resident of the Forest of Dean over the age of eighteen who has worked an open mine for one year and one day can register to be a freeminer. Despite there being plenty of evidence of Wild Boars in the village of Parkend itself, with vast areas of disturbed turf and similar findings on the forest trail, we were disappointed not to see the actual animals themselves. However, I am reliably informed that if we had been there for longer and possibly gone out for a walk at dusk we may have come across some of the well-known family groups that live there. Apparently it is quite common to see large social groups of female boar congregating together – grandmothers, mothers and the young – with the males nowhere to be seen, presumably hiding out in the forest itself.
© Chepstow Castle
© Autumn at Tintern Abbey
After all this activity we had worked up a not-inconsiderable appetite and dinner was to be found at the Fountain Inn, Parkend. For lovers of cycling history this particular inn has its own special place in the locality as it was the scene of the first meeting of the Royal Dean Forest Cycle Club in 1949. Having hosted cyclists all these years it certainly knows how to feed them with home-cooked, hearty fare and welcoming service – I challenge even the biggest cycling glutton you know to take the double Fountain burger lightly. Like everywhere else we visited, this was a family-friendly establishment.
Parkend also boasts the RSPB Nagshead Reserve, a local shop/post office selling, amongst other things, Wild Boar sausages, two pubs and the Park End steam railway that runs to Lydney four days a week- a remnant of the Severn and Wye Railway. The area itself offers some top tourist attractions including Chepstow Castle and Tintern Abbey . Having discovered the Forest of Dean on this short trip we will definitely be returning in the future, probably bringing our cyclo-cross bikes so we can make the most of the road circuits as well as exploring the Forest of Dean trails in more depth. © View from Symonds Yat Rock by Linda Wright
ad Dogs & Vintage Vans, is a beautiful boutique eco glampsite in the heart of the Wye Valley, ideally located for exploring the Forest of Dean and Herefordshire. Escape off grid and stay in one of our four gorgeous vintage caravans. Full of retro charm and nestled in a wildflower meadow, all the vans boast logburners, hotwater bottles, feather duvets and cosy quilts to keep you warm and toasty. After a long day's adventure, kick back round the campfire and enjoy the stunning views West to the Black Mountains and Hay Bluff. Onsite holistic therapist, local produce and homemade food, hot water on demand, bike storage and use of private tennis court. We provide everything you'll need for a relaxing or adventure packed getaway and make the perfect staycation for families and couples. Or why not hire the whole site and celebrate with friends.
For enquiries please contact: Sacha on 07854 499188 or Jo on 07966 474323
TRAFFIC-FREE CYCLE RIDE THE TUDOR TRAIL IN KENT TEXT BY WENDY JOHNSON www.sustrans.org.uk/CyclingWorld Distance: 5.5 miles Start: Tonbridge Swimming Pool car park Finish: Penshurst Palace and Gardens RCR route number: 12 Train stations: Tonbridge, Leigh and Penshurst Grade: Easy
TERRAIN, GRADIENTS AND ACCESS
Largely flat with one long climb near the end. Tarmac and concrete path, fine gravel track and stony trail. A short and quiet on-road section at Lower Haysden.
This ride through charming countryside into the Weald of Kent is wonderful throughout, but it’s the majestic view of Penshurst Place and Gardens in the final mile that makes it distinctly memorable.
Cycling Cycling Cycling World World World
The remains of Tonbridge Castle are near the route’s start, and it’s worth taking the small detour to visit them as the gatehouse is regarded as one of the finest in England.
Start at the Tonbridge Swimming Pool car park and follow the course of the River Medway as it weaves west, passing through scented woodland and crop fields to reach Haysden Country Park in the opening mile. The mosaic of woodland, meadows, marshland and lakes in this award-winning park is beautiful, and riding in the shade of the park’s spinneys, and beside the white willow trees on the edges of Barden Lake, is just joyful. There are some great picnic spots near the water here, too. From here, it’s a gentle ride along quiet country lanes, before you re-join the trafficfree path to roll past brambly hedgerows and rich, green countryside. A long and steady climb along the concrete track of the Penshurst Estate in the route’s second half is the only challenge of the ride, but
even this is a pleasure, climbing between vast crop fields, with impressive over-the-shoulder views across the Kent hillsides. The gradient gently eases, before a sharp turn at Well Place Farm and a final heart-lifting descent as the first wonderful views of Penshurst Place swell into sight ahead. The red roofs, towers and battlements of the magnificent 14th Century manor house, historic home of Viscount De L’Isle, are revealed in all their splendour here, completely stealing the scenery. End at the Penshurst Place Visitor Centre for entry to the house and gardens (visitors arriving by bike get £1 off the ticket price), or ride for half a mile along the quiet road into the idyllic village of Penshurst. Its ivy-covered cottages and Tudoresque architecture are enchanting, and the little Forge Stores occupies one of the most unusual and alluring buildings of all.
LOOPS, LINKS AND LONGER RIDES
The Downs and Weald is a 164-mile, on-road and trafficfree route between London and Hastings via Brighton. NCN 18 High Weald is a challenging and hilly route, mostly on-road, between Ashford and Royal Tunbridge Wells. NCN 21 Forest Way.
Charcott Farmhouse B&B, Leigh (01892) 870024 www.charcottfarmhouse.com
Penshust Place and Gardens © Visit Britain by Rod Edwards
Tonbridge has many places to eat, including popular Finch House café. Haysden Country Park has a snack bar, open during weekends and holidays. Porcupine Pantry and The Garden Restaurant are at Penshurst Place. The Leicester Arms Hotel, Forge Stores and Fir Tree House Tea Rooms are all in Penshurst village.
Cycle-Ops, Tonbridge (01732) 500533 www.cycle-ops.co.uk
November November2016 2016
EAT AND DRINK
Hever Castle S
urrounded by glorious Kent countryside, Hever Castle in Kent offers 28 luxury bedrooms in the Astor Wing and the Anne Boleyn Wing, both Edwardian Wings created by William Waldorf Astor, designed in Tudor style.
The Anne Boleyn Wing bedrooms are a recent addition to the Bed and Breakfast facility at Hever Castle and allow us to offer Bed and Breakfast on dates when we have private events booked into the Astor Wing. The Anne Boleyn Wing has also given us the flexibility to offer bedroom bookings with a longer lead time, meaning we are now able to take bookings for these rooms six months in advance.
Across the portfolio of rooms, you will find an abundance of rich fabrics, crisp linens and panelled walls, with perhaps a golden chaise longue or a glimpse of the Castle through leaded windows. All bedrooms are en-suite and individually styled, with some offering four poster beds, roll top baths or walk in showers. All rooms blend modern day comforts with antique furnishings and original features. The fine collection of bedrooms offers a selection of double rooms, twin
rooms, single rooms and some rooms that are suitable for families with young children. The Astor Wing offers a beautiful panelled lounge with deep sofas and a selection of books and magazines for guests to relax with during their stay. There’s also a rather splendid Billiards Room to be discovered. Guests who book an Anne Boleyn Wing bedroom will have access to the Astor Wing Lounge and Billiards Room on dates when there are no private events booked into the Astor Wing. The Anne Boleyn Wing enjoys its own beautiful Breakfast Room which is flooded with natural daylight and offers window seats looking out across the orchard to the castle. Bookings in the Anne Boleyn Wing can be up to six months in advance of the date you wish to stay, with bookings in the Astor Wing taken eight weeks in advance. A ‘Full English’ breakfast is included, complemented by a healthy ‘Continental’ buffet. All bookings receive complimentary access to the Castle and grounds during opening hours on the day of arrival, the day of departure and all days in between. Outside of opening hours guests can enjoy access to some parts of the gardens.
Courtesy of British Cycling
The Garden of England A ride south of Canterbury which is quintessentially Kentish
Distance: 12.5 miles Type: Countryside loop Start and Finish: Canterbury East Station Terrain: Country lanes and bridleway. Easy hills Highlights: Views of Canterbury Cathedral; Howletts Park Zoo Refreshment: The Duck Inn, Pett Bottom Road, Pett Bottom The White Horse Inn, High Street, Bridge
© Crown copyright and/or database right 2016 OS
START • FINISH Howletts Wild Animal Park
The White Horse Inn
The Duck Inn
Road gets you to The Duck Inn whose clientele has included Noel Coward, Marlon Brando and James Bond creator, Ian Fleming. Interestingly there use to be a local bus numbered 007. Back onto the road to Bridge, take the second right onto the High Street with shops, a bakery and The White Horse Inn, dating from the 16th Century.
Having crossed the river turn left onto Starting at Canterbury East Station, turn Patrixbourne Road which passes under the right and you’ll see the entrance onto the A2 into Patrixbourne. At the T-junction by St Landsdown Road Path, a cycle route which Mary’s Church turn left onto The Street. Go runs along the railway track. At the end of over the roundabout, turning right will take Landsdown road take a sharp right onto you to Howletts Park Zoo, home to the world’s Nunnery Fields. Go straight ahead at the largest breeding colony of gorillas in captivity. Crown copyright Road, and/or database right 2016 OS T-junction onto © South Canterbury The return route is over the roundabout, then heading towards the hospital. Take first right taking the fork to your right, a bridleway which onto Stuppington Lane which goes over the is part of the North Downs Way, a 156-mile A2. At the end go right and left onto Iffin Lane, footpath through Surrey and Kent. This a lovely straight country lane with gentle ups quiet lane takes you all the way back to and downs. At the end turn right and go down Canterbury, becoming the Pilgrim’s Way Chartham Downs Road. and leading into St. Augustine’s Road. It reaches a busy T-junction where you turn A quick left and right across the main road gets right onto the New Dover Road (A2050) you onto Hardres Court Road, and in Lower and second left onto Oaten Hill. Crossing Hardres fork left onto School Lane. Follow this the T-junction takes you onto Nunnery round, the first left takes you into Petts Bottom fields where you immediately fork right Road which you follow all the way to the village onto Landsdown Road with the path of Bridge. Going slightly beyond Petts Bottom leading back to the station.
ent is a lovely place to cycle. Named ‘The Garden of England’ by King Henry VIII, referring to the vast areas of royal orchards. Orchards are still plentiful, though now dwarf rootstock trees. The Kent character is always visible; attractive villages, hops, oast houses, open farmland and woodland. This ride also gives views of Canterbury Cathedral.
A Brief History of
arry Bickerton designed his first “Portable” bicycle in the early 1970s. His son Mark charts the journey to the everpopular present day bikes The original Bickerton Portable was intended to provide a really useful tool to tackle what we now call multimodal travel. His target customers were commuters, caravanners, yachtsmen and even aeroplane and helicopter users. It all came about because having lost his driving license he bought himself a rather nice Youngs lightweight road bike, Campag equipped and generally a pleasure to ride. Discovering that it was nigh on impossible to take it with him when travelling further afield, he bought a Puch Pic-Nic bike. This was a nice bike in its own way, but still heavy and somewhat cumbersome to take on a train.
Being an engineer, and having an inventive mind, he set about considering what he could design to solve the problem. He started off from first principles and before settling on a folding bike, he looked at all the conceivable alternatives including a personal portable airship that would stow into a suitcase. Very sensibly he kept within the bounds of reason and started designing the first truly portable folding bike.
Using his training and experience from his career as an aero-engineer, at Rolls Royce, the Royal Aircraft Establishment (Farnborough) and de Havillands, he looked at capitalising on the latest aluminium alloys that he had a good working knowledge of. At that time aluminium alloys were not as well developed as they are now, and welding techniques were not suitable for such a delicate structure as an aeroplane or even a bicycle, so everything had to be connected mechanically and sometimes with glue… or to be more precise epoxy resin. Not surprisingly, the resemblance
to some of the structures used in airframe production of the era, was slightly more than coincidental. The first sketches and concepts were conceived on the kitchen table early in the mornings, or in the spare bedroom of the family home, Mimram House, near Welwyn in Hertfordshire, which he had adopted as his office. Once the initial design was done and it was time to start actually making prototypes. There was a convenient building, which was being used as a stable for his wife’s horse and donkey. So new homes were found for the animals, and the partitions
came down, to be re-erected as huge doors at the front on the building, which could swing open on warm days to make a fantastic semi-open workshop, tucked away in a wooded part at the top of the paddock in amongst the mature sweet chestnut trees and oaks…. Not a bad spot for aiding the creative activities that ensued. By 1971 Harry had a few prototypes. These were what he described as flying test beds….and on occasions flying was the operative term; one time Harry returned from a test ride somewhat worse for wear with road rash, having found himself sat on the saddle, pedalling merrily along, when the entire handlebar assembly detached itself, due to a rather rushed and inadequate assembly.
When another prototype was being tested at Leavesden Aerodrome, Harry discovered that to achieve hard cornering, a lean angle of about 67 was required. His prototype was just shy of the required angle, and in front of a collection of VIPs, he took a spill on the apron in front of the control tower! It was about this time that Harry’s initial design was embellished by a commercial artist in order to present it for entry in to the Japanese Bicycle Design Competition. The enhanced design was submitted under the working title of “The Skate”. In this
early form, it was not the winner, but was a realistic contender. Harry also submitted the Patent Application and amongst some of the detail in the application there were some concepts, which had materials, technology and production techniques been more advanced, the end product could have been quite close to what we are designing currently. Indeed, some of the features of the earliest Bickerton Portable have been used by most folding bikes made subsequently. Things like the offset bottom bracket, the internally abutted hinge and
the extended seatpost all draw on some of Harry’s early design work.
In 1971 two Australian academics, the Cummings, from Oxford University decided to make their return trip to Australia in a Morris Minor Traveller. They approached Harry and pleaded to be allowed to buy two of the earliest prototypes…reluctantly, but nevertheless with some pride, Harry prepared the two bikes, one of which had been only just been used for the first launch publicity photography, and they set off travelling across the world. They took photos, sent back letters and at the end of trip had to abandon their Morris Minor in Indonesia, but managed to do the last leg back to Aus with their two Bickerton bikes. Amazingly in 2015 the Cummings sent one of these bikes back to Bickerton Portables, albeit it was not quite complete having sustained a fork failure. After 45 years it was in good enough condition to have a new fork fitted and still be rideable. The second is due to follow soon.
For the next couple of years, Harry made the first generation, moving the production from the old stable to a workshop in a nearby village called Codicote, next to a friendly local engineering company. He employed a number of helpers, some were friends’ children on university holidays, others were keen to get experience with Harry, and indeed I was roped in at weekends and school holidays. It was during this period that the first 300 bikes were made using knife and fork methods, which even included heat treating some of the alloy frame parts in the bottom oven of the family Aga. Harry was directselling these bikes to some wealthy and influential individuals and one of these was an industrialist and entrepreneur called Steve Rowlinson. In 1973 Harry and Steve signed a license agreement for one of
Steve’s companies to manufacture the bikes on a larger scale in Aston, Birmingham. A new company was formed called Bickerton Bicycles Ltd and global sales commenced. To cut a long story short Steve’s group of companies failed in the recession of 1977 and by 1978 Harry had recovered the rights to Bickerton and licensed another company in Australia to make and sell the bikes. Sadly, they too fell by the wayside after a couple of years, and in 1980 all the rights came back to Harry for a second time. Production continued all through this at the factory in Birmingham, although it moved from Aston to Solihull at some point. By 1982, Harry and Steve, who had remained friends throughout the travails of the intervening years, decided to form a new company called Bickerton Rowlinson Ltd and within a few months started a new factory at Mundells in Welwyn Garden City. From 1980 I had worked with my father, and with the new company I quickly assumed a management role, eventually running the factory until its closure in 1991. Over the 20-year period from 1971 to 1991 hundreds of thousands of Bickerton bikes were produced or assembled in factories all over the world: England, Australia, Germany, Sweden and USA. By 1989, in order to remain profitable we had tried to diversify, by importing Dahon bikes under the Bickerton brand, and brought in some early mountain bikes from the US. This staved off the inevitable for a couple of years, but eventually we closed the factory in 1991 and I continued to work in the bike industry as an importer and/or agent. It was a difficult decision to cease production in 1990, and indeed before closing the factory, the company experimented with composite plastics, even winning a DTI Smart award for its design concept. However, other
THE INN AT PENALLT - CYCLE FRIENDLY ! Located in the beautiful Wye Valley with spectacular views of the Forest of Dean. Fabulous cycling on and off road right from the front door ! On the Lands End John o’ Groats route if coming via South Wales..
January 2016 - The Telegraph Food Team’s 10 favourite British gastro pubs
The bar has a relaxed atmosphere with a wood burning open fire, a cosy restaurant real ales and a well-balanced wine list of over 75 options including white and sparkling wines from local Monmouthshire vineyards. The Inn welcomes all cycling enthusiasts. Secure overnight bike garage available. We also have dedicated dog friendly accommodation and bar.
Penallt, Monmouth, Monmouthshire, NP25 4SE
Broadstone park is a small and family-run campsite between the market towns of Monmouth and Coleford, named after the Neolithic stones and in an area with plenty of options for walking, cycling and other outdoorsy activities. A small spring-fed fly fishery is on sites for guests’ use, open daily from dawn to dusk. Look out for wildlife like deer, rabbits and birds, all in a lovely Welsh/ English border locale among old oak trees and Neolithic stones… welcome to Broadstone Park. Facilities at Broadstone Park include a newly added toilet and shower block and a small camp shop selling local produce groceries such as free-range eggs, burgers and sausages: most of those could be sizzled up on a campfire too... Straight from the rear of the campsite are several woodland walks, one of which takes the curious past the Broad Stone for which Broadstone Park was named. Others cover part of Offa’s Dyke and walks to Monmouth, the River Wyre and local viewpoints like famed Symonds Yat and the kymin Many other walks, cycle easily accessible from the campsite, and both Monmouth and Coleford are around 10 minutes’ drive away
For more information please contact Jeffrey: email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 07980 774 163
folding bikes including Brompton and Dahon were able to capitalise on new materials and technologies, and came up with designs that were better suited to a mass market than Bickerton.
So throughout the period from 1985 to 2011 I worked closely with Dahon and it was in 2011 that an opportunity arose to re-kindle the Bickerton brand. Dahon had been run effectively as three companies, and by 2011 one of the three companies, based in Taiwan and which had been responsible for most of the global sales, marketing and much of the product development, split away and formed a new brand called Tern. Tern was specifically targeted and it left an opening for a second brand. So out of this opportunity I and the colleagues I had been working with for many years decided to re-boot the Bickerton brand.
My team addressed all aspects to get Bickerton back on the market from a newly developed design brief encompassing product development, testing, styling and a comprehensive brand overhaul. With much brainstorming and concentrated effort, the Bickerton brand was re-born. Whilst from a product perspective the initial bikes had to use pre-existing frame technology, the team set about a medium term plan to design and develop a totally new frame platform that was not only advanced, but which would also differentiate Bickerton from all the other folding bikes on the market. Within the company we have a team of excellent designers and engineers. I
have been working with some of the team since the mid 1980s, so they were all wellacquainted with the original products, the design philosophy, the heritage and the style I wanted. So it was just a question of combining all the good things from the historical products with new materials, technologies and design expertise that we had assembled. With more than passing reference to some of Harry Bickerton’s original design ideas the new frame platform was launched to great acclaim at the Taipei show in March 2016 and presented to the trade at Eurobike. The new frame is called the Bickerton Argent. The design pays homage to Harry’s original, having a distinctive box section frame tube (originally called the fuselage). The Argent has a larger cross section than any of the other frames that have come out of the design office before. This provides a number of key advantages. A larger cross section means that for the same strength a thinner gauge tubing can be used without compromising strength. Added to this the squaring of the corners provides extra rigidity, which more than compensates for the thinner walls and gives a torsional stiffness. It also makes for a perfect partnership with an “internal” hinge. The hinge’s abutments plug into the inside of the frame tubing. The abutment itself is profiled so that the two faces interlock, where the two halves meet, to form a good joint giving it total integrity. The shape of the abutments is designed to have a built in adjustment, so that with use and wear, the hinge continues to function and effectively self-adjusts. Added to these advantages the
main pivot pin of the hinge is a single rod of high grade stainless steel mounted in four Igus bushings, which are a tolerance fit into the shoulder brackets of the hinge. Lastly for the Argent, Bickerton have developed a new geometry, called Vantage Geometry which gives the rider a more upright riding position than the previous bike geometry. This is not only very comfortable and efficient, but also makes it easier to see, which helps when riding around town, or even for looking over hedges as you go past. So in conclusion, Bickerton Portables has a long and fascinating story behind it. The brand combines history, heritage, experience, design capability, modern manufacturing and materials. The new bikes starting with the Argent are moving folding bike technology forward to lead the market. 45 years after the original Bickerton Portable was conceived, a third generation of Bickerton Portable is ready to take its place proudly alongside other high calibre folding bikes already on the market, and Bickerton think they will give the competitors more than a run for their money.
A Brief History of
Depending on the country, the Bickerton Argent will be available from the autumn in three variants priced between ÂŁ500 and ÂŁ1100.
THE LIGHT BLUE WOLFSON £1340
clean-styled, lightweight, responsive, tig welded Reynolds 853 set-up is ideal for road riding and Sportive events
The Light Blue built its first bike in Cambridge in 1895 and the Wolfson is certainly a contemporary brand ambassador. Fast handling and variable size sports geometry makes the Wolfson the weapon of choice for the modern man of steel.
Frame and Forks
Reynolds 853 is quality steel. The air-hardening process toughens it post heating. This permits thinner tubing for lower weight while retaining good resistance against fatigue. The frame features a custom Bi-oval downtube to reduce lateral bottom bracket flex and improve power transfer to the rear wheel. The sloping top tube design allows comfortable bike set ups and rider position options. The frame offers suitable clearance for wider tyres and mudguards if required, utilising the concealed mounting points on the inside of the fork legs and seatstays. The forks are lightweight and carbon-bladed. There are snap on mounts for externally routed, full-length brake outers making it easy to service.
Groupset, Wheels and Finishing Kit
Shimano 105 parts have reached an impressively high standard. The compact 50/34 chainset means you’re unlikely to spin out. The brakes are Tektro which do the job just about fine. Halo's Evaura wheelset is another great component choice. They are very much in vogue with their wider 24mm rim section to suit wider tyres. Tubeless ready, lightweight (1,566g per pair) and comfortably compliant with their 22mm depth. The rear wheel also features Halo's relatively unusual 16/8E spoking system which allows a particularly wide-spaced left hand flange and well-balanced spoke tensions for enhanced lateral rigidity. The Light Blues haven't skimped on tyres either - fitting the increasingly popular 700x25C Schwalbe Duranos delivering a great compromise between sporting performance, durability and everyday usability. The secure Twin bolt seatpost is a breeze to adjust and the Gusset R-series saddle is noticeably padded.
The much-eulogised steel ride is immediately evident. It’s quick to get going and gives a good dialogue with the terrain.
Minimal weight feeds the bike’s onwards journey with no sense of losing momentum due to flex. It feels light and lively, taking the edge off vibrations. We happily road uphill out of the saddle, enjoying its spritely nature, though something beyond Tektro would have inspired further confidence on the faster descents. In short- a classic top-grade steel ride; well-specced and with a classy finish.
November November2016 2016
THE LIGHT BLUE WOLFSON Â£1340
105 WOLFSON SPECIFICATIONS
Tig welded Reynolds 853 steel
Carbon with alloy steerer
Genetic Creed - alloy
Genetic SLR - hollow-forged 7075 alloy
Gusset R-series Black Jack
Genetic Syngenic - twin bolt alloy
Shimano 105 5800
Shimano 105 5800
Shimano 105 5800 11spd
Shimano 105 5800 50/34 - Hollowtech
Shimano 105 5800 11-28 11spd
Dual Pivot - Tektro R737 Quartz
Halo Evaura - 6 pawl with 16/8E rear spoking system
Schwalbe Durano 25C with anti-puncture
Cambridge Blue or Flat Black
50, 53, 56, 59 or 62cm
8.75kg/19 lbs (59cm)
November November2016 2016
1h 41mins, action/thriller
Elephant Gun Films
Contains adult content
Alleycats is available on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital Download
lleycats is the first British feature film (there have been US ones) to realistically represent the world of alleycat racing which happens in major cities across the world. These races are underground, dangerous and illegal, usually taking place on busy streets at rush hour.
Bike courier Chris (Josh Whitehouse of Northern Soul and Mr Burberry) witnesses a murder at the hands of a high-profile member of Parliament (John Hannah). His instinct is to jump on his bike and ride away, but lingering too long he gets embroiled in a world of corruption, political power and blackmail, ultimately leading to his murder. Chris' sister Danni (Eleanor Tomlinson), driven by an obsessive desire to find those responsible, gets ensnared in the web of intrigue herself, though possesses the qualities of an unlikely heroine to get in the saddle and steer the plot to the inevitable satisfactory end.
High-adrenalin races through the streets of Brick Lane are quite thrilling, enhanced with a decent soundtrack. Narrative can get a bit flimsy but the colourful glimpses into the sub culture of couriers’ lives engages the interest, especially if you like bike watching. In fact, one of the most attractive characters is Danni’s stead- a Light Blue Trinity Fixie Reynolds 531 custom-build. One of the original batch of 100, it is custom built with leopard print bar tape and denim and leopard faux fur saddle. Light Blue received increasingly more requests for the Trinity Fixie so got producing, both as a frame and a complete bike including a full chrome plated colour option. Co-star is a custom assembled Surly Steam Roller. I’m raving about the bikes too much but the ride is a major part of the film, as it is for couriers.
A classic styled, retro, track frameset. Brazed, lugged and fashioned using Reynolds 531 double butted tubing. With a 1" ITA headset, 120mm spaced horizontal track dropouts and 68mm BSA threaded bottom bracket, this frameset can be built as either traditional fixed wheel or single speed bike. Drilled for brake front and rear. Supplied with headset and stem. Dark Blue with 1/2 chrome stays.
The Light Blue Trinity Frameset ÂŁ699.99 or Full Chrome ÂŁ899.99
Biomaxa is a new range of professional lubricants, grease and chamois. Inspired and sourced from nature yet developed with cutting edge science and precision for the benefit of all cyclists. This has delivered our unique Biomaxa Biofilm™ coating the chain to give you exceptional performance. Road cyclists, track racers and triathletes love the smooth and fast feel of the world’s fastest drip lubricant. Urban commuters love the all weather protection, and the fact it is made with a natural product – lanolin. Mountain bikers, downhillers and enduro riders love the one lube for all conditions, p the natural products on the chain whilst in the wilderness, and of course the longevity.
bicycle biolubricants and chamois creams @biomaxauk
: % 20 0 E V 2 SA CW
A world class Bicycle Lubricant with an Ecological edge.
iomaxa, a bicycle lubricants product company, has just launched its products into the UK market. The company are committed to delivering exceptional cycling performance and protecting the environment. All of the products are made from Lanolin taken from merino wool, a renewable resource and 100% biodegradable and truly natural. “Whilst it is great to deliver a non-synthetic product to the market, it is important that the product really performs in the real world” said Matthew Forbes of Forge Group the importer of the Biomaxa suite of products.
Developed from sheep wool wax (Lanolin), Biomaxa is a natural bio-lubricant. It has excellent natural properties including being a great water barrier. It acts as a dry lube so doesn’t attract dirt to your chain and has a superb natural ability to grip giving unrivalled longevity. The benefit of this being Biomaxa is not going to wash off in the worst of conditions. In 2014 it was tested by Frictions Facts in the USA and was benchmarked as being the best liquid lube ever tested beating major brands which had been through the same test. When you are out on a long ride and riding through puddles, you can be confident you are doing as little damage to the environment as possible while getting the best result for your own riding. The lanolin formulation is safe on all materials including carbon. Biomaxa won’t attack or degrade any of your bike parts.
Biomaxa Bicycle Bio-lubricant – What you need to know A natural bio-lubricant, its formulation penetrates deep into the chain for smooth operation, superior corrosion resistance and enhanced life. • One lube for wet & dry conditions • Biodegradable • Outstanding longevity • Extremely low friction – independently tested as the best by Friction Facts • Race-proven by world champion riders • Specialized chain guide cap for accurate lubrication delivery • Super smooth and very quiet
The current product range consists of chain lube, general purpose grease and two variants of chamois cream. All products have been extensively tested and proven in road cycling, triathlon, time trialling, mountain biking, cyclocross and BMX and are available at www.biomaxa.co.uk
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…
got my bike out over the summer and enjoyed cycling during the heatwave. However, it’s gone a bit chilly and miserable now. I don’t want to be a fair weather cyclist but I’m not sure how long I can keep pretending I’m enjoying it You will enjoy it – plenty of people do - as long as you are prepared physically, and approach it with a ‘smile and a wonder at the ways of the world’ attitude rather than a ‘grin and bear it’ one. The sky is beautiful at this time of year, and all sorts of amazing sights can be seen as autumn emerges and develops into winter. It’s a time of fascinating change. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; autumn is my favourite time of year for cycling. You don’t have to get all slimy sweating sun cream off and squinting into the sun. You can wrap up to keep warm, and you can enjoy feeling like you’re making the most of life and what’s around you all year around.
Layers, lights, and waterproofs will keep you safe, seen and comfy – trying to make yourself as visible as possible in these darker months is important, but so is feeling comfortable and happy, with enough clothes to keep you, your fingers and toes, and your head feeling warm and fuzzy. A buff is the most adaptable accessory in the world and can keep your neck, ears, head, chin, and even your nose toasty.
grassy verge – all these things can bring a smile to your face even in the most miserable of showers.
There will be times you really want those ‘showers’ to go away, but persevere and you’ll learn to accept them, and be thankful for a cold but clear day. Nothing is much fun in the rain to be honest, and cycling can actually be better than driving – I’ve got wetter walking from a car to a building than cycling ten miles in the rain! It’s all about the waterproofs. These darker months can be draining, or they can be uplifting and eyeopening, depending on how you look at it. Be prepared, expect the worst, and everyday you’ll discover it’s not as bad as you think it’s going to be. You might even start to enjoy it!
LOOK AND FEEL
A good jacket is essential
November October 2016 November 2016 2016
Think about how you interact with the world around you. When it’s sunny does your head rise up, a bounce come into your step, do you look around more and see what’s around you? Why not try and make this happen when it’s cloudier and darker too – things are harder to see but can be more rewarding. Look out for foxes, whether you’re in a rural or urban environment you’re bound to see them. Be shocked at their audacity. Bats, owls, the smell of rain on the tarmac or
Training and Nutrition:
Joys of Winter by Tim Ramsden. Tim is an Association of British Cycling Coaches (ABCC) Level 3 Coach and owner of www.blackcatcyclecoaching.com
elieve it or not, for many cyclists the November/December period of the year is a motivating one. Sure, the weather is getting colder, the days shorter – but isn’t that a perfect time to plan for the next year’s cycling, dreaming of summer while moving into winter? This is a great time for social riding, getting your winter riding equipment sorted out, and looking ahead to an event/ride/tour that you are planning in 2017. It could also be time to put a marker down by establishing your fitness level in order to return to the same assessment in the spring – hopefully, fitter than you are right now after a winter of quality cycling-specific sessions!
So…testing your fitness is relatively straightforward, and really depends how deeply you wish to go into the subject! At the top level, cycling coaches and university sports science departments offer physiological testing, ranging from simple power tests (using a power meter to measure the number of watts you can produce at max effort or lactate threshold in order to produce training zones) to finding out your VO2 max and lactate levels. These tests range from around the cost of two decent tyres to considerably more…but if you are interested in your own ability and, crucially, how you can increase it then they are worth the investment! At the next level down, you may well be one of the growing number of riders to own your own power meter: if so, there is a wealth of information out there about how to test yourself. Earlier in the year (March issue) I described how to establish your max heart rate (a big hill…and a good warm up…) using a basic heart rate monitor. There are, as you can see, lots of ways to establish fitness and one of the simplest ones is to take a road circuit that you know takes you around 3040:00 to complete, have a 10-20:00 warm up, and ride it as hard as you can, aiming not to “blow up” before the end. Then note the time, along with the speed and the conditions at the time. Ideally, do this twice – have 3 days’ recovery between them, though – in two different sets of conditions (windier/colder etc…shouldn’t be difficult in autumn). Got a heart rate monitor? Record max heart rate and average heart rate too. Note it all down, put it away for the winter…...
Ideally, you want to be able to better this time significantly by the end of March next year. How? By making the most of your training time. Best way of doing this? Invest in something you can use indoors, or invest in membership to somewhere you can use indoor bikes! A basic turbo trainer, or a set of rollers (turbo much better, unless you can get rollers with resistance settings), or a sit up and beg cheap gym bike – all of these will help you improve, and when you couple any of them with a heart rate monitor you really will see a big difference if you train frequently (even 3 sessions of 30-35:00 a week will bring improvements of you haven’t done this type of training before). Alternatively, find some like-minded cyclists and bring your turbos to each other’s houses. Or, find a local club that runs turbo sessions – there are lots of these. Next month – Santa brings you the five best snow-busting indoor training sessions!
GIVE YOURSELF THE WINNING EDGE
by Kirsti LeCheminant
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Cyclist’s Recipe Sophie's Sassy Strawberry and Greek Yogurt Breakfast like Sophie Thornhill, Paralympic gold medallist and record holder Sophie and pilot Helen Scott set a new Paralympic record to win gold in the women's B 1,000m time trial. Sophie has enjoyed a phenomenal rise to the top of the para-cycling world, since joining the GB Cycling Team in May 2013 at the age of 17. Within twelve months, the visually impaired cyclist had won two world titles, in the tandem kilo and sprint, and broken two world records in the process at her debut UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships in Aguascalientes, Mexico, a feat she repeated in 2015 at the UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships in Apeldoorn, Netherlands. The 2016 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships saw Thornhill, and pilot Helen Scott, add to her medal haul with silver medals in both events.
Nutritional facts per serving •
t is important to “Refuel, Repair & Rehydrate” the body with food to aid recovery after a training session (ideally within 60 minutes). Many people lose their appetite after high intensity exercise and struggle to eat solids so a liquid drink such as a smoothie is a good way to recover. A combination of milk and Greek yogurt provides protein to support muscles; the berries and honey supply quick acting carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores and the fluid helps to rehydrate the body after sweating.
Benefits Improve recovery from gym session Ingredients •
300ml Greek yogurt
1 tbsp. honey
Milk to top up
The Food Champions project is a collaboration between The National Lottery and the country’s top sports nutritionists from the English Institute of Sport (EIS). National Lottery players raise £36m each week for projects and sports funding allows 1,300 elite athletes to train full-time and benefit from worldclass facilities, coaching and leading medical and scientific advice through organisations like the EIS.
November November2016 2016
Simply blend all of the ingredients together
From the Workshop
Change Your Brake Pads
First move the brake away from the wheel by releasing the cam. Generally, itâ€™s done on the side of the brake. Now you can remove the front wheel
Normally you donâ€™t need to dismantle the brake or cable. Unscrew the brake shoes with a allen/ hex key 4 mm (5/32)
Remove the brake pad, using some force
Clean the brake shoe well
There are several types of brake pads. Here is a specific model for carbon rims
Put the brake shoe on the brake and tighten slightly
Make the pads touch the rim evenly by centring with a screw generally situated over the brake
by Martial Prévalet - Martial is a mechanical engineer who has produced articles for car and bike magazines, including Le Sport Vélo, Bike Magazine and Cyclosport
Brake shoe sand pads need cleaning. Note they are side (L or R) specific. Shown left is a traditional brake pad which we change completely. Right is brake shoe with pad, only the pad is replaced
To change the brake pad, remove the little screw
Put on a new pad
Add thread locker to the screw before retightening. Without this we risk the pad coming off
Make initial set up by aligning the pad on the zone of braking on the rim. Now tighten the shoe well on the brake arm
Brakes can be noisy. Before tightening the shoe place a piece of cardboard between pad and rim. The front of the pad will now touch the rim first (called toein) and the noise disappears
Adjust the cable tension. Remember to reactivate the cam
November November 2016 2016
To increase braking power or to change to carbon wheels you have to change your brake pads. It’s easier with brake shoes as you only need to replace the pads when worn out
48 | Cycling World
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LETTER OF THE MONTH Mr Ray Wallace of Whitley Bay
wins the Velo Hinge Home Bicycle Storage
My local rides are in Northumberland beyond Morpeth. I can ride all day long and hardly see a car; great scenery, ancient sites, history and coastline. This year I did a trip to Australia and the South Island of New Zealand. Now there are places to cycle- hundreds of miles of empty roads, loads of youth hostels and stunning scenery. Last May I was in southern Scotland- Galloway, Arran, Kintyre, Islay and Jura using hostels. A great break. I thoroughly recommend a trip to your readers. Happy cycling!
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London to Paris
with Air Ambulance Consultant Dr Pam Chrispin, Consultant with the East Anglian Air Ambulance, is used to the speed of a helicopter. However, she is more than happy to jump on a bike to raise money for her Air Ambulance. With Global Adventure Challenge she headed for Paris… Dr Pam is a Consultant with the East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) and a Consultant in Anaesthesia and Intensive Care at the West Suffolk Hospital. The East Anglian Air Ambulance is a helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) operating throughout East Anglia. Originally from Liverpool, Pam now lives in Norfolk and has been involved with EAAA for over seven years. Pam says: ‘I love the whole ethos of the East Anglian Air Ambulance - seeking to be the best at what we do and bringing excellent clinical skills and experience to the patient. It is a huge privilege to play a part in saving someone’s life and I am delighted to be raising money for such a worthwhile charity’.
London to Paris 19th to 23rd July 2016 Arrival in London - 19th July As I arrived at my hotel in Croydon, the night before I began my cycle from London to Paris, I was feeling very nervous despite having completed a similar challenge last year. But this year the route was longer, hillier, and the weather was expected to be very hot. I had met up with some great people cycling last year, and
so we agreed to do it together again as a group of six – and along with two first-timers, we made up a team of eight. After some serious pasta loading it was early to bed on a very hot night, although I suspected that none of us would get much sleep.
20th July – Day 1 Croydon to Dunkirk
An early start this morning with departure set for 6:30 am. I busy myself with last minute bike checks, decisions about rain jackets, final packing, and repacking of suitcases and saddle bags, all the while feeling rather sick. After a brief panic about the location of my passport – I join the one hundred and three cyclists taking part in the challenge, and we set off from the hotel grounds, spilling out into an untidy peloton onto the roads of Surrey.
The first day of the challenge is billed as the hardest, with over ninety miles scheduled, mostly through the ups and downs of the Kent countryside. Despite being given an excellent route booklet, and having the route on our Garmins, we manage to take a small detour which results in the whole day exceeding one hundred miles! Still, great friends are made in
adversity and we ultimately enjoy some jolly conversations and motivational pep talks with the pretty villages and orchards providing welcome distraction. Eventually we reach the top of the North Downs – and I have to admit that I was somewhat defeated at points and had two brief periods of walking. I am later relieved to discover I wasn’t the only one. From then on it is a reasonable cruise downhill to Dover and onto the Dunkirk ferry; and the channel hop provides the perfect opportunity to refuel and have a snooze! On arrival in Dunkirk, we take another small detour and suffer a team puncture which means that the fourteen miles to the hotel takes slightly longer than anticipated. I am surprised to find that cycling on the right feels surprisingly straightforward, even at roundabouts.
21st July – Day 2 Dunkirk to Douai The second day of the ride is supposed to be the ‘easy’ day – with only seventy miles to Douai to cover. I wake up to a gloriously sunny day and indulge in a leisurely breakfast of cheese, ham and croissants washed down with a protein gel. We set off through the beautiful French countryside – all rolling hills, big skies, and barley fields --- soon someone starts singing ‘Alouette’, followed by the ‘Marseillaise’ and it begins to feel wonderful. It is also a joy when the landscape changes to flower-filled villages, where even the tiniest roads have great surfaces and motorists are
forgiving to cyclists. We break for a coffee and a facilities stop in one of the villages. We are close to the Belgian border now, and echoes of the Somme are starting to appear, although it will be tomorrow before we come across the sobering sight of some of the many WWI cemeteries scattered across this part of France. It certainly puts our ‘suffering’ in perspective and gives me just the motivation I need to reach our hotel in Douai. By now every part of my body is aching, particularly my arms, feet and bottom. After a pizza in the village, a small beer and some painkillers I head to bed in the hope I will be somewhat refreshed in the morning.
22nd July – Day 3 Douai to Soissons
At lunch I take the opportunity to ask our mechanics about a squeak I have developed, which turns out to be an un-mendable shoe problem. The mechanic makes a temporary fix
and assures me it will get me to Paris. The last few miles of the day are depressingly hilly which seems unfair after such a long day. I’m convinced I will have to walk up most of it. But, thanks to a team mate’s stern encouragement, I manage to cycle all the way up and then enjoy the exhilarating freewheel down the other side. At the outskirts of town, we realise that we have no idea how to get to the hotel, but luckily with some skilful guidance and direction from the Global Adventure Challenge team we arrive – exhausted. My whole body really aches now and I don’t feel like eating very much this evening. I force myself to eat a few peanuts as I know I’m going to need a lot of energy tomorrow.
Today, we have ninety-five miles to cover which includes some hard climbing. The sun is still shining and I am finding it very hot, especially in the afternoons. We all set off together but soon everyone settles into their own pace and form little groups, swapping leads every few miles. My legs feel tired today and I find it particularly challenging during the hill climbs. However, the villages are even prettier than before, with fortified farmhouses and hanging baskets, so I concentrate on the view and not my aching limbs.
23rd July – Day 4 Soissons to Paris Today is my wedding anniversary, and I am going to Paris, but without my husband. It is seventy-eight miles to the Louvre and a further five to the Eiffel Tower. We set off early and are only overtaken by three male riders before the first water stop, and between the watering hole and lunch manage to hold the green jersey most of the way. In fact, we arrive an hour early and drink coffee in a local bar. Throughout the trip, lunches have been delicious with hot and cold buffets produced from the back of a van. Having a proper meal in the middle of the day makes a massive difference to your energy levels.
After lunch, we enter an urban area and the traffic gets heavier. A combination of tiredness and someone else being inattentive leads to me clipping a back wheel and falling. I have grazes and bruises and the bike is a bit bent, but thankfully still rideable. There is still one more massive hill which we stop halfway up to get our breath back, but amazingly I haven’t walked since the first day. At our last water stop, the six of us regroup and the boys shepherd us in through the suburbs, with our most experienced club rider leading and our strongest rider acting
as sweeper at the back. I find that I’m less terrified than last year and stay clipped in most of the time, but alertness is required at all times. Disconcertingly there are more hills to climb and worse, the route is closed due to a security alert. This means we have to dodge the traffic on the Rue de Rivoli to get to the Louvre in time to join the procession to the Eiffel Tower. The next few miles are exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure – a hundred cyclists, mostly in matching shirts, ducking and weaving through heavy Paris traffic. We are clapped and cheered along the Champs Elysee and around the Arc de Triomphe, which feels magical after so many miles. Even motorists stop for us and we all arrive safely at the Eiffel Tower , for champagne, medals and that iconic photo. Completing the 350-mile, not to mention 15000 feet of climbing, cycle ride from London to Paris has been an amazing experience and a huge personal challenge. I am also enormously proud to have raised nearly £2000 for the East Anglian Air Ambulance – a charity very close to my heart, and one that has helped save the lives of many cyclists during its fifteen years of service.
Big House Holiday Lets Big House Holiday Lets are the specialists in group self catering holidays in the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean. Six houses each sleep 20+ people with secure bike storage, washing and hot tubs.
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Andy & Amanda Game Domaine de Lasfonds Sallevezines 12240 Rieupeyroux France Tel: 07768 – 101 872 (UK) +33 (0) 6 89 47 31 10 (FR) email@example.com www.sallevezines.net
Gites & Chambres D’Hote in the heart of the Aveyron countryside, with some of the most scenic cycling routes in France. 2 acres of garden with orchard and fabulous views. Versatile accommodation, sleeping up to 12 people – ideal for families and groups. Breakfast and evening meals can be provided. For longer cycle routes, we are able to drop off or pick up you & your bikes in our large trailer. We also have a workshop and barns for maintenance and secure storage.
AVEYRON ADVENTURE Matt Ellis of Vanelli Cycling lives in France. He is on a continual search for “La France Profonde”
hen choosing a destination for a cycling holiday, France will always figure highly. Arguably France is seen as the spiritual home of cycling. Perhaps it’s because of the legendary Tour De France, not only the world’s toughest bike race but one of the world’s hardest sporting endurance events, or the simple fact that France has some of the most culturally and geographically diverse scenery in the world. The fact that France has mostly favourable weather, great roads and world-renowned cuisine makes it clear as to why France is one of the most visited countries in the world. Many cyclists will head straight to the Alps or the Pyrenees for their obvious mountain challenges. Who amongst us doesn’t want to put our tyres on the same tarmac as our heroes of “Le Tour”. Many will also head for the southern regions of Provence or the Alpes- Maritime. It is hard to argue against a cycle ride in the morning and then lounging with the glitterati on a Cote D’Azur beach in the afternoon.
However, those searching for a different side of France, those who long for a quieter and more quintessential French experience may seek out La France Profonde. La France Profonde represents many things to many people. It conjures up images of an almost bygone era, a way of life unhindered by the everyday stress of the modern world. Visions of an agricultural landscape of hidden farmsteads, small market towns and a culture wellpreserved and strongly defended. There must be hundreds of French towns, dozens of French departments and several regions that could claim to represent La France Profonde. For me there is one department of France that would sit comfortably and proudly with this title and that is the Aveyron. Located at the north of the Midi Pyrenees and sandwiched between the mountains of the Aubrac/Auvergne and the Mediterranean coastline. It’s a landscape of deep gorges, torrential rivers, lush forests and limestone plateaus. A rich land of soaring vultures, untouched pastures and woodland boasting wild boar and deer. Alongside the natural beauty, there are some of France’s loveliest villages and towns.
Given all these amazing attributes there can be no better way of discovering it than by bike. Obviously it would be near impossible to cover what is one of largest departments of France in a week or even a month. Plus, any attempt to even try would in fact defeat the object of cycling here in the first place. The Aveyron demands that time is taken. Time taken to discover small areas one at a time. Time taken to soak in the tranquillity and unrushed way of life. One of the Aveyron’s hidden gems is the village of Peyrusse le Roc. Peyrusse is perched at an altitude of
450m. It is situated above a deep ravine and rock face at which stands one of France’s most remarkable sights. Aloft a vertiginous piece of rock are two towers overlooking what was once a silver-rich village of several thousand habitants. Nestled below are the ruins of the “old” Peyrusse. Walk amongst the old buildings; church, hospital, synagogue, bell tower and the barbican. Over the last few decades this site has gradually been opened up and reclaimed from the forest and greenery that had engulfed it for centuries. This is a truly awe-inspiring place of spirit, almost Tolkienesque. It takes very little imagination to see how prosperous and influential this now rural backwater used to be. The “new” village is only a donkey-tracked 100 metres above the ruins. Comprising of a great restaurant serving excellent homemade cuisine, owned by the local Marie and his wife, where you can always expect a warm welcome. If out of hours or out of season, the village square or “Place des Treize Ventes” welcomes picnickers. Visit the local pottery or have a drink at the village’s other bar with its lovely views of the valley below. For those using Peyrusse as their base, there is the free camping car facility plus several lovely gites for rent. The valley road below is one of the main approaches to Peyrusse. It is a 5km climb starting from the wheat fields of the Diege valley, climbing up through the trees to the village itself. For those Strava addicts it is a well-used and well-respected climb. Its opening gradient starts out at nine percent but settles at an average of five percent. Don’t be surprised if you are passed on your way up by one of the local racers who commonly frequent this climb, or even the NZ triathlon team who have chosen Peyrusse as its training base over the years. For those seeking a more leisurely approach to the village then the plateau road from Montbazens is the other choice. This road across gives no hint to what delights await the tourists here. It’s a gentle ride through green fields and quiet lanes that drop down to the village. Another beguiling old village is that of Belcastel. Officially a “Plus Beaux village” it sits on the banks of the Aveyron river. Belcastel too had fallen into ruin but was rejuvenated by a famous French architect who purchased the chateau in 1974. This was the catalyst for the restoration of the rest of the village by himself and the locals. What we have now is a magnificent medieval village. It is much busier than Peyrusse, but that’s not to its detriment. It too has a fine restaurant, a hotel and a charming campsite by the riverside. If cycling down to Belcastel, make sure the descent is savoured because all ways out of the village are up. These ascents are short and steep or they are long and steepish; they are all hard. For those needing a little pampering, or simply a break
from the cycling, then visit the newly refurbished spa facility at Cransac, just ten miles east of Peyrusse and fifteen miles north of Belcastel. Cransac is the juxtaposition its former provincial and mining town self. The spa complex itself is super modern, offering all types of thermal treatment. Just over the hillside are the remnants of one of Europe’s biggest open cast coal mines. Now it has all been replanted with bike trails and footpaths added. So typical of France, its parks and municipal buildings are immaculately kept. It’s only the number of for sale signs on the houses that betray the economic issues facing this corner of France. The population of this valley doesn’t exceed ten thousand yet still there are four well-supported cycling clubs involved in all events from road racing to sportive to charity rides. Thirty rather lumpy miles south from Cransac is the splendid bastide town of Villefranche de Rouergue. Villefranche is one of the best preserved bastides of which there are many in the Southwest of France. With its riverside setting, newly refurbished town square, fountain, majestic church towering above the town and myriad of small streets with many good shops, Villefranche is delightful. The town also boasts two very good bike shops should you need any spares or repair. It is also home to Team 12, one of the strongest cycling and running clubs in the Midi Pyrenees. Because of its size, geography and wealth of sights and attractions we have only scratched the surface of the Aveyron and why it ticks so many boxes from a cycling point of view. It is because of its other attractions that the Aveyron is ideal. For those wanting a super hard, mileeating and hilly training camp, then look no further. The vast amount of 5km to 10km long hills will test the fittest of rider as any vertical height climbed in the Alps can be matched here over the same distance. Also for those of us with partners or children who don’t fancy donning lycra and pounding the roads, but instead prefer a more leisurely holiday; you won’t feel short-changed. A holiday experience here could change your perception of France completely and make you think you have finally found La France Profonde! Though still worth looking for somewhere a bit more profunde, of course.
Vanelli Cycling has its French in base in Peyrusse Le Roc. Vanelli Cycling are suppliers of quality cycle clothing to teams and individuals at unbeatable prices. Visit us on www.vanellicycling.com
Nearest airports are Rodez and Brive
Eating in Peyrusse Le Roc
Restaurant Savignac 0033 5 65804391
www.potterie2peyrusse.weebly.com 5 65431995
Eating and Hotels in Belcastel
Restaurant du Vieux Pont 0033 5 65645229 Camping and caravanning Le Bourg 0033 5 65639561
Cransac Thermal Spa
www. cransac-les-thermes.fr 0033 5 65630680
Bike shops in Villefranche De Rouergue Chronocycles www.chronocycles.fr Bousquie Cycles www.bousguiecycles.fr
Casa Zaguan Cycling
otel Casa zaguan is situated in the ideal place for a cycling holiday half way up the famous cycling road from the coast to mount Teide in the highest town in Spain and with direct access on to the best cycling routes in Europe. No busy roundabouts or junctions to negotiate from the coast. TenerifeÂ´s warm winter climate, good network of roads and light traffic ensure you get the best of your visit and the hotels unparalleled postion ensure you get the best possible cycling experience. The hotel is British run and from the 1st November until the end of May organise 4 and 7 night all inclusive guided cycling holidays. The hotel is situated at 1450M above sea level and is home to many top European cyclists and Triathletes throughout the winter months. British owned and run by Steve and Angela Casa Zaguan provides a homely base with spa facilities and excellent fully supported guided tours. The hotel is situated in the heart of the village and there are several typical Spanish bars where you can relax with a beer or a glass of local wine.
RCN Val de Cantobre
RCN Val de Cantobre lies in the middle of the unspoilt conservation area, Les Grands Causses. The terraced camping site offers you a breath-taking panoramic view of limestone plateaus and wooded hills. The landscape is adorned with historic towns and villages and the area is perfect for walkers and for cyclists. Take beautiful cycling trips to the rugged Grand Causses plateaus and marvel at the breath-taking views and steep cliffs. Go parasailing, canyoning or canoeing, visit the famous Viaduct of Millau or the caves of the Roquefort-cheese. There is also many wildlife as vultures, beavers and orchids. In low season there is even an English Wildlife guide on site.
Aveyron - Nant Tel: 0033(0)565584300 Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mallorca Test Yourself in Style Petra Kravos, blogger at behealthynow.co.uk, finds good living while cycling in Mallorca
f you love cycling you will love Mallorca. Mallorca is a cyclist’s paradise and this is due to several reasons, one of them being the weather – it has 300 days of sunshine a year! Another reason is the landscape which is really diverse – you will find rolling low hills, a pan-flat plain, and a mountain range. This kind of landscape makes Mallorca suitable for all types of cyclists, both amateur and professional.
© Formentor Beach
I didn’t realise how popular Mallorca was for cycling until I got there. Lycra-dressed cyclists are everywhere, and cycling tourism is definitely a big thing in Mallorca. For this reason, their roads are well-maintained and cycle hire shops are not difficult to find. My boyfriend and I hired bikes for three days and cycled from our base in Puerto Pollenca.
Day 1 Puerto Pollenca > Cap de Formentor > Puerto Pollenca
Distance in km
At breakfast we discussed plans for the day, looking at the map with cycling routes which was given to us at the tourist information centre. We decided to go for the route which would allow us to see some nice beaches on the way and would take us to the end of a peninsula with the lighthouse, Cap de Formentor. The waiter curiously asked us where we were cycling to and after we mentioned Cap de Formentor he said in surprise: “Really??”. It’s strong, he said in broken English, meaning it’s difficult and steep, showing the incline with his hand. He didn’t believe we were capable of doing it and he tried to persuade us that this was a bad idea. He said it takes 45 minutes by car and by bike it would take much longer. I didn’t feel discouraged at all and I was totally up for the challenge. I knew my fitness levels weren’t that bad, so why not? We told the waiter that we would give it a try and let him know the following day how we got on. After breakfast we prepared our bags, taking lots of water, sunscreen and fruit for energy. Off we went; from Puerto Pollenca we joined the road going towards Cap de Formentor and soon started our ascent, joining other cyclists going towards the same destination. I soon learnt, with satisfaction, that I wasn’t the slowest cyclist, but I also wasn’t the fastest (I cannot compete with the professional cyclists at the end of the day!). My boyfriend was lagging behind and I had to stop and wait for him several times. Too much cheese for breakfast I think, but I don’t think he’s in quite the shape I am, I’m sorry to say. Our first stop was the viewpoint at Mirador de Sa Creueta where we were able to see the El Colomer rock protrude from the water. Up to this point we had completed a 3.3km climb with an elevation of about 220m. This is one of the most difficult parts of the route and once we had a bit of rest we continued downhill, observing cyclists struggling uphill. What was going through my mind then was, ‘we have to come back this way and it’s not going to be easy…’
The scenery and views were no doubt breathtaking, which made the ride really enjoyable. The only downside of the route was the wind, at times quite strong, forcing you to slow down so you don’t get blown off the road. Once we reached the lighthouse, after a final push up, we had a bit of rest with some food to give us energy for the return. Going back felt easier apart from the last climb which I overcame with ease. It was not as difficult as I thought it would be. I was so happy I managed to do it without any difficulties, although it wasn’t easy. I realised that that my leg muscles were quite strong, a result of all the spin classes, lunges and squats. I am sure this is also why my thighs are quite large.
The rest of the route towards the Cap de Formentor was hilly, sometimes going down, sometimes up. We also stopped at Formentor Beach and walked to Cala Figuera, a small and unspoiled beach with crystal clear waters.
Route statistics Distance - 43.080 km Lowest Point - 2 m (at 1.41 km) Uphill - 16.74 km (38.9%) Flat - 9.75 km (22.6%) Total Ascent - 1826 m Highest Point - 233 m (at 18.18 km) Downhill - 16.59 km (38.5%) Max. Height Gain - 231 m
Day 2 Puerto Pollenca > Alcudia > Petra > Sa Pobla > Pollenca > Puerto Pollenca
© Alcudia old town
Distance in km
After lots of climbing on our first day of cycling we decided to take it easy the following day and chose a flatter route, away from the mountains. Our first stop from Puerto Pollenca was Alcudia, old town, where we stopped and walked along the town’s medieval walls. Alcudia is an interesting old town with narrow streets where you will also find the bullfighting ring. We stopped for a freshly squeezed orange juice before continuing to Port d’Alcudia, a resort with the longest beach in Mallorca. After Port d’Alcudia we followed the coastal road, passing Albufera Natural Park and at Can Picafort we turned inland towards Petra where we stopped for a bit of rest and a drink. Petra is a sleepy village in which Junipero Serra (a famous Roman Catholic priest) grew up in the 18th century. For me was an interesting place to visit as it has the same name as me. From Petra we returned to Puerto Pollenca via Muro and Pollenca. This was the longest route we did in Mallorca, totalling almost 80km. Interestingly, it didn’t feel that long and definitely wasn’t difficult apart from some undulating areas. I really enjoyed riding through different towns and experiencing different landscapes.
© Sandy beach in Port d’Alcudia
Distance - 78.930 km Lowest Point - -2 m (at 2.46 km) Uphill - 19.26 km (24.4%) Flat - 41.40 km (52.5%) Total Ascent - 751 m Highest Point - 108 m (at 38.94 km) Downhill - 18.27 km (23.1%) Max. Height Gain - 110 m
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Explore the Scottish Borders
Opens: 17th March 2017 Closes: 31st October 2017
Whether you want to get out and about and explore or just sit back and relax on park you’ll have a fabulous time at Rosetta Holiday Park; a beautifully matured park in the heart of the Scottish Borders. The local area provides some of the best dedicated mountain bike routes in the UK with areas such as Glentress Forest on the outskirts of Peebles, which offers a wide selection of tracks for all standards of riders. • Caravan holidays, touring and camping • Bar & cafe • Walled garden with playground • Games & TV room • Secure bike storage
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Day 3 Puerto Pollenca > Cala Sant Vicenc > Pollenca > Vinyes Mortitx > Puerto Pollenca
© climbing out od Pollenca Distance in km
On day three we cycled from Puerto Pollenca straight to Cala Sant Vicenc, where four small coves huddle together beneath the limestone ridge of Cavall Bernat. Here we walked around, admiring small, pretty beaches and lovely surroundings. We then continued cycling to Pollenca where we went sightseeing. First stop in Pollenca was the socalled Roman bridge which has been heavily restored so little of the original remains. We then visited El Calvari, a mountain with 365 steps which lead to a little church at the top with a view of the town. We trudged those 365 steps from the square below and it was only when coming down that my knees started to complain. It seems that all the Mallorcan activity was a little bit too much for my knees, my left knee in particular, which was giving me some sharp pain. This is a common issue for me and the physiotherapist told me just to continue doing my ‘rehab’ exercises and it will eventually get better. After lunch in Pollenca we continued towards Serra de Tramuntana and its mountains, and soon we started the ascent. As we weren’t left with enough time to do much more cycling for the day we decided to do the climb to the top and then descend. It was a good, long climb which I coped with very well and didn’t experience muscle fatigue like my boyfriend did. If we had more time I would want to follow this route which would have led us to Lluc.
At the end I was so happy with everything we did and achieved. I was really pleased that my knees were able to cope with all the cycling so well and that they let me do so much. This was a real test after last year’s injury in my right knee (damaged cartilage) and I now know what I am capable of and where my limits are. I really loved cycling in Mallorca and would return to conquer the other routes and see more of the island.
Distance - 42.360 km Lowest Point - 1 m (at 0.12 km) Uphill - 12.63 km (29.8%) Flat - 17.25 km (40.7%) Total Ascent - 714 m Highest Point - 387 m (at 26.19 km) Downhill - 12.48 km (29.5%) Max. Height Gain - 386 m
D+ Ultracycling Dolomitica The hardest cycling competition: 606 kilometres across six provinces, with sixteen mountain and Dolomite passes
his mammoth event took place Friday 26th to Sunday 28th August from the new start/finish point of Cison di Valmarino, in the province of Treviso, at the heart of Veneto region, a popular tourist region of Italy. Giorgio Bosi, one of the organizing managers of the event commented “we felt the need to change: we like the idea that, over time, the event becomes itinerant, moving to the various towns of Treviso area which can be found along its course.” Cison di Valmarino is part of the “Finest Villages of Italy” list and welcomed the entrants of the 2016 edition. It is an evocative setting to a competition which filled central Piazza Roma for the whole weekend with its start, finish and side events.
The course of D+ Ultracycling Dolomitica did not change. The competition unwinds along 606 kilometres through Veneto, FriuliVenezia Giulia and Trentino-Alto Adige, crossing six provinces (Treviso, Vicenza, Belluno, Trento, Bolzano and Pordenone) and 76 Municipalities.
There are also the same sixteen mountain and Dolomite passes to climb for a total rise of about sixteen thousand metres: San Pellegrino, Fedaia, Pordoi, Giau and Staulanza are only some of the legendary efforts the entrants have to face.
Omar Di Felice, who won in 2015 in Cordignano, repeated his victory this year in Cison di Valmarino. He is from Rome, 35-years-old, a former professional athlete, who started cycling as a boy inspired by Marco Pantani's feats. His nickname is “Ultracycling Man” and those who have seen him flying along the Dolomitica slopes and finishing his effort after thirty hours of racing (the official timing is 29h38’42”) can
well understand why. “It has been the victory of the heart and determination,” said Di Felice. “I dedicate it to the victims of the earthquake which has destroyed so many dreams and hopes. My presence at D+ Ultracyling Dolomitica was not certain until the day before. I was a bit demotivated knowing that I could no longer win the Italian championship, but then my staff convinced me to take part in the race. The merit of this victory is theirs, too". In the first race of the Italian championship, the “Race Across Italy”, Di Felice fell and had to withdraw. That moment marked the outcome of the national championship: Carlo Brussa from Abruzzi took the lead and kept it to the end. Brussa is a security guard from Abruzzi and a real surprise of the season, he finished D+ Ultracycling Dolomitica fourth in the absolute ranking (32h46’22”). On the victory stand of the day there were also Frenchman Roland Chavent (30h36’27”), second, and Dane Frank Mads (32h03’28”), third. Dorina Vaccaroni won the women’s competition. Former Italian team fencer crossed the finish line in 37h45’04”. Besides reaching the highest step of the women’s podium of the race, which she took part in for the first time, Vaccaroni also won the national Ultracycling title. Mirco Bressanelli from Brescia finished in 55h31’. Bressanelli was born without legs and he crossed the finish line on his handbike after over two days of competition. Disadvantaged during the race by a mechanical fault, Bressanelli achieved a nearly impossible result. Chapeau. Roberto Stocco and Matteo Fantinato were the first to cross the line in Cison di Valmarino on Saturday afternoon, after completing the whole course. The two cyclists from Club Uc Vallà, finished in 28h08’44”, winning the national title in the “Team 2” category, a sort of relay race for two. “We decided to take part in the race only one month ago. It has been hard. We took the wrong turn more than once: the last time we realized it after a three-kilometre descent which we then had to climb back up.”
In the last ten years Cambodia has opened back up, so Neil Wheadon of Cycling UK goes and explores
he natural point of entry into Cambodia is Siem Reap. To the north of the country, being home to many iconic temples, it was a good place to start. Heading out of town, through the trees, walls appeared and as we progressed, an intricately carved entrance gate appeared. Named Victory Gate, it's one of the gateways into the city of Angkor Thom. With its smiling Buddha faces it was a sign of things to come.
The whole complex was rediscovered in 1860 by the French, though as our guide was at pains to point out, not forgotten by the locals. They had taken it upon themselves to clear away the jungle to expose all of the temples. One was left alone so this, Taprohm, was the first to explore. Built in 1186 its walls and buildings are covered in fromage trees, the roots engulfing the walls are striking as their white trunks soar skywards. Onto Bayon temple, some of the original 54 towers remain, each of which has a huge Buddha face on the four sides. Quite an amazing sight.
Finally, Angkor Wat. Built in 1113, it is the most iconic temple in the whole complex. Surrounded by a hand dug moat it is the largest religious temple complex in the world. Intricate carvings adorn the walls and we headed for the highest point. Ridiculously steep stairs marked our ascent into heaven for the central sanctuary where you could walk around the galleries that only important monks and kings in the past were allowed access. Bicycle travel has many advantages.
For folks on coach tours they stick to the honey pot destinations but with a bike we were free to roam and find the silence, and in Banteay Samre temple we found it. This was merely the prelude to Bantreay Srei. Located 20 miles North East of Siem Reap, this small temple complex is amazing, intricate detailed carvings smother the sandstone walls. They look so crisp that they could have been carved yesterday, not a thousand years ago. Lacking the crowds of Angkor Wat, one could really appreciate the magnificence of this remarkable place. Cambodiaâ€™s recent history is never far away. The return to Siem Reap took in the landmine museum. Thousands of tonnes of munitions were dropped by the USA and 30 years ago landmines were everywhere. Designed to maim rather than kill (an injured soldier is more difficult than a dead one) they are still hurting people today on a daily basis. The museum was founded by a former child soldier who has removed nearly 10000 mines and munitions. Siem Reap is for most their sole experience of Cambodia, however for us it was the gateway to the south as we loaded the bikes on a ferry to cross Tonle Sap Lake and the river trip to Battambang Past the floating houses, bobbing bars and Catholic churches, we cruised before experiencing river life first hand. 'It's the best time to see this now' smiled our guide, as during the rainy season all the houses are pulled high out of the water. The result were lines of floating houses ranging from homesteads and shops to a bar with four pool tables. ÂŠ Buddha faces Bayon
The place had a vague fishy smell which wasn't surprising as every conceivable method was being employed to catch them. Net throwing, traps laid along the edge, even electrocution, but the most dramatic were nets suspended from a bamboo frame. Measuring four metres across, these were lowered in and out by a cantilever device, akin to a giant claw dipping into the water. As it lifted the net funnelled any fish into a central bucket. We saw maybe 50 of these in action, were there any fish left to catch? Food was farmed on the water too. Not just fish but pigs and crocodiles. Onwards and up stream, it was getting shallower and narrower and several times we had to push off the bank or off the bottom, but after seven hours we arrived in Battangbang to cycle the short 500 metres to the hotel.
Who turned the oven on? Normally 25 degrees with clear blue skies, at 34 degrees, cloudy and humid, it felt pretty warm. Tarmacked roads are rare in Cambodia, so National Highway 5 was the only way and we would be on this for three days. The ride was flat, very flat and getting hotter as the day progressed. However, the road was in good condition thanks to loans from the Asian Bank. Combine this with great courtesy from trucks and cars sounding their horns meant that the only real hazard were the motorbikes coming the wrong way along the unmarked shoulder.
The road had the usual mix of so many found in Asia. Hundreds of roadside stalls, plenty of cattle, and children shouting hello from all directions. It did have its differences. Most Asian highways have a petrol station every so often. This road has a modern three pump set up every couple of kilometres, all empty, perhaps due to the majority of small stores selling the stuff out of two litre Pepsi bottles glinting yellow in the sun. Our days progressed with a stop every 20km at one of the many roadside providers. Eat bananas, nuts, together with anything else the location sold, followed by a brew or a cold drink from bright orange coolers; it works well. With ÂŠ Gate to Angkor Wat
Cycling Cycling World World
a can at 50 cents US and average income at $2 a day, we aided the local economy.
History& Beauty Road life is always interesting and a speciality here is seeing just how much you can pack into a vehicle. Like Highway Tetris, I counted 20 people get out of one landcruiser with pots, pans and a motorbike strapped to the back and more sat on the roof.
© Catholic Church on Tonle Sap Lake © Petrol in bottles
Choeung Ek Genocide Centre, or as it's better known The Killing Fields, was the final destination for truck loads of 30 unfortunate souls, who would arrive to be catalogued and ankle tied in a double-walled wooden shed, followed by a very short distance walk to kneel over a pit and basically be bludgeoned to death with any implement that came to hand, from bamboo canes to wheel axles, for bullets were deemed too expensive. Throughout, revolutionary songs were played to drown out the cries. After three years an estimated 3000 people were killed here and this was only one of 300 such sites throughout Cambodia. Akin to Belsen it made you wonder about man’s inhumanity, and clearly Khymer Rouge fighters from the East thought so too as they revolted and 150 were beheaded and buried as an example. What made me ponder was the lack of retribution. The commander had been found by a journalist a few years ago and he'd been tried and sentenced to life imprisonment, with a comfy bed and good food.
© Tonle Sap River
Mid trip we reached Phnom Pehn. Capital of Cambodia since the French colonization, it retains some of its charming colonial buildings. However, its more recent history drew us to a former school. Converted to prison S-21 in 1975, it laid bare the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge, where an estimated 17,000 people were imprisoned and tortured before being trucked out to be executed. It was to one of these sites that we cycled on our first day out of Phnom Pehn.
Cambodia is a country where to simply cycle as the prime objective isn’t that interesting. The countryside is mostly flat and one day can easily merge into the next. Far better to use the bicycle as a glorious means to join up the interesting parts, so having taken two days to reach the coast, a day trip to Rabbit Island was an obvious thing to do.
We clambered aboard a long boat with an even longer prop shaft leading to a tiny propeller for a trip through the blue ocean waters. Disembarking upon a scene not dissimilar to a backpacker get away; the shore was lined with palm-covered houses in front of which were numerous small restaurants interspersed with all a backpacker could require. A selection of massage tables, a shop that sold nothing but cigarettes and sprits and, of course, the ubiquitous volleyball net. Some got no further than the cafe. For the more adventurous it was a trip along the coast for a spot of exploration. The reward was a long beach lined with coconut trees and a warm sea. The final day on the road meant Sihanoukville in the south west corner of Cambodia. Signs of the coastal network started appearing on the left side of Highway 3, bridges crossing inlets revealed bustling harbours full of fishing boats.
Onto highway 4 and the road got a little busier, however the shoulder remained wide. To our left a religious complex in the throes of construction. Three years into the build and ten more to go, two temples were already built and workmen were hewing Buddha’s out of stone with little more than chisels and angle grinders.
Into the resort town of Sihanoukville. It started as a small port town but in the past five years has exploded into a resort town full of bars, beaches and casinos and frankly we could have been anywhere from Spain to Greece, such is the contrast of this amazing destination. Cambodia is a land of gems, glittering from the depths of a dark history. The bicycle is certainly the vehicle to go treasure hunting. © Red road to Sihanoukville
© Boat at Rabbit Island
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November 2016 Stage
Hamzabeyli, Bulgaria to Istanbul, Turkey (7 – 25 Nov)
Total miles cycled: 2,440 (3,927km)
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November 2016 Stage
One of the best places to try this is probably Turkey, where warmth and hospitality know no bounds. Getting there is the hard part, however. The border guards are perhaps not quite so credulous when it comes to believing you’re exactly as you appear – i.e. a shabby itinerant with sensational thighs – and even seem to verge on the suspicious at times. My personal bid to gain entry involves five passport checks, a thorough onceover in the visa section and a portly old curmudgeon who objects strongly to a snatched photo in the queue. By the end I’m feeling thoroughly nefarious, and only wish I had the criminal credentials to justify the whole endeavour. When I finally reach Turkish soil, however, I realise I’ve had it easy. Stretching for miles in front of me is a vast line of bumper-to-bumper lorries, all patiently awaiting their chance to enter the EU. Behind them, the 30km barbed wire fence constructed by the Bulgarians is clearly visible, snaking insidiously through the woodland. With Western Europe placing the bulk of the migrant security burden on its southern allies, neither country is taking any chances. The message to refugees could not be clearer: keep out; get lost; go home. Cycling alongside the stationary 5km tailback, I feel a mixture of deep relief, guilt and pity. Thank god I have the good fortune and privilege to be swimming against the tide, I think (a kind of cycling salmon, if you will). Thank god I was born where and when I was. Thank god I am free: politically, economically, socially, emotionally. Thank god. Once inside, I warm to Turkey almost immediately. Hypnotic Islamic music wafts from the border station, while truckies wave cheerily and invite me
for tea. The roads are far better than Bulgaria, too. I continue along the highway for a few kilometres before turning onto a smaller country track. Cars are soon replaced by tractors, while men in flat caps idle serenely outside cafés. Coiling around me as I ride is a strong scent of manure, interspersed by an occasional waft of something pungently alcoholic.
It’s late afternoon by time I pull up in Süloğlu, the biggest village on my route. Unfortunately, this still isn’t very big. Populated by just 4,500 people, there’s no hotel or restaurant to be seen; not even a sizeable shop. In the end I go into the least grotty place I can find, a pharmacy, and ask for help. It’s a good move, as it turns out. ‘Did someone send you here?’ the pleasant man behind the counter asks. ‘I’m the only English-speaker in town.’ I am advised to go to the police station and – channelling my 1960s bummler idol Dervla Murphy, who spent much of her time exploiting the hospitality of local gendarmeries– I duly oblige. Once there, they clearly have no idea what to do about me. Two hapless young chaps mutter and look mildly alarmed, before fetching their superior, who proceeds to fetch his. Finally, a dynamic-looking fellow appears, who leads me down to the basement. It’s warm and clean, with invitingly resplendent sofas and I’m told I’m very welcome to stay there. Dervla eat your heart out! The police turn out to be perfect hosts. I am given a heater and access to the tuck shop, and even bought dinner: my first authentic Turkish doner, complete with salad, yoghurt and ayran (a salty yoghurt drink). As someone who has long suffered from a debilitating, chronic kebab habit – an illness, not a choice – it’s a very special moment. At last, after years of social stigma, I’ve finally found a place where I can be accepted for who I am. I’ve finally found a place to eat doner meat with impunity. I am enjoying my fourteenth cup of tea and cigarette with my new friends, none of whom appear to do anything except drink tea and smoke cigarettes, when the man from the pharmacy suddenly appears. He told his wife about me, he says, and she insisted I stay with them. So off I go, to my second home and second dinner in
or all wannabe crooks, swindlers and general ne’erdo-wells out there, I have a word of advice: become a tour cyclist. Everyone trusts you and welcomes you into their lives, without question. You’re a source of unending intrigue, confusion and concern. Why on earth are you on a bike? Don’t you have a car? Do you need some kind of help? Money, lodgings, a few extra marbles? As criminal ruses go, it couldn’t be more perfect.
November 2016 Stage
Hamzabeyli, Bulgaria to Istanbul, Turkey (7 – 25 Nov)
Total miles cycled: 2,440 (3,927km)
as many hours. Turkey, I think as I say my goodbyes, is it too soon to tell you I love you? The wife turns out to be a lovely Greek woman in her early 40s, who met her husband in Athens four years ago. She is Orthodox Christian, while he is Muslim. Both hate Erdogan’s ‘Islamification’ of the country. ‘The Koran is very clear,’ he stresses. ‘It explicitly says you mustn’t force people to convert.’ Both are keen to visit the UK, but Turks find it hard to get foreign visas ‘because of the Kurds’. The low wages don’t help either: around ₺2,000 (£520) a month, on average. Their home is modest and beige, with laminate flooring and décor trimmed with traditional Turkish flourishes. I am put up in a cosy pull-down bed in the dining room and fall asleep in seconds. I leave the next morning for Kirklareli following a hearty breakfast of feta cheese, cold meats, tomatoes and boiled eggs. It’s an easy, uneventful ride, and I arrive at noon to find a fairly sizeable town with a few nice old bits scattered about. Tonight I am staying with a couple from Warmshowers (not as exciting as it sounds, sadly — just a cycling couch-surfer site), who transpire to be a young pottery student and hirsute electrical engineer. Neither is Muslim, unlike 95% of the population. ‘Erdogan only favours the rich metropolitan elite,’ the hairy engineer tells me over some delicious, homemade vegan slop. He holds regular protests against development projects in rural areas, he says, and hopes soon to build an eco-farm. ‘Agriculture here is dying.’
The next day, I set off for Vize. I am just 30km from my destination when I am accosted by a couple of friendly Antipodeans: a Kiwi lawyer and Aussie economist (known henceforth as the Ms). They are also headed for Istanbul and we decide to ride the rest of the way together. It feels comforting to have a little company for a change – if only due to the pocketfuls of enormous rocks they’ve accumulated to ward off our furry foes on the sidelines.
Vize is a semi-attractive, gently bustling town with a pleasant sixth century church-turnedmosque. After lunch, I leave the Ms to go and track down my host, another engineer and friend of the eco-warrior couple. We meet at his vast, empty, new-but-grimy flat, before he reads my mind and whisks me out for a kofte. While his English is poor, he goes out - Mountains of dried fruit
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November 2016 Stage
of his way to welcome me, and insists on paying for dinner. ‘My home, your home,’ he writes over Google Translate. ‘Stay longer?’
I reconvene with the Ms the next morning for an 82km ride to the tiny town of Subasi, where there’s apparently a hotel. We arrive at 2.30pm to disappointment all round. Subasi is a bit of a poohole, it turns out; the kind of place where dogs pee on old tyres and everyone is fixing a broken carburettor, yet nothing is ever fixed. A lone donkey chews the corner of a disembowelled dishwasher, while plastic bags waft forlornly in the air, buoyed by stale currents of gloom and decay. Yet somehow, the Turkish spirit still finds its way through. We devour a delicious beef stew with beans, cold chips and aubergine for just £4 a head – the price arbitrarily plucked out of the air at the end, as usual – before making our way to the local café, where we are given several rounds of free tea. By the time we’re handed complimentary cereal bars in the supermarket, I can already feel my defences softening.
The next morning, we set our sights on Istanbul. The six-lane D0070 is the lesser of the evils available to us, but turns out to be fairly evil nonetheless. For four hours we make our way along the hard shoulder, with regular roadworks nudging us sadistically into the path of monster, rattling trucks. By the time we finally hit the outskirts of the city, we’re thoroughly fed up and more than ready for the celebratory lamb doner we’ve been promising ourselves. Settling down at a restaurant, we tuck in with gusto. There’s just 7km left to Taksim Square from here, we rejoice. We’ve pretty much made it.
We go searching for the hotel and are pleased and a little surprised to discover that it does actually exist. It is impressive in its way, perplexingly disproportionate to the small size of the town and with the faded grandeur of a D-list-celeb-turned-wino. Outside, the swimming pool is a deep pea green, bordered by the types of statues almost certain to come alive at night, while a cluster of mannequins in the foyer could easily be extras from Andy Warhol’s 1960s Blue Movie. The rooms themselves are spacious, with parquet floors and hunks of oak furniture, plus a few rogue pubes thrown in for free (it’s a night for sleeping bags, we decide).
- The Hagia Sophia
November 2016 Stage
Hamzabeyli, Bulgaria to Istanbul, Turkey (7 – 25 Nov)
Total miles cycled: 2,440 (3,927km)
Or so we think. Little do we know that between us and Taksim lies a torrid, labyrinthine mass of urban barbarity designed to vanquish even the hardiest of bummlers. Ten-lane highways, unhinged motorists, vertical hills, inconvenient cats and tunnels of death all conspire to finish us off, swiftly and unceremoniously. Imagine Hunger Games meets Takeshi’s Castle meets Theseus and the Minotaur, but with bikes. That’s a wildly exaggerated scenario of what it’s actually like, but imagine it all the same. Three hours later, we finally make it to the flat of the Ms’ friend in the bohemian grunge-chic neighbourhood of Beyoğlu. We shut the doors, hit the bottle and vow never to cycle anywhere near Istanbul ever again. The next day, after a long and glorious sleep, I’ve recovered sufficiently to make my way to Sisli in north Istanbul to meet my next Warmshowers host, leaving Maud under the safe guardianship of the Ms. En route, I take my milk-doused laptop to Lenovo (an official sponsor) to see if they can fix it. Sadly, nothing is salvageable, but they replace the hard disk, motherboard and keyboard immediately, all free of charge. What legends. My host, S, turns out to be a 30-year-old banker who advises insurance companies and lives in a large, cosy flat with a friend. He has a 26-year-old girlfriend, but ‘isn’t yet ready to marry yet’, though it’s normal here to be hitched by your mid-20s, apparently. Both he and his girlfriend are atheists, and deeply critical of their president. ‘The government is very corrupt and geared only towards the rich,’ he says. ‘But the poorer, uneducated people vote for him as he gives them bribes and coal before elections, and they think he’s defending Islam.’
Was S at the Gezi Park protests in June 2013, I ask? Yes, he tells me. ‘There was an amazing atmosphere. Real hope and excitement. But the government was clever. They did nothing for two weeks until everyone got bored. Then they cleared everyone at 5am, shut down social media, closed the metro and the roads. They arrested thousands. They killed and beat people. They spread false information that people were smoking and drinking in mosques. And that was it.’
In more uplifting news, my host tells me he eats at least two kebabs a week, and his flatmate eats about five. It sounds almost too good to be true. I’d always secretly feared the Turkish kebab obsession might be some outmoded custom or puffed up propaganda to entice the tourists, like dancing Masai warriors or Cairene papyrus painting. But when I tell him the lamb doner is not acceptable fodder in the UK unless you’re too drunk to remember having eaten it, he looks confused and a little crestfallen. ‘Maybe I won’t try to get a visa there after all,’ he says. Follow Rebecca's journey on her website at thebicyclediaries.co.uk, Twitter at reo_lowe or Facebook at facebook.com/bexbicyclediaries. Rebecca is sponsored by Kona, Lightwave, Garmin, Arkel, Berghaus, Lenovo and Pedros. - Galata tower, Istanbul
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24 – 27 March 2016
Spend an enjoyable Easter break cycling around this little known area of France, sandwiched between the Artois hills and the coast. See fortified towns, cobbled streets, abbeys, the WW2 sites of le Blockhaus & La Coupole where the V2 rockets were launched in an attempt to destroy London. Holiday includes return ferry from Dover to Dunkirk luggage transfer to & from hotel in Wisques, evening meal with wine, buffet breakfast, a restaurant lunch on two days & entry fees to Call La Coupole and le Blochaus WW2 sites.
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SYRIA David Charles rides London to Turkey, following the routes of migration back towards Syria, finding out the effects of migration
here’s no feeling like it: an easy cycle track, a whooshing tail wind, twenty kilos of luggage not dragging me down, but pushing me on. Bavaria’s positively humming past, giving me an eyeful: red sunset splitting open a purple sky, forests clambering over the valley slopes, the Alps melting harmlessly on the horizon.
migration back towards Syria. Along the way, I’m trying to find out how migration has affected the people I meet, residents and refugees alike. Keeping me company on the first half of the journey, from London to Vienna, is my girlfriend Caz. Since our departure on May 1, we’ve cycled around 2,500km through England, France, Belgium, Germany and Austria.
We burst through yet another elderflower and poppyclad village – and I clamp on the brakes. Skidding to a halt, we approach a stack of containers, the sheet metal punctured with plastiglas windows. By now, we’re used to seeing these container estates, parked on the outskirts of villages and towns all over Germany. Outside, half a dozen men lean on plastic chairs, tapping around on their phones or talking quietly: all refugees. I approach them with a smile: 'Does anyone speak English?' A young man looks up, furrows his brow at our over-stocked bikes and sweaty faces, then grins. 'Sure.'
Back in England, we both volunteer for a charity called The Bike Project. Their mission is simple: take second hand bikes, fix them up and donate them to refugees in London. I love The Bike Project for three reasons. First up, I get to work on improving my abysmal bike mechanic skills. Secondly, I appreciate how much having a bike means in London – if I can’t afford public transport, then what hope is there for a refugee living on about thirty quid a week? Finally, I love The Bike Project because they offer refugees a taste of freedom: that feeling we all get when we’re on a bike, the road’s easy, the wind’s at our back and the world’s ours.
This summer I’m cycling 5,000km across Europe, from London to Gazientep in Turkey, following the routes of
The young man in the container park introduces himself as Salim, an Iraqi Kurd who fled fighting in his
home town to come to Europe with his brother. Now they are here, surrounded by mile upon mile of rolling Bavarian beauty, the only sounds distant calling birds and the occasional tractor. 'We are safe,' Salim says, holding his hand over his heart. 'Thank god we are safe.' The only problem is that their small cell in the metal container has been their home for eight months now. 'It’s nice for a holiday, maybe,' Salim says, 'but there’s nothing here for us. Nothing happens. We just sit here.' Salim’s story is depressingly familiar from our cycles to refugee shanty towns in Calais and Dunkirk and Belgium’s unlovable Fedasil institutions. It felt like France and Belgium (the less said about the UK, the better) are socially and politically unable or unwilling to accept refugees wholeheartedly, but are trapped by international conventions into providing shelter and survival. The result is an embarrassment for everyone: refugees packed away into buildings, containers or tents on the outskirts of towns and villages, with some eking out an uncertain existence in the asylum system for years.
© Accommodation in a converted sports hall in Germany
© Container accommodation in Calais
But now we’re in Germany, there’s a different problem. Refugees have been welcomed, at least politically, at least in theory. Over a million arrived last year, hundreds of thousands more will arrive this year. The main problem now in Germany is integration. Muafeq al-Mufti left Syria with his family in 2013. Muafeq’s first destination of choice in the EU was Sweden – not because he had friends there, not even for its famously generous welfare system, but simply because they had the most informative website. Imagine that: your children’s future decided by a page or two of user-friendly copy and code. But six months of bureaucratic fumbling later, the Swedish government decided that, because Muafeq had a German visa in his passport, he and his family should be posted to Germany. After another couple of months getting passed around refugee centres in Hamburg and Munich, they were finally bumped south to the Bavarian spa town of Bad Toelz.
Bad Toelz sits on the green river Isar as it swirls down from the snowcapped Alps. In the sunshine, the old town church spire peers over cafes dishing out goblets of ice cream. It’s not the first place you’d associate with displaced Syrians, Afghanis and Eritreans, but like every city, town and village in Germany, large and small, Bad Toelz has taken its share of
93 © Cycling through the jungle in Calais
© The school in the Darfuri compound in Calais
refugees. In Syria, Muafeq worked for the US Embassy for fourteen years, before it shut down because of the war. If he’d been able to work just one more year, Muafeq would have earned his Green Card and today he’d be living in the US. But his fluent English means that he has at least found German relatively easy to learn, a critical step on anyone’s journey to integration into a new culture. A critical step, but hardly a new life. For that, one must at least find a job. It usually takes about three months for Syrian refugees to prove their nationality, work through the system and receive their new documents. Until that time, they are not allowed to work. Once they have their papers they can enter the job market, but usually at the bottom end, in some cases far below the level of their qualifications.
Muafeq was fortunate enough to find his Ein Euro job at AsylPlus, a small organisation based in Bad Toelz set up to deliver online German language instruction to refugees. As the organisation expanded, Muafeq was able to transition from his Ein Euro wage to being a fully paid member of staff. The founder of AsylPlus, an indomitable Bavarian grandma called Frau Haase, is passionate about the need for refugee integration and evangelistic about the power of computers to do the work of a hundred thousand teachers. But mostly she is frustrated with her countrymen who don’t see the benefits brought by the new arrivals. Yes, the state supports refugees financially, but where does that money end up? 'Check your pockets,' Frau Haase says. 'Refugees spend their money, in shops, on accommodation - not like rich Germans who keep their money in the bank.' Frau Haase sees the state support for refugees as a form of tax redistribution, benefitting everyone in ways that are perhaps hard to see, but are there nonetheless. 'Germany is old,' she adds, 'These young people want to work, and their work will pay for our pensions.' She smiles mischievously: 'Not for me, of course, but for many people refugees are big business.'
Refugees in Germany receive direct financial support from the state, around 300 Euros per month. Once they find paid work, however, this entitlement is withdrawn. Instead, refugees and employers have turned to 'Ein Euro' jobs, which pay workers just 1 Euro per hour. The positive side of this strange deal is that refugees can keep their full state entitlements, plus a little extra pocket money, while still beginning their integration into working life. Employers, obviously, benefit from a state-subsidised workforce. Ein Euro jobs are all supposed to be newly created in the public interest, not replacing existing, fully paid work. But this is almost impossible to prove or enforce and many Ein Euro jobs perform menial and necessary tasks, like cleaning in schools, and there has been
opposition to what is perceived as exploitation of cheap labour.
94 © Salzach on the border between Germany and Austria
Now, three years after arriving in Germany, Muafeq speaks German and has a full-time job. His kids are settled in school. He and his family live in their own house in Bad Toelz and they no longer receive social support from the state. He is the proud owner of a German-made family car. He pays taxes. He has integrated. Muafeq is clearly a hard-working, god-fearing family man, but the long journey from Damascus to Bad Toelz has also been lucky. In Germany, refugees are randomly distributed across the country, billetted in towns and villages in their hundreds and thousands. Some end up in wealthy cities like Munich or Mainz; some end up in economically depressed cities like Dresden or Liepzig where they face persecution from far right groups.
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© Breakfast in the converted sports hall with refugees from Syria and Iraq
Germany cannot rely on such blind luck to guide the integration of over a million new citizens. Angela Merkel’s father was a pastor and her Christian values directed her decision to welcome the refugees. But now, as one German we stayed with in Munich said, there must be a plan. Our journey along the stormswollen Danube threads through castle and schnapps country into Austria. The further we ride, the more we see how urgently Europe needs this plan. Two weeks before we arrived, Austria elected a new president. The two candidates were Norbert Hofer from the Freedom Party of Austria, whose first leader was an officer of the Nazi SS, and Alexander Van der Bellen, a member of the Green Alternative party: far right and far left. The nation is split almost exactly down the middle: the far right lost the vote by 0.35% and are challenging the count. The two parties are irreconcilable. In Vienna, I speak to Daniel
Aschwanden, an artist who has been working in a Red Cross camp for refugees set up in a disused university building. He tells me that the first showing of the work he created with the refugees was attacked by far right groups, who themselves came under mortal threat. The result was that the Red Cross installed bouncers to protect both sides. Daniel shakes his head: 'I watch people from the right and the left argue and I don’t want to get involved in that.' Here in Vienna, on the ancient border between West and East, the first half of our journey ends. It will resume in September, when I return to cycle the overland Balkan route from Western Europe to Greece and Turkey. Everywhere we have cycled, we have seen the same uncompromising ideological divisions opening up. Back in the UK, tensions between the EU stay and remain campaigns have exploded into violence with the unspeakable killing of MP Jo Cox. There can be no further argument: the social integration of people like Salim, and of all the refugees we have met living in containers, sports halls and tents across Europe, simply must follow the pattern left by Muafeq al-
Mufti and his family in Bad Toelz. It is not too dramatic to say that our shared destiny depends on it. This kind of integration doesn’t happen automatically, but running alongside the constant stream of refugee stories, sadly more often like Salim’s than Muafeq’s, have also been encounters with inspirational practical projects like AsylPlus. There’s Grandhotel Cosmopolis in Augsburg where refugees live and work side by side with hotel guests; The School Bus Project in Calais where refugees and residents cook and eat together; and of course The Bike Project in London and every cyclist’s passion to share that wind-in-your-hair feeling: freedom. You can follow our cycle towards Syria on www.davidcharles. info or @dcisbusy on Twitter and Instagram. If you’d like to support the ride, please give generously to The Bike Project, repairing and donating bicycles to refugees in London: www. localgiving.org/fundraising/ cyclingsyria
Thousands more, like Salim, end up in desperately quiet country villages. Not many towns have people like Frau Haase and organisations like AsylPlus to offer direction and purpose to new arrivals.
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